Preface (March 06)



How often do I exclaim: 'If only I had more TIME!'? And if by some fluke or unusual effort I do actually get close to what I intend, how likely is it that some unexpected obligation won't intrude and spoil everything (presumably in accordance with some variation of Murphy's Law)?

Alongside this is the ever-present fact that I can never know if today will be the last. Kaput! No tomorrow! How important, REALLY, was that thing I intended? It never fails to astonish me how most people with not long to go in this universe use their time. But would I be any different? And what exactly is 'not long'?

My aim, I tell myself, is to reach 100 - always aim high, I say, because you never know, and there's always a chance, slim perhaps (after 4 decades of roll-ups), but a chance nevertheless, that you'll make it. And you'll be a long time dead, after all!

When I learn that someone I knew has reached that final point, my thoughts leap to my own inevitable demise. Not that I don't think of it otherwise - it's always lurking somewhere in my head, waiting to pounce at such moments.

I remember a radio interview with a Christian and a Buddhist. They were asked: 'As a child, what was the most important thing you were taught?' The Christian replied: 'How to live.' And the Buddhist: 'How to die.' There's contrast for you!

A few days ago I unearthed a picture of myself from a box of old slides my dad had left when he died in 1998. It's the first time I've looked at them since they were taken - the one I found of me is from 1972 when I was 23. A very '60s' look I had then. In comparison, I now resemble almost a geriatric - the ravages of 34-years!

Undaunted by my present 'rav-aged' appearance, you will see that I've pasted up several recent shots of myself. But then I've wondered (considering the subversive political commentary on this site) if doing so was wise. I know that only a handful of people (if any) are likely to read the site, and that the net is solid with far more powerful political tracts, backed by numerous references too, alongside all of which my essays are at most amateur blustering. But there's no sense in being too brazen, I tell myself (and then proceed to ignore the thought). The 'authorities' are becoming ever bolder and more aggressive, increasingly intrusive, punitive, brutal! At least towards Muslims they are. How long will it take them to get to the rest of us?

As I was reflecting: when someone I know reaches their end … which happened last week… my thoughts turn to my own mortality. The victim this time was a friend from way back in 1963. That's how long I'd known Dave: since I was about thirteen - when, like him, I first used to visit the local flea-pit where the district's pop-groups congregated and where we watched some great old films.

I have fond memories of those times - with what the 60s is famous for: the great cultural liberation, of involvement in a dawning new age, of 'letting your hair down' in every sense - and most crucially: these changes were thought to be irreversible, permanent. Maybe every lucky teenager senses this; whether it's the 60s or whenever. Dave and I attended the same course too at St Neots tech college (part-time C & G Electrical Installation) which began with my first job at the factory described in 'The Button' and 'Why'.

Unlike me, Dave was always safety-conscious. Now he's dead. Died at work last Thursday: electrocuted - an accident, they said. If I'd been electrocuted, no-one would have been surprised - but Dave? And only a couple of weeks ago he sent me a photocopy of a schedule for steam trains due at Hastings. He was no fanatic, but enjoyed reminiscing on the age of steam - as I did too, with mild interest.

But events like what happened to Dave sound an alarm. They wake me up - which is no bad thing. Tomorrow it could be my turn … accidents (murders?) happen. So, I tell myself as I sit here writing this instead of charging out over the cliffs or zooming off to Barcelona for a mad weekend or to Greece or Aussie for six-months or…  I tell myself: make the most of it, because some day, soon maybe - who knows? - you won't have the choice!

That old photo from 34-years ago nudges me to reflect on the period since it was taken. And as I think back through those years and wonder how well I've used them - always, of course, restricted by practical issues (from financial circumstances to personal experience and motivation and so on - as noted in Sartre) - I find myself preferring to focus more on what's ahead: What, I wonder, can I do best for the next 34-years?

I'll be 91 then - or (more probably) dead, like good old Marlene at the start (and again at the end) of this page; a couple of great weird shots those. Anyhow, I know from experience that moving into alien 'territory' - anywhere that's new and different, psychological or physical - can wake a person up.

'Strange and unusual actions should sometimes be practised in order to free the mind of its conventional trammels. The GREAT world will then become visible.' David Lindsey (author of 'Voyage to Arcturus')

I don't advocate recklessness, but for the sake of adventure - which means getting closer to Life (ie: further from being half-dead or half-asleep - ie, see Wilson's biography of Gurdjieff: 'The War against Sleep' or his essay 'The Strange Genius of David Lindsey) - it's worth the effort of shifting position now and then, both psychologically and physically. So, I tell myself: Loosen up:

Here is one of William Burroughs' 'Yagé letters' (to Allen Ginsberg) which has the footnote: 'Character Armour' was the term Wilhelm Reich coined to describe defensive character traits, resistances that protected against pain at the price of restricting the capacity for pleasure.

"...[the Peruvians] are the least character-armoured people I have ever met... They have no inhibitions in expressing affection. They climb all over each other and hold hands... nothing human is foreign or shocking to a South American... This is, I think, what the Colombian civil war is basically about: the fundamental split between the South American Potential and the repressive, Spanish, life-fearing character armadillos. I have never felt myself so definitely on one side and unable to see any redeeming features in the other... What did they get but the lousiest white trash of the West, the fucking Spaniards. Still, they had the advantage of weakness; never would have gotten the stodgy English out of here. They would have created that monstrosity known as a White Man's Country."

(...which is yet another reason why it's essential that the US/UK must fail in their genocidal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.)




For this month I originally had two items in mind: the first,  that light-hearted fiction story based on a real event ('The Button'); the other an essay on a weighty issue of which I have no direct experience but which Rod has been prodding me to write for some while.

The story - which I'd intended for March, but for which there is now no room because the second item has become longer than I'd intended - is also the result of months of gentle prodding by Rod, and is a highly augmented version of an incident that took place more than 40-years ago. It is told in the third person (me as protagonist). I was 15 at the time, when my knowledge was minimal, and I was fighting, as do most people of that age, a tough battle to conform with the demand to be at work for 08.00.

I had also just discovered science fiction, and in the story I've blamed my dreamy oblivion - absorbed as I was in fantasy, and only half awake - on a brief moment of forgetfulness, and the resulting painfully trivial action that caused so much trouble. In reality, oblivion had nothing to do with it; rather, it was the desire for aesthetic pleasure that took precedence over my underdeveloped sense of responsibility (and I think this comes over in the story) - as one might well imagine for a 15-year old - but what kind of a story does that make?


The other item, which here prevails, is not only a belated response to Rod's appeal for a document that might serve the great quest against self-immolation, it is also a reaction to the recent suicide of someone I'd known in Huntingdon - possibly a 'revenge' suicide? (though in no way connected with me).

It's important though, I think, that I declare my own position from the outset, and say that I have never wanted to die - the nearest I've been was 25-years ago when suffering flu; after three long days I didn't care whether I lived or not - then I started to recover, and life bloomed again. True, I've briefly visited dismal circumstances and moments, but never so bleak as to not see light somewhere ahead. So, coming from me, this essay could not be more incongruous; which means it might come over as pretentious and smug, rendering it, I suppose, ineffective and puerile.

But to write an article, either fiction or non-fiction, that just MIGHT dissuade a potential victim from going through with topping themselves, would be quite an achievement for anyone. Though as I've said: this is not spontaneous like most else on this site, but rather is in response to a request from Rod, and maybe he can select from or modify what I write so that instead of caving in to gloom and despondency, some future reader opts for a path to fun and contentment.

The last six pages of Hesse's story 'Klein & Wagner' strike me as an exemplary attempt to demolish any argument for ending one's life prematurely - just as his little prose-poem 'Trees' aims to relieve the reader of discontent with their circumstances in life. How can I add anything useful to those?

Although my first thought is: loads of scope here for generating soppy fruitless drivel - I then recall that a former colleague (who I met on the Theosophy course), an intellectual and not one to act impulsively, once described to me how he went so far even as to prepare the rope. By luck, a former girlfriend turned up and unwittingly rescued him before the act - which for all I know still stands in abeyance. I lost touch several years ago, but at the time I quizzed him and over a few weeks presented various impressive texts from such meteoric scribes as Hermann Hesse (ie, see, as above, Klein.. and Trees). They might, so I thought, hold the power to sway.

But… "No, no, none of it would work," he said, shaking his head, decisively (and perhaps derisively too), "Once you reach the rope stage, the most fabulous words in the universe fail to register. They can't even broach the surface. What little consciousness of the outside world you have left," he went on, "has no capacity for intellectual exercises: by then your perspective is well set, and words have little influence." Then, after a pause, he added brightly: "Touch works; affection. And being removed from danger. And then time, especially time, and change… but the right company is crucial, with maybe a 'joint' or two?"

So only in the early stages, it seems, when the issues are being weighed, or the possibility of suicide is being contemplated, can an intellectual approach stand a chance; but even then, it must address the intuitive, instinctive, perceptive self within - only then might words make a difference.

I thought: what do I know about this? Answer: Nothing. I'll try imagination. It's imagination that gets people into this pickle in the first place, I wouldn't wonder, so I'll imagine what I'd do in their shoes, what I'd reason, how I'd feel (impossible though that is). After all, I can't do anyone any harm: if someone's about to top themselves I can hardly make their situation worse!

First, though: there must be any number of reasons why people choose to kill themselves. Some might well have problems that are impossible to solve, but apart from physical health, no such problem occurs to me - though that's probably due more to the limitation of my thinking power. Some problems, conversely, might be a cinch to solve, yet not twigged by the victim. Which suggests a distracted victim. The question is: how to penetrate the psyche?

Duff events - including thoughts - take time to recover from. Our memories layer one upon the other, and every time we dwell on something, well then, that's another layer of memory. So thoughts or memories that evoke a negative response are best avoided for as long as possible. This isn't the same as denial, nor equivalent to shoving a problem under the carpet. Things must be weighed, considered, understood and finally, if nothing can change anything, accepted. After that they must be left alone. Not forgotten - that's impossible - but just not brought to mind, for a time anyway. If you are in the sensitive state being considered here, then as soon as you detect a troublesome thought creeping in, slam it out. There are techniques to achieve this (see also - and). But realise that it's like giving up smoking, or drugs. You can say to yourself: OK, I'll stop for today, but tomorrow maybe I'll indulge in misery, think about the death of my wife, parent, child... or the fact that no-one loves me and to me the universe, my life and everything, is all utterly pointless and horrible… But today, well today is another matter, just today I shall make a mammoth effort, for today I will smell the flowers, watch the kids playing in the park, have sex with the lodger, read 'The Dice Man', hire a gangster film…

Then, when tomorrow arrives, you grit your teeth and repeat the process, perhaps (preferably) with new alternatives. And remember, this gets easier every day, because that duff memory - so long as you keep it out of your consciousness - is ever receding, being over-placed with good memories. For massive debt or bereavement - you may need to get away altogether. Getting some pleasant displacement into your head is the key essential step towards a new life. Isn't this the kind of reasoning that could work? But there's a lot more yet:


You Are Now Entering....:

"Witness a man about to confront his own mortality. It is a predicament we all sooner or later have to face. As those around him fall to the grim reaper's scythe, he turns with mounting trepidation from one demise to the next. Watch him squirm with each fall, see him struggle with his new awareness; observe his attempts to flee his fate, his efforts to avoid the inevitable, his growing recognition of futility as he ducks and weaves. 'It's a matter of survival,' he reasons as he fights and resists. But what is he fighting? Where can his resistance lead?

If you recognise the anguish, if you have an enquiring disposition and, most crucial of all, an ailing psyche… then join him - but remember: once inside, there is no escape. You are about to enter >>>>



‘Death Zone’ is a term I first heard about 6-months ago. It was used by a friend who's already experienced a considerable period of limbo within that ominous region. And now, reluctantly, grudgingly, I join him - though I already had one unwilling metaphorical foot there from several years ago. Disagreeable though the situation it describes is, the term itself, I have to say, rather appeals to me. It has the flavour of macabre adventures, of quests involving fear and menace, it oozes challenge, intrigue and mystery - like 'The Twilight Zone', whose style of opening I've tried to emulate in the 'You Are Now Entering...' intro to this exposition, it promises riveting experiences that may even - if the philosophy works  - have the power to liberate.

But strictly, there is no mystery about 'The Death Zone'. It simply refers to the time remaining for you once the last of your preceding generation of family has thrown-in the towel. There are no options here; it is a circumstance thrust upon you. Landing there suddenly can alert us to our misplaced values: our lifelong collecting of and clinging to material possessions, for instance, while neglecting our relationships with everything changing. It can alert us to the imminent loss of certain superfluous powers we've dedicated a lifetime to accumulating. It prepares us for stepping down from the egoistic pedestal that we've sacrificed so many of our precious years to climbing. It presents us with a taste of ultimate impotence, debilitation, of helplessness. It is equivalent to the statement: 'You next for the chop!'

Actual demise itself, in contrast, presents the stark final condition that we all know of - but don't know about, so are inclined to submerge in myth and fantasy. But how can it be other than what is so often said: eternal sleep? We fall asleep and never awaken. It is total loss - of power, of influence, of sensation, of everything. It is complete shutdown: permanent, irreversible, ultimate, terminal zilch. For your own sake believe it. For when applied to oneself, the notion can appear so earth-shatteringly unfamiliar and frightening that we are scarcely able to dwell on it; hence one is unlikely to make full sense of the implications… which are, for the individual, the annihilation of the universe, the wiping out in one sweep of all that exists, of being left for all eternity with nought but pure unadulterated infinite nothingness.

Imagine that if you can: eternity and infinite nothingness? This is precisely what sits behind us too. But if we've been there before, why is it so daunting?

Over recent months several people close to me, or who I've known quite well, have died - and, I've noticed, a few celebrities have made their exits too. Usually, as the years slip by, only an occasional acquaintance or personality dies. Why the apparent escalation, I wonder? Or is it just my perception? There does seem to have been a disproportionate number of deaths in the world recently through various catastrophes, from the Indonesian tsunami to the mad invasion of Iraq to the New Orleans fiasco. I might have thought I'd entered some new psychological phase of increased attentiveness or awareness; or that I'd crossed some implacable boundary as I approach 'the last threshold', a condition which, despite the apparent increasing exit rate internationally, every cell in my brain and body feels repulsed by. But probably, if the truth's known, nothing whatever's changed.

Many years ago in the early days of Channel-4, on a cool autumn evening when no-one else was about - and I had nothing better to do (luckily) - I sat down and perchance watched a 2-hour documentary on the life of a Buddhist monk. Normally this programme would have bored me out of my head, but I suppose I happened to be in just the right frame of mind - otherwise I'd have soon switched off or changed channels.

As is generally known, there are many variations of Buddhism, each following a different kind of route through life, but mostly with more-or-less similar aims and outlooks. These I have failed to study in any detail, so although I've casually read several books on Buddhism and related issues - both fiction and non-fiction - I cannot claim to speak with authority. (The same goes for most subjects - even, I dare say, 'idling').

But that 2-hour documentary was certainly thought-provoking - if for no other reason than that it was real and live for me at the time, as though I witnessed something both simple and natural but also profound. The monk being filmed - and there was only this one youthful (yet middle aged) solitary guy throughout - lived as a hermit in a little wooden hut high in the Tibetan mountains (at least, that's where I think it was). Surrounded by fabulous views, among trees and loose scree, he carried out his daily activities, few that they were, in complete serenity, so it seemed, and with an enviable childlike joy. The only sounds were ambient: of his movements, of birds, the wind in the trees and so on.

Every few minutes, however, he made a brief comment in his own language - and an accompanying subtitle translation would appear bottom of screen. So intrigued by the first several minutes of this - even before the monk had uttered a word - that as soon as he spoke, which took me by complete surprise, I grabbed a pencil and paper (which by amazing good fortune just happened to be close by) and copied down what he said.

Although, I believe, the film actually spanned pretty well a whole day from dawn to dusk, somehow - which I suppose signifies the astute way his mind worked - the monk's intermittent discourse falls together as one integrated piece. His words seemed to spell out what to me was only vaguely intelligible. That is, I had the impression afterwards that anyone who understood these things would make clear sense of the discourse - which appears to dwell, as one might expect, on the most pressing matters of existence: life and death. Every time I read these 586 words, I experience a taste of the surreal, of the mysterious, of the sublime - as well as, I have to say, continuing puzzlement: for it's like looking across an immense ocean, at the waves, the sky and clouds, the sun even, beaming with all its unfathomable glory - all relatively simple and familiar things - but seeing nothing of what the ocean actually is and contains as might be discovered in the depths and vastness beneath its surface. There were long silences between sentences - providing time to muse… but see how it comes across to you. (The title is mine):



There is no beginning and no end.

Worldly feelings lead to entanglements and anguish. In the end one loses what one loves. That's why one experiences pain. You have no entanglements so you have no pain. You must employ your soul and wash away your anguish. To understand that worthlessness is worthless - that is the pathway to the Buddha.

Now be silent - I will introduce you to a master armed with the power of the law who will open your eyes and show you the way. Free the moon hidden inside you and it will light the sky and the earth. Its light will chase away all the shadows of the universe. Understand that one thing and you will understand everything. Achieve this and the good news will echo through the universe. It will be total perfection. All will be accomplished. There will be no obstacles. Freedom will prevail.

When the moon in one's heart wells up through the water, where does the master of one's being go? If you meditate on this single-mindedly day and night, concentrating your entire being on the puzzle, you will reach Enlightenment without fail. The Koan is a tool to cross the sea of anguish and illusion so as to discover the roots of the true Self.

What is the non-difference between birth and death? What is the non-difference between Self and Other?

Hoping to shake myself free from the dust and dirt of the world and seek perfection, I became a hermit. But then I realised life's passions, the dirt and the dust and even life's hardships. Without loving them it was impossible to reach perfection. This is because perfection means embracing all things. It may be easy to fight against reality and fate, but it is difficult to love them. How beautiful the world is when you know how to love it. The world is not imperfect - rather the imperfection is in our language and knowledge - it is simply that our consciousness is insufficient.

Is Enlightenment anything but a dream? Trusting in Enlightenment alone I left the world, but when I look back on the things I sacrificed they fall upon me like demons and fill me with bitterness. I was afraid I would fall into an endless hell of remorse. What does 'Save Humanity' mean? We, relying on Enlightenment alone, leave all our family and obligations, but for what? Who is Buddha and who is not? Isn't it said that there is no Buddha and no unenlightened creature? I am going back to the world, to the turbulence of life.

Mountains, rivers, plants, the universe. Here, there, everywhere - all things lie within the same enclosure. To leave is to arrive. To arrive is to leave. Doesn't the wind blow as it pleases from all points of the compass?

I am insubstantial in the universe, but, in the universe, there is nothing that is not me. When the body is scattered, where does the master of one's being go?

The formula which destroys hell is:

Once you shake off the dream, you reach Enlightenment. All around is deep in shadow. Light the wick in your heart and illuminate your own path. Winter advances through the dense forest. Summer creeps up on the naked branches. In the cycle without beginning or end, to live or die are the same thing. But life is for those who stay. In the unending eternal stream there is no birth and no death. But for those who stay, death is an insoluble problem.



My trouble is that I've stumbled on a purpose for life that matches my temperament, material resources, and acquaintances - in short: my total circumstances. What is there here to fight? What should I struggle for? The yin and the yang reciprocate with the smoothness of a balance wheel in a superior old-fashioned clock. Contrast, Rod has pointed out, is everything. He exaggerates, but like the well-famed Sisyphus - who, over and over, struggles tirelessly to hoist a great boulder to the top of a hill, only to see it roll back down again - for us, the climb is half the joy, to be contrasted one presumes with the ease of returning to ground level. Why should this be? Why can't we merely accept an easy life? Maybe in the past only those who toiled survived - or mostly those - so we are naturally ingrained with the need to struggle, a bit at any rate - the primordial 'reptilian' element perhaps?

So if this is true, it has these days become more a liability than an asset. The world is controlled by politicians - ie, businessmen. I once held the notion that only those politicians who smoked could be trusted. Not that they were any more honest, but they would be too dope-headed and laid-back to bother with making waves. (Politicians are paid and elected, we are led to believe, not to make waves but to calm them, yet they insist on betraying our trust. Why do we tolerate this? But that's all another story - another article.)

When I smoked - pretty well for 40-years (yes, I know, it's a miracle I'm still alive) - I reckoned it was the smoking that made me tranquil and contented. Why else does a person smoke? Notice how smokers light-up the very moment a potential stress situation looms. Smoking reduces mental stress - or at least creates the impression of doing so. Instead of feeling anxious, annoyed, resentful, etc, you can be relaxed, indifferent, elevated above the trivia of negative emotions. There's much truth indeed in the 'Hamlet' cigar ads of times past.

But now smoking is unfashionable - understandably so. And what do we have to replace it? Not that the right people used to smoke anyway - otherwise, perhaps, the world would already be halfway to paradise. So politicians (businessmen) who are itching to DO THINGS really are a liability - and apart from a few exceptions always have been. These days, with the world effectively so small, and with the power these 'insatiable greed-monsters' have to bribe or otherwise influence so many countries (run by other 'insatiable greed-monsters') which together they proceed to ravage and despoil, the situation has become acute: discontent, of the kind I may be addressing in this discourse, is spreading to most of the world's inhabitants.

On top of this, we find ourselves from as soon as the Establishment can organise it, compulsorily being thrust onto a treadmill: Pre-school, school, secondary-school, college, maybe university (or tech), then at the appropriate level we are shoved, with the acquiescence of our (by then twisted) will, onto the bottom rung of some slave-ladder or other from where we're bribed, pushed, or cajoled to make our way up and up and up. The strugglers, the colluders, the creeps, will scale several rungs over the years, while the more confident, the astute, the ruthless, the brutes will hoist themselves still higher, often using those more naïve strugglers as climbing fodder.

As for the inept, they remain at or below the lowest rung, together with the rebels, the dissenters, those few perceptive and sincere individuals who see through the GREAT fraud - and refuse for one reason or another to play the game. By some fluke, these latter have acquired a clear vision for what most people - even sometimes those astute brutes who reign at the TOP - are completely blind to; blinded slowly and unnoticed during their crucial formative years. Dissenters, it's worth noting, are relatively so small in number that the brutes can afford to ignore them - or have until NOW.

How the dissenters twigged, or circumvented their early programming, is another matter. It happened to me - though lacking in confidence, I was slow to act.

So this is the background that brings us to the present, and to the starting point from where a victim of self-immolation might take his/her cue. Quite apart from political issues - which are entirely responsible for the status quo - the situation that so many people find themselves in these days is altogether void of meaning. When they wake up to and reflect on their circumstances - stuck, as they frequently are, in one futile rut or other - what else can they think but: what the hell is it all for? What am I doing here? And if they see no way of physical escape, then the only obvious solution to their predicament is that ever-present doorway to oblivion!

So you see how a person's prospects can seem intolerable. And how this is driving a few people, the more sensitive in our midst, perhaps, to despair and finally suicide.

Last year more than 4,000 men in the UK topped themselves. The younger ones, often teenagers, sometimes left a note. These generally showed that they placed little value on life - their life, at any rate, which held for them no promise. Why, though? And why does a man who's snowed under in debt, or a student approaching the crushing weight (as they see it) of exams looming over them like some gigantic overbearing steam-hammer, or anyone who has reached the end of their tether in one situation or another - why do they not just escape? True, a prisoner is really in a jam. But otherwise, for someone not imprisoned, is it better FOR YOU to top yourself or to run off and seek a new life - even if it does begin in the gutter? After all, there are worse things by far than landing in the gutter - which need only be temporary.

Contentment or the lack of it, once fed and warm, pertains chiefly to the mind. We all know that. We all know too that when the mind is hung-up, it can be a monstrous task - for some people, at any rate - to free it. And this, I propose, is the core of the problem.

I've proposed above a method of subduing bad memories. But I know nothing about clinical depression. I cannot grasp the feeling of it, despite having read slowly and thoughtfully William Styron's autobiographical 'Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness' - which tells of how, after suffering acute depression, he planned his suicide in meticulous detail - and then, by chance at the last stage, was interrupted. So it would be worse than glib for me to say that people who suffer depression might learn to still their mind, expel thoughts, and thus escape from their unwittingly constructed make-believe prison. I don't understand these things - and I suppose I'm lucky I don't - but the people who suffer like this are frequently, if not always, unable to justify their gloom. Their circumstances are often physically, materially, and socially enviable: they are otherwise fit, have money, a devoted wife.. etc. Well, I'm not sure if I can address these people's problem at all; in a way they belong to a category of their own. Their situation probably, I wouldn't wonder, stems from childhood.

I've pointed out earlier that so far as the individual is concerned, life is ALL THERE IS - because without it there is NOTHING. This is so palpably obvious, I hesitate to say it. But somehow I feel that it needs to be drummed home - and often. So, I ask, how can anyone kill themselves because of debt, exams, or whatever other frail motivation they care to invent? These issues are so trivial in reality, so minor compared with the great wonders of life and the world and universe and everything, so artificial and bound-up with the humbug that's relevant only to the absurd hierarchies of our strange times, that I can't see how anyone can take them so seriously. When life is so infuriatingly short anyway, how is this possible?

Part of the answer lies in getting trapped in a mindset. But part also lies, might I suggest, in the excessive, and frequently obscene regard these potential victims have for those in authority, those absurd hierarchies. They will also experience, quite probably, a certain accompanying powerlessness, as though even before they've had a chance in life they've effectively been castrated and had their potential reduced to zero. In other words, their esteem, which over the years has been bludgeoned to death by those same, oblivious, authority figures (or their unwitting stooges), is long dead, and is probably beyond resurrection. And those figures, whose savage self-confidence is offensive to any thinking individual, run everything.

Yet, I'm convinced there is a self-made solution for everyone who finds themselves in this predicament. For someone in debt and caught in a negative mind-set, and who is also inclined to suicide, at what level of debt do they capitulate? For a banker, maybe £1m; for a teenager, maybe £10K. These amounts are irrelevant. Why not simply refuse to pay whatever the amount and see what happens - it can't be worse than dying. And sod those you owe it to, they shouldn't have lent it in the first place - it was a risk they took - and besides, they're probably loaded to the ears anyway. Or: fail that exam, who cares? Who the hell are those pricks that set the stupid things in the first place? What do they know about life, love and the universe? I'd sooner be a beachcomber any day! They are nothing more than unwitting, gullible slaves themselves, shuffling smugly the fates of their inferiors, as they see them, on behalf of their establishment bosses who represent the ruling .......... business classes that enslaves us. Well, prove me wrong if you can!

As for loneliness, loss of self-regard, blows to the ego, destitution…none of these actually, please believe it, matter. Except for the last one, they are figments. In the UK, destitution is easily avoided, so that doesn't come into it. We are left with constructions, fixations, obsessions… with debt, with passing some absurd exam, with the need to make the effort, ultimately, to escape… maybe simply from loneliness. All these can be cured at a stroke: take a backpack then go and stay at any youth hostel in the world - when it's busy. You'll never be in want of friends again. These places cater for all sorts, from dumb simple types to garrulous intellectuals, from paupers to millionaires, and every variation between - truly, I know. Just take a bus, train, or better still a plane to some far-off destination, and as you do this, blank-out the past from your thoughts, look at everything around you - experience it all afresh, as if you were five-years old again - but blank out what you can. Really, it's worth the effort. Go only forward. Like giving up a compulsion - take one day at the time. Pretend to be reborn - as those religious nuts do, though whatever happens keep well clear of religion is my advice, any religion! They can be as lethal as suicide - possibly worse!

This is the CONTRAST that rejuvenates. Any contrast will probably do, but to move, to force yourself into a survival situation - albeit with everything laid on - is a sure-fire way of genuine escape. You'll be too caught up in practicalities: communicating, joining in, throwing yourself in with others, to dwell on despair and the lack of meaning in life - which can only be understood intuitively, or while not being thought about - only then, to your great delight, meaning will glare you in the face. Yes, you can escape from yourself too - which famously is said to be impossible, but it's not - because you are going to change the input to your senses, and at the same time steer around problematic thoughts from the past that lurk in your head and persistently rise-up and vie for attention. Believe it, eventually they'll fade and get easier to avoid as you become freer and freer - and as the idea of suicide retreats, you will enjoy the things around you even more, the smallest, commonest things, quite probably, being the most precious and warming of all. Life WILL have purpose again…

BUT YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE EFFORT: TO GET OFF YOUR CHAIR - AND REJECT OLD THOUGHTS, OLD HABITS - that is all (I add smugly as if it's nothing). True, it's nothing to some, a lot to others, but it beats the alternative - it's better in fact than almost anything, even mildly enjoyable things. Because we are just too damn lazy to drag ourselves from our cosy little familiar ruts - including when we realise we're slowly decomposing. Even when things get desperate, so it seems, still we refuse to make the effort. And some people, incredible though it sounds, actually prefer to die! In other words, some people would rather annihilate the entire universe for the rest of eternity than get up off their chair. Is that astonishing, or what?

One can only suppose that they see nothing ahead worth making the effort for. Well, there's certainly nothing ahead if the effort is turned to the self alone - and especially self-destruction. Perhaps it's the uncertainty they fear: of maybe nothing, maybe something?

Either way, the following advice is from my own personal experience over many years: Whatever else, never trust anyone in authority. Sometimes they are on the level, but never blindly assume it - rather assume the opposite because it's most often the case. Use discretion, and always prefer your own intuition and judgment above that of anyone in authority - or anyone else for that matter. Never obey an instruction if it fails to tally with what you regard as fair and sound. These things should be part of the very fabric of every kid's upbringing. Remove religion, blind obedience, and the rewarding of greed - instead promote creativity, thinking for yourself, compromise, compassion and CONTRASTS.

But as I've said, I'm the least qualified person in the world to discuss the issue of suicide. To me it has always been an anathema, the very opposite of what I wish for myself - which is maximum possible longevity. I have been fortunate indeed, I suppose, because even if I have experienced unpleasant moments, optimism - whether justified or not - has always triumphed. So if all the above is nonsense, then at least I've had a go, and maybe someone will enlighten me. Am I being blasé? Am I naïve?

It strikes me on looking back that the answers are Yes and Yes, because what I've said is both absurdly simplistic and patently obvious - yet only a relatively small number of people already do the sort of things I suggest, regardless of whether they are contented or suicidal. For the latter, though, the next step, once the initial escape is achieved, is equally straightforward - but maybe that's another story?

Above all, acknowledge the truth; then you'll make sense of the world. That way there's no mistake, no chance of shock awakenings, no disgust or loathing or dread, no confusion or fear of the unknown. True, much remains unknown, mystery abounds… but if the universe does have meaning, no-one's found it yet - not to many people's satisfaction. Which means that considering the great minds that have lived and recorded their thoughts, from Socrates and Seneca to Gandhi and Mandela or any other esteemed figure you care to name, there is no meaning - not as yet - so it's really pointless to dwell on it… unless, like me, you wish to create your own (see 'The Master Game'). And perhaps that's a wise move if you choose carefully - though you can always update it in the light of new understandings.

In the end, these days, you can resort to the net. Just go to Google and type 'suicide'. There's several sites that ought to be promising and work well in helping someone who's trapped halfway between mental pain and the capacity to master it - and is losing. I've taken a brief look at some, and I really can't judge how good they are. Quite honestly, I don't think they'd work for me - but they might if I was in a position to need them. They are written by people who know about these things, after all. One can only trust that they know their work - (as I know about slacking)!

But if you wish to want to live, you'll learn techniques to keep yourself in a cheerful frame of mind. You'll give generously to others, but look after yourself above all - never allowing yourself to be dictated to by anyone. And certainly never doing things you know are truly duff - like joining the military, but which doesn't include robbing a bank, for instance. It's a matter of being in tune with reality - instead of authority, instead of playing along to the humbug of organised oligarchic society.

One of the most consistently effective writers in this area, I would think, and one who has a considerable kind-of cult following, is Colin Wilson (see also). Some of his work appears to be addressing precisely those suicidal people this essay might interest.

For example, in his book 'Man without a Shadow' (fiction - 1963) he has written - ostensibly as related by one of the characters:

"There is only one way to escape the 'goad' of misery. Not the Buddha's perfect detachment, which is nonsense. Simpler than that. To go in the direction in which Fate is trying to move you at such a speed that it can't catch up. We take all our moods and feelings for granted, as things 'sent to us'. In fact, we seem to assume that they ARE us. We wake up feeling gloomy; we are contented to wait until fate sends events to cheer us up. The desire for life is stimulated by crisis, but it subsides when the crisis is overcome, AND WE ARE CONTENT TO LET IT SUBSIDE. And yet we are always more detached from our feelings than we realize; otherwise, how could you feel 'happy to feel happy', or even 'happy to feel sad'?

"Our first duty," he said, "is to maintain a sense of gratitude for being alive. Any other attitude is a sin, to be immediately punished by the Powers… [We must succeed] in declaring ourselves entirely and completely FOR life, with no doubt anywhere in our being. In spite of death and misery and the apparent cruelty of nature, we have to declare our complete and total trust, without any misgivings." I was so impressed with this [(adds the protagonist)] that I went into the lavatory and wrote it down on an envelope.

But never take anything in life too seriously - is my advice - though if someone's holding a gun at your temple, I'd suggest you do as they say.

See also: On Depression (on Dorothy Rowe's perspective)

Some excellent material might be found on Colin Wilson's site

Check too Maslow's 'peak experience'.


In a book 'Sunbathing in the Rain - a cheerful book about depression' about her own experience of depression I unearthed the other day, Gwyneth Lewis says that when she asked a therapist what was the real cure of depression, he replied, simply, "Truth!"....We shape our lives, but we're also natural liars and we get things wrong. We can easily live an internal commentary that's a forgery. Depression is a lie detector. By 'knocking you out' it allows you to revise the way you've been living and perceiving. Most people discern truth without needing this push when they are in error. So if you can get through it - without killing yourself - depression actually becomes a friend, she goes on to say. It teaches you to live in a way that suits you infinitely better. If you fail to listen then it returns with a vengeance, till you get the point.

For me, she says, it wasn't a random chemical event. It kicked in when I failed to listen to what I really knew. It's now an important gift, an early warning system I ignore at my peril. I'm aware, though (she adds) that there are many degrees of depression and that everyone experiences them differently.



Post Script:



This is a brief note about how we accept - quite equably - the limitations that we invent for ourselves. Because I feel uncomfortable at heights when exposed to the risk of falling, I decided a long time ago not to be a mountaineer or a steeplejack. This is reasonable enough. But I’ve made other decisions too; some that might not look so sensible when examined against the broader canvas that increasing age exposes us to.

You only have to observe the bankrupt investor who, though fit and otherwise comfortable, leaps from a high building because his investments have collapsed. Is he so blind, obsessed, or stupid that he can’t adjust his perspective from the farcically narrow one he’s locked himself onto? Or take all those people who despair at losing their job. This is the most baffling of all to me. Whenever I hear some politician talk about creating jobs, I cringe – or would if took notice. Surely they should be abolishing jobs. Let robots do the work and earn our bread… What’s the point in developing technology when we are still having to sweat our lives away? When are we going be free of all this horrendous work? Creating jobs is to me like creating monsters. What needs doing in fact, is not making work, but adjusting the way society is administered so that everything functions with as little work as possible. That way, pollution and destruction of the environment is minimised, and people’s lives begin to take on value and meaning for once – that is, people who don’t already belong to the middle and upper classes (and dropouts like me who’ve ‘seen the light’ and refuse to accept the lot of a slave –  once seen, a thing cannot be unseen).

Our greatest enemy is ritual and routine. It is precisely these that send us into a gormless kind of sleep which kills the whole pleasure of living. Next comes hierarchy and safety. These stifle our every move, and provoke frustration and sometimes revolution - or (for victims of ritual and routine) resignation. Last comes our own dogged rigidity against any change that fails to provide ever-more material possessions. This is the one that will ultimately land us in oblivion. And the more we cling to routine and doze our lives away in our safe cocoons, the faster that oblivion will approach.

All these traps, though: ritual, routine, hierarchy, safety, rigidity – all these are encouraged and bolstered by the Establishment. They are embedded in us from the earliest possible age. What’s more they belong to what Carl Sagan termed our ‘Reptilian’ core – ie, ‘The Dragons of Eden’ 1976 – and become visible only in those who suffer a psychological flaw which emphasises these primitive traits that are dormant in stable, sane people...

...such as, for instance, Ionesco - one of the founders (with Beckett, Adamov & Genet) of the 'Theatre of the Absurd'. From the cover of a book of three of Ionesco's plays:

His plays can be seen as a way to liberation, for as he said: "To attack the absurdity (of the human condition) is a way of stating the possibility of non-absurdity... For where else would there be a point of reference?... Nothing makes me more pessimistic than the obligation not to be pessimistic. I feel that every message of despair is the statement of a situation from which everybody must freely try to find a way out."


Good Luck...