Thursday, April 19, 2007

The VT killer

Naturally, G.K. Chesterton wrote the best and sanest judgment on suicide:
Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings; it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds, but the suicide is not; that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury; for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the crossroads and the stake driven through the body... There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man's crime is different from other crimes--for it makes even crimes impossible.


I read some of the killer's "manifesto" and found it pretty much what you'd expect from a lunatic - hopelessly self-absorbed and self-pitying. Nothing in the world existed except him and his grievances, and everyone and everything was a prop in his tiny, self-centered drama. I'm sure he thought he was making very grand and sweeping condemnations of the world and society, but I think I've never come across anything so small. Chesterton also diagnosed this sort of madman:
If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman(like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connnecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections....Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. A bullet is quite as round as the world, but it is not the world. There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity; you may see it in many modern religions. Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction.

In the VT killer's case, the world seemed to have contracted into one tiny dot, with himself at the center. And then, as Chesterton said, he obliterated the world.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mrs. Falstaff said...

Here is a second attempt to leave a comment, please forgive me if I repeat myself!

I don't agree with Chesterton about suicide. I myself have contemplated suicide a couple of times, and when I was in that mindset, I has myself absolutely convinced that my family and friends would be better off without me. The suicide's mindset is generally a mentally ill one, not "pathetic emotional excuses". They might seem pathetic from the perspective of someone who is mentally healthy; however, the mentally ill person is incapable of seeing that.

10:24 am  
Anonymous Mrs. Falstaff said...

Good grief, the grammar in that comment is awful. I wish I could erase it and start over, sorry. Please blame my head cold.

10:25 am  

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