An excerpt from Juan Kaius’ book ‘Binge and Nothingness‘ published on July 23, 2020.
My name is Juan Kaius and this is my suicide note. Yes, the name is not real, but in this world, what is? I’m 25 years old, and suffering from an existential crisis.
You would say 25 is too young for that to happen, but at 25, I have done everything that a 60-year-old man in the 20th century could only dream of, that too on his deathbed. Well, a person from the 1960s might be miles ahead of me in terms of sex, drugs, and rock n roll, but I will be gigabytes ahead of him in terms of vicarious experiences on the internet. So, at this point in my life, I’m void of any reason or purpose to exist!
I’m not depressed. There’s a cure for depression, but none for losing a sense of purpose. After going through career highs, financial lows, the joy of the first love, intolerable pain of a break-up, losing and taking virginity, traveling, hibernating, euphoria and depression, I have become dramatically apathetic to all situations in life. The motivational ‘do what you love’ bullshit forced me to chase so many highs that I’ve stopped getting the high from anything. Love, sex, drugs, games, adrenaline-pumping activities, everything feels like a needle tickling a Rhino’s thick hide. My present has become a pale adumbration of my past. Nothing excites me like it used to. Nothing.
You know that strange feeling of emptiness you get when you’ve seen all posts, liked all pictures, and watched several videos on social media? You keep scrolling and refreshing your feed but there’s nothing new to shake your brain out of numbness. The sudden dearth of new information, after an overdose, sends shockwaves of ennui through the body. That feeling, that lethargic malaise, had become a constant for me. Each day was a mindless scroll through the medium of life.
I believe this contagion has spread more rapidly in India than anywhere else in the world. We used to be a country that mostly cared about working hard, first to impress our parents then to feed our kids. Save for a few ‘intellectuals’, nobody gave a shit about finding the purpose to live. As long as the baby-making machine was well-oiled and productive, all generations were happy. Seeing a grandchild before dying was considered more of a blessing than dying as a millionaire. Regular visits to the temple, larger than life festivals, and never-ending rituals didn’t leave any time for morbid contemplation. Then, something changed. The Y2K bug that was supposed to end the world, really brought the end of an era for India.
The West was creeping in at a snail’s pace but the Internet put the snail’s arse on fire! Western culture spread like the plague, inflicting freedom to sin upon us all. Everyone wanted to spend their money on experiences, instead of saving it for their miserable kids. Hookups became the new norm, concerts and parties became accessible, and well the wanderlust just went viral. Things that used to mean so much started taking a backseat and most of us started losing our religion. The festive spirit of Diwali, Holi, and Eid started dampening. Rituals began appearing as nothing but extravagant efforts to feed superstitions. Yes, we were quick enough to imitate the West. But, that didn’t change the fact that we were still a shit country which grew on the very superstitions and disillusioned beliefs that now felt farcical. This chasm, the rift between old and new ideologies, triggered our descent into nothingness.
Freedom comes at a price which most of us couldn’t afford. Our generation was supposed to be leading a global revolution but we were torn apart in claiming to be freethinkers, yet living with the same insecurities as our parents. We grew up watching Bollywood, came to age watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and ended up living like the contestants of Big Brother. Ease of access to cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, opioids and prescription meds only made the brain damage more severe. The common goal of independence drove us all before we split into factions of sheep-like right wingers and cringeworthy liberals.
We all cried out against bullying and then bullied the people who didn’t share our school of thought. We wrote essays about mental health before calling our depressed friends toxic and breaking off contact. We highlighted social issues on social media but didn’t give a shit about what happened in real life. We tried to be polyamorous in order to not suffocate our partners but instead we just suffocated ourselves with jealousy. Trying too hard to be like the others, we lost our self. What followed was a terrible confusion about what to do, where to go, how to live! Those weak, quickly went seeking for solace in god, New Age meditations or therapy but brave, godless fuckers like yours truly were left reeling in depravity.
I tried. I tried to keep my rational mind aside. Religion used to fascinate me as a kid but then my IQ hit triple figures. That sucked the mysticism out of my life and I made several attempts to bring it back. I tried to chicken-out and blame all my overthinking on the alignment of the stars and planets. I even tried to convince myself that there is a divine plan and my suffering is nothing but a test, beyond which there lies a state of constant bliss. Religious people across the world inflict suffering on themselves in search of absolution. Then, surely our pains have a meaning behind them too, right? But I could never become that gullible and hence, never found peace in these idiotic beliefs. There were days when I went to these meditation ashrams too but even there, I could see through their elaborate, money-making schemes. And don’t even get me started on therapy. I wasted thousands of bucks only to learn that the best way to curb my feelings of emptiness, to make my existence less miserable, and to find a reason to go on in an utterly meaningless world, was to join a Zumba class. Hemingway was right! Happiness in intelligent people is, indeed, extremely rare.
For a while, I got interested in leaving everything behind and starting a new life. The story of Christopher McCandless inspired me to go Into the Wild, to live with nature, and to die in its lap. But then I thought, even his death was lonely and painful. And a lonely and painful death already awaits us all, so what’s the point? Then, I planned on becoming one of those travel bloggers. I could be really free, famous, and rich, all while doing something I adored. But then I realised that the freedom these bloggers preach on Instagram is also a sham. They look down upon the people who’ve become slave to the system while, in truth, these influencers are the bigger slaves.
These wanderlust icons are also a part of the same machine. The corporate slaves at least ‘travel’ while they’re on a break. So, they’re free to actually enjoy their time. On the other hand, even while traveling, the Instagrammers need to think about the promotions, the lies, and the exaggerations, in order to keep the income steady. The pictures they click, the cuisines they try, and the places they visit, everything is pre-decided, just to garner a few thousand likes. Instead of being in the moment and experiencing delight, they have to worry about where the next buck would come from. I’m not discrediting their work, just highlighting that true freedom just doesn’t exist anywhere. There is no peace on either side of the hill.
I needed something, something to look forward to. Something to make me go on. Something that could excite even a single one of my brain cells. Then, one day while lazily browsing YouTube, I came across a video about Dimethyltryptamine, popularly known as DMT. I’ve been a dope fiend for over a decade but I have never tried DMT. No, not out of fear. But, once, when I used to have a wee bit of hope, I had decided to drink Ayahuasca with the Amazonian Shamans. It was, to me, a sort of drug that would be most liberating in a ritualistic setting. That, however, never happened because I never left India. Hell, I didn’t even feel like getting a passport because learning about every fucking country through 1080p ‘real HD’ videos killed my curiosity. Just like it did for everything else I was once interested in.
DMT is one of the strongest hallucinogens known to man and has been used as an entheogen for thousands of years. Smoked in its crystal form, the drug only lasts for about 8-15 minutes. But these 8-15 minutes feel like years! Your paradigm of reality is completely shattered as you’re surrounded by non-Euclidean geometry, obsidian matter, and ectoplasmic ether. Many people report contact with otherworldly beings, hear sermons in daemonic Greek, and lose all sense of time and space. It’s ego death in the purest of forms!
Like a madman, I scrolled past hundreds of online articles to deepen my research. Terence McKenna’s lovely lectures piqued my interest in seeing heaven and hell, angels and demons, elves and orcs. Perhaps, the other dimensions would give me a will to live. Contact with the aliens could restore my faith in the pre-afterlife. A wave of energy surged through me. I felt like the flame that flickers sprightly just before it burns out. What followed was yet another vibe killing realisation. I might love the initial few highs of DMT and then what? Back to the void which can’t even be escaped through hallucinations? That is the way drugs work. They give a pleasant high during the experimental phases and after that – they just become a meaningless habit rather than an insightful experience.
Still, I kept on lazily researching the drug. Something about it kept me fascinated. It took me a couple of weeks before I realised another thing about it. According to the internet, DMT, the strongest hallucinogen out there, is released naturally at the time of death.
“The first step to eternal life is you have to die.” Golden wisdom from Tyler Durden in Fight Club.
Five days short of my 25th birthday, I finally found that my purpose to live was to die. No, not the hippie bullshit of going through an ego death. The real, actually fatal death. Once again, waves of excitement surged within me, and I began searching for the best way to kill myself. Slashing my wrists? No, too emo! Death by hanging? Nope, it works best for the rapists. Overdose? Hmm, nice but full of incessant vomiting. Come on! Got to think! I was an aspiring artist once, I should leave behind an artistic epitaph. Death by jumping off a cliff? Oh, fucking yes! This was it! It’s a dream of every human to fly and mine was to fly to death! I was chasing the last high of my life and I wanted it to be the best one. The only thing that left to finalise was the cliff I was going to jump off from. The first thought I had was of Mt. Everest but existence for me had already been nothing short of climbing the Everest. I needed something easier, fun, and cool.
Then, I thought of Kasar Devi. This quiet town near Almora Hills in Uttarakhand saw legends like Swami Vivekananda, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg etc. visit it. The pseudoscience department of NASA claims that a powerful magnetic field exists at that place, giving it immense positive energy. These guys walked to their enlightenment there. Maybe I could walk to my death. Same shit, right? Then, as if in an epiphany, my mind settled to meet its fate atop Triund, a hill in Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh. The psychedelic, Buddhist backdrop of McLeodganj, and the gorgeous views of the Dhauladhar range, made Triund the perfect stop to kill myself and experience DMT.
Gaze long into the abyss, and you’ll long to fall down into it.
Three days before my 25th birthday, I decided to leave my house to follow my destiny, to jump off a cliff and die. I was always fascinated by artists running away from homes to follow their passion, and here I was about to do the same. But I was in no hurry. My mom was cooking a delicious breakfast of aloo parantha drenched in white butter, and served with lassi (butter milk). I gave in to my temptation and sat down. It’s difficult for the dark side of your brain to communicate with you when you’re lost in the sweet and pleasant high of the first sip of lassi, after you’ve filled your stomach with some good old paranthas. I looked at my mother and drowned in deep rumination. Such a simple face, such a simple life! Where did I go wrong? When did I lose the path?
I was born into a middle-class family who loved their only son more than anything in the world. Quite often, therapists were surprised when they couldn’t connect my empathy, or the lack of it, to a rough childhood. But if I’m allowed to self-diagnose, I believe that the biggest reason for all my mental issues was in fact a painfully average childhood. My parents never fought, no one bullied me in school, and no one fancied me either. I was average at studies, sports, friendships, and all the rest. I was happy in my bubble of normal existence until I broadened my horizon till the point it could encompass nothing. After that, I just wanted more, more of love, more of pain, more of every fucking thing. With the sweet nectar still working wonders down my throat, I got into a conversation with myself.
“Is this good enough for Sisyphus to go on?”
“Care to explain?”
“Why don’t you take the second sip first? Finish the damn thing while you’re at it.”
“Dude come on, Prerna is out from my life now, stop behaving like her.”
“Alright. Nope. The burden is too big to be lightened by culinary delights.”
With that I quickly took the second sip. For those not familiar with Existentialism 101, Sisyphus was a king, a rather proud king well-known for his trickery. Now, monarchs are allowed their fair bit of cheating but Sisyphus even cheated death, twice! This pissed off Zeus, who cursed him to roll a massive boulder to the top of a hill for eternity. To make it worse, whenever the poor guy would reach somewhere near the top, the boulder would roll back down to its starting point. In his book, Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus argues that people who are inherently curious to seek the meaning of life and fail pathetically, are cursed with the same fate as Sisyphus.
Instead of the stone, we have to carry the burden of existence every day, without any real meaning or purpose behind it. Life is an uphill task for us. But, Camus said, in the end, we should imagine Sisyphus to be happy, instead of trying to end the curse through self-annihilation. That’s what I was arguing about with the dark side of my brain when it won’t let me be happy while drinking lassi. The burden of my existence was too heavy to carry anymore. This Sisyphus was about to roll the boulder up the mountain one last time and make sure that he doesn’t need to repeat. The curse was about to be broken.
Finally, I bid adieu to my parents and home. To avoid any emotional hindrances, I didn’t see their faces and just shouted, “I’m heading out.” There was no pain in leaving home for the last time. Philippe Petit once said, “What’s pain, when you’ve got a passion so big?” I understood the meaning of this quote then. The only difference was that his pain was a toothache and passion was to walk on a high-wire between the twin towers, and my pain was a meaningless life and passion was to end it.
I left home wearing my favourite ‘The Doors’ t-shirt and with a laptop bag sliding across it. I was carrying my beloved Macbook with me to write the final pages of my personal diary. I wished that someone would find it after my death and I would become a cult hero that pushes people to kill themselves.
“Finally, my life would have meaning! Albeit posthumously.” I sighed joyously.
I stole one last glance at my house. For nearly 25 years, I called this place home. It was an infinity mirror of countless memories. I thought of my parents and closed my eyes to remember the highlights of my childhood. Losing my first tooth, the pain of falling from the bicycle and hurting my knee, and the comforting numbness of fever. A couple of goosebumps appeared and vanished as soon as I noticed them. I had actually lost it, the power to feel, the blessing to get emotional, it was all gone. There was not even a single teardrop to abate the arid emptiness inside me. The house was nothing but just brick and mortar. Accepting that, I turned to face forward, to run the last errand in the city before I could carry on with my pilgrimage – to meet my childhood friend, Rishabh. Yes, I was still in touch with my childhood friend at 25 but I swear he was the only one.
“Get two Milds for me and meet me at the backside of the market.” Rishabh was the most infamous of my friends for my family. He had a notorious reputation because I always ended up in deep trouble on his birthdays. For example, my first car accident, first altercation with the police and first bloody fist fight, all happened when I went out to celebrate his birthday. However, the real mastermind behind all those plans was always me. Rishabh was just an easy target. Hell, he had his first beer thanks to me, smoked his first cigarette thanks to me, smoked his first joint thanks to me, and the most traumatising for him, took his first bite of beef thanks to me. He had become a popular hotelier now, so he had to be careful while indulging in unethical activities. I lit my Marlboro Red and his Classic Mild together, and strolled towards the backside where he was talking to someone on the phone. By the look on his face, probably to a girl.
“Who is this girl in your life and why don’t I know about her?” I asked, handing him his cigarette after stealing a few drags off it.
“What the fuck, how did you know I was talking to a girl?” Rishabh replied smoking a hesitant drag after scrutinisng his surroundings.
“You have an erection.”
“What!” With that, he actually looked down. His simplicity amazed me! We were friends since kindergarten and almost similar till high school. Then, I began to change, started reading a lot, watched films, TV shows, learned about trolling on the Internet and so on. While he remained that simple guy who gets pleasure from winning a cricket match, driving around the city chasing babes, gelling his hair, street fights, and whatever these normal folks do. I had changed, but the world around me seemed so constant. It was scary!
“She is my friend’s ex. You know Mohit, right? The owner of Himalayan Bakery? He dumped her. So she’s been getting close to me for the last week.”
“Oh! Then go for her dude!” Was my prompt reply.
“No, no. She still can’t get over him. The only thing we talk about is how she wasn’t good enough for him. So, I don’t think I stand a chance.”
“Also, I don’t want to feel like a replacement.” He was smoking fearlessly now but his eyes were heavy with contemplation.
“Bro, stop thinking so much before taking actions. This is not a business deal. She can’t get over him? Help her, but at least ask her to go down on you in return. Sympathy comes at a price. Get what I am saying?”
“Shut up! I’m not so insensitive.” Rishabh said that with more shyness than anger.
“I’m kidding. But if you guys start liking each other, don’t hesitate because of Mohit.”
“It’s only been a week.” He said throwing his cigarette while there were still two or three drags in it, according to my standards. “But I think I love her.”
“Alright man. Take it slow. You’re getting laid very soon, remember that.” I said these words almost like a blessing, keeping in mind that a dying man’s blessing or curse always comes true, or, so I’ve heard.
“Now hurry up and drop me to the bus stand. It’s late and I don’t want to miss the last bus to Dharamshala.”
“You’re going to Dharamshala?”
“Yep. Gonna trek Triund.”
“Did you tell your parents?”
“What am I, 12? Let’s go!”
I was panicking a little. The more time I spent in the city, the more time I spent with my friends and family. And that only made me more anxious and dubious about my decision. I was having second thoughts, third thoughts because everything seemed strangely calm and pleasing. I had decided upon the biggest step, or rather leap, of my life, in merely a few days. But at the back of my head, I knew that these meetings felt special because they were my last and if I spent another couple of days living like this, banality would wreck me again. So, I kept up my determination to kill myself. What a time to develop a strong will power!
The book is available on Kindle.