At about ten minutes past three in the afternoon of the 3rd of November I nearly died or, to be more precise, I almost killed myself. I got stuck in an existential loop at a therapy session and couldn’t fathom a way out of it. Ok… Without boring you to death, the basic existential dichotomy is this… You are going to die. As Jim Morrisson put it, no one here gets out alive. There is no escaping it.
Until we learn to speak dolphin it is safe to say that we are the only species truly conscious of our own mortality and we cope with it in many ways, most of which involve some sort of deity or afterlife, some fuzzy idea that instantly makes all the pain and futily make sense. This is a trial run, a test, a work in progress for something better. Without that belief, faith if you will, that people kill, maim, torture and fight wars for, we have to come to terms with the idea that that is it, gone in cosmic terms in the blink of an eye. So, without that belief, what are we? What is the point of us? And at times when life is less than super fun, what is the point in going through the motions any more? This is particularly pertinent right now as I am not in a good place physically, mentally, financially or geographically. Whilst I can always remind myself that there is always someone worse off that me, when I have days when I hide under the duvet or my health and heart problems are exacerbated by the cold of the flat I can’t keep warm all day or I watch as another opportunity to get further forward with my career slides away for the money people I know spend on a holiday, or I watch as I see how greedy, pushy people, twist events and indeed people to their own selfish ends and grandiose schemes, it’s just as easy to remember the rich, sitting on a beach somewhere, screaming at their pa because their nail varnish is half a shade out.
As jabba the hut once said, “your mind tricks don’t work on me” My own or other people’s all those lies we tell ourself just to keep soldiering on just slide off me like I’m teflon coated. Which is the problem now, I am treatment resistant, I’ve peeked too long behind the Wizard’s emerald curtain and can see how it all works. It’s easy to pass it off as cynicism or pessimism, I wish it was as simple and banal as that, things would be so much easier.
The latest trend in therapy is mindfulness, developing the ability to live in the moment, to observe thoughts and feelings with an element of calm detachment and then let them go. It’s not a new idea and much of it is stolen from Buddhism and other eastern religions / philosophies and , to a point, it works… To a point…
One of the repeating mantras in my recent counselling sessions was “You are a human being not a human doing!” As a healthy, fully rounded, homo sapien I am supposed to revel in my own exhistance, enjoying the sunshine, watching the clouds float by, appreciating and observing every moment and letting go of all my baggage in the process. I appreciate the idea and it can, if used wisely, help provide a release valve from looping crushing thoughts, but in my view, it never actually fixes anything, only delays the moment where you have to face what has caused the hurt in the first place and actually move through it. It’s a bit like constantly holding open a train door, you can prolong the inevitability of getting to your destination but you will have to get there one day or frustrate a lot of people in the process. Or you could not, you could just spend your whole life burying your head in the sand until the day you die and have precisely nothing to show for it except just being.
Don’t get me wrong just being is ok and if that is how you choose to spend what may be your one and only life on this planet then great, you do that but personally I would feel short changed. The idea of a life of passivity and mediocrity appalls me, this life we are given is a gift and if I just let it float past I might as well die right now. The society of the Spectacle, the great Situationist manifesto by Guy Debord posits that humans need to truly live, to actively engage and do things that are ‘real’. To me, authentic living is about making a mark, feeling that in some small way the world was better for me being in it. A wry smile came to my face whilst typing that as I can think of about twenty people off the top my head who while not actively wishing me dead would probably be quite happy if I died, but then again they are all complete arseholes so I regard that as a sign that I’m doing the right thing.
I am happy to regard myself as as much a human doing as a human being, I am prolific with the amount of stuff I do but I always want to do more. I feel a constant frustration with my own human limits and the amount of ideas I have and knowledge and skills I wish to absorb is constantly limited by this failing human body and a brain that is constantly on the fritz and financial constrates and the annoyance caused by the frankly mad and frustrating actions of others close to me makes me go crashing into brick walls as I did Thurday last when the combination of my existential / situationist outlook coming into contact with a session of, how many angels are dancing on the head of a pin?, quick fix therapy had the same effect on me as someone sneakily building a concrete wall across a motorway.
I avoided the close encounter with the business end of a lorry, I passed the pier without walking off the end with coat pockets full of stones and I steered clear of the sharps until bedtime and steadily over the course of four days of duvets and crawling up walls I got my mojo back a bit to the point where I didn’t actively want an off button and remembered, I am a human doing, a human making, a human drawing, a human teaching, a human reading, a human thinking and hopefully a human achieving, granted it might all be totally pointless and futile in the grand scheme of things but there is one more thing I am, a human trying. Very trying according to some.