Black and White

I read a bit more of Notes on Suicide. It's good. Lots of different perspectives on a complicated issue. People like things to be simple, because it's easier if they are. But interesting things aren't simple. We like to think that things are one thing, like "suicide is selfish", or "suicide is wrong". But there's lots of types of suicide, for lots of different reasons; unbelievably complicated reasons. In the book Simon Critchley points out that when people choose to be killed rather than renounce their beliefs (Socrates, Thomas More, Jesus) that could be seen as a form of suicide. You could argue that that's an honourable sacrifice for the greater good, or something like that.

I remember, when I was suicidal, thinking that doing it would make my family and friends really sad and that I really didn't want to do that, but also thinking that if they really knew where I was, the hell that I was in, then they would understand. I didn't commit suicide, obviously, which I'm very happy about. But I know it's not a simple issue. I'm not making a point about whether suicide is good or bad, more that everything that's interesting is complicated. 

I was listening to Russell Brand on the Joe Rogan podcast this morning. I like him and have followed his journey. He was a presenter at MTV when I worked there in my first proper job. I only met him a couple of times but he was ridiculously charming and friendly. He was taking a lot of heroin at the time, which probably made being charming and friendly more difficult. Anyway, listening to him today, he seems quite obsessed with the bad bits of our economic system and how everything that's good gets "commodified" and ruined. I'd say that happens to some things. But only when people let that happen, which they don't always do if they stand up for what they believe in. And there's lots of good things about our economic system. It's definitely not perfect, but I'd argue that we live in a more materially comfortable time today, with more freedoms, than at any point in history. If I'm a slave to money that's my fault, not money's fault. Whether our economic system is good or bad isn't a straightforward issue. There's bad bits. Lots of them. But there's good bits too. It's complicated. 

People say that one of the things that depressed people exhibit is one dimensional or "black and white" thinking. That was definitely true for me. I'm not sure which comes first, the black and white thinking or the depression. They probably work together in a weird swirly way. But if I ever realise that I think one thing about anything - that I think I'm right about something - then that's probably a bad place to be - or I'm heading for a bad place. If I think I'm right about something, I'm probably just ignoring the part of the story that doesn't fit with my story. And if I'm wrong, which is likely, and there's bad consequences to being wrong, but I still think I'm right, then ultimately I'm going to have to sacrifice the part of me that's wrong - kill it - and that will hurt. In one way, life is a process of letting the parts of me that don't work die. Or killing them. It's painful and annoying. And the bigger a part of me they are, the more a part of my identity, the more it will hurt when they die. But if it's not working, I have to let it die. I often cling on too long. But I'm getting better. 

I won't always realise at the time that I'm doing black and white thinking - thinking I'm right - but as soon as I do, I let go of trying to be right. It's annoying to not be "right" about things. But there's also a freedom in that. And if I'm thinking I'm a terrible person who's fucked up my life, but I'm wrong about that, then that's good eh.

There's a great quote from Saul Bellow:

"That's the struggle of humanity, to recruit others to your version of what's right."

We're so desperate to be right. We need it. Then we try to convince other people to think like we do to make us feel sure that we are right. Trying to convince myself, then everyone else, that I'm right is tiring and probably annoying. Realising how wrong I am about everything makes me feel much better.