Invisible Agony

David Foster Wallace

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BY DAVID FOSTER WALLACE


“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person
who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote
‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s
assets and debits do not square. And surely not because
death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its
invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will
kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually
jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake
about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of
falling from a great height is still just as great as it
would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same
window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling
remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror,
the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling
to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors.
It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And
yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’
and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d
have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to
really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

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