“Death solves all problems — no man, no problem.”
Joseph Stalin (apocryphal)
One’s last work should be one’s greatest. My last work is destined to be this suicide note and I am perhaps therefore justified in taking more time over its composition than your average suicidal lunatic wastes on scribbling a quick, badly spelt note before covering it with the remains of his brain.
The conventional and traditional subject to address in a note of this kind is one’s reasons for committing suicide. However, this issue has been re-trodden so often, and is at any event so obvious, that I feel no need to bore the reader by addressing it once again. The case for any person doing away with himself or herself can be conclusively established and the basic reasons for any suicide summed up by the following:- life is terribly tedious.
My reasons for committing suicide therefore are plainly obvious and wholly logical. I would go so far as to say it is a decision I should have made years ago.
No matter what method you opt for, I can guarantee you one thing: If done successfully, committing suicide is one decision you’ll never live to regret!
Far more problematic than the question of why to commit suicide, however, is the question of how to do so. It is my belief that the majority of people chose not to commit suicide, not out of any great enthusiasm for life, but rather out of a fear of the pain involved, not in death itself, but rather in the process of dying.
One of the few reasons against committing suicide is thus the difficulty in finding an appropriate method. There is thus a definite need for a comprehensive assessment of the relative merits of different suicide methods in the form of a ‘User’s Guide to Committing Suicide’. I will attempt to provide such a guide during the course of this suicide note.
A User’s Guide to Committing Suicide
1) Death by Hanging
Some methods of suicide can be ruled out at the onset. Anyone who chooses to kill themselves by hanging simply hasn’t done their homework.
Hanging has been among the principle methods of execution in Europe since the medieval age precisely because it involved a slow and painful death. Only someone masochistic and self-hating as well as suicidal would voluntarily choose to die this way. It would only be marginally less sensible to choose to kill yourself by crucifixion.
Only with the introduction of the ‘standard drop’ and later the ‘long drop’ (whereby the length of the drop was calculated on the basis of the victim’s height and weight) did this method of execution become marginally more humane, since it was intended, at least in theory, that the drop would be sufficient to break the victim’s neck and thereby guarantee unconsciousness as they were slowly strangled to death. However, the facilities for a long-drop hanging are, one suspects, beyond the available resources and capabilities of all but the richest and most resourceful suiciders.
The surprising popularity of hanging as a suicide method today surely reflects an unfortunate and unforeseen by-product of the abolition of public hangings by the Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868. When public hangings were still a popular form of public entertainment (the nineteenth century equivalent of soap operas and reality TV), everyone was surely aware of what an unpleasant death hanging involved because they witnessed it on a regular basis. Indeed, relatives and sympathisers would often drag on the legs of condemned men to hasten death. No one would therefore choose to voluntarily impose this experience on themselves through suicide.
Indeed, evidence that this is indeed the case is provided by the phenomenon of the ‘Death Erection’ which was a sufficiently widespread phenomenon as to now have, that contemporary marker of notability, its own wikipedia page.
Of course, one’s execution is a little late to discover that one is into erotic asphixiation. Imagine all the fun you could have had beforehand had you known about this.
On the other hand, it is nice and somehow fitting to think that all manner of murderers, rapists and Victorian pickpockets paid for their crimes by experiencing in death an erotic ecstasy of the sort they had never experienced in life.
2) Poison and Gas
The case for poisoning or gassing oneself has often been argued. Female suiciders in particular seem to favour such methods, perhaps on account of their apparently non-violent nature. Interestingly, women also favour poison as a means of homicide. I group these techniques together because I feel their relative merits and demerits are similar in nature such that, for the present purposes, they can be dealt with as one.
The main argument put in favour of such methods typically relates to their perceived painlessness. However, there exists no reliable available evidence on which form of death is the least painful because of the inability of those who have successfully died to relate their experiences later.
Moreover, those who do profess to possess the means by which to permit the dead to communicate matters such as the painlessness of their death, namely mediums and other such professional charlatans, have regrettable rarely addressed this topic in the said conversations, and, if and where they have done so, have rarely quantified or recorded the evidence provided by their enquiries in such a manner as to permit scientific and quantitative evaluation of their findings.
Therefore, given that there is no way of determining conclusively which manner of dying is least painful (if indeed they are painful at all), perhaps the best one can hope for is a quick death. That way, although we cannot assess the painfulness of the death, we can at least be sure this pain is over with quickly.
One popular option is shooting oneself. The usual method is to shoot oneself in the head presumably in an attempt to ensure that death is as instantaneous as possible – the implicit assumption being that, because the brain is thought to be the centre of our consciousness, shooting oneself in the head will ensure that consciousness is lost with maximum rapidity.
There are clearly considerable merits in this approach. Certainly, it is my strong belief that the strict gun-control laws in operation in the United Kingdom, while enacted in pursuance of the legitimate goal of reducing the number of murders and homicidal assaults, also have a largely inadvertent but devastating impact – rarely acknowledged in heated debates over the merits and demerits of gun control legislation – on the many honest and law-abiding citizens, who have no intention of harming others, but only wish to peacefully blow their own brains out.
However, the implicit underlying assumption favouring this approach to suicide, namely that death would be relatively instantaneous, is itself doubtful. Often the subject’s aim is, notwithstanding the point blank range, surprisingly poor. This is often due to failure to account for what is referred to as ‘recoil’, resulting from Newton’s Third Law of Motion, namely that ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Ironically, the law-abiding lifestyle of many suiciders and hence their relative unfamiliarity with firearms often exacerbates this problem.
One popular solution is to aim the gun inside one’s mouth such that one’s teeth hold the barrel in position as one pulls the trigger. However, even this is not foolproof. For example, cases frequently occur where a person attempts to commit suicide but manages only to blow their own faces off while remaining alive. The result is considerable and long-lasting pain and, furthermore, the loss of one’s face.
This could be viewed as the ultimate failure. In short, a person fails in life and hence resorts to suicide, but then somehow manages to fuck that up too.
It can be surmised that the person in question had a considerable amount of things wrong in their life previously so as to motivate their suicide attempt. However, as a result of their suicide attempt, they now have a further problem: namely, severe ugliness.
Of course, the person in question may have been ugly even prior to his or her suicide attempt and this may even have been a decisive factor in motivating the suicide attempt. However, one can be almost certain that, no matter how ugly this person was previously, they are uglier still after shooting their face off. In short, an ugly face is better than no face at all.
However, perversely such people are, as a matter of course, subjected to life-saving treatment at the nation’s hospitals. While National Health Service waiting lists grow and other public services decline, taxpayer’s money is wasted on keeping people alive who would actually rather be dead.
This is clearly a gross misuse of public money and as well as an injustice towards suicidal lunatics across the country – not to mention taxpayers and National Health Service patients abandoned on waiting lists and hospital trolleys for hours or months on end. These parties are advised to unite together as a pressure group to challenge this situation.
One reason this has not previously occurred is because a pressure group consisting of the suicidally-depressed would presumably have a high turnover of membership.
Nevertheless, it is clearly unacceptable that, when a person expects himself to be happily dead inside a coffin somewhere, he suddenly awakes to find that he is in hospital, in tremendous pain, lacking in a face and – worst of all – still alive.
4) Decapitation and the Duration of Death
However, the process of dying involved in most forms of suicide may take considerably longer than most people imagine.
Strictly speaking, one can argue that the process of dying begins at birth or even conception. After all, from the moment a person is conceived, it is certain that they will sooner or later die. The only uncertainty is over how prolonged the process by will be and the level of suffering that will be involved and occur during the interim.
On this view, the words ‘living’ and ‘dying’, far from being opposites, are in fact synonyms. After all, to be dying, one must already be alive, hence living, and, from the moment of conception, one is moving inevitably, irretrievably and inexorably closer to death, hence dying.
Leaving aside this rather pedantic and semantic digression, I will illustrate the often surprisingly prolonged process of dying (in the ordinary sense) by reference to an intervention even more extreme than that of shooting oneself in the head – namely complete decapitation or removal of the head. Although, to my knowledge this technique has rarely been used as a means of suicide, is more popular as a method of homicide or execution, and is probably beyond the means and budget of all but the wealthiest and most technologically-adept of suicidal lunatics, death by beheading provides an interesting case-study with regard to the duration of suffering which precipitates death in even the most extreme, and ostensibly instantaneous, means of death and may therefore be useful to prospective suiciders by way of analogy.
Antoine Lavoisier, the pioneering and celebrated eighteenth century chemist and biologist celebrated as the father of modern chemistry, sentenced to the guillotine by Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, is reputedly, in an admirable final service to science, to have pledged to blink continually until he passed away, and asked research assistants to record the length of time for which he was able to do so. It is claimed that he continued to blink for approximately fifteen seconds.
Unfortunately, however, even if the tale is not wholly apocryphal (it almost certainly is), it presupposes that, after a person has been beheaded, the decision to blink is under conscious control. Even in the course of ordinary life, the decision to blink is usually made subconsciously – probably triggered by activity in the globus pallidus of the lenticular nucleus.
For example, the average person blinks approximately ten times a minute with a usual interval of between two and ten seconds between each blink. Therefore, the person who blinked only after making a conscious decision to do so would have little time to think about anything else.
Moreover, after being beheaded, a person would presumably, if still alive, be overcome by immense pain, and, even assuming they are conscious at all (which presupposes precisely what the experiment is intended to determine), it is doubtful whether a person would be able to concentrate sufficiently so as to control their blinking whatever the extent of their theoretical commitment to the advancing the Enlightenment Project.
In short, no matter the extent of one’s theoretical commitment to the scientific project of the advancement of knowledge, it is doubtful even a scientist as disciplined as the late Antoine Lavoisier is reputed to have been would be capable of the fortitude and self-control necessary to continue blinking at regular intervals after decapitation.
A similar but better documented report by a Dr. Baeurieux regarding a murderer, one Henri Languille, beheaded in 1905 similarly relies only on objective external evidence of consciousness and signs of life rather than the subjective perception of the victim. Moreover, it is not clear the extent to which the murder himself (presumably a non-scientist) agreed to cooperate by deliberately communicating his continued consciousness.
On the other hand, it is also said that the celebrated composer of popular music, Spencer Williams, actually managed to dictate (or perhaps even sing) the words and lyrics of the pop-blues standard I Ain’t Got Nobody shortly after his own decapitation (although it is admittedly also possible that this is a very bad joke that I just made up).
Ultimately, the problem in interpreting any of these incidents is the same as that which plagued our earlier enquiry into the relative levels of pain experienced in different forms of suicide – namely, the inability of those who have successfully died via the various methods to relate their experiences afterwards.
On the other hand, adopting a comparative approach, it is noteworthy that some non-human species are capable of living for surprisingly prolonged periods after decapitation – although in these cases it is the headless body rather than the head itself that shows evidence of life. For example, Mike the Headless Chicken of Colorado [yes, he was real – you can even see documentary about him here] is documented to have survived for a year and a half without a head, building a successful career as a circus sideshow attraction. (English football manager Graham Taylor is even reputed to have sought to sign him up for his then club.)
Insects are even more adept at surviving without heads. The female black widow spider is famously prone to decapitating and eating the head of her sex partner during coitus, after which the remainder of his body continues to copulate, often more vigorously than previously. The behaviour is also observed in other insects such as the Praying Mantis.
Interestingly in some species, such as the Australian Redback Spider, the male appears to deliberately invite his own consumption, somersaulting temptingly in front of her jaws in the ultimate act of sexual masochism. In evolutionary terms, this is thought to be because, by being eaten, the male will be allowed to copulate for longer and therefore transfer more sperm. This is because the female remains stationary only for as long as she continues eating – roughly the entomological, masochistic and cannibalistic equivalent of a man paying for dinner on the first date in the hope this will improve his chances of getting laid.
To explain the curious continuation of copulation at what biologists refer to as the proximate level (as opposed to the ultimate evolutionary level), this we must turn to the celebrated entomologist, sociobiologist and ecologist Edward O. Wilson. In his controversial magnum opus Sociobiology: the New Synthesis, Wilson explains:
“The total removal of the brain of a male insect – chopping the head off will sometimes do – triggers copulatory movements by the abdomen… [because] the center of copulatory control in male insects is in the ganglia of the abdomen [whereas] the role of the brain is primarily inhibitory”.
He goes on to note that “entomologists have used the principle to force matings of butterflies and ants in the laboratory” – however, he does not report the purpose for which such matings were induced, though one can only envisage the exploitation of a niche market of interspecies necrophiliac pornography as a conceivable motivation.
At any rate, we can conclude that, given that it is by no means clear whether complete removal of the head – an intervention far beyond the budget or capability of all but the most technologically inventive of suicidal lunatics – immediately causes the subject to lose consciousness, certainly there is no reason to believe that less extreme interventions such as forcefully inserting a bullet into the brain of the subject with a gun of whatever calibre, even if done successfully, will result in an immediate, or even a relatively rapid, loss of conscious awareness.
We are therefore forced, however controversially to consider more extreme interventions.
5) Suicide Bombing
How then can an intelligent suicidal lunatic, soberly surveying the various methods of death reasonably available to him as a rational consumer, hit upon a method which ensures that his death is – if not painless – at least more-or-less instantaneous? Aware of the controversy which my proposal may elicit among peaceful law-abiding suiciders, I nevertheless propose that the solution is to be found in suicide bombing.
After all, although, as we have seen, it is conceivable that a person may theoretically remain conscious for a substantial duration after even so extreme an intervention as the removal of the head from the remainder of the body, it is surely inconceivable that a person would remain conscious after their head is, not merely removed from the body, but also, most probably, removed from other parts of itself and its various parts dispersed across a wide expanse.
Therefore, even casting aside from our mind the conjectured but doubtful reward of seventy-two virgin brides (which of itself surely alters the game-theoretic calculus of Pascal’s Wager), suicide-bombing is surely an option worthy of consideration by all serious suiciders.
There are, however, two primary problems:
1) The practical difficulty of obtaining explosives;
2) Second, the necessity of minimizing third-party collateral damage.
In respect of the latter, it has to be observed that historically the infliction of what I have here euphemistically termed ‘third-party collateral damage’ appears to have been, for most previous suicide bombers, not so much incidental collateral damage, as the primary objective of the act – the suicide itself representing a mere necessary incidental side-effect – or, at most, added bonus – of the act. (There is, in this light, something to be said for Bush-era White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s much-maligned suggestion that the term ‘homicide bombing’ replace ‘suicide bombing’ as a more accurate designation of the primary purpose of the act.)
However, although someone who intends to die may legitimately interject that, being dead, he cares little for the state of the world, or of other people, after his own demise, basic humanitarianism and principles of morality insist that, at this crucial turning-point in one’s life, as at any other, concern for the welfare of others ought never to be completely out of one’s mind.
Of course, a person who opted for suicide on generalized existentialist grounds rather than as a specific response to his own personal problems may rationally conclude that, if his own life is not worth living, then, by extension, neither is anybody else’s. Not only does one wish to die oneself because life is terribly tedious, but one wishes to altruistically help others to die as well because their lives are not doubt terribly tedious too. From this superficially plausible perspective, the killing of third-parties in addition to oneself may be viewed as, not only a desirable, but a positively altruistic and humanitarian result.
This controversial perspective is sometimes referred to as “promortalism” and represents a dissident heresy – if not logical conclusion or even reductio ad absurdum – of the already rather controversial philosophical position known as ‘antinatalism’ – a position usually traced back to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (also, incidentally, a notable champion of suicide) and whose most able contemporary exponent is the philosopher David Benetar).
On this view, serial killers can be viewed, not as evil, but rather as benevolent altruists who generously rescue others from the misery of their lives. Doctors, firemen, paramedics, life boat crews and other such well-meaning life-saving bastards, on the other hand, are relegated to the status of complete gits.
However, for all its superficial appeal, the generalized promortalist perspective cannot be accepted. On the contrary, the same basic principles of individual liberty which justify one’s own decision to commit suicide over and above the objections of interfering third-parties (e.g. relatives, loved ones, therapists, other assorted idiots) demand that the decision to commit suicide emanate from the subject themselves and remain the exclusive preserve of individual personal discretion.
Schopenhauer himself defended the individual’s right to commit suicide on the grounds that “there is nothing in the world a man has a more incontestable right to than his own life and person”. This basic principle precludes homicide, howsoever altruistically intentioned, just as surely as it permits suicide.
In short, however foolish and misguided a person may be in deciding to go on living, the decision is ultimately theirs alone. At any rate, we can console ourselves with the thought that, in the end, they will undoubtedly die anyway.
Having cleared up this ethical dilemma, we can then return to the two practical problems we have identified with regard to suicide bombing as a method of suicide – namely
1) Obtaining sufficient explosives; and
2) Minimizing third-party injuries and property damage;
I observe only that neither of these difficulties is insurmountable.
In regard to the former, numerous suicide bombers of the Islamic fundamentalist political persuasion have been able to obtain sufficient explosives so as to successfully combust, not only themselves, but also many others in their immediate vicinity with apparently few evident difficulties. There is no reason to believe reasonably proactive and enterprising suicidal lunatic should not be able to do likewise, whatever their own level of technological sophistication (although, in so doing, they could, admittedly, attract unwanted and inconvenient legal attention).
As for minimizing third-party injuries and property damage, although this has rarely been an objective of previous suicide bombers, it could readily and practicably be achieved by choosing a sufficiently secluded, remote and uninhabited spot, preferably at a particularly quiet time. Perhaps an idyllic and remote field at about two in the morning when few people are likely to be there to enjoy the view – although, unfortunately, the darkness of the night and lack of street lighting provided in country fields mean that, if anyone else is around, one is unlikely to be able to see them anyway.
These humanitarian concerns lead me to reluctantly but ultimately reject suicide bombing as a method of suicide, its substantial appeal notwithstanding
6) Jumping Out of a Window of a Tall Building
It can therefore be seen that, as regards minimizing the degree of suffering one is likely to experience, suicide bombing, although an option rarely considered by mainstream (i.e. non-politically- or homicidally-motivated) suicidal lunatics, appears to be the best available option, all things considered.
However, some more ambitious suicidal lunatics, among whose number I am proud to count myself, aspire, not merely to minimize the pain experienced, but rather ensure that their suicide is, not merely painless, but, on the contrary, positively pleasurable and rewarding experience. Surely it is not too much to ask for that one’s final moments ought to be thrilling and exiting.
In conclusion, therefore, I opt for throwing myself out of the window of a block of flats.
Death would appear to occur relatively quickly so long as one begins one’s descent from at least ten stories high. Climbing any higher than this is wholly unnecessary. This is because, according to the fundamental principles of Newtonian physics, after an object has fallen a given distance, the object in question reaches terminal velocity and its speed ceases to increase because the gravitational force pulling upon that object is equal and opposite to the frictional force of air resistance acting against it. For an average human, terminal velocity is typically reached after about twelve seconds, by which time an individual will have fallen a few hundred feet. However, as terminal velocity for a human is usually around 125mph, reaching such a state is unnecessary to ensure one’s relatively rapid death on impacting with the ground.
However, suiciders should be careful to jump onto hard surfaces because the chance of accidentally surviving a fall increases where one lands on surfaces of high deformity such as snow or water.
At least in theory, morbid obesity may also provide cushioning and thereby increase one’s chance of survival and, of course, contrary to popular understanding, the weight of a body does not affect the speed of its descent. Although they may not wish to increase their life expectancy, it therefore remains important for prospective suiciders to keep trim and in shape. Planning to commit suicide is no excuse to abandon one’s rigorous diet or weight-loss programme.
In short therefore, rather than climbing to the fifty-first floor of the tallest concrete monstrosity to blight the skyline and blot out the light in your local city-centre only to find the window won’t open, it is advisable to settle for a lesser height and thereby avoid the discomfort of having to die while still out of breath from climbing the stairs.
Travelling to the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower or any particularly large building simply so as to kill oneself would be nothing short of ostentation.
As to the amount of pain involved when one eventually impacts on the ground, it is, of course, futile to speculate. However, at the very least, one can be assured of a great view and a thrill superior to that of any roller-coaster or theme-park ride as one hurtles to the ground. If one is to die one might as well enjoy some thrill from one’s final moments and this, for me, is the decisive factor.
Given the terribly tedious nature of most people’s lives, I would recommend suicide as a worthwhile decision as to what to do with your life to anyone who happens upon this suicide note. The only problem, as I have discussed, is in devising a relatively painless and enjoyable method which is readily available to you.
No matter what method you opt for, I can guarantee you one thing:
If done successfully, committing suicide is one decision you’ll never live to regret!