Superficially, there was anger there. An old therapist of mine likes to say that expressed anger is, at the very least, the manifestation of a sense of injustice. Well, sure, of course. Beyond that basic gloss we have all heard that anger is the active manifestation of fear. True.
But what struck me as the overwhelming knowledge borne in those angry eyes that night was that of loneliness.
For all of our electronic and suprasocial connectivity, we always technically connected ones are the most alone people in human history.
I think that Lazzarato’s thesis on the mass production of subjectivity as the primal work of capitalism is perhaps the most straightforward explanation of how we got here, and where we are, but one need not take Lazzarato’s critical reading of Guattari and Deleuze on late modern alienation to recognize the basic truth here: we are apart from each other, and even our sacrosanct individualism is a truncated fabrication, leaving us feeling not complete in ourselves, even divorced from ourselves (some or all of the time), just as we find pathways to solidarity, communion, fellowship, community, neighborliness, and a camaraderie deeper than wearing the same advertisement for a multi-million or billion dollar sports team, to be things which are harder and harder to create, and even more difficult to maintain.
We are so awash in ever more uniformed from-god-only-knows-what breads and pixelated right to our fingers circuses that until we each have a crisis which breaks through the heavy eyed lull of this corporate pax delusioniswe assume ourselves to still have a grasp on our basic human faculties, like friendship, or the capacity to truly help and to truly be helped, or the ability to listen. Or we don’t assume that, because we have never had it or known it, as can be seen among those woeful cases of lumpenproles and bourgeois who have never known anything stable or real in their lives.
Those eyes were terrified. But not of pain. The eyes were in the strongest man in the room, far and away. And he knew he was among official Calm Things Downers who were obliged not to hurt him physically and to try to protect him from being hurt by others. In fact he knew he was capable of inflicting a lot more physical pain than he would ever receive in that room. The terror was, it seemed to me, that of a man who had no allies, no comrades, no comforters, not now and not ever any cavalry coming from around the bend, no one.
I’ve suffered, since a joint laced with something smoked in my early teen years, from anxiety, in acute and chronic forms. This has often enough been experienced as a very intense fear of impending death. The terror is indescribable, but I can parse what is feared. It is not the process of dying – not pain or suffering in and of itself. It is not hell as hell is popularly conceived – I’ve long felt that if a god was going to torture me, or anyone, eternally, then I didn’t want to spend time with that god anyway, and I would rather be tortured by such a god than benefit from his graces. It is not nothingness qua nothingness that I then fear. I have no basis upon which to conceive of an absolute nothingness. What I fear in those moments is being alone. Of forever being away from those I have loved, from the possibility of communion, from the dynamic quality of my own inner conversations and remembrances, from any awareness of presence — entering instead into a state of complete and static isolation, And the most terrifying aspect of these moments is that they do not feel like a mental fog or an aberration of rational thought – rather, they feel like a pristine moment of clarity — that this is all that there is, all that ever will be, and that in this universe I am utterly alone, and that my final, pure, and true state is this aloneness.
This soul entropy, this undoing of connection, that pulls us away from each other also pulls us away from ourselves. The all-is-permitted-within-the-
The natural, rational, response to such a loss is suicide. Suicide is the apotheosis of this lonely state of things. It is the recognition that one cannot ever connect under the terms of this universe, or that we will at least all ultimately unconnect. It is the acceptance, whether bitter or resigned or furious, of things as they are. The prayer of which is, it is what it is.
In the literature we are told that suicides are usually impulsive, which corresponds to the house always wins game of craps universe described above. But we also know from survivors of serious suicide attempts that suicides are usually regretted in the moments after the act toward death is committed. It seems that in those final moments before a presumed death, persons are drawn back to a desire for the order of connection, and to love, and to, astonishingly, hope.
Another curious thing, and I have seen this firsthand over and over again in my strange life — suicides usually don’t want others to commit suicide. Why? This is where the game begins to become undone. The terror of a universe wherein I am in a static state of horrific aloneness is something that, in acute moments, I experience for myself. But I cannot experience it, and I sure as hell will not allow it or condone it, for my little girls and boy, for my wife, for my brothers and parents, for my friends, or even for that girl in every end of the road of safety nets who was raped repeatedly as an infant and now is a cutter and eater who tries whenever she has the chance to kill herself. I will not allow that universe for them. I rebuke it at every moment, as do many folks I know who work with the Walking Lonely who want to be relieved of the burden of breath. You learn things in foxholes, and I think many who have been in my sort of foxholes will with me attest to the wondrous phenomena that is a woman or man who not long ago had a barrel in his/her mouth trying to talk a person whose life has been nothing but hell and misery into fighting for life, and rebuking the urge to death and disconnect.
There is a mystery there.
I can’t explain it, but it is something Pauline, a willingness to accept a hell for one’s self that one will not accept for others.
This willingness, too, is revealed in impulse. Where does this impulse come from?
The sun was orange fire going down tonight. Families were getting ice cream at the village gas station, and then while walking home yelled at their kids on bikes to slow down. The two taverns seemed to be full, lots of motorcycles parked outside. The moon had been out since mid afternoon, now an afterthought even as it was finally making its move toward prominence. My wife’s old first grade teacher limped down the sidewalk while shouting a conversation into her cell phone. The bay windows in the houses revealed TVs showing cartoons, with kids jumping on couches and moms back in kitchens. Two boys were headed home with fishing poles and a bucket. An old man looked through me blankly as he smoked his cigarette. When the middler girl and I got back home from the gas station with the microwave popcorn my baby boy said, for the first time, “me Paulie, me Paulie.”
Yes, you are son. And you always will be. Because you will always be loved, and you will never be alone, no matter which of the universe’s narratives is loudest in your ear.