That’s the unofficial motto of our times. Americans fear nothing more than death. The federal deficit is sky-high because Baby Boomers are abusing Medicare so they can stuff their faces with prescription pills of every variety, anything to postpone the inevitable. Ads for suicide prevention hotlines are ubiquitous, and Christians condemn people who take their own lives as immoral. Life is great! Why would anyone not want to be alive?
From my perspective though, death looks like a pretty good career move.
Take Kurt Cobain. Last year, the twentieth anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, we got treated to a week-long orgy of self-congratulatory GenX tearjerking. Poor Kurt, tragic genius crushed by his self-doubts. Why didn’t he choose life?
I don’t want to rag on Cobain too much; annoying whiner though he was, he was a talented musician and songwriter. But the only reason people worship him is because he killed himself. If Kurt had chosen life, he would have quickly faded into J Mascis-esque irrelevance. “Who’s J Mascis?” you ask. My point made.
Or take John Lennon. If there’s a heaven, Lennon ought to be up there thanking God that he was gunned down by a fat manboy, spared from devolving into a grotesque monstrosity like his fellow Beatles. I mean, have you seen Paul McCartney lately? Ghastly.
How about Jim Morrison? Do you think crazed Doors fans would be mobbing his grave if he’d put down the smack and died peacefully of old age?
Amy Winehouse? Sales of her albums skyrocketed after her liver gave out, nevermind that only her first one is worth listening to.
This extends outside the realm of music as well. Take Marilyn Monroe. Once you adjust for “moral inflation,” you realize that she was nothing but the Kim Kardashian of her day, her only talent being standing around and looking pretty.
Choosing death was the smartest career move she could have made.
Sylvia Plath? If she hadn’t choked on gas fumes, people might actually have the courage to laugh at those poems where she rages against her daddy for not hugging her enough. I’m not kidding you; she has a poem where she compares him to a Nazi.
And college students are expected to take this drivel seriously.
Yup, if you’re a prospective artist, death looks like a pretty great bargain. But you have to do it right.
The best time to die is when you’re at your career’s apogee or close to it. Obviously, if you die before you become famous, you just become another statistic. But if you wait too long, after your career has shriveled up, nobody will care. There are some exceptions to this rule, Hunter Thompson being the most notable. Now there’s a guy who was courageous to the end; he was sick of life and figured that age 67 was a good enough time to check out of the hotel. The cowards who feasted on his corpse have not a tenth of his bravery and honesty.
Elvis Presley is a case study in how to go about dying the wrong way. By the time Elvis kicked the bucket, he was a fat loser relegated to performing in Vegas, world capital of has-beens. All that coronary did was cement his place as a punchline for late-night TV hosts. Whitney Houston is another star who took too long to die; now that we’re past the two weeks grieving, she’s been dumped in her grave and forgotten.
Cobain, Monroe, Winehouse, Morrison, they all did it the right way. They were around long enough to make their mark on the world, but not long enough for us to get sick of them.
There’s some people out there who will interpret this blog post as a cry for help. “Don’t do it, Matt! You have so much to live for! Choose life!”
Relax, hombre. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon.
At least not until I’ve had the pleasure of kicking some of you pious motherfuckers in the teeth.