A little about suicide...Hamlet | Polonius | Fellow Travellers | When it Gets Bad
"To be or not to be..." Hamlet says in Shakespeares much-poo-pooed soliliquay... "That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against the sea of troubles, and by thus opposing, end them..."
Whoa. What's this crap?
Well, break it down. It could be translated roughtly this way. "I don't know whether to kill myself or not. Is it better to suffer this mental and emotional crap constantly or take a weapon and fight it by blowing myself away..."
Shakespeare could couch Hamlet's suicidal ruminations in language that was so incredibly coded because he knew almost everyone in the audience knew exactly what he was talking about.
Here, in the character of Hamlet, is this adolescent boy, maybe fifteen (sink Mel Gibson's middleaged melancholy Dane-he's just a kid), who's been away from home at school. He comes home to find his father dead and his mother married to his uncle, the country on the brink of war. He is forbidden to return to school and his friends and instead has to stay with his new step-father and we all know how painful that can be...
We already know, by the time that Hamlet's been on stage for three minutes that he's suicidal.. His uncle and mother leave the room and he nearly collapses and in anguish says,
"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!"
(If only I could just melt into the ground and disappear... cease to exist...)
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!
(If only God's laws didn't forbid suicide)
O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
(Everything seems useless...)
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
(My life is all crap...)
Gee, I don't know... sounds pretty familiar to me...
HAMLET, Act III, Scene I
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
(I don't know whether to live or not)
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
(Whether I should go on suffering in my mind as I do when this shit happens)
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
(Or blast myself to bits)
To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,
(Dying would end all the thousand things that everybody suffers by the fact that they're human, as well as the rotten things that have happened to me on top of that...)
'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd
(I want to die more than anything else...)
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream:
(This is a veiled reference to the fact that when Hamlet/Shakespeare sleeps he has nightmares)
ay, there's the rub;
(This is for shit...)
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:
(But when you're dead, if you dream, it's a different kind of dream)
there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
(They put the lie to life)
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
(Who should have to bear the tortures of life)
The oppressor's wrong,
(Well, that's self-explanatory)
the proud man's contumely,
(The insults of pompous assholes)
The pangs of despised love,
(Love that isn't returned)
the law's delay,
(Cases that drag on in court without being resolved...)
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
(When people in positions of authority insult and offend good people)
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?
(Now we're getting downright medieval, my friends... When he could cause his own death with a naked dagger?)
who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
(Grunting and sweating under the burden of a miserable life)
But that the dread of something after death,
(Except that he was afraid of what would come afterwards?)
(In other words, the only thing that keeps a man like that alive is his fear of what awaits him after death.)
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
(Nobody ever comes back from death to tell us what it's like, and so we stay here, alive, rather than rushing into the unknown)
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
(So our scruples against suicide makes us chickenshit...)
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action
(And we lose what nerve we possessed and decide not to do it.)
Oh. Maybe Will knew what he was talking about?
Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!
Fellow Sufferers and Fellow Travelers
A fellow traveler is one who may not be in exactly the same condition you are, but understands what you are going through and is supportive and caring...
Martin Luther (Anxiety, Depression, O.C.D.), Catholic priest and founder of the Lutheran religion
Henry David Thoreau (Depression and Anxiety), American philosopher and author
Beethovan (Anxiety, Depression, O.C.D.), musical genius
Winston Churchill (Anxiety and Depresion), statesman, author, historian. Churchill had a difficult time traveling, especially by ship, because he wanted more than anything else to throw himself from the boat and commit suicide. He referred to depression as "The Black Dog" and it plagued him constantly. Yet, despite all that, he was one of the most powerful and influential men in history. He said, later in life, that his philosophy for living could be summed up in eight words:
You must never, ever, ever, ever give up.
These are people who despite their afflictions, got up and did great things. You may not agree with what they did, but the fact was that in the midst of their suffering, they were able to see the greater good. You have to learn to look past your misery and do great things as well...
When it gets really bad, remember this.
You can hold off doing anything for fifteen minutes.
If you have the urge to do something damaging to yourself, you can wait fifteen minutes.
You can pick up the phone and call someone... me, for example, go for a walk, do anything but wait fifteen minutes.
At the end of that time, you will have survived for fifteen minutes. Having done it once, you can do it again... and again, and you will eventually make it through the roughest period and start to feel a little more normal...
I swear to you, quite literally on my own life, that it can work...
AT THE BOTTOM OF IT ALL
You really don't want to die...
To die means to risk either retribution afterwards or to be nothing in perpetuity, neither of which is a very pleasant thought.
Plus there are practical aspects that need to be considered, among them what's this going to do to the ones who are left?
But ask yourself this:
If I was in a better place-with people who openly cared for me, a lover who was perfect for me, work that I enjoyed doing, unlimited pleasures, would I still want to be DEAD...
If the answer is, under THOSE circumstances, I would want to live...
Then you don't want death..you want a better life...
Which, with some patience you can have...
But it won't necessarily be easy or quick...
And you, like me, may never be "normal"... but in many ways, I'm far better than normal... and you can be, as well.
If I had killed myself at any of the points in time when I easily could have, I would not be here first, to enjoy the life that I have now, and secondly, to be of service to those who are coming along behind me and suffering the same things. You have a duty, my sweet ones, not only to yourself, but to those who come after you to give them the benefit of your experiences. There will always be those who suffer and when you are strong enough, you will probably find them. You'll know them almost by instinct, the way I know you. Once you've gotten through this and learn how to cope with it all, your duty will be to find and give aid to those who are still suffering, which is, basically, what I do.