‘Because we are also what we have lost’ – Amores Perros
Another year, another November and as I move house and unpack my stuff I find one of the last cards my brother sent me before he died on 11.11.11. Featuring a quote from the Mexican movie Amores Perros that, when I first read it, I instinctively connected to the girlfriend he never really got over.
But that now has a whole other meaning for me, as I stare starkly at the demons which took him and I fear will ultimately take me too.
Suicidal ideation they call it, when you casually consider ways to sleep the eternal sleep. Where I go when I sleep is a peaceful place, there is none of the burning self-hatred that taints my every waking moment, so I idealise it as a way to cope with the agony of being a live human on planet Earth in 2017.
Spiritual types say such thoughts and feelings are indicative of growth on a soul level, which is the reason we choose to incarnate on this grubby orb. There is a bigger game in play, where we’re individual souls that are also the components of an overall soul and everything is connected: man, bird, tree, stone. We’re here for a purpose, and our life is spent discovering this and when it’s completed we get out of the car and get in another car for the next stage. Like a Super Mario game.
Except when the uniquely human humanness really sinks its claws in, suicidal thoughts and all the rest, the experience is more like the dreaded Upside Down in Stranger Things than the smiley Nintendo universe.
Jung himself couldn’t have come up with a more uncanny shadow realm: mirroring the one we’re familiar with except the landscape is all webby darkness, cold and decay, everything feels very out of reach and you’re on high alert at all times for the terrifying spectre of the Demogorgon. And in this analogy (thanks Dustin) these are the creepy recesses of your own mind.
I first heard of Michael Stone, a pretty hardcore Buddhist/yoga teacher from Canada, a couple of years ago when he came to London to run a five-day voodoo course that I decided I couldn’t afford in the end. I’m always intrigued by the people who facilitate such courses: I scour their faces and bodies for signs of human frailty amid all the Zen they’ve made it their lives’ work to perpetuate.
Turns out Michael Stone was bipolar and died in July this year after scoring street drugs for some relief from the terror of the mood swings. He had published several books and was married with three children, a fourth on the way.
I read and re-read every single thing I could find about this guy and how the fuck he ended up dying as he did at the age of 42 with all the good he had going for him in his life.
But the Upside Down got him, just like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington shortly before him this year.
It’s comforting and terrifying at the same time: that no one is immune to the darkness, but look at the completely devastating places to which it can drag us.
The official statement on Michael’s death, put together by his wife and senior students, included this: ‘It may be hard to put one’s mind into his, to imagine how he could take such a risk with a young family, baby on the way, with such a full life and such fortune.
‘It could be easy to shake one’s head and think, what a shame. Culturally we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions?
‘What was he feeling? How was he coping? What am I uncomfortable hearing? What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviours we cannot understand? Impulses that scare us and silence us? How can we take care of each other?’
Similar to the process of coming to terms with my older brother’s passing, my understanding of Michael Stone’s life and death takes me back to the bigger spiritual concept of purpose. The time and nature of our death can have as much to do with our purpose (and its effects on other people and their actions) as our living breathing period, however long that might be.
But also: we never really leave (quantum physics) and everything remains connected: man, bird, tree, stone.