The Nature of Suicide

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Still from Norwegian Wood (2010)

Recently, I’ve had to spent a lot of time, waiting in my car.

By “a lot of time”, I mean stretches of 3 hours or more.

I could have done a lot of things. Walked for a bit. Think about new marketing strategies for my festival. Wrote a song. Write a short novel.

But I did none of those things, because there was a strange tranquillity to seeing life go by … and simply letting it go past you.

I reclined my car, put my feet outside the window and read my book, while occasionally keeping an eye on cars go past.

Sitting there though, through 2 dawns, on separate days, it reminded me of a scene that weirdly haunted me when I first started delving into Haruki Murkami’s literature.

He died that night in his garage. He led a rubber hose from the exhaust pipe of his N-360 to a window, taped over the gap in the window, and revved the engine. I have no idea how long it took him to die. His parents had been out visiting a sick relative, and when they opened the garage to put their car away, he was already dead. His radio was going, and a petrol station receipt was tucked under the windscreen wiper.

Kizuki had left no suicide note, and had no motive that anyone could think of. Because I had been the last one to see him, I was called in for questioning by the police. I told the investigating officer that Kizuki had given no indication of what he was about to do, that he had been exactly the same as always. The policeman had obviously formed a poor impression of both Kizuki and me, as if it was perfectly natural for the kind of person who would skip classes and play pool to commit suicide. A small article in the paper brought the affair to a close. Kizuki’s parents got rid of his red N-360. For a time, a white flower marked his school desk.

Extract taken from Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

I guess, as a quick aside, I’ve always loved how, even when its been put through a English translated wringer, Murakami’s dream-like style still comes through and shines as bright as ever.

But back to my original point, the way of committing suicide by car always stuck with me.

I love cars, and their ability to allow me to push the limits of speed and technology. But they can also be death traps. After all, a harsh lesson I learned in my limited time racing, is that accidents are a matter of time for racers, not something that can be avoided.

However to slowly wait for your death by asphyxiation?

How terribly sad, lonely and painful. To let the fumes choke you to death, whilst you rev the engine and let the car become your coffin.

I’m not a person who lightly considers suicide. I got too much to live for. Heaven or Hell, whichever one I am destined for, I’ll go kicking and screaming and resisting the whole way. 1 life is all I got. I plan on drinking from the cup of life, until I hit 80 and my body can’t keep up any more.

Then, and only then, I’ll consider suicide. Because if your body can’t move, can’t function right without another person helping you, what is the point?

Suicide … its a strange concept. Reckless, and weirdly selfish. You choose the way how you die. Not someone else.

It’s the final choice and the one you bizarrely have the most control of.

You don’t go into the choice blind. You know the options. Yet you choose death.

There’s a strange power and logic to that.

Once you’ve given up everything, almost nothing will ever affect you again. Not love, nor hate. You’re ideologically bulletproof.

Imagine that, you come from the lowest point to the highest. You were once sad, anxious and helpless by the choices placed upon you, but with the embrace of suicide, you’re stronger, purposeful and emboldened by the choice you’ve made.

Once you lose the fear of death, life becomes either inconsequential or consequential.

I wonder whether this is why I am so drawn to risky jobs.

Soldier, Racer, Astronaut, Traceur, War Journalist, Fire-fighter …. do I have a death wish?

Or do I just wish my death has meaning, because I want my end to be in service of something better?

Maybe I can provide that answer for solider, fire-fighter, journalist or astronaut. But I can’t exactly say the same for racer or a traceur. But then admittedly, a traceur is more or less a hobby not a job.

And with racer, I could argue my death was in pursuit of speed and for the entertainment of others.

Maybe I am a little suicidal. I want to lose my fear of death. I want to stare it down and say “Not today.” I like that tightrope, the foot half in death’s doorway, but never quite committing the full step.

Is that flirting?

No, maybe not.

Or maybe it is.

I did say up there, that I wasn’t really keen on living past 80. So maybe my mind is a bit loose.

But they all say that you have to be a bit strange to consider suicide.

No one willingly wants to die.

But what does that say about jobs that are inherently risky?

Then there is also the strange element of preparing for death.

With soldiers, you take all the precautions you can. You wear armour. You carry a rifle to defend yourself. You stay physically fit. You do your hardest to keep your sanity from slipping.

And yet, you go out there, knowing you’re only a bullet, a explosion, an infection away from death.

Its impossible not to reflect on your own mortality sometimes.

But what about actual suicidal people? How do you research your death? What makes you choose the right method of death?

There’s the famous forest in Japan, Aokigahara, where people go to die, and find themselves lost in the sea of trees. Sometimes I wonder what is the logic behind such a method. What is the appeal?

I would have thought a simple bullet to the side of the temple be sufficient. Why wander through a forest, lost, starving, cold and in agony until finally you die?

What purpose does that extra agony to your death serve?

Then there are the numerous reports that state; hanging is the most popular method of dying. Which makes sense to me, in a strange way. You tie a noose around your neck, kick the chair underneath you, and struggle for a minute before deoxygenation takes over and cut all circulation to your heart and brain.

I guess, even in death, I would favour efficiency over any other method.

Rest assured though, I am not a suicide risk. I don’t harbour thoughts like this very often, but it comes up every so often, because I don’t believe in straying away from darker thoughts. I give them my full attention, let them wander, let them exhaust themselves, and then move on.

Its healthier. Plus the amount of stuff I love to read, and topics I’ve discussed mentally, span everything. Nothing is too sacred and nothing is taboo.

It just haunted me, as I was waiting alone in the car, relaxed, calm and reflective, on how sad the sight would be.

The vision of a young man, in his prime, at the peak of his health, but at the nadir of his mental, his head propped against a slightly reclined chair, discovered in a garage, and smelling of petrol fumes.

How mundane everything seemed before, his humour dark but confident, because he knew, that, that night, all his struggles would cease. So he really could just enjoy the day to its fullest, from the tiniest interactions with a friend, to feeling so good about himself, that he had to prove he could win at pool.

mors certa, hora incerta.

Death is certain, its hour, uncertain.

~Damocles

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