February 23, 2005

Half-man Half-god?

In America we love resolution. We have to know why. Our voracious yet insipid need to know compromises out ability to discern between acceptable reasons and unnaceptable reasons. When someone cries mea culpa we are inclined to let it go--just this once. But what about suicide?

Hunter S. Thompson is the latest in a long distinguished line of writers, artists and musicians who have killed themselves. Today a friend of the family and editor of some of Thompson's work stated:

"I think he made a conscious decision that he had an incredible run of 67 years, lived the way he wanted to, and wasn't going to suffer the indignities of old age. He was not going to let anybody dictate how he was going to die."

This really makes me realize something I'd never thought before. I've always known that Thompson was a man apart, a man who lived by his own creed. The disturbing thing is that Americans tend to lionize anyone who lives this way in spite of the fact that moral certitude is not on their side. In the twenty-first century there is a trend to call these types of people "heroic"--someone who, despite their recklessness, march on to the beat of their own drum. Recently, this personality has been variosly dubbed "hard-charging"--i.e. the high-ranking U.S. soldier who recently said that he thought it was "some fun" to shoot Taliban fighters in Afghanistan--and "courageous"--i.e. anyone whose actions defy straight-laced, button-down, God-fearing middle-American ethics.

I understand the need for writers to work at the margins of culture, especially American writers who, last I checked, aren't in any danger of being imprisoned for their ideas; afterall, this may be the only sure fire way to sell books.

On serious note, I know that we can never really know the mind of the suicide, and I constantly pray for those artists who may feel that they and their work amount to nothing--I've been there--but, suicide is, among other things, the ultimate disavowal that what human beings make with their hands and minds is of any consequence whatsoever.

I suspect there's much more to say on this topic, but I'll stop there.



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