Issue 86 / March - April 2012
Story in Progress
Every year, 12 to 25 million people attempt suicide worldwide, and 1 million of them achieve what they are aiming. That means that every 30 seconds, one person is dying by suicide on our planet. Be it a child, an elderly, or an adult, suicide has victims from all ages.
Fred (not his real name) is 21 years old, living in a university community. Last year, he did a project to "stretch into infinity", i.e. he attempted suicide. Fortunately, his project failed. After his return to the normal life, he found an alternative way to infinity. I wanted to interview him as soon as I learned about his story, which he accepted.
"I am doing a double major in mathematics and biology. Unlike the regular biology students who are educated to think traditionally and memorize constantly, my way of thinking is rather mathematical and rational."
I wanted to punch a hole in this super confident young boy's claims about himself. "So, you never fell in love, but instead, rationally proved some girl to be the one meant for you?"
He chuckled. "I guess, I did fall in love, but suppressed my feelings since they were irrational."
"Then you must have a strong will. How do you rationally explain the human will? I mean, we are talking about a young man whose hormones are keeping him at the verge of love. And how do you think your will fights against these molecules that pervade your body?"
"My thoughts on this are different now, but at the time, I was trying to express everything in terms of testable, concrete concepts. There is so much research on the effects of genes and the environmental conditions on human behavior. So, my will had to be some proteins synthesized from my DNA."
"So do you think, or did you think that one day people could use love pills for keeping up their love for their partners, and to have compassion for their children?"
"Why not? Actually, it is not just that. I had many thoughts that engulfed my mind and motivated my actions, including my attempt to suicide. I couldn't receive rationally satisfactory alternatives to my conclusions."
Then Fred took me on a tour d'horizon of his view of life and people. There were many elements in his views that you could hear from other people, but this one was unique and noteworthy:
"This is a bit irrelevant, but I can tell you a funny one too. If the speeding tickets are issued not due to an actual harm but due to the increased risk of harm, then people who drink more than a minimal amount should be given drinking tickets. Statistically speaking, the number of crimes linked to speeding is nowhere close to the number of crimes linked to drinking. So, if I am getting a ticket for speeding, although I haven't harmed anyone, then why isn't my friend for whom I am the designated driver, getting a ticket for his increased potential to harm someone?"
Speechless, I tried to steer him back to his conclusions that led him to what he did.
"You know, I was never hospitalized for depression. Nobody thought that I was in deep trouble, including me. I was considered to be an intellectual, an extraordinary friend. I don't know how it goes with other people, but when the idea came, it wasn't like a freaky idea to entertain myself for a minute. It came as an irrefutable theory. It only made sense. Really."
The idea of suicide making sense? That didn't make sense to me! Seeing my blurred gaze at him, he picked up again.
"If motivation is essential to accomplish your ideals, how come things that bring motivation are considered harmful?"
He was talking about drugs.
"If success is all about hard work, then why is it forbidden to pave your way to success rather than leave it to luck?"
That is fortifying hard work through taking drugs.
"If my mental activity is nothing but complex dynamics of molecules in my brain, then shouldn't I take drugs that are the embodiment of rejuvenating and exhilarating inspirations leading to innovations?"
After a second of pause, he concluded:
"If happiness is all about certain molecules in my body, then what is wrong about getting it directly rather than mining it through the thorny relationships with people?"
How would you answer these questions, knowing that they are asked by an individual in the making who is trying to make sense of life but who is bewildered by the discrepancies of the mature people?
"My line of thought and other people's line of thought in this matter are similar to the graph of 1/x. We are both aiming for the same point, i.e. zero. But our distinct approaches take us to opposite directions. The two couldn't be more divergent than this."
In mathematical elegance, Fred was describing the state that nurtured his suicidal thoughts. He could not establish ties with the rest of us. With an intention to never come back, Fred used drugs to become a zero in our world, and to stretch into unknown infinity. Did he succeed?
"But you know, like a sad love story, 1/x never converges to zero. I failed, too, in that sense. The way I conceived it, death was going to be a culmination of motivation, success, and happiness. I aimed for it head on. According to my conviction, I was supposed to have achieved all of those. When I opened my eyes in the hospital, I realized that I had neither success nor happiness."
You don't have to be a sage in order to understand that suicide is not a key to success or happiness. But a brief journey to death made Fred a sage.
"It is possible in this life that one receives death while perfectly healthy. It is also possible that one can survive despite a miserable health. In other words, just like being healthy doesn't necessarily mean you can't die, there isn't a mechanic relationship between being unhealthy and arriving at death. My own failure to die despite what happened to me is a living proof of this."
I noted in my mind that this was a good example of learning from your failures.
"The moment I realized that death is given, just like life is, my suicide attempt transformed from being a story of failure to a story of success, because that's when I started believing in the unseen."
Believing in the unseen was a quality that Fred did not have before, but why and how had it been the elixir that changed his failure into success?
"It is so ironic and controversial. In the beginning, what I was missing was my acceptance of self-deficiency in grasping the existence. In the end, by admitting to be incomplete, I was becoming complete; being completed by God."
Suicide is one of the most severe sins one can commit according to the monotheistic religions. Yet, this young man found God in the very sin that could throw him light years away from God.
"I don't define myself anymore as an outstanding, perfect intellectual as my friends used to call me. Instead, I am a story in progress. No matter how severe the calamities or how satisfying the joys are, I don't come to an end unless my author ends the story."