Saturday, January 06, 2018
Twelve years ago I gave up art, and I gave up alcohol. It wasn’t a conscious decision to give up both at almost exactly the same time (giving up art came a couple of months after giving up drinking) and I’d been unhappy with making art for much longer than I’d been unhappy with drinking alcohol, but that’s how it went.
I knew I wanted to do something more authentic, less indirect than art, something that actually made a difference. A young man in my community, still a boy really, that I knew well, hung himself in the garage behind his grandmother’s house. I’d had a conversation with him a few months before. He seemed troubled. What I said to him was clearly not what needed to be said, not that it was much - something along the lines of “Yeah isn’t it shit being 15? I remember it well. It’ll get better.”
A couple of years later a good friend killed himself. He was a man, a father, a husband, a singer/songwriter/guitar player who could move you to tears with his singing and his playing - and make you feel alive. He was the most talented man I have known. I’d had what I think of now as ‘the conversation’ with him too. And what I said to him was clearly not what was needed either. I talked to him about his good fortune, his talent, his house, his children, his partner who loved him. What I know now is that you can have everything in the world, you can be loved, talented, good looking, intelligent - and you still feel like shit.
Maybe you are thinking about killing yourself. Maybe you know someone who is thinking of killing themselves? Maybe you suspect that someone you know is thinking of killing themselves? What do you say to them? Maybe you have lost someone who has killed themselves. Maybe you know someone who has lost someone they care about through suicide.
What do you say to them?
In 2012 I started working with people who want, more than anything, to live, although there were also some who wanted to die. They had been diagnosed with cancer. They were being treated for it. Or they had been treated and they were in remission - or there was nothing more that could be done for them. I learned how to talk to them and how to listen. I wrote a book about it.
I started working with people who wanted to die, or who wanted to be able to end their lives at a time of their own choosing. I listened to their stories. I asked them questions and I taught people how to end their lives in a way which is not painful and not messy and not violent. And some of them did end it. I am writing a book called The Art of Not Dying. This is the introduction to that book.
I started working with people who are unhappy with their lives or with the world or both, who are living their lives in a way that is unsustainable, unjust, unsatisfying - people who want to live a different kind of life, one that is not meaningless and pointless. I discovered the possibility of being posthuman, that is to say I discovered the possibility of overcoming the human condition and I started thinking and reading and talking with people about what might be possible if we were not so obsessed with ourselves, individually and collectively - less self-centred, as a species, as beings or ‘things’ in the world. I began thinking about what kind of therapy could be of use in overcoming the human condition.
And so this is where I am now. It’s 2018. I’ll be 60 this year. It has taken 12 years to get here.
And I thought, yes - I am making a difference. Now I know what to do and how to do it, what to say, how to listen, how to respond.
It has already taken a long time, but it’s a beginning - and a continuation.
Perhaps you’d like to have a conversation with me too?
Friday, January 19, 2018
two ‘poems’ from 2013
untitled (for david bohm)
so the ten to the power of five hundred
universe/s are continuously
& simultaneously unfolding
in all directions (& partly — or wholly!
— enfolding again)
and it looks to me, and us, from where we sit, or are standing
now here in this particular universe,
as if we are at the centre
of this unfolding and enfolding…
being responsive appeared to be essential to his personal ethics
(a poem in memory of robert creely - in two parts)
although i have written — and sometimes still write,
poems, i don’t know anything about poetry — but sometimes
a poet appears in my field of vision and i say : hey!
where did you come from — or : who the hell are you?
& mostly — like cats — they don’t say anything,
not because they’re haughty, but because they’ve
been dead since like forever but sometimes i find something they
said before - like robert creely (he only had one eye
& he wrote a poem about it).
asked what he thought about computers, he said : ’there has
never been a more efficient and unobtrusive support for writing
itself than that which a computer provides.’
so. we have no excuse.
i too tried to teach poetry once and it nearly killed me
or it made me cry — but i’ll never forget you
year nine glenfield high winter nineteen ninety one except that australian winters on the east coast
don’t really count do they?
(it was bleak tho’).
when asked what a poem is, creely said :
’a poem is a small (or large)
machine made of words’ — or perhaps
it’s the tree one will never see
a poem as lovely as. both propositions
come from new jersey as it happens.’
i added the line breaks and they may be
in the wrong place but it doesn’t matter
the point is : it was creely’s answer to the question
what is a poem? (actually the question was : is a poem like a field
or an ascent into the void which reads to me
like a question asked by someone trying to show off
their cleverness) with a poem.
and when he was asked if he had any advice for the
world he said : ‘stop killing people as a means of solution.’
notes : the quotes are from ‘20 questions with robert creeley’ in milkmag and i sent this to them, they might want to publish it, who knows? but what struck me reading about creely on wikipedia was that “in his later years he was an advocate of, and a mentor to, many younger poets, as well as to others outside of the poetry world. he went to great lengths to be supportive to many people regardless of any poetic affiliation. being responsive appeared to be essential to his personal ethics, and he seemed to take this responsibility extremely seriously, in both his life and his craft. in his later years, when he became well-known, he would go to lengths to make strangers, who approached him as a well-known author, feel comfortable.”
some men, in later life, as it is apparently called — and this is where in time and space i find myself now … strange! i never thought of this as being the case before, that’s ageing for you : suddenly you find yourself in your ‘later life’… ah well at least i made it this far, unlike my father but i have many fathers now — become gentle men, and i am delighted to know some of some of them. perhaps they become gentle because there are fewer and fewer of us left and what’s the point? you might as well be gentle, if that’s all you can ever be, gentle and generous, that’s not nothing. if you’ve got any money you can be be generous with that too - but in any case being generous with your self, your time, your mind, that’s not nothing which is not to say there are no bitter men who are, late in life are every bit as ruthless or worse than they ever were. but imagine if the world was run by women and older gentle men, instead of by them - what a world that could be!
Thursday, January 25, 2018
on the train going home after seeing someone who wanted to die when she spoke to me two weeks ago to make the appointment and now she doesn’t.
itunes on shuffle plays :
- bill is dead - the fall
- life in vain - daniel johnson
- black angel death song - velvet underground
RIP mark e.smith.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Do you have any secret techniques for overcoming self-doubt? -As you know, there isn’t really any solution to self-doubt. In the end, you just have to write and doubt simultaneously.
I love the “As you know…” Like, you already knew this but you wish it was otherwise, and that there was a secret technique for overcoming it that others have and that you didn’t know about.
In the end you just have to do everything - whatever it is you do - and doubt simultaneously…
I was asked to write something for a Dutch website where preachers who can’t think of a topic for their Sunday sermon can go for inspiration (Wow! Yes. I know…). I said, ‘you won’t like what I write’ but that didn’t put them off, so I wrote something. In the end I rather liked what I wrote, but they didn’t … so I’ll put it up here.
The question I was asked to respond to (in Dutch - it was hard!) was “Wat zie je als je de ander werkelijk aankijkt.”