Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World

Edward Curtin

The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years. Our behavior is a function of our experience. We act the way we see things. If our experience is destroyed, our behavior will be destructive. If our experience is destroyed, we have lost our own selves.” R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience, 1967

The artist is the man who refuses initiation through education into the existing order, remains faithful to his own childhood being, and thus becomes ‘a human being in the spirit of all times, an artist.’” Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death

Most suicides die of natural causes, slowly and in silence.
But we hear a lot about the small number of suicides, by comparison, who kill themselves quickly by their own hands. Of course their sudden deaths elicit shock and sadness since their deaths, usually so unexpected even when not a surprise, allow for no return. Such sudden once-and-for-all endings are even more jarring in a high-tech world where people are subconsciously habituated to thinking that everything can be played back, repeated, and rewound, even lives.
If the suicides are celebrities, the mass media can obsess over why they did it. How shocking! Wasn’t she at the peak of her career? Didn’t he finally seem happy? And then the speculative stories will appear about the reasons for the rise or fall of suicide rates, only to disappear as quickly as the celebrities are dropped by the media and forgotten by the public.
The suicides of ordinary people will be mourned privately by their loved ones in their individual ways and in the silent recesses of their hearts. A hush will fall over their departures that will often be viewed as accidental.
And the world will roll on as the earth absorbs the bodies and the blood. “Where’s it all going all this spilled blood,” writes the poet Jacques Prévert. “Murder’s blood…war’s blood… blood of suicides…the earth that turns and turns with its great streams of blood.”
Of such suicides Albert Camus said, “Dying voluntarily implies you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit [of living], the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering.” He called this feeling the absurd, and said it was widespread and involved the feeling of being an alien or stranger in a world that couldn’t be explained and didn’t make sense. Assuming this experience of the absurd, Camus wished to explore whether suicide was a solution to it. He concluded that it wasn’t.
Like Camus, I am interested in asking what is the meaning of life. “How to answer it?” he asked in The Myth of Sisyphus. He added that “the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.” But I don’t want to explore his line of reasoning to his conclusions, whether to agree or disagree. I wish, rather, to explore the reasons why so many people choose to commit slow suicide by immersing themselves in the herd mentality and following a way of life that leads to inauthenticity and despair; why so many people so easily and early give up their dreams of a life of freedom for a proverbial mess of pottage, which these days can be translated to mean a consumer’s life, one focused on staying safe by embracing conventional bromides and making sure to never openly question a system based on systemic violence in all its forms; why, despite all evidence to the contrary, so many people embrace getting and spending and the accumulation of wealth in the pursuit of a chimerical “happiness” that leaves them depressed and conscience dead. Why so many people do not rebel but wish to take their places on this ship of fools.
So what can we say about the vast numbers of people who commit slow suicide by a series of acts and inactions that last a long lifetime and render them the living dead, those whom Thoreau so famously said were the mass of people who “lead lives of quiet desperation”? Is the meaning of life for them simply the habit of living they fell into at the start of life before they thought or wondered what’s it all about? Or is it the habit they embraced after shrinking back in fear from the disturbing revelations thinking once brought them? Or did they ever seriously question their place in the lethal fraud that is organized society, what Tolstoy called the Social Lie? Why do so many people kill their authentic selves and their consciences that could awaken them to break through the social habits of thought, speech, and action that lead them to live “jiffy lube” lives, periodically oiled and greased to smoothly roll down the conventional highway of getting and spending and refusing to resist the murderous actions of their government?
An unconscious despair rumbles beneath the frenetic surface of American society today. An unspoken nothingness. I think the Italian writer Robert Calasso says it well: “The new society is an agnostic theocracy based on nihilism.” It’s as though we are floating on nothing, sustained by nothing, in love with nothing – all the while embracing any thing that a materialistic, capitalist consumer culture can throw at us. We are living in an empire of illusions, propagandized and self-deluded. Most people will tell you they are stressed and depressed, but will often add – “who wouldn’t be with the state of the world” – ignoring their complicity through the way they have chosen compromised, conventional lives devoid of the spirit of rebellion.
I keep meeting people who, when I ask them how they are, will respond by saying, “I’m hanging in there.”
Don’t common sayings intimate unconscious truths? Hang – among its possible derivatives is the word “habit” and the meaning of “coming to a standstill.” Stuck in one’s habits, dangling over nothing, up in the air, going nowhere, hanging by a string. Slow suicides. The Beatles’ sang it melodically: “He’s a real nowhere man/Sitting in his nowhere land/Making all his nowhere plans for nobody/Doesn’t have a point of view/Knows not where he’s going to/Isn’t he a bit like you and me.” It’s a far cry from having “the world on a string,” as Harold Arlen wrote many years before.
Maybe if we listen to how people talk or what popular culture throws up, we will learn more through creative associations than through all the theories the experts have to offer.
There have been many learned tomes over the years trying to explain the act of suicide, an early and very famous one being Emile Durkheim’s groundbreaking sociological analysis Suicide (1897). In thousands of books and articles other thinkers have approached the subject from various perspectives – psychological, philosophical, biological, etc. They contain much truth and a vast amount of data that appeal to the rational mind seeking general explanations. But in the end, general explanations are exactly that – general – while a mystery usually haunts the living whose loved ones have killed themselves.
But what about the slow suicides, those D. H. Lawrence called the living dead (don’t let “the living dead eat you up”), those who have departed the real world for a conscienceless complacency from which they can cast aspersions on those whose rebellious spirits give them little rest. Where are the expert disquisitions about them?
We’ve had more than a century of pseudo-scientific studies of suicide and the world has gotten much worse. More than a century of psychotherapy and people have grown progressively more depressed. Large and increasing numbers are drugged to the teeth with pharmaceutical drugs and television and the internet and cell phones and shopping and endless talk about food and diets and sports and nothing. Talk to talk, surface to surface. Pundits pontificate daily in streams of endless bullshit for which they are paid enormous sums as they smile with their fake whiter-than-white teeth flashing from their makeup masks. People actually listen to these fools to “inform” themselves. They even watch television news and think they know what is happening in the world. We are drowning in a “universe of disembodied data,” as playwright John Steppling has so aptly phrased it. People obsessively hover over their cell phones, searching for the key that will unlock the cells they have locked themselves in. Postliteracy, mediated reality, and digital dementia have become the norm. Minds are packaged and commodified. Perhaps you think I exaggerate, but I feel that madness is much more the norm today than when Laing penned his epigraphic comment.
Not stark raving screaming madness, just a slow, whimpering acceptance of an insane society whose very fabric is toxic and which continues its God-ordained mission of spreading death and destruction around the world in the name of freedom and democracy, while so many of its walking dead citizens measure out their lives with coffee spoons. A nice madness, you could say, a pleasant, depressed and repressed madness. A madness in which people might say with T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock (if they still read or could remember):

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…
…And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker
And in short, I was afraid.”

But why are so many so afraid? Everyone has fears, but so many normal people seem extremely fearful, so fearful they choose to blend into the social woodwork so they don’t stand out as dissenters or oddballs. They kill their authentic selves; become conscience-less. And they do this in a society where their leaders are hell-bent on destroying the world and who justify their nuclear madness at every turn. I think Laing was right that this goes back to our experience. When genuine experience is denied or mystified (it’s now disappeared into digital reality), real people disappear. Laing wrote:

In order to rationalize our industrial-military complex, we have to destroy our capacity to see clearly any more what is in front of, and to imagine what is beyond, our noses. Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste our sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time.
Without the most thorough and rapid brainwashing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I. Q.’s if possible. From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, as their parents and their parents before them, have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of it potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful. By the time the new human is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves, a half-crazed creature more or less adjusted to a mad world.
This is normality in our present age. Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites. Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern. Violence attempts to constrain the other’s freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other’s own existence or destiny. We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love…We live equally out of our bodies and out of our minds.

So yes, I do think most people are victims. No one chooses their parents, or to be born into poverty, or to be discriminated against for one’s race, etc. No one chooses to have their genuine experience poisoned from childhood. No one chooses to be born into a mad society. This is all true. Some are luckier than others. Suicides, fast and slow, are victims. But not just victims. This is not about blame, but understanding. For those who commit to lives of slow suicide, to the squelching of their true selves and their consciences in the face of a rapacious and murderous society, there is always the chance they can break with the norm and go sane. Redemption is always possible. But it primarily involves overcoming the fear of death, a fear that manifests itself in the extreme need to preserve one’s life, so-called social identity, and sense of self by embracing social conventions, no matter how insane they may be or whether or not they bring satisfaction or fulfillment. Whether or not they give life a meaning that goes deep.
But for those who have taken their lives and are no longer among us, hope is gone. But we can learn from their tragedies if we are truthful. For them the fear of life was primary, and death seemed like an escape from that fear. Life was too much for them. Why? We must ask. So they chose a life-in-death approach through fast suicide. Everyone is joined to them in that fear, just as everyone is joined by the fear of death. It is a question of which dominates, and when, and how much courage we can muster to live daringly. The fear of death leads one to constrict one’s life in the safe surround of conventional society in the illusion that such false security will save one in the end. Death is too much for them. So they accept a death-in-life approach that I call slow suicide.
But in the end as in the beginning and throughout our lives, there is really no escape. The more alive we are, the closer death feels because really living involves risks and living outside the cocoon of the social lie. Mr. Pumpkin Head might seize you, whether he is conceived as your boss, an accident, disease, social ostracism, or some government assassin. But the deader we feel, the further away death seems because we feel safe. Pick your poison.
But better yet, perhaps there is no need to choose if we can regain our genuine experience that parents and society, for different reasons, conspire to deny us. Could the meaning of our lives be found, not in statements or beliefs, but in true experience? Most people think of experience as inner or outer. This is not true. It is a form of conventional brainwashing that makes us schizoid. It is the essence of the neuro-biological materialism that reduces humans to unfree automatons. Proffered as the wisdom of the super intelligent, it is sheer stupidity.
All experience is in-between, not the most eloquent of phrasing, I admit, but accurate. Laing, a psychiatrist, puts it in the same way as do the mystics and those who embrace the Tao. He says:

The relation of my experience to behavior is not that of inner to outer. My experience is not inside my head. My experience of this room is outside in this room. To say that my experience is intrapsychic is to presuppose that there is a psyche that my experience is in. My psyche is my experience, my experience is my psyche.”

Reverie, imagination, prayer, dream, etc. are as much outer as inner, they are modalities of experience that exist in-between. We live in-between, and if we could experience that, we would realize the meaning of life and our connection to all living beings, including those our government massacres daily, and we would awaken our consciences to our complicity in the killing. We would realize that the victims of the American killing machine are human beings like us; are us, and we, them. We would rebel.
Thoreau said a life without principle was not worth living. Yet for so many of the slow suicides the only principals they ever had were those they had in high school. Such word confusion is understandable when illiteracy is the order of the day and spelling passé. Has anyone when in high school ever had Thoreau’s admonition drummed into his head: “The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse.” Of course not, since getting a “good” living is never thought to involve living in an honest, inviting, and honorable way. It is considered a means to an end, the end being a consumer’s paradise. “As for the means of living,” Thoreau added, “it is wonderful how indifferent men of all classes are about it, even reformers, so called – whether they inherit, or earn, or steal it.” Is it any wonder so many people end up committing slow suicide? “Is it that men are too much disgusted with their own experience to speak of it?”
What the hell – TGIF!
I believe the story has it that when he was in jail for refusing the poll tax that supported slavery and the Mexican-American war, Thoreau was visited by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, who asked him, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” To which Thoreau responded, “Ralph, what are you doing out there?” Today, however, most folks don’t realize that being outside their cells is being in them, and such imprisonment is far from principled. That’s not a text message they’re likely to receive.
I recently met a woman, where or when I can’t recall. It might have been when walking on the open road or falling in a dreaming hole. She told me “if you look through a window, you can see the world outside. If you look in a mirror, you can see yourself outside. If you look into the outside world, you can see everyone inside out. When the inside is seen outside and the outside is seen inside, you will know what you face. Everything becomes simple then,” as she looked straight through me and my face fell off.


Edward Curtin teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. He writes as a public intellectual for the general public, not as a specialist for a narrow readership. He believes a non-committal sociology is an impossibility and therefore sees all his work as an effort to enhance human freedom through understanding. His website is edwardcurtin.com

Filed under: Essays, featured, latest

by

Edward Curtin teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. He writes as a public intellectual for the general public, not as a specialist for a narrow readership. He believes a non-committal sociology is an impossibility and therefore sees all his work as an effort to enhance human freedom through understanding. His website is edwardcurtin.com

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Kathy
Reader
Kathy

midafo
Reader

Let us not be intense and clever here.
This is a gentle, contemplative and imperfect essay, just as this comment is so.
Thanks Curtin.
In a less imperfect contemplative mode, however, please consider that “the Tao” above is an absurdity for there were no upper case letters and direct articles in laozi’s time.
In ignoring this lies the present collapse of the English word/world.

Estaugh
Reader
Estaugh

Life; a phenomena which propagates by consuming itself? A power that exists outside of that which it animates?

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

‘Life-a sexually transmitted disease with 100% mortality’.

binra
Reader

(Humour aside) What your thinking – (or the thinking of the human conditioning in which you participate) has made of life is as you say. Thinking can be used to make the true seem false and the false true. The consequence is a mind of distortion interjected between the living and the recognition of ourself in each other and world. In this ‘gap’ is all ‘dis-ease’ dissonance and attempt to suppress symptoms that reinforces and makes error real in the mind of the believer in their separation as their personal or group salvation. Sexuality is life made manifest, but to… Read more »

flaxgirl
Reader

LOL.

okulo
Reader
okulo

I have often scoffed at virtual reality and I’m only a partial and occasional user of social media but having suffered PTSD for forty years, about 37 not even knowing that that was what was wrong with me, my life and world have shrunk to the point that I exist in a set of Matroska boxes but even at the centre, I cannot escape the noise, the literal noise as well as the mental – even whilst wearing earplugs and ear defenders. I cannot physically contract anymore and as I started reading this article, I started to wonder if the… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

The concept of ‘ existential depression’ seems quite tautologous to me.

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

Okulo, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about your struggle with P.T.S.D . I understand completely where you are coming from having struggled with this affliction and phobias throughout my adult life. The thing that has kept me here is the wonder of life and the awesomeness of the natural world. I have not come across Dabrowski,s theory before so will try to find out some more. Thank you again for sharing. I agree that the psychologists are limited in there abilities to help. I hope you are able to find your own place of solace within this… Read more »

okulo
Reader
okulo

Sometimes I think that though very well meaning, many health care professionals actually have little concept of the mental health problems they are dealing with. It’s like, say, they understand the concept of gravity but not magnetism and that by following a process such as CBT all problems go away. Five years ago, in my local authority, the only option open to me (I was told, quite literally, that I could take it or leave it) was CBASP and that I could not even embark on such a programme without an SSRI prescription. I had just explained that I was… Read more »

manfromatlan
Reader

Also, is mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance or is the “imbalance” the result of trauma, brain damage, immune and digestive abnormalities? Treating chemically not always the best route, herbs/homeopathy can help sometimes. And, engage with them,

binra
Reader

Stress or strain of intense or chronic persistence activates the bio-chemistry of the sympathetic nervous system and the capacity of the parasympathetic to balance, repair and renew is worn down such that a fear-based loop runs a self reinforcing script. Nutrition does come into this as do toxins – but these are also and perhaps firstly at the level of thought – but to uncover that may need a dietary discernment to clear the brain fog. One has to work with the evils of the day thereof to uncover the way to live this day well. I was going to… Read more »

okulo
Reader
okulo

Thank you for the kind words. vexarb I find it hard to respond but feel that I have to. I’m sorry that I disagree with you, existential depression is not some fancy 20th century angst except that given the rise of humans’ awareness of the universe, it is very likely to be more prevalent. Nobody diagnosed me with existential depression other than me but it is as applicable to my situation as the trauma I experienced over a nine year period decades ago. They are not exclusive and complicate each other. The trouble I have is that the existential depression… Read more »

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

Okulo I do so hope that you manage to sort out your housing difficulties and find some where that gives you sanctuary.. All things are transitory and .good things often come out of the darkest times. You are in my thoughts and my prayers.

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

Okulo, The nhs is more about medication and sticking plasters then real healing. I think there is so much evidence that SSRIs cause more misery and problems then they solve including worsening of symptoms. I would never take any of them personally. They dont even have enough understanding of how the chemicals in the brain function yet so how can they possibly fine tune such medication for an individuals safe usage. I am so sorry to hear that having moved you have neighbour problems . I know from my own personal experience how damaging this is to any possible peace… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

Okulo, you have real problems not just some fancy 20th century “existential angst”. People with real depression and other forms of mental trouble are found in many families. There is little or nothing the rest of the family can do, except support financially if possible, and show acceptance. Therapy and pharmacy can help but not much. Taunts from the minority of ignorant and unfeeling people in this world are a constant hazard for all of us. But all this can be borne with dignity. There is a popular book which might or might not help; anyway I found it a… Read more »

binra
Reader

vexarb, While I don’t argue your experience, I do question your assumptions. If this prison was a falsely flagged identification, then all attempts to escape it only reinforce and compound and develop the consciousness and culture of the ‘prison’. Thus a human conditioning is set and accepted and reacted from as ‘the human condition’, and survival adaptations under such a sense of division and rules all work to reinforce the conditions upon which they have become dependent. An example could be ‘prison food’. The door to the prison was never locked but the conditioning that kept that door closed forced… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

@Binra. I think we are broadly in agreement as regards ends; must be, because in the end there can be only one One. As to means, though both Buddhist and Graeco-Christian mysticism share a commont Indo-European root (a dialectic of One vs Many, Good vs Evil) they diverge on the exercise of Willpower. Both in Greek and in Judaeo-Christian ethics, Good Will is essential to salvation of the soul and the fate of the Universe. It is a driving force. “In la sua voluntade e la nostra pace”. “L’amore que muove il sol e l’altre stelle”. — Paradiso One of… Read more »

binra
Reader

My appreciation of you is regardless of finding agreement, I don’t seek to address the person so much as the underlying issues with you and anyone else who is interested. ‘Issues’ include the inherited linguistic structures that frame our perception and thus determine our response. The ‘territory’ of our being is the same regardless our filters of definition and interpretation. Sharing or opening to communication calls for reading the contextual meaning as well as the apparent face value of what is said. So I am not seeking controversy or to prove anything so much as an illumination of unconflicted being… Read more »

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

I do see what you are saying and at times even glimpse this and feel such resonance. Moments of suspension but they are sporadic. It feels as though falling from grace from time to time checks ego and prevents mistaking oneness for detachment iand delusion. But I can see this is also part of a fearful thinking process, Blessed be.

binra
Reader

As I see it any such glimpse of being is where the mind interjects in “I” thoughts as if to grasp, possess or protect the forms or experience in form – and that is the ‘loss of (awareness of) grace’, this is what the mind ‘does’ until we learn not to try to keep or use it for our personal sense but rather to abide in an intimacy of being in equanamity. Even to call beauty ‘beautiful’ can lose the quality of being it to thinking about it. So in a sense instead of getting we shift to relax or… Read more »

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

PTSD is not depression it is a natural reaction to trauma. It was first acknowledged as far as I am aware in world war1 but i am sure that it was a problem long before this.Wherever trauma and or war have effected the mind and its ability to process things that should not have to be endured. It is one of the most disgusting things about the perpetuation of war and the repercussions on the human psyche. It is also part of the reason that most are living a life of quiet desperation of traumas past down to them. Physical… Read more »

Warren Celli
Reader

Great article for its provocation of thought. I have always called the slow suicide you speak of as ‘slow death by minimum wage’ and the more rapid form of it, ‘Murder’. Yes, you are a product of the menticide, and complicit in a corrupt system, but there is plenty of hope and many methods to regain your pissed on spirit. It is simply a matter of speaking and acting truth to power. Many insights in this article here and an explanation of the murder charge… http://saintaugdog.com/sadarticles/immoralsnobsignoretheir%20corruption.html And here is the close of the article, you can do many of these… Read more »

candideschmyles
Reader

Something this does not really address is the pain of being awake to reality, being forced by economics and relationships into complicity with its insanity and having to live with the guilt and hypocrisy. It is near impossible now to make an off grid crust or find an off grid home. The awake are twice prisoners.

Neil
Reader
Neil

“If you don’t have a sense of humour, it just isn’t funny is it?” — Wavy Gravy.

binra
Reader

The underlying issue that I see, is of a consciousness predicated upon denial – and the protection of that denial from exposure. This is a ‘split mind’ in concept as a sense of ‘separateness’ or segregative sense of self in image (and thought) that runs as a reversal of cause and effect. A subjective dissociation from Presence is a mind in its own spin. The Prodigal spin may set of with seemingly full pockets, but the very idea of taking a LIVING inheritance as a personal power, or creation, is running off with a COPY – in image and form… Read more »

Big B
Reader
Big B

Like Ed Curtin, I perceive an ongoing crisis in the received and ubiquitous (pan-cultural) social constructionist consensus reality. Like Catte, I believe it has outlived its evolutionary usefulness. ‘Evolutionary’ is a moot point: the modern psyche is a behaviourist and hedonically reflexive relic of the late stone age. The Paleolithic root cognition that perceives threats everywhere – and is permanently preparing for ‘fight or flight’ from our perceptual stressors – has seen a psycho-linguistic apotheoses. It has been rendered neo-Absolute and (textually and grammatically) essentialised – by language, trans-generational acculturation, and pan-historic miscognition – into an ersatz immortal personal and… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

Ask Rumi or Omar Khayyam, Brenda. You see ‘green shoots’, but all I can see in Austfailure is a cohort of dead souls spraying moral and spiritual Roundup on everything in sight. I assume you live in Old Blighted, B, where I spent a lovely year some time ago, feeling very much at home, my ancestors having lived there for centuries. I still feel a certain subconscious dread when alone in the forests here, as the wind makes the eucalypts sigh, moan and howl. I found the UK a horror show of nastiness towards the poor, sick and downtrodden, but… Read more »

manfromatlan
Reader

Not to forget, the takeover of Oz by the Zios.

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

As in the rest of the West.

Hugh O’Neill
Reader
Hugh O’Neill

Dear Ed, please forgive my insensitive remarks earlier. I had not realised it was yourself writing. If I were to think deeply about the meaning of life, I would go back to the poem quoted by RFK when he announced the death of MLK. He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” The blues ain’t nothin but a good man feelin bad.

manfromatlan
Reader

Greek poet Hesiod said it nearly 3000 years ago, that we must continue to strive, since that leads to our betterment.

vexarb
Reader

ManFromAtlan, thanks for the quote from Hesiod. Looked it up in Brainy Quotes:
“Badness you can get easily, in quantity; the road is smooth, and it lies close by, But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat, and long and steep is the way to it.”

Harry Stotle
Reader
Harry Stotle

“For human nature is such that grief and pain – even simultaneously suffered – do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective. It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp. And this is the reason why so often in free life one hears it said that man is never content. In fact it is not a question of a human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but of an ever-insufficient knowledge of the complex nature of the state of… Read more »

Harry Stotle
Reader
Harry Stotle

I was an avid reader (and admirer) of RD – yet he himself was depressed, probably alcoholic and abandoned his first family (leaving his wife and 5 young children).
If Ronnie can’t work it out then what chance for us, eh?

vexarb
Reader

Harry S. I venture to guess that most of us would have a good chance of not becoming an alcoholic parent who, after abandoning a spouse and 5 young children, would go on to write books of advice on how to develope a healthy psyche.
“Oh, Tupper, philosopher true / Here is a health to you / A publisher looks / With respect on your books / For they do sell, Philosopher True”. — WS Gilbert

flaxgirl
Reader

Always the way. That’s humans. You can’t bind a luminary to practising what they preach – you’re totally screwed with that one. Article about interview with one of Laing’s children, Adrian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jun/01/mentalhealth.society

Big B
Reader
Big B

The Buddha left his wife and children: that did not turn out so bad?
[Not to be read as advocating the abandoning of family: just sometime higher needs must…]

manfromatlan
Reader

Worked out well eventually for ‘wife and children’ https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/buddhas-family/

Gary Weglarz
Reader
Gary Weglarz

An inspiring essay that touches many of us who have struggled at some point(s) in our life with coming to terms with living connected to the rather insane alienated state of “normal” that is modern existence for most people. Strange how some commentators see the questioning of such “normality” by the author, or a Laing, an Ernest Becker, a Thoreau, as somehow a bad or neurotic thing. I can’t really imagine how I would have navigated my own path without such thinkers sharing their own questions, fears and observations about what we in the West were becoming as we built… Read more »

wardropper
Reader

Thank you!
It’s actually quite thrilling to come across an article which can kindle thought-provoking discussion like this.
The world really needs it.

Fair dinkum.
Reader
Fair dinkum.
vexarb
Reader

@Fair Dinkum. Probably sparked by the rise of suicides in the U$A; which is probably related to an earlier rise in suicide among farmers in India — another paradise for LoanSharks.

manfromatlan
Reader
mike lovar
Reader
mike lovar

Being grateful for the miracle of being here to experience the world can be enough to feed our hungry souls Some are too busy dying to survive too stop and wonder. Some with the time are too busy with themselves to stop and wonder. Whether it’s hardship or ease that gets in your way try to let go and let your soul speak to you. With time and practice it will say “thank you” to life if you allow it. From deeply difficult personal experience I;ve learned it does help. A lot 🙂

Hugh O'Neill
Reader
Hugh O'Neill

I was quite happy, until I started reading this paean to misery and was considering slashing my wrists towards the final paragraphs…If I were a psychologist, I might say; “Get a life” but since I am not, I shall attempt some compassion. I have clearly been very lucky in that I learned long ago that ego is indeed the enemy; if I contemplate my navel, then introspection is a toxic spiral. After 17 years of hating my job (because I thought that it was normal to hate one’s job) I worked for 10 years on sailing ships, often for 12-16… Read more »

wardropper
Reader

Interesting how two different people can experience the same article as á ‘paean to misery’ or an inspiring pointer to the future. I suppose it boils down to how much damage has already been done to the soul by the usual culprits (media, politicians, robotic employers, etc.) since childhood, but I considered this to be a well-supported and highly relevant article in favour of waking up and getting to know one’s own mental environment better. The ego, like any other natural endowment, offers us choices, and there is ‘good’ ego and ‘bad’ ego, both of which need to be weighed… Read more »

Hugh O’Neill
Reader
Hugh O’Neill

Quite right. Mea Maxima Culpa. I did not mean to offend anyone but clearly have. I shall try and think before writing next time. Pax vobiscum

manfromatlan
Reader

Good to know how happy and self-sufficient you are, but telling others suffering from depression or suicidal impulses to “Get a Life”? You really are an arrogant ignoramus. Here: http://socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/suicide.html

New Zealand’s overall suicide rate is similar to the OECD median (11.8 deaths per 100,000). New Zealand’s youth (15–24 years) suicide rate was the highest among the 34 OECD countries, ahead of Finland for males and Korea for females.

Hugh O’Neill
Reader
Hugh O’Neill

My profound apologies. I was shooting from the hip and should have paused to weigh the possible effects of my stream of consciousness blather. My brain chemistry may be unusual because I have many times felt that I was so happy, I could happily die. This is the last thing that anyone not similarly wired needs to hear. Introspection was never my strong point, and I dislike solitude, and crowds. Loss of self through service to a higher cause may well be a rare privilege. I doubt if I will rage too much at the dying of the light because… Read more »

manfromatlan
Reader

NP, Hugh, and I apologize for responding the manner I did. A Toronto mayoral candidate I knew committed suicide off of a bridge years ago and this tuned us all in to the dangers of anti-depressive meds.
Yes, we should all have traditions that make us comfortable with death, a party being perhaps the best of them 🙂
Cheers!

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

I was brought up to believe that life was our way of learning how to be. That we experience what we need to learn. To bale out on this would mean we would need to return until we learned what we were here to learn. The fact that this is such a beautiful and magical world has saved me from giving in. That and the pain it would cause to other people. The article was thought provoking and raised the one truth we can be sure of, that inevitably we are all on a long road to death. It is… Read more »

binra
Reader

You invoke the ‘certainty’ on which a world of division was made and be-lived unto death. The mind of a separateness from life WOULD be consigned to live under the shadow of ‘death’ if it were truly alive. Learning how to be is – in this world – learning how to be who you are not. The ‘subjective’ sense of self is also objectionable. This ‘consciousness’ is creative in the same way a split personality is a defence against terror. “No man walks the earth in armature (form) but has terror stalking at his heart” ~ ACIM. This is to… Read more »

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

Binra I assume that you are responding to me. Firstly if I can make clear. Although I say I was bought up to believe and see in a certain way that does not mean that this is what I think now. It is that all of our philosophies and religions or belief systems colour our existence and have an impact on us and how we navigate our way in the world. We are all trying to find our way. Some of us are sure and some of us struggle. Some of us don’t even want to engage at all. In… Read more »

binra
Reader

@Kathy: “I am only mortal but I strive to become a better person. Life throws up many struggles of survival and my heart goes out to all fellow travelers who fall by the way side from time to time”. I rest in appreciation of what you shared. I also pick up on your ‘skin’ or conditioned sense of being. I hear you and join with you – but not as “only mortal”. Perhaps beneath what seems to be a sympathy for other ‘separated and mortal failures or fall-offs’ is a true a deep compassion that embraces rather than rejects (separates)… Read more »

mike lovar
Reader
mike lovar

Hmmm a bit confusing can you make this clearer

binra
Reader

Confusion is not my intent but it can arise from trying to force meanings (into old thought systems). If you have some resonance and curiosity enough to want to clarify any point then ask and receive, but if the whole is obscure, then perhaps the approach is part of the result? I generally see that when I approach anyone or anything with a preset expectation, I meet some sense of miscommunication. Such is the nature of a pre-judgement or mind filter. I am not suggesting you ‘should’ abide in what I write in willingness for meanings to rise to you… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

@Binra. Buddhism is probably the most coherent formulation of the mystic striving toward Oneness with The All, and the most compatible with the implications of quantum physics. Nevertheless, I will not reject the fate of finite creatures, their struggles, their joys, their sufferings, as illusory. My concept of the Mystic Vision is taken from The Paradiso, from which Dante looks down at the Earth: “this little threshing floor that makes us all so fierce”. But the smallness of the threshing floor does not negate the greatness of the struggle, which is the Cosmic struggle between Good and Evil, nor the… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

@Mike Lovar. I think Binra’s first sentence (in reply to Kathy) is a Zen Buddhist aphorism in the style of Finnegan’s Wake: “You [Kathy] invoke the ‘certainty’ [so-called, because it is an illlusory certainty] on which a world of division [Samsara, the illusory world of separate things] was made [by ‘you’ in your present incarnation] and be-Lived [James Joyce pun on be-Lieved, because ‘you’ believe in ‘your’ illusory separate life] until death. And I think Kathy’s reply is a Christian or Ancient Greek or plain common sense negation of all this negation: we live within our skin but for others.… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

How are you coping with the reality that humanity has more or less destroyed the beautiful Earth’s glorious Life, and will take themselves with the other dead species and devastated biospheres sometime in the next few decades?

Kathy
Reader
Kathy

I try to keep a level of optimism as much as I can. May be our planet holds a greater capacity for regeneration than we give her credit for. It has been found that around Chernobyl a vast growth in vegetation and animal life has happened since the disaster. It is humans who have the problem in going there. Plants and animals having shorter life spans are not effected in the way that humans are. I am a strong believer of Gaia as a self healing planet theory. That said It is saddening and depressing that we exploit her so… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

I’m happy to hear that you are an optimist. We need them, but we also need action, soon, to disempower the destroyers of Life on Earth, and change course 180 degrees. The world will certainly restore itself, eventually, after our disappearance, but unless the sane and non-destructive people do something very soon, then the Trumps, Mays, Murdochs and the capitalist metastases will set back Life on Earth millions of years, and exterminate humanity in the process.

vexarb
Reader

@Kathy. To have lived was a privilege for which I am grateful (to Whom, I do not know). Gaia and the rest of Her children did without me and my kind for billions of years, and I agree with you that they would not miss us if we self destructed. (Though some of the white mice and laboratory guinea pigs might miss their food and shelter). But I venture to guess the species homo sapiens sapiens will even survive our present attempt at collective suicide by eating meat and burning carbon to excess.

p0000t
Reader

This is an essay that brings one back to a place in the mind which most of the time is forgotten.That place is the self that has always been.The person who makes themselves,makes the world makes life,works hard making an image which can become the future. When you feel powerless ,thats when there is no point. Its a good struggle.

Big B
Reader
Big B

Admin: thanks for posting this …it’s like everything I have been thinking about for forty odd years. R D Laing (and Gregory Bateson inter alia) were a yuuuuge influence on my formative years. Not least in that we were born a few miles (and 35 years) apart. Laing always reminds me of Yossarian’s predicament in Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’. The authentic response to the Social Lie is trauma, madness, and if, in acceptance, slow suicide. But it is the world that is mad; not us. Our response is rational and sane: grounded not in delusion or paranoia – but in… Read more »