To be or not to be


There has been an inquest last week for a man who killed his wife and teenage daughter and then burnt down his substantial mansion before killing himself.

The inquest was told that the man had lost his money when his business went bust and he decided that his wife and daughter, and of course he himself, couldn’t cope with the loss of their privileged life style. They lost their lives instead.

Maybe we could see this as a depressing symbol of the profit culture that is currently crumbling around us.

Also last week, we read about three young British soldiers serving in Basra, Iraq, also took their own lives – one of them by hanging himself in a children’s playground.

That image says so much about young men and the pressures of manhood.

The director of that Swiss institution, Dignitas, that aids the terminally ill to commit suicide has been criticised this week for agreeing to allow a perfectly healthy woman to die with her dying husband.

Romeo and Juliet, Dido and Aeneas, there are so many images from literature that move us by that act of self destruction.

Why does it seem an error in real life?

All of these people feel or felt that they couldn’t go on.

Fighting a potentially terminal disease focuses the mind, I found.

Actually, we can go on and should.

Take all these poor lamented folk forward a few years and let them look back on whether they were right or wrong – I am pretty sure that all of them then would choose life.

I heard a story on the radio once about an American Christian missionary working in a remote South American village.

Trying to impress these impressively worldly people, he told them that he had found religion when his mother committed suicide.

Expecting sympathy and comfort in his sadness, he was surprized when they all laughed.

What a stupid thing to do, they said.

He has subsequently lost his faith but sounds perfectly happy.

We should keep our romantic ideas about suicide in books, plays and songs. Life is too important for us to take suicide seriously.

I wrote a poem yesterday, well I had nothing better to do.

Under Water

Deaf – a permanent hum;
Vision – murky green;
Mouth sealed, nose too.
Weightless, tense.

Clothes on the bridge –
Why fold them?
Forgot the pockets, too much there.
Why check underwear and what for?

The grazed knee from climbing the wall
It doesn’t hurt now.
Embarrassment too,
Gone, forgotten.

Drift with the current,
Float under the surface,
Sink, an autumnal leaf saturated,
A secret with no keepers.

Why? Too easy perhaps.
Where was the drama?
The strong caring grip?
It was just done, easy, gone.

Full fathom five my father lies.
Would he have helped?
Could he have helped?
He waits for me now.

Splashing,
Gasping,
Weeping,
Scared.

I am here
Back
Different
Changed.

Happy, joyful even,
Wrapped in a rug,
Gruff love from strangers
Warmth from a vacuum flask.

2 Comments

  1. It's interesting – Shakespeare is actually quite equivocal about suicide. Both Romeo & Juliet and Antony & Cleopatra are vaguely farcical although they achieve some pity, it's not really greatness – except, perhaps for Cleopatra.

    I remember hearing – some years ago – about a friend of a friend who committed suicide. His note said he was "bored". That sounded quite grant until I read recently that George Sanders, the well-known 'cad', said the same thing some years before.

    The difficulty with most fictional depictions is that they show it mainly from the point of view of the person – but neglect the aftermath and the impact on friends and family. Perhaps that's why "The Big Chill" is such a gripping film – it shows how you are affected.

    I can't imagine ever feeling so low – so I can't judge. My default setting is comedy rather than tragedy. That's not a boast – it's just the way it is.

    BTW: It is still tricky to post replies – my cursor disappears!

  2. Claudio, I am so glad that you are such a cheerful soul..it is a gift I think. But look out, comedy is mainly populated by depressives!

    Shakespeare..yes, I agree about him being equivocal about his star crossed lovers. He sometimes sounds like he thinks Romeo and Juliet are silly kids who need to grow up a bit…Friar Lawrence is shown as a dithering idiot too.

    Anthony is definitely ridiculed at times but Cleopatra does rise above her faults in the end, I think.

    The Danish Prince, of course, is equivocal about the whole thing.

    I also agree with you about those left behind; I have known a three suicide cases myself but maybe that says something about me.

    Friend Will is promising to sort some stuff on this site soon….I will tell him about your problems with the comments button especially as I have missed your voice, my friend.

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