February 26, 2015

Six quotations on suicide

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During the decline of Christian moralism few groups have risen so rapidly in the overall estimation of society [as the suicide has.] It was dangerous for Donne to suggest that suicide was sometimes not a sin. It was still daring for Hume to reason that it was sometimes not a crime. Later one had to point out that it was sometimes not simply a sickness of the soul. Now it seems necessary to argue that it is sometimes not a virtue. To paraphrase Freud, what does a suicide want? Not what he gets, surely. Some simply think of death as the absence of their present state, a state which pursues them like a malignant disease and which cannot be otherwise escaped. Others consider it quite positively, as thought to die were to get on in the world. Seventh Heaven, after all, is a most desirable address. Still others spend their life like money, purchasing this or that, but their aim is to buy, not to go broke. Are we to say to them (all and every kind) what we often say to children? no, Freddie, you don’t want a pet boa, you wouldn’t like the way it swallows mice.

It doesn’t follow at all that because it is easy enough to kill yourself, it is easy enough to get, in that case, what you want. Can you really be said to want what you cannot possibly understand? or what you are in abysmal confusion about? or what is provenly contrary to your interests? or is plainly impossible? Is ‘I’d rather be dead’ anything like ‘I want to be a chewed-up marshmallow’; or: ‘I want 6 and 3 to make 10’; or: ‘I want to be a Fiji princess’; or: ‘I want a foot-long-dong’; or: ‘I want that seventh scotch-on-the-rocks’; or ‘I would love to make it with Lena Horne’?
– William H. Gass, The World Within the Word



Suicide is a crime of loneliness, and adulated people can be frighteningly alone. Intelligence does not help in these circumstances; brilliance is almost always profoundly isolating.
– Andrew Solomon



The obsession with suicide is characteristic of the man who can neither live nor die, and whose attention never swerves from this double impossibility.
– E. M. Cioran



The destructive character lives from the feeling not that life is worth living, but that suicide is not worth the trouble.
– Walter Benjamin, The Destructive Character



Vollmann reports that suicide rates drop dramatically in people older than forty. Because, as he rightly surmises, the absurdity of doing what nature will do anyway reveals itself.
– Julie Carr, 100 Notes on Violence



Only the suicide thinks he can leave by the door that is merely painted on the wall.
– Vladimir Holan



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