Lost Time is Not Found Again


Suicide is stupid.

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

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85 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    73% of all suicide deaths are white males. You would expect that
    those who were non-white males
    would experience similar dysphoria.
    Yet they don't terminate their
    existence. This is a problem with
    the way the male ego is culturally conditioned.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    I've recently read Hardcore Zen and am now reading Sit Down and Shut Up (not at this moment of course,but you get the idea). Interesting stuff. I've been reading Buddhist books on and off for 20 years or so and have practiced meditation a few times – but not on a consistent basis.

    I grew up in a Christian church but pretty much don't adhere to any set practice or go to church. Anyway a friend of mine who is an Iraq War Veteran has tried to commit suicide twice and ended up in the psych ward. I'm afraid he may succeed one of these days.

    By the way, like many people I played in my share of garage bands and had some good times. I relate to the whole Midwest Punk thing. I come from Texas – The birth place of The Butthole Surfers.

  3. motel todd
    motel todd July 27, 2011 at 1:33 pm |

    Butthole Surfer Fan – Texas – (wrote comment about Iraq War Vet but forgot name)

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead men naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan't crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

  5. robjones
    robjones July 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm |

    Again, my sympathies. No easy answers, no solutions.

    The Poem you posted:

    "Great is the matter of Birth and death
    Life slips quickly by
    To waste time is a great shame
    Time waits for no one"

    Is very much like one recited at the end of evening service at Dharma Drum; probably the Chinese equivilant:

    "This day has passed
    Our lives too are closing
    Like fish with little water
    Joy will not last
    Let us work with pure effort
    Work as we would were our heads aflame
    Be mindful of impermanance
    Be careful of idleness"

    Sorry for your loss, from his obituary he seemed like a really good guy who was a positive influence to a lot of people.

    May all beings depart from suffering.

  6. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    Psylyp twayindo, pompurr, chingsh
    bersible. Eleno tenit
    mipeeze fruwuq, oadis prest;
    dingot ullyrown conauriz:
    villo, nessesi-ganche guest.

    Dworbol deroke – raliting,
    buntriz, jecti vinglay. Austl
    combo-typcose, desse
    quilynae!

  7. jamal
    jamal July 27, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    white peoples are crazy. i'm not being judgmental. i'm jus readin their comments..

  8. anonymous anonymous
    anonymous anonymous July 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s marketing director, has a fix for cyberbullying: stop people from doing anything online without their names attached.

    Facebook requires all members to use their real names and email addresses when joining the social network — a policy that has been difficult at times to enforce, as the prevalence of spam accounts or profiles assigned to people’s pets suggest.

    Zuckerberg, who is Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, argued that putting an end to anonymity online could help curb bullying and harassment on the web.

    “I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away,” she said during a panel discussion on social media hosted Tuesday evening by Marie Claire magazine. “People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.”

  9. proulx michel
    proulx michel July 28, 2011 at 12:06 am |

    jamal said…

    white peoples are crazy. i'm not being judgmental. i'm jus readin their comments…

    No, you're just being plain racist…

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 28, 2011 at 7:26 am |

    getting rid of anonymity…

    I prefer to be myself on the 'net' as opposed to being who I am.

    I think it interesting to look into this 'mirror' and see the reflections of all these 'selves' the Self is made of.
    And what do you see there?
    Not always 'pretty' but it is a reflection of what is.
    Take that away,
    well now you get a lotta folks that just won't put out in public much of anything.
    The internet and anonymity allow the private to go public.
    I am what you might call a 'responsible' anonymi
    I don't post here what I wouldn't choose to put my name on,
    but if I couldn't be anonymous on the www, then I wouldn't post at all.
    You'll be left with those who are out there in the world already in great abundance: all the people who like to be seen and heard and identified as being seen and heard.
    I agree there are folks who use anonymity as a way to not be held personally responsible for their behavior
    But nobody 'gets by' with anything. They have to live with themselves
    And it is my guess that such behavior in some strange ways 'balances' them out in some way: that their publicly identified self is 'too good to be true' and while it represents them, it is more of a personality 'make up' job: good for photo op, but anonymity allows them to 'be natural'
    While I might find this 'natural' state of theirs to be repulsive I also appreciate knowing what their 'natural' state is: expressing it in a 'safe' place is better in the long run than repressing it.
    Certainly it allows for the self to come to know the self. The act of blogging, and in fact all our actions reveal our true practice, our beliefs in action.'.Anonymous' is just a different form of bravery…

  11. jamal
    jamal July 28, 2011 at 7:33 am |

    Michel, Nothing racist about it, sorry you misunderstood. Your idea of crazy aint my idea of crazy. You put a negative connotation on the word. One word can contain worlds. If I said you was a bad mofo, do you think I would mean it literally?

  12. Sai Kumar Reddy
    Sai Kumar Reddy July 28, 2011 at 7:34 am |

    This is surprising coming from some one who lived so long in Japan where ritualized suicide has existed for so long. I am sure the Japanese had some good reasons for encouraging it and it had some honor tied to it as well. There may even have been some Japanese Zen Masters who approved of it.

  13. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 28, 2011 at 8:52 am |

    Jamal wrote:

    You put a negative connotation on the word.

    In the same way that you put negative connotations on the phrase 'plain racist'? Perhaps Proulx intended to be merely descriptive, with a touch of banter?

    Behind the veil, you might be a happy caucasian loon ventiloquising with comedic intentions. Nevertheless your choice of words did plainly make a discrimination in racial terms, and so the hat fits.

    If one word contains worlds, it only does so because one word is in the whole world – of words and things – of which my world is one such instance, amongst others.

    As such, suggesting or stating someone is being racist sits in this present day context where it would be myopic not to expect people to interpret this without negative connotations. Saying someone is being racist is normally taken pejoratively. So your response to Proulx is understandable.

    And in the same way, writing 'white peoples' are 'crazy' lends itself to others interpreting this with negative connotations, even if the rest of your words helps them to modify how they interpret the whole statement.

    Some might read your words as being couched in a benign, light irony, and so not feel that your intentions were anything other than playful banter.

    'Mofo' is not a good example with which to compare in this instance. It would be extremely unlikely that anyone would take this literally, because this word and 'M*****r F****r, are usages rarely applied to a literal description of incest.

    'White peoples', by contrast, is a simple literal usage applied all the time in different contexts – contexts where addresser/addressee has to decide what the intended message is that is couched in racist terms.

    And apart from the 'intended message' folk may also feel negatively towards utterances framed in racial terms, even if they don't think the person who wrote such was directly expressing their racist beliefs.

    Let's not forget that although a person may be being racist, it does always also follow that they are racist.

    That I carry a virus and pass it on to others, doesn't mean I'm necessarily under the throes of infection.

    End of essay.

  14. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 28, 2011 at 8:55 am |

    correction: 'doesn't always follow that hey are being racist'

  15. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 28, 2011 at 8:58 am |

    correction: 'doesn't always follow that they are racist'

    sigh

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 28, 2011 at 9:50 am |

    What color was Buddha? What color
    is a man of no distinction? What
    color is your Original Nature?

  17. jamal
    jamal July 28, 2011 at 10:31 am |

    ST, Yeah you right. But remember the gibberish you wrote jus before I said what I said!

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 28, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    My t-shirt is white.
    My socks are black.
    My shorts are tan.
    My skin has lots of colors, compared to my clothing.
    In general it looks tan to me.
    I like colors.
    I'm so lucky to have eyes that work.

  19. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 28, 2011 at 11:40 am |

    Of course I remember my captcha poem whimsy Jamal. Although I can't claim full credit for having written it. I just added the punctuation and line-ends, and the meaning is collaborative too – gibberish, crazy, whatever. Did you have a point to make that eludes me?

    Apart from enormous suffering, suicide is a point that eludes me.

  20. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 28, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    I'm sorry if my interpolations have caused offence and led to comment moderation.

  21. jamal
    jamal July 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm |

    ST, And of course I was commenting on the gibberish you wrote and not on the subject of Brad's post. And I didn't mean to imply that 100% of white peoples are crazy. That would be an exaggeration probably.

  22. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Possibly the " gibberish " he wrote
    was to remind us that intellectualizing is far removed
    from seeing the truth of your
    original face.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |

    Saying "suicide is stupid" is stupid.

  24. Awakened Yeti
    Awakened Yeti July 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    bradley McZen may have just as well posted:

    "I can't handle loss"

    its also twitter-sized and simple enough to sound all super-zen flavored

    but it might have opened a door into a deep, dark place that he dares not tread.. and of course, you must be careful where you tread because eventually it treads back on you

  25. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    It wasn't clear, Jamal, that you were originally commenting only on my captcha gibsense, as you didn't specify in any way.

    But you seem again to be being a little defensive – in your reluctance to make clear what connection you find (implied by But remember the gibberish you wrote jus before I said what I said!)

    I'm genuinely intrigued, considering the process through which I composed the whimsy: having been tickled by the first captcha, I just kept refreshing – collecting captchas.

    I found that when I read them out aloud they seemed to resonate, however discordantly (something sad and absurd) and so I kept the order in which they came out, adding only punctuations and line-ends.

    I'm interested, #Jamal, if your way of responding to the pome was an attempt to implicitly comment on what you read as a kind of ethno-dominant register in the sequence of captchas I snipped off and punctuated?

    Your own choice of (slipped) register with nome de plume is also interesting in the light of this.

  26. jamal
    jamal July 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    ST, I didn't know what you was up to. I thought you might be speakin buddist chants for all I know. You didn't specify in any way about that neither. I'm thinkin what is that mofo doin? I thought it was funny tho and thought id say something funny back.

    Your last two paragraphs are similar. I have no idea what you are sayin but I think you might be talkin mor gibberish.

  27. proulx michel
    proulx michel July 29, 2011 at 2:44 am |

    jamal said…

    Michel, Nothing racist about it,

    Jamal, as soon as you make a distinction between people according to their colour, you are being racist, like it or not. This is probably why it's so hard to get rid of that plague. People think that only "white-against-black" discrimination is racism. But it's larger than that.

  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 7:32 am |

    Empty-handed I entered the world
    Barefoot I leave it.
    My coming, my going –
    Two simple happenings
    That got entangled.

    Kozan Ichikyo

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 7:53 am |

    "ethno-dominant register in the sequence of captchas"

    Even Heidegger would be proud of that.

  30. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll July 29, 2011 at 9:43 am |

    Okay #, have a good day. Your Jamal voice is obviously a cul-de-sac you wish to remain in, in this thread, which has limited an otherwise, perhaps, interesting discussion – and, for me at least, a distracting salve.

    I'll sign off with some gibberish from John Berryman, a man who was also probably too clever by half for himself, and who too was finally unable to keep pressing on.

    Your torment here was brief

    long falls your exit repeatingly,
    a poor exemplum, one more suicide
    to stack upon the others
    till stricken Henry with his sisters & brothers
    suddenly gone pauses to wonder why he
    alone breasts the wronging tide.

    (from The Dreams Songs (no.172))

  31. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    Suicide is OK, but
    never having been born
    is even better.

  32. Jay Kay
    Jay Kay July 30, 2011 at 4:20 am |

    Perhaps instead of killing themselves, they should have killed their selves.

  33. R
    R July 30, 2011 at 7:24 am |

    – “I was trying to insult suicide. I was trying to hurt suicide like suicide has hurt me.”.

    That is stupid.

  34. BR Knight
    BR Knight August 3, 2011 at 2:34 am |

    Brad, this post resonates with many and I think opening the discussion up is so important. I completely feel that need to want to pull that friend back in from the other side, slap them across the face and say to them "See how many people you've left heartbroken!?" The hardest thing for those of us left behind is that we were somehow not enough to make them stay…absurd really.

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