This was the moment when Q told me about the suicide game in his home country.
“It is like Russian Roulette,” he said. “But we don’t use guns. We use cars.”
Where Q is from, divided highways often have a lane perpendicular to the main flow of traffic, which connects one side of the highway to the other. In this game, a person pulls off the highway in the dead of night, shuts off the headlights, and sits in the car, waiting.
At the appointed moment, he floors it. The car either passes through a gap in traffic and coasts to safety on the other side, or there is a horrible T-bone collision at highway speed.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I hope there is some wisdom in it…
If I want to know whether suicide is right for me, for example, I can try it out first. I can play at it, in a game. But unlike playing house with a plastic baby, where the entire construct is fictitious, there are odds….
Because in a game of life, we use fiction. In a game of death, we use odds.
The odds might tell me something about life and death. If I try it with a pistol, for example, I have a one in six chance…provided everything is set up properly, and I follow the rules of the game.
After the hammer falls on the first empty chamber, my opinion of suicide may change. Adrenaline is not an anti-depressant. But in the case of Russian Roulette, it a cognitive corrective. Of this, we can be sure.
The case is the same with a narrowly avoided collision at highway speed. Provided it is set up right. Provided the rules are followed.
Provided the driver is the only person in the car…
Years ago, before coming to Europe, I watched Krzyszstof Kieslowski’s film entitled Blanc. In the film, as you may know, the protagonist, Karol, is paid to assassinate a man who does not have the courage to kill himself. Karol meets the man in a metro tunnel, draws a semi-automatic pistol, and fires a single round into the man’s chest.
The man stumbles; a bullet has gone through him.
As you see it you imagine his panic as if it were your own; You imagine the hollowness in your stomach, the emptiness in your limbs, the sensation of adrenaline charging through your body, a gaping hole in your chest, a bullet blown through you, and your stomach turned upside down as if you were falling from a fifty-story building, plummeting, falling, a hollow place where the bullet went through. The shock overwhelms; your legs give out; your shoes scrabble on the concrete of the subway platform, you stumble and fall. Down on the cold cement, you shake feebly, almost peeing yourself… You’ve been shot. Your limbs are weak; you cannot move from weakness. But the adrenaline charges through you afresh… You look up at your shooter. Now you are dead. This is what his eyes are telling you. Now you know your mistake.
Then you put your hand to your chest…
There is no blood, no hole… There is only the intact dry fabric of your clothes.
There is silence in the subway tunnel. You can smell the grit, the urine.
You feel a rush, a thrill in your body. You touch again, probing your sweater with a couple of fingers. There was no bullet. It was a blank. You are alive! There you are, your body cleansed by adrenaline, a human being, your heart fresh, your mind open, blank, tabula rasa, in a train station, with nothing.
The game of death becomes a game of life. The contract on the man’s life is never carried out. The contract is a fiction. It is a contract to save his soul.
(A Footnote: Fact checking via Wikipedia. In Blanc, the man who pays Karol is also the intended target of the assassination. Also, please allow me to note that Q’s home country continues to be home to one of the most enlightened cultures in the history of civilization. I mean no disparagement by telling of its darker aspects.)