I read the words of a dead man today. In truth I read the words of dead people every day. Philosophers and theologians, apostles and prophets, all men and women who have passed through the veil. This was different. The man who penned these words walked with dead feet, breathed with dead lungs, saw with dead eyes and wrote with a dead hand. His name was Colin Mackay.
I discovered Colin Mackay at an online publication house called Originals Online. He wrote a book chronicling the final nine weeks of his life, the nine weeks just prior to his suicide. I haven’t read the whole work yet, and I’m not sure that I will, but I have read an excerpt from the first chapter. It is here that he explains the reason for what he calls his calm and rational decision to kill himself. I quote:
I did not think, “Why?” I knew the why. For years I have known it. For years it has walked beside me, whispering in my ear. It is my fury, my shadow. Its name is failure, I think. Failure to become fully human, to give life, and save life. Failure to do more than observe the passing of the world. Failure to return my thanks for the gift of breath, and leave the world a richer place than I found it. It is what I see from the corner of my eye, the thing that always vanishes whenever I turn to face it. I cannot enter a room without wondering if it is waiting for me, if it has finally tired of the game and is going to let me meet it, face to face.
(Colin Mackay, Jacob’s Ladder, downloadable at Originals Online).
I believe that we can fail. I don’t know if Colin Mackay actually failed, but I’m sure that failure is possible. He strikes, I think, the core of failure when he laments his “[failure] to do more than observe the passing of the world.” This is my fear, to do no more than watch the world as it passes, an observer in what should be an interaction. This is, unfortunately, precisely what the culture in which we live encourages: passivity. But I hope not to fail.
I hope to interact, to involve my life with the lives of others. I hope to engage with other knowing subjects and change and be changed by them. I hope to be a friend and husband and son and brother and father and teacher and student and on and on and on and on. I hope never to sit before a blank sheet of paper contemplating my suicide diary. I hope to, as the poet says, rage against the dying of the light; not for fear of death, but because there is yet good for me to do.
I hope not to fail.