“And the wave sings because it is moving.” Philip Larkin
“Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas
“Nobody gives a damn.” Freddie Mercury
The third quote’s there just to get your attention; in fact, I’d say the exact opposite is true–too many people give a damn to justify taking one’s own life. In fact, you could argue that killing yourself is a selfish gesture (though I wouldn’t always go along with that; for some people, life is goddamned unbearable. Imagine someone who is in excruciating physical pain twenty-four hours a day. No amount of medicine or doctors’ magic tricks can make it go away. Would you hold it against him or her if he or she did himself in?).
But I’m not here to bring you down, even though it is Sunday, I’m hungover, I’ve got to go to church in a few hours, and I feel as if I’m running out of excuses to live myself (and yet that’s certainly not true; I’m just being adolescent and melodramatic, as usual). Let’s face it: life is a major-league pain in the ass a lot of the time, at least for most people. As author Jonathan Ames says, “contemplating suicide is like taking an aspirin.”
Going through with it, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter, and one that’s best avoided by most of us if we can help it. Luckily, we can. Human beings are remarkably resilient critters. We’re made of tougher stuff than we often realize, and even though it’s perversely pleasant to feel sorry for yourself and mope around like a sad sack when things don’t go your way, it’s also a pointless exercise in self-indulgence and an undignified waste of time and spiritual energy.
Stop me if I remind you of that Billy Joel video in which he goes up to a teenager standing on a bridge getting ready to jump and sings, “Wait till you feel your second wind.” I don’t know about you, but if Billy Joel approached me while I was teetering on the edge of a bridge, staring into the abyss, it would embolden me to jump, especially if he had to compound matters by singing at me. Have a heart, man!
And yet, life offers many of us certain riches that just ain’t available on the other side. To sum up my admittedly conflicted argument (as I’m still very much a prisoner of dukkha, a part-time cynic, and a pussy in times of adversity), here are just a few you might want to summon when you’re staring down the double barrel of the shotgun you inherited from Ernest Hemingway.
1. Radiohead’s OK Computer
2. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (or the Fifth, if you’re in need of stronger medicine)
3. Mozart’s Ein Kleine Nacht Music
4. The beautiful cadences of the Spanish language
5. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (or any other Van Gogh, for that matter)
6. Richard Pryor’s “Live in Concert”
7. Bill Hicks’ “Rant in E-Minor”
8. Hour-long moonlit kisses on the beach on the first day of November after everyone else has gone to bed.
9. Dark chocolate
10. A brisk swim in the ocean on the hottest day of the year
12. King Lear
13. Don Filippo’s pizza
14. The Jack Nicholson movie The Last Detail
15. If you’re into sap, It’s a Wonderful Life
16. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
17. Greek myths
18. Spaghetti bolognese
20. Korean women–hell, all women
21. Puppies and kittens and bunnies
22. The Beatles’ song “Tomorrow Never Knows” (off the Revolver album)
23. The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
24. Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life (or the song “Living for the City”)
25. Hank Williams
26. Otis Redding
27. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse
28. Perce Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias”
29. Richard Burton and Co.’s reading of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood
30. Harpo Marx
That’s far from an exhaustive list; go ahead and make your own.
Just remember, to quote Ray Charles, “You only live but once, and when you’re dead you’re done, so let the good times roll.” And if you’re lonely and shallow enough to bemoan that you’re not getting any, don’t forget that you’re not going to get laid in any triumphant sense of the phrase if you top yourself; you’ll only get laid to rest.
The best reason of all is that funerals are even more boring and painful than weddings, and since we’re all going to die anyway, we might as well celebrate the alternative for as long as we can in the meantime, because chances are when our vital functions cease and we stop shlepping around from place to place and can’t get up anymore to pay the check, the jig is up. Besides, as far as I can tell, eternity lasts a hell of a long time. If nothing else, survival is a valiant way to procrastinate and delay the inevitable.
And don’t you want to live until 2050, when the world’s human population is estimated to be nine billion?
Okay, forget I said that. Live it up and have the time of your life, because you can’t have one without the other.