Until relatively recent times man’s span of life was short.
Throughout most of history the truly old were a rarity. In an excavation of one of the world’s oldest cemeteries, the skeletons showed that the average age of the population at death was twenty-five, and there is no reason to suppose that the place was unusually unhealthy.
Thus it seems plausible that the momentous discoveries and inventions of the Neolithic Age — the domestication of animals and plants; the invention of the wheel, sail, and plough; the discovery of irrigation, fermentation, and metallurgy — were the work of an almost childlike population, and were perhaps made in the course of play.
Nor is it likely that the ancient myths and legends, with their fairy-tale pattern and erotic symbolism, were elaborated by burnt-out old men.
This history of less ancient periods, too, reveals the juvenile character of their chief actors. Many observers have remarked on the smallness of the armor which has come down to us from the Middle Ages. Actually, the men who wore this armor were not grownups. They were married at thirteen, were warriors and leaders in their teens, and senile at thirty-five or forty.
The Black Prince was sixteen when he won fame in the battle of Crécy, and Joan of Arc seventeen when she took Orléans from the English. . . . In the first half of the sixteenth century, Charles the Fifth became Emperor at the age of twenty, Francis the First became King of France at twenty-one and Henry the Eighth King of England at eighteen.
The question is whether the juvenile mentality is confined to adolescents. Do people automatically grow up as they grow older? Is not juvenility a state of mind rather than a matter of years? Are there not teenagers of every age?
Hoffer, Eric. “I: A Time of Juveniles.” The Temper of Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. 4-5. Print.
The pastness of all films is implicit in in the retrospection of their frames, a property of the medium demonstrated by polished “Hollywood” features and by our out-of-focus, badly lighted, uncentered home movies. The embarrassed and graceless movements of dead relatives and friends overwhelm us with a poignancy that most still photographs of the same faces and bodies do not produce.
The cinematic frame, by dint of its serial projections, has a precarious grasp on the presence and activities of life. Whether in the artfully composed 35 millimeter close-up of a movie star or in the super-8 grimacing countenances of once young parents, the frame makes us pay dearly in affect for beholding its vacillating modes of present and past.
Affron, Charles. “Chapter 2: Thresholds of Feeling.” Cinema and Sentiment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982. 47. Print.
The Freudian analyst, Karl Menninger, has said that there are three components of suicide: the wish to kill, the wish to be killed, the wish to die. Kleinian theory would suggest that each of these processes is highly complex, ambiguous and rarely separate from the others.
For instance, a man may wish to kill only some aspect of himself under the illusion that its death will free some other part to live. In part he wishes to kill, in part to be killed. But in part death itself is by the way; what is at issue is not self-murder but an extreme act of placation which will restore some injured part of himself to health and enable it to flourish: ‘If thy eye offend thee, pluck it out.’
But for the suicide, overwhelmed by his obscure and obscuring sense of inner chaos and worthlessness, the ‘eye,’ the part, is his life itself as he is leading it. He casts away his life in order properly to live.
This psychic double-take occurs even in what seems to be the crudest case of aggression. The angry child who says to his parents, ‘I’ll die and then you’ll be sorry,’ is not merely seeking revenge. He is also projecting the guilt and anger that possesses him on to those who control his life. In other words, he is defending himself from his own hostility by the mechanism of projective identification; he becomes the victim, they the persecutors.
Similarly, but on a more sophisticated level, a man may take his own life because he feels the destructive elements inside him are no longer to be borne; so he sheds them at the expense of the guilt and confusion of his survivors.
But what is left, he hopes, is a purified, idealized image of himself which lives on like the memory of all those noble Romans who fell on their own swords with equanimity for the sake of their principles, their reputations and their proper name in history.
Without those high Roman ideals, suicide is simply the most extreme and brutal way of making sure that you will not readily be forgotten. It is a question of a kind of posthumous rebirth in the memory of others, rather like that imagined by the primitive warrior-tribesmen who thought Paradise was reserved only for those who died violently; so they destroyed themselves in order to forestall a degrading natural death by sickness or old age which would otherwise have shut them out for eternity from the best of all possible afterworlds.
Alvarez, A. “Chapter 2: Theories.” The Savage God: A Study of Suicide. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971. 93-94. Print.
“The real masculine? Discrimination, discernment, looking at a goal, having the action that will move towards that goal, honoring the feminine — cherishing, working in harmony with it, creative, immense creative energy… You have to have both energies as we have to have day and night. It’s essential that both sides are working together for new life.”
“Marion Woodman.” Allan Gregg in Conversation with…. TVO, Ontario. May 1997.
Photographer Douglas Kirkland and actress Faye Dunaway, Italy, 1968.