There are some people who just can’t understand suicide at all, from an emotional or intellectual level.
Then there are people like me, who cannot understand how other people cannot understand. I was absolutely laid low by yesterday’s news, in part because Chris Cornell is a kindred spirit. He saw all the evil everywhere, and it laid him low. He called it out. He brought messages of love. He was one of the few famous (or frankly, non-famous) musicians who isn’t a fucking misogynist. But it didn’t matter in the end.
I was discussing the issue with someone who can’t understand suicide as we listened to Soundgarden. And I kept being like, “We’re listening to his extended suicide note right now!” And I’d turn up whatever song was on and repeat the lyrics.
The person I was conversing with, quite reasonably, trotted out our cultural line about people being able to make dark art without that meaning they are suicidal. Well, that’s not really the whole truth. There are distinct differences between “dark” art that doesn’t mean anything, and “dark” art that is screaming that the world is an evil, toxic place, and that it could and should be better. I’ve certainly lied and said my “dark” art didn’t mean anything, when clearly it does. Why? For my own protection (young women can very easily be institutionalized for daring to say the world we live in sucks—good thing I’m “old” now), and because people get really really uncomfortable around suicidal people who say they’re suicidal because the world is a fucking awful place.
Instead, people try to rationalize that those of us who see and feel that FUCKING FACT clearly have chemical imbalances in our brains that could be rectified with drugs and therapy to convince us every fucking terrible thing isn’t really terrible. War, racism, misogyny, poverty, homo/transphobia, environmental destruction, etc and so on. A Trump presidency. All these pieces of our every day existence really aren’t so fucking bad. Us poor, help-needing suicidal people have brains that are somehow tricking us into thinking they’re bad. (I’ve been hearing this since I was 14 years old. It’s just not true. How I stay alive is a subject for a different discussion. Feel free to ask.)
We have all these “get help/need help” narratives. What “help” is there for this shitty, toxic world we live in? There’s no “help” for that except for everyone else admitting we live in a shitty, toxic world and making serious efforts to fundamentally change it. And yet, I’ve noticed that the people most vocal in trying to convince me it’s my brain that is the problem are often the least likely to try to make the world a better place at all.
So, I, for one, am really proud of Chris Cornell for fighting the good fight as long and as hard as he did. Love was his drug, but that’s not what he died of. He died from all these systems of oppression, like many artists before him.
I am committed to speaking truth to power on this issue that most people absolutely DO NOT want to engage with or think critically about. I know I’m absolutely not supposed to talk about being a suicidal person because it makes other people extremely uncomfortable. But I have been speaking more and more openly about it the past few years because I think it’s a vital conversation to have as a culture and species.
Yes, Chris Cornell’s artistic body of work is a long suicide note. So is mine. We both tried like hell to live anyway, despite learning that we’re liars, knowing that being alive (as white Americans) is being complicit in all sorts of evil (we daily steal a 1000 beggars’ change and give it to the rich).
I mean, I’m definitely trying and have commitments to my younger sibling, so even though I still have suicidal ideation, I have no intention on acting on the thoughts I typically have several times a year.
“Someone, tried to tell me something: don’t let the world bring you down.
Nothing can do me in before I do myself.”
If we can’t blow up the (wicked, awful, terrible) outside world, sometimes we have to do ourselves in. So maybe we could start talking about how to fundamentally change the outside world so it’s not so freaking toxic and unlivable?