Millennium Post

‘I am leaving because I am bored’

‘I am leaving because  I am bored’
I have never read a suicide note that I would want to have written.’ -
Edwin Shneidman, Suicide Expert

Morbid. So morbid. I have heard that word almost every day of my life since 2011 and I will pretty much have to hear it for the rest of my life if things go exactly the way they are right now.
No. I didn’t try killing myself. I had decided to work on suicide notes for my doctoral thesis. Battling through a course on autobiographies in Delhi University I recall guffawing at a certain author’s tale and whispering to a classmate - ‘He could have made all of this up!’ ‘No! He couldn’t have!’ came the response. ‘Why not?’ - ‘It is an autobiography. Why would someone lie?’ ‘If there is scope to lie, people lie,’ I shot back. ‘You have serious issues...’ she had said and the conversation ended because we were asked to stop talking. This was a M.Phil class mind you.

Autobiographies, I believe, are the best place to lie. You can make a whole world up and those (unfortunates) who read the work believe every word because this genre of writing comes with a herculean truth claim. Would you believe it if someone said that Gandhi lied in his My Experiments with Truth? No true-blood Indian would. He is after all our shield, barrier and excuse when we condemn. 

I know one person did not lie - that was Primo Levi. And that is perhaps why his Survival in Auschwitz and If This is a Man reads more like suicide notes than an autobiographies or biographies or even stories. The bridge that would plague me for days to come was forged then.
Suicide notes are private documents. A stranger should not read a suicide’s last words, it is just not fair. Marc Etkind says in his book ...Or Not to Be, ‘This book of suicide notes is pornography. In reading these, the most intimate documents, you are a sadistic voyeur, transforming someone else’s pain into your own pleasure.’

Almost as a conjecture comes Hannah Arendt’s words - ‘Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a ‘spectator’. In other words, nothing that is, insofar as it appears singular; everything that is- is meant to be perceived by somebody.’

Etkind writes, ‘It was no coincidence that the rise in suicide notes correspond with the rise of newspapers in the eighteenth century. Suicide notes only became common when there was an outlet for them to be read,’ and goes on to say that every note he has in his book has been ‘previously published’. Etkind believes that suicide notes are written when people are at their psychological worst. He calls the content bizarre, rambling, angry and sad documents but then there are only so many ways to express pain.

Pain, suffering, eternal melancholia seems to be the backbone of Literature. Perhaps, across the world there are only a few books that thrive on happiness and sunshine wholly. This written document that also comes with a truth claim (why would anyone lie moments before their death?) seems to bear a burden very similar to autobiographies. Are they literature? If yes - what genre? I may have an answer in a years’ time or I may not. But till then I can safely immerse myself in the morbid pleasure of reading about death and reading a lot of suicide notes.

‘...I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate...’ wrote Virginia Woolf. ‘...I must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re alone. I’m too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm I had as a’s better to burn out than to fade away,’ - and Kurt Cobain burned.

Compared to Sylvia Plath’s words from Lady Lazarus - ‘ Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels  like hell. I do it so it feels real...’ her suicide note was unimaginative and blunt - ‘Please call Dr. Horder’.  The poetry-insanity mobius strip did the author of The Bell Jar in ages before she actually killed herself.

‘But suicides have a special language. Like carpenters they want to know which tools. They never ask why build,’ wrote Anne Sexton in Wanting to Die.  This special language  is what fascinates me and thus my obsession with this pornography. Given, all suicide notes are not weighty enough to merit deep analysis or even a re-read. But then final words should be chosen with care, they are the last of what remains of  you. That little shot at eternity, ironically.  

A suicide chooses to end life that he/she found unbearable but then they decide to leave behind something imperishable. Words.
But then if someone had the clarity of thought to pen a decent note, would they necessarily kill themselves? The debate rages.

‘Dear world: I am leaving because I am bored. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool,’ wrote actor George Sanders.  

I am still searching for that one note I wish to write if I ever do decide to kill myself.

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