When I heard that my friend David Coady killed himself, I posted a link to an obituary about him followed by the words, “suicide is stupid.”
I was not trying to say that people who commit suicide are lacking in mental capacity. David Coady was a very smart guy. Maybe too damn smart for his own good. Lots of people who commit suicide are too damn smart for their own good.
I was trying to insult suicide. I was trying to hurt suicide like suicide has hurt me. I could have said, “suicide sucks.” But that didn’t seem to get it. I could have said, “suicide is shit.” But I didn’t think that would be understood. So I said, “suicide is stupid.”
I’m not exactly sure where I first met David Coady. It was probably at the San Francisco Zen Center during one of the times I gave a talk there. But I do clearly remember the first time I really bonded with him. I was walking around Tassajara breaking the rule of not singing by quietly singing the chorus to a Bob Dylan song called Odds And Ends. It’s from his Basement Tapes album. The final line of the chorus is, “lost time will not be found again.”
That line reminded me of the poem that’s carved into all of the hans at Tassajara. A han is a little wooden board that’s struck with a wooden mallet to call people to zazen or other events. On each one is written a translation of the following Chinese poem.
Great is the matter of Birth and death
Life slips quickly by
To waste time is a great shame
Time waits for no one
There are different translations on each han at Tassajara. I’ve posted a photo of the han that was nearest to my room when I stayed there last summer. I wrote a piece about this poem last year.
David immediately recognized what I was singing. He told me that he was a great fan of Dylan. He said that before he moved to Tassajara he’d had a massive collection of CDs. The only ones he’d brought with him were a set of bootlegs of rare Dylan recordings, many from the same sessions that produced the Basement Tapes album. He asked if I wanted to copy them. I did. And the copies of those files are still on the computer I’m using to write this.
Later on a fire swept through the valley in which Tassajara is located. A small group of monks stayed behind and saved most of the monastery from burning. Only a couple of structures burned. One of those was David’s cabin. All of his Bob Dylan CDs melted into goo.
Some time later I bought David a copy of a book called Million Dollar Bash. It’s all about the sessions that produced that Dylan album. I gave the book to him the next time I saw him at the Zen Center.
Maybe a year ago David Coady attempted suicide at the San Francisco Zen Center. He failed that time. I can’t remember if I gave him the book before or after that. I also can’t remember if I copied those Dylan songs off my hard drive onto CDs for him. I think I did. My memory is shit. Always has been. As long as I can remember, anyway.
I know I didn’t see David more than a couple times after his suicide attempt. I know that at least one of the times we talked, the subject came up and we swiftly moved on to other topics. It seemed like it was deeply embarrassing to him.
David Coady was a funny guy. He should have gone on the road with a stand-up act. I told him that once and he said people were always telling him that. He said he didn’t feel he had it in him to talk in front of people. But he was naturally funny and always poignantly so. He was from Boston and talked in a really heavy Boston accent.
I’m very sad that he’s gone now.
Suicide is stupid