Prose on a peculiar understanding of suicide
“When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes. The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence,” says Peter Zapffe in his philosophical article, “The Last Messiah.”
Such a statement serves as an interesting, and arresting, re-interpretation of what has perennially been a foul commission, a final descent into the worst of vices: the act of suicide. It is less a taboo than it is an institution. This peculiar act, after all, was the foundation of sociology. Durkheim’s treatise shows that the scientific study of society begins with the study of those who no longer wish to partake either of society or their own isolation—those who can neither tolerate the world nor their own thoughts in dotage.
Whence, then, the barbarity? When we say to those who contemplate suicide, most especially the young and the old, we say, “Wait, do not do this, it will get better.” What we mean to say, however, is, “Wait, do not do this, you will become more skillful in alienating yourself from your senses and your cognition, and you will tolerate a world which does not wish to accommodate you, as in an exercise.” Hume agrees that suicide is no more unnatural or sacrilegious than, say, dwelling in a hermitage and contemplating God as an eremitic. Suicide, then, is a crime against biology alone: and the cells can hardly know of their dissolution. Suicide is the canary in the coalmine of civilization, for it points not to a constitutional fault within an individual, though he commits it in private dignity, but a toxic flux point within the larger trade between individuals which we call civilization. It is a symptom, not a disease: the disease is living among others and being perpetually self-insufficient.