Suicide Newscycle • 26 September 2008

I keep wondering what David Foster Wallace would say. With the collapse of the (financial) system and all. Each day is more accursedly interesting, pushes what I thought was the the solid envelope of social dis/order. The boundary between believability and unbelievability is moving. In a sense I am meditating on that boundary, like other times I practice at the edge of mind and body, and still others hypnotize by finding the space that is the meeting of the eyelids or the place the skin meets the air around it.

The question is: how do we believe the unbelievable as it goes down? How do we update the definition of the situation? The movement between belief and disbelief is, I have to admit, partly projection. I’m under hilarious stress at work—stress that feels epic. I see the dread in Nancy Pelosi’s eyes and think I understand.

Really, I wish DFW were here and could see all this, the same way I wish Hildegaard could listen to The Photographer through my ears or Mark Twain could look out of airplane windows from behind my eyes. DFW’s been dead two weeks now and the eulogizing’s done and forgotten. The first long obits appeared within hours (prepared in advance by those reading the signs? I have to wonder) and were bumped down within a day. This is what clickability does. Slashes mourning periods right down to the blip-length of “news.” But I love the way that some people resisted that or even pushed back in to it, turned the internet into an historical repository of memory and place for a new level of shared loss. The comments on the LA Times obit are better to me than any flowers at a grave.

I remember somewhere DFW wrote that Wittgenstein was the most terrifying writer of his century, but also so inspiring because the philosopher concluded that solipsism was for the weak. Did DFW really say that? Maybe I’ve made it up. Because it seems ridiculous—for an autistic genius between the wars, of course solipsism was a problem. For DFW? No, empathy was the problem. Lobsters and all. The few obits I saw wanted to understand DFW’s suicide as the conclusion to some sort of philosophical problem. You know, make it all analytical and conclusive and hold the man to account for his mistaken computations of the problem at hand.

Isn’t this all a bit high-minded, making it a philosophical problem? Sadness and loneliness are universal if stronger in some—the sharing of that sadness at ad-hoc monuments that would be postmodern jokes if they weren’t so deep and human is what we do despite technology (and other forces) that want to slice us thin. Community is as much the default state as isolation and “self ownership.” If there was any narrative that DFW’s deep natural sadness affixed to for me, it was the tragedies of connectedness as much as of isolation. He had a way of making me meditate on that boundary—individuation and community—better than my own discipline, which is supposed to be rooted in just that synthesis. He is behind my eyes now whether he likes it or not. He’d probably think this historization and borglike absorption of his perspective to be imperial and somehow mistaken, but this is what you get for dying, David.