THE SHOOTIST part 3

 

vicissitudes of suicide

Contents

1. a life-time occupation
2. suicide as euthanasia
3. anarchy of death
4. easter miracle
5. insidious inspection

6. fatal research
7. practicing the end
8. the arthritic shootist
proustian postscript

6. fatal research

Evil acts belong to the powerful and the virtuous, bad and inferior acts to those subjected.

Nietzsche, Nachlass der Achtzigerjahre
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I’ve never been one for the Heidegger way of life, a Sein zum Tode, continually living in the face of death while pondering it. Even in that black period, when I was still a suicidal being, I always considered my obsession purely mine, hoping that all others would enjoy their lives and wishing them well.

 

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Perhaps Pessoa described it well: To await death, yet not to think about it. I have never been morbid, though I was often depressed. Depression, however, seems to be more the medical description of an affliction than a character trait. At most cynical is what I was, never sentimental. To be morbid is to be hysterical in a camouflaged manner.

Sentimentalism is a characteristic of those who consider their alleged emotions to be substances and also to be of substance, considered as heavy and important, instead of as the fleeting little waves of varied feeling which they are, of a flitting nature, coming and going, all but moments without a past. In normal life, meditating on death should be an old man’s occupation.

Now indeed my time has come, death is from now on an inseparable companion. Yet, contemplating its various issues, cool analysis is needed, an attitude of sine ira et studio. It is not so much death itself as its technicalities that have become intriguing. Niklas Luhmann rightly argued that man’s Ego cannot but consider itself as forever alive and always continuous, it can reflect on corporeal death, not think its own nothingness.

As I do not consider Descartes’ notion of two separate entities of body and soul sane philosophy, once death becomes important in your life, it is the destruction of the physical unity of the two that is at stake. Can it be coincidence that, some days ago, a heat wave not merely prevented me from walking, but also from working on this text of The Shootist, which is indeed a spiritual undertaking pertaining to the unity of both?
The fear of death is not the same as a will to live. Evelyn Waugh once remarked that such fear saps all energy, while a continuing will to live, even in the face of death, motivates to try and make the best of it. I do not fear death, I want to enjoy my books, my music and first of all the friends and the loved ones, as long as I can. With this same gusto I now start my research as to how properly end my life.

How does one go about shooting oneself? That is the question. When my day has come, I do not want to be forced to repeat what the protagonist in Japin’s novel Surrender says: Death came too late for its rendezvous. In my case there might also arise a situation in which I might add: Or too early.

The first thing I found on the web in terms of actually shooting oneself, was a long article that was obviously written by a researcher. Alas, it discussed the seriousness of wounds in the head resulting from a volley of buck-shot. The fact that the man had used polyethylene model heads was not helpful anyhow. Back on the internet.

The sheer amount on the web of amateur opinion as to guns and suicide is surprising and worrying. Any idiot can state what he thinks – or rather what he is not thinking, but merely imagining. Perhaps helpful is an article titled How to commit suicide the right way? Its writer tries to be sort of scientific about it:

The gun: Do not use a .22 calibre weapon. A small handgun can do four things: 1. kill you; 2. make you bleed out for 2+ agonizing hours before killing you; 3.put you in a coma forever; 4. not kill you. Get a .45 calibre weapon, or even better, a SHOTGUN!

Now, a shotgun I’ve already ruled out, no further arguments taken. However, do I know what .22 or .45 calibre means? I do not. Back to Wikipedia, where .22 calibre stands for 5.6mm and .45 calibre for 11.5mm bullets. Oops, my little Guardian Angel with its 7mm rounds may turn out to be a useless pop-gun after all…

Now as to the ‘How?’ Taken my own little personal myth, I have always considered it an ‘of course’ to shoot the revolver aiming at my right temple. Some research-like snooping around in the cinematographic world of suicide supports this preference. Again, one should not forget that, as with the sites on the internet, here one is also bombarded with laymen’s info. All this is very important, 25% of people survive self-inflected gun shots to the head, examples galore of survivors in the most abominable conditions.

Over the last seven days, I have seen two movies with perhaps a clue. I also remember seeing Colonel Redl quite some time ago, Szabó’s masterpiece which certainly confirmed my suicidal method of preference. Though officer Redl is forced to end his life with a service revolver and takes quite some pacing up and down the room before he has pumped up enough courage to shoot himself, he does indeed shoot himself through the temple.

By the way, Redl’s act does indeed deserve the German-Dutch description of Selbstmord or zelfmoord, murder that is, because the man was forced into his act by others. In this case suicide would be too gentle a word. Selbstmord is not only a Church-word, it is an expression utterly hierarchical and in essence also a military notion.

The DVD-cover of the very bad movie Sonatine, made by Takeshi Kitano, did promise some education. This is also the only explanation for the fact that I managed to see it through to its end.

 

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The man in the picture seems to have some fun in performing his deed, a rather different cup of tea from the one Redl was forced to drink. This alone should have warned me.

The silly thing about the movie is, that this image on the cover never appears inside the actual film. What you do see is the following scene in which, once again, the revolver is used to shoot through the head’s right temple, however this time with blood realistically splashing against the left car-window, level with the shot, and not like the silly spray peeing downward as seen on the disc’s cover. That blood must have been drawn on the photo with a brush. Also notice the enormous size of this gun, which for the owner of a 7mm Guardian revolver is rather alarming.

 

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Later I saw a more serious movie, again about military men, not a master piece like Colonel Redl, but still a pretty good flick: Zurlini’s Il deserto dei Tartari, with in it Colonel Max von Sydow.

 

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Although in this case, the cover itself is in black and white and does not promise any instruction in the art of suicide, the story’s gloom is filmed in Technicolor and turns indeed out to be informative. After the officer, once more a Colonel, is relieved of his duty in a fort which lies in nowhere land, at the edge of a vast desert, he is riding away on horseback, now on his own and without his company, for the first time in civilian clothes. You expect the worst and so it happens. I am all eyes to learn a thing or two. Once in the middle of nowhere, he gets off his horse and begins to search in one of the saddle bags.

 

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After some rummaging, he takes something out of it. It is indeed a gun, though you have to be alert to see it. And I am alert. Curiously enough, its size reminds me of my own little thing, which is somehow reassuring.

 

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Zurlini is alas too shy, or perhaps simply too delicate and too good a movie maker. You only see the officer walk into the desert, fading away.

 

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Then you merely hear the shot. One presumes that Von Sydow must have done the same thing as Colonel Redl, though perhaps in a more serene manner.

Now, out of the blue, on the World Wide Web it is written by someone that shooting through the temple is the worst way to do it. This hole, however, seems rather decisive.

 

SICTRANSIT

 

Yet this writer is sure: Put the god forsaken thing in your mouth POINTING TO THE SKY. Not kinda up, not angled up, STRAIGHT UP. At least, from the perspective of instruction, this hysterical outburst brings into play what for me is a new factor: the angle of the shot. I find one site advising a shot through the mouth ‘at an angle upward…’ How fuzzy can you get, how informative, wow!

All at once I find myself rather backward, as far as knowledge of ‘the brain’ is concerned. I do know a few things, having read rather seriously on brain research involving pet scans, left/right hemispheres and that sort of thing. Never, however, with an eye to shooting out my own brains, this in the One Best Way, that is the proper way according to Scientific Management.

This business of where and of how to direct the revolver’s canon has now become vital, knowing that my Guardian fires only 7mm bullets with a small amount of black powder to propel it. It needs indeed its proper angle, pointing at the skull at perhaps ninety degrees, this to acquire the right momentum for penetration and digging itself into my brain. Lethally that is.

Next I dig into more websites discussing the make-up of the human brain.

The brain stem seems of particular interest, one of the informants on the suicide sites is advising you to shoot the bullet straight through this organ. This time however, I am instructed that while doing this, instead of ‘shooting STRAIGHT UP, that is POINTING TO THE SKY’, the gun must be aimed through the mouth at an angle perpendicular to the back bone, that is more or less horizontally… As this damned brain stem is also pretty small compared with the other parts, this issue seems to turn into a suicide’s brain breaker. Choosing to aim like this, seems to demand a master’s shot…

Eventually, I am also left with uncertainties as to the thickness of the skull above the palate and as to how this bit of bone is positioned precisely. The horizontal shot into the brain stem involves the risk of my little Guardian bullet grazing that palate bone, thus failing to penetrate the brain.

 

7. practicing the end

I did not carry my revolver. They had told me that it would be easy and,

like an idiot, I had believed them.

Craig Johnson, Kindness Goes Unpunished
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Time had come to take my piece apart. In terms of good old Karl – Marx, that is – I could now call my self the owner of a revolver. However the issue with things is not so much to own them, as to possess them, to be their master and also to have the things possess you. A bit like McLuhan’s phrase Media, the Extensions of Man to which I always add its counterpoint: Man, the Extension of Media. One might even invoke Zen, with its idea that a man and his arrow should be one, or for that matter a man and his bullet. For the would-be suicide this last bit of advice seems even more to the point than what the original Zen saying must have intended.

First, however, I had to perform the delicate autopsy of my little machine, take it apart and clean its various pieces. I bought a chic little screwdriver especially for this purpose. It fits nicely inside the violin case, together with an assortment of little fitting tips that can be inserted in the revolver’s various screws. Once I use the instrument, it turns out not to be merely my fancy, but a very necessary piece of equipment.

 

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Observe the two tiny pieces of metal on the brown little round tablet at the centre of this picture, lying next to the revolving part. They are the minuscule screws with which the canon as well as the revolving piece are first mounted, thereupon fastened onto the hand piece with its trigger system. Ruin these two bits while unscrewing or screwing – or worse, simply losing these steel flees would be disastrous. Without them there is no gun, merely its corpse, which is not the point of the whole exercise.

Somewhat later, after cleaning and oiling it, I did indeed lose the smallest of the two screws. The screwdriver slid away, and the always already invisible little bastard completely disappeared into thin air. Only after five very panicky minutes of seeking in vain amongst my clothing, on the carpet and on the chair, did I have enough brain left to turn the gun a little on its side. There, just to tease me, it had hidden itself in one of the bullet holes of the revolving piece.

Also observe the larger pin with its round knob, lying on the yellow cloth next to the canon. It is my only photo with that thing in it. You will never see it in its original position. Here it is, a Thing in Itself. The mystery of all this will become manifest later on. All I can show my reader here, is the little slot into which the pin would fit, so as to push through the holes in the revolver, to clean them or to eliminate the remaining shells:

 

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And I refer my reader to the picture earlier presented, of the gun used by Kitana on the cover of the Sonatine movie where it can indeed be seen in its proper position, that is parallel to the canon.  and sadly enough so. I shall have to come back to this knobbed pin later on in this chronicle,.

 

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To clean the gun, I invented clever little chords to pull through the canon and through the holes in the revolving part. This is a necessary procedure, as black powder leaves stains on the steel which after a while begin to harden. I had no idea of what the last owner had done with the gun, perhaps he had been a colleague suicide.

In the nearby larger town, I had already visited a gun shop, to see if there was a little instrument to be bought for this job, a thing I had seen gunslingers use in Westerns. They were indeed for sale: 30 Euro, plus another 15 Euro for the little round tops that fitted it. At a price like that the bricoleur in me revolts and finds his own solution. I used a little piece of torn sheet with a thin cord attached to it, oiled it well and pulled it right through the canon. Later I tied up a thicker piece of cord with knots, just the right size for the holes, and hauled it through with some force. Cleaned of black soot and freshly oiled they were.

Next I re-assembled it, awaiting the arrival of my friend whom I could now show that, perhaps, she had been wrong and that my revolver could perform its task. Showing off is perhaps a better word… We were sitting in the room where I loaded the gun with one round. I wanted to show her how the little pinfire would slide into its revolver slit, safely pushing against the closed cock, and point out how this should bang onto it. Then I even cocked it.

Having done this, I wanted to take the round out again, however now of a sudden the revolver got stuck. There I was, with a loaded gun sitting opposite my lady, cock taken backward, a live round ready to fire and no way of moving the revolving part further on… Only in such situations do you discover whether you are just an idiot, or perhaps also someone more clearheaded and decisive. Without a moment’s thought, I pointed the infernal machine down to the carpet, took my fountain pen from the little reading table and blocked the cock from banging down. This photograph I staged at a later moment.

 

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I stood up, walked through the door onto the courtyard and pointed the revolver towards the earth under the shrubs. The pen I carefully took out from its position, averted my face and closed my eyes – and fired what would have been the very first shot in my life time. The cock indeed banged down, nothing happened… So much for my Guardian Angel, is what I thought, and I felt sincerely silly. Helplessly looking over my shoulder, to seek moral support from my friend who still sat frozen in her chair, I cocked the revolver again and fired once more. With an enormous explosion it went of.

That first bullet was of course never found back, but this, my very first shell, was saved for my offspring.

 

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Also observe the gun, after I had opened the slide. Compared with the last photo presented in paragraph 5, you see a black spot on top of the little pinfire, which is now also buried deeper in its slit. One cannot miss the hazy shade of black powder over the once shiny steel.

 

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A photo made of the inside of that shell shows us what has happened there, something which up till this moment had remained a mechanical mystery.

 

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Firing the gun has forcefully brought down the pinfire and banged it on what appears to be a tiny little ‘table’ at the back of the cartridge which, up till that violent moment, had been peacefully covered in its shroud of black powder. Having fucked up the gun with my pen, the distance between cock and pin must have been reduced just this little too much, so much in fact, that the impact of that very first shot-without-a-shot misfired. The distance between cock and pinfire simply needs to be proper.

That night, I woke up with an enormous headache, it felt like the shot I had fired in the bushes had actually done its job and had indeed already hit my brain.

And now for something completely different! Shooting in real life, out in Nature that is, and not merely trying to kill a poor worm under the bushes in my domesticated courtyard.

Before doing so, I was sure to once more visit the World Wide Web and see whether anything could be found in the form of advice for firing the Guardian. There actually exists some footage showing someone doing it! From this, I gathered that the gun should be pointed down to the ground, at an angle of say 60 degrees, and that one should use some kind of board as the prop to fire at. After all, for this little anarchist there is no real enemy hidden at the other side of the river Ebro…

The man in that instruction film is also wearing goggles, of a type which I already have in my possession. To save the ears, I put a little box with noise stoppers in the violin case. I also bought myself a wooden panel at the do-gooder shop of Emmaüs, and put this in the paper bag given to me, together with a second plastic plate taken from the kitchen. I fully expected to let my lovely gun splinter both things into shreds.

 

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There is a problem, though. In Germany they say Übung macht den Meister, Practice makes Perfect. And indeed practice does normally make the master. Germans should know, their poet Celan described it so well: Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland, Death, a Master from Germany. In the case of committing suicide, however, you may prepare yourself for the act, however practicing suicide itself seems to be a contradictio in praxi. This is why, in the case of committing suicide, the actual experiment will be hopefully also end of story. And it explains why there is no theory of suicide. As with the making of a work of art, it will always remain a unique act and as such a non-testable happening.

Having once taught epistemology and methodology of the sciences – granted, only to future architects, who did not have a clue as to science and considered each of their designs as both experiment and research – I have become weary of the abuse of the word experiment. Testing seems to be the proper notion in my case. Without the support of theoretical struts, I am merely trying things out. In short: trial and error. However, for the inexperienced man the problem with probable errors here is, that it is hard to detect whether there has indeed been any form of success.

There is one thing which I bring into all this from my background as a university teacher, also as a one-time researcher. Like Turturro, in Diane Keaton’s grand movie Unstrung Heroes, I celebrate documentation, something which my reader must have already grasped from the abundance of pictures added to this account. One may not be a true scientist, yet documentation in all manners possible is at the heart of any serious undertaking to establish something.

Why did I take that plastic little plate from the kitchen? Can’t be because I normally cut my meat on it. It is because I read somewhere that at the temple the cranium is 7mm thick. The little plastic panel is also 7mm thick. Very unscientific all this, because I do not have a clue as to the difference in resistance of plastic and skull. I feel a bit like a fool.

Having too much equipment to walk out all the way towards the Great Lake, as I normally do, I took the car with the revolver and so on stocked in its boot. By the way, for the first time in my life I felt like doing something illegal, even though the chance of being stopped on such a little non-road, by someone from the gendarmerie demanding the boot to be inspected, is zero. I even went out of my way to drive up the most unvisited little path in the whole neighbourhood, risking my tires on its sharp stones.

 

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Behind a broken down fence I spot what must be my shooting site. It suddenly becomes a glorious day, with obviously more than enough light not to be able to later blame all that would go wrong on the absence of the sun. Flowers surround me.

 

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The hands are somewhat unstable, yet I manage to unpack the gun, take out a set of bullets and insert them neatly in the revolver slots. I put the thing down again, take the little wooden gate aside and, though this is a godforsaken and desolate place, I do enter it surreptitiously. There I put the two plates in a position, just as I had seen it done by the man on YouTube: a little skewed, against a stick in the ground.

First I decide to shoot at the plastic pane. The result is disastrous, in more than one way. The bullet produced but the slightest dent in the rather hard plastic surface, not so much hurting it as bringing out its texture in a rather delicate manner:

 

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However, my very first real shot has also turned out to be a ricochet, not in the sense that the gun has backfired, but that the bullet sprang back from its target surface, grazing my left hand which started to bleed, albeit not seriously. Perhaps an omen?

 

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It was, by the way, the only bullet of that shooting session which I found back…

 

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Finally I understand the real purpose of those goggles, which I put on dutifully before I fired the shot. I had entertained the notion that one uses these things in case something goes wrong with the gun itself. Not so in this case. Then again, the true tester of guns does not recoil. I now decide to turn the revolver on the wooden plank. The result, once again, is disappointing, even though this time there is at least real proof of a bullet having hit it, however not penetrating the plank.

 

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Again, after merely entering the wood, the thing has sprung back. Not very promising, is what I thought, once again trying to find good reasons for this failure of penetration in the superior quality of the wood, however one more thing of course unknown to me. Besides the still impressive weight of the little gun in my hand, all this time I have been weighing imponderables in the scales of my mind. After having closed off the scene of my crime, in order to produce some more data for comparison, I take aim at the wood of the gate.

 

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Although this is certainly timber of a poorer quality, the shot proves even more of a disappointment, again a dent and no penetration through and through. In my mind’s eye I now see a bullet stuck in the cranium, causing all sorts of everlasting misery, except of course my instant death. Instead of finally making me feel safe about my future suicide, all this testing has unhinged me. Rather than the wood and the plastic, it is now I who feels shattered. I probably can not shoot a hole in a package of butter… Yet, I did manage to wound myself, shoot the very own hand that could also have pulled the trigger, even though it was my left hand. I may call myself a shootist – if not The Shootist.

You may remember my note on one of the pieces of the gun, the knobbed pin parallel to the canon of which I told you that it would not appear on any photo again. While standing next to my car, the very moment I take out the shells from the revolver I discover that this steel pin is missing. When I had been absorbed in the shooting it had been in its slot, now it is gone. I put the fence aside once more, and inspect the site for at least a quarter of an hour. High grass, a little muddy, no way, man! An amputated gun is what is now resting in its violin case.

 

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Only later did I consider the possibility that one should not actually shoot the gun with that pin still attached to it. Not only will it spring away, as it did in my case, but it will also destabilise the shot. It is merely a piece of equipment, to be used to remove shells after use and perhaps also to help cleaning the gun.

Back home, I took an early siesta, all the time thinking about my failure and about, perhaps, one more shoot-out to put the lid on this whole testing business. I figured that the planks and that plastic plate might have been too thick for the little bullets, and that conceivably something qua resistance and strength more similar to the cranium must be found. Why not take a shot at my aluminium tray! As it turned out, I could not restrain myself, jumped off my bed and did the thing.

By now I had grown a bit afraid of the little death-machine, so this time I opted for not wearing those unpleasant goggles, but instead to place the tray on the ground near the garden shed, hiding myself behind its door and shoot with only the arm plus the revolver peeping around it, this time from a distance of some fifty centimetres.

 

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Although once more a failure – a dent, no more – the effect was certainly more aesthetic than the earlier try-outs, as now a spray of black gunpowder can be seen, with on the reverse side even a tiny little opening against a background of old coffee stains.

 

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When an hour later my friend arrived, I could show her these results and enjoy her commiseration which, even if it does not aid in performing a successful suicide, does help. She said: Why not do one more shot, just to show me! This time closer to the surface of the aluminium and aimed precisely perpendicular. After all, you plan to shoot yourself from close up, which is not so much a matter of aiming, as of merely pulling the trigger…

This is what I did. Same position behind the shed’s door, now however from a distance of thirty centimetres.

 

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Lo and behold! A hole at last, and one of my own shooting, this time through and through. Observe the heavier spray of black powder, as compared with the first shot. On the reverse side is to be seen a clean hole with sharp edges, very much like a saint’s halo or a Platonic circle, a Philebic Form residing in its silvery heaven.

 

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The bullet, found in the earth beneath the tray, shows the traces of its penetration, perhaps finally a sign of some future success?

 

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The tray itself, defunct with its two holes, now serves as a memento mori. In full view from the chair, in which I drink my morning coffee as well as my insomniac night’s honey milk, the place where I read and where I play chess against unknown composers of difficult problems, it is now resting on the radiator.

 

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Whether it is merely a universal reminder of Everyman’s end, or more specifically an indicator of the feasibility of my own suicide, remains a matter in my mind’s balance.

 

8. the arthritic shootist

The bones prized above all by archaeology, are those gnarled with disease or splintered by an arrowhead; bones marked with a history from a time before history.

Coetzee, Age of Iron
_________________

Look at this old man, a would-be cowboy with his fake Borsalino hat and the leather gloves actually used for gardening. Isn’t he ridiculous!

 

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All the more ridiculous is that funny little shooter, smaller even when placed in the gloved hands of such a big man.

 

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A vague feeling is creeping up on me that, perhaps, there is not even a license needed for this little gun, nor a permit for the rounds acquired for it. It may indeed be so harmless, that the French law allows you the misunderstanding of committing suicide without adequate means. Has my heroic crossing into the land of guns and death been in vain then?

How farcical all this becomes, when you know that this silly man’s right hand which must perform its trick on that final day, is suffering from a serious, intense and painful arthritis. Early mornings, I almost drop my precious coffee bowl, the gift from a sweet loved one, a thing I’ve cherished for ages. When typing a message on the newly acquired Smart Phone, my crooked index finger fails every second letter. There are moments when I scream out loud, because the fingers cannot even handle a book properly or fails to navigate the scribbler’s pen.

Perhaps, like tennis players who nowadays use the double-handed backhand, I should practice the firing of that tiny revolver with two hands at the same time, this time holding the gun up side down as otherwise the suicidal manoeuvre would not work anyhow.

However, all things prepared, man is still never prepared for the vicissitudes of existence. Nobody is ever sure about his own manner of ending. One should never underestimate the disruptive force of haphazard actions, or so Beryl Bainbridge’s Dr. Potter in Master Georgie. I may just drop down, walking the street somewhere in Haarlem, to be transported to the nearest hospital where they will perform all kinds of unwanted things, operations which I have feared and tried to evade so intensely, my revolver lying idle somewhere in my study or at the bedside in my house. All would have been in vain.

Still, even when at that final moment I succeed in being alone with the gun, all the as yet unknown as well as uncertain variables may, combined with this unpleasant defect of an arthritis claw, very well leave me lying on my bed, still alive but certainly not well, the bullet gone astray for reasons conspicuously unknown. A body, not yet a corpse. Perhaps, my ailments won’t accept the death of their vessel, conspiring against its expiration.

Have I won anything in terms of comfort and security? If only on that brocante I had found a Lefaucheux revolver of, say, the 12mm type, with more powder force behind its heavier bullets, perhaps the imponderabilia of life and death would now weigh less on my mind. Has this cute little Guardian Angel of mine become merely one more memento mori, joining the other bits and pieces in my environment which perform that same function of remembrance? Is the physical condition not enough in itself?

The only solution for such an existential muddle, would be to find a loved one who is also loving me, someone who would be willing to give me my coup de grace. You see this happening in Blackthorn, the movie in which a resurrected Butch Cassidy kills his partner Sundance on his own request, once his friend’s suffering has become too much.
It is the true friend’s gesture, though a service necessarily demanding the lawless conditions of The West. In our society, the lex dura has indeed been so well established, that to ask that much of a friend is like condemning him or her to prosecution for manslaughter at a dead man’s request.

 

proustian postscript

I did not wait for him to go, but went to the bathroom to scrub the ink stains from my aching hands.

Peter Carey, My Life as a Fake
________________________

Everything has its complex causation. X is this moment’s consequence of the interference of a vast constellation of events-in-phases, in all of which a man has insight nor oversight. It could not be anything else but what it turns out to be. Fully caused as it may be, nothing of what we experience is ever fully predictable.

From this existential split results the inevitable, but nonetheless rather silly notion of a free will, and the even sillier phrase which runs through the mind of each worrier: ‘What if…’ No man escapes an always superficial ‘I’, resulting from the lingual grammar that is installed at birth and is subsequently instilled in us. It bombards us with the illusion, time and again, that one is the cause of all causes. Yet, that centre cannot hold. Man, a repetitive misapprehension.

My last-before-last shot, the second one right through the aluminium tray, was inevitable, even if it may have seemed to me to be an expression of my curiosity or an effect of the suggestion by a friend and subsequently the act of my will – or of all these motives combined. That very last shot will also be inevitable, it’s moment already determined by the vast constellation of all things we consider ‘life’. This, for someone interested in philosophy, also points to the vital difference between the concepts of determination and pre-determination.

Yet, I cannot determine that instant. This certainty about being uncertain, perhaps together with the revolver I now posses and not merely own, does allow me some tranquillity. To worry is as ridiculous as to negate what has been written above.

Like with true love, always lived as everlasting and yet fading, at a certain moment one knows about one’s own life: Time is up. Perchance in limine primo, on the edge of time, one becomes that two-faced schizo-god Janus, with on each side of his silly head a face, one pair of eyes looking backwards to all that has so fully been, the other pair gazing forward, or rather downward into the black abyss of nothingness. À la recherche du temps perdu, looking both at what has been, as well as at a death to come. What is death, after all, but another kind of lost time?

My particular preparation for it may have been a farce. From a more universal perspective, however, all acts of suicide reside in the territory of the burlesque. Expanding the words of Bentham, master of the Philosophy of Pain and Pleasure: One must always speak, as well as act in sober sadness, awaiting that necessary moment of true misery.

And then be silent.

La Roche, Spring/Summer 2017

Sierksma@moralcopyright 2017

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Author: rjsiersk

contact: rjsiersk@xs4all.nl Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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