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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Nick, What's the Best Way to Kill Myself?

6 min read

This is a story about email...

Inbox

When I wake up in the morning, I'm greeted by an inbox full of emails from people asking what the best way to commit suicide is. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given the thousands of readers I have every day, reading stuff I wrote about suicide methods. However, I thought I made it pretty clear in what I wrote that, deliberately, I wasn't providing any step-by-step instructions, or otherwise endorsing, encouraging, enabling or recommending suicide at all.

I think, at the root of this, we are looking for figures in authority, to make the difficult decisions for us.

It's completely insane to me, that a person in reasonably good physical health, would consider physician-assisted suicide. Why bother? It's really not hard to kill yourself. I think that we -mostly- live in a safe world, with a nanny state attempting to 'protect' us from everything. We scurry to the doctor, asking the dumbest most common-sense questions, because we feel reassured that a person of high social status - a demi-god - is dispensing blatantly obvious advice from a 'magic' building, while wearing a 'magic' white coat, and with a 'magic' stethoscope draped around their neck. It's bullshit; it's a sham - your doctor is no more qualified to guide you out of this world than a stranger you met in the street: at some point, everyone is on their own.

I understand perfectly, that we are socially and psychologically conditioned to respond to authority figures. The Milgram experiments have chillingly shown that most of us will administer lethal electric shocks to a person, who is screaming in agony, if we are told to do so by a person wearing a white lab coat, with a clipboard, who officiously tells us that we should kill one of our fellow human beings. Of course, we retain plausible deniability in that we can always say "I was just following orders" just like the Nazis in the concentration camps, who killed millions of Jews.

In a way, perhaps it's a good thing that people reach out to me, hoping that I will give my rubber-stamp of approval for their suicide, which I obviously do not give: I'm not in the business of dishing out those kinds of instructions. If you want to kill yourself, I'm not going to stop you. If you come to me, telling me that you're suicidal, then I'm not going to talk you out of it. I promise. However, I'm also not going to be the person who tells you to do it, or otherwise encourages, endorses, enables or in any way says that suicides are OK. Suicides are inevitable. Suicides are necessary. However, I have made it absolutely crystal clear in everything I've ever written: I don't want any suicides. Zero suicides. No Suicides. I can't make it any clearer than that.

If we want to talk about euthanasia, that's a whole different conversation. For sure, I'm pro-euthanasia. For people who literally can't end their lives with dignity, because their medical condition(s) have robbed them of the physical ability to end their own lives, for sure I am in favour of physician-assisted suicide.

What the fuck do you want from me? Surely you're not so stupid as to know that there are an almost infinite number of ways to kill yourself? You don't need me to tell you what the 'best' way is; to make a recommendation. I already provided ample information on all the methods. OF COURSE I am not going to give you a step-by-step guide: it's your death, so it's your responsibility.

Although it breaks my heart that so many people contact me in crisis, on the verge of committing suicide, it's a good thing that they are looking for my recommendation, approval and very basic instructions on how to end their lives. It's a good thing, because it means that the trivial obstacles are enough to keep them in the land of the living.

Of course, I do not wish to prolong another human being's suffering for a single second longer than absolutely necessary. Absolutely, if I possessed the means to wave my magic wand and take away anybody's suffering, I absolutely would do that. Me telling people - step-by-step - the exact way that they should kill themselves, in a way that shifts personal responsibility onto myself, is not responsible, right, useful, ethical, or otherwise conscionable. If you want to kill yourself, you'll find a way. If you NEED to kill yourself, you'll find a way. There's a whole internet of information out there, for those who are properly motivated.

I hope nobody sees what I've written as a challenge. I hope nobody sees what I've written as calling anybody's bluff. I believe, absolutely, that everyone who contacts me professing a desperate suicidal crisis and the imminent end of their life, is telling the truth; they are to be wholeheartedly believed. Their situations are desperately sad, and my heart bleeds. However, I am not operating a euthanasia clinic. I am not qualified to judge people's lives as hopeless, and dispense the means to end lives. Only YOU are qualified to judge whether your life is bearable - liveable - or not, and to then take the necessary steps as appropriate. If you wail that you do not know what those steps are, then I'm afraid that your fate is sealed: your desire to remain alive is stronger than your desire to pursue one of the infinite avenues open to you, to end your life.

I'm absolutely not asking you to stop writing. Please continue to write. However, I'm setting your expectations quite clearly: I will not, ever, tell you the "best" method of suicide, nor will I do anything to enable your suicide, nor endorse it, nor approve it, nor in any way get involved in your life-and-death decision, other than to say that I empathise very strongly with your plight - your crisis - and I'm very sad that things reached such a desperate situation. I will listen. I will understand, as much as possible. However, I won't try to talk you out of it. Think about all of this, if you get in contact: I'm totally not going to say you shouldn't do it, but I'm totally not going to say that you should either, or tell you how you should do it. That's your business, not mine.

 

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Infamy

3 min read

This is a story about wanting to be noticed...

Why I write

This is not a pity party, and everyone has an equally valid claim to misery and depression, but it's important - to me - that I relate this part of the most influential period of my life.

At home, I could do nothing right, and was largely ignored other than as an ornament; a clothes horse; a performing animal, let out of its cage to delight the adults, as a party trick, and otherwise told to be quiet and keep out of the way.This, I think, is not unusual, but was greatly exacerbated my lack of a sibling until the age of 10, and my parents' extreme anti-social behaviour, which left me isolated in the extreme: often in very remote rural areas; far from friends and schoolmates.

At school, I could not avoid attention of the wrong kind. My parents' obsession with training me as their performing animal, for their party tricks, meant that I was either alone, or doing my routine for adults. I had no relationships with children, before school. If you want to fuck up your children and ruin their lives, it's quite easy: do everything in your power to make them different so that they don't fit in; deprive them of every opportunity to socialise; force them to act like little adults, instead of allowing them to be children - that will guarantee that they won't fit in at all at school, and they will be bullied from dawn to dusk, every. single. fucking. day.

Good manners and confidence in the company of adults did, briefly, confer an advantage in the workplace. This supposed 'maturity' was useful for making a good first impression. Employers certainly mistook me for a person who was mature beyond their years, but this was entirely superficial: a party trick learned, because it was the only way I was able to receive praise as a child - from the small amount of adult company my parents kept; those rare occasions when I was trotted out and expected to perform. However, I had no maturity at all - the social isolation, the neglect and the deprivation, was masked and hidden behind impeccable manners and precise diction; expansive vocabulary, learned from books.

As life has worn on, my age relative to my peers has become less obvious, less remarkable. Instead, those deep wounds inflicted in childhood have come to the fore. Exacerbated by extreme stress and intolerable circumstances, the socially isolated child, deprived of a social life and otherwise ill-equipped to face the world with the same skills and experience of his peers, has resurfaced. I feel as though I'm suffering the same horrors again.

In extreme circumstances, we revert to 'type'... our 'true' personality surfaces, and our mask slips.

I wonder to myself, as I write stuff which is read by thousands of people who are suffering a life-and-death crisis in their lives, whether I am flirting with infamy. Why do I not implore them to seek professional help and bombard them with crisis counselling phone numbers?

Maybe I'm evil.

[Note: I lost a few hundred words here, because of an auto-save glitch, but I can't be bothered to re-type what I wrote. I hope it still makes sense without the conclusion, as I originally wrote it]

 

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Betrayal

4 min read

This is a story about the saddest girl in the world...

Cone of shame

My beautiful, gentle, little baby girl, has suffered a dreadful betrayal. I can't tell you exactly what the first 12 weeks of her life were like. I know that she had to contend with a house full of small children, dogs and other cats, which can't have been easy. When I got her home, she explored the whole house very cautiously, as if expecting that the place would be stuffed full of creatures which would manhandle her; a tiny placid little kitten, picked up like a toy, or jostled by the over-excited play of bigger animals. I don't think she was abused but she certainly wasn't used to being her own self, unmolested.

I can tell you exactly what every single day of her life has been like since July 3rd, 2020, because we have been inseparable. I've hardly left the house. Wherever I've been - in bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in my office, in my lounge - she's been right there, next to me. We've been two peas in a pod. We've been constant companions for each other.

Ragdoll cats are very placid. They are famous for going limp when you pick them up. Obviously, I've wanted to fuss and cuddle my gorgeous fur baby all the time, but I try to respect her independence too. I tried, from the very moment I got her home, to give her space to do whatever she wants to do, whenever she wants to do it: she's the queen of the castle, and she's got the run of the place; she can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, and I try not to interfere.

Over the course of us bonding, her trust has grown. To begin with, she always quietly tolerated my desire to pick her up and stroke her. She always wanted to be nearby, but never obviously sought affection. Slowly, more and more, she will decide that she wants attention and affection, and she will stand on my chest and headbutt my head, or rub herself on me. She drapes herself across me and 'makes biscuits' - kneading me and suckling on me, in a very relaxed and kittenish way. She's clearly been very fond of her human.

Now I have betrayed her.

She's so trusting that this third visit to the vet, she didn't make much effort to hide when I got her cat carrier out. She didn't put up much of a protest about me putting her into her cat carrier. She didn't make a sound when I drove her to the vet. Apparently, she was very friendly, playful and relaxed before her operation.

Her trust has been broken.

She woke up from her operation, and she was upset with the vet's assistant, because of the betrayal. My poor little baby was trembling when I picked her up.

I had to put her 'cone of shame' on when I got her home, to stop her from licking her stitches, so that the wound heals well and doesn't get infected. She's really had a very bad day, because of me and other humans, who've betrayed her trust.

I really hope she gets over it, in time, and will trust me again. It's really sad, because I think she'd been having a really nice life up until this point, and she really thought that her human was a super nice person who she could trust.

Now she's trying to figure out how to eat with her cone on. She's got the frustration of having to wear it for weeks, and I have to be the cruel human who forces her to keep it on. I'm the cruel human who put it on her.

 

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Dumbest Guy in the Room

4 min read

This is a story about being opinionated...

Boardroom

I cannot shut up. I will not shut up. I could not shut up, even if I wanted to. Sometimes I do want to shut up, although my colleagues would probably snort with laughter at such a notion. In fact, sometimes I can force myself to shut up, a little bit, but it doesn't last very long.

The problem is, that thoughts pop into my head - relevant, useful thoughts - which then spew out of my mouth, after only a moment of hesitation to see if anybody else is going to say anything. To say that I engage my mouth before my brain is quite untrue. In fact, my brain is very thoroughly engaged, meaning that I seem to have ample time to process everything that's being said, think of something relevant and useful, to deliberately hesitate to think about who else might have something they want or need to say, and also to simply give other people a chance to make a contribution... then having completed that process, I speak.

The way that people act in large organisations is weird. Whenever there's a large meeting, like a town hall, whenever somebody asks "any questions?" there's an unwritten rule that nobody is supposed to ask any questions. I follow that rule, because otherwise I'd be hated by my colleagues. I mean, more hated than I am already for being so outspoken.

I've started to get really bored of the sound of my own voice. I very much dislike hearing myself so much. I worry a great deal about how much I talk, versus most of my other colleagues.

I'm the dumb guy in the room. I'm the guy who doesn't seem to realise that we all get paid anyway, whether I make a contribution or not; that we all get paid anyway, whether I'm paying attention or not; that we all get paid anyway... so why bother? The smart guys in the room know that it's best to zone out, switch off, not contribute, keep schtum, and just hope that it somehow makes the working day pass a little more quickly.

It doesn't.

If you go to lots and lots of interminable boring meetings, for sure you don't want to prolong them for any longer than they absolutely must do. For sure, there are good reasons for hating the desperately ambitious people, who ask questions for the sake of making an impression with the more senior members of staff in the organisation, when everybody in the room really wants to go to lunch or go home. For sure, it's idiotic to waste so many people's time, showing off to a roomful of colleagues.

But.

I'm able to get out of bed in the morning because I care about the project I'm working on. When I don't care, the depression is so bad that I can't get up; I can't face it; I can't face the boredom.

I don't know how people do it. How do people, for years and years, turn up at an office for 40+ hours a week, just to make up the numbers; just to be zoned out and not interested in making a contribution?

For sure, there's a difference in how assertive people are. For sure, I'm at the extreme end of assertive, bordering on downright aggressive: I will be heard. For sure, I must be drowning others, more hesitant than I, out of the conversation; out of the discussion.

It's a dumb move. Work is, primarily, a popularity contest. Promotions are based on how much a person is liked by their superiors, not on merit, qualifications, experience, hard work, grit, determination, attitude, or any of the other bullshit which we're told is what promotions are based on. No. Sorry. Wrong. It's all based on popularity. If you want to get promoted, you must be popular with those who are making the promotion decision. It's that simple. No exceptions.

Mercifully, I don't want to be promoted. I'm already director of my own company. I can't be promoted: I'm already the top dog; the main man; the head honcho.

Mercifully, I don't have to play the corporate game. I can just get on with my job, as a professional, which means being as productive and useful as possible, to ensure a successful project outcome.

Sure, I'd like to be popular as well, but I find it's hard to be effective, productive and be popular: the two are often mutually exclusive.

I definitely don't want to be an asshole though. That would suck.

 

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Aide-Mémoire

4 min read

This is a story about writing prompts...

Book

During a more exciting and varied, but also chaotic period of my life, I habitually made a note of writing prompts for myself. I was able to stay somewhat on top of these sparks of inspiration, and turn them into essays, but the list still grew longer and longer.

I've started writing a list of writing prompts again. Currently it has 10 items on it, which have inspired me to write 3 completed essays, which I've now published.

The other thing which inspires me to write, I must admit, is my readers. My readers write to me, which I'm very grateful for, but even those who do not are inspiring me by reading, because there's nothing worse than feeling ignored, irrelevant or otherwise non-existent. However, there's also a temptation - which I try to avoid - of writing stuff which I know will bring me more readers. What's the point of making art, if you're doing it just for popularity and notoriety - surely that isn't art at all?

The majority of my readers - thousands per day - are new readers. Perhaps [most of] my social media followers and [most] friends have tired of the repetitive nature of my writing; the repetition of my story; the lack of any dramatic change in my circumstances. There isn't much narrative in my writing, because there isn't much narrative in my life. In the adventures of employee man, one day looks very much like the next.

Of course, I am grateful that I have a semi-secure source of income - albeit only in the short term - and I have stability and routine. My health and wealth are thriving, relatively speaking, thanks to the boring repetition which is the backbone of my life.

Perhaps I'll dig some more hair-raising tales of near-death and destitution out of my memory banks, to amuse and entertain my readers, but I did promise myself that I wouldn't dwell on the past, and I would attempt to start a new chapter. I would very much like it if I had a substantial period of boring "this is what I ate for breakfast" type typical run-of-the-mill yawnfest blog vapid bullshit, to put some distance between the chaotic, traumatic and nearly fatal period of my life, and the stable, secure life which seems within touching distance; tantalisingly close.

It feels a little odd to not be in the mood to write, because of low social media engagement, given that I almost exclusively transmit - never receive - and otherwise do not engage myself in discourse; do not engage with the community; do not socialise on social media, per se. A cynical accusation that I want to take, but I never give, could be levelled at me, and I would have little defence; I admit that I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with the lives of my Twitter friends, although I am extremely grateful for their continued support, and the occasional message or cat pic.

Also, I'm a little burnt out. I've been working very hard on a demanding project, and I'm extremely emotionally invested; I've been working with maximum intensity. In addition, of course, I pour my guts out every day onto the pages of this website. Writing and publishing a halfway-decent essay every day is not trivial. Those who say I'm not generous with my time and effort, are being unnecessarily cruel and unkind, if not downright wrong.

I'm not out in the community helping little old grannies cross the road or picking up litter, but people do write to me from all around the world every day, to say that my writing has been helpful - in some way - to them. I'm not saying that what I'm doing is particularly praiseworthy, or patting myself on the back in general, but I do put a lot of effort in, and that effort is not entirely a fool's errand.

Anyway, that was today's essay. I hope you liked it. Even just a teeny tiny bit.

 

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Vanity Publishing

5 min read

This is a story about a crowded market...

Art stuff

Remind me again why only certain people are allowed to make music, literature and art. Remind me again why the rest of us are banned from releasing our creative endeavours into the world. Remind me again why the creative arts are the sole preserve of the spoiled brattish kids of rich indulgent parents.

Oh yes. That's right. The internet changed all that.

Sure, the old gatekeepers are still there. Sure, if you want to get signed to a record label, a publishing house, a gallery or some other elitist institution, and publish using their marketing machine, then you'll need to kiss their arses and play by their rules.

Sure, the new gatekeepers are now in place. If you want to have a heap of subscribers on your YouTube channel, listeners on Spotify, or readers on your website, then you'll have to play by the rules of the algorithms; you'll have to comply with the demands of those digital platforms.

But.

Previously, only the likes of a multimillionaire rock star - like Brian Eno - would be able to afford professional-grade music production equipment. Previously, only the likes of a multimillionaire famous author - like Jeffrey Archer - would have been able to self-publish a book. Previously, only a multimillionaire artist - like Damien Hirst - would have been able to get their art seen by vast numbers of people.

Now.

Now is the time of self-publishing.

Sure, it's not great being locked into a platform like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, Apple, Spotify or suchlike, in order to get your art out into the world, but it does level the playing field a little. Sure, self-promotion is hard work, and it's still impossible to give up the day job, unless you have a trust fund; the barrier to entry is still extremely high. However, in some ways, the barrier to entry is quite low.

A friend of mine has a YouTube channel, filled with 90+ minute monologues. I sometimes browse the latest videos which my friend has published, and I think "oh god, that's me, isn't it? Pumping out long insane monologues, out into the ether of the internet, where nobody really takes any notice". Not to denigrate my friend's creative output at all, but I am incredibly fearful that I'm adding nothing but noise into the world.

I offer you a quote (as I very rarely do) which I often think about:

"[George] Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. [Aldous] Huxley feared those who would give us so much [information] that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism" -- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

I think we are living in Huxley's feared dystopia, in the context of being overwhelmed with information. The 4th industrial revolution - the information revolution - has created the most complicated man-made object: the internet. I often worry that the internet is a curse, not a blessing, given that I end up empathising with the plight of a Fijian villager whose prize pig was stolen, literally on the other side of the world. I rarely leave the house; I rarely talk to my neighbours, but every morning I wake up to an inbox full of people asking me "what's the best way to kill myself?" and "why are you not dead?". The internet is a mixed blessing.

I might look back on this period of creativity with cynicism, bitterness and a jaded outlook, which causes me to think that I was wasting my time. I might - feeling depressed and anxious - reflect that my writing wasn't very good; that I was making a fool of myself in public. The whole endeavour might seem very cringeworthy and embarrassing, with retrospect.

The internet doesn't forget, very easily. I'm somewhat etched into the fabric of the internet now. Stuff I've written is quite literally etched onto metal with lasers, and buried in the Arctic, to preserve it for posterity. Not, I might add, at my own expense. My vanity and ego are gigantic, but not quite big enough -yet- to embark on such a folly as burying some digital keepsakes beneath the frozen tundra; a monument to my own stupidity.

Of course, nobody in their right mind spends 5+ years of their life, writing and publishing 1.3 million words, which remained for the vast majority of that time, largely unread; unnoticed. I am, obviously, more unhinged than my friend with a YouTube channel: at least they didn't have to go to the effort of painstakingly constructing pleasing prose, checked for spelling and grammar, and accompanied by a hand-chosen photo which was Photoshopped to improve it, before publishing. Only a madman would go to all that effort, unpaid; unrewarded.

 

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I ❤️ a Crisis

3 min read

This is a story about the proverbial hitting the fan...

Hotdesk

It's often said that most fires are started by bored firemen who want to be heroes, but there are too few fires to fight. Eventually, when we've prepared for the worst for a very long time, it is us ourselves who precipitate a crisis, because we can't stand waiting for the blows to rain down upon us any longer.

Similarly, my profession incorporates a lot of planning for disasters. Quite literally, part of my job is to consider what would happen in event of nuclear holocaust, tsunami, hurricane or other apocalyptic event. If I wasn't planning for disasters to happen, I wouldn't be doing my job right.

I am not, by the way, planning to launch any kind of nuclear attack.

Banks have lots of empty desks like the ones pictured above. These are disaster recovery desks. In the event of a disaster, in theory, the financial markets could continue to function: the traders who have survived the disaster would be able to make their way to the nearest building which still has power and data, to carry on working. This is business-as-usual for the banking and wider financial services sector: it happily plans for the destruction of civilisation, while ensuring that asset prices are still protected. The world might burn to the ground, but at least the shareholders retain most of their paper wealth, is the ethos.

The thing I live in fear of the most is: boredom.

I was incredibly worried that the next 6 months of my life were going to be excruciatingly boring. It's my professional duty to ensure things are as boring as possible. I'm paid handsomely to ensure that things go smoothly and successfully, but it makes for a pretty boring life. I much prefer life when everything's on fire. It's bloody brilliant when everyone's losing their cool all around me, and I get to have some fun being the hero, fixing stuff; enjoying some pressure and excitement. But, it would be unprofessional of me to deliberately - or at least provably - cook up a crisis.

Now, a situation has fallen in my lap. Instead of dreading the next few months, I'm looking forward to working my butt off to sort things out, with a high-pressure drop-dead deadline. This is the stuff I really relish. This is the sort of stuff that gets me out of bed in the morning, as well as the generous remuneration.

I love it when stuff goes wrong.

 

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Survivorship Bias

5 min read

This is a story about chaotic lives...

Quantum eraser

I once spent the best part of a year reading theoretical physics books and papers, voraciously devouring the literature. I was obsessed with the subject - as a keen amateur - and still am, to some extent. My enthusiasm was so great, that I corresponded at length with some theoretical physics professors from around the world, who were kind enough to indulge me.

As with so many who catch the theoretical physics bug, I was fascinated by the idea that a theory so central to all of modern science - quantum mechanics - might have different interpretations, all equally unprovable, but a lot of fun to think about. The two which are most worthwhile talking about are the many-worlds interpretation (often known simply as "MWI") and the many-minds interpretation. I shan't summarise them here. I leave it as an exercise for the reader, if you are intrigued, to find the Wikipedia pages.

The many-worlds interpretation is something we are very familiar with, from books, films and TV. The concept of parallel universes is so ubiquitous, that it doesn't merit further discussion.

The many-minds interpretation is, oddly, quite obscure... but there are experimental hints that this interpretation might be closer to the fundamental nature of reality, than the many-worlds interpretation. I won't delve into either theory, except to explain some of the challenges to conventional wisdom, which are unintuitive to us.

I will not, of course, bore you with the "duality of light" wave/particle stuff, or Schrödinger's cat etc. which have been talked about ad nauseam, such that everyone is vaguely aware of it.

I will not, or course, talk about relativity. Not useful here.

So. Here's the thing. We like to think that our observations are independent. If I see something, then it happened for any and all observers. Let's take the tree falling in the forest. We agree that if nobody observed it, it's quite possible that it didn't make a sound. Fine. Good. However, most of us would say that if just one person saw the tree fall in the forest and heard it make a sound, then it absolutely did make a sound in this observable universe, for all observers. In other words, whatever happens for one person - observably - happens for everybody, even if they didn't observe the event.

Not true.

There's good evidence that each of us experiences his or her own 'version' of reality, and our observations can be different, despite us NOT living in parallel universes. It should be noted that I'm not talking about relativity. We know that when a person is travelling faster than us, or closer to a massive object, time flows at a different rate for them, such that our synchronised wrist watches would show a different time, when compared with each other at a later date - that's just relativity (special and general, respectively) and that's not what I'm talking about, even though it's pretty mind blowing. No... what I'm talking about is two different experimental observers observing different stuff - one says that the tree in the forest made a sound when it fell, and the other says it was silent. It would seem - at a quantum level at least - that this kind of observer independence is entirely supported by experimental results. Search for Wigner's friend if you want to read more on that one.

Anyway, moving on to the original point of my essay, I'm a little bit fascinated by quantum suicide. Quantum suicide says that if we were to use a binary quantum event - something with a 50/50 chance of happening - in order to commit suicide, then weirdly, we would never be killed. Because we are the observer in the experiment, in all the instances where we are killed, we are no longer around to observe the results, so - implicitly - we only remain conscious, as an observer, in the case where the event which kills us does not occur. All clear?

Further, I often think that it's quite remarkable that I've survived up until this point in my life, given the vast quantity of near-death experiences I've had, and the reckless risk taking. However, my survival is not evidence that the probability of my death was lower than I had estimated: quite the opposite. There are two distinct possibilities: firstly, I've been extremely lucky, and anybody else who copied my behaviour is almost certain to die. Secondly, I'm unaware of all the infinite ways that I've died, snuffing out my consciousness, and therefore leaving me unable to recount this tale of miraculously cheating death.

I am - to a small extent - somewhat convinced that there's truth in the many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics, given my first-hand experiences. I may, in fact, calculate the odds that I should have survived everything that I have survived, in order to put a precise figure on exactly how improbable it is that I'm alive, thus providing some empirical evidence for the many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics... although readers should beware of survivorship bias: if you copy my behaviour, you will most certainly die.

 

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Superiority Complex

5 min read

This is a story about delusions of grandeur...

Thought bubble

The problem with slinging pseudoscientific mud, is that sooner or later you're going to come up against somebody who knows what they're talking about; they're able to rigorously follow the scientific method, and they can see right through the dumbed-down pathetic attempts to create popular ideas, which prey upon our preconceived notions, our biases, our vanity and our insecurities.

If we look at applications for university places, there are vast numbers who want to study arts and humanities subjects. Then, the social 'sciences' are the next most popular. Bottom of the pile, in terms of popularity, are the difficult, dry, technical subjects: mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics, computing. You cannot 'blag' that you know what you're talking about in a technical subject: there are right answers and wrong answers, and no amount of blagging will convince anybody that you're right, when you're wrong, and you're provably wrong.

The social 'sciences' - anthropology, sociology, psychology etc - are not sciences. Science follows a strict prescriptive methodology, and anything which doesn't adhere is not science. The social 'sciences' produce nothing but worthless crap, because it's not science - the results of experiments cannot be reproduced. Any experiment which doesn't have reproducible results, is a non-experiment; a waste of time; absolutely useless.

In an attempt to appear like real medical science, psychiatry has attempted to apply statistical methods, to make the diagnosis of pathologies of the mind, into a supposedly objective exercise. In theory, the patient's symptoms are all that are needed in order to make an accurate diagnosis, via the power of statistics - so, in theory, there's no need for psychiatrists any more. We should, in theory, be able to diagnose ourselves and then simply obtain the required medication from a pharmacist: no doctors required.

No. No. No. The psychiatrists say.

You need us to interpret these hard statistics, and add our own opinions. Say the psychiatrists.

So, what happened to this being a scientific process, driven by data and statistics?

The truth is that everyone will use their knowledge and position of authority in order to pursue their power games. Psychiatrists will never use a scientific statistical method, because then they become redundant.

Unfortunately, psychologists have latched onto psychiatry's attempt to become more scientific, and lend some credibility to their profession. Psychologists are probably more obsessed with statistical methods for 'diagnosis' than psychiatrists are. Psychologists, who, let us remember, were not clever enough to become doctors, engineers, mathematicians etc, opted for a profession where there are no right or wrong answers; anything you say is equally dumb and meaningless. Of course, psychologists would want to pretend like there was any kind of rigour, any kind of methodology, data or statistics, behind their work.

There isn't.

The problem with psychologists latching onto the work of psychiatry, is that they try to import theories and apply them. Psychologists - especially amateur wannabe psychologists of the armchair variety - love to throw around labels like "psychopath", "sociopath", "narcissist" etc. when in fact, those labels were only intended to ever apply to the tiniest fraction of humanity. How can it be meaningful to call every man you've ever met a "pathological narcissist"? How have rare medical conditions gone beyond that of an epidemic, to now become things which affect the vast majority of humanity?

It hasn't happened.

Only a tiny fraction of the human race suffer from pathologies such as narcissism and sociopathy.

You can't just label people you don't like with psychiatric pathologies.

It's dumb.

Amateur psychologists are dumb.

Psychiatric language is ubiquitous in our culture. We use terms like "crazy", "mad", "loony", "loopy", "wacky" and every other flavour of term for 'insanity' to mean everything on the spectrum, from upset and angry, to schizophrenic psychosis. We call ourselves "OCD" when we just mean neat, tidy and clean. We call ourselves "bipolar" when we just mean moody. Meanwhile, depression and anxiety are so common, and so many of us are medicated, that we hardly even bother to talk about the fact we've been diagnosed with those illnesses anymore - we make memes about killing ourselves; we make memes about how dysfunctional we are.

To talk about a 'superiority complex' in the present day, is like giving out speeding tickets to the competitors at the Silverstone Formula One grand prix race. To talk about 'narcissism' is something that you really should do on your YouTube channel, or on your Instagram Story, or on your Facebook page, or one of your TikTok videos. Utterly nonsensical. Unhinged. Mad.

Yes, there are people who are so affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect that they are unable to comprehend the limitations of their abilities: they will never be a mathematician, engineer, chemist, physicist, software engineer or suchlike; they're not clever enough. Those over-confident people's ignorance is not as good as my knowledge. We are, unfortunately, living in an age where vast numbers of people think that their 'life experiences' and 'gut feel' qualifies them to opine on subjects, which they are utterly, dismally ignorant about, exposing their appalling stupidity, much to the chagrin of anybody with half a brain.

So, anyway, I'm sick of pop-psych 'magazines' (especially online) publishing articles about narcissists with superiority complexes. They don't exist... you're just pedalling word-salad, put into the mouths of your readers. Your readers will use that word-salad to attack people they don't like.

 

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An Essay on Mortality

8 min read

This is a story about premature death...

Skull

I was having a panic attack recently. My pulse was racing, with my heart feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest. I was short of breath; I felt like I couldn't breathe; like I couldn't get enough oxygen. I was sure that I was going to die. Then, I realised that I didn't mind if I died. In fact, I decided that I'd be quite glad to be dead. As soon as I thought that, the panic attack abruptly ended.

It occurred to me that my attitude towards death - and mortality - is not at all typical, and as such warrants some discussion.

It's the nature of my profession, to deal with things using strict formal logic. As a result of spending a 23 year full-time career immersed in a world which will truck nothing vague, ambiguous or downright logically flawed, I have ended up being somewhat unable to think in the wooly way, which most ordinary people do. Most people have no attention to detail. Most people are unable to think logically.

The problem with thinking logically, is that it means that life's absurdity is laid bare, and various psychological horrors are visited upon the poor person - me in this case - who make their way through a world which does not utilise reason and logic.

Firstly, to be afraid of death, there must be a reason for wanting to be alive. What is that reason?

"I want to see my kids grow up"

But, why do your kids want to be alive? What was it that you were offering your children, when you decided to have them? What life was it that you thought they might want?

We still have to answer the same question: why does anybody want to be alive?

If your answer is something related to kids, grandkids, great-grandkids or suchlike, then you, I'm afraid, are no different from a slug, a wasp, an amoeba, or any other imbecilic creature, which is driven by its genes to do nothing more than make more copies of its genes. You are, I'm afraid, not a very bright spark. You can stop reading now.

"I like my life; I like being alive"

Okay, this is good stuff, but what is 'liking'? What does it mean to like your life? What does it mean to like being alive? Probably, you mean that you enjoy pleasure, in some form or other. Perhaps you enjoy food, perhaps you enjoy sex, perhaps you enjoy drink or drugs, perhaps you have a hobby. Whatever it is, you are basically a sensation-seeker, and/or pleasure-seeker. This is a little more logical than the slug-wasp-amoeba type morons we mentioned before, but it can still be easily exposed as nothing more than idiocy.

Our brains are evolved to give us small hits of dopamine to reinforce behaviours which increase our chances of individual survival, or increase our species' chance of survival. It's obvious that eating would be enjoyable, because if we didn't eat we'd starve to death. It's obvious that sex would be enjoyable, because if we didn't have sex our species would die out. Again, when we analyse the behaviour, we find that it's nothing more than genes pulling the levers, trying to get us to make more copies of the genes.

"Everything is meaningless"

Yep. Bingo. Everything IS meaningless. Every single bit of evidence of your existence will be obliterated, to the point that it will be as if you never existed. All of your stupid pictures you posted on Instagram, which you think are so great, will be gone, along with any evidence of the human race, the Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way. In the inevitable heat death of the universe, the spreadsheets which your boss asked you to email, are so cosmically unimportant, that it's laughable that you even bothered to send them.

In the context of the ridiculousness anthropocentricity, I struggle to understand what the difference is between a 'premature' death, and a death which supposedly happens at the 'right' time. Of course, I empathise with those who have lost loved ones, too 'early', but logically, death is inevitable. It seems like we are creating a problem, where none need exist.

I do have strong views about the sanctity of human life, insofar as one human killing another, directly or indirectly. I am incensed with rage at lazy baby boomers and other greedy capitalists, hoarding scarce housing, during a housing crisis; forcing people into miserable minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs, which cause suffering and suicide at epidemic proportions. Of course, you might ask why I would care, when such concerns are of cosmic insignificance; in the long run, we're all dead. The answer is easy: life is so absurd, so I treat it like a game. I can see that the game is horrendously rigged, but at least I can see that it doesn't matter if I die - I can't 'lose' per se - so I can play to 'win' in ways that nobody else does. While others try to spawn as many progeny as possible, or accumulate as many shiny round pieces of metal, or paper with numbers on, or both... I'm free to do whatever the hell I want, within the confines of a mortal body, trapped by nature's weakest fundamental force, on a rock floating in a vacuum, orbiting a nuclear fusion reaction.

I don't revel in the absurdity of life. I am miserable and I suffer. I have no answer for how to be happy. In fact, I think that happiness cannot co-exist with knowledge, beyond a certain point. Perhaps if I had one piece of advice, it would be to avoid theoretical physics and cosmology, because they seem quite incompatible with happiness - ignorance is bliss.

I have friends with life-limiting illnesses, and to them, my essay must seem very rude and inconsiderate; arrogant. I have friends who have loved ones who died 'prematurely' or who are dying (of something other than... well... what I don't know. Newsflash: we're all dying). I know that death is a real taboo, presumably because our genes are hard-wired for survival. It's been a big evolutionary advantage, to select against anybody who doesn't fear death, or who's prepared to talk about death as a preferable alternative to life.

When we view life as suffering, struggling and misery - which it is - then we must ask ourselves again: is it better to be dead? Of course, we originally asked why we wanted to be alive, but when we ask ourselves the much more straightforward question, why do we want to be dead, then the answers come much more readily. Here are a few reasons to be dead: you don't have to get up in the morning, you don't have to go to work, you don't have to do anything you don't enjoy, you don't have to make any effort, you don't have to feel any pain, you don't have to suffer, you don't have to struggle, you won't be tired any more, all your troubles will be over, you won't worry about anything, you won't be stressed anymore, you won't be anxious, you won't be depressed, you won't worry about being fat, you won't worry about being ugly, you won't be lonely, you won't be frustrated... you get the idea. There are infinitely many reasons why being dead is better than being alive. You like sleeping, don't you? Being dead is like, the best kind of sleeping, because you never get woken up by your alarm clock; you can rest forever.

I'm really not sure what's scary about death at all. I'm really not sure why more people don't choose death, when life is so shitty.

It seems so churlish to reject life, when there are lots of slug-wasp-amoeba people out there who are desperate to mindlessly do the bidding of their genes. We're so culturally indoctrinated to repeat the mantra that we love our life, and that life is precious, that we often forget that we don't love life - that life is utter shit - and that life is worthless. If you don't think life is worthless, you should take a trip to the developing world, to remind yourself of the human suffering that's inflicted in your name.

I've written about twice as much as I hoped to, but I suppose this is a subject dear to my heart, insofar as I feel suicidal most of the time.

Perhaps one day, depression will lift and I'll look back on this essay with different eyes. Perhaps one day, in the not-too-distant-future, I will kill myself. I think the latter is far more likely than the former, according to a great deal of bitter experience.

 

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