Woolf, YouTube & Why We Must Reject The Poetry Of Self Slaughter

Virginia-Woolf-sofa
Insecurity, Panic, and loneliness. Creative Commons

Recently, ostracized YouTube star Logan Paul, released a suicide prevention video, a gesture of contrition for filming a man who had recently hanged himself for his vlog. The video, titled ‘Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow,’ amounts to little more than a collection of testimonials and slo-mo shots of Paul looking sexily dispirited into the camera. Certainty is a fool’s game, but I suspect strongly that this perfunctory PSA was conceived as an attempt to salvage a suddenly precarious standing with his fans. These kind of videos, made by people of Paul’s notoriety are important, but tend to ignore the same fundamental points.

Insecurity, panic and loneliness can be immune to the pleas of reason and steadfast in the face of the unknown. The clever shepherds that led Virginia Woolf to the River Ouse, Van Gogh to the belly of madness and 30,000 Americans every year to the false consolation of non-existence. There is no honor in it, but its allure is understandable enough to many of us. To those of us that “can’t hack it,” as a dear friend of mine once gratefully phrased it, the prospect of forsaking all of our worries in service of dissipating to plains uncharted is undoubtedly tempting. And Illusory. I reject the poetry of self-slaughter and embrace the serendipity of biology. I’m here. I made it, and I’m not going back to the maggots until I’ve either failed resolutely or succeeded spectacularly.

The angle missed too frequently in PSAs repudiating suicidal thoughts is the acknowledgement that said thoughts are not always wholly unreasonable. In Studies In Pessimism, Schopenhauer writes, “They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice... that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.”

Setting aside instances where a person falls ill with no hope of recovery, or becomes immobile, diseases of the mind are pervasive and the methods to treat them are still regrettably blunt. To be suicidal isn’t always to be at the mercy of mania. A chronic wish to die just as easily maybe the corollary of circumstance. Those who are in full control of their faculties are not spared from feeling unloved, unworthy, trapped or perpetually uneasy. These thoughts are indigenous to the human mind and always will be. The goal should not be to eradicate them, but to understand their agency.

To some degree, we all romanticize self-destruction. Our feelings of inadequacy instill in us a wish to combat our survival instincts. Sometimes this happens in ways that are dramatic and final, like jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, but more often in ways that are subtle and methodical, like smoking or wolfing down McDoubles. Don’t allow these thoughts to give way to alienation. However morbid, we are all bound by these grim ponderings.

 

 

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