Suicide: I Sort of Understand- But- The Dirt Nap Awaits Us All

burgess-meredith

“And I usually drink my dinner!”

I really enjoyed Burgess Meredith’s performances in the “Grumpy Old Men” movies.  I especially enjoyed the death reference from the movie “Grumpier Old Men”:

Grandpa:   What the… what the hell is this?
John:   That’s lite beer.
Grandpa:   Gee, I weigh ninety goddamn pounds, and you bring me this sloppin’ foam?
John:   Ariel’s got me on a diet because the doc said my cholesterol’s a little too high.
Grandpa:   Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
John:   Bacon.
Grandpa:   Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha! And they keep dyin’. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?

Suicide isn’t a joke, even though I sort of understand the mentality behind wanting to just plain blot out.  There have been times in my life when I’ve thought about it, and then the old Catholic teaching that suicide is a mortal sin sticks in my head.  In old school Catholic thought, killing yourself is more or less similar to drawing the “go to jail” card in Monopoly, but with a twist:

monopoly-go-to-HELL2-card

I don’t know why, but this was always my visual for “Mortal Sin.”

The older I get, the more I realize that what seems like the end of the world really isn’t the end of the world.  It might hurt like hell.  It might be physical pain, or even chronic pain that never really goes away.  It might be that nameless void in which there are no words or even tears, but only a sharp and consuming bolt of terror and sadness and longing that knocks your breath away. Even that is not the end of the world.

The older I get, the more tenaciously I cling to life- if only because experience has taught me that there is life (and good life to be had) even beyond the unspeakable, nameless void of grief, beyond the burning pain of rejection, beyond the uncertainty of worldly trappings, and even in the endurance of chronic physical pain.

limbour-hell

Hell?  Or is it just Detroit?

I know it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when you’re a fifteen year old kid and all you’ve ever known is deprivation and loss and a sad sense of being unworthy of sucking up valuable oxygen.  I’ve been there.

I don’t know exactly what kind of despair was behind the recent teen suicides here in central Ohio.  I know I wouldn’t want to be a high school kid today, but things sucked back in my world too.  We faced an uncertain future.  There were people like me with thick glasses and bad clothes and geeky habits who were just about as popular as stepping in dog shit on a hot day, but we survived.  Some of us went on to thrive, although in my case I wouldn’t claim any kind of stellar, charmed life- but it’s life.  I’ll take what I can get and give what I can give and at the end of the day, that’s all.

control

I don’t have the answers.  I’m not God, which is a good thing, because if I controlled the world it would be pretty much unrecognizable.  There would be a lot of buff dudes in Spandex, and no such thing as rap music.  That much I could guarantee, but then again I am not the one in control.

There is a certain amount of peace in accepting that there are some questions that will never be answered and some concepts that I was never designed to understand.  I don’t have much comfort or solace for those who survive after a loved one commits suicide except to say that there is life beyond the breathless void, and that some day there will be good life beyond that void.  I will also say that God is big enough to take whatever anger and frustration and pain that you are willing to surrender to Him.

mortality-rates

Our time is short.  That doesn’t necessarily disturb me too much.  I’ve been close to death, and I’m not afraid to die.  I don’t like the prospect of suffering and pain and I understand that there are times when death would be a relief and a comfort.  As far as I can tell, as of right now, I’m not there yet.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

 

Picking On the Emotionally Impaired, and I Wanna Be Sedated

no-stupid-people11

But how do you keep them out?  They’re like zombies- and they’re multiplying.

Every once in awhile I like the Ramones, even though their songs are to music as junk food is to real food- trite, and full of empty calories, but oddly satisfying while they are being consumed.  I don’t think I could sit through hours and hours of “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Sedated,” but I like to just zone out and not have to think too much every now and then.  The Ramones are good for that.

My penchant for rock, metal and the occasional grunge or punk fix would make my voice teachers cringe, but the line between classical music and orchestral metal is a very fine one.  Even though I’ve not played bass or fronted a metal band in 20 years, I still find the musician in me analyzing what I’m listening to.  I still have an appreciation for what is technically good and what is more or less musical junk food, for whatever that’s worth.  I hate to say it, but that’s probably why most of my MP3 collection dates back to 1985 and earlier.

your music sucks

There is some good new music out there today, but it’s not mainstream.  You have to know where to look. The unholy crud that is currently polluting the airwaves and the TV screens generally does suck.  It sucks like sucking has never sucked before.  We have fantastic, amazing, digital technology but we’re recording and distributing total crap on it.  We traded Steve Perry for Katy Perry (really sucky trade there) and I don’t understand why.  I mean in 1981 we had Steve Perry as the greatest singer ever and Ronald Reagan as president.  Today we have Katy Perry and Obama.  Go figure.  The evidence for devolution is right before our eyes (and ears.) Blecch.

I’m just thankful that through the gift of technology I can bring the past up to date in some ways.  I can get good music on MP3s and save good songs to my SD card so I can spare myself from the pollution of the airwaves.

passenger car

When Jerry and I went on the train ride last week it was cold.  The train was delayed because they had oversold and had to add cars to the train.  A fat old lady took Jerry’s seat while he decided to go out and smoke because we had to wait, even when I told him that it was crowded, therefore, the “move your feet lose your seat” rule would come into play, so we had to find different seats to sit together.  Even so, it was a good time and very interesting.  The train car we rode in until the first stop was built in 1927, the second car we rode on for the rest of the trip was built in the mid 1950s and had two levels.  We sat up top in the second car for a better view.

AnimeGirl

On the first car we sat behind a Japanese family.  Mom and Dad were facing Jerry and I, while their teenage son and preteen daughter were sitting across from their parents. I could see over the boy’s shoulder that he was more interested in his i-phone and his animé cartoons that would be porn if they weren’t cartoons.  My question is, since animé is just cartoons, is it really porn or is it just a porn substitute?  His mother probably still would have been mortified if she had seen what I was getting an eyeful of, but either she didn’t know or didn’t care about what Junior was watching.

I remember Steve-o’s brief infatuation with animé “sort-of-porn” at the same age.  I knew full well what he was gawking at online, but I figured if I made a big scene over it like my mother did over anything even remotely risqué that it would become an obsession for him.  She was more wigged out about finding rubbers in his personal effects than about finding cigarettes, which struck me odd.   Sex can potentially kill you, but wearing a rubber can help prevent STDs, so he’s mitigating that risk.  Cigarettes are in no way safe.  I was more upset about the smokes.  But Mom’s Catholic, and as far as I know for Catholics, smoking is not considered a sin- you can be a priest and smoke- but sex (unless one is married and having sex for procreational reasons only) is a mortal sin.  Doesn’t that suck?

questionable morals

I’m no paragon of moral virtue, so I have absolutely no room to talk.

Life is a Gift (a Gag Gift?) and Other Greeting Card Sentiments

Just a little perspective- for that poor sucker I saw jogging down Morse Rd. in the freezing rain the other day.

I am not in any way, shape or form an optimist by nature.  At best I am pragmatic and can adjust, adapt and overcome, but I hate to admit I am not generally one of those “carpe diem” (seize the day) types.  If one is shaped by early life experience, i.e. having the hell beat out of you just about every day, then, at least in my experience, you tend toward a wee bit of trepidation in simply facing the day.

I know that Christian faith is necessarily optimistic, which is one of the reasons I really struggle with faith.  I admit that there have been many times in my life when the only thing keeping me from the option of self-annihilation has been the Catholic teaching about mortal sin.  I was raised old-school Catholic, even though I can’t in conscience call myself Catholic.  My particular way of understanding Christianity is best described as confessional Lutheran, which is fairly close. I don’t want to end up spending eternity being tortured forever and ever being chewed up in Beezelbub’s flaming maw because I died with a mortal sin on my soul.  According to Catholic tradition, suicide is a mortal sin because if you kill yourself you don’t have the opportunity to confess your sin and be forgiven for it, so you burn in hell.  As miserable and painful as life can be at times- and my life has had plenty of misery and pain- I still believe that no matter how bad it gets (even though Obama was “re-elected” by sole virtue of voter fraud and I’m still pissed about that) automatic and eternal consignment to the fires of hell is definitely a downgrade.

Obama’s bad, and dangerous on many levels, but even he’s not the end of the world.

I need to believe that there will be a day when things are made right- not just in this country, not just on a few small levels, but made completely right.  Yeah, perhaps in this, color me optimistic, or perhaps just a perfectionist.  I want to be around to see it.  No, I can’t explain faith in rational terms, other than to accept Pascal’s Wager.  I would rather live with the knowledge that God IS, than to pretend He is not, and have to face the consequences of conscience-less living at some point.  I know my agnostic friends have trouble with the notion that God is in charge.  I’m weaker than that.  I have to acknowledge that God is in charge, which is (paradoxically) liberating.  I have problems when I start thinking I’m in charge.

Even knowing that God is in charge doesn’t guarantee me a sunny outlook.  It’s a challenge for me to wake up in the morning and see life as a gift.  Sometimes I do view life that way, but more often than not I see it as a burden or even a sick joke.  Sometimes sarcasm is the only way I can get through the day, and that’s not a very good thing either.  I wish I could take the Lord’s advice in Matthew 6:25 and not worry about stuff- but I do.   Worse than that I let stupidity and ineptitude piss me off which (while pointing those things out can be funny) doesn’t do much for my mental state either.  Anger and worry are not a very good combo.

There may be some hope for me yet:

Fire and Brimstone, Faith for the Cynical, and Unpopular Moral Absolutes

Crucifixion was not this pretty.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life researching theology.  I am wired in such a way that it’s difficult to take anything on faith.  The way that I’m wired, I generally default to Murphy’s Law.  The sad part of that is I’m right way too much of the time when I take my own default and assume the worst.

That might have been the reason why I was terrified of everything when I was a kid.  A good deal of my unrelenting fear was justified.  I did get my ass kicked a lot.  But I also had a certain knack for imagining the worst in a situation, like when Dad’s weirdo friends thought that I enjoyed swinging upside down while being grabbed by the ankles.  All I could imagine, other than sheer terror, was the ass pilot letting go and my sorry carcass flying clean through the picture window.  I don’t like too many people grabbing at me to begin with, but add the elements of my poor balance, centrifugal force, height, and a moderately shady character, and I am good and truly freaked.   Perhaps it is a good thing that I have to be on the verge of death before I can puke.  Then again, if I would have spewed a good one (after eating Spaghetti-os or something else colorful, like lime sherbet) perhaps Dad would have prohibited his buddies from repeating this torture.

Come on down to the Baptist Tent Revival!  Music!  Fun! However, no dancing, and no liquor will be served.

In Christian traditions the Pentecostals and Baptists get a bad rap for fire and brimstone sermons, but the Pentecostals and Baptists have nothing on the old-school Catholics.  Pentecostals and Baptists could “get saved” and then they’d have a “get out of hell free” pass.  In traditional old-school Catholicism, you don’t just “get saved.”  God is keeping score, and hellfire awaits the person who Dies In Sin.  The only way to clear your slate is to go to Confession and then do whatever Penance the priest assigns you.  It was always better to get a laid back priest who would give you easy Penance.  Father Furey was everyone’s favorite because he was pretty easy on the small stuff and he had a sense of humor.  The other ones could be downright scary and mean about it and you’d be saying Hail Marys and Our Fathers for days.

Yes, you are headed straight to Hell for setting your Mom’s tape deck to the “Like a bat out of helllll!” portion of the Meatloaf tape.  And for flipping the bird at the bug eating kid at school, and for calling your sister an “asshole.”  You get to be bunkies with Beezelbub unless you say 400 Hail Marys, 1000 Our Fathers, and clean the toilet with your toothbrush every day for a month without being asked to do it.

It was usually my luck to end up with whichever priest hated kids the most.

The worst thing about Confession is that it would only be a matter of minutes before sin would rear its ugly head again.  Almost everything I did or thought could be considered a sin, so it was a vicious cycle. Sin-confess, sin-confess, etc. and so on.

Mom was really good at dragging us kids to Confession at least once a month if not more often.  I understand her logic- because if a Catholic Dies In Sin, you at the very least get time in Purgatory, and at the very worst, if you have a Mortal Sin on your scorecard, you go Straight to Hell.  And you don’t have to actually do the Mortal Sin- you just have to want to.

I can admit I never had this problem.  I always had plenty of sins on my plate.

Sins were everywhere when I was a kid.   Using swear words- even the word “fart”= sin.  Taking the last fish stick on the plate= sin,  unless you were sure no one else wanted it.  Giving my sister’s Barbies buzzcuts= definite sin.  Hanging out in the farmer’s field behind the houses across the street (even though the farmer had a 12 gauge and dogs and he and his dogs would chase kids if he saw them) was also a sin.

So by the time I was about five I was terrified of sin, and even more terrified of Mortal Sins even though at age five I had no idea what “adultery,” “fornication” and “apostasy” truly meant.  I did know if anyone was going to die with Mortal Sins, it would be me, even if it’s not even really clear to me at that point what they are, and I would probably be on the toilet, which means I’m partially naked, and being naked is a sin too.  I had some pretty scary logic as a child.

Believe me, Catholic kids were taught a lot more about hell than one might think, at least back in the day.  At least on the rare occasion Mom would let us go with Grandma to the Baptist Sunday School (it amazed me she ever did, because at that time Protestants were considered “heathens,”) we sang “Jesus Loves Me” and made crafts with popsicle sticks.  I always wondered why Jesus loved us at the Baptist church, but at the Catholic church he lived in the little gold box on the altar -when He wasn’t out making rounds with His scorecard, marking down our sins.

I’m surprised that I ended up having any kind of faith at all, but that is where the grace of God comes in.

The apostle Paul, (who strikes me as a fellow rational thinker) in his letter to the Philippians, puts it as “working out your own salvation with fear and trembling…for it is God Who is at work in you.” (Philippians 2:12-13)  God, not me.  God, not inept leaders.  God, Who isn’t primarily occupied with keeping score, or for sending people to hell for having naughty fantasies about Steve Perry in spandex, or for having the bad fortune of being on the toilet and partially naked at the hour of death.  The challenge is to slow down and listen to God’s voice- not my own, and not the talking heads.  It’s not as easy as one might think.

Yes, he did have one hell of a voice!

It’s comforting for me to understand I’m not in charge, and neither is Mr. Murphy, no matter how much Murphy’s Law seems to prove itself out.

I do believe in the perseverance of the saints, though maybe not in a strictly Calvinist sense, (I’m not a Calvinist but I do agree with certain elements of Calvinism) because it’s God doing the transforming, or the saving, if you will.  It’s not about me trying to be good- because I’m not.  If I had to explain my theological position it would be that of Molinism.  God knows, but I don’t, if you take it to its Cliff’s Notes version.   It’s OK that there are some things I’m just not going to understand.

Even though I believe that salvation is by the grace of God and is not contingent upon how much penance I attempt to do, there are still absolutes.  The rules are there for a reason- mostly to act as boundaries to keep us from doing more damage to ourselves and others than we would were we left unfettered.

Anarchy always fails.  While it might sound good to have freedom from rules, when society breaks down it’s not a good thing.  Simply take a look around and see what all the drugs and violence and thievery have led to.   Free love bought society broken families, rampant VD and AIDS.  The decline of traditional social mores and the prevailing moral free-for-all where there are no absolutes has turned society into a freak show, that I can’t necessarily say is a good thing.