I’m a relativist, and as such have a tendency for trying to see others’ perspectives on given subjects. But we cannot always be relativists, as we must make certain essential decisions that can only be based on our personal perceptions. In a way, the capacity is what makes us human: We can chose to decide not to.
I live in a family with gamers, and as such I tend to watch and play a little on the diversity of various games, most of them RPG (role-playing games). Some of them evoke a strong sense of story, and thus can be to some degrees compelling and engaging. All good stories tell you something, and all of them want you to follow the journey from the start to the end, although the enterprising try to find ways to toy with this, those little artists. One strong theme, that is resonating, is the story of triumph through tragedy, loss leading to character building, and structure deriving from shattered things. While chaos can come from order, the inverse is true: A stable, structured system can develop from random processes. It is the basic premise of organismal evolution that such occurs.
Sometimes, the story starts in tragedy, and we much find our order from the shattered pieces that we began with.
So, let me get something off my chest. I’m gay. This is not how MY story began, but it helps to give a sense of context for what I’m about to say.
Last Sunday, a 14 year old boy from Buffalo, New York, USA, apparently killed himself, three weeks after starting high school and five months after submitting a video to the It Gets Better Project. It doesn’t matter if he was gay, as that certainly wasn’t nor should it have been said to be settled at his age.
It doesn’t matter if anyone is gay.
Jamey (coincidentally so close to my name) joins a list of young children who, in the last several years, have killed themselves in response to what appears to have been bullying. In some cases, and this was true of Jamey’s, it happens despite love and support from family. Sometimes, people are bastards. I wonder at times like these about the senseless stupidity that humans can descend to, justify, promote.
When I was younger, when I was still in public education, I was also taunted and teased. I fought back, and usually won, but that got me in trouble. Eventually, I was pulled out of school and privately educated while living in Florida. When I was 12, I moved with some of my family to Idaho, where I requested to go back to public school. I would then spend almost 1/3 of the following school year absent, “sick,” or leaving early. I hated Gym, for reasons of the social elements that might be guessable, so joined the only other elective at the time — Choir. It didn’t get easier, and no wonder: I was the only guy in the class. I eventually tried to challenge the curriculum (at 14, Jamey’s age) to pass and be able to ignore school from then on. Maybe it would get better. The school waffled, despite acknowledging my right to do this, and otherwise school got worse, and I eventually dropped out. I eventually got my GED (I ranked high) early, and said “goodbye” to public school forever.
Unfortunately, being in Idaho, one of the more conservative states of the Union, with a strong Baptist and Mormon component with heavy emphasis of church-integration in public life and the wonderful experience of having Larry Craig as an administrator and spokesperson, made new adulthood troubling. I contemplated suicide, without any recourse to discussing the problem of an increasingly isolated social ME. When I was 19, I actually slit my wrists. I still have the scars, cut at an angle to the vein so as to maximize blood loss and make recovery difficult (as I thought, and I had planned for this tactic). I told no one, left no note. I was tired, and wanted out. I wanted no life if this was life.
Looking back at this, I realize that one of the most interesting things about suicide is the ultimate in self. Suicide is running away, selfishness subjectified. It rejects anything and anyone, because nothing matters save you, and you don’t even want you. I survived, of course; I realized not less than a minute after cutting my wrists that I needed to keep going. Selfishness had to be put away. Ultimately, it was how this would affect others. I had a mother who — despite being bigoted on the whole issue when she found out — nonetheless loved me, and two brothers, one of whom looked up to me as a father. I cannot imagine the pain they’d experience were they to find my body in the bathroom. I cannot, but imagined what could only be the consequence of my actions. Maybe I was just too cowardly, but I think the ultimate act of self-inflicted death is the most cowardly act to begin with. I realized, instead, I was stronger. So I got better. And I knew I had to help things get better in general, for my brother, my family, and myself.
This doesn’t open the world of doors, but it opens a door, and walking through, you confront another door. It’s like coming out: You do not just come out once, but constantly, to everyone, to everything, and it’s a process frought with people jeering at you, mocking you, preaching at you, condemning or accepting, hopeful, or suggestive. It has lots of responses, not all bad, not all good. I realized one thing, though, and that was regardless of how relative my perception, I had to choose. Every moment then, like opening a door and coming out of it, is a choice, and making it, you can only go forward, even if it’s backwards, back through that door.
I wonder, sometimes indignantly, how people can not see that their actions can blind others, that by their own subjective actions, they can help others think they have fewer choices, or no choice, when confronted with what can be described as ignorance and hate, malice and destructiveness for its own sake. Cowardice is a lack of empathy, and it goes for those who commit this final act, and those who lead others to it. But those who live have that burden, if they have the empathy to understand, continue to make that choice to subject others to their own perception, thinking that they can make others’ choices for them, that their choice is the only good one. When I first heard of kids doing what I tried to do, and why, I felt a great deal of shame, but also anger. I wanted to hurt them, but now realize such can only lead to more problems. It solves nothing.
Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth.
[P. B. Medawar, The Art of the Soluble (1969). Methuen & Co., Ltd.]
Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don’t have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things.
[Zapp Brannigan (voice: Billy West), Futurama: Beast With a Billion Backs (2008).]
You are responsible for everything you do. Thus, it matters what you do.
We are based, ultimately, on the things we perceive, and more, want to perceive. There can be no truer statement for how we see things and are, and yet it is so strange how often we fail to understand this simple thing. I’m sure we can be better, but it nonetheless angers me to find in the news stories that there are true bastards out there, ignorant or uncaring of the suffering they cause. I would say that I want to hate you, but I don’t. I pity you, and you don’t deserve it. If it matters, then it should matter if you would be made to suffer, that you would want it to stop, end, and still be able to care and be cared for. Giving this to others, and not trying to deprive them of their choice, is the least you can do.
We can be very selfish creatures, but we are social. We do not exist in a vacuum. So it matters what we do to others, to them and ourselves. When you do this to others, you deserve the same in return, and it is by the compassion of people better than you that you do not receive it. What matters is that no person, gay or otherwise, should be driven to suicide by anything, and a pox on your house if you think poor Jamey deserved what he got.