Without anger you cannot protect yourself or others. Anger stands you up tall and straight. It’s a clarifying, vertical emotion. A beautiful thing when taking a stand on behalf of others. Rage is the proper reaction to the soul being so insulted that an explosion is necessary to maintain being. But we’re shamed for having the proper reaction. In taming our anger we’re losing the ability to say, “I need this” and “Stop that!” If we can’t be angry in a healthy sense we have big holes in our boundaries that people notice immediately; Especially perpetrators who see holes in those they recognize cannot protect themselves. Predators zone in on the weak and ignore the rest. Anger is a heated awareness that says: “I’m here and I’ m staying!” What warriors learn is how to carry the anger as art; martial art. And they never go to war because they learn how to adjust the emotion into an art. It is a practice to be able to experience an angry state but explain your perspectives calmly to others.
To err is human. To forgive is divine. But many of us are too hard on ourselves and don’t apply the same principle to own lives. Everyone has something inside they don’t like about themselves, and those aspects actively attack us in the form of everyone we’re at odds with in the world. If we stop and analyze what really makes us angry, we discover that we’re generally guilty of the very same behaviors. If we weren’t we wouldn’t notice. We’re just noticing those unfamiliar aspects of ourselves. Instead of hating those aspects by torturing the people around us that manifest the same projections we dislike in ourselves, forgive those aspects, learn to love them, and see what happens. It’ll shift a bit because the world is a mirror and people respond to vibes. Fear the universe it’ll snarl and attack, but love the universe it’ll roll over and reveal it’s belly. Enter the world with love in your heart and people will notice and you’re going to alter the world around you.
Old Europe Catholic orthodoxy once deterred people against suicide through the declaration of divine edict. The Enlightenment would later rail against piety as a suicide deterrent, insisting instead that dominion over one’s own body includes the right to end one’s own life. Today, author Jennifer Michael Hect makes a communal plea based in the philosophical traditions, that there are communal reasons to stay alive; that we owe it to other people as well as to our future selves to stay alive; that if you think you’re a burden, your suicide will be an exponentially greater burden. She’s collected a vast toolbox of mental hacks to help us weather the storm when things get to their darkest point. As physical barriers on bridges prevent many suicides, Jennifer’s work raises helpful conceptual barriers with the aim of making suicide awareness a part of our cultural dialogue. And she reminds us that first and foremost we do not start by solving the problem; we start by seeing the problem.
Of all the contributing factors to suicide, financial despair seems one of the most universal. Half of the American population can no longer afford basic amenities without incurring ever-increasing levels of debt that will never be repaid because what few jobs still exist are minimum wage, part-time, and without benefits. It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society that spends trillions bombing innocent children in far away lands but refuses to feed the hungry, clothe the naked or heal the sick right here at home. If the deadliest form of violence is poverty, the American economic system now employs structural genocide to turn it’s profits. If we’re ever to reverse this trend, we must face how bleak it is without letting the despair cripple us. Because if you who understand the totality of the truth decide to depart prematurely, that only adds to the doom that further guarantees even more crippling political paralysis for everyone else.
Sleep isn’t the third tier of health alongside diet and exercise, but the foundation upon which diet and exercise sit. Matthew Walker calls sleep the “Swiss Army Knife of your health” because of the way it governs all other vital system indicators. Upon research, the phrase “You can sleep when you’re dead” turns out to be mortally unsound advice. Sleep Deprivation impairs cognition and leads to serious individual and societal consequences, one of which is suicide. Since technologically developed societies lend themselves to insomnia, exhausted workers running between the gears of the industrialized world show us every spring how susceptible our bodies are to sleep deprivation when the annual observance of Daylight Saving Time causes significant spikes in heart attacks and suicides. Today the so-called digitalization of the bedroom threatens to shift us even further away from our circadian rhythms, further out of balance with nature, and in-turn, further away from optimal health.
While we observe the 100 year anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the First World War this November 11th, the US Imperial military actively wages war in 7 countries. With military professionals in charge it’s our hope that America’s wars conclude quickly and successfully, with peace the result. But as long as some individuals and institutions actually benefit from perpetual armed conflict with profits, jobs, and campaign contributions, decisions to police the world will be made by non-elected agencies, further shedding the blood of soldiers and draining the treasure of the country ad infinitum. While non-serving citizens are encouraged to “support the troops” we avoid stipulating how this civic function is to be performed. Perhaps the only meaningful way to honor veterans is to stop producing them. To do that, we must find a way to take the profit out of war. Then maybe we wouldn’t create veterans who return unable to deal with the painful memories of war’s hideous face.
The story we’ve been told about depression treats people as if they’re machines with broken parts, when they’re really human beings with unmet needs. Depression and anxiety aren’t a pathology in the individual, but meaningful signals that our culture has gone wrong. It’s no measure of good health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. We’re told in subtle but constant ways that we must destroy the earth, remain at war, tighten our belts and exploit the poor, but must not feel the emotional consequences of doing so, lest we put a halt to the process. We’re encouraged to medicate ups-and-downs away and continue marching in-step with the toxic corporate metastasis, when the proper reaction should be outrage. Anger is a proper reaction to outrageous situations, but we’ve been shamed for the proper reaction, and in taming our anger we’re losing the ability to express ourselves and articulate our needs. So we turn our anger inward, which is exactly how Freud defined depression.
Modern secular society largely dismisses formerly powerful religious institutions, and millions of Americans believe in no supreme being, yet our culture’s only systematic argument against suicide relates to God. Atheists obviously won’t be dissuaded from suicide by divine prescription, but you don’t need a theologian to see that suicide measurably harms the community in significant ways. Generally we ask people not to do it for their own sake, but we don’t say they “must not” do it. We have no secular, logical, anti-suicide consensus. Outside the idea that God forbids it, our society today has no coherent argument against suicide. Instead, many self-described, open-minded, rationalist, sophisticated thinkers, emphatically defend people’s right to do it. How did the secular, philosophical worldview come to claim people’s right to suicide? How do those in the modern world, who fight death so fiercely elsewhere, come to accept (or at least leave unchallenged) an ideology that kills?
The Catholic institution’s draconian punishments of suicides, which included public desecration of the deceased, eventually created an inevitable secular backlash. But medieval punishment for suicide was even crueler under Protestantism. Religion’s proscriptions of suicide surely saved lives, but punishment of not only if those who attempted suicide, but even the survivors of suicide, struck many as unfair. As the Stoics and Rationalists threw off the shackles of religion, they tended to also throw out the baby with the bathwater. For their lofty ideals often included a shocking defense and admiration of suicide. At the start of the 17th century, as people were beginning to question religious intolerance of suicide, Shakespeare produced one of the most famous meditations on self slaughter ever written. Expressing the growing uncertainty about suicide, the Hamlet graveyard monologue stands as among the most beautiful, sad, and intellectually quixotic passages in the English language.
No one is useless to the community, even if they think they are. Even a person who thinks they have nothing left to offer can offer the example of courage and patience. Everyone requires of us certain duties from which we may not exempt ourselves on our own. Suicide is not only a rejection of one’s role and responsibilities in society, but also an act without regard to the harm inflicted on our children, our friends, and society at large. It may even influence others to likewise die. Think not only what the world would miss from your own absence, but also what it would miss if, because of your own suicide, someone else died. We owe it to one another to stay alive because life is difficult and we all need each other. So you must not abandon your post. We all experience troubles and pain, and for some it is excruciating. The best thing to do is to wait, but whatever we do, we must not give into impatience. It is possible to be suicidal at times and yet stick with living.
After ten weeks of “To Be, Or Not To Be” we now take a halftime break to rest our ears, rekindle our souls, and return to the fundamentals of what is ultimately important; connecting with others to consider the oneness of all life through the perfection of generosity. In this episode we return once again to our annual observation of the revolutionary activism of the Church of Stop Shopping, led by Reverend Billy, vis-a-vis their seminal documentary film, What Would Jesus Buy? We also revisit our conversation from the Reverend himself via telephone to talk about the new book and perform an on-air credit card exorcism! Why not get your family together and do something wildly different this December. If we try buying absolutely nothing, we might experience the most joyous holiday season we’ve ever had and remember everything that was here before their products began circling us with ballooning eyes like the Macy’s parade. Buy nothing. Experience everything. Earthalujah baby!
Cultures around the world agree; Winter Solstice is an event to get excited about. Scandinavian and Siberian cultures honored conifer trees around this time of year, a tradition still alive today in the form of holiday wreaths and Christmas trees. The Evergreen needles symbolize eternal life and are also associated with a symbiotic mushroom. This mushroom is favorite food of reindeer, and has symbolized this magical season since time immemorial. Over the decades and centuries many have forgotten the ruckus roots of this festive occasion, including the drunken crowds that used to visit rich neighborhoods on Saturnalia, and the burning of the Yule log throughout the solstice night. The religious motifs characterized by the Holy Grail, the 3 Kings, and Saint Nicholas, constitute a clever cover-story that obscures esoteric instructions which, if interpreted correctly, point toward the access point for other spiritual dimensions.
In his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus argues that there is a fundamental conflict between what we want from the universe and what we find in the universe. Either we will discover meaning through a leap of faith, by placing our hopes in a God beyond this world, or we will conclude that life is meaningless. Does this latter conclusion that life is meaningless necessarily leads one to commit suicide? If that were the case, we would have no option but to make a leap of faith or to commit suicide. Camus is interested in pursuing a third possibility: that we can accept and live in a world devoid of meaning or purpose. This essay stands not only as a fantastic philosophical guide for navigating the mental labyrinth of paradoxical existence, but also as the most helpful words to those seriously considering the meaninglessness of absurd existence. Determined souls will always manage. Let’s help arm each other with the tools necessary for harnessing that determination.
Like affects like. Monkey see, monkey do. A key predictor of suicide, is knowing a suicide. One person taking their own life is destructive for other people. It significantly increases the likelihood of copycat suicides among those who knew them and those who are like them, and can snowball into a suicide cluster. Counselors consider it a risk factor for suicide when a person reports known someone who died this way, and media reporting on suicide can also result in suicides. The military community has now experienced so many suicides that voluntary death has become part of the culture. Veteran suicide has become culturally patterned, and each man who enacts this script keeps it potent for the other men around him. Some service members say there is a sense that suicide can be contagious. The fact that suicide influences suicide leads to a philosophical idea: that it is morally wrong to kill one’s self, because in killing yourself, you’re likely to be killing someone else by influence.
Suicide in the west is a crisis signaled by a perfect storm of contributing factors, but too much individualism informs them all. In most of the modern western world, people feel cut off from their communities and uncertain about how they fit into the larger picture. Within strongly integrated societies, individuals feel deeply connected to something larger than themselves; something that forbids them to dispose willfully of themselves. People feel that they have to stay alive and fill their roles. Human beings are not just what each of us are on our own, we are also Humanity. To be well we need to be drawn out of our individual personalities to feel the overreaching culture within and beyond us. It is no more than wordplay to conclude that because life has no ultimate meaning, it is not worth living. The lack of overall purpose or goal does not imply that there is no value to living. The overall meaninglessness of existence makes our lives absurd, and the absurd is tolerable.
Every year in January we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by recalling a handful of fanciful speeches that make us feel good. But the MLK who fearlessly opposed the Vietnam War, challenged America’s status quo, and declared poverty the greatest of society’s evils seems known to few. Expanding his activism from Civil Rights to humanitarian social justice for all humanity led him to conclude that this is not a struggle of black versus white, but oligarch versus the poor. In his final year on Earth, King took increasingly radical policy positions, from speaking out against the Vietnam War to forging a multiracial Poor People’s Campaign that sought, as King said, “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” The oversimplified narrative of his martyrdom undermines his deeper messages: that “America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” and, that “those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”
The people of France have had it with neoliberal austerity measures and the corruption that preserves them. But what’s happened in France is happening everywhere. In America, the richest country in the world, 80% of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and 30 million still have no health care. Suicide and drug overdoses are depopulating our communities as multinational corporations hollow out what’s left. Things are so bad that even a mainstream media FOX News host like Tucker Carlson understands Socialism’s appeal. With inequality at all time highs, we are compelled to either restructure society or escape it, because the unaccountable mercenaries of the ownership class continue to show contempt for the people they rule. Now they’ve criminalized criticism of US-funded Israeli war crimes, such as the 2018 Christmas Day bombing run over Syria where Israel fighters used civilian commercial airlines as radar cover. The French people show us that we needn’t tolerate such leaders any longer.
Though they may demonize socialism publicly, Capitalists depend on socialism more than anyone to subsidize their workforce. Taxpayers send billions in medicaid, housing assistance, and food stamps to poor employees who struggle to get by on Corporate America’s starvation wages. Industry captains could easily afford to take care of their workers, but instead rely on you, the taxpayer, to pick up the slack. This system that produces the worst income inequality in written human history is justified by demonizing alternative economic systems. We’re told that socialism leads to dictatorial government control, while capitalism produces the same tyranny through the Amazon monopoly. The ones who are supposed to be regulated by our government are the ones running it, and they’ve made sure we have socialism for the rich and austerity for everyone else. So it doesn’t matter whether we embrace socialism or not, because any economic system led by war hawks will invariably produce totalitarianism.
Late stage capitalism is an economically suicidal system that doesn’t work for a majority of the people. But as everything grows worse, we’re told that things are better than ever. Of course, the figures used to irresponsibly lay claim to this nonexistent economic recovery are themselves entirely fictional. The number we hear reported as ‘The Unemployment Rate’ is a deliberately flawed number that hides the ongoing economic crisis by excluding those we would otherwise consider unemployed. Even a single hour of work per week is considered “temp” or “part time” and thus “employed” by technicality. And if you’re not looking for work, you’re just ‘out of the labor force’ altogether. But a significant percentage of this country’s potential labor force gave up years ago. They went back to school, began living off friends and relatives, or drifted into the illegal economy. When the unemployment rate goes down and we think things are getting better, they are in fact getting much, much worse.
Even in the intensely personal matter of choosing whether or not to go on living, the ideas and beliefs of others can be a deciding factor. Thus it is critical that people are aware, alongside arguments in favor of the right to suicide, of the argument that we must endeavor to live. To stem the awful rise of suicide in our time, many things are needed, from economic security and an end to illegal wars to easier access to mental health care. Yet some of the problem can be addressed just by talking about it. But if we try to suppress the whole subject, if we quarantine suicide from our consciousness and from public discourse, we run the risk of suddenly confronting it alone and unarmed when we are most vulnerable. None of us can truly know what we mean to others, and none of us can know what our future selves will experience. Bear witness to the night side of being human, the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. And if you are struggling today, don’t wait until tomorrow to get help.