I was reading the introduction to a book by H. Beam Piper a couple of days ago, which naturally led to the thought of suicide. Who among us has never thought for a moment of enacting the proverbial permanent solution to a temporary problem?
Before I continue, a moment of explanation. H. Beam Piper was a science fiction author who killed himself early in November of 1964. His marriage had ended in divorce; it ended badly, leaving them apparently despising one another. He was in financial dire straits. His stories weren’t selling. So he had his utilities disconnected, spread painters’ dropcloths on the walls and floor, and shot himself. His suicide note read “I don’t like to leave messes when I go away, but if I could have cleaned up any of this mess, I wouldn’t be going away. H. Beam Piper”
Mr. Piper had many friends, and some of those were successful authors who would have more than likely floated him a loan to get through the worst of the financial storm. He chose to ignore that option out of pride, apparently.
The science fiction market was in the beginning stages of a boom. The scope of the market and rewards for success were steadily increasing.
His agent, unknown to him, had died unexpectedly. He had actually sold several stories and had checks… and a significant boost to his visibility as an author… waiting for him. News would have reached him within weeks, and the opportunity to contact those who wished to publish him shortly thereafter.
He was a hungry man who died while soup was falling from the sky.
And so are we.
It is easy to see what is right in front of you. It is easy to believe that it will never end. It is easy to think it is too hard to hold on. It is easy to assume there is no opportunity to come. It is easy to believe that optimism is a fools’ illusion.
Well, I’m not here to coddle you (or me) dammit. It is a fools’ illusion. But that’s not the whole story.
The future is an unknown. Always has been, even… or especially… to those who claim to predict it. Tomorrow may heap more disaster on you, or soup may fall from the sky.
H. Beam Piper worked to make that soup fall from the sky. He bent his back and weakened his eyes and cramped his fingers turning out hundreds of pages of writing. He licked stamps and sealed envelopes. He studied history and racked his brains to impress the patterns of the past onto his well-crafted future history, in which he set his stories. He worked for what he had coming.
He just chose to eat a gun before he saw the payoff.
You will die; everything does, even the mountains and the stars. It’s the one thing you can’t screw up, you will do it flawlessly when the time comes.
Why rush it? Anything could happen in the meantime, especially if you work at making it happen.