Monday, March 8th, 2010

Mark Linkous, 1962—2010

Well, it seems like spring is actually coming. So that is good. But the news that Mark Linkous killed himself Saturday is terrible. If you've are familiar with his story (short version: he was depressed) and have listened to his music, which he recorded under the name Sparklehorse, this is perhaps not entirely surprising. He almost died from an overdose of Valium and antidepressants in 1996, and here is a video for a song called "Saint Mary" he released three years later that has the same world weariness you hear in the music of Elliott Smith. But the news arrives and reminds you of the commonplace, everyday sadness of life and how some people seem to suffer it worse than others, and how some of those people make music out of that, and how that music can make other people feel better, and even alleviate some of the sadness, but maybe not the people making the music. I don't know.

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You know, I was going to write about this yesterday, then left it, but I was coming to say: Fuck You, Mark Linkous. (I have a policy that people who commit suicide need to be roundly rejected for their acts.) So you, Mark Linkous, are an asshole. Anyone who shoots themselves outside a friend's house are assholes, phenomenal, rude, self-centered assholes, and I'm sorry life was so painful for you but, on behalf of normally depressed and drug-taking young people everywhere, please go fuck yourself.

sixlocal (#296)


Dave Bry (#422)

Good point.

LondonLee (#922)

That's how he did it??? Jesus Christ.

I felt the same way about Ian Curtis when I found out he had a wife and kid. That's when I broke with the whole notion of "romantic" rock star suicide – a big step when you're 17 and buy into all that bullshit.

rj77 (#210)

Apparently, he shot himself in the heart.

jolie (#16)

Oh this is helpful actually! As a suicidal depressive people pleaser, I keep a list handy of all the people I would disappoint and/or who would be angry with me if I killed myself (hey, whatever works SHUT IT OKAY).

I'm off to put Choire's name at the top of that list. In calligraphy, obvs.

the teeth (#380)

Maybe I'm being a bit too serious about this, and maybe I'm not doing a good job of interpreting tone, but: no, no, very loudly no. I can't speak for this particular poor jerk, but in general: people who kill themselves are in horrible, unbelievable pain. It's not a matter of "I've been feeling pretty down and hopeless, maybe I'll off myself & show all my jerk friends." Every time there's talk of suicide, somebody talks about how very selfish it is … and there is of course truth in this, but this sorta condemnation betrays in my mind an extreme lack of empathy. And yeah, maybe it DOES make you a gigantic dick, but one of the many awful and self-reinforcing symptoms of severe depression is it tends to turn you into an unbearable asshole. Eh. I hear what you're saying … just irks me a little, I guess. (Of course acknowledging that, knowing nothing, the location is pretty hard to square w/ any amount of decency.)

Look, I totally get suicidal feelings. Do not get me wrong! I guess I take this very personally since I spent years and years feeling that way myself. (That you read this as a lack of empathy is weird but whatever.) Having lost a pretty good swath of friends at one point–because suicide is contagious ("Heathers" sort of had that right!), I believe it's important when this shit happens to stand up and be like, THIS IS NOT ROMANTIC, THIS IS NOT A GOOD CHOICE, AND FUCK YOU.

I mean, sure people can twist that into being like "Yeah, I am punk rock, and fuck you too" but not in front of me, because by the time we get to that part of the conversation they'll already be under 48 hours of lockdown observation.

So for the kids out there: just because you feel like you WANT to die does not mean it's a good idea.

That being said, it's still a choice people are allowed to make, I guess.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

The worst day alive is still better than the best day dead.

Dave Bry (#422)

I think these two sides to this are not mutually exclusive. 1) We can acknowledge people's pain, and we can have empathy for them. 2) We can call out suicide for the terrible assholeness that it is. Especially in circumstances where it is such an aggressive act, when it is done in a way clearly meant to hurt others. We can do both these things.

jolie (#16)

@Dave Bry: I bet you give really good hugs.

djfreshie (#875)

I think the argument "The worst day alive is still better than the best day dead." is pretty hard to make. You don't know what death is like, and comparing something to which we have no knowledge about to something else that varies incredibly between everyone, is impossible. Unless you actually believe in hell and believe suicide puts you right in between flaming pitchforks…that statement is unfortunately very false.

Meanwhile, there is a similar selfishness to the reaction of someone else's suicide as there is to the act itself. Someone in intolerable pain would give little shit as to how it would effect anyone else's emotions, particularly when theirs might be more crippling than anything anyone else feels after the fact.

Choire, you're correct, it is a choice we get to make, while you may disagree with it. This makes it an inevitability that it will occur, and while I think it is an incredible disservice to everyone in this culture to romanticize it…it's gonna happen sometimes. And the people that do it aren't doing it specifically to be assholes (well, some are). While it doesn't absolve anyone of their actions, it is still a pretty important consideration, since we live in a world where people are deliberate selfish assholes almost constantly.

The manner in which it occurs though…I know it's hard to control, but come on. Someone's gonna find you. Someone's going to have to deal with things. Have a will, have plans to make things easy on your loved ones. For chrissakes don't make it messy. Have some respect.

the teeth (#380)

Maybe I'm being unfair. I don't know what's happened in your head, any more than I know the head of any individual suicide, or any human apart from myself. It's awfully presumptuous & a little outa line for me to assume you lack empathy here. All I know is I've experenced plenty of garden variety depression, which sucks a lot — but whatever, that's life for a good many people … and then I've had brief glimpses of truly serious depression, and it's absolutely excruciating. And if I imagine living that way indefinitely, it's really hard to condemn suicide. And I've decided that the charitable position is to assume that pretty much any suicide is in that boat. Because even then it's pointless and horrible and (yes) tragic, but otherwise it's damn near inexplicable.

Also: to the extent that automatic condemnation actually works to stop people from doing awful (and selfish!) things — and I'm sure it does — that's fantastic. Condemnations all around. Efficacy over accuracy any day, particularly for something as important as this. But it does make for some real psychic tension, figuring out an attitude and emotion and all that, when somebody who you care about — who you know was in serious pain — kills themselves. And I'll shut up now — apologies here for being a bit of a bore.

hockeymom (#143)

It is very, very hard to do both things.
My mother, a wonderful, funny, over-the-top woman is also a bi-polar, crazy, depressive.
When my sisters and I were kids, we never knew which mom to expect. I think because I'm the oldest, I remember the wonderful mom a lot more than they do. She got worse as she got older.

Anyway, one day when I was in my early 20s, she tried to kill herself. My youngest sister found her.

I drove all night from my first grown-up job to the locked ward of the hospital, where I met my dad. My dad was the strongest man I knew and when he saw me, he just said he was sorry and started crying. I had never seen that before. I had also never been to this kind of hospital before. We didn't let my sisters visit.
Our mom survived, which was good, but the damage was done. She went down a hole and took us all with her. Two of my sisters kind of drifted off, one still drifting. My dad died just a few years later…much, much too soon.

On most days, I don't think it's her fault…a combination of bad medications and mental illness can be deadly.
But on some days, I think she was incredibly selfish and that one act shattered our family.

(sorry this is so personal).

Some of us just don't want to get old. Some of us have no control over anything in our lives except our deaths. Some of us feel like it wouldn't affect anyone if we did kill ourselves because we don't have kids or husbands or wives or girlfriends or boyfriends or friends, but only very distant family members. Some of us don't want to continue this unbearable life that's only going to get worse just because there's the off chance that it may hurt someone else. Some of us hope that our true friend(s) would understand that this was the only way for us to stop the pain.

Some of us just don't want to get old. And some of us think it's none of your business what we do with our lives.

It actually is my business what you do with your life. You're right here, in my community, on the same Internet as me, hanging out on my website. I follow you on Twitter now, which is a lively and funny thing. Still, we don't know each other!

Your friends will, I'm sorry to tell you, actually disagree with you that death is the only way to 'stop the pain.' That is incorrect. You are wrong.

I encourage you to continue to think about this further. One never knows what is going to happen in life. The long years when I was extensively depressed, I pretty much believed as you did. And after depression lifts? Those thoughts and conclusions that seemed so reasonable no longer make any sense whatsoever.

JaguarPaw (#312)

I think the uncertainty of death is a really crucial point to make. I too struggled with suicidal thoughts for a long time, and honestly, the Hamlet argument served as one of the biggest deterrents: that death could, in fact, be worst than life. Excuse the lengthy quote, but it just feels too prescient:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? – To die, to sleep, -
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, – 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; -
To sleep, perchance to dream: – ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause…

Oona (#2,994)

Personally, I find Walker Percy very persuasive on this subject.

"The difference between a non-suicide and an ex-suicide leaving the house for work, at eight o'clock on an ordinary morning:

The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future. His breath is high in his chest.

The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs. Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to."

barnhouse (#1,326)

Nobody can know very much at all about anyone else's life, maybe.

I understand this anger, and have experienced it (it's not so freaking easy for us allegedly "sane" people! for one thing! And also why don't you try getting off drugs, for starters, I have shrieked at more than one.) But sadly, all that just bounces right off a depressed person. They don't care, that's just the trouble.

Bittersweet (#765)

@hockeymom: thanks for your story. I'm sorry about all your travails with your mom.

And ReginalT, I have to agree with Choire – even without any obvious close relationships, you have connections with others that you aren't even aware of. Who knows how killing yourself would affect those connections? Cf: ripples in pond, movement on a spider web, etc.

andrea (#1,025)

I just want to say that I love you, Choire, even though you don't follow me on Twitter.

lbf (#2,343)

Learning about Elliott's death is my demographic's "where were you when JFK got shot". I can still remember the exact text message I got from my German pop nerd friend, getting off my bike to visit a friend at a student residence in Lund, Sweden.
So it turns out there was a Sparklehorse record ready for release too? I hope they get Jon Brion all up in there too, for real. It'll be better than the wanky collabo with Fennesz, that's for damn sure.

Oona (#2,994)

Such sad news.

I played Gold Day for months after my dad died.

May all your days be gold, my child.

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