March 16, 2009

The last word with fate

This was sitting with the draft posts and can continue today's theme of suicide.

Thierry de la Villehuchet -- an acquaintance of mine -- just killed himself in the after effects of the Madoff case. He had dragged his clients into investing with Madoff . "Killing himself over money?" I kept hearing. No, it is not about the money -- it was other people's money. It is about dignity. I could not help comparing it to Madoff, pictured walking around Manhattan with a faint smirk --totally insensitive to the harm he caused

This is an aristocratic act coming from an aristocratic character: you take your own life when you believe that you failed somewhere -- and the solution is to inflict the ultimate penalty on yourself.
It is not the money; but the embarrassment, the shame, the guilt that are hard to bear. Someone callous, indifferent to the harm done to others would have lived comfortably ("it is all about money"). A life of shame is not worth living. Christianity never allowed suicide; the stoics did --it allows a man to get the last word with fate.

Entry 106 [On killing oneself] in Nassim Taleb's notebook

Thinking way too much about Seneca on occasions, and fairly simplistic stuff like the deviant thrills of being Nero's tutor and how he made his $ / passed his days compared to how I make mine and pass my own. In addition, he's on the shelf with other long, long dead people, and I'm aware the worlds that their works were intended to acts as guides within were filled with problems that are alien to me in both their concrete horror and wild opportunities. There are no bath house orgies or man vs. hippo fights in my neighborhood, no living gods or slaves.

When you read the classics these are people writing in refined dictatorships ruled by superstition, ritual, intrigue and luck, with arbitrary arrest, exile and death always possibilities, along with the more mundane dental mishaps and trivial accidents / illnesses that get out of hand and prove fatal. In large parts of the world these conditions still prevail, but here I'm safe from nearly everything but traffic and cancer, although on this point I surely lack imagination.

Take all the knowledge now required to be thought of as an educated, informed individual and these writers had almost none of it, and suffered hardly, if at all, for the lack. I don't know what this means for me.

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