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  1. #41
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    I find it both interesting and telling that, apparently, only two people seem to be interested in the 'Suicide Note'.

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    Just found this article. Best one I've seen thus far:

    What he left behind: A 1,905-page suicide note
    Author described nihilistic outlook

    By David Abel, Globe Staff | September 27, 2010

    In the end, no one really knows what led Mitchell Heisman, an erudite, wry, handsome 35-year-old, to walk into Harvard Yard on the holiest day in his faith and fire one shot from a silver revolver into his right temple, on the top step of Memorial Church, where hundreds gathered to observe the Jewish Day of Atonement.

    But if the 1,905-page suicide note he left is to be believed — a work he spent five years honing and that his family and others received in a posthumous e-mail after his suicide last Saturday morning on Yom Kippur — Heisman took his life as part of a philosophical exploration he called “an experiment in nihilism.’’

    At the end of his note, a dense, scholarly work with 1,433 footnotes, a 20-page bibliography, and more than 1,700 references to God and 200 references to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Heisman sums up his experiment:

    “Every word, every thought, and every emotion come back to one core problem: life is meaningless,’’ he wrote. “The experiment in nihilism is to seek out and expose every illusion and every myth, wherever it may lead, no matter what, even if it kills us.’’

    Over the years, as he became more immersed in his work, often laboring over it 12 hours a day, Heisman shared bits with friends and family but never elaborated on the extent of his nihilism — his hardened view that life is vapid and nonsensical, that values are pretense, that the “unreasoned conviction in the rightness of life over death is like a god or a mass delusion.’’

    He told them he was working on a history of the Norman conquest of England, cloistered in a cramped apartment he shared in Somerville. They knew the clean-shaven young man from suburban New Jersey, who always called his elderly godmother on her birthday and once donated $200 to Harvard Hillel for sponsoring services at Memorial Church, to be intensely committed to his work.

    Neither his mother, sister, nor the roommates from whom he sought forgiveness in the hours before he died had any idea he was about to kill himself. They and others have been groping for answers to why he did it and in such a public way, on such a holy day.

    “He was very cordial, very charming, you would never know that something was wrong,’’ said Lonni Heisman, his mother. He frequently told her he loved her, and had recently visited to help her prepare for a move. “I’m still in shock and I can’t understand how he could have hid this,’’ she said. “He had everything going for him. He was in perfect health. He was handsome, smart, a good person. I’ll never understand it.’’

    She said he was a gregarious child who grew introverted after his father, an engineer, died of a heart attack when Mitchell was 12 years old. As he got older, he became increasingly bookish and went on to study psychology at the University at Albany in New York, where he seemed shy to friends and spent much of his time reading.

    After college, Heisman worked at bookstores, including the Strand in Manhattan, enabling him to amass a library of thousands of books. About five years ago, he moved to Somerville to focus on writing and be near major university libraries.

    He led a Spartan existence, subsisting on microwave meals, chicken wings, and energy bars, and surviving mainly on money left to him after his father’s death. He was tall, with dark eyes, and dated when he needed a break from his solitude, rarely having trouble attracting women. But he broke off the relationships quickly, saying he was too busy writing a book.

    To help him concentrate, Heisman often listened to a constant loop of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier,’’ which he felt synthesized the mind’s competing strains of emotion and reason, went to a gym daily, and took Ritalin, which his mother thinks may have induced depression and led to his suicide.

    One of his longtime roommates, David Barnes, described Heisman as quiet and considerate, never angry. He engaged in conversation by asking questions; when he spoke he often gave deliberate, lengthy responses. “He could get intense talking about his book,’’ Barnes said. “There was definitely a lot of emotion pent up in this project.’’

    Barnes and relatives said Heisman bought the gun, a .38-caliber pistol, three years ago, though they don’t know where, and they believe he had only one purpose for it: to commit suicide when he finished his book.

    “He wasn’t going anywhere dangerous; he wasn’t paranoid; he wasn’t worried about anyone hurting him or breaking in,’’ Barnes said. “I couldn’t imagine him buying a gun for any other reason.’’

    A month ago, as he began wrapping up his writing, he asked Barnes if he would be a witness to the signing of his will. Barnes thought it was because he cared so much about his book and wanted to ensure it would be taken care of in case something happened.

    Two days before his suicide, Heisman seemed elated. He told his roommates he had finished the book. He spent the next day at the post office, buying stamps and preparing packages for friends and family, with the book on CDs.

    On the morning of Yom Kippur, Heisman showered, shaved, and ate a breakfast of chicken fingers and lentils, some of which he left on the kitchen counter, something he rarely did. He put on a white tuxedo, with white shoes, a white tie, and white socks, and donned a ill-fitting trench coat, perhaps to hide the gun.

    At about 10 a.m., a half-hour or so before he would commit suicide in front of a group touring Harvard, Heisman walked into Barnes’s room. He told him the white clothing was a Jewish tradition, even though he rarely practiced his religion and had given up on the concept of God. Appearing to be in a buoyant mood, he explained the significance of Yom Kippur.

    “He said he wanted me to know that if he ever did anything to offend me, he apologized and hoped that I would forgive him,’’ Barnes said.

    In his book, which he titled “Suicide Note’’ and scheduled to send to hundreds of people as an e-mail attachment about five hours after his death, Heisman produced an extraordinarily lengthy treatise on why life was not worth living.

    With chapter titles such as “Philosophy, Cosmology, Singularity, New Jersey’’ and “How to Breed a God,’’ and citing more than a hundred authors from futurist Ray Kurzweil to the biologist E.O. Wilson, Heisman explains how his views took shape.

    “The death of my father marked the beginning, or perhaps the acceleration, of a kind of moral collapse, because the total materialization of the world from matter to humans to literal subjective experience went hand in hand with a nihilistic inability to believe in the worth of any goal,’’ he wrote.

    He saw his emotions as nothing more than a product of biology, as soulless as the workings of a machine, making them in essence an illusion.

    “If life is truly meaningless and there is no rational basis for choosing among fundamental alternatives, then all choices are equal and there is no fundamental ground for choosing life over death,’’ he concluded.

    The darkness of his views has been too much for his friends and family, many of whom have yet to read his suicide note.

    “It makes me sad and angry that he didn’t care for any facet of life other than the book,’’ Barnes said.

    As his sister, Laurel Heisman, spent last week sifting through what remains of his things — a poster in German, a well-made bed, piles of books in a small room shrouded with a dark curtain — she said she received a separate, posthumous note from him asking that she preserve a website he created to publish his book, a burden she has agreed to bear.

    “I love you,’’ he wrote to her.

    She wishes she could have made him see more of the beauty of life, and how we create our own value and give our own meaning to life. She might have taken him up a mountain or held him more closely.

    “He just told us the safe things, because he knew we would have tried to stop him,’’ she said. “It’s really hard. It’s not like someone who was really depressed because they lost a lover. His whole ideology was wrapped in this concept of nihilism. I wish we could have made him see things differently.’’
    I'll be providing my analysis of the first two readings over the next day or two.

    The second, unfortunately, left me a bit unimpressed...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    I find it both interesting and telling that, apparently, only two people seem to be interested in the 'Suicide Note'.
    I stared into the abyss for a number of years back in college.

    It captured me for awhile, but eventually I made it my bitch.

    I'm certainly stronger for having done so, but I don't blame others for not doing so.

  3. #43
    Rainy Day Woman MDP2525's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    I find it both interesting and telling that, apparently, only two people seem to be interested in the 'Suicide Note'.
    What does it tell you?
    ~luck favors the ready~


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  4. #44
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    It suggests that people will rather ignore the book based on a 'crazy guy, killed himself' view of the author than, instead, regard it as intriguing that someone spends years to write a book and then, after having finished it, commits suicide, leaving nothing but that book. The fact alone that he was not interested in how it (and his final act) would be received is remarkable. People read books about such characters, but apparenty they do not read books by such characters. Maybe it is a distaste for 'the morbid', maybe a fear of becoming gloomy oneself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    What does it tell you?
    We all recoil from illness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    It suggests that people will rather ignore the book based on a 'crazy guy, killed himself' view of the author than, instead, regard it as intriguing that someone spends years to write a book and then, after having finished it, commits suicide, leaving nothing but that book. The fact alone that he was not interested in how it (and his final act) would be received is remarkable.

    Okay. That is if you are separating his act of suicide from his writings. Which would be incorrect to do so because he tied them inextricably together by his actions. I disagree. I believe he was extremely interested in how his writing would be received.

    Or, I should say, I believe the book was the only thing that kept him going for as long as it did with the idea that his suicide would be the period at the end of his final sentence and that it would lead the utmost credibility to his writing. Which is why he committed suicide publicly and why he requested his sister keep his writings actively alive on the internet. There's a lot of arrogance in his suicide that I cannot ignore.

    I would go so far as to say one of his delusions was that he would be viewed as a genius and the world would lament the loss of such a brilliant mind.

    The only thing to glean from his writings is the study of a disturbed mind. The writing I did look at? I mean it's Nihilism. Overly intellectualized Nihilism. Which makes perfect sense for someone who ends up committing suicide. However, we realized the limitations of that philosophy a long time ago.

    You read the note. So tell me what insight you got from it that changed your life? Made you think differently? Enlightened you? Changed your views on certain subject matter? Showed you a new way of looking at things?

    People read books about such characters, but apparenty they do not read books by such characters. Maybe it is a distaste for 'the morbid', maybe a fear of becoming gloomy oneself.
    I disagree. People still read Sylvia Plath, John Kennedy Toole, Mayakofsky, Virginia Woolf....I could go on.
    ~luck favors the ready~


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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    It suggests that people will rather ignore the book based on a 'crazy guy, killed himself' view of the author than, instead, regard it as intriguing that someone spends years to write a book and then, after having finished it, commits suicide, leaving nothing but that book.
    As I said before, I think it has more to do with a passive ignoring than anything active.

    The fact of the matter is that, in our society, people live very busy lives, and unless something seems of enough import that they should take the time out of their busy lives to pay attention to it (and a 1,900 page suicide note surely would require a lot of time and attention), they're not gunna do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    The fact alone that he was not interested in how it (and his final act) would be received is remarkable.
    Like hell he didn't care.

    If he didn't care, he wouldn't have written it.

    Or delivered it to 400+ friends and family members.

    Or put it up on a Dutch site so that it wouldn't be taken down after his death.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    Maybe it is a distaste for 'the morbid', maybe a fear of becoming gloomy oneself.
    The bolded is especially true.

    The question you must ask yourself is: is something wrong with that?

  8. #48
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    Okay. That is if you are separating his act of suicide from his writings. Which would be incorrect to do so because he tied them inextricably together by his actions. I disagree. I believe he was extremely interested in how his writing would be received.
    I think I did not make myself clear. What makes the 'Suicide Note' interesting is that it is so strongly linked to its author's death. When I said he was not interested in its reception, I meant that a hope for greatness or a certain recognition seems to have been enough for him: after the book had been finished, he entirely lacked curiosity. I find that interesting because curiosity is my main reason to stay alive. The question arises: Is there a point in your life, if you are so inclined, where you will have grown tired of the wonders of the world, where you are no longer willing to see them in different lights, perhaps because you have seen through all of them?

    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    Or, I should say, I believe the book was the only thing that kept him going for as long as it did with the idea that his suicide would be the period at the end of his final sentence and that it would lead the utmost credibility to his writing. Which is why he committed suicide publicly and why he requested his sister keep his writings actively alive on the internet. There's a lot of arrogance in his suicide that I cannot ignore.
    Of course, I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    I would go so far as to say one of his delusions was that he would be viewed as a genius and the world would lament the loss of such a brilliant mind.
    He does not seem deluded to me. Again I have to wonder whether that hope alone is enough to give up the opportunity to observe the book's fate with your own eyes. Schopenhauer waited 40 years for glory (then again, he did not believe in suicide).

    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    The only thing to glean from his writings is the study of a disturbed mind. The writing I did look at? I mean it's Nihilism. Overly intellectualized Nihilism. Which makes perfect sense for someone who ends up committing suicide. However, we realized the limitations of that philosophy a long time ago.
    I fail to see how his mind is disturbed and what is so bad about nihilism. We still talk and see films, read books and hear operas about love.

    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    You read the note. So tell me what insight you got from it that changed your life? Made you think differently? Enlightened you? Changed your views on certain subject matter? Showed you a new way of looking at things?
    I have not yet had the time to read it sufficiently to answer any of your hyperbolical questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by MDP2525 View Post
    I disagree. People still read Sylvia Plath, John Kennedy Toole, Mayakofsky, Virginia Woolf....I could go on.
    That is, if you are separating their acts of suicide from theirs writings.


    Quote Originally Posted by Zarathustra View Post
    As I said before, I think it has more to do with a passive ignoring than anything active.

    The fact of the matter is that, in our society, people live very busy lives, and unless something seems of enough import that they should take the time out of their busy lives to pay attention to it (and a 1,900 page suicide note surely would require a lot of time and attention), they're not gunna do it.
    That might be so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zarathustra View Post
    Like hell he didn't care.

    If he didn't care, he wouldn't have written it.

    Or delivered it to 400+ friends and family members.

    Or put it up on a Dutch site so that it wouldn't be taken down after his death.
    See above.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zarathustra View Post
    The question you must ask yourself is: is something wrong with that?
    I would not use the word 'wrong', or 'right' for that matter. It is just that, for me, such fear or plain superficiality are not satisfactory reasons to dismiss something. Given the place we are talking in, I acknowledge that people are different, still it feels strange that people ignore such a great chance to peer into the 'disturbed mind' of someone who has gone farther in nihilism than, for instance, Nietzsche, Cioran, Céline. I admit that his book has yet to prove itself worthwhile, but what I have read so far appears promising: I am interested in the unsual.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    It suggests that people will rather ignore the book based on a 'crazy guy, killed himself' view of the author than, instead, regard it as intriguing that someone spends years to write a book and then, after having finished it, commits suicide, leaving nothing but that book. The fact alone that he was not interested in how it (and his final act) would be received is remarkable. People read books about such characters, but apparenty they do not read books by such characters. Maybe it is a distaste for 'the morbid', maybe a fear of becoming gloomy oneself.
    As others have said, one's "feelings" about the tome almost don't matter.

    Aside from the "bad promo" he's received by killing himself (that's not exactly a ringing endorsement for many people to look to someone for life advice/enlightenment), it's 1900 pages.

    That's about 800 pages more than Stephen King's "The Stand," one of the largest fiction books published in the last 20-30 years -- which also happened to be dark and explored the human condition and isolation but did so in a far more accessible way and with some sense of hope amid the dark... so maybe it seemed to be more promising than this.

    The big issue is that people just don't have that much time to read today, especially if they are parents or building a career. There's a lot of crap to get done, a lot of lessons that are being learned personally rather than from just reading a book, and just because some guy killed himself doesn't obligate ANYONE to read a 1900-page book, especially when there are seemingly far more things relevant to their daily lives? IN the hopes that someone whose life ended tragically at his own hand still had something worthwhile to say?

    Honestly, it might be a better bet, statistically, to throw a dollar on PowerBall. The only reason I'd ever read it is because (1) I can read FAST, (2) dark stuff doesn't bother me, and (3) I'm into individual/unique psychology. So if there is something to glean, I could get something out of it hopefully before investing too much. But even I'm pretty busy, and so it gets a pretty low slot on the priority list.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

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    Rainy Day Woman MDP2525's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    ...after the book had been finished, he entirely lacked curiosity. I find that interesting because curiosity is my main reason to stay alive. The question arises: Is there a point in your life, if you are so inclined, where you will have grown tired of the wonders of the world, where you are no longer willing to see them in different lights, perhaps because you have seen through all of them?
    He lacked curiosity because he did not care. He did not value his own life. He believed that life was meaningless. Curiosity, love, hope, wonder and every other thing that makes life exciting and enjoyable is absent and devalued in his mind.

    To answer your question. No. I don't believe I will get tired of living life again. I've been there already. I have learned to value the smallest pleasures life gives me.


    He does not seem deluded to me.
    You have an engineer driving a train down a track. The train is chugging along fine to it's normal destination. The engineer decides to switch tracks. The track he switches to has deep knicks in the rails and the train will derail and crash when it hits this point. The engineer knows this but decides that it's a better route to take because (insert delusion here). He switches tracks and the train crashes and is destroyed and the engineer dies.

    The bystanders who see this all say the same thing. "Everything looked fine. The train was in perfect mechanical condition and ran perfectly."



    Again I have to wonder whether that hope alone is enough to give up the opportunity to observe the book's fate with your own eyes. Schopenhauer waited 40 years for glory (then again, he did not believe in suicide).

    I fail to see how his mind is disturbed We still talk and see films, read books and hear operas about love.
    I take it you see his belief in nihilism as the fodder for his decision for suicide. This is the only way your underlined comment make sense to me. If this is so, I do not agree.

    Every one who commits suicide is nihilistic to some degree whether they know that philosophy or not. I mean. They are the ultimate nihilists. This is where I said we are aware of the limitations of nihilism because without balance from other forms of thought nihilism self-destructs upon itself. It's not a question of is nihilism bad or good but nihilism in a pure form does not work.

    I believe Heisman was intelligent enough to take this philosophy and run with it. Nihilism in it's purest form makes sense to someone who is suicidal. I don't think Heisman is the first person to see this and that's another reason why I think there's a lack of interest in his manifesto. It's not that original.

    I have not yet had the time to read it sufficiently to answer any of your hyperbolical questions.
    They weren't hyperbolic. I meant them literally. I was under the impression you read the manifesto already or enough of it to share an answer of what meaning it gave you personally. Sorry.

    That is, if you are separating their acts of suicide from theirs writings.
    You could choose to if you wanted. Or not. Those authors were well established in their field before their suicides occurred. You could read their work without knowledge of their deed and the work stands on it's own.

    Heisman used his suicide as a tool for recognition of his work and I'm not sure it would have gained any attention without him doing so.


    still it feels strange that people ignore such a great chance to peer into the 'disturbed mind' of someone who has gone farther in nihilism than, for instance, Nietzsche, Cioran, Céline. I admit that his book has yet to prove itself worthwhile, but what I have read so far appears promising: I am interested in the unsual.
    Okay. Think about it this way. Hypothetically: Heisman survived his gunshot wound. His manifesto makes headlines and goes public. You go down to the mental hospital and interview him.

    You sit by his bedside and listen. Would he convince you to believe in his viewpoints? And would it not enter your mind, when listening, that while bandaged and behind locked doors that he has yet to cope with his own existence and how can someone sitting behind locked doors be telling us all he has the answers?

    Would you leave with a sense of sadness or would you subscribe to his beliefs? Would you even visit him again? And if you did would it be to glimpse the workings of an unsound mind or to bask in the knowledge of his beliefs? You cannot have both.

    To read all 1,900 pages is akin to going back and visiting this guy time and time again. The act he thought that would lend his manifesto utmost credibility actually does the opposite in reality. If that isn't delusional I don't know what is.

    That's the reason why not many people are taking interest in his manifesto. It's not fear or superficiality. Lots of people commit suicide and leave notes. His was 1,900 pages but you could find the same sentiment in almost every one. They all have the same ending.
    ~luck favors the ready~


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