Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Take me out tonight/Because I want to see people and I/Want to see life."

The Song: "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," The Smiths. Words & music by Johnny Marr and Morrissey. Track 9 of The Queen is Dead, 1986.
How/when acquired: Illegal cassette copy, c. 1987; legal MP3 download, 2004
Listen/watch here.

It's a little disorienting, as I begin the last week of my 45th year, to think that this song is 24 years old — as distant from today's generation as "Hound Dog" was from my college-age self. But I am not ashamed of still liking the things I liked when I was 20, even if my middle-aged self thinks that this song teeters dangerously on the verge of self-parody. Violent emotion of any kind does. It can't help but do so, because that kind of passion and despair can't be self-conscious or regulated. The minute you step out to look at it, to hold it up to the light to question or even celebrate, you're not in the moment any more.

Part of adulthood, maybe, is realizing that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. This blog has a widget that keeps track of visitors, and in the past couple of weeks I have noticed a disturbing spike in visits to last year's post on Five Practical Reasons Not to Kill Yourself. An anonymous commenter who visited the post from Davidson College (yes, the site meter gives me that much information) earlier this week called that post cold and callous. I think I meant it to be. The whole point of that post was to dispel any ideas someone might have gotten (from songs like this one) that anything about suicide is romantic.

Because these lines, in the song's second verse, tell us what the singer really wants. He doesn't want to die, not really; he wants to see people, he wants to see life, and he wants not to feel separate from those things. He wants to be part of that light that never goes out, but he doesn't know how.

Here's a tip: the double-decker bus in this song's third verse is not the answer. To the people who come to this blog looking for reasons not to kill themselves, and to that unhappy Davidson student in particular, I say: You already know the most important reason not to kill yourself. You don't really want to. If you did, you wouldn't be asking the universe (in the form of the cold and anonymous Internet) to talk you out of it.

What you really want is to see people and to see life. Everybody else wants that, too.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Like that Geico ad proves, sometimes all a jackwagons needs is to be told to snap out of it. (I'm being serious.)

-- Ed

Jean said...

I came across your blog a few years ago and subscribed to you because I loved your posts on songs. I had forgotten about my old Blogger account until just recently, and I've been enjoying reading your posts again tonight. Thank you for all the effort you've put into this blog! It's pretty cool!

As for this song, I have never really given it much thought like you wrote about. Very interesting! I adore this song and some of my fondest memories are singing along to it with my best friend in the car. We obviously took it the humorous way. The Smiths are great, though.

Lethal said...

I'm going to disagree with your assumption that every individual who visits here doesn't actually want to move on from their current existence.
Some may simply want to make extra sure that they have made the correct decision in seeking to end their lives.
I think in many cases people end their lives because they don't want to be a burden on the people around them, which is why myself and others thought that reasons #1 and 1a were the only actual reasons a person would reconsider suicide as an option.

The debate about euthanasia is relevant here since there are some people who are a burden to society and to those around them and moving on from this life would actually cause less suffering overall to their survivors. Many people are disabled with chronic illnesses and can no longer work or even care for themselves. What sort of life can a person live when they have to live with the knowledge every day that they can't make a meaningful contribution to society? When they can't leave the house and talk to friends because they are so poor that they can't pay for gas or can't walk or can't enjoy any conversation due to mental problems like social anxiety or cognitive problems? I say quality over quantity.

I will add some reasons not to kill yourself:

The main reason I've considered is reliability and pain level of the method. Forget about pills and cutting and poison since the average person will not be able to obtain a lethal dose of any drug. I thought about benzos+alcohol, but it seems you'll just end up in a coma for a few days with that combo and probably brain damage. Unless you can decapitate yourself cutting is a no-no since most of the time you won't die and somebody will find you and you'll end up with severed tendons not being able to move fingers or if you slice the throat you'll end up cutting your wind pipe surviving and becoming unable to speak maybe having eating difficulties. Also blood loss results in lack of blood supply to the brain meaning brain damage if you're found after losing significant blood. Insulin overdose is not a pleasant way to go if you're thinking of that-read it's quite painful. Helium exit bag is less certain than the evidence seems. Apparently both setting up the device and even when done correctly breathing the helium is quite difficult.

Anyway my point is I've read up on this and the only really sure painless way for the average person is a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun with double zero buckshot aimed towards the brainstem through the mouth. Less powerful or poorly aimed guns will cause face/brain damage, but will not kill.

Other things to think about are costs to your family such as a funeral. I think you can avoid this cost if you donate your body to medical science.

Hopefully some impulsive people will read this and avoid oding on some stupid shit like tylenol and end up destroying their liver only to survive with permanent damage or something equally bad.

One more thing. For anyone who is able-bodied and still able to work and care for themselves especially, emotions fluctuate for everyone. If you can remember a time when you were in absolute despair I bet you can also remember feeling happy soon afterwards.

Lethal said...

Some corrections and additions to my above comment:

It's possible that weaker guns or drugs/poisons will kill, but there is a significant chance of survival or prolonged painful death.

Disabled people can be as productive to society as health individuals. My belief is that everyone experiences many many occasions of despair in life, but when a person feels they have become so weak or impaired as to not be able to have a quality life then suicide should be an option. It's a lot more humane than waiting until a person is so wasted that they're on feeding tubes and then pulling the plug and having them dehydrate to death which is one of the most painful ways to die. I mean we put our pets to sleep when their lives become obviously mostly painful so why can't we have the common sense and respect to do the same for our own species?

Oh, and I wanted to add something that seemed messed up to me. In all these sites I visit that try to talk people out of considering suicide I've come across very few that have discussed physical health conditions as a motivator for leaving this life.
It's as if people who are against suicide only think about the young relatively capable individuals and completely forget about the people who have rational reasons for considering suicide.

Ellen Clair Lamb said...

I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog, but appreciate the anonymous comment that noted the inconsistency of closing comments on the post this links to, but leaving them open on this one. Therefore, I'm closing comments on this post as well.

If you're seriously thinking about suicide, please call 911. Please don't look to the Internet for sympathy, empathy or support. I have all the sympathy and empathy in the world for people in pain, but I'm not going to apologize for my anger at suicides. Too many of my closest friends are survivors of their loved ones' suicides. Too many of my closest friends -- and I myself -- am fighting depression every day, with all the weapons at our disposal. The fight is worth it. Things get better. Good luck.