Richer Than A King, He Put A Bullet Through His Brain

"Le Suicidé" by Edouard Manet

“Le Suicidé” by Edouard Manet

By “Bob”

These words seem to strike a nerve among men:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him 

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.…

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

These are a few lines from “Richard Corey” by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The poem has inspired music by Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney & Wings, Them, Van Morrison, Cuby + Blizzards, The Chicago Loop, 3Ds, Ken Boothe, John Duke, American Oi, Youngblood, and The Menzingers. It also inspired a play by A. R. Gurney and a poem by American humorist Garrison Keillor.

Rich musician sees he has little of worth

I remembered that poem one day as I listened to Mike Posner’s, “I took a pill in Ibiza.” The song tells of a rich and famous musician who had it all, and then realized that he didn’t really have much of anything.

A few lines:

I drive a sports car just to prove

I’m a real big baller

Cause I made a million dollars

But you don’t wanna be high like me

Never really knowing why like me

You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster 

And be all alone

An artist from another generation made a similar realization. “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty is slow and uneventful, but the lyrics are meaningful. I played saxophone in middle school but never played this song even though I really wanted to learn it. It’s honest about how depression and hopelessness can affect anyone:

This city desert makes you feel so cold

It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul…

Another year and then you’d be happy

Just one more year and then you’d be happy

But you’re cryin’ you’re cryin’ now

He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands

And then he’ll settle down, it’s a quiet little town

And forget about everything

But you know he’ll always keep movin’

The song expresses the human contradiction of trying to be optimistic, or even fooling yourself that it will be better, yet feeling helpless and hopeless.

“You know he’s never gonna stop movin’”

The words reflect “Ibiza”:

And I can’t keep a girl, no

‘Cause as soon as the sun comes up

I cut ’em all loose 

And work’s my excuse

But the truth is 

I can’t open up

Guys try to rack up points by bedding girls. And sure, they get some status. But are they happier?

Most guys say they are happier in relationships.

So maybe it just seems like guys who are getting girls are “living the life.”

This masculine facade

It makes me think of this masculine facade. Guys outwardly show a confident, even cocky “man face.” But it’s rooted perhaps in insecurity.

You look successful and fulfilled. But maybe that face is more like compensation for not being happy.

Because really you are chasing after meaningless nightlife happiness which doesn’t have soul or meaning. It’s superficial. Vacuous.

What’s really important?

It seems like human nature to be competitive — at least I am.

Or maybe our culture just emphasizes hierarchy and being on “top,” glamorizing fortune and status — especially for men.

So you join the ego-centered competition, “proving yourself” by getting hot girls and being a high status “baller” man.

But things aren’t always what they seem.

Maybe what’s really important are the small things — or things that can seem small but which are actually really significant: family, friends and partnership.

It’s really the simple, meaningful things, that are less about ego — yourself — and more about what’s beyond just “you.”

It’s easy to lose sight of such things, and think the grass is greener on the other side, leaving us envying others who only seem to be living the highlife.

By one of my readers, “Bob.”

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 6, 2017, in men, psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I almost feeling watching a adventure theater, this is great and productive…

  2. Well written and good job. It’s flattering to know, my thoughts and posts sometimes inspire or impress you enough to write a blog post from my thoughts or what I’ve written.

  3. Probably flamboyant and hedonistic living is all about consumption and hardly anything about the immanent happiness in a life of giving. One goes on consuming, eventually getting consumed in a consumptive frenzy. To be able to give, a person needs to develop his potential to the fullest extent to scale up to a plane of richness of a wealth of capabilities. It does not mean parting with material possessions, though it may form part of the larger giving. The motto ought to be to receive minimally and give maximally. The grapes received must ideally be returned as wine.

  4. Perhaps, men are taught to wear a mask of confidence mixed with arrogance from their childhood. they fail to express their emotions in a real manner fearing that would make them ‘vulnerable’ like their female counterparts.

    A nice post by Bob, I’ve read his comments earlier on your blog… 🙂

  5. Yes find happiness in small things around. Grass will always seem greener on the other side, but might be the person on the other side would wish to have a life like yours. One should be happy with what they have and find happiness around them. If you have a family to count on, friends for lifetime, a relation that gives you peace and happiness and a job that you had dreamed than you have everything in your life as for me happiness is not owning a big house, branded car or anything.

    • “a job that you had dreamed ”

      Well unfortunately, I believe most people don’t have that. Many people even one’s with degrees and find the career they want. It’s one they feel they are suited for, but doesn’t mean they like it a ton and just a job for them. Many people though are just working the 9 to 5 like and the job and pay needed to get by or feed their family. Not one that’s a dream job or one they dreamed of. That’s life though. But despite that. It doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate life or what one has and not be too caught up or consumed with the flashy things in life.

  6. You have a great talent with words, congratulations!

  7. I know this isn’t too deep and an education article like I’ve used before, but sometimes movie clips even funny one’s can make you realize things in relation to such things in real life. There is a movie clip that came to my mind when seeing this post and thinking of the mike posner song I mentioned before.

    Read this before seeing the clip though.
    But anyway, Adam Sandler’s character plays a hopeless romantic guy who is a wedding singer. And always wanted a loving relationship and to be married. He had his heart broken at the altar to be married and his to be wife never showed up. He met a woman he liked who worked at one of the places he sang at played by Drew Barrymore. She likes him and he falls in love with her, but she’s to be engaged with another guy who he met from a double date with her friend.

    And he learns what a d bag he is. The guy tells him how being married won’t change things, because he works nights late, thus implying he can still be the womanizer he was and cheat on Drew Barrymore’s character. Adam knows this but can’t tell her as he doesn’t want to break up a to be marriage as they are engaged even though the fiance plays a guy who treats women like possessions. Anyway way so Adam being the hopeless romantic has a best friend in it who is the womanizer. He’s always implied to be single and hooking up and says comments early in movie at a wedding reception of being able to take some woman home, etc. So this leads to the scene in the clip later in the movie where Adam’s character is disheartened and feels like giving up and talks with his single womanizing buddy at the bar. Through the humor, I found interesting as far as what Adam Sandler’s friend, the womanizer had to say. It is funny though too so I thought that’s a plus, and will give you a laugh which is always good. The old man is funny in it and I knew even the first time that the old man was gonna do what he did lol. It is a funny scene ha

  8. Ha ha! I’m glad the good guy gets the girl in the end.

    • That stuck out to me though how he’s “we’ll hook up with girls and be free and happy.” And in the movie it seemed like his friend liked his lifestyle and never lead on, probably like how other guys. But then he revealed, he’s not happy and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. And just wants to be held and told everything will be alright. Which cue in the old guy lol. The old man was funny in the clip.

      • Yeah, when he said that he just wanted someone to hug him I’m sure that’s not what he had in mind.

        And I believe that humans were designed to want and seek out love and affection — maybe because children due seem to do better when they have devoted parents. So it’s denying a part of one’s humanity to just constantly go after a bunch of anonymous people. It doesn’t seem to be especially satisfying in a long run. It seems like it’s more about keeping score. And as I sometimes say: winning, but are you happy?

  9. And I believe that humans were designed to want and seek out love and affection — maybe because children due seem to do better when they have devoted parents. So it’s denying a part of one’s humanity to just constantly go after a bunch of anonymous people. It doesn’t seem to be especially satisfying in a long run. It seems like it’s more about keeping score. And as I sometimes say: winning, but are you happy?”

    Isn’t it interesting to know this, but yet still be stuck on want to do things that just give a brief thrill? Even if knowing it won’t make one happy in the long term. Some of these things relate to me, even though knowing there’s more to things. It seems like a very human problem, and many people knowing what’s best, but still go the other way. That’s why people can feel like or seem like hypocrites when giving advice. The term comes to mind “do what I say, not what I do”. You see this in every like form. Temptation or stubborness overriding the better way. I mean you see this with food and eating bad things even though knowing it can be bad for you health especially if keep on doing. It’s had for people to break habits even if they know better and it’s not what’s best for you or what will make you happy. But still find oneself going that direction.

    • I think it’s very common for people to know what is healthy and best for them yet still not do it because in the short-term they get something out of it even if it hurts them in the long-term. I know that I have done that many times.

  10. I think Bob’s article was very well presented, and it really hit home with me. In the poem titled “Richard Corey,” two lines were especially significant to me:

    “ In fine, we thought that he was everything
    To make us wish that we were in his place”

    Many years ago, I went to Washington High School in Fremont, California. One of the students there was the star athlete of the school (football, wrestling, and baseball). He was so good that when he graduated they retired his jersey, and placed it behind glass in the trophy case for the school.

    I was so in awe of his athletic ability that several times I privately wished that I could trade places with him (which I would have done in an instant).
    After high school he continued his athletic career at Foothill College.

    The point of this story is that he died at the age of 20 from throat cancer. Many times since then I’ve thought about how I wanted to trade places with him, and how thankful I am that my wish did not come true, and how thankful I should be with my own life.

    Bob wrote several lines which really stand out for me:

    “But things aren’t always what they seem.
    It’s really the simple, meaningful things, that are less about ego – yourself – and more about what’s beyond just ‘you’.”

    A girl named Linda, who went to our high school was mentally handicapped. Some of the other students would tease her and make her life miserable (only boys would tease her, never girls). One day at lunchtime, another girl, Cathy, went up to Linda and made friends with her, and spent the whole lunchtime walking with her, and making her feel comfortable. I’ll always remember what Cathy did that day. Her motives were completely unselfish. She simply had compassion for Linda, and wanted to make her feel better. This is what I thought about when I read in the previous paragraph, “… meaningful things, that are less about … yourself – and more about what’s beyond just ‘you’.”
    Doing acts of kindness the way that Cathy did during that lunchtime is certainly a way to bring happiness to yourself and to others.

  11. Elisabeth Esquivel

    Wow, that poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson was SO powerful. I think this could easily be related to women as well. Women and men alike put on these facades to try and prove to others and themselves that they are happy. People (myself sometimes even) think if they get that next new IPhone or buy that expensive car, then they will be happy. But for the most part, it doesn’t work that way, and the sadness could easily consume someone.

    Suicides in colleges have become a really big issue, and in most of the articles about the student there is always a quote from a friend or family member that says, “they were always so happy and smiling.” This really scares me. The excerpt from this poem is so relatable to what I see happen around me. I appreciate that I see lots of mental health clubs and mental health events and easily accessible counseling around my school’s campus.

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