The Art of Disappearance – The New York Times

In the 2014 documentary “We Lived Alone”, Phillip reads a letter his sister left behind. The language of the letter is very similar to the language of his songs, poetic and direct. Speaking of things as they are, and not as she had dreamed: “I saw the elegant and energetic people of Ann Arbor, those I know and those I don’t know, go about their daily occupations in the streets and in the buildings, and I felt a detached admiration for their energy and their elegance. If I was ever a member of this species, it may have been a social accident that has now been undone. In another letter, she wrote, “Let me go, let me be if I can, don’t let me be if I can’t.”

As beautiful, jarring and haunting as it may be, what stuck with me most, in the back of my mind in a dull hum, was its opening: Let me go, let me be if I can, don’t let me be if I can’t.

About a decade after her disappearance, Converse’s family hired a private detective to find her, or at least confirm if she had taken her own life. In the documentary, Phillip says the investigator refused, telling the family that even if he found Connie, it was his right to disappear. He couldn’t bring someone back who didn’t want to go back to where he fled from.

To dig On the definition of “being alive”, I have always come to a basic definition that I can understand and make peace with: being someone who participates in an ever-changing world. But I have no control over the world, and I don’t just mean the world in the sense of a twirling blue rock in endless darkness. I am also talking about small worlds. The worlds of the country I live in, the worlds of my city, the worlds of my neighborhood. There are edges of these worlds that are simultaneously sharpening and softening, even now, and I don’t know which edges they are, or when they will come to pick me up or comfort me, depending on their intent. And so I decide that living, then, is also a contract. I’ll stay as long as I can, and I hope it’ll be a good, long time. I will stay as long as staying gives more than enough.

In the moments when I didn’t want to stay, I was showered with familiar platitudes. I’ve been told I have “lots of life left” or told to think of all the people who will miss me after I’m gone. Once, a doctor tasked with keeping me alive longer than I wanted at the time told me to consider my funeral. It didn’t work out, because I had buried enough people I loved by then. I had begun to believe in funerals—at least as they serve the undead—as a portal. Something you walk into with an understanding of grief and come out of with a newer, more accurate understanding of grief. I began to believe that the funeral was just a fleeting moment, with no consequence big enough to keep me anchored in an unfulfilling life.

I still haven’t been able to explain this to anyone who has ever wanted to be alive, or at least to people who have rarely questioned their commitment to live, but there is a line between wanting to be alive and wanting to stay. here, anywhere here is for you, or whatever that means. It’s a border that I found fragile, a thin sheet covered with holes. But it is still a border. Similar to the boundary between, say, sadness and suffering. All of these feelings can intersect, of course. But I found it a little more confusing when they don’t. When I may want to be alive, but I don’t want to be in the world as it is. When I didn’t want to be alive, but want to hold on to the various bursts that pour into my sadness or pain, which is not the same as a temporary fog of sadness or a surge of anxiety. I mean a suffering that requires a constant measuring of the scales between staying and leaving. A suffering that requires considering how long the ladder can tip towards the start before it becomes the only viable option. There are many things in a life that are not left to the people who live. If there is anything a suffering person (or anyone else) can determine for themselves, it should be how they live, or whether they choose to live.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *