One of my favourite books is the young adult novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It tells about high school freshman Melinda Sordino who at the beginning of the school year has been shunned by all of her friends, including her best friend, Rachel. It’s not explained exactly what happened, except some incident occurred at a party during school holiday’s, and Melinda called the police, breaking up the party.
Melinda has few allies throughout the school year, it’s hinted her brilliant lab partner David has a crush on her, and her eccentric art teacher gets on well with her. Melinda really enjoys art. It’s really the only thing she enjoys as her grades in the rest of her classes plummet.
This teacher, I forget his name, it’s been a little while since I read the book, but he’s the one responsible for the quote in question – oh, I just found it on Goodreads. Thank you Goodreads.
“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time. You’d be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside—walking through their days with no idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job. It’s the saddest thing I know.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
I suppose this kept coming back to me, because for so many years I was doing absolutely nothing with my life, I remember there were days, weeks, months, years, at the place where we used to live, where my days would simply consist of waking, and then laying in my bed for the rest of the day, and playing a game, or reading a book, or if I did get up, I’d stay at home and surf the Internet… there were exceptions but this was the norm for a while.
I read a book called Underground, about the sarin gas attack in Tokyo, in 1995, committed by the Aum Shinrikyo cult, or Aum Supreme Truth. Haruki Murakami interviewed some members of Aum, not high ranking officials who committed the crime itself, but those who joined the cult and were taken advantage of by the leadership group.
In one of the interviews, Murakami speaks to a man who has very interesting views on life, and explains why he joined Aum in the first place. He was plodding through life, without much purpose, wondering to himself what the point of it all was – if a homeless person and the prime minister both end up in the same position, in a hole in the ground, what was the point of struggling in life? He started to develop a very negative outlook towards life, which led towards a social phobia and a hygiene fetish. Every time he’d leave the house, he’d see people laughing and wish they’d be smashed to smithereens. He hated himself for these thoughts but couldn’t help them. After returning home he’d start washing his hands and couldn’t stop for 30 minutes.
So Aum was a kind of saviour for him. The message they sent connected with him instantly in a time when he was lost, and gave him purpose.
I mention this person because for some time I took solace in such individuals as he who found little meaning in their lives. It was a comfort to know that I wasn’t alone out there.