You cannot know anything about death unless you go into it. Hemingway’s attitude was that if it is going to happen then why be dragged into it? Why not go into it on your own? It is going to happen. His whole life’s concern was death, that’s why he became so interested in bullfights. Death was very close by. He was constantly. attracted by the theme of death – what it was. But you cannot know. Even if somebody is dying in front of you, you don’t know anything about death. You simply know that the breathing has disappeared, that this man’s eyes won’t open again, that this man will never speak again, that his heart is no longer beating – that’s all. But this is nothing. How can you know about death from these things? The mystery remains a mystery, you have not even touched it.
You can know it only by going into it. But if you are dragged into it there are more possibilities of your becoming unconscious – because you are being dragged into it. Almost always people die unconsciously. Before death happens they become so afraid, so very afraid, that a kind of coma surrounds them and protects them. It is a natural anesthetic. When you go for an operation, you need an anesthetic – and death is the greatest operation there is: the soul and body will be torn apart. So nature has some built-in mechanism – before you start dying you go into a coma; all consciousness disappears. In the first place your consciousness was not very much. Even while you were alive, it was just a tiny flicker. When the wind of death comes, that flicker is gone – there is complete darkness.
Hemingway wanted to go into death fully conscious. It was a conscious exercise in dying. But that is possible only through suicide or through samadhi. These are the only two possibilities. You can die consciously in only two ways. You can commit suicide; you can manage your own death. You can have your revolver ready, contemplate it, put it to your chest or your head, pull the trigger yourself consciously, see the explosion and see death. This is one possibility. It is a very destructive possibility.
Another possibility is to go more and more into meditation, to attain to a state of awareness that cannot be drowned by death. Then there is no need to commit suicide. Then whenever death comes, let it come. You will be dying fully alert, aware, watchful.
So it is suicide or sannyas, suicide or samadhi.
And in the West, sannyas and samadhi have not been available. That’s why these two very rare people committed suicide. And they have not been understood. People think that they were kind of ill, neurotic, mad, morbid, unhealthy. They were not. I am not saying that all people who commit suicide are the same. There are neurotic people who will commit suicide. There are morbid people who are more concerned with death than they are concerned with life, who enjoy destructiveness. They are self-destructive mechanisms who go on poisoning themselves.
I’m not talking about all suicides – but you have asked about these two. And there are as many as people commit suicide. But these two are very rare. These two are very potential. If Vincent van Gogh or Hemingway had been in the East or had had the Eastern attitude, they would have flowered as great sannyasins.
And then you ask: “Why do they poison their rivers, their air and their own food?” That is again creating a mass suicide very slowly.