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'Eh Jude' welcomes letters seeking advice, or correspondence that conveys the mind-bending complexity of contemporary life. Please click on this link to open the form submission page for your letter. This column will respect the wish of all lettter writers who prefer to remain anonymous.


Prequel to a suicide note

Eh Jude,

Given the dire circumstances I find myself in, here, now, this message begins to feel like practice for a suicide note. I just don't know where to begin only that my head pounds with the problems I'm downing in. Debt, joblessness, divorce and eviction. Things in my life took a turn for the worse when I found out that I would not be getting the last six months of unemployment. I've been out of work for the last year and a half and have not had a sit down interview for over six months. Even my recruiters won't call me back. The message I'm getting is that this economy can get by with one less office manager. My wife has threatened to divorce me after months of telling me how disgusting I am for not being able to provide for my family.

I've exhausted the good will of relatives, friends and all my job recruiters. A man cannot live by platitudes alone. The whole situation just sickens me and I can see no way out. Even the suicide prevention hotline is of no use. I need help and I'm getting to the end of my rope real quick and it's tied in the shape of a noose. Please, Jude, can you help me?



Dear Useless,

Since you are leaning toward ending your life, why not consider it terminated already? Death relieves you from having to face the myriad of difficulties you described--from the petty to the ultra serious. What importance do they serve when you've silenced your life?

Who's your wife going to divorce now? What employer will pass you over for a job? Your life no longer hangs on the whims or opinions of others. What I'm suggesting is that you have to live your life as if you just survived suicide. It serves as a shock to one's senses. Assumptions and beliefs must endure a shakedown.

Having survived suicide, you are now free to push the reset button for your journey. You have to use this occasion to re-evaluate your goals and talents, especially reconsider how you relate to yourself in every waking moment--this includes your body language like posture and the mood your countenance reveals. Hiring managers are reading these cues as carefully as they might sift through your resume.

The new, limitless you no longer accepts being pinned down by whatever harrowing troubles you endured. And of course none of them go away. But how you handle them stands the chance of a robust renewal.

While the economy had been imploding over the last five years, lots of people got busy exploring the shifting landscape for new foundations to build upon. Intuition is crucial at a time like this. What opportunity is out there wating for you to seize it? What unspoken career wish went unheeded while you held down a job? Don't you deserve the satisfaction of doing work you enjoy?

However dark the day becomes, never forget that it is your life's instinct to fight for survival; and you have honored that instinct by reaching out.



Making homelessness a personal urgency


Eh Jude,

In my city there are a lot of homeless people. Almost all of them are either mentally ill and/or alcoholics. I really care about them. One of them I brought to the city rehab center, but he could only stay three months, then it was back to the streets. Two others I brought to a private rehab center. At this facility the homeless can reside there as long as they want to. Through the winter their basic needs are met and they receive help locating their families. But as soon as summer starts, they leave.

One particular young man my son’s age, who needed medical attention, I brought home so he could bathe, eat and get a change of clothes before going to the hospital. After he had been discharged I couldn’t let him stay in my home, so he had to stay on the street.

My question is, what can I do? My heart hurts from the feeling that I can’t do more. The homeless are people, too. They used to be infants, who’ve been kissed and taken care of. At one time they went to school, and their lives were ordered. Why does God make me take notice of them? My neighbors and friends ignore the homeless. They are genuinely surprised when I tell them about transients living next to their homes. They don’t see them. I don’t know what effort I should commit to—helping them get sober, feeding them or providing shelter. While there’s only so much I as an individual can do, the problem cannot be solved at the state level. Well wishes for the homeless are useless while they starve and freeze each day. What miracle will it take to solve this crisis on a mass scale?

Handless Matron 


Dear Matron,

By now you may have heard of New York City Police Officer Larry DePrimo. While on duty last month he encountered a homeless man with bare feet during a cold New York night. Moved by compassion for the destitute man—now known as military veteran Jeffrey Hillman—the officer bought him a seventy-five-dollar pair of winter boots. A tourist from Arizona snapped a photo of Officer DePrimo offering the boots to Hillman. The image of this generous deed having been posted online, it reached an audience in the hundreds of thousands. It became the subject of mass media praise and, ultimately, scrutiny.

The intense media attention on this simple act of kindness betrayed the relief felt by the rest of us not doing our part—that, thank God, someone is out there is doing something. However, as you well know, the full scope of this national calamity presents a challenge far greater than any individual can bear.

The overall story illustrates homelessness’ complexity. When media outlets followed up on the encounter, they reported that Hillman in fact is not homeless; that he’s not wearing the boots the police officer gave him; and that members of his family have conveyed he is welcome to return home. These details get to the heart of why as a nation we have come to tolerate homelessness. Because of a case like Jeffrey Hillman’s, the prevailing thought about citizens without permanent shelter sounds like this: they’re out there because they want to be. We prefer to err on the side of individual freedom rather than ‘impose’ shelter and clothing.

Couple that assumption with the harrowing possibility that some able-minded, able-bodied people will exploit society’s help! (As far as I know no one has put an end to bank robbery and yet banks find the courage to open their doors every weekday at 9:00 a.m.) To prevent fraud of this damnable caliber, we as a nation have decided that an underground society of Jeffrey Hillmans is but a small price to pay for charity that is as free of exploitation as possible.

As a nation and as a collection of communities, we fail to acknowledge the gestalt of our entire economy—the contours between living with and without shelter; how current marketplace priorities punish those who endure a personal catastrophe like financial ruin, addiction or mental illness.

Given that our country has the resources to solve this problem, homelessness serves a particular purpose within our culture; it marks the struggle between the limits of individual freedom and the cost of community responsibility. No true change takes hold until voters decide that citizens living without shelter is unacceptable—choice or no choice.

Okay, so onto your question: what more can you do to bring relief to the homeless community in your neighborhood? As an individual, probably not much more than what you’re doing already.  Consider that there are a number of dimensions—social, political, economic—to this crisis, where others are already at work to bring about change. 

Homelessness poses a crisis of faith in ourselves—as individuals, we're resigned to the position that nothing can be done for so deep and widespread a national misfortune.  And for most it has not been a misfortune that touches us all personally. Living as if we are inoculated from such a catastrophe prevents us from acknowledging its urgency. You are in a position to convey that urgency, as you have done in writing and sharing with your friends.  Personalizing the suffering of others initiates the change of hearts and minds that a permanent solution will require. 


Winning does not tempt that man

For decades Jude Folly has borne the worry and anguish of friends, strangers and family members. Why anyone would seek out his listening presence is still a mystery to him. What a shame to let all this ‘talent’ go to waste. So, he’s launching Eh Jude – Advice for Lost Causes.

Jude Folly welcomes letters seeking advice or correspondence that recalls the mind-bending complexity of contemporary life—including, but not limited to, heart break, betrayal, dashed dreams, unfulfilled promise, exile or whatever wound that afflicts the soul.

The great majority of advice columns go only so far as to convey instruction for coping with difficult situations. This is not one of those columns. Manners and etiquette are nice, but Jude Folly won’t be dispensing much of either. They too often mask the torment that “polite society” demands from recipients of hostility. As for columns that offer cold-hearted, nihilistic snark—really cute, but Jude Folly isn’t undead enough to muster such sentiment.  There has to be wisdom in recognizing your own strength even while slogging through your most vulnerable moments.

Better than learning to live with one’s ruin, regret or shame is the act of (as Friedrich Nietzsche put it) “Saying Yes to life even in its strangest and hardest problems.... in order to be oneself the eternal joy of becoming, beyond all terror and pity” (tr. Walter Kaufman).

There is hard-earned wisdom to be distilled from loss or suffering; knowledge that we as individuals are rarely willing to see—revealing this to readers will be the aim of Eh Jude. Contrary to popular notions, this journey’s purpose isn’t about winning. It's what we gain when we lose. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke best captures our purpose when he wrote the following passage featuring the Hebrew patriarch, Jacob, after wrestling with an angel.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings. 
(tr. Robert Bly)

Please send all correspondence to This column will respect the wish of all letter writers who prefer to remain anonymous.