August 22, 2014

"When someone negates their existence, they cancel themselves out in my mind."

"I have many records, books and films featuring people who have taken their own lives, and I regard them all with a bit of disdain. When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not. I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them. Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned. It’s hard to feel bad when the person did what they wanted to. It sucks they are gone, of course, but it’s the decision they made. I have to respect it and move on."

That's not the only point Henry Rollins makes in "Fuck Suicide." My son John focused on one of the other points over at Facebook, where I'm participating in the comments. I'm choosing to focus on this because it made me reflect on the way I feel when artists who have spoken to me kill themselves. Unless they are in the final throes of a fatal illness, their suicide reveals something about the mind that gave rise to the art, and it infuses that art with different meaning.

I might still listen to Kurt Cobain or read David Foster Wallace, but always now only with the knowledge that this material came from a mind that was moving toward death. The comedy of Robin Williams was hilarious. He's not so funny now.

You made speaking to us your life's work, and then, in the act of rejecting life, you changed the meaning of that work. And unless you worked in solitude, you changed the meaning of the life's work of those who worked with you, who played in your band, who acted alongside you in your movies.

Perhaps there are some in your audience who will find new depth and poignancy in you work, knowing that your preferred annihilation to this world. But I'm with Henry. I walk out on that show.

112 comments:

rhhardin said...

I pay no attention to suicide.

Meade said...

I feel the same way about people who intentionally kill their marriages.

mccullough said...

The disagreement between the point of views seems to be that many of those who commit suicide are in the final throes of a fatal illness.

Lucien said...

So is the self-destructiveness of Hemingway qualitatively different from that of Poe? Is that of Jimi Hendrix different from that of Kurt Cobain?

If you came to think of major depressive disorder as a disease with a mortality rate of about 20% would you view the works of those who died from it differently than you do now?

Anonymous said...

Re: "You made speaking to us your life's work, and then, in the act of rejecting life, you changed the meaning of that work."

Would this also apply to fatal overdoses? Are drugs not the rejection of life, and the not-unexpected overdose seals that rejection?

Who shall be judged more harshly:

Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain?

Robin Williams or Philip Seymour Hoffman?

How many bullets in the pistol are needed before Russian Roulette becomes suicide?




Michael said...

How on earth does this relate to reparations?

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the extra space at the end of my last post - unintentional.

LarsPorsena said...

The death of anyone's favorite jester (Williams), chanteuse (Winehouse) or troubadour (Cobain) has no meaning.

Hagar said...

Life is a fatal illness.

Jeff said...

I suspect Mr. Rollins would feel differently if he witnessed severe clinical depression in someone he was close to. It's not a character flaw, and it's not voluntary.

MB said...

There is a fallacy in the statement "Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned." I really don't have a good description of it, but it has to do with self-control and self-perception. Depression lies. It is not a denial, it is a loss of self and the view that the world will be better off without or not notice one is gone. It is an attempt to end the suffering.

traditionalguy said...

The hopelessness spirit that leaves no out in a mind except for suicide has a free antidote.

It is the Christian's faith in the living Lord's incarnation, sacrifice, and resurrection that we are invited into sharing.

The suicide guys make a terrible mistake.

Anonymous said...

"When someone negates the existence of their unborn child, they cancel themselves out in my mind."

Just trying it out.

chillblaine said...

Assisted suicide of mentally competent adults is legal in many states, including Oregon.

I would recommend getting out before they make it mandatory.

mrs.e said...

They were always imperfect. We all are.

EDH said...

Here's one to ponder:

Did a grand jury ever indict the ham sandwich that killed Mama Cass Elliot?

Michael said...

Every jumper from the Golden Gate bridge that survived the fall said that the second they released from the bridge they regretted their decision.

Worth pondering when you consider the importance of reparations

Paddy O said...

People can negate their existence in a number of ways. Suicide isn't necessarily the most absolute way.

Robert Cook said...

"Is that of Jimi Hendrix different from that of Kurt Cobain?"

Jimi Hendrix was not self-destructive; he simply had an accident.

The Crack Emcee said...

Henry Rollins has always been difficult to take seriously, outside of a gym, and this time is no exception:

WHAT IS WITH THE PICKING ON THE ILL?

Do I have to start talking about American whites showing me shades of Naziism again? I don't know where this "Vulcan" thing, people talk about in Glenn's circle, comes from.

Does anybody have to remind most of you, that you're afraid of death, so cowards trying to act brave - by striking a pose against it - are still as transparent as anyone blowing their head off. Neither know exactly what they're doing at the time. And we're all going to get there, eventually, some how. (Except for Glenn - he's going to live FOREVER!) Fuck, people get hit by busses, so what?

Like Robin Williams (or even Kurt Cobain) and your average Darwin Award winner are the same thing - seriously?

And, honestly - while it's true none of us will ever look at his work the same again - will you ever be able to watch Robin Williams and not, finally, see the criticized-as-contrived-when-he-was-alive poignancy he was reaching for, as anything less than authentic?

I agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates, that a nation that forgets it's past is committing suicide, but exploring the casual cruelty this nation is capable of doesn't seem to be high on the agenda of those pushing smiley faces, and insisting we "move on" from whatever evil was dealt in the past, which was now, and now, and now, and now, and now,....

People insisting we grin at funerals. It's sick. But let Obama play golf because that's what he honestly wants or needs to do - to cope with multiple tragedies - and those same types mock he doesn't care. What happened to all that Buddhism everyone was studying? "Be humble"?

People on this blog like to point to the genocides of Africa and say it's the human condition, but there's a reason why American whites must carry it out behind white picket fences and images of themselves in serenity.

That's a waaaay better topic to investigate, in relation to suicide, rather this self-congratulatory pat on the back because other, maybe, more sensitive whites couldn't pretend to be "happy" while coping with it any longer,...

Anonymous said...

That's your call. It doesn't change my view much. Kurt was clearly on that edge all along. It was very hard to miss. Artistic expression is often a form of self-preservation or self-medication for ppl on that edge anyway. (It's a miracle John Lennon didn't kill himself.)

Behind the humor, Robin Williams always made me feel a bit awkward, pushing the moment of human connection as he did 24/7 in almost a Sesame Street kind of way. Still, I was happy he was around and quite surprised that he killed himself. There have since been reports that he had early stage Parkinson's.

The closest I can come to understanding your POV is my college literature class (taught by a woman). It seemed that in every freaking novel written by or about a woman protagonist in the curriculum, she suffered due to the constraints on the feminine interposed ;) by conventional society and either was deemed insane or "triumphed" by killing herself (rather than exist in a living death).

This depressed the hell out of me as a kid because it offered no map or way out. The absolute grim dreariness was one reason that superficial positivism and humor offered by ppl such as PJ O'Rourke had such appeal to me at the time. That in turn didn't last long because it was far too superficial to actually work if you were not part of the societal default class, so as always, one is thrown back to one's own devices.


Calvinus said...

Rollins reminds me of GK Chesterton's quote:
"Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men. As far as he is concerned he wipes out the world."

G. K. CHESTERTON, Orthodoxy

The Crack Emcee said...

Calvinus,

"The man who kills a man, kills a man."

Wow,...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The Crack Emcee said...

Do I have to start talking about American whites showing me shades of Naziism again?

Such a compulsion does appear to be one aspect of your mental illness, so I guess the answer is yes.

PWS said...

The actions of the artist apart from his or her art and the effect of those actions of the consumer of the art is an interesting issue.

The examples are numerous; Picasso didn't treat women well; Van Gogh committed suicide; Polanski's alleged sexual assault.

It's complicated; Van Gogh's suicide and history might enhance his art; Polanski's actions might repel some but do they change the meaning of his film? How does that meaning get ascribed?

Williams' suicide doesn't change the way we experienced his art during his life, the first time we saw one of his movies in the theater. (Assuming that was during his life.)

Ann, what different meaning is now infused in Williams' art? Mrs. Doubtfire hasn't changed. What's changed is the way YOU view it with this new knowledge. But isn't that always happening because the world is always moving through time and new events change the way we see the world?

Ann Althouse said...

"The disagreement between the point of views seems to be that many of those who commit suicide are in the final throes of a fatal illness."

I take it you're implying that depression is a fatal illness. That can be discussed, but I doubt if you think a doctor should, at some stage, inform a depressed patient: You're going to die, because you're going to kill yourself.

But, more importantly, for the topic of my post, if that were really true, that the artist has a fatally diseased mind that is headed toward death, that affects the value and meaning of the art. It's the product of a fatally diseased mind. It makes my point stronger.

In using the phrase about fatal illness, I intended to segregate suicides that are not about escaping the thoughts and feelings that are part of the mind that creates the art. The body is dying and the mind is choosing only to shorten the death process. That doesn't change the art that was the product of that mind.

Ann Althouse said...

"I suspect Mr. Rollins would feel differently if he witnessed severe clinical depression in someone he was close to. It's not a character flaw, and it's not voluntary."

So, you did not read the linked essay.

surfed said...

No matter how bad it gets you can always up and move to Montana and flip burgers for awhile. The world will either wait or it won't. As a wise person once said to me - "fuck em' if that don't get the joke."

Ann Althouse said...

"There is a fallacy in the statement "Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned." I really don't have a good description of it, but it has to do with self-control and self-perception. Depression lies. It is not a denial, it is a loss of self and the view that the world will be better off without or not notice one is gone. It is an attempt to end the suffering."

But connect to the discussion in the post. If this is, in fact, a deceived mind that lies to itself and hurls itself into death, why should we expose ourselves to the artistic work product of this horribly diseased mind? Why would we not turn away from that and find another human mind to listen to?

You think you are opposing what I've said, but you are reinforcing it.

Ann Althouse said...

There is only one mind per human being. It's a figure of speech to treat "depression" as a separate entity in there struggling with the real person.

Some people believe that devils can possess a mind. Unless you do, don't speak as if you do. I'm not opposed to metaphor, but some people seem to be losing track of the fact that they are using a metaphor.

Kevin said...

Henry Rollins and Kate Bush on the same day. It's 1984 and I'm back in the dorm listening to the college station, WWVU.

Maybe this time through 1984 I'll actually wear my retainer. Naaw.

Anonymous said...

@PWS

That's true. IIRC, Ann, isn't your position the opposite for Woody Allen films?

Mine is, in any case. I don't watch Woody Allen films. And I've hated Roman Polanski since I was a child. Yet I still like Cobain because he was part of the Good News as long as he managed to last.

The art is absolutely tied to the context of the artist's life and personality for me. Henry Rollin's stuff mirrors his boxy, overly-armored personality as well. It's okay, but it would never particularly move me for that very reason.

But then, I'm not as anti-suicide as some. I am however, anti-people that obliviously and/or gratuitously make life much, much harder psychologically for others trying to deal in real life, and Woody Allen seems to be a prime example of the kind of skeevy little twit whose actions could make it that much harder for someone to resist depression and/or suicide, while the world continued to metaphorically "suck the his dick like it was made out of gold" )as a friend used to put it.)

Molly said...

I continue to be surprised at all the holier-than-thou, healthier-than-thou types who look down on suicides. I am NOT saying suicide is a good choice--as the daughter of a suicide, and the widow of another, I can say that suicide has cast a great shadow over my life.

However, it is so obvious that suicide is the result of mental illness--specifically, depression/anxiety--that those who feel the need to look down on suicides are basically attacking people who cannot help themselves.

It's an illness. It becomes unstoppable if not treated, or not treated effectively.

Why try to make the horror of it go away by making superficial judgments at the expense of those who died so forlorn and bereft?

Wilbur said...

Henry Rollins' video "Liar" was the greatest video segment ever on Beavis and Butthead.

Who can forget "Lying rules!"?

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, what different meaning is now infused in Williams' art?

Depends on which art you are talking about.

"Mrs. Doubtfire hasn't changed."

You're right about that. "Mrs. Doubtfire" was and remains a movie I have no interest in seeing. I happen to believe that prospect of having to make "Mrs. Doubtfire 2" was part of what drove Robin Williams to kill himself. What a grisly ordeal, playing Mrs. Doubtfire again, being part of the repulsive Hollywood machine.

"What's changed is the way YOU view it with this new knowledge."

I now know that the person I am watching, who enacts life-affirmingness is somewhere on a trajectory toward embracing death. It's distracting from the subject of the movie at the very least. But he's an actor. You could say it doesn't matter what he is inside, only what he gives the impression of being as he does his work.

I liked Robin Williams in his comedy concerts, his one-man-on-stage antics. What manic mad merriment! Then. Now, the meaning is changed, and I cannot enjoy it. It's not diverting. It's: Oh, that poor man was so deeply troubled, he's running around acting like that because he's so desperate and crazed he can't figure out anything else to do… except die!

I don't want to watch that. It's like you wouldn't gawk at someone having an epileptic fit.

Lyle said...

I think people who are criticizing Rollins lack intellectual and emotional maturity. It's like some kind of superficial morality.

Rollins and you both make cogent points about looking at people who commit suicide.

Ann Althouse said...

"Assisted suicide of mentally competent adults is legal in many states, including Oregon."

Only in the last throes of a fatal disease… which does not include suicide.

There's nowhere in the United States where you can get a doctor to help you die because you're so depressed you want to choose death (or feel compelled by depression to die).

Birches said...

I agree with you on certain artists. Mrs. Doubtfire won't feel the same way again.

But it's different with Kurt and Amy and Jimi and Jim Morrison and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and even Heath Ledger.

You could feel their art treading the self destructive path. It was always there.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Jeff said:
"I suspect Mr. Rollins would feel differently if he witnessed severe clinical depression in someone he was close to. It's not a character flaw, and it's not voluntary."

Mr. Rollins clearly states that he had a roommate that committed suicide due to depression... so... I suppose Mr. Rollins has witnessed severe clinical depression in someone he was close to... proximally, if not emotionally.

Anonymous said...

If it wasn't a clear, I knew of Roman Polanski as a child rapist long before I was aware of any of his work, so it wasn't a hard call since he was a danger to my own kind, as I saw it then. I eventually did see "Rosemary's Baby" in my 30s and really couldn't divorce it from the context of Manson and creepy Los Angeles celeb Lolita rape.

I do what I can to get over these entrenched opinions from time to time, but it's like trying to get a water ring out of the table. It just keeps reappearing.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

When I was twelve Aunt Phoebe killed herself with Uncle Jack's revolver. She was beautiful, warm and generous. She left five children and I loved her like I loved my own mother. It was very hard to understand at the time.

As time went by, I learned something of a reason for her suicide-- Aunt Phoebe had developed paranoid schizophrenia. Among other symptoms, she had conceived the notion that the taillights on cars were evidence of a vast evil conspiracy. I learned a reason, but still had not gained anything in understanding.

In college, like most of the people I knew, I did the LSD thing. On one bad trip I think I became aware in a very limited way what Aunt Phoebe was going through. The fear was, in a cliche, all-consuming. The hope that my state of panic was temporary was the only thing preserving me. If it had gone on for one more day I don't know if I could have continued.

I was raised to believe that suicide is a mortal sin, and this still informs how I feel about it,but I'm also certain that Aunt Phoebe felt she had no other choice. It is very likely, and entirely consistent with her character, that in a lucid moment she felt she might do harm to her children.

Henry Rollins doesn't lack compassion for the sufferers. His stance is ultimately for his own benefit. He is building a defense against the threat of suicide to himself. No matter what, I will not do it. It's a good stance to take.

John Stodder said...

"...in the act of rejecting life..."

Here we are again, in a world where highly intelligent people (Henry Rollins, Ann Althouse) seem to have a blind spot about the medical facts concerning clinical depression.

I wonder if this persistent, almost aggressive failure to understand is, itself, psychologically meaningful? Because I know Althouse reads widely, practices "cruel neutrality," and is nurtured by constant exposure to the academic world. Her judgments on many matters strike me as the soundest one can find. And yet, on this issue, she is in an alternative universe from the truth.

Yes, of course, it is true that sometimes great art arises from the mind of someone who is deeply depressed. But in some of the most notorious cases, including Robin Williams, Ernest Hemingway and Kurt Cobain, the catalyzing event seems to have been a physical ailment having been added to the mix. The Robin Williams you laughed at in the 70s and 80s went on to have heart surgery and then to be diagnosed with Parkinson's, two events that often trigger worse depression symptoms. Hemingway was suffering from the effects of surviving a plane crash about a decade before he died -- this event was said to have changed him. Cobain had notoriously intense gastro-intestinal pains from which not even heroin provided complete relief. Cobain and Hemingway also had suicidal family members -- and depression is an inherited trait.

To say that any of these people were in love with death is almost adolescent in the face of the real issues they faced that helped drag them down to the point where suicide ideation became suicide fact.

Paddy O said...

Depression is like diabetes.

Some people are prone to it, some people get there because of lifestyle (not always things they've done, but things done to them).

It's treatable. But untreated leads to bad consequences.

So, there should be both grace and critique involved. Because while it's not a choice, there are proactive responses and there are destructive responses. It's treatable, and not always just with medication. Lifestyle-such as diet, exercise, environment can make a difference.

m stone said...

For someone who seems to have an understanding of depression, Rollins incongruously writes: "Life isn’t anything but what you make it."

I also have an appreciation of the depths people can fall and the prison depression is, but I reserve my disdain for people who pay no attention to suicide (the suicide) or dwell on their own separation of the artist and the art.

David said...

My wife's grandmother (her mother's mother) died a suicide when my wife's mother was a teenager. The grandmother suffered depression and from this distance it's impossible to determine its nature or intensity. The precipitating event for the suicide was the grandmother learning that her philandering husband had taken action to have her committed to a mental institution. She learned that by accident. The white coats were coming to take her away that very day.

Within a few weeks of the funeral the husband left for Europe with his mistress. They later married.

That suicide (and the conduct of the husband that helped to trigger it) has repercussions for the family 100 years later.

It's not too hard to imagine the despair and isolation that caused her to take her own life. A stronger person might have found a way to persevere, but it's also hard to suppose that she was weak.

It was impossible to ignore or avoid this event or its consequences. In some ways it might better be seen as a murder, but the family has always seen it as a suicide.

On the other hand my mother, who threatened suicide off and on for two decades, never committed it. She stopped the threats after my father died of a heart attack at age 49. The strain of her illness (if that is what it was) was a contributing factor.

Suicides are complicated, and vary significantly. I do not think there is universal rule for response to suicide. Especially the suicides of people known only from their public person.

tim maguire said...

I'm reluctant to judge the suicide. It is just sad that life was so awful that death seemed the only hopeful choice, the only effective pain relief.

It seems savagely heartless to me, facile to boot, to dismiss this person as lesser for his unequalness to the task of living.

dbp said...

I have a lot of sympathy for the impulse to judge the art of a suicide differently from how I would if they did not kill themselves.

I also cannot help but feel that the art and depression are entangled to different degrees in different people. Surely there is the possibility that the art had nothing at all to do with their depression. Their suicide was just the point where the pain became too much to bear any longer.

John Lynch said...

This about duty. There are always people who refuse to fulfill their obligations.

"It's my life and what I do is none of your business," is the biggest unquestioned lie in public discourse. If it's none of our business, then why do we all spend so much time picking up after people who won't do their part? Everything from old age pensions to welfare to mental health has become a problem for everyone because so many people refuse to perform their duties. Raise your damn kids. Go to work. Take care of your parents. Why is it so hard?

Suicide is the same. A suicide is a big "fuck you," to everyone, so the proper response is "fuck you, too." Billions of people have died before us so we can live long enough to advance the world a tiny amount. Billions will live after us and we owe them, too. Refusing to acknowledge our ancestors or descendents by murdering ourselves is a sin, whatever your religious beliefs.

It's not about you.

John Lynch said...

Here's why artists seem more suicidal.

Art comes from inside, so artists spend a lot more time by themselves in their own heads. Doing that for a long time breeds an illusion that the outside world is less important than the inner self. David Foster Wallace, the noted suicide (that's what he's famous for now), wrote about it. He understood the problem even if he ultimately failed to solve it.

This is also why artists tend to have fruity politics. In their own worlds they can make anything happen, so why is the real world any different?

There have been billions of inner selves, all extinguished or on the way there. Work exists outside of us. What we do with other people matters. Whatever crap goes on in our heads doesn't.

PatHMV said...

Some commenters seem to believe that the ONLY permissible point of view is from that of the suicide, and the only permissible reaction is sympathy. These folks give no leeway for the loved ones abandoned by the suicide to feel anger, or contempt, or disdain, or anything other than that poor person who was compelled by illness to take their own life.

As with much of the ideology of the left, this entirely negates the individual's free will and individual responsibility. If the suicide is treated as having no other option, as being absolutely identical to terminal cancer or similar disease, then we are saying that the person has no free will remaining. The natural consequence of that is that seriously depressed individuals should be locked up, forcibly medicated, and stripped of all rights and responsibilities, as they no longer have the capacity to truly make their own choices.

Pretty horrible consequence, but inevitable if you claim that anger or contempt or other emotion is absolutely impermissible because the suicide had no choice in their actions.

But we can acknowledge the physical and chemical reality behind depression without denying the free will remaining to those who suffer from it. Not all people who contract severe depression will kill themselves. Depression is not an inexorably progressive disease, always worsening. There are ups and downs, good days and bad days. On the good days, you need to work to figure out how to cope with the bad days and how to get the medical and psychiatric care you need to prevent the bad days from getting too bad.

If a loved one has heart disease, and decides that taking medication and changing his diet to preserve his life is just too much trouble, can I be angry with them for choosing to die sooner and abandon me? Likewise with a suicide, if you know you suffer from chemical depression and decline, on your good days, to seek help, to work for other solutions to your problems, am I not allowed to be angry?

Further, not all suicides are a result of deep, unchangeable clinical depression. If personal conscious choice didn't play ANY role in the decision to commit suicide, there would be no such phenomenon as copycat suicides, the "suicide contagion" effect.

I'm not advocating attacking the memories of those who commit suicide. I'm just pointing out that if you assert that the ONLY permissible reaction is sympathy, because this is exactly the same as dying of cancer, then you are denying that the deceased had any free will, that clinically depressed people generally lack free will. And that's a dangerous supposition. We can debate how much free will is left (and that is valuable for purposes of predicting who is at most risk of actually committing suicide), but to claim that there is NONE remaining is, I think, dehumanizing and dangerous.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm tired of reading one sick fairytale after another about how depression leads inexorably down the path to suicide. I'm glad people weren't saying this morally bankrupt, destructive, evil nonsense to me fifteen or so years ago. People unspooling these lines are going to end up hanging others with their words. I guess then they can tell us how sympathetic they are to the new suicides too.

Hunter said...

Perhaps it depends on the work of art in question. As someone else said about Kurt Cobain, (and the same, probably, is true of David Foster Wallace) the struggle they faced against their inner demons (I mean that only metaphorically) was integral to their work. It isn't a case of them selling a lie.

It could be said that, although people like Cobain and Wallace and Robin Williams ultimately could not overcome their metaphorical demons, whatever came out of those struggles could be honest and true.

That might not be the case for Robin Williams' wacky stage persona, but some of his performances (for instance in The Fisher King) were about how much sheer work it takes to embrace life amidst overwhelming darkness.

Meade said...

"To say that any of these people were in love with death is almost adolescent in the face of the real issues they faced that helped drag them down to the point where suicide ideation became suicide fact."

Who said that any of these people were "in love with death"?

Kirk Parker said...

Looks like we've got Red Pill Meade today... cool!

Carol said...

A suicide is a big "fuck you," to everyone,

Exactly. Fact is, you do not belong wholly to yourself. Maybe legally, yes, but that is a fiction.

mccullough said...

Severe depression is like cancer. Some people survive it, others do not.

Regarding the art stuff, when I read David Foster Wallace or listen to Kurt Cobain, their suicides don't seem to affect the way I view the writing or music. I guess I just happen to know something about them now that they did not know when they were creating their stuff.

Its not any different to me than seeing Ronald Reagan in an old movie and thinking, this guy has no idea he's going to be President in 30 years or that he'll lose his mind and die of Alzheimers after that.

It's like comparing they way OJ Simpson played football, and no doubt he was one of the top running backs ever, and thinking that somehow they way he played football gives us some insight that he is going to be homicidal.

Alex said...

I give Williams a pass due to early stage Parkinson's. This was not going to be a temporary condition and a cure is not coming for decades.

Alex said...

Carol... my BODY my CHOICE.

Lydia said...

Althouse said..."I now know that the person I am watching, who enacts life-affirmingness is somewhere on a trajectory toward embracing death."

So, you know he embraced death? How?

Here's Webster's on "embrace":
: to hold someone in your arms as a way of expressing love or friendship
: to accept (something or someone) readily or gladly
: to use (an opportunity) eagerly

None of those seem to apply in Williams's case. Maybe it's more accurate to say that he succumbed to a compulsion to quiet whatever horror it was that lay inside himself. And that he had embraced life and did a lot of enhancing of it for the rest of us for a very long time.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

"The artist has a fatally diseased mind that is headed toward death, that affects the value and meaning of the art. It's the product of a fatally diseased mind. It makes my point stronger."

Oh, good Lord, was it "fatally diseased" when he was doing Mork & Mindy - or Patch Adams? You don't know, but you're going to treat them the same now? So many assumptions.

Do the times when he was happy count? Do they increase or decrease "the value and meaning of the art"? You can't know because you weren't there. It's impossible. But judge away because he hanged himself - one day.

90% of the public suffers from back problems at some point in their life - another unforgiving reveal of a flawed manufacturing process - guess we should follow around whoever doesn't spring right back from it and tell them what a let-down they're being to us.

Yeah - TO US.

It explains a lot - the teasing and whatnot blacks take for not immediately succeeding when faced against the power of, almost, the entire United States. What are odds in America, right?

Make a dwarf fight a giant, and if he falters - well, I don't have to tell you who invented the Coliseum and feeding the poor to the lions, huh?

Fair fights, all. Damn the dwarves, and the poor, and the blacks, and the depressed - damn them all.

BE "HAPPY," DAMN YOU!!!!

Keep it up, and it won't be long before you'll be stacking bodies like cords of wood again, but this time for magazines on Design,...

Meade said...

Yes, she should have said "is somewhere on a trajectory toward canoodling death."

But seriously, Webster's second and third definitions work just fine.

Lydia said...

"Eagerly" and "gladly" -- really? And just how do you know this?

The Crack Emcee said...

Lydia,

"None of those seem to apply in Williams's case. Maybe it's more accurate to say that he succumbed to a compulsion to quiet whatever horror it was that lay inside himself. And that he had embraced life and did a lot of enhancing of it for the rest of us for a very long time."

The fact we were (possibly ) watching someone valiantly SURVIVE for as long as we did escapes her totally.

A mountain climber who slipped on the way down - did he really fail?

Embrace death?

Considering the issue of depression and mental illness, it makes no sense at all,...



harrogate said...

"Fair fights, all. Damn the dwarves, and the poor, and the blacks, and the depressed - damn them all.

BE 'HAPPY,' DAMN YOU!!!!"

Well fucking said.

Meade said...

Hitler committed suicide. Few people now argue that he did not have a fatally diseased mind. It's just too bad more people didn't recognize it long before he committed suicide — back when he was in his Mork & Blondi stage.

The Crack Emcee said...

I've got a friend who's bipolar. I worry a cop will shoot him one day.

Everyone hates on him because he doesn't take his medication. But he doesn't take the medication because, like everyone who hates on him, he wants to feel "normal." That kind of in-through-the-out-door/Catch-22 shit is common with the mentally ill. And I'm more Jack Nicholson or "Chief" than Nurse Rached, so I side with my friend. Let the man live.

We never know how long we'll have him,...

The Crack Emcee said...

Meade,

"back when he was in his Mork & Blondi stage."

Facepalm [snort]

Willy Wally said...

Meade commented: "I feel the same way about people who intentionally kill their marriages."

What poignant and insightful comment!

Ann Althouse said...

Shame on you, Crack, for taking a quote of mine and lopping the beginning off to distort the meaning. You even capitalized a letter to disguise what you did.

You quoted me saying: "The artist has a fatally diseased mind that is headed toward death, that affects the value and meaning of the art. It's the product of a fatally diseased mind. It makes my point stronger."

But I wrote: "But, more importantly, for the topic of my post, if that were really true, that the artist has a fatally diseased mind that is headed toward death, that affects the value and meaning of the art."

The "if" clause is everything there.

I was responding to someone else who implied that depression is a fatal illness and spiraling out the consequences "if that were really true."

I couldn't recognize my own quote when I read it the way you put it. I knew I couldn't have written that, and I hadn't.

Ann Althouse said...

"That's true. IIRC, Ann, isn't your position the opposite for Woody Allen films?"

No, because:

1. We don't know the facts, and I tend to believe Woody Allen's version of the story over Mia Farrow's, but I don't know.

2. Woody Allen's writing has always openly discussed and confronted mental disorders. He doesn't pose as a feel-good guy. He's self-deprecating about his problems and works through neuroses and makes that funny. That's life-affirming in a way that's completely different from suppressing pain and selling silliness and sentimentality.

3. Woody has lived all this time, quite old, despite being lambasted. He works, he speaks through his art, and he soldiers on year after year, living through his art and talking to us about whatever it is he's struggling with. I salute him.

Meade said...

Lydia said...
"Eagerly" and "gladly" -- really? And just how do you know this?

From my study of suicide notes.

rcocean said...

"Few people now argue that he did not have a fatally diseased mind"

Evil? Yes. Fatally diseased? Doubtful. The only difference between Adolph and tyrants like Mao (Nixon's BFF) Castro or Stalin were some bad breaks.

harrogate said...

Everything is Awesome!

rcocean said...

Hemingway's art isn't negated by his suicide. However, the fact that so many of his characters think of suicide, or that he himself often behaved with suicidal bravery brings a whole new meaning to his art and his life.

Its one thing to face the Bull because you're brave, quite another when you're trying to commit suicide by Bullfight.

harrogate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
harrogate said...

"I was responding to someone else who implied that depression is a fatal illness and spiraling out the consequences 'if that were really true.'"

And because very often depression obviously *can* be a fatal illness (there are many kinds of depression and varying degrees of intensity that attend them), it makes total sense to quote what you write after "if that were really true."

I notice you don't engage Crack's point, under cover of the "misquotation." But since he has stipulated the potential deadliness of depression for human beings, why not keep the conversation going by responding to his response?

Gusty Winds said...

Isn't death a part of life which fascinates us all? I think more about the profound sadness the individual must have been experiencing. Destructiveness in any form seems to add flavor to the art.

It is also disingenuous not to recognize in this discussion that everyone, at one time has had brief thoughts of suicide. Consider before passing judgement.

It would be like denying masturbation. Except we act on that one a lot more; probably because it's about living.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

"The "if" clause is everything there."

How? This isn't the first post where you've made your feelings on this subject known. You even repeat them here:

"I might still listen to Kurt Cobain or read David Foster Wallace, but always now only with the knowledge that this material came from a mind that was moving toward death."

Now, only two conclusions can be reached from that statement:

1) You don't recognize ALL MINDS are "moving toward death."

2) You think, when you listen to someone who kills themselves, you're actually listening to a mind that has something "wrong" with it.

Your "if" doesn't change that.

BTW - About me saying things were a lot the same for blacks "everywhere"?

“Nobody outside the community will ever look at the community the same,...It’s a whole St. Louis region issue; focusing on us is unfair. This could have happened anywhere in St. Louis, anywhere in America.”

White lady.

That's just how people talk,...

The Crack Emcee said...

I meant a "white lady" said that.

The Crack Emcee said...

David Foster Wallace, BTW, was a "diseased mind."

I knew he was sick by reading his work - it never added up. Kurt Cobain made sense, in context, and Robin Williams only after, but Wallace?

Reading him was like watching flowers die on film at double-speed,...

mccullough said...

Crack,

Which David Foster Wallace writings did you read?

Andy Krause said...

...and death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had backs smooth as ravens claws... Jim Morrison

harrogate said...

Andy Krause that's a lovely quote. I've ways liked that one

rcocean said...

"I knew he was sick by reading his work - it never added up."

You were able to get through 'Infinite Jest'? Well, one point for you. i didn't think it "sick" just boring and pointless. A James Joyce wannabee without the necessary talent.

Joan said...

this material came from a mind that was moving toward death

But all human artistry comes from minds that are moving towards death. No one gets out of here alive, and some contemplation of mortality infuses practically all art.

Being depressed means feeling this: Everything would be so much better if I were dead, pretty much the entire time you're conscious. For me, it never got to the point where I actually wanted to do something about it, and once I got my thyroid meds straightened out, my depression resolved. But I remember what it was like, and I talk about it with my kids, because I'm not the only person in my family to have it.

Doctors talk about symptoms and signs, subjective vs objective evidence of disease. Suicide is, unfortunately, a sign of depression that prevents treatment. Healthy people don't have, or follow through on, suicidal impulses.

William said...

No one is mentioning Sylvia Plath. Her suicide was one with her work, and it seems to have cemented her reputation. It was a smart career move on her part. No poet or rock star lost their luster by dying young for self indulgent reasons.......There was a macabre post script to Sylvia's suicide. Ted Hughes was her husband. He took a second wife. She committed suicide in the exact same way that Sylvia did. That had to leave a mark..... I wonder if history will depict Hughes as the kind of man who drove women to suicide or as the kind of man self indulgent depressives sought out in order to punish.

ken in sc said...

A military leader whose actions have caused the death and defeat of most of his forces, and takes his own life, dies an honorable death in my opinion. There is a long history of defeated commanders falling on their swords. Otherwise, suicide is a coward's way out, I think.

Ann Althouse said...

"why not keep the conversation going by responding to his response?"

I didn't even read the rest of it. I saw the dishonesty and expressed my outrage. I haven't seen an apology and a correction, so I am not putting any time into that.

Ann Althouse said...

"But all human artistry comes from minds that are moving towards death. No one gets out of here alive, and some contemplation of mortality infuses practically all art."

No, the mind is not thinking toward embracing death and deciding to reject life.

Yes, all brains die in the end. Minds contemplate that but not usually to decide that life should be thrown away.

The question is who will we choose to listen to? Which minds will we look to as we seek not real life comrades, but art?

harrogate said...

It wasn't dishonest. Now you are being disingenuous in your response to me as well?

harrogate said...

Also lol at the self-puffery of rhardin's opening comment.

jr565 said...

I was watching the Sopranos clips on You Tube and I got to the one where Tony whacks Big Pussy for being a rat.
After he confesses he rhapsodizes a bit about the past and they all laugh.
Then Tony says "Hey, Puss. did you ever even exist?" Once it's determined he's a rat and they're going to kill him it negates Pussy's life. Granted he doesnt kill himself. But its the same change of perspective on the life being thought about

jr565 said...

One things for sure. most people are not going to watch Patch Adams any time soon, without having the thought about how the guy who played Patch Adams killed himself.

Then again, who is going to voluntarily watch Patch Adams?

William said...

Does Lenny Bruce's death count as a suicide. If so, his suicide must rank with that of Sylvia Plath's as one of the most successful and aesthetically pleasing suicides of the 20th century. It's easy for a poet to have a successful, career enhancing suicide. A poet is paid to have more nerve endings than ordinary people and to suffer for their art. A suicide shows that they were on the level when they said that life was nothing but quick cuts, slow healing, and the constant aggravation of old wounds, "Terrence, there can't be much amiss tis clear, too see the rate you drink your beer." A quick draught of hemlock shows their sincerity........A comedian expresses not the beauty and significance of his suffering, but rather that his suffering is absurd and devoid of meaning. A comedian's suicide shows that he didn't get the joke.....Robin Williams comedy consisted of constantly topping himself. He said one funny line and while it was still sinking in, he topped it with four or five lines that were even funnier. His suicide just didn't fit. A pratfall shouldn't end in quadriplegia.......Now Lenny Bruce was the kind of comedian who could smoothly work suicide into his act. At the end he wasn't particularly funny, but he was looking more for punches than punch lines. His suicide was an artistic success in that he succeeded in convincing people that he had died for their sins.

FullMoon said...

"I wonder if this persistent, almost aggressive failure to understand is, itself, psychologically meaningful? Because I know Althouse reads widely, practices "cruel neutrality," and is nurtured by constant exposure to the academic world. Her judgments on many matters strike me as the soundest one can find. And yet, on this issue, she is in an alternative universe from the truth."
I have wondered if perhaps AA feelings about suicide have been influenced by someone extremely important committing suicide, or contemplating suicide.
Last year a sixteen year old acquaintance hung herself because of the suicide of her 18 year old boyfriend. A waste of two young lives, and a "permanent solution to a temporary problem"
A neighbor blew his head off with a shotgun because of constant severe headaches.Had been going to doctors for years.
Another neighbor came home on his wedding day (after living together for 9 years and with 2 children) and shot himself dead. He was drunk. What an asshole.
Elderly widow around the corner put on her wedding dress and hung herself, around the corner.She had no family and was ill. Her husband of over forty years had died several years earlier.

Smilin' Jack said...

Didn't Jesus commit suicide by Jews and/or Romans? I mean, He had to know what was going to happen, or there wouldn't have been any point to His coming here. And if you say He didn't really die because He came back three days later, that kind of sucks the life out of that whole "died for our sins" thing, doesn't it?

John Lawton said...

I entirely understand and agree with Althouse. I enjoyed Nirvana before Cobain's suicide and have not listened to them since. The artist negated the art. However, I do not feel the same about Van Gogh, probably because of the distance in time, or perhaps because performance is so personal. Fascinating subject of conversation though.

Anonymous said...

Trust the art, not the artist. I believe that.

traditionalguy said...

Jesus did more than kill himself. He offered his death as a criminal tortured, robbed, beaten , made sin, made a curse, shamed and rejected by God as the substitute for us. He was accepted by God when He was resurrected from death also as the substitute for us, thereby declaring Him and us both just men adopted into a family of new men alive for eternally. He then became our lawyer with evidence of his death blood and our judge over all issues of God's laws to keep us safe from all accusers using the old Devil's Guilt Trick on us to kill us with suicidal hopelessness.

Few believe such a good offer is possible, preferring working for
rewards with religious acts they can do for themselves.

Joan said...

No, the mind is not thinking toward embracing death and deciding to reject life.

This is not my personal understanding of depression, nor does it align with most of what I've read on the topic. Speaking personally, I was not rejecting life, life had rejected me. Being depressed is like already being dead but forced to walk around in some grim simulation.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

"I saw the dishonesty and expressed my outrage."

You're like Paul Ryan thinking nobody catches the racial subtext of his arguments - we can see through you, too, just as easily:

"I notice you don't engage Crack's point, under cover of the "misquotation.""

You do this a lot. It doesn't matter that we can see the gears in your head working, it's so transparent what you're doing. It's that you're not being a brave enough feminist - or just a woman - to stop the hiding. It doesn't work.

Jesus, Ann, you're answering a guy who said "it makes total sense to quote what you" wrote - so you're deliberately ignoring that reality to smear me as being "dishonest."

Is that being a friend to blacks? Do I deserve that? Why can't you just be wrong? Let me repeat that:

Why can't you just be wrong? The facts say so - just like the facts of America say whites are wrong but they just-can't-admit-it.

Why? Is it maturity? Not there yet? Gonna turn right and wrong into a "nobody's going to tell ME what to do" bullshit argument - which will totally kill any claim to ethics?

And then this:

"I haven't seen an apology and a correction,..."

An apology when "it makes total sense to quote what you" wrote?

Really, Ann? Lawyering is LOW.

Saying I display dishonesty is one thing - when we both know ethics is my forte and has never been yours or lawyers - but expecting an apology for your own?

Jesus, I'm glad I watched 12 Years a Slave - and read that book on plantation mistresses - so I can understand white women getting angry and punishing innocents on a whim,...

The Crack Emcee said...

harrogate,

"It wasn't dishonest."

She doesn't know the difference - she's a lawyer,...

Anonymous said...

Crack, spare us the rambling nonsense. Man up and admit that you deliberately mis-quoted our esteemed moderator.

harrogate said...

Oh good lord. This thread in some ways is the extended version of blithely telling a person suffering from severe clinical depression to "snap out of it!"

The radical positivism! It burns!

jr565 said...

Crack wrote:

Is that being a friend to blacks? Do I deserve that? Why can't you just be wrong? Let me repeat that:

Why can't you just be wrong? The facts say so - just like the facts of America say whites are wrong but they just-can't-admit-it.

why can't YOU just be wrong? The facts may only say so because you say they do. Just like all those racial bells and whistles may be in your head.
You say that whites don't even realize they are racist when they say racist things. Then that absolves them of it, since of course it's not consciously racist.
If it's just your interpretation of events then their real crime is not thinking like you do.

jr565 said...

The same way that Rollins thinks about people who take their life is the way I think about them changing their sex. It negates them, in my mind as anything but a crackpot.
Chastisty Bono will ALWAYS be chastisty Bono even if she starts dressing like a man and mangling her genitals. I would have deep sympathy for her, and wish she didnt' feel the need to so strongly negate her existence. But that is as far as my tolerance would extend. I'm not going to change my view on sex being determined genetically, nor am I going to view her as a man, since she never really had a sex change.

jr565 said...

When Lady gaga wrote Born this way do you think she was thinking about transsexuals?

"There's nothin' wrong with lovin' who you are
She said, 'cause He made you perfect, babe
So hold your head up,
girl and you'll go far
Listen to me when I say

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way"
Clearly though in the case of transsexuals God did make a mistake, and they don't love who they are.
So, witnessing someone go through the surgery and come out looking like a different sex, but knowing they are in fact still the same person makes you question their reality and grasp on it. Not only that a lot of people who think they should be the opposite gender do not look like the opposite gender, so come out looking like manly versions of women who are wearing wigs. they fool no one.

RazorSharpSundries said...

Speaking as a depressed/alcoholic from a long line of depressed/alcoholics I think anybody looking down on the act of suicide is my hero. Thankyou.

jr565 said...

ALso, if gender is so malleable and not tied into your genes, but a social construct then you could be a man in a womans body as a social construct without having to change your genitals. Whatever you were naturally would be what you were.
A woman not trapped in a mans body but a woman with a mans genitals. So what? I thought sex wasn't determined based on biology?

jr565 said...

Further people identify as pangendered. Meaning depending on the time of the day or month or year they can change between sexes. I do wonder how they know they are changing sex from minute to next "I'm a girl (slap) I'm a boy) (slap) I'm a girl (slap) I'm a boy (slap) I'm a girl AND a boy!"
But regardless, they don't change their genitals every time the switch genders. So then at lease a portion of the time they will be a gender where their sex organs don't match their gender.

Ann Althouse said...

"Oh good lord. This thread in some ways is the extended version of blithely telling a person suffering from severe clinical depression to "snap out of it!',

But no one has said anything that means that. Either you are projecting or you are setting up a straw man. The argument here is more challenging than that. Step up and face what people have really said, not what you fear someone might say or what you feel able to easily refute. No one has purported to know how to cure depression or to think that it is easy. Rather we reject suicide. Don't you? Unless you believe suicide is the cure for depression, I don't know who you are disagreeing with.

cubanbob said...

Oh good lord. This thread in some ways is the extended version of blithely telling a person suffering from severe clinical depression to "snap out of it!"

The radical positivism! It burns!"

A broken clock is right twice a day.

Ann as Joan wrote:

"This is not my personal understanding of depression, nor does it align with most of what I've read on the topic. Speaking personally, I was not rejecting life, life had rejected me. Being depressed is like already being dead but forced to walk around in some grim simulation."

It may well be one of the best summations of why people chose suicide over life. If you percive yourself as ready dead, in essence a zombie then formalizing one'sdeath is merely a detail. A crossing of the T's and dotting the I's.