Matter of Fact

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Stars commit suicide. Beyond the penumbra of a doubt, the root cause is old age. That senescence when no further fusion is possible, having spent all their internal fuel. But it’s hardly euthanasia now is it? No other shadowy, nebulous entity raises a hand against the fraying planetary mass. In some ways, a star’s collapsing integrity is as much death by natural causes such as cancer or cardiac arrrest. The interstellar body simply giving out. But still they don’t just slide over into death. They consume themselves. Utterly. A coronal coronary.

Yielding a supernova, a huge tumescence of both size and light. A cataclysmic detonation, rather than the meek implosion of a body caving into infirmity. The star has devoured itself, taking its leave with a bang. Son et lumière in a way only the self-controlled circumstances selected by certain suicides can fashion, unlike the mass of us who simply pass over whimperingly into death. That said cohort of suicides often stage their spectacular through rage at certain people left behind, or to provoke guilt, is neither here nor there, much like the suicide after their ultimate of self-abnegation in point of fact. If you want a reaction, you kind of need to be in place to witness it, or at least its fallout. The supernova drags those orbiting stars within a certain range into its scorching perturbation, the labyrinth builders murdered and entombed with the Pharaoh king.

Planets die, but it’s a moot point whether they too gorge themselves to death and therefore sui-cide. Since planets do not produce stellar fusion, it is more that their core geothermals expressed through volcanoes, tectonics, magma and the like, finally become stilled through attaining equilibrium. A Buddhist equipoise before the face of non-existence? But unless the planet is inhabited, or observable by intelligent beings such as ourselves, can the planet ever really said to have been alive? It’s only the conscious mind of the observer that conveys the notion of life, upon a heap of radioactively decaying rock which supports that observing entity. If a celestial body falls in the cosmos and no one is there to see it fall….

All of which begs a question. Is it only our conscious human mind which is obsessed with reflexive notions of living, alive, dead, existence? Clearly the cosmos is indifferent. Planets couldn’t give a gravitational toss, shrugging their broad shoulders at the inevitable inert stillness they attain. Stars care not whether they commit hari kari. Maybe we need to scale our ocular apparatus up to telescopic magnification in order to get a grasp of life/death/ existence/being.

*

Pssst… pssst! Don’t listen to him

Well well, look who it isn’t. How many angels can you get on a pinhead? Oh look, just the one

Well we can fold in our wings for greater latitude. Your arrowhead tail however, debars you from anything but shovelling ordure with it. Straight down his ear canal by the look of it

Wave halo say goodbye to your boy, goody two shoes

Two ear worms for the price of one. Whoever said the devil had all the best tunes must have been tone deaf. Now Beck’s “Loser” on the other hand-

*

So let us traverse the other end of the scale. Invert the lens as it were. The microcosmos. Now, string-em up theory aside, (which reads like a rather beautiful metaphor but is actually a linguistic load of old codswallop when trying to explain the mathematics of multi-dimensionality), the first law of thermodynamics states that matter cannot be destroyed in a closed system. Matter may be arrayed in different arrangements, but it is always conserved in whatever form.

If matter can’t perish, then what notion of -cide? Be it homi/ pesti/ patri/ cervi/ uxori/ dei/ episcopi/ geno/ fungi/ liberti/ spermi/ vati/ stilli (just testing, different suffix root, ‘cadere’ to fall).

Still, interesting that we see fit to distinguish between all these different subject killings. A forensic precision. A dead-eye of language. And yes of course, to add to the list, there is SUICIDE. An eradication of the self. But whatever the means of dispatch, the human body only ‘dies’ on a conscious level. That of both (presumably) the observing consciousnesses of friends and lovers left behind to mourn the de-ceased and the conscious, aware mind of the expired himself.

Again this notion of death only existing through the observation that brings an end to the observed. The sui/self that chooses to extinguish itself, both closes off its self-observation and knows that it is doing so. Consciously becoming non-conscious. It is an element of self-control, self-possession, albeit one that is socially regarded as just the opposite. As eschewing both control and possession.

The colliders and accelerators grow larger and faster, in the search for ever smaller and elusive sub-atomic particles. Hoping against hope that a certain collision will smash apart the structures in such away to yield the precise particle quested after. But quantum or not, the actual particle that’s ‘landed’ is uncontrolled and random. Much like stranger murders. That unhappy conjunction of killer and victim in place and time. However, the suicide acts alone. Does not rub up against any other body mass (certain auto-erotic suicides apart). Already smashed and dashed against the jagged rocks of serrated existence, the suicide’s final act has no need of colliders and accelerators. Just as with the self-eviscerating star. Yet the separatist actions have consequences for those within the sphere of the suicide as we have suggested.

*
Where were we? Oh yes. The note will be a doddle. I mean you’re a writer right?

(snorts) A failed one

Yes exactly, that’s partly why we’re in the spot you’re in. The world has rejected you. ‘Goodbye cruel world’ and all that sort of palaver

A felled writer. A depleted acorn from which a sap took root

I think you mean sapling. Hells Bells, with you in his corner polishing up your halo instead of our boy’s life’s work, no wonder he never got anywhere. Look lad, ignore Mr Cheeryleader and his dropping of the baton there, you can still muster a few words right? Your gift hasn’t completely deserted you. Let the world and his wife know just why things have reached this strait

World and his wife? Maybe you need to choose your words a bit more carefully. As to the task under consideration, remember the last time he sat down and tried to encapsulate himself in a few words?

Hey it’s infinitely harder to try and sell yourself in matters of the heart. I defy anyone to boil themselves down seductively into a single paragraph. Especially when you’re paying by the word

Yeah brevity is called for. And our boy here’s life fulfils all that and more. Or less. The lonely heart’s lonely heart. And now just look at the pretty pass where we are

Sorry, remind me again? Which side are you on exactly?

Ours

I’m the one with the horns. You’re supposed to be boosting the lad, not piledriving him further into the depths. I’m asserting rigorous demarcation here-

The Union of Devils’ chapel. Oh the irony!

– I’ve a rep to uphold

Well he’s obviously got his mind- such as it is- set

So what, after a lifetime of trying to prop up his useless self and keep him on the straight and narrow-

– Straits and fallow

Yes, you really should be a writer you know – instead here you are, slumped on his shoulder barely even in contact with his ear, halo in hands and drumming distractedly on it. You’re handing me this on a salver. Where’s the titanic Manichean tussle in that? Where’s the kudos? Where’s the salvation?

Would you prefer I frisbee it over to you perhaps? Look, what have I got to work with here? Nothing!

Sssh, don’t say that for Christ sakes! You’ll crush him

Like that’ll make a difference. He’s one-dimensional as it is. No charisma. No ambition. No drive. No brains. No assets. No ties. No name no talent. No heart

Jeez Louise, I hope I never have you batting in my corner

What are you talking about? When he finally turns the lights out, that’s you and me expunged too

Oh I get it. I see what you’re doing. Nice try. Cunning, very cunning. An angel with side, who’d have thought? That’s properly my bag

Demarcation again?

Uh-huh. Look, you and I are immortals. Of the spirit. Suicide is still a sin for his coterie you know

Me, I’m losing my faith. Like him really. He’s a material being, albeit soon to dematerialise in the clod or in a furnace or whatever. And with that, his subconscious projections of you and me both will disappear with him. In one great cartoonish pop when he finally pulls that trigger

What makes you think he’d plump for a firearm? I haven’t gotten on to the means of dispatch yet. So please cease and desist from putting those sort of ideas in his head, you’re stealing my thunder

Gotterdammerung

Gesundheit!

Your blessing me? The devil is offering me benediction?

Hey you’re the one’s turned everything topsy turvy

Where’s the future in all this? In what we do I mean. When he goes, he takes us with him. Like a virus that kills its host. No more hijacked body for viral replication

So you’re comparing the numinous and the divine with viral gobs of DNA are you? You’ve got self-esteem issues to rival his. But you still ain’t getting him to clutch to your breast to compare notes. Now hush up and let me do the do. Chop chop!

Mind that pitchfork, you could have somebody’s eye out

*

All those specious species arguments. About whether any members of the animal kingdom are ostensibly homosexual. Or sui generis suicides. Proof a propos of nothing. Which brings us, all of us, to the apoptotic… Proof positive. For what better exemplar could you want for this whole dark matter? Apoptosis is the substantiation that throws a light on all this once and for all.

Programmed cell suicide, for the furtherance of the whole being. Suicide as self-sacrifice. Since when an embryo is being constructed, there are certain scaffold structures for the diversifying cells to shuffle along to reach their engineered station in the design. When the structure has been fully formed, then the redundant scaffold cells self-immolate. Webbed feet may just as possibly be cellular scaffolding that didn’t wither away, as much as any atavistic throwback to our marine origins. Superfluous, or unwanted, or DNA damaged cells, just fall away from the whole into a utilitarian death. Like a deciduous tree shedding its leaves for winter.

But the salutary illustrations of the common weal stretch further back towards the source. Consider if you would the fiendishly humble miracle of stem cells. Undifferentiated and equal, full of the potential to create any of the 210 distinct cell types throughout the human body. Each selflessly subdividing and giving of itself to form a servile epithelial oozing and secreting, or a sophisticated brain cell with its high-end electronics, or a photo-receptor in the eye. Each is awarded its designation through a combination of localised structural proximity and consequent regulated chemical concentration. There but for the grace of, could a neuron have been a corpus luteum cell. But there is no acrimony, no mealy-mouthed working to rule, no class rankling spanners thrown in the valency works. With such unity, it is very hard for there to be any bodily insurgency. This is perhaps why the physical corpus is so resistant to taking its own life and fights tooth and nail against the mind dead set on taking it down.

The human corpus is the embodiment of perfectly balanced confederation. A commodious communion through interrelationship. Suicide, however rigorously reasoned through by the perpetrator, is an act of annihilating the conscious self as much as the tenacious body. (How frequently is the human mind carried off from consciousness in order to override its inhibitions towards demise, through the altered states of depression, delusions, or actual intoxication?). It is seldom that one finds a sedate mind capable of throwing the permanent off switch on itself. Even arch advocate Koestler panicked when push came to shove off.

Nonetheless, there is a strain of thought that the human individual is in fact only an accidental continuity of matter. An agglomeration of cell matter programmed for specialist local functioning and that the being, the ego, is merely that awareness which draws a border around its collection of functioning cells and happens to regard them as integral. If it is not part of ‘me’ it is outside, other and experienced through my sensory apparatus.

Yet what if the ego was fooling itself? That the nervous system was not all of a piece, but merely a fortunate coalition? Consider the origins of life as single-cell entities. Through whatever biological and environmental causes, they fuse together, or some engulfed other single units and begin to mutate genetic programming combinations. A cluster of cells develop and specialise for a rudimentary eye, which then append or are annexed to another clump of cells which have managed to code for a skeleton. And so on for an immense period of evolutionary time. Mankind, through his conquering of environmental factors has largely halted his evolutionary development, for he lacks the spurs of physical obstacle. He has frozen his ontogeny at the present stage, whereby he has adapted for an ego that lays imperial claim over the present bundle of cells, senses and receptors we call a body.

So it is quite possible that the most errant delusion of them all, is that which permits man to lay claim to an individual being that can be snuffed out, at his own hand or otherwise. That there is no real sui to cide off. Consciousness is a function of stopped time. As we pronounce ourselves to exist in the here and now. And yet while the species palpably persists across time, we individuals unutterably do not.

*

Could we possibly return to the matter in hand here please?

Alright then. Fire away. Give it your best shot. I’m all ears, which is maybe more than could be said for hapless harry here

Right, good. Thanks. You mentioned firearms earlier. However it could never be with a bullet through the mouth and up into the brain, not with the stringent gun laws

And the tiny target… Oh I don’t know… You’ve seen the news headlines. Scoured the stats. In fact, I’d wager you cut out the clippings and keep them in a scrapbook as some of your best work. Since it’s your mob who rule the roost round these parts. When it comes to the crunch, he could procure a firearm for very little outlay. What do they call them? A reactivated replica to deactivate his life.

And do you really trust him not to miss? That his arm will hold steady enough? He can barely transport a cup of tea from the kitchen without half of it ending up in the saucer

That’s just the medication. Now there’s a thought- Overdosing on his anti-anxiety tablets. The pills to cure his ills indeed…

No, pills are off the agenda. Too much of a cop out. Bloodless and painless. I want our boy to make a statement, not slip away quietly and apologetically

You’re probably right. He’d probably regurgiate them back up right away. His head has a long established relationship with the toilet bowl. You could always wait for him to drink himself to death. For his liver to give out

Too long a haul. I want to be out of here by five and on to the next one

Marry in haste, less speed

Hit by a car? Interesting. But somewhat chancy. There’s no guarantees it will be fatal

Not with the gridlock in this town leastways

What about proper poisoning then? Arsenic. Cyanide

Might raise an eyebrow when he asks for them at the chemist’s no?

Rat poison. Weed killer. Paraquat

You’re shouting not whispering. You know the protocols. He’d have to knock the drinking on the head or it will just flush it straight out of his system. Plus the DTs make it very hard to calibrate dosages…

I’m partial to hanging in the main

Doesn’t strike me as the boy scout type. Too easy to screw up the mechanics. Knots, load bearing and drop distances… Could render him a vegetable and then where would both you and I stand? Not on his shoulder that’s for sure

Hmm, you may have a point there. See this is the problem, he’s all fingers and thumbs when it comes to raising his hand against himself

Opening his wrists up with a knife? Well apart from the obvious lack of a bathtub to speed things along-

Yes, I could go for a spot of exsanguination. He could always squat in the shower tray

Not really very dignified, but I fancy he’s a tad too squeamish to make the first cut let alone the deepest one

Again, you possibly raise a valid objection. This has got to be the one thing in his life he gets spot on

Carbon monoxide poisoning’s out too. No car. No garage. No garden hose. You appear to need a modicum of material success in order to exit this world. But then if you possessed that-

He can just hurl himself out the window for flip’s sakes. Pizza topping on the pavement

What about the steel security bars? He’s always complaining that they make him feel like a prisoner in his own home. A life sentence is still not Death Row mind

You won’t win you know. We’ll hit on something even he can’t screw up

Win? I keep telling you suicide is a zero-sum game, for the three of us

Here, I’ve got it! If he won’t raise his hand against himself, unable to breach his skin or ingest anything inimical to his health, then he’ll need outside agency. So that means suicide by cop

What Mr ‘wouldn’t say boo to a goose’ there quivering in the corner? How’s he going to provoke an armed response? He can’t even hold himself hostage to fortune. Fortune’s handed him back as lacking exchange value. Suicide by cop, that’s the funniest lamebrained notion yet. I’ve heard of good cop bad cop, but he’d just prompt pitying cop, consoling cop

Good cop bad cop, yeah. But which are you? Don’t shrug like you don’t know

I wasn’t, I was unfurling my wings that’s all. I was beginning to stiffen up

*

The last generation of man was able to do something no previous one had. He could point his telescopes directly into the face of the sun in its evanescence. For as it’s radiation dwindled, it no longer possessed the power to sear his eyes.

And if in his mounting perturbation, he chanced swivel the telescope away elsewhere in the cosmos, there too lay scarce illumination from other stars. Twinkling pinpricks to unbroken generations of naked eyes, had been extinguished one by one with the dying of their generative light. Only dark luminescent outlines of dead planets pockmarking the eternally night sky remained. Like a diffuse fleet of UFOs, only they could attack nothing, ignite less. They resembled nothing more than husked mother of pearl shells. With all lustre gone.

The light from dying stars galaxies away no longer reached earth’s optical lenses, since time had caught up to the fact of those planets’ ancient death so they were able to broadcast their dying screams no more. A tepid warmth could be derived from the fact that our sun was one of the last to consume itself at the end of time.

As temperatures declined, man feverishly split more and more matter in order to maintain some sort of lukewarm terrestrial stability. Leaks and meltdowns occurred under the increasing pressure placed upon the nuclear plants, but slow radiation poison held out little long-term mutational threat, given the more immediate prospect of extinction.

However, such a lingeringly slow death was too much for many on earth and so they opted for suicide to forestall the agony. Though the species had fought long and hard to extend their lifespan so each being endured for the span of a millennium, suicide was presently accepted as an entirely logical and reasoned response. The sun had less than a thousand years of fissile fuel left in its core. Albeit it was now rather exacting to override the annealed body’s vinculum to life. Usually a suicide had to carve “Do not revive” into their chest. The grievous blood-soaked stigmata of a voluntary death.

But those that remained to confront their fate full in the magnified lens, turned their mental telescopes so as to look through time the wrong way round. Their thoughts needed to encompass the whole history of the species. Their lingering ache was mental as they began to draw their ineluctable conclusions. and the race’s expert evasion of such ineffable truths. For as men had ever longingly compared themselves with the perpetuity of the cosmos, each and every generation had devised logicks to fend off or occlude their own perishable temporality. Religions, science, mechanics, any and every combination of matter and spirit strung together on the abacus of life that always concluded with a resounding clack at the end of its frame.

If the cosmos was eternal and very possibly infinite and yet man was fundamentally neither, then man had to revel in that which surpassed him. There was initially posited the ultimate potentate who had designed and built such sublimity as the cosmos. Such a worthy super Being being self-evidently worthy of worship and adoration. After millennia of wars fought trying to determine the most superior vision of the godhead such a task was abandoned. Then the beauty and grandeur of the aesthetic arrangement could itself be humbling to the human mind. Harmonious pulchritude and elegance, themselves could lift up a life and inject it with meaning, pleasure and purpose.

But what of those who failed to drink in such aesthetic nectar? Those who couldn’t perceive a heaven on earth in its vistas? Those who went about the earth with woebegone hearts, either making mischief preying on their fellows in an attempt to stir the emotional sump through artificial material aggrandisement. Or those for whom the burden was simply too arduous and they removed themselves from such downcast misery wrought by a vitiated sensibility?

And now, here at the lip of utter nullity, when the aesthetic itself is about to be effaced, maybe they are the ones proved to be correct in their suppositions all along. Not that it redounds to their or anyone’s advantage at this straitened epoch. If we have nothing, no aesthetic pleasure to derive, what reason is there to adhere us to existence in the first place?

Right now it feels like the end of the world.

It is.

2 Responses to Matter of Fact

  1. Viv says:

    Bloody brilliant.

  2. DJ Young says:

    The best writing feels like it’s falling out of your own head, a conversation with yourself (the one you never actually had), all the run-ons and the dead-ends and the self-recriminations that are never that polite, the moments when you simply cannot be kind to yourself and you know, for certain, the only reality is the one you will never be a part of. This speaks to pretty much everything, inside and out – madness, self-malice, the suicide of self-knowledge. It’s rather perfect, actually.

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