Creative Problem Solver. Programmer. Bodysurfing. Sometime Comics.
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Heart Heavy

Ed Piskor was a comic creator.

He was kind of a lovable goofball and I suspect I’d have loved talking with him.

He interviewed folks and talked about comics on a YouTube channel.

I like YouTube channels that are like radio documentaries. They are edited for length and clarity.

The channel Ed and his co-host had were not edited for length and clarity. I watched one or two. About Jack Kirby. About Harvey Kurtzman. But couldn’t watch much more. Maybe I needed to watch them on 2x or 3x speed. They were not edited that I could tell.

I never met Piskor. But I have some of his comics. WIZZYWIG sits on my shelves. I enjoyed it in 2013. I’ve not sought out much of his other work but have seen some pages and panels. Hip Hop Family Tree stands out as something pretty great and has been on a list of comics I intend to acquire.

Ed Piskor killed himself a few days ago.

Like the suicide of Dooce in 2023, I feel sad to be reminded that living a highly visible public life warps the perspective a person has. It magnifies everything. It makes what’s good seem great and what’s bad seem horrific.

Ed’s suicide note is a ramble, but what stands out to me is that while he talks about friendship and making friends and loving comics, he also says he no longer has friends. He also uses this phrase toward the end: “I was murdered by Internet bullies.”, which, no. That’s not the cause. Ed may have been mistreated. Ed may have been defamed. He may have been unfairly judged and unjustly accused. And the rumor of that may have cost him money, but what happened was not murder. What happened was suicide. Suicide is an entirely other thing. Murder is a word with meaning. Suicide is a word with meaning. You don’t get to put the cause of your death in someone else’s hand. When a character puts a gun in someone else’s hand in an action movie we know that person is a bad guy.

Part of being a responsible person in this life is to be accountable. It’s to have the integrity to stand up and cop to the way you live and the decisions you made. People make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones. They lose money and friendships and family out of what happens to them. Sometimes this happens and they didn’t do that wrong thing.

I have lost friendships, betrayed people, not been accountable, gone bankrupt, am twice divorced, have screwed up opportunities and lost out on jobs and big money because of my own flaws and for happenstance that just happened. I’ve also expressed suicidal ideation, mentioning to my spouse a somehow-vague but also somehow-real idea that “maybe I’ll just walk out into the woods and not come back.” Thankfully in that moment I had people in my life to say “why not try something else” and I got counseling to resolve depression. I’m about 15 years past that moment in my life. I learned, with practice, habits of mind that kick in when I feel depression and despair. And depression and despair are normal feeling to feel in life. One is forced to learn to work with those feelings.

That internet is made of people, which sometimes forms mobs. It piles on. But before the internet, people making death threats by phone or letter existed. Gossip existed before the internet. Becoming a public person comes with the side effect: a melange of attention and threats and adulation. You had better adjust and find yourself, no matter if fame sought you out or you sought it yourself. You must do this. Unfortunately one cannot really choose to undo this. No, it’s not fair. But a person must keep perspective on who they are and what is important to them. If people consider you a pariah or a monster you must reckon with how you will let that change your life. What does it mean? If you decide they are right, you better decide what that means to your soul. I promise you that you have more strength than you realize to do the human thing and LIVE.

Piskor’s death is an absolute tragedy with a radius of effect that’s leaving a mark. But there’s nobody to punish. There’s a reminder that the cruelty of other people can hurt, and that what we decide to do about cruelty matters. If people in your sphere are cruel, tell them the world would be better if they weren’t. If you are being cruel, reckon with why you feel you need to. You don’t.

And there’s a reminder about how we think about things matters. It is a sign of disordered thinking to claim other people are responsible for an action you carry out with your own hands. “You made me do this” is a line bad people say, in movies, and in life.

If you have resources–and if you’re a person reading this you likely have enough good things in your life to be running an internet browser on a device and have access to a place with people willing to let you use a browser–there’s someone who cares that you go on living and can help you get help. Get that help, and live.

So go forth, and find for yourself habits of mind to keep you going. The world is more interesting with you in it.

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