Jan 11, 2010

So you turn a corner, your age is a different number. Now everything is in shambles: you haven't done anything in half a century, you're a glistening failure, oh what you could have done with your life, oh who you could have been, oh who you could have been with. Oh but for the grace of a graceless god. Isn't regret the oldest unpaid profession, and beating yourself up, the one true love. And why not. In such a fast, steel-hulled world you ought to be able to jump off once in a while, languish in the horse latitudes of a good long lament.

We are just passing half serious, if you look out of the right side of the aircraft. As if to say, 'well isn't the whole world in menopause'? It depends on the time of day. But it's not just the jack-boot step of time, is it, it's a sign of the times. Emotion is on high alert these days. Islamic extremism, it turns out, is a very real illness, the H1N1 of the psyche.

Think of Iris Robinson, for example, the wife of Northern Ireland's First Minister, who at 58 had an affair with a 19-year-old. Not so unusual and of no account but then she helped him raise some money to open a restaurant. His dream was to open a restaurant. She had everything, you name it she had it, and it was too much. Everything is always the same as nothing. Don't we suppose that all she wanted was something less powerful, a little lighter, a little less abrasive. So she went looking for a thrill and it was his innocence. But her goal was not to catch a butterfly, not to violate anything or tack anything up, simply to experience innocence herself, one last time, to feel it inside one last time.

Then it all came tumbling out. Then she tried to kill herself.

That there are no secrets anymore is the great shame.

* * * * *

In San Francisco, suicide is relatively common. The city has the highest 19-24 age youth suicide rate in the country. More people jump off the Golden Gate Bridge than any bridge in the world. Veterans, and now men in middle age, they're all killing themselves. Middle aged men, that's the new mystery.

Interestingly, in San Francisco, the attempted suicide reports tend to come in the late afternoon and early evening. From 5 to 7 p.m.. Vodka martini time, in the old days. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe vodka and gin martinis saved more people than we knew. And so now what? You're sitting there, the sun is turned off, the fireplace is black, you haven't had a happy thought in five years, more than that. And all of a sudden you're in the dark place and you cannot calculate the distance to daylight.

And then maybe you went to see Avatar last weekend and something happened. You saw a utopia, which you hadn't seen in years, maybe ever. And now you want that and you wish your life was just like that, full of fabulous creatures and endearing native people. If you could just have that innocence once more. This is true: A growing number of people report feeling depressed after seeing the film because the depiction of earthy and earthly paradise is so compelling.

* * * * *

When facing the end, generally beautiful scenes appear. According to your mental inclinations, the most impressive are experienced first. If you do not do bad things right now, then there will be no unpleasant scenes when you face death. Even if there are some unpleasant scenes, they too will change into pleasant scenes.

- Pai-chang


Anjuli said...

It is so sad to hear of the high rate of teen suicide there in San Francisco. Any suicide is sad- but it just seems the younger someone is, it seems sadder still.

Steven Winnfield said...

Lovely. Beautiful writing. In looking through your posts you seem to have menopause on the mind, though, and heaviness. Are you a guy or a woman? I thought a guy, but I'm not so sure.