Blog Archive

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Spalding Gray aka Gary Spalding

Watching Spalding Gray's film "Swimming to Cambodia" about his role in the film "The Killing Fields" was the expected manic soliloquy characteristic of Spalding Gray with it's stream of consciousness feel and exhausting pace. When I watched his last film about his vision loss prior to his suicide I had a feeling much like I did when Robin Williams died; that his death was a natural progression of the disease. Why is there a sense that euthanasia is less valid than a consequence of an unavoidable death from disease? That people "lose their battle with Cancer" when the only prognosis possible in our world is death from certain Cancers? And how is it that people "win their battle with Cancer" because they endured the often brutal side effects of certain treatments? It is puzzling. Still, suicide is a complication of some mental, emotional illnesses and personality disorders including drug abuse and alcoholism. When Ernest Hemingway the Author received "shock therapy" for his Depression he was so appalled by the apparent loss of his ability to write that he died of a "gun cleaning accident." Some wealthy businessmen are so overcome by the loss of their fortunes that they kill themselves believing life without money, or having malignant debt, too horrible to contemplate.

My own maternal grandfather had his own "gun cleaning accident" in November 1966 over 50 years ago primarily due to chronic alcoholism and its consequences. Wanting to know more about him, because I was four years old at the time, I attempted to ask people about him. Usually they said that 'he was a drunk that shot himself in the head.' Yes, I know that, but who was he? I had only a few fragmentary memories of him. Even my mother, who was optimistic about most people, became a bit dark and wounded when I asked about him. It was truly puzzling how the manner of death prevailed over everything else about the person. It was like your manner of birth determining your entire character. Yet, Birth is only the beginning. Death is the culmination of a life, or so it seemed to me.

History is filled with characterizations of people by the manner of their death, as if they had exerted some control over its orchestration in the end. What if history, like the present, is really filled with ambiguities, doubts and misinformation? That heroes were not so heroic and criminals were falsely convicted innocents or victims of circumstances far beyond their control? That those completely obscure and forgotten deaths should have been honored and celebrated while those so memorialized did not merit a decent burial? What if most, if not all of these, were soon restored to life to personally render a true account of what happened and why? I can imagine a great and terrible civil war about to break out as history revealed itself unless some mitigating factor also revealed itself from that history; a greater truth directly responsible for their collective restoration from their collective demise.