Fantasy author Terry Pratchett published an op-ed in the UK’s Daily Mail last week arguing for the legalization of suicide. I’ll set aside for now the myriad reasons, simple and existential, why I agree with Mr. Pratchett. I’ll even abstain from veering off on an elaborate imagination of two constables arresting a man for suicide and the inevitable weekend-at-Bernie’s hilarity that would ensure during the court proceedings. (“Bollocks! The powdered wig keeps falling off his head!” “Don’t be daft, hand me that stapler!”)
Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago, wrote a piece that is personal, thoughtful, and at moments, poetic:
We are being stupid. We have been so successful in the past century at the art of living longer and staying alive that we have forgotten how to die. …Now, however, I live in hope – hope that before the disease in my brain finally wipes it clean, I can jump before I am pushed…
He describes the way he wants to go, : sitting in his garden with a glass of brandy, and “Thomas Tallis on the iPod.” What could be a more romantic end than in an English garden enjoying the last taste of your chosen poison? And what could be less romantic than an iPod? (Only an 8-track, I’d venture.)
Technology changes, and the vestiges of ages past take on a romance of their own, simply for their being part of our past. But there’s something so sadly disruptive about an mp3 player working its way into Pratchett’s tragic tableau. Like trying to be taken seriously while crying in a monkey costume.
I think being distressed looked a whole lot cooler in the old days. Huddling around a cabinet radio, or in front of your town’s one television store to hear the latest news of the war represents a situation’s gravity in a way that following Twitter never will. And slamming down a three pound telephone receiver is so much more dramatic than angrily — but ever so gently — pressing END with your right thumb. And for my money, nothing will ever be quite as sad as the way it sounds to reach the end of the first side of a mix tape from your ex. Eject, flip, close, play, weep.
When my eternal mix tape reaches the end of its spool, I hope there’s no Apple logo in the coroner’s photos.