"getting further into 'nobody' ideology and nothingness. I am becoming more antagonistic than I have ever been. I feel limited, pressed down and completely helpless in a machine that just keeps on moving."
"I walked around as a nobody for my whole life, then somebody tells you you are somebody. But my experiences make me want to be a nobody again, though I am definitely more stable as a human being so these issues are conflicted. Stability is nice but it has a cost."
The face on the cover of Nobody Knows is a replica of a tattoo Beal got when homeless. "The teeth are clenched, the eyes are pluses not X's, explaining the enlightenment you feel before you die. I wanted something I could say I represented." Did he feel suicidal? "I feel suicidal all the time, but I've never tried it. I look at suicide as a distant, soft fantasy. Maybe I don't want to die. Maybe I think there's something left."
"I'd be a criminal indubitably, or some manner of sociopath. I'm not trying to glorify mental instability – that used to be a very romantic notion for me, the mentally fractured artist. I'm not insane. I just had a few hard times in my life and a bit too much solitude, and it pushed me to the edge."
Willis Earl Beal, on Survival (click)
There were a few quotes that resonated in the wee hours, in this Willis Earl Beal article from The Guardian. It was my suspicion, upon hearing his music for the first time a few years ago, that he was a bit "off" in some way. Don't get it twisted! That's a compliment coming from me. It's from these avenues running maybe left of center that some of the best art jumps a rail somewhere and ends up on the main stretch of road. It's not a question of glorifying mental instability either, as he mentions above. I've certainly done that in the past, having come to the conclusion that stability would remain unattainable -- a man has to have some pride of place. It just felt like if I can't feel okay, maybe I could embrace instability and unhappiness and find some pride of place being a "mentally fractured artist." It was only a question of deciding what I wanted to create and then going ahead and doing it, right?
Right. Easier said than done, sadly.
And anyway, like Mr. Beal, I no longer feel that I am insane, whereas there was a time I was fairly well convinced. A string of hard times and hard luck leads straight down the back alley to grief, and from grief the alienation hiding in the dumpster grabs you. You go from alienation to isolation, or solitude if you will...
The problem is that now, all my strongest survival skills were nurtured and honed in that arena, and many of them don't really have much of an application in day to day life. Fight or flight is great in desperate situations (fight was particularly handy) but now? Not so much. My toolbox is filled with heavy equipment and my wardrobe made for extreme conditions. None of it is much use anymore.
I want to talk about suicide though, and my relationship with not suicide itself, but the idea of suicide and what it represented to me. This could actually take a while, so bear with me. It may come in fits and starts as well, with wild tangents and non-sequiturs. That's how my brain works.
I'm not even quite sure how I first became familiar with the idea of taking my own life, or anyone at all taking their own life. I know, however, that I thought of it as the ultimate solution for removing pain, and I know that I was thinking of it as early as 1st or 2nd grade. I am absolutely certain of that. I am entirely sure that I knew exactly what it was, and have vivid memories of suicidal ideation. A bullet through the temple. Slash the wrists. Whatever. I am totally sure that I was thinking of it that early as both a pain reliever and as revenge.
That'd show 'em!
Total recall - lying in bed crying quietly because in my heart of hearts I didn't really want to die and thought if only I could go somewhere else and be somebody else, things wouldn't hurt the way they did. The desire to escape pain was most likely the very root of my growing imagination. Prior to finding other avenues of escape (hello, alcohol etc.) I developed a very rich fantasy life. Pretending to be someone else wasn't just play. It was about getting through the day, and at the end of that day when I came back down to Earth and I was still me, I would lie in bed after my brother had fallen asleep and cry, because I was still me and it still hurt really badly. That's when I thought about checking out. That's when I thought about revenge.
They'll know then that they messed up!
Alcohol and drugs didn't supplant fantasy and suicidal fantasy and suicide so much as supplement them. It was another tool in the box. It was another way of getting through, and quite frankly, opened up new avenues of fantasy, while numbing the pain just enough that it postponed what I am pretty certain was an inevitable early exit. It postponed it just long enough that checking out no longer seemed a viable option. It came with its own pricetag for sure, but guess what. Look who's still standing.
Just say no? Bitch, please! Not that I'd recommend it to everyone, but it got me by. But, I digress.
The idea of suicide is pretty much part and parcel of the "mentally fractured" or "tortured" artist thing that became one of my longer-lived fantasies. It's right up there on the level of importance to the costume as chemical dependence. Skirting around the idea of an untimely death at your own hands, or someone else's for that matter, as cliched as it is, is somehow really intoxicating. It's part of the fabric of our pop culture mythology and iconography. I was far from immune to it. The saddest part of it is that I'd never done much more than don the costume so I never got too much distance from the stuff that made me so profoundly unhappy. Fits of grief and depression were a constant, so that soft fantasy of thee final checkout never went away. It was always there down at the bottom of the toolbox peaking up through the more practical items.
More later... I have to be off into the real world, but I want to get into the idea of self-sabotage and self-destructive behavior, and how they leave doors open behind you, perhaps facilitating a path back to original escape fantasy and the easy way out. Is that trail of breadcrumbs back to the original idea, as twisted as it is... I guess I'm pondering the idea of suicidal ideation as part of a comfort zone. Do people think that way? Have I? I guess what I'm asking of nobody in particular, is if people (I), having held onto the ideation as a sort of point of solace (well, there's always this...), continue to hold onto patterns that lead them back to it, just in case shit gets bad again. There has to be a better way to explain that, but maybe later.