On Suicide

The thing about saying anything less than negative about suicide is that your audience will try to blame the position on the fact you’re feeling suicidal, a position they are certain you would not hold if things were going well.

So the best time for me to write on this topic is now, at a time that I’m feeling quite positive.

Suicide. I tend to believe that a good number of suicides, perhaps a majority, were attempted while the individual was short-sighted. Life most certainly has a way of evolving out of a bad spot into something quite amazing.

I was suicidal after my divorce 2 decades ago. A depression held me in its grip for more than 2 years. The pain of the divorce kept me in a dark, but very introspective4 and creative mode. As I slowly emerged from the darkness and looked around me, I realized that life can morph into hundreds of different and brighter forms. I’m so very glad I did not end my life at that time.

However, this is not always possible for everyone at every time. There are situations that allow little hope for future happiness. This is seldom the end of a relationship. It more often occurs when a sickness or disease makes life unbearable due to the physical or emotional pain.

Age is also a factor. Each year I feel more and more satisfied I’ve lived life. There are still many things I intend to do, but I don’t think anyone can say Phil did not live a very full life. So, if I found myself experiencing excruciating pain with no hope of relief, I’d have no problem considering suicide as an option.

While acute and relentless physical pain may be a common legitimate reason to contemplate suicide, I think there are very few cases in which emotional pain would warrant suicide. Admittedly I base this on the fact that I came out of, what I considered to be, an extremely painful depression after my divorce. There may be degrees of depression I have not experienced, or situations in which the emotional pain does not subside. But I tend to doubt it. I don’t think I’ll ever again think about suicide simply due to emotional pain.

The following are the factors I think everyone suffering physical pain should carefully weigh before considering suicide.

The severity of your pain.
The hope of recovery.
Your potential productivity in spite of the pain, giving special consideration to the degree that you can help others.
The degree to which you have already had a great life.
Those negatively affected by your death.

The factors you should not consider include the following.

What others think is the “moral” decision for you to make.
The way your death will be a way to “get back at” or “take revenge on” anyone.

I would suggest that, in most cases, consulting those you love is a good idea. And you definitely do not want to leave anyone you love uninformed about your reasons, leading to them blaming themselves in some way. But ultimately, it is your life to end. If you have family members who would rather see you in immense pain than to have you missing from their overly-dependent lives, don’t feel guilty about deciding what is right for you…and probably also best for them.

Well, that was a bit too somber. Time to get back to living!


Unlucky November

Most of 2010 was exceptionally fun and productive. Then came November.The trauma began but a few minutes into the month and didn’t let up until the last few minutes of the 30th. Allow me to wallow in self-pity and enumerate.

  • At a Halloween party at 12:30am November 1st, I noticed that my wallet containing a significant amount of cash was missing from my bag. It has not yet returned.
  • I had 2 fillings fall out of my teeth.
  • I suffered a knee injury while cycling that bothered me all month.
  • A younger friend died of a brain aneurysm while playing tennis. He was a great guy, lived life very vigorously, and died the way that he probably would have wanted.
  • I had to replace my iPod which died suddenly.
  • My computer started to refuse to connect to monitors, significantly affecting my work.
  • My bicycle’s rear wheel broke 4 spokes within 2 weeks. I finally purchased a new wheel. The next week I had a puncture. The following week my rack snapped in two. The last day of November, my chain caught and snapped my shifter in two. While pushing my bicycle the nearly 4 kilometers home, I had several people staring and smirking at me. I reached home about an hour before the end of November, looked in a mirror, and realized that all the smirks were due to a large streak of bicycle grease across my face.

If I believed in Santa, and months were exams, I’d ask him for a retake of November…or at least a phenomenal December.

The Meek Shall Inherit A Soaking

Last Sunday in Tokyo, my Buddhist Kiwi friend Jesse, a physics teacher in Taiwan, while inquiring in broken Japanese about a vegetarian restaurant, found a woman who seemed willing to assist him, only to find himself being led to a church full of Japanese Evangelicals who proceeded to take advantage of his accommodating personality and baptized him by immersion. Is this a sign of the end times?

Blood On The Yamanote

0604DSC01601bAn obasan (older woman) boarded the Yamanote train car I was sitting in tonight. There were 2 empty seats between me and a salaryman on my left. The obasan began to sit down next to the salaryman, hesitated, then moved to sit next to me. I was elated, thinking that I was finally moving up on the Japanese social ladder after a decade of avoidance.

Then I noticed something odd about the row of Japanese faces sitting across the aisle from me. Continue reading

Machida Madness

biketripI‘m in Machida. When I left my apartment on my bicycle last night, I had no intention of being in Machida at 7 am, but here I sit juicing up on caffeine, and waiting for the shops to open. I stopped at Heartland Bar last night around 10 pm for one glass of wine, then left around 11 pm for my favorite Zest Restaurant near Shimokitazawa at which I can plug in and geek out all night. I left Zest around 3:30 am, feeling good and thinking I might ride around Shimokitazawa just to enjoy the cool morning air. Then I spied a road I had never been on, and decided to explore a bit. It was headed in the direction of Tama River, so I decided to give it a go. Whenever I came to one of the several forks in the road, I pointed my bicycle in the direction of a most excellent full moon. I stopped briefly at a 24h McDonalds for an energizing 200 yen Big Mac, and to verify my location on Google Maps. I was in my euphoric night mode in which I don’t sit on my bicycle seat, but rather pump madly away at the petals while listening to my stimulating science and philosophy podcasts. Then I saw a sign that said “Machida 20 Kilometers”. Continue reading

Becoming Japanese

Here are the top 10 reasons why I feel I may have been in the Tokyo sauna a bit too long.

10 -> I can sit patiently for 20 minutes while the person across from me formulates an answer to my question.

09 -> I will carry garbage around in my briefcase for days until I find the appropriate bin.

08 -> I find myself annoyed by foreigners, especially Americans. They talk too loud and excessively, and point at others with their fingers…just as I used to.

07 -> When making a purchase, I feel the obsession to minimize the number of coins I end up with.

06 -> My eyes now appropriately glaze over with detachment as I ride the train. When I get off an hour later, I can’t remember a single one of the faces that had been sitting across from me. However, I will spot every small object dropped behind by others and quickly alert them.

05 -> I feel acute guilt when I wear shoes in my own apartment, even with no one else around.

04 -> I can now expertly impart social guilt upon a violator of social mores by by staring past them with a barely detectable expression of scorn.

03 -> I can ride my bicycle while talking on my phone and holding an umbrella.

02 -> I simply smile and shrug whenever I lose my wallet and happily await its return without the slightest worry.

01 -> Yesterday, while walking pass a barber standing in the doorway of his shop, I became acutely aware of my bald head, bowed and apologized. No kidding.


youngSo I’m out with my son Josh last night, and admittedly I’m dress a bit young for my age. We meet 2 girls around the age of Josh who is 24. The dilemma is whether to claim I’m Josh’s father or brother. If I say father, no one believes me. If I say brother, no one gives it a second thought, but I feel pangs of guilt. So I let the girls decide. They predictably laugh at the suggestion that I’m his father, and are content to consider us brothers. One of the girls thinks I’m around 28. The other says 26. I know that there is the Japanese “politeness” factor where 5 or so years are deducted from what is actually thought, so in the dim light of a club I probably look in my early 30s. Life is good.

I do keep myself healthy with a balanced diet and a good degree of exercise, but it must be noted that I looked 14 when I was 18, and it was quite annoying then with kids my age or younger speaking a bit condescendingly to me. So, I’m going to consider this current state of affairs just recompense.

Looking younger than your age also allow you to appear to be a young man who has maturity beyond his years. I played this card well in university (I returned to school in my mid-30s) where my professors graded me well for my surprising profundity, not knowing my actual age. My other friends who appear closer to their age cannot as easily dismiss social pressure to “act their age”. I feel that this notion of “age-appropriate behavior” is an unfortunate myth that the unhappy attempt to impose on those who are having fun. I still dance without apology. I date young (if intelligent and stable) girls. I’m not afraid to act goofy. Life is good.

Perhaps this is one reason why I blog. It allows me to hide my “youth” and project a persona that is more in line with my inner thought life that reflects experience and insights more typical of someone my actual age. This you can debate. In any case, it is great fun to hang out with your sons as their brother. Life is good.

The photo is not of me. It is my sister’s baby.