Mitchell Heisman, and one heck of a suicide note

“…if a man’s willing to write 1905 pages justifying his own death he’s not interested in being talked out of it.”

Question from Rohit:
Sometimes one comes across really rare incidents – and the reaction of the general public to such incidents really saddens one.

I’ve actually taken some time to go thru some of Mitchell Heisman’s 1905 page suicide note. I do not find any flaw in his logic except perhaps too narrow a focus on the concept of equality.
Some of his ideas are actually pretty interesting.
If you go to his site and see his pic you do not see a guy who’s pathetic in appearance. He actually looks a bit intense. If you read his note even in bits and pieces you soon discover that this was a guy who was not pathetic in mental abilities either.

How would atheism sell life instead of death to Heisman? Can it? Can atheism justify life over death?

Religion’s stand on death seems to be pretty solid by the way. I’m not so sure of atheism’s stand.
I am an atheist and I think it is purely a matter of personal choice, social custom, muddied up with an evolutionary survival instinct (will to live – like that of any living organism – an instinct of flight from danger).

But I’d like to hear your comments on it … there’s been no answer to this in another forum till now.

An aside – Heisman’s is a case that has an eerie comparable in fiction – Dostoyevsky’s Kirilov in “Devils”

Answer by SmartLX:
Excuse me if I don’t devote the next several days to ploughing through all 1905 pages. I’m already reading Scott Pilgrim and I Shall Wear Midnight, and I have a job to go to. The sheer size of the piece may have a lot to do with why there’s no full response so far. Another major factor is that he only killed himself last month. Give it another month or two before you really wonder why there are no responses.

I did skim it though. My immediate response based on that, and your description, is that if a man’s willing to write 1905 pages justifying his own death he’s not interested in being talked out of it. He appears to have pre-emptively dismissed the stances of any set of people who he thought might try: Christians, Jews, members of many schools of philosophy, psychologists, scientists, atheists and so on. (His own position, in the vein of pantheism, might be called “technotheism”: God, or the making of God, is technology and He will have fully evolved at the point of the Technological Singularity.) Nobody, let alone atheism, had a chance of selling life to this guy.

Atheism by itself doesn’t justify life, nor can it be expected to. There’s no line of reasoning that goes, “There is no god, therefore don’t die.” The reasoning that keeps atheists alive, when it has anything to do with atheism at all, goes, “Despite the fact that there’s no god, there are such-and-such reasons to live.” We find reasons not in the simple absence which is atheism but in the incredible presence which is the universe. Philosophically or psychologically this can take the form of humanism (humanity is important), altruism (others are important), egotism (I am important), hedonism (while I live, I can find happiness), curiosity (I can’t explore when I’m dead) or any number of other concepts.

When you get right down to it, it is personal choice and social custom, “muddied up” with the hereditary survival instinct. Humans, by their upbringing and their intrinsic nature, generally want to live and most of the intellectual justification for living (religious or otherwise) is rationalisation after the fact. Mitchell Heisman didn’t want to live anymore, and for an educated man like him that took a mammoth 1905-page effort to rationalise.

The sad thing is that his last work may or may not contain the real reason he killed himself. It’s just as likely to emerge from his own circumstances as the last weeks and years of his life are explored by the media. And wherever it comes from, we may not even recognise it among the chaff.

10 thoughts on “Mitchell Heisman, and one heck of a suicide note”

  1. I guess you are right … opposite to most of us Mitchell Heisman did not want to live. And just like we justify our choice post fact, so did he through his 1905 page note.

    I guess what I’ve been thinking is that our rationalizations for choosing life are a safety net … the religious just have another layering to that net – that of the “sin” of killing oneself. Religion guilts the religious to do certain things that are socially positive – though it makes them do a lot of things that are socially negative too.
    The kind of strength / tenacity one gets from blind beliefs (as those offered by religion) are something that (I may be wrong here) one does not get from reason – reason always allows that it may not have all its facts right and is willing to experiment, even with nihilism. Blind belief does not care.

  2. The tenacity ultimately comes from emotion. While you tend not to get that directly from reason, religion isn’t its only source. It can come from any strong desire, whether to protect a loved one, leave a legacy or make them all pay. That’s the issue, of course: religious or not, whether it’s constructive or destructive is up to the person.

  3. I just finished I Shall Wear Midnight and it’s worth the read. Good book (well, of course, it’s Terry Pratchett). A little heavier than the other Tiffany Aching books, and when you get to the end you may feel that the climax was a bit anticlimactic when all was said and done, but still a good read.

  4. And I just finished the last issue of Scott Pilgrim. Not only is it hilarious and a great read, but I now appreciate how good an adaptation the film was.

  5. I am working my way through this ‘Note’
    at first it reminds me of another Dostoyevsky character: Raskolnikov, with his attempt to transcend the Law.

    But I will say that despite the entirety of the argument, or rather perhaps because of what I can discern so far in the text, the suicide act is proof that he was religiously motivated: he draws the dichotomy between biologically dictated actions and those selectively strategic actions that attempt to escape the completion of the genetic imperative. He sees the latter as the root of the Mosiac Law: a Law that is to stand above biology with an imperative to respect the individual and freedom. In a simple sort of category mistake, his experiment in Nihilism is a last ditch confirmation that he wanted to enact the Law against biological imperatives. He was religious, only, IMO, he missed the distance of the Other.

  6. I am taking pills rightnow to end my life…God doesn’t think I deserve a good happy life which is why he is constantly sending strife and extreme struggles my way mo matter how much praying and changes I try to make
    To better myself ….but so many who have violated and wronged me are blessed abundantly So GOD DOES. NOT LOVE ME

  7. God blesses the deceitful ppl not ppl who put forth effort …if he love me he wouldn’t keep causing strife in my life bottom line ……what kind of love is that?

    1. If you were serious about the pills, I wish you’d given enough warning that I saw the new comments in time for us to discuss it. Otherwise…I’m sad to say that my wife often shares your feeling that God judges her harshly and punishes her for unspecified deeds, words, or even thoughts. It’s why I think she’d be better off without her faith, but it’ll be a long time going. Same goes for you: if you’re simply the victim of bad fortune then there’s nothing holding you down and you’re free to recover, but if you’re being victimised by God then it’s pretty hopeless.

      The way forward is therefore to persuade you either that there isn’t a God in the way you imagine, or just that God isn’t actually punishing you. So, from first principles: why do you believe in God, and why do you think he judges you unworthy of happiness?

  8. I did take quite a few pills because God doesn’t care about my pain….I am mad that after taking so many pills that I didn’t die in as I wamted to instead I am here in this hell

    1. Phew. Anyway, you’re having a horrible time. Why do you feel that it’s been deliberately inflicted upon you, rather than simply occurring as a matter of happenstance?

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