My best friend killed himself, but he keeps appearing to me. I don’t believe in ghosts or life after death, but he’s there and I want him gone. That’s why I need you to read my accountby Emran Mian / August 27, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
I am writing this in the hope that you are a bit like me. You have heard ghost stories and have enjoyed them. Perhaps you have thought that there is more than entertainment in them, that they manifest anxieties which we have about losing loved ones or about our own mortality. But you have never treated them as proof of life after death or confirmation of any religious belief. You have spotted the flaws in them, the apertures that allow you to insert a more rational explanation for what happened. If that sounds like you, then you are exactly who I need.
You’re not afraid of the idea that the end of life is truly the end. You are convinced that science will provide the answers about what our life consists of and the nature of consciousness. You have lost a loved one perhaps and it was tough, and you still think of them, but you don’t believe that they still exist.
I was like you. I want to be like you again. This account could help me get there if you bring the full force of your scepticism to it. So let me lay out what happened as well as I can.
I had a friend called Ben. On 23rd August 2000, he drove his car to the coast near San Diego, took off his watch, his belt, his shoes and socks and walked into the Pacific Ocean. Shortly before he did this, he sent an email to his friends and colleagues telling us that we should understand his actions as suicide; bothering the police to conduct an investigation was unnecessary. Ben was a no-loose-ends sort of person; as also explained in his email, the spot that he chose for his submarine stroll is characterised by a strong undertow. Jealously, the ocean has never given him back, just as Ben planned.
That’s the story of what you might call his death. Ben did something that he shouldn’t have done, in my view at least. I hate to think that he was maybe scared out there in the water; if he didn’t pass out quickly when he began to drown, perhaps he suffered a lot of pain. The consolations are that he seemed to have thought about it and it brought a prolonged period of unhappiness in his life to an end. So: goodbye Ben, I said. Goodbye my closest friend, a thousand jokes a minute, heaps of smarts, nine years older than me, my champion.