Why do people write suicide notes? Mark Twain's Essay

Discussion in 'Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings' started by hellwithhugewounds, Dec 28, 2008.

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  1. hellwithhugewounds

    hellwithhugewounds Well-Known Member

    I know that i've prepared an extensive note to my parents when I go under.

    I'm sure many will say that these notes are to put the people they know at ease, to gain attention, to explain everything, even to create guilt for the living.

    Legendary American writer Mark Twain's 100-year-old essay, "The Privilege of the Grave", explores on a more basic and, strangely a deeper level, why people write death notes (not to be confused with the anime). I hope this essay that I am now going to quote makes you think more deeply about this subject. It's a bit lengthy but it's well worth reading it (at least I think). Feel free to comment about anything in this essay.

    Quoted from "The Privilege of the Grave" -

    Its occupant has one privilege which is not exercised by any living person: free speech. The living man is not really without this privilege – strictly speaking – but as he possesses it merely as an empty formality, and knows better than to make use of it, it cannot be seriously regarded as an actual possession. As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact; free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact. By the common estimate both are crimes, and are held in deep odium by all civilized peoples. Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always – when committed. Which is seldom. There are not fewer than five thousand murders to one (unpopular) free utterance. There is justification for this reluctance to utter unpopular opinions: the cost of utterance is too heavy; it can ruin a man in his business, it can lose him his friends, it can subject him to public insult and abuse, it can ostracize his unoffending family, and make his house a despised and unvisited solitude. An unpopular opinion… lies concealed in the breast of every man; in many cases not only one sample, but several. The more intelligent the man, the larger the freightage of this kind of opinion he carries, and keeps to himself. There is not one individual – including the reader and myself – who is not the possessor of dear and cherished unpopular convictions which common wisdom forbids him to utter. Sometimes we suppress an opinion for reasons that are a credit to us, not a discredit, but oftenest we suppress an unpopular opinion because we cannot afford the bitter cost of putting it forth. None of us likes to be hated, none of us likes to be shunned…
    Free speech is the privilege of the dead, the monopoly of the dead. They can speak their honest minds without offending. We have charity for what the dead say. We may disapprove of what they say, but we do not insult them, we do not revile them, as knowing they cannot now defend themselves. If they should speak, what revelations there would be! For it would be found that in matters of opinion no departed person was exactly what he had passed for in life; that out of fear, or out of calculated wisdom, or out of reluctance to wound friends, he had long kept to himself certain views not suspected by his little world, and had carried them unuttered to the grave. And then the living would be brought by this to a poignant and reproachful realization of the fact that they, too, were tarred by that same brush. They would realize, deep down, that they, and whole nations along with them, are not really what they seem to be – and never can be.
    Now there is hardly one of us but would dearly like to reveal these secrets of ours; we know we cannot do it in life, then wy not do it from the grave, and have the satisfaction of it? Why not put these things into our diaries, instead of so discreetly leaving them out? Why not put them in, and leave the diaries behind, for our friends to read? For free speech is a desirable thing… I have felt it in America when we have mobbed meetings and battered the speakers. And most particularly I feel it every; week or two when I want to print something that a fine discretion tells me I mustn’t. Sometimes my feelings are so hot that I have to take to the pen and pour them out on paper to keep them from setting me afire inside; then all that ink and labor are wasted, because I can’t print the result. I have just finished an article of this kind, and it satisfies me entirely. It does my weather-beaten soul good to read it, and admire the trouble it would make for me and the family. I will leave it behind, and utter it from the grave. There is free speech there…

    :sf: :sf: :sf:
  2. MeAndYou

    MeAndYou Well-Known Member

    Well first of all its easy on the tongue :p thats for sure. Great writer.

    Anyway, Mark sees the death note as the ultimate free speech, one that isnt often argued with because the dead can not defend themselves. I guess i agree with that, except id probably be willing to argue :wink:. I see a death note as a sort of last meal for the ego. You dont really have anything all that important to say as far as the grand scheme of things is concerned, although the importance it has on loved ones is probably pretty great. So there is no profound message from the dead, just a belief they take to the grave that at most...dont have to worry about being wrong about.
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