Famously, this was the last entry in Kenneth Williams’ diary (or at least the gist of it – I haven’t been able to track down the exact quote) from a couple of days before he killed himself/ took an accidental overdose. (I know which I believe, but technically the coroner returned an open verdict.)
Don’t worry, I’m not suicidal, but I am questioning the point of doing – well, anything, really. At the moment the whole business of daily life, the endless round of getting up – shuffling vaguely around for a few hours feeling totally knackered – going to bed and failing to sleep – getting up – shuffling vaguely around – and on – and on – and on – and on – seems absolutely, supremely pointless.
Take the whole business of eating food. Look at all the work it involves – first you have to buy it, then you have to put it away in the fridge and the cupboard. Then you have to get it out of the cupboard and fridge, cook it, and put it on a plate. Once you’ve pushed it around on the plate listlessly for a while, you scrape most of it into the bin, then wash up the plate, the cutlery, the pots and pans.
I mean, yes, I get hungry, but what’s the point of going to all the trouble buying and cooking something that I’ll just end up either scraping into a bin straight away or flushing down the toilet a few hours later? I know that’s not what happens to all of it, some of it gets turned into me, but, really, what’s the point of that?
What actually do I contribute to the planet? I’m basically nothing but a carbon footprint with no lifestyle attached. I don’t work. I don’t play. To my family and friends I’m basically just a burden. They’re too kind to put it like that of course, but still, all I am is something to worry vaguely about – “I wonder how Aethelread is – I really should send him an email/ make plans to go and visit him.”
If I was dead, they’d be spared that, at least. Of course they’d be upset for a while, some of them quite badly. For a few weeks they’d find themselves crying at odd moments, for a few months they’d feel a mixture of sadness and guilt when they thought about me, for a few years they’d feel vaguely wistful when they remembered to think about me. But then it would be over. Pretty soon they would have forgotten all about me, and that would be one less thing for them all to worry about.
As you might have gathered, I’m in one of those states of mind where I find myself wishing I was dead. I’m not actively suicidal, but I am longing for death. I worry about writing a sentence like that – partly because it sounds so pathetically overwrought, and partly because I’m worried all of you will start (continue?) to think of me as a self-indulgent drama queen who never bothered to grow up, even though he’s 20 years too old to be carrying on like a moody teenager.
But everything would just be so much easier if I was dead. I feel guilty writing a sentence like that. I feel guilty when I think of my mum, who lived the last few years of her life in the grip of a serious illness that left her a virtual prisoner in her own house, and towards the end a virtual prisoner in her own skull, but still woke up every morning, and looked through the window at the grass, and the trees, and the birds, and felt glad to be alive. I feel guilty when I think of all those people for whom death really would be a release from intolerable physical pain. I feel guilty for moaning about the hassle of cooking food when there are so many people around the world who work all the hours there are but still can’t afford to eat, while I lie around doing fuck-all and can still afford to eat pretty much whatever I want, pretty much whenever I want..
At the same time, I’m out of sorts and irritable. I feel like picking a fight with someone, just so I can get angry, just so I can feel something, just so I can feel something. There’s a glass on the table next to me, it’s empty, and I’m thirsty. I want to pick it up and throw it against the wall because it isn’t instantly, supernaturally, full, and mainly just for the pleasure of watching and hearing it smash.
So why am I feeling like this? Well I think it’s probably because, at the moment, every time I do something, it feels like a repeat. It’s not exactly deja-vu, it doesn’t have that weird, someone’s-walking-over-your-grave shiver of oddness about it. But every time I do anything it’s a repeat. I think that’s partly why it’s so hard to bother to do anything, because it’s already been done before. If I go and fill up this glass, drink the contents, there’s really no point, because it will be exactly the same drink that I had earlier, that I had a week ago, that I had last year. I know that doesn’t make any sense – how can it possibly be the same drink? – but it is.
It’s not just that I’ve done the same thing before – sat writing a post for my blog, felt thirsty, found my glass is empty, gone to fill it up. That would be a repeated action, but what I feel is that the whole thing is entirely a repeat, that it’s exactly the same drink I’ve already had. The only way I can think to explain it is that it’s like watching your favourite tv programme. If you sit down to watch every time there’s a new episode on, that’s a repeated action, but the content of the experience is new. On the other hand, if you sit down to watch an episode you’ve already seen, that’s not only a repeated action, but a repeated experience too. That’s what fetching a new drink would be like for me – not just going through the same motions, but drinking exactly the same drink.
Except actually it’s more than that, because the repeated experience comes in the middle of a whole lot of other repeated experiences. Like Groundhog Day, except that in that film Bill Murray can behave differently each time round, and his different actions change the world – like the boy he saves from falling out of the tree. So I guess you’d have to say that it’s like a version of Groundhog Day where Bill Murray is aware of the fact that everything’s repeating, but he’s stuck repeating the same actions along with everyone else.
And that’s why I can’t be bothered doing anything, because, really, what’s the point? If today’s meal is exactly the same as yesterday’s, then why bother going to the trouble of buying it, cooking it, and eating it? If everything’s a repeat, then, really, there’s no point in doing anything.