but the lord was not in a fire
There are always two sides to it. Some describe it as the falling and then the terror of the flames, inextricably impossible to actually understand unless you are right there: no matter how many times we have seen this unravel on television. Or in the moment before it, another writes, is a lifelong struggle with our body–the only vessel that we must live with for our entire lives. Here, it’s as simple as crumbs on teeth, a self-induced fear of eating, and how in essence, it is just as easy to wipe ourselves from the face of the earth as with a wrapped, store-bought craving.
The ability to erase ourselves does not ever diminish our lived lives. If anything, it adds value to it. If we were brought into an ephemeral, dying world without choice then temporary goodness is what we must do. The acceptance of this is integral to the act.
During the first week of my freshman year at Yale, and precisely a day after I first settled in early in the dormitories at Vanderbilt Hall it happened. (I was there early for the international student orientation––I came out of it with no friends that I still speak to this day.) I was lying on the Twin XL bed, feeling myself spilled out on it; getting used to the indentation and hum in the basement that would mark my next ten months on this campus. Then, I heard footsteps and a loud knocking on my door with a member of Yale Police stepping in and asking me if I was okay. She was very sure that I might have intended to kill myself that night.
In around late 2019, I began thinking intensely about whether my coming to America had been my biggest mistake. On this space in the internet, for so many years, I’ve fawned and talked about how I lifted myself up–out of depression, out of fawning over the piano, out of revelations in school trips–and it had all led to my becoming. Now, I am more understanding; I do not bear knowledge of everything, but have given myself the counsel of empathy. It might be hard for you to believe, but talking to people is easy. It’s staying interested that’s the hard part. That I am fine with my voice filling rooms and memories, but that’s not enough.
Like many others, I was disillusioned by the promise of a brighter education. What I received instead was the same type of homogeneity, manifested only in a slightly different sense. In seeing sameness and the good and the best I have also seen a range (not everything, but certainly enough) of the human act. I know fully we are all faking things.
No matter how many hypotheticals might come up, there has always been a constant to all of this.
It started when I think, when I was somewhat young and was reading the internet about the shortness of life and began becoming very scared of the world around me. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint that exact year, but I remember for the first time thinking about things other than what was immediately pressing or about any of my academic concerns. I remember much of the harsher words said to me about this change in myself, about apparent rudeness because my voice shifted in the way I spoke and because my energy was no longer the same around people. I remember a year where I was told that in my own house in Las Pinas, I should not make sounds and stay in my room because my presence was disturbing and unsettling. That I was robotic. I remember bringing this up in later years, in little fights and in text message conversations and all of them being dismissed just as what would happen when I tried to unwrap other darker things in my childhood: like assault and how I fundamentally have lost the ability to understand and accept happiness because I no longer had any main givers of it somewhere early on in life. I almost thought that I was incapable of giving any love, even if I still knew I was full of it.
I burst my arm in my bedroom in Manila for reasons I could no longer remember but I knew were as true as anything I feel now. I knew that my life was only a dependent thing when I was asked about the cuts in my arm and threatened for them rather than pitied, or even given some sort of attention for. If you want to kill yourself so badly, then do it.
It was basically in their eyes, and then we never spoke.
This feeling often takes shape in darkness, of negativity, and of absence of something that we believe we are deserving of. I think that’s quite a selfish view. There are many people who will bear with and carry the weight of this condition and thinking for their whole lives. They will never be a teenager crying and attempting to articulate their thoughts, reading about suspensions and wars to try and resolve some sort of peace. All they must do is live. And they will live lives that are much more full than any of us; much more than any of us sad and ruining the world and making life harder.
My wishing to be in Manila again and my wishing to escape to America and give myself the space to be around people filled with passion was the mistake. Instead of the ultra privileged view of wondering what life would be like if I were in another country, or if I were with newer minds and people, I should have realized that no amount of space or discovery will ever absolve my own impatience and struggle with my head.
The more painful thing was figuring out how much I could have been if I wasn’t mentally ill. How my dreams of becoming someone in product, or design, or in generating some sense of tangible something out of empathy and the little life I have lived might forever go nowhere because of my inability to concretely offer anything good.
There was nothing in my life that could make things better. I cut out toxic relationships out of my life, and then I felt the ease of severance and how I actually was so disconnected from everyone. I began reading, sometimes even meditatively, and then I thought about how everything I have wanted to say has already been said–and knowing these words has not changed me. (I can sound smarter in conversations, referencing authors and passages and libgen.is favorites; but has anything fundamentally changed me?) I woke up earlier. And then I never slept. And I watched sunsets and discovered 100 new genres of music and became unafraid of my own voice and talking in front of rooms and became so aware of the quickness of time. I even fell in love with myself, in the sense that I accepted me. I let myself take time, I give myself things, I fall in love a bit with other people. I know the world is beautiful and I can write about it infinitely. I know my favorite spots in New Haven, the ones in Manila (at least, in the spaces I’ve been to), and I know what it must feel like to have a touch of power and a touch of impact in a world–to have someone think of you–which is one of the most genuine and undeserving feelings I have received.
But god, now I know that the mind is not a choice. If I were in Manila, I would still be listening to this music and reading about hangings and playing with uncut hair. When I am here, I dream of every potential condition that could make my life better–without any regard of its center and my own ephemerality and unwantedness. My sadness has fucked me over so hard that I’m blaming this constant nag of undoing unto one of the greatest opportunities that has ever been bestowed upon me, and maybe, even something I earned.
Religion helped, but only temporarily. It’s also a shared belief just as living is a shared promise. We all know it eventually turns into a form of constriction, of false rules and boundaries. (And I forgot what age I was again, but I remember clearly the day I started to stop praying at night. And then a few years later, stopped receiving communion in school. And then fell asleep in the back of the church in the middle of a retreat and they could say nothing.) If I still believed, this would be a grave sin. But for all the hell that they seem to speak of, the truth is that all the punishment we are given is in the waking world.
In this context, it’s interesting that killing oneself is often the mortal sin. When you escape the jurisdiction of the church and fall out of the hand of god in death, I wonder why this release must be looked at with such conviction? Is it the jealousy of man to take the most freeing choice? Is it that we are our own gods and the stretch of our own authority even has limits on ourselves?
Whenever I go to sleep tucked under a blanket brought to me from Manila, walk into a communal bathroom I share with 4 girls who are each at least 3 times richer than me to shower with no light, and whenever I am able to purchase myself a meal after missing the whole day to school and meetings thanks to the 20 hours a week I work minimum, I am grateful.
When you read about the most disturbing suicide notes, ThoughtCatalog gives you pretty things. 1. it reads, “The devil made me do it. And the devil will make you do it too.”. In another, “In these moments before my departure, I feel more clarity than I have ever felt in my dull life. In one minute, I will be free from the voices, from the pain, and from you.”
There are more of these with answers lifted off AskReddit threads: people of normalcy who have no qualms talking to strangers and making make believe scenarios of death in their heads. On forums like /r/SuicideWatch, you see teenagers begging for release–as valid as anyone else and bloated with pressure and time and an aging world that will have nothing to offer them.
I wonder what an ideal note would look like, though. It would likely be something written like Paul Graham: clean and pretty and delicately selfless with bullet points and takeaways for you to get. The world is unjust, people are tired. Those reasons, all the reasons you can find in the everyday are not special.
What is most beautiful is when you look at why someone chose to live in the first place. There is too much movement for the sake of such; too little intentionality in what we face and let ourselves feed into. I am dreaming of difficulty with acceptance.
One of the stories that Reddit likes a lot about death is the story about the egg. It’s cheap science fiction that includes a line about “reincarnation as a 540 AD Chinese peasant girl” along the rattling of Abraham Lincoln and his killer and Hitler to strike some empathy in people. This story was apparently published in 2009, which makes it even sadder. I don’t know why people have to perceive themselves as the bland template western man succumbing to one of the world’s leading causes of death (road accident, car crash, etc.), made in the image of some of the most unlikable figures in history and a borderline iffy line to understand that the acts we do to one are weaved in time and in our soul forever. I made the mistake of falling in love with this concept somewhere early in my fascination with science fiction; the cosmic egg and the primordial magic of time bound in my own hands and flesh out of sheer myth made to help me understand the concept of life out of the empty.
Reddit again is funny, because its top posts talk about people who can’t clean their beds, whose lives were just saved, who talk about the utter happiness they feel in the last day of bliss. They recount their planned last day, how they wrote the note, and how they went about with their last everythings in place: some coffee, music, a nice last meal. The savior this day was a moment of simplicity and recall over some Xbox games. And then suddenly, life was so beautiful that he made a promise to play tomorrow.
Life in essence, is dictated by these promises to live again. We are shattered when someone falls out of this promise unexpectedly, and we live in increasing fear of dropping out of all our commitments but moreso the relationships we’ve formed throughout our being. It is a beautiful thing I think, to continue pressing on such that we promise to make life easier to live, to make the world better, to live for one another.
What I’m saying is that I can’t offer any deep or lifechanging metaphor about killing oneself. The act is not elegant at all, nor is it anything new. Millions of people daily write about wanting to perform the act, and millions of people sympathize again with the reddit posts offering little non-revelations in universal “depression is 3PM when you have friends and everyone is laughing and you feel like shit,” or “I will never feel home.” There are people who debate about being functionally depressed and how that might even be worse than opting out of contributing to daily systems–that you masquerade so well and it surprises everyone around you who was paying too much attention to their own selves than the world of promise around them. In other forms, it manifests as this daily jest: we all want to die, we all want to die and this will never be something new–it’s how life currently exists and takes place. And as artificial as posting about Notes app suicide notes and collected throwaways of planned suicide nights is the frustrating act of calling in hyperfixations and other stand-ins to detract from this promise fueled by selfishness and an indulgent disregard for the emotional capacity that other people still feel.
Emotion, otherhood. I think that’s an important thing to talk about. I very well believe that suicide is never a selfish act, but in the lived life before it it’s just as selfish to take a utilitarian approach in life that is so far from that. If anything, if we begin using other people to fill in the space that we lose in ourselves then I don’t think there is forgiveness in that sense.
The Egg is a flawed story because it implies that none of its characters (and consequently, the lives lived by mankind) but this deitous other (except perhaps, Gandhi or some flawless man) will ever understand the ripple of an act. The idea that we must be reincarnated and experience pain ourselves to become a better person is a shit idea. In one singular life, hell, before you turn twenty and start burning across the industry, you need to understand that in a life where we are allowed to be as self-serving and selfish as we want that goodness should be born because. Not because every act is an act to ourselves, not because the pain we inflict will find its way back to us. But because across time and space, we are given one chance out of near-infinity, and the finite number of choices we are allowed to then make in these shorter times and generations can be given to others.
There is no denying that I am in love with this world. I am.
I am in love with the breadth of human capacity: of what we can do beyond the barriers that we have imposed upon ourselves over centuries. I am fascinated by the profound love people can have for the things around them. For the past year, I have been entranced by so many forms of music, along with the people who listen and dedicate hours of their life into piecing together why these things that move us do. I want to cry and feel my feelings and understand the intensity of a human life, even if I won’t get to feel everything. I fall in love with Manila over and over again, even if I am 8,000 miles away–and every day I am falling in love with New Haven and its people and the cold of my feet, even the way my calves burn when I walk up Prospect. I am in love with the jokes that my friends make, the warmth that I feel when I am with them and even with people I have just met. I am entranced by the sound of the sky, the humming in my dorm room, the mistakes and opportunity given to me. I am in love with the way we have placed words and never quite come up with something new—without newness ever being necessary to emotional becoming. (Just proof that we can live again and again, and always find new reasons to love.) I am in love with the stars and time and how despite the marching of everything that seems to be unrelentlessly against us–we are still vividly alive.
And I am in love with choice and freedom. And I am in love with the existence of forgiveness and how all must be, even if not explicitly so. And I am in love with the cradle of a body and how its shadow rests on the walls: where a slight of breath is the last signifier you need to say thank you for a life lived, as full as it may ever be if it were only the bone and memory of mankind left.
I would have left behind good.
and after the fire, a sound of sheer silence