People say that suicide is caused by depression

Yet we hear so many people say, “It was such a shock that he did it. He seemed so normal before it happened. He was happy, he was enjoying himself, etc.”

Well, yeah. If you knew you were going to jump off a bridge tomorrow, why wouldn’t you spend today doing some fun stuff, having lighthearted conversations with friends, etc.? If anything, your worries would be gone, so you would be better able to enjoy yourself without being weighted down by concern over your problems. You might actually be better company.

It’s just that for most of our lives, we feel kinda stuck. How many people do you hear say, “Yeah, this job sucks, but I just need to stick it out for another 15 years till retirement”? They’re kinda stuck. People are stuck in marriages, or if they leave their marriage, then they’re stuck in whatever situation they end up in after marriage. Women talk about divorce as being liberating, but if they remain unable to get what they want, relationship-wise — i.e. attract that tall, handsome billionaire or whatever — they’re still stuck, in a way.

We end up in these situations, dealing with constant annoyances and frustrations. Some handle it better than others. It’s human nature, though, that we prefer to have a feeling of making progress, even if it’s illusory. Problem is, some of us are more realistic, or pessimistic, about how much meaningful progress we’re really making, because it can be hard to gauge sometimes, and there can always be setbacks.

I was recently telling someone, I hope the narrative about me doesn’t end up being, “He was real smart but his mental illness got the better of him.”

All I can really say in response to that is, “Cato’s Letter No. 56, bitches!”

That’s the only work I’ve ever found in my life that sums up how I feel about the matter. And it was written in 1721, before the psychologists arrogated to themselves the responsibility of telling us the meaning and cause of suicide.

It’s timeless, but obscure; I’ve never heard it mentioned in any discussion of suicide, but to me, it’s an eloquent and concise, and even radical, summation of my thinking on the matter.

Most of what’s been written on our time on the subject has focused on the terminally ill, rather than those who are just ready to say, “Fuck it, I’m done.”

Anyone who wants to talk smack about suicide should read Cato’s Letter No. 56

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Cato%27s_Letter_No._56

Brutus and Cassius killed themselves! What then? Was it not done like Romans, like virtuous old Romans, thus to prefer death to slavery? It was a Roman spirit; and those who possessed it, did as much disdain to be tyrants, as to submit to tyranny; a spirit that scorned an ignominious life, held only at the mercy of an usurper, or by flattering his villainy, and abetting his usurpations; and a spirit, which those that want it can never admire. Great souls are not comprehended by small! It is undoubtedly true, that by the precepts of Christianity we are not at liberty to dispose of our own lives; but are to wait for the call of heaven to alleviate or end our calamities: But the Romans had no other laws to act by, but the natural dictates of uncorrupted reason. I call upon the great pretenders to philosophy and refined morals, to assign one fair reason, why a Roman, why Brutus and Cassius, should prefer a miserable life to an honourable death; should bear vassalage, chains, and tortures of body or mind, when all those evils were to be avoided by doing only that, which, by the course of nature, every man must soon do. It is better not to be, than to be unhappy; and the severest judgment on the wicked is, that they shall live for ever, and can never end their miseries: Much less can it be any service to society, to keep alive by art or force a melancholy, miserable, and useless member, grown perhaps burdensome too by age and infirmities.

In this light we must view the actions of the old Romans, guided only by nature, and unrestrained from suicide by any principles of their religion. We find, on the contrary, in history, many examples of the great and magnanimous heroes of antiquity, choosing voluntary death, often in the midst of health, with the greatest calmness of mind; sometimes from satiety of life and glory, either when they could gain no more, or apprehending that the future caprices of unconstant fortune might sully the past; and oftener still, to avoid submitting to disgrace and servitude.

A voluntary death from such motives as these, was, among the ancients, one of the paths to immortality; and, under certain circumstances, none but mean and abject minds declined it. Roman ladies often chose it. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, chose a long premeditated death, rather than be led captive to Rome. And when Perseus sent to P. Aemilius, beseeching him with all earnestness, that so great a prince, late lord of Macedon, and good part of Greece, might not be led, like a slave, in chains at his chariot wheel, to grace his triumph; he received this short answer, that “it was in his own power to prevent it”: Thus signifying to him, that he deserved the disgrace, if he would live to bear it.

Even under the dispensations of a new religion, which God Almighty condescended personally to teach mankind; human nature has prevailed so far over revealed truths, that in multitudes of instances a voluntary death is approved, at least not condemned, by almost the greatest part of the world. Men in extreme pain and agonies do often refuse physick, and the means of preserving their lives, days, weeks, and months longer. Men in lingering and desperate distempers go, uncalled, to mount a breach in a siege, or into the midst of the battle, to meet certain death. Great commanders have done the same, when the day went against them, rather than survive being beaten. Commanders of ships have blown up themselves and their ships, rather than be the prey of the conqueror. Towns besieged, when they could defend themselves no longer, have first burnt their town, then precipitated themselves desperately amongst their enemies, to procure an honourable death and revenge. Even common malefactors often choose to die, rather than discover their accomplices; and always get credit by doing so. And the stories of the Decii, of Celanus, of the great Cato, and even of Otho, and many other of the great examples of antiquity, made immortal by this act of ancient heroism, are still read with admiration.

Look at all those ancient celebrities he name-checked, Tom. I bet you never even heard of some of them.

“We find, on the contrary, in history, many examples of the great and magnanimous heroes of antiquity, choosing voluntary death, often in the midst of health, with the greatest calmness of mind; sometimes from satiety of life and glory, either when they could gain no more, or apprehending that the future caprices of unconstant fortune might sully the past; and oftener still, to avoid submitting to disgrace and servitude.”

What if I’ve simply had enough? Maybe wanting to continue living, and living, and living is just another example of American gluttony.