Monday, January 03, 2011

Life Before Death

I reread a book by David Foster Wallace recently. For most of his books that would be a feat but this is a small book in which the publisher has broken a commencement speech he gave into small chunks. His writing is usually a wall of words. He is the only writer who compels me to read the footnotes. So reading him as aphorism is already disorienting. The text of the book has been posted but the experience of reading it in the book is so different from reading, or even listening to him.
Poignant, ironic, almost eerie. His innate wisdom and clarity didn't save him.
The speech makes the point that we have some agency in terms of what and how we choose to think. He articulates it with a Zen simplicity. He talks about the need for reflection and awareness and curiosity.
And he hung himself.
He had a wife and a job and a house and success in a field of endeavor he must have at least liked. He suffered from depression for years. He medicated and electroshocked and tried to use his brilliant mind and in the end he hung himself.
There is no way to understand. Suicide is is not simple. Not really. But it feels like I understand.
He talks about the narcissistic way we live and perceive the world. He understood that much. And he hung himself.
I don't make resolutions but I am trying to make a shift in the way I am seeing things. Not so much trying to be more positive but at least trying to not be reflexively negative. I've considered suicide since I was very young. I've made a few flailing attempts. What stops me is the feeling that it is such a self centered thing to do. No matter how much I isolate my self there will always be a few people in my life and I don't want to cause them any amount of pain. And I think DFW may have understood that he was going to cause pain. And I don't think he was unkind.
Part of the swirl of a new year is the idea of resolution. And that makes sense. Since my birthday is in the middle of the year I do some kind of critical self assessment every six months and try to imagine what I need to do to wake up.
This is water.
This is water.
In so may ways it's about acceptance. But not a pouting, resigned version. An active, embarrassing of the day in, day out. An ability to take some pleasure in the small and insignificant. Maintaining balance in the face of frustration and rage and loneliness.
I don't really know what it takes.
But the sun is out.
I'm going for a walk.

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