(9) Transportation Related
(1) Slow, strung-out death, laboriously prolonged over the course of years or even decades. A creeping decomposition: first the decay of happiness, than desire, hope, emotion, the will to live, and, finally, the body itself. The body, in these tragic but garden-variety cases, always outlasts the will to live. “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone,” as a pre-Mellencamp John Cougar once said.
No one wants to quote John Mellencamp, but sometimes you just have to accept that a particular quote is the most appropriate for the situation and then move on.
I know, and bitterly envy, people with actual hobbies and productive outlets. These are people who enjoy exercising, travelling, biking, who have perhaps even constructed a birdhouse at some point in their lives. I can’t say for sure that these activities are more rewarding than drinking, recreational drug use, destroying personal relationships, obsessive consumption of movies and books, or crawling into a fetal position and sleeping for an entire day, but I suspect that they are.
Because what we have been doing, what we have done, has not worked. There is a horrible, horrible void inside. It has consumed everything we’ve sacrificed to it like so many screaming virgins.
It is not surprising that many of the leading causes of non-suicidal America deaths are ostensibly self-inflicted – people killing themselves from smoking, drinking, eating. Great swaths of the population killing themselves in slow-motion. Not symbolically, but literally. There is an inherently self-destructive drive in our culture, and that same urge that compels us to see major cities destroyed in our most popular films is recreated in piecemeal fashion in our everyday lives.
A drag of a cigarette to seize control of your own mortality. A guzzle of booze to decide your own fate. The joys (and yes, they are joyful) of drugs, booze, cigarettes, food, etc., are finitely limited, and eventually you are both: A) chasing a pleasure that has long since burned itself out and B) willing to die in pursuit of that lost feeling.
Like The Least Interesting Man in the World, I don’t always hate myself, but when I do, it’s with a white, fiery heat. How have I managed to become an adult without developing any of the coping mechanisms that allow most people to continue their daily lives amid the myriad of anxieties and depressions, heartbreaks and calamities lurking around every corner? Why do I make decisions that are clearly not in my own best interest? Why am I unable to take control over what is happening to me?
Drinking mutes, and eventually completely turns off, the nagging voice of consciousness that I am always so desperate to escape. It is cheaper and easier to obtain than most drugs, and has the benefit of appearing more social than sleeping. But when you’re really down, nothing is better than sleeping. Sleeping is death’s Redbox.
Lots of my heroes killed themselves – David Foster Wallace, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway. Wallace wrote of “…having emerged from years of literally indescribably war against himself…” Which is one of a hell of a turn of phrase.
The cartoon representation of an angel and a devil on each of a character’s shoulders, the opposed forces of good and evil, is so simple and familiar that it’s almost elemental. It’s all right there, though. The angel promises distant paradise and everlasting grace, but the devil is like, “Yeah, but don’t you want to feel good right now?”
There are some things I’ve found that help: Therapy. The aforementioned David Foster Wallace. Stanley Kubrick. Writing. Apologizing to people with an unguarded, earnest desperation (as in, the unguarded, earnest desperation is yours, not theirs). David Lynch. Talking to children. Paul Thomas Anderson. WTF with Marc Maron. The kind of concert where you feel like you are actually in danger. Drinking coffee in the tub.
These are things that don’t merely distract, but that also enrich. They take us out of our suffering, but return us at the end with fortifications to keep fighting.
This pain we feel is like the world’s lamest and most ordinary superpower. We spend our entire lives trying to stifle it, to live an ordinary life, to be just like everyone else, to walk around unaffected like Clark Kent or Peter Parker. Maybe it’s not enough to ignore it. Perhaps we must eventually harness our power for good, somehow – channel our empathy, our ability to commiserate, our unbridled emotionality, and use it to connect with the world. Some days I feel like I am. Sometimes I’m just doing the best I can.
We are also choosing to live each day, one day at a time, and don’t forget that.