Suicide is Painless

‘Suicide is Painless’ is the theme song for M*A*S*H, the movie and the sitcom where the theme is doctors hell bent on saving lives in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit near the 38th parallel during the Korean War. That M.A.S.H, decidedly anti-war, is the Dalai Lama’s favourite sitcom is an interesting titbit, but not of any obvious relevance. What is interesting is that the song features only in its instrumental version in the CBS telecasts of the sitcom, because they felt the lyrics were too controversial. Written for the movie, the song was meant for a scene where the lead doctors pretend to help a peer in his suicide attempt, by giving him a placebo (well, not exactly, they actually dope him). When the director, Robert Altman asked Johnny Mandel to compose a song for the scene, which Is made to look ironically like the Last Supper, Mandel came back to him and said, “I can’t write anything that ridiculous”. The song was finally written by the director’s 14-year old son, Mike Altman, who wanted a guitar in return for his services. Now, the song being made famous and covered by the likes of Bill Evans, Paul Desmond, Marilyn Manson and the Manic Street Preachers, Mike has earned more on royalties from the song than his father did for directing the movie. At a below-the-surface level though, one is reminded of something Christian Slater’s character said in Pump Up The Volume – “The unhappy truth is that sometimes being a teenager is less fun than being dead.”

“Through early morning fog I see, Visions of the things to be,
The pains that are withheld for me, I realize and I can see...
A brave man once requested me, to answer questions that are key.
Is it to be or not to be? And I replied 'Oh why ask me?'”

For those of us who have survived the teenage years and made it to one of the ‘hallowed portals of educational excellence’ it is surprising, to say the least, that our quarter-life crisis should take any toll emotionally. Though the term ‘quarter-life-crisis’ was coined in November 1998, it is not a recent phenomenon. Kerouac in On The Road speaks of one of the characters having “fallen on the beat and evil days that come to young guys in their middle twenties.” With a much broader understanding of the crisis now, we should be able to happily assuage ourselves with regard to our potential to be struck by it. We should not logically suffer from any of the symptoms. The confusion of identity seems to have been sorted out as we have made a career decision before entering the institute. The institute video guarantees us “jobs that they really want, jobs that they really like” and insecurity about the future should be least prevalent in this sample compared to any other in the country. The same holds true for insecurity regarding present accomplishments, seeing that we have reached a coveted position, one that many have struggled hard for and continue to do so every year. The nostalgia for college life should be absent, as life here should closely resemble that of our college, if not be better with respect to our peers. The supposedly ‘best minds of our generation’ should ensure that we do not suffer from boredom with social interactions or lack of close personal relationships (on the contrary, we see a substantial number forming here). Which leaves only one glaring symptom of the crisis – loneliness.

Which is why one is rudely awakened when one wakes up late one evening and goes to the mess, only to find out halfway through dinner that a member of the community you consider your family is simply ‘not there’ anymore. Room 506 is empty, like Yossarian's tent. What is shocking is that one can go through half a meal without realising that something is amiss. That apart from a short assembly, extensive media management, and a brief flutter in the day’s activities, life moves on as if nothing has changed. For many, this was not a family we any longer considered ourselves members of. Disillusionment had its dawn; we donned our individual garbs of loneliness.

“'Cause suicide is painless.
It brings on many changes.
And I can take or leave it if I please.
...And you can do the same thing if you choose.”

"There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that."
- Camus in the opening statement of Le Mythe De Sisyphe

Top 5 Reasons to Live
Alok Dreams, not bold enough to face death, unmet people, so much more of life to live, the desire to make a movie before death
Animesh Mom, Dad, Goals, Responsibilities and chicken
Anshul Life itself, friends, relationships, goals yet to be realised, no apparent reason to die
Gurpreet My family, fear of the unknown, the past, the future, the present
Siddhartha My parents, unfulfilled dreams, my retirement plans, no legacy to leave behind, no cause worth dying for