"I cannot imagine how we forgive ourselves for all of the things we didn’t say until it was too late."
~ Doc Luben
"If I could explain what the one biggest shift has been from when I was 17 and suicidal to today and 22 and a lot healthier place, it's just that before I used to try to run away from my pain and tell no one about it, and now I try and run right into it and tell the people closest to me about it."
~ Kevin Breel
"Because I write poetry, I can sit down and write things that I don’t have proof of, or even know the end of the sentence. I can feel around and nobody gets hurt, right? It’s a poem. And so I wrote this poem out of grief and an attempt to make it very plain to myself, the argument that I’d come up with."
~ Jennifer Michael Hecht
Ryan helped introduce a bill that would support bringing integrative health to Veterans Affairs and mindfulness techniques into the military as part of basic training, making members of the military "more proficient in how to deal with trauma"—a concept investigated recently by research on Marines and mindfulness.
"I think a lot of people probably live their life not concerned with their own happiness, but with the story they're creating."
~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
"The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one...We can't really expect to find an answer when we're still afraid of the question....The only way we're going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together."
"I’m issuing a rule. You are not allowed to kill yourself. You are going to like this, stay with me. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means that every suicide is also a delayed homicide. You have to stay." ~ Jennifer Michael Hecht
"Life, of course, never gets anyone’s entire attention. Death always remains interesting, pulls us, draws us. As sleep is necessary to our physiology, so depression seems necessary to our psychic economy. In some secret way, Thanatos nourishes Eros as well as opposes it. The two principles work in covert concert: though in most of us Eros dominates, in none of us is Thanatos completely subdued. However—and this is the paradox of suicide—to take one’s life is to behave in a more active, assertive, “erotic” way than to helplessly watch as one’s life is taken away from one by inevitable mortality. Suicide thus engages both the death-hating and the death-loving parts of us: on some level, perhaps we may envy the suicide even as we pity him."
Buy neither gun nor blue-edged blade.
Avoid green rope, high windows, rat
poison, cobra pits, and the long vanishing point
of train tracks that draw you to horizon's razor.
Only this way will another day refine you. (Natural death's
no oxymoron) Your head's a bad neighborhood:
Don't go there alone, even if you have to stop
strangers to ask the way, and even if
spiders fall from your open mouth.
This talk's their only exit. How else
would their scramble from your skull
escape? You must make room first
that the holy spirits might enter. Empty
yourself of self, then kneel down to listen.
Marilyn Monroe took all her sleeping pills
to bed when she was thirty-six, and Marlon Brando’s daughter
hung in the Tahitian bedroom
of her mother’s house,
while Stanley Adams shot himself in the head. Sometimes
you can look at the clouds or the trees
and they look nothing like clouds or trees or the sky or the ground.
The performance artist Kathy Change
set herself on fire while Bing Crosby’s sons shot themselves
out of the music industry forever.
I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears. The French
philosopher Gilles Deleuze jumped
from an apartment window into the world
and then out of it. Peg Entwistle, an actress with no lead roles, leaped from the “H” in the HOLLYWOOD sign
when everything looked black and white
and David O. Selznick was king, circa 1932. Ernest Hemingway
put a shotgun to his head in Ketchum, Idaho
while his granddaughter, a model and actress, climbed the family tree
and overdosed on phenobarbital. My brother opened thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body
until it wasn’t his body anymore. I like
the way geese sound above the river. I like
the little soaps you find in hotel bathrooms because they’re beautiful.
Sarah Kane hanged herself, Harold Pinter
brought her roses when she was still alive,
and Louis Lingg, the German anarchist, lit a cap of dynamite
in his own mouth
though it took six hours for him
to die, 1887. Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned
and so did Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Virginia Woolf. If you are
traveling, you should always bring a book to read, especially
on a train. Andrew Martinez the nude activist, died
in prison, naked, a bag
around his head, while in 1815 the Polish aristocrat and writer
Jan Potocki shot himself with a silver bullet.
Sara Teasdale swallowed a bottle of blues
after drawing a hot bath,
in which dozens of Roman senators opened their veins beneath the water.
Larry Walters became famous
for flying in a Sears patio chair and forty-five helium-filled weather balloons. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet
and then he landed. He was a man who flew.
He shot himself in the heart. In the morning I get out of bed, I brush
my teeth, I wash my face, I get dressed in the clothes I like best.
I want to be good to myself.
KCRW Bookworm (June 25, 2009)
"Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education—least in my own case—is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me."
~ David Foster Wallace
"The world doesn’t need anything from you, but you need to give the world something. That’s why you’re alive. Kill yourself now, and you’re proving the majority right—you’re no different from the billion other skulls under the ground. Give it something, no matter how short- or long-lasting, and you’ve won."
From In the Suicide Mountains:
"There are three basic theories about the world, Prince. One is that it is essentially good, one that it is essentially bad, and one that it's neutral. What a wise man understands is that none of that is true. The world is a hodge-podge. Our human business, therefore—since our chief attribute is consciousness, and our greatest gift from God is, as Dante said, free will—our human business is to clarify, that is sort things out, put the good with the good and the evil with the evil and the indifferent with the indifferent. Only when reality is properly sorted out can there be stability or hope for the future in either the individual or the state."
From The Art of Fiction:
"To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one's work may be dying, or have some loved one dying; to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write as Shakespeare wrote, so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged, to live on."
“When I was in my twenties, deep down underneath all the bullshit, what I really believed was the point of fiction was to show that the writer was really smart. That sounds terrible to say, but I think, looking back, that’s what was going on. And I don’t think I really understood what loneliness was when I was a young man. And now I’ve got a much less clear idea of what the point of art is, but I think its got something to do with loneliness and something to do with setting up a conversation between human beings.”
* * * * *
Steve Beeson shared this memory on McSweeney’s Memories of David Foster Wallace:
I never met the man, but to Mr. David Wallace I owe my current situation in life. And he left a pretty funny voicemail. My wife and I have a mutual friend who several years ago realized that we were the only two people he knew who had completed Infinite Jest. On her side, she had implored him to find someone with whom she could discuss the book so she could ask the question she'd been dying to ask such a person, Was it worth it? On my side, we were driving to a ski trip, discussing books, and he mentioned Pynchon. Of course Wallace came up. He asked if I had read Infinite Jest; I said, Yes. He stared at me in the rearview mirror and said, I know someone who will sleep with you. Nine months later (these wheels turn slowly), he brought us together at a Halloween party. I walked in early and she was already there. Mike introduced us—Steve, Karen, Karen, Steve, Infinite Jest, go—and walked off. I talked about it for a minute or two, then said, Yeah, I liked it, but it probably wasn't worth it. The rest is, as they say, history.
Except. There's more: the voicemail. Karen and I fell in love, got engaged on the side of a mountain, and planned a shindig. At the reception, among all the toasts, a family friend stands up with a tape player. She recounts the tale. She turns on the player. David Foster Wallace is saying, Uh, um, this is really a strange and almost horrifying thing, but I hear that a couple, Steve and Karen, are joining themselves in holy matrimony because of my book? He goes on to give a funny, rambling, beautiful benediction that we'll always treasure.
So, Mr. David Foster Wallace, thank you for the possibly-not-worth-it tome, dozens of incredible essays, a heartfelt voice from beyond, and a beautiful life with my wife and little boy.
"Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006."
"At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan."
"The Army was unprepared for the high number of suicides and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among its troops, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued far longer than anticipated. Many Army posts still do not offer enough individual counseling and some soldiers suffering psychological problems complain that they are stigmatized by commanders. Over the past year, four high-level commissions have recommended reforms and Congress has given the military hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its mental health care, but critics charge that significant progress has not been made."
-- Dana Priest, "Soldier Suicides at Record Level," The Washington Post (1/31/08)
"Perhaps people who choose suicide for emotionally devastating reasons really want to commit egocide, to kill off fear-based habits, inner assailing voices, pointless quarrels with the conditions of existence, and besieging griefs. They may believe that they have no corresponding resources at their disposal to deal with these dismaying asperities. The practice of befriending the shadow provides just such a set of resources."