I am practicing my writing skills, so I do a writing exercise every day. Usually, I write with a fountain pen and like it tremendously. Longhand helps me think, and I read somewhere that Barack Obama writes in longhand frequently. Additionally, I am a Toastmaster, and at the time of writing, I am working on a farewell speech for a gentleman who, many years ago, lost the will to live.
He was the first of two people I know who lost the will to live and wasted away. It’s difficult to compare one case with the other and unfair. Both men wasted away in the hospital, and their partners abandoned them halfway through their illness.
It was tragic, seeing both men lying in the hospital, without complaint, waiting for death. Also, it was equally tragic that they left their aging and infirm parents behind. When you witness deaths like this, you may question God’s existence. Certainly, these incidents sped up my shift towards atheism. I discovered paganism, or animism, much later.
These men passed from the world of the living to that of the dead. Apart from their family and friends, no one mourned them. Life is about connections, and when I read a book called “A River in Darkness”, I remembered this. Masaji Ishikawa, a half-Korean, half-Japanese man, wrote this.
"The last words I spoke to my family still ring in my ears. If I succeed in escaping, somehow or other, no matter what it takes, I’ll get you there too."
It describes his early life in Japan, his life in North Korea, and his eventual escape. When he escaped, he vowed to bring his family to safety, but could not. While in Japan, he learned his wife died alone and was buried in the mountains. Then, he learned his daughter had died of starvation, and he wondered about the price of freedom.
"I often think about what would have become of me if I’d stayed in North Korea. I would probably have starved too. But at least I’d have died in someone’s arms with my family gathered around me. We’d have said our goodbyes. What chance of that now? People talk about God. Although I can’t see him myself, I still pray for a happy ending."
We know of Masaji Ishikawa’s story because he wrote about it, and some of us read his book. When you look at his photograph carefully, you will see the pain in his face. Despite his horrendous life, he has a tremendous will to live and to be the master of his own fate.
"You don’t choose to be born. You just are. And your birth is your destiny, some say. I say the hell with that. And I should know. I was born not just once but five times. And five times I learned the same lesson. Sometimes in life, you have to grab your so-called destiny by the throat and wring its neck."
What of the living dead? I am not speaking of zombies or the creatures in various TV series or movies. I am speaking of people whose spirit has been so crushed that they continue living like zombies. Sadly, many of them are like automatons whose bodily functions continue unimpaired, but whose souls are dead.
I shot this man in Allahabad, now called Prayag, several years ago. My friend and I were staying in a terrible little hotel down the road and were walking off to do some street photography.
As we walked, I saw this man lying spaced out on the road, head in the gutter. At this point, I’d like to confess that, in my college days, I have spent some time, wasted, in public spaces. Since those times, I have cleaned up my life and no matter how gloomy the outlook; I have never been wasted. In fact, even though I have gone through my own waves of optimism and depression, I have always fought to stay as balanced as I can.
So, what brings people like this man to the point where they lie on the street, smashed, and oblivious to the world? Why do people lose the will to live, and the will to fight? Sadly, I don’t have answers to these questions, and I doubt I ever will. While I recognize this phenomenon, I don’t understand it.
Am I insensitive? Maybe.
Full Disclosure. I have added in my Amazon affiliate link for the book