On Suicide // On Care: because life is hard, part 2.

The opposite of suicide is care. If suicide is defined by the act of intentionally killing oneself, then care is the act of intentionally preventing one from killing oneself. But, as I have mentioned in other essays, death is never singular nor is care. When one commits suicide one does not simply kill oneself, one kills parts of oneself that were in relation to others. My suicide attempt would not have simply suicided me. It would have suicided the mother-son relationship my mother has with me; it would have suicided the girlfriend-boyfriend relationship my partner has with me; it would have suicided the brother-brother relationship my brother has with me. This makes suicide a multiplicity. My suicide suicides others. Additionally, however, my suicide is always something that occurs not as a response to, but in a relationship to others/an Other.

It is for this reason that “13 Reasons Why” makes absolute sense. What “13 Reasons Why” does is it makes clear the relationships that fostered (not forced, but fostered) the cause of death, whereas prototypical suicide leaves the material world with questions. It is not that “13 Reasons Why” is an over-exaggeration. It is that “13 Reasons Why” is an exemplification, a drawing out of the lines that assisted in facilitating the suicide. Whereas the world is typically left to theoretically construct the social and relational causes of death, “13 Reasons Why” portrays a suicide that leaves no one in the dark. For example, Kalief Browder could have very easily made more than 13 reasons why he committed suicide in relationship to the social context that he was forced to endure. But, the fact that he did not does not mean that what he was suffering from was something internal. What he was suffering from destroys the external/internal binary. Suicide/Suicidal ideation/suicide attempts are both internal, as a procession of thoughts, thinking and behaving that is dealt with inside of oneself, and external, as a procession of behaviors, relationships, structural and institutional networks that operate outside of oneself. Suicide occurs in a context of sociality.

The same can be said of care. When one commits oneself to care, one commits oneself invariably to us-care. For example, for most of her life, my mother has worked as a support counselor for the mentally disabled. She has wielded her body, utilized her muscles, bones, energy and brains in dedication to the care of the mentally disabled. But even outside the kinds of care that have allowed my mother to support herself financially, my mother has taken seriously us-care as a way of living in all aspects of her life. Caring for my cousins as if they were immediate family – offering housing, tutelage, and wisdom. Caring for my friends as if they were her children – offering advice, guidance, and food. Caring for the homeless and the formerly imprisoned through opening our home to them and inviting them in to our place to stay. My mother is the embodiment of the practice of us-care. My mother is committed to a politics of care that recognizes the link between care and livability. The possibility of many to make it to the end of the day has relied on the emotional, physical and intellectual care of my mother. And then, when those around us are cared for, when their body-mind-and-spirit is attended to and well, it makes us feel more at ease. It creates cycles of care that reproduce the prospect of life. One does not have to worry about the specter of suicide. The caretaker themselves feel cared for and then, those who have benefitted from access to the caretaker can learn from the pedagogy that accompanies their care and recycle the techniques. One day every caretaker needs to be taken care of, and those who have received the care of the caretaker must appropriate the methods of the caretaker in order to recreate the cycle. Caretaking isn’t trickle-down; caretaking is spread-across.

One commits suicide when one feels devoid of care, when one feels care is absent and cannot be retrieved, when one feels the weight of a careless world. One commits to care when one attempts to alleviate the tremors and troubles of suicide, when one attempts to destroy the affective apparatus that attempts to concretize the absence of care, when one attempts to invade the careless world with weapons of reconstruction. We have taken suicide to be an act of killing oneself without an investigation to the relational aspects of the act of suicide. We only see the relational aspects of suicide in two brief moments: 1) At the funeral of the suicided person, or 2) At the hospital when the attempted suicide fails. For example, in the aftermath of attempting suicide, I had received tons of notifications from people whose relationality was importance in fostering my suicide attempt, friends I hadn’t spoken to in years,  and persons I barely knew informing me how much they loved me and cared for me and hoped that I stuck around and survived. My attempted suicide revealed the relational aspects of the act of killing myself. But, it also energized people to participate in a practice/politics of care. By not looking at suicide, we fail to see the necessary relationality that has to structure of practice of care.

We have overlooked and underestimated the importance of care because we have not looked closer at suicide and have often taken the words of the suicidal to be misrepresentations of the world rather than reinterpretations of the world. Here is a wonderful example of the latter statement. When I was in the hospital and I was talking to the psychiatrist, I told her that I did not see suicide as a sign of weakness. I told her that for me suicide was harder than living and if I had more courage I would have finished the job. This, for the psychiatrist, was a clear sign of mania. For the non-suicidal, life is the hardest thing to do and suicide is easy. Suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” For the suicidal, life is like breathing. It is done without thought. It is done compulsively. It is done “just because.” No one thinks to live. They just do it until they don’t. But if life is like breathing, suicidal people are people who like to count their breaths, who like to think about breathing every step of the way, who like to notice that breathing is more complicated than it has to be, and that stopping one’s breath is an end to all complications – temporary or infinite, past, present or future. A suicide attempt is an attempt to hold your breath until you pass out from it. For the suicidal, people who continue to choose life even though it’s hard to breathe are people too afraid to hold their breath until they no longer breathe. Holding your breath when the impulse and instinct is to breath requires strength. Choosing the permanent solution to the never-ending problem of depression, ideation, and absent care and relationality does not take weakness; it’s takes commitment.

When Ohio activist MarShawn McCarrel committed suicide, black activist, organizer and academic communities wrote about the importance of self-care as if what MarShawn needed was time and space to simply deal with his demons alone. However, if his “demons won” and they are multiple, why are the forces fighting those demons individual? MarShawn, like all of us, needed to hear, feel, and obtain us-care in a world that sees little value in it. What one hears in the words, “My demons won today” is an internal/external battle that breaks the dichotomy that exist between the two. Suicide is both an internal and external struggle that requires a continual interrogation of the internal since what is internal is always externalized in some form of another. Us-care is an internal and external methodology that requires the continual interrogation of the micro/macropolitical division since what is micro is always made macro when care is done correctly. Each and every form of suicide is a result of absent care. Each and every socio-political enigma is a question of: should we care or should we not care? For this reason, I’ll conclude with the words of the most radical caretaker I know, the woman who has dedicated her life to facilitating the politics of care, my mother, who has always told me, showed me, and taught me the radical importance of open, vulnerable, affective and effective care. In her rather simple words, “All we can do is care for each other.”

Life the Paranoia, We The Suicidal: Move On

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterward. – Albert Camus

Have you ever been in a situation where the end was inevitable, and the beginning was unforeseen? I would venture to guess that you have since this statement is the rhetorical equivalent to what just so happens to be your life. No one has ever known that they were going to live, but everyone, once alive must come to grips with the fact that they will die. This is common sense. There isn’t any philosophy that needs to be equipped with that statement and whoever attempted to be genius while making the claim, “Everyone dies,” has discovered something remedial.

So then we move on: Have you ever been in this situation and felt an unceasing ailing to discover what to do with the time in-between the unforeseen beginning and the inevitable ending? I cannot say if everyone has asked this weighted question, “What to do with my life?” But I can say that if you have you have probably felt a sense of paranoia or hysteria in the face of everything that is unknown, uncontrollable, and unstoppable. This paranoia has occasionally caused you to wake up with a fierce rush of adrenaline, a fueled fire of enmity against purposelessness, and a Godly, earth-shattering desire to achieve. Or, this paranoia has caused you to crumble with Babylonian might to solid and shameful depths only leading to a larger fanaticism and discomfort with that inevitable ending that prowls like a shadow above you. Or, this paranoia has caused you apathy, and you have screamed with unwavering tenacity that modern carpe diem (YOLO) under dying disco lights with bottle after bottle of liquid hopelessness pressed upon your lips. Of course, life is not a trilemma. But, life is indeed a paranoia. Face-to-face with this paranoia one will be under a spectrum of passions ranging from moral to immoral to anti-moral and these passions will guide your choice. And, the antithesis of free will claims will reign heavy as we must note that, regardless if you wish to make a choice, you must; because free will does not include the will to choose to not to have free will. Because even the decision of inactivity is still a decision nonetheless.

So you must move on: Have you ever been under the pressure of this paranoia, weaving day-in-and-day-out between these three main courses of actions due to this unforeseen beginning and this inevitable ending? It is a weighty battle emerging now. It is the battle of decision. This is the basis of our limited free will. Decision. We cannot choose the options. We cannot choose the consequence. We cannot choose to not choose. We must choose. Then, what is the best option from the trilemma? It is not for me to say. A life of incessantly circuiting effort may drain you beyond normal measures; you may become a slave to your ambitious. In the event that you may fail, your efforts may result in an Icarus-esque fall to depression. In the event that you may succeed, you may notice that you are not satisfied with success and are truly driven by the infinite climb of becoming an idol. Or, you may find happiness. A life of stagnation may bring you pleasing security; you may find that there is nothing more eloquent then what Maslow considered to be the second most crucial aspect of all things leading to self-actualization. But, if purposelessness begins to sink into your head, and parasitically to your heart, there is nothing keeping you from discovering that being alone with your mind is sometimes as dangerous as being among the masses. But I hope, if you choose this that you may find happiness. A life of dispassion and carelessness may bring you the rush of the ambitious life and the security (from your avoidance of the daunting aspect that is love) of the stagnant one. But, it is also the catalyst from a fall of the highest kind when your paradise is lost, and the bottles disappear and you are left alone with the inner and external virus of reality. You will feel the lowest lows from the highest highs, and the loneliest alones from the most crowded moments. Or, you may find happiness.

So you must move on. I suggest experimenting. Life should not be a trilemma. It will always be a trembling and a shaking, an eternal fright, but it is what we grow to love that becomes a Sun in the darkest vacuum of existence. It will always be a paranoia, a fearful and dreaded wait for an irreplaceable end, and we can learn to love or live in apathy. But, we must always move on.

R.I.P. to my good friends and people David Arthur, Wave, and Kasey Phipps