Among his friends, Beethoven was a notorious spacecadet. Once, while speaking to family friend Cacilie, she noticed him zoning out. When she demanded a reply to what she’d said, his answer was, “I was just occupied with such a lovely, deep thought, I couldn’t bear to be disturbed.”
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.
“… thanks to the mobility of the camera, to the multiplicity of shots, I am everywhere at once. . . . I know that I am in the movie theatre, but I feel that I am in the world offered to my gaze, a world that I experience ‘physically’ while identifying myself with one or another of the characters in the drama — with all of them, alternatively. This finally means that at the movies I am both in this action and outside it, in this space and outside of this space. Having the gift of ubiquity, I am everywhere and nowhere.”
—Jean Mitry, French film theorist, critic and filmmaker
“The idea was that jazz used to challenge the public and make them think in terms more advanced rhythmically than they were used to thinking in. In the ’20s, it was hard to get a group of people to clap on two and four. One, two, three, four… this was difficult.
Well, we haven’t gone much further. The public is ready for something new because everybody that listens to jazz can clap on two and four. At this period, 30 years is long enough to be stuck there.
It’s time that the jazz musicians take up their original role of leading the public into more adventurous rhythms. ‘Take Five’ is proof of it. After all, the kids are tired of rock ‘n’ roll, too, and yet they can dance in 5/4 time. We’re the only group that I know… we can play an entire concert and not play in 4/4 or even in 3/4.”
—Dave Brubeck, jazz pianist and composer
“The Dave Brubeck Quartet.” Hosted by Steve Race. Jazz 625. BBC. 25 Aug. 1964.