“Your body is not a temple. It’s an amusement park; enjoy the ride.”
Everyone has some stupid story they like to tell right after someone dies. This story is almost always some soppy best-man quality speech on how, whoever’s dead, inspired the speaker in some way. Generally, this speech requires heralding some underlying quality of grace or wisdom the deceased possessed. This speech is accompanied by the muffled sniffles of friends and family, the occasional wail from someone in the back of the room as they finally wrap their head around the fact that the guy in the box is never coming back.
The people eating their guns in basements don’t give a shit about that speech. The people hanging themselves in hotel rooms aren’t doing it for the ghostly payoff of watching their loved ones blubber out goodbyes over an open casket. People who kill themselves, by definition, aren’t interested in tomorrow.
I’m not going to jaw on about the psychological why’s and why not's behind what drives someone to pop forty oxy’s and stretch out on a motel queen for a hardest of naps followed by furious vomiting and a stomach pump by an eighteen-year-old EMT who’s day they just ruined. What I am going say is; writers are thinkers, deep and wide and all shades of worn out. There’s almost never a cookie cut reason for anything any exceptional person does. The antagonistic, thick-skinned, conquistadors of their industry define our time and place in culture. They make us stop playing pretend; they make us look at our lives with playful apprehension, holding our feet to the fire with every hackneyed choice we make held on full display before our wet eyes. They don’t let us take ourselves too seriously because they set the example.
Hemingway, Thompson, Cobain, Bourdain; you miss out on what they didn’t give us. You don’t love them. You don’t know them. You can’t imagine a world without them in it, but they could. That’s why they’re not here. And you’re adding it all up, and it doesn’t make sense, and you’re thinking that no one must be happy if the people you look up to are offing themselves left and right. But that’s why you liked them in the first place because they were so entirely alive while they were here. They lived for the edges. The moments right before you load daddy’s 308 and start stacking meat from the top of a Walmart. The moment right before you do something so irreparably destructive that it ruins your whole life. That’s where they wanted to be. Uncomfortable, in danger.
We’re tourists, and they’re pirates, wrapped up in old cloth, destroying their livers, raping and pillaging in their respective fields. Losing it in real time so we can get something out of it. Being just the kind of loose cannons we idolize and rebuke. We don’t have to look for the silver lining; we just have to learn something from their lives.
And like every good hangover, their pictures will fade off of our televisions and computers and phones. People will stop posting photos of their all-of-a-sudden favorite writer, chef, personality. People will stop thinking good thoughts in the direction of the family, and someone else will hang or shoot or drug themselves to death. Everything goes on. Whether we like it or not; everything goes on. And in keeping with the dangerous, irreverent, honest writing style of the recently departed; There are no lessons here, just good leftovers, a whole body of work worth the life that was lived to create it, and a dose of the real to top it all off.