Ray Johnson suggested that letters are better than talk. I never taped Ray either. Cage was a better writer than poets I did interview. Cage began his public life as a lecturer. His anecdotes were Aesopian. Put down your cross, take off your shoes, and walk -- or swim.
August Comte threw himself into the Seine. The water in his ears rang, perhaps a premonition of church bells. Comte was rescued, and later, of course, invented sociology.
Walking along the Hudson one morning I encountered a scene of ambulances and police cars and out on the water police boats illuminated by the searchlights of two helicopters -- and an eyewitness. I watched divers in wetsuits lift a stretcher out of the water into the hands of Emergency Service Workers who then rushed the victim on a gurney to their waiting ambulance. They dashed off, sirens blaring. The poor man, dragged from the Hudson at 5:00 AM, according to the eyewitness, was a homeless man who jumped into the Hudson to end it all. The eyewitness had phoned 911. The homeless man had “clearly succeeded,” said the eyewitness -- unlike Comte. Or, taking the longer view, he had clearly failed -- unlike Comte.
One does not go to Paris to see the Seine. Does one go to Naples to die? Emile Durkheim, who taught at the Sorbonne and held the first chair in the social sciences in France, remains best known for his book Le Suicide. Some people commit suicide out of altruism, he said; these include soldiers and martyrs. Islamic suicide bombers clearly view themselves as such martyrs. Others commit suicide because they’re isolated and cut off from family, friends and society. A third group is driven to suicide by anomie, by a changing society that leaves many individuals with no role or morale. Virginia Woolf drowned herself, out of anomie, not in the Seine but the Thames. Westerners think Islam suffers from such anomie.
Suicidal anomie probably claim the inventor of Correspondance (sic) Art, my colleague, Ray Johnson, in Sag Harbor, New York. He jumped off a bridge in January and swam off to his death by drowning. Ray and I had made John Cage shoes.