Demystifying Death: What Could Be More Natural?
Last week-ish we went over lots of reasons not to live. It is called triage. If you are still here that means there might be a little hope for you after all and you are (hopefully) ready to talk honestly about solutions. When humans get stuck in a real picklefunk it is often difficult to think creatively in terms of alternatives, so let us throw some spaghetti at the wall together and see what sticks!
When I was a kid going to a middle school where they were still allowed to beat children, I wrote “Suicidal Tendencies” on one of my folders along with other names of bands that I had seen in skateboard magazines but never actually heard. A teacher approached me disapprovingly and asked me what it was about, and when I told her it was the name of a band she looked sternly and probably demanded me get a new folder and told my parents or whatever. I don’t really remember, but that is not the point.
For a kid reading skateboard magazines and more concerned with landing my first kickflip, the idea of suicide was so foreign that it did not even register. For my teacher it was all too real. Real enough that the thought terrified her to the point where instead of using it as a teaching moment I just got in trouble. My instructions were clear. Squash it down like all the other nasty unpleasant realities that respectable adults have stuffed in the dark corners of their walk-in skeleton closets.
This combination of adult hypocrisy and atmosphere of horror and shame really piqued my interest and, being the zit faced geek I was, kicked off an exploration that led me to exploring death metal and grindcore within the year.
I have this theory about the more extreme end of metal genre, specifically that fantasizing about brutal death and torture as you write song lyric ideas in a notebook is actually an inoculant against suicide. It might be difficult for the squeemish to grasp, but if you have ever watched the tv show Metalocalypse then you can understand the cartoonish dimension that the thought patterns live on.
Not to say that there are not real metal murderers out there.
It is also no joke to the environmetalheads who are also seriously concerned with acid rain burning off our skin and radiation exposure turning unborn children into barely recognizable lumps of meat.
If most metal kids were like me, though, they were all about shocking the adults we despised and exploring something that polite societies are not supposed to think about now that we have grocery stores and leather shoe factories in China. If you have ever had to kill an animal and watched the life drain out of its eyes then chances are you know what a precious gift life is. Meditating on it will make you a better hunter, but it will totally ruin you for slaughter house work where the goal is to tune that stuff out as best you can just to make it through the day. Who do you think has the higher suicide rate?
So if repressing, running away and numbing are not successful strategies, how are we supposed to meaningfully confront suicide? According to the experts the answer is going straight for the jugular.
“When is the last time you thought about killing yourself”
This is such a great question because it automatically assumes that such a thought process is normal, and lets the other party know you are ready to listen. We need more people to ask their friends this question if we are to get a handle on a national epidemic that has the possibility of getting whole lot worse, especially now that the latest pandemic just shook our faith in progress and stability to the core. Our number one enemy is not suicide, but the taboo against openly discussing issues surrounding mortality, which science has shown to be the number one cause of death.
It is like we banned talking about sex or pooping or growing grey hairs out of our nose. This is natural stuff folks, and when you repress it people start to get weird.
There is a problem with the “when is the last time” question that threatens the effeciveness of its use in settings that matter. The problem is that we are usually asked by some dead-eyed healthcare professional buried under a pile of debt and stuck in a loveless relationship who is probably struggling not to think about their own answer to that question. They do not care what you say beyond the necessity to fill out a little blank space on your chart that needs to be finished before they can go home and drop a toaster in the bathtub.
Compassion is an absolute requirement for there to be any chance of success. We should be asking each other in a way that lets the other party know we care about them (if applicable) and will actually listen to the answer as fellow human beings and not just overqualified data entry clerks. You never know, if enough people start asking each other and really listening it could help clue us into the issues that our packaged and branded version of reality does not seem to want to acknowledge. Then maybe we could start working together and making the kind of changes that make people want to live in this world again.
Check back next week for part 3.