Suicide Saves

By Jin-yeong Yi

“As life is commonly the greatest blessing for man, it is to be presumed that he who deprives himself of it, is compelled to it by an invincible force. It is the excess of misery, the height of despair, the derangement of his brain, caused by melancholy, that urges man on to destroy himself. Agitated by contrary impulsions, he is, as we have before said, obliged to follow a middle course that conducts him to his death; if man be not a free-agent, in any one instant of his life, he is again much less so in the act by which it is terminated.

It will be seen then, that he who kills himself, does not, as it is pretended, commit an outrage on nature. He follows an impulse which has deprived him of reason; adopts the only means left him to quit his anguish; he goes out of a door which she leaves open to him; he cannot offend in accomplishing a law of necessity: the iron hand of this having broken the spring that renders life desirable to him; which urged him to self-conservation, shews him he ought to quit a rank or system where he finds himself too miserable to have the desire of remaining. His country or his family have no right to complain of a member, whom it has no means of rendering happy; from whom consequently they have nothing more to hope: to be useful to either, it is necessary he should cherish his own peculiar existence; that he should have an interest in conserving himself—that he should love the bonds by which he is united to others—that he should be capable of occupying himself with their felicity—that he should have a sound mind. That the suicide should repent of his precipitancy, he should outlive himself, he should carry with him into his future residence, his organs, his senses, his memory, his ideas, his actual mode of existing, his determinate manner of thinking.”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

“Life is not so desirable a thing as to be protracted at any cost. Whoever you are, you are sure to die, even though your life has been full of abomination and crime. The chief of all remedies for a troubled mind is the feeling that among the blessings which Nature gives to man, there is none greater than an opportune death; and the best of it is that every one can avail himself of it.”

—Pliny the Elder

“When, in some dreadful and ghastly dream, we reach the moment of greatest horror, it awakes us; thereby banishing all the hideous shapes that were born of the night. And life is a dream: when the moment of greatest horror compels us to break it off, the same thing happens.”

—Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Suicide”

One of the more interesting books I have on my shelf is Wataru Tsurumi’s notorious Kanzen Jisatsu Manyuaru (The Complete Manual of Suicide), which was published in the early 1990’s, during Japan’s “Lost Decade.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: an instruction manual detailing various methods (from overdosing to freezing) that can be used for self-destruction. It’s a symbol of our time.

One would think that such a book would invariably give suicidal people the encouragement and resolve to fulfill their death wish. So it might surprise you to learn that it may, in fact, have prevented suicide in some cases. A Japanese reviewer of The Complete Manual of Suicide, writing in 2007, explains how the book helped him, and in doing so, he explains how suicide, or, rather, the idea of suicide, can give one the strength to live on.

Here is the full review[1] below (my translation):

I was saved 

By Wan 

I myself read this during a considerably difficult period of my life.

Really and truly, I was saved.

If it weren’t for this book, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now.

Irresponsible reviewers and carefree hypocrites criticize this book, but this is the kind of book that “genuinely suffering people” need.

I wonder just how many people were driven into a corner by the “one must live on” mentality.

“If you have a mind to die, you can do anything” is also a big lie.

The important thing is to have a firm hold of the option of suicide within oneself.

It is to attain peace of mind from “being able to die when push comes to shove.”

So what’s needed are “actual methods for dying,” and the “confidence of being able to apply them.”

With these things, you can, for the first time, gain the courage to live.

I want this book to be read by, above all, those “suffering people,” of course, but I would also like to have other people (the thoughtless, irresponsible and carefree people who say “Value your life”) read it, think and think, think and think, and think it through.

Life is kinder than we realize. For all its hardship and horror, it usually doesn’t force us to stick around and endure it ad infinitum. In most cases, we can choose to walk away from it all any time we wish.

If you, dear reader, happen to be contemplating suicide, I won’t make the mistake of promising you that “it’s all going to get better.” Unless one can actually predict the future, that is a most silly thing to say. There’s no guarantee that it will get better; it’s just as likely, if not more likely, that it’s all going to get worse.

What I will tell you is that, if anyone is going to rescue you from self-annihilation, it is likely that it will be none other than yourself. As the Buddha said, “No one saves us but ourselves.” And why is that? Perhaps it’s because no one knows you better than you know yourself. No one else has the same degree of access to your thoughts and your emotions. No one knows your darkest secrets and deepest desires better than you do. If the question is how you can find the will to live on, only you can help yourself, and the most other people can do for you is to help you help yourself.

Or maybe you don’t need help. Maybe you don’t need saving. Maybe you’re convinced, like Jon Nödtveidt supposedly was[2], that you’ve reached the peak of your life and that you’ve gotten everything you wanted out of life, and that any more time spent in this world would be superfluous. If no one knows you better than you know yourself, chances are no one understands you better than you understand yourself. And if no one understands you better than you understand yourself, who is more “qualified” than you to decide when your story is over?

Either way, take a good look at that fragile thing you call your life. At all times your life is in your own hands. It’s as fragile as a sapling. Will you crush it? Or will you spare it and, for better or worse, see its development to the end?

“That society who has not the ability, or who is not willing to procure man any one benefit, loses all its rights over him; Nature, when it has rendered his existence completely miserable, has in fact, ordered him to quit it: in dying he does no more than fulfil one of her decrees, as he did when he first drew his breath. To him who is fearless of death, there is no evil without a remedy; for him who refuses to die, there yet exists benefits which attach him to the world; in this case let him rally his powers—let him oppose courage to a destiny that oppresses him—let him call forth those resources with which Nature yet furnishes him; she cannot have totally abandoned him, while she yet leaves him the sensation of pleasure; the hopes of seeing a period to his pains.”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

Notes

[1] See the original review at Amazon Japan.

[2] The Dissection frontman and lead guitarist, who took his life at age 31, had said, “The Satanist decides of his own life and death and prefers to go out with a smile on his lips when he has reached his peak in life, when he has accomplished everything, and aim [sic] to transcend this earthly existence. But it is completely un-satanic to end ones [sic] own life because one is sad or miserable. The Satanist dies strong, not by age, disease or depression, and he chooses death before dishonor! Death is the orgasm of life! So live life accordingly, as intense [sic] as possible!”

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How Does One Overcome Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

By Jin-yeong Yi

From my notebooks (c. 2010):

What does it mean to overcome OCD? Basically, it means to overcome the chronic paralysis that is induced by the tormenting thoughts and the futile, repetitive behaviors that they encourage. Performing a compulsion is the opposite of living in the moment, that is to say, using the present to accomplish things and grow as a human being, as an individual. A person who takes full advantage of the present is likely to have a long list of activities and accomplishments by the end of his life. Though this is not unattainable for a person with OCD, it is clear that his condition, if not overcome, will rob him of a great deal of his potential and will do much to keep him from living a fulfilling life.

How, then, can a person with OCD overcome his illness? There is no trick here: the only way to overcome OCD is to live in the present, and the only way to live in the present is to just do it. Live in the present, and don’t take your eyes off of it. Focus on the things you have to do or want to do, and do them, constantly moving from one activity to the next, taking short breaks in between if necessary. Work. Complete your tasks and finish your chores. Exercise. Eat and drink. Read, watch a movie, or listen to some music. Study. Learn. Practice a musical instrument. Think. Create. Write essays or stories, compose music or draw. Do these things, and do them with gusto. At any given moment, you have a choice between a million actions that are meaningful (productive activities) and a million that are meaningless (compulsions and other diversions). Take your pick.

When the inevitable obsessions surface, respond by immediately refocusing on what you are doing at the moment. Sometimes doing this can be extremely painful, as all too often does it feel as if your entire future depends on whether or not you can resolve the “issues” that the obsessions bring forth. However, if you are living in the moment, you can always take consolation in the fact that you are not powerless, that you have control over yourself, that you are not a slave to fear, that you are getting something done, and that you are moving forward, regardless of how distressing the obsessions are, and this gives you a reason to smile and be hopeful for the future. Remember, you have two options: be free and suffer, or be a slave and suffer. Though the suffering will never go away, you can choose to not be a slave to it. The important thing is to keep moving.

Time is always flowing, regardless of whether we are moving or standing still. We can choose to flow with time or just stand by and watch it flow past us. If we choose to just stand still, we will descend into inertia and paralysis and eventually be more dead than alive. Only by flowing with time can we ascend to greater heights of achievement and growth.

Visual Novels and Real Life

By Jin-yeong Yi

“When you say that you are free to choose—say, between the train and the surface car, or between the movies and the theater—you are using rather ambiguous language. All common speech for expressing mental experiences is loose and ambiguous. You have the two alternatives—movies or theater—in your mind. You hover between them. You do not feel any compulsion to choose one or the other. Then you deliberately say to yourself—not realizing that you have thereby proved the spirituality of the soul, which has made apologists perspire for centuries—‘I choose Norma Talmadge.’

Well, let us examine it patiently. In the ordinary acts of life you behave automatically. You don your clothes and shave and eat and walk, and even work, in a mechanical way. The motive arises, by routine, at the proper moment, and the action follows. It is only in grave things—such as whether you shall go to see Norma Talmadge or Bebe Daniels—that you use your freedom. To be quite accurate—am I not right?—it is only when two or more motives seem to have about equal force that you are conscious of your freedom. If one motive, if the reason for doing one action, is palpably stronger than the reason for doing the alternative, you do not hesitate. The ‘will’ follows or acts on the stronger motive.

Why, you ask, do I put ‘will’ in inverted commas? It may shock you to know that psychologists are not sure that there is such a thing. You may be surprised to know that your ‘will’ is only a theory (like evolution). What you are really conscious of is a series of acts. It is just a theory of yours that there is a thing you call your will behind them.

Well, to come back to the ‘acts of will.’ When you hesitate between two courses, do you for a moment doubt that your will eventually follows the one which seems to you wiser or more profitable?

Yes, I know. Just to prove your freedom you may choose the less wise course. But in that case you merely have a new motive thrown into the scale. Your ‘will’ always follows the weightier motive. How, then, is it free? All that you are conscious of is the hesitation of your mind, because for a time one motive balances the other. They may remain so balanced that you do nothing, or leave it to others to decide. But if you do decide, you are merely conscious that the battle of motives is over and the stronger carries your will.”

—Joseph McCabe, “The Myth of Immortality”

“None of us enjoys the thought that what we do depends on processes we do not know; we prefer to attribute our choices to volition, will, or self-control….Perhaps it would be more honest to say, ‘My decision was determined by internal forces I do not understand.’”

—Marvin Minsky

“What individuals do, alone or together, over a moment or a month or a lifetime, is really just the product of the process of blind variation and environmental filtration operating on neural circuits in their heads.”

—Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality

Da Capo II was the first (and so far, only) visual novel I read. It didn’t take me long to notice just how little interaction the “game” involved. I had more or less expected this, because I’d read a little bit about visual novels before actually trying one out, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the long stretches of passivity that the “game” entailed, especially in the first hour or so. In that time, I probably made a grand total of three to four choices; the remaining hundred were made for me.

What makes visual novels so appealing, then? After thoroughly “playing” Da Capo II, I think I have some idea. To put it simply, the appeal lies in everything that makes the VN different from real life. First of all, the novel has you living in an idealized world with idealized people. What’s more, you are the main character in this world, surrounded by pretty maidens with flawless features and attractive personalities. They don’t exactly throw themselves at you, but you feel quite confident that, with enough effort, you can end up with any one of them, because you know that they are meant for you.

Furthermore, the sense of time passing is somewhat muted in Da Capo II. There’s not a single clock to be seen; the only indication of linear time is the month and day, which is given at the beginning of each day. Time is ultimately moot in this world. You can take as much (or little) time as you like to take in what people say to you, because every word is spelled out for you, and you can even access a “Text Log” if you either forgot or failed to catch some part of the dialogue. Since time freezes for as long as you need it to, you can literally spend an entire year or more (in real time) in making the most trivial of decisions, one that would normally take you up to 5 minutes to make. In this game, life waits for you. You can save your progress at any time and pick up where you left off anytime you feel like it. Above all, you can do what the vast majority of people with any sense of possibility and potential no doubt wish they could do: start over. In Da Capo II, you can start your life over from Day 1 anytime you wish. Having gained knowledge and experience from your previous run, you’ll have a better idea of how you can shape your life in the way you desire. You can explore all the could-have-beens that you didn’t before. So “losing” is a non-issue. Didn’t get the ending you wanted? No problem; just start the novel from the beginning, figure out what you did wrong, and make different choices. In this world, second chances are infinite. Got the ending you wanted, but want more? Same principle applies. In this world, you can eat your cake and have it too.

I was also quite struck by the insights Da Capo II conveyed to me regarding free will. I realized that the very choices that the player makes ultimately depends on his predilections, which are, in turn, shaped by genetics and environment. So simple, yet remarkable. The player is supposedly “free” to determine the trajectory of the story, but in actuality, he is only free to act on his strongest motives—just like in real life.

Although you will be given the freedom of choice at key points in the game, much of the novel is scripted. The overwhelming majority of what you think, feel, say, and do in-game are determined for you. Can more be said of our own lives in the real world? Just how much control do we really have over what we think and feel? Over what we say and do? Over what happens to us? Could it be that we are much like the protagonist of a visual novel, a self-aware marionette being directed rather than directing?