A letter to an anarchist friend
I was deeply shocked by what you told me last night in the café.
I know I didn’t say much at the time, almost brushed it aside with a few empathetic mumblings.
But this morning I’ve been struck by the immense sadness behind your words and feel the need for a somewhat delayed reaction.You said, as I am sure you recall, that the world we live in is so bad, so far beyond redemption, that you feel like killing yourself to escape from it.
I never would have imagined that you could feel like that – feel like I do, in fact, though I’ll come back to that later.
You are, after all, young (from my point of view at least), perfectly healthy (apart from a slight cold which I am sure was not a pertinent factor!), in a stable and loving relationship, financially secure thanks to a job you don’t seem to mind too much, actively involved in trying to make the world a better place…
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this is not enough. Why should it be? But you’ve always seemed to me like someone blessed with an inner force of positivity, propelling you forward with such momentum as to leave doubt and despair trailing helplessly along behind.
Maybe if your life had stopped in some way, then I would have accepted that all this debris had caught you up and entangled you in its confusion.
But then it’s not really about you at all, is it? Any more than my own unease and anxiety are about me and my little life.
You’ve had your eyes open long enough to see the whole picture, the picture that most people around us have to blank out of their consciousnesses in order to remain ‘sane’ – which means to carry on living out their phoney existences in a phoney manner without being troubled by the inconvenience of thought.
You’ve seen all that. You’ve seen the layers upon layers of lies that smother us and stop us from growing tall and strong inside as nature intended.
You’ve clambered up on the shoulders of the people you’ve met, the writers you’ve read, the dreams you’ve dreamt, and you’ve seen that beyond the wall that surrounds our everyday lives is another wall, and then another, in concentric circles marking out the limits of our identity, our freedom, our imagination, our potential.
We are all prisoners of a society, a civilization, so life-destroying, so corrupt, so ruthless, so brutal, so all encompassing, that all who see its hideous face revealed are in danger of being turned to stone – immobilised by the sickening dread of complete powerlessness.
How can we destroy this monstrous machine that is pulping into mincemeat so many tender, hopeful, human beings like you?
How can we even start the task of destroying it? Or think about starting to do so?
Whose life is long enough, whose energy and courage sufficient, whose patience and perseverence so divine that they could embark upon such a mission with any kind of confidence?
How can you free someone who doesn’t even know they are a slave?
How can you inspire people to win back something they don’t even realise they’ve lost?
How can you urge them on to fight an enemy that they can’t see, that they can’t distinguish from the wobbly stage scenery and cardboard props of what they have been taught to think of as reality?
After generation upon generation in cages, do birds lose the urge to fly? Or do they just accept that a feeble fluttering from perch to perch is the nearest they are ever going to get?
No, it’s not enough, this half-life we are condemned to lead, with chains and blinkers on our souls as we trudge on and on, turning the treadmill of profit for the greedy, loathsome few, sometimes holding hands or singing together to make us feel less worthless.
It’s not enough even to have tried to escape, to have smashed your head against the wall time and time again, the blood mixing with your tears as you scream that you WILL be free.
And it’s not enough to find some quiet corner of the global prison where you can pretend you are at liberty, to crouch in some sheltered spot, behind a bush maybe, and hum sweet songs to yourself with fingers firmly planted in both ears to stop the sound of humanity’s wailing from disturbing your reverie.
It’s not enough, I know, and I have also often thought that suicide was the only way out – a comforting emergency exit in case it all does finally become unbearable.
My own contemplation of self-murder does not shock or thrill me any more, though. It bores me. It’s been aired so often over the years, the decades in fact, that it’s become stale and indigestible. But when you come out with same idea, it makes we want to weep.
Don’t do it! Don’t kill yourself!
I don’t know how serious you were, but don’t even talk about it, let alone think about it!
I wouldn’t say this if you were already dead, if you had sunk into a way of being so superficial that there really was no point in you staying alive, if you were compromised, polluted or stymied to such an extent that the earthly form we know as ‘you’ had nothing left to offer.
I have nothing against suicide in some, nay many, circumstances.
But to kill ourselves because of our despair at finding ourselves born and trapped in this prison-world is to miss out on an amazing opportunity.
When I was much younger, I had a vision of myself on the top floor of a multi-storey car park in the suburban town where I grew up.
I could no longer bear living in the realm of the plastic undead and I stood on the edge of the wall, the sun in my hair and the breeze making me squint, ready to step into the void.
At the very moment that I stepped out, an old man appeared from nowhere and pulled me back. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I suspect now that he was maybe the concept of my older self.
He told me that, instead of jumping from the car park, I should simply close my eyes and imagine I was doing so, imagine the fast falling, the impact, the end.
I should think about everything that was now gone. My memories, my connections, my fears, my hopes, my perceived obligations.
And then, he said in this vision of mine, I should open my eyes again and find, to my astonishment, that I was still alive, still there, still real.
But all the rest of me had really gone. All those things I should or would have done would now never be accomplished. All that life I should or would have led would now never unfold. Nothing was expected of me. Nothing was demanded of me. I simply was.
Think now, he said, how and who you want to be, all freed from the burdens you have been persuaded to take upon yourself.
Think now of what potential you possess as a raw human being with the power of moving, talking, interacting with the world around you.
You are an angel fallen from the sky, he said, still draped in the afterbirth of the celestial mother.
You have been sent here to do what you can, do what you must, to help bring about the great insurrection of the enslaved and dispossessed, to help crack open the crust of earthly power and deceit and unleash the tide of cleansing fire that swells beneath.
Imagine if all the would-be suicides in the world did the same – pulled back from the brink and became what they knew deep down they needed to be! What an army that would make, taking on the life-deniers with nothing left to lose!
He saw that I had understood and he said: “Just think – if you had really stepped over that edge, you would have died. Instead, you’ve been born.”
I’ve always remembered this whenever I contemplate suicide, even though it only ever took place in my imagination. I like to think I have lived by it to some extent – but, I’m afraid, not as deeply as I would have liked.
It wasn’t a one-off, though, and from time to time I leap again in my imagination, eyes tightly closed, and open them to find myself wrapped in a fresh skin, pulsating with new determination to leave my constructed self behind and throw my earthly presence, all clean and unencumbered, up against the scaly flesh of the Beast.
So don’t kill yourself – just offer yourself up, time and time again to be used as they see fit by the forces of good, of life, of resistance to evil.
We are all lonely sparks of light, separated from the Whole and homesick for reunion.
That day will come soon enough, but while we still have our own separate form, we have work to do, a destiny to fulfil.
Long may you continue to shine!