I thought about a doing post today about Anthony Bourdain’s death. For a lot of reasons, I thought about doing that post.
First of all…well…I love Bourdain. I’ve read everything he’s ever written, and watched everything he’s ever made. I was already a lover of food and travel before I ever heard of him, but Bourdain helped me — as much as guys like Rick Steves and other “ground level” travelers — to understand why I love travel and food.
He also helped me to understand my comfort zone, and how to get the hell outside of it. Without his influence, I would not have plunged into family dinners in a country where I don’t speak even one word of the language. Nor would I have explored the nooks and crannies of street markets and temporary food stands in “scary, third-world” countries…
And secondly…and secondly…
And secondly, suicide and I are old frenemies. I’ve lost far too many friends to suicide. Much of my adult life, in fact, has been shaped by suicide. That is the very definition of an enemy, you know, someone or something out to destroy you.
But suicide is also a partner…she’s a partner with whom I’ve danced and flirted more times than I want to talk about. I’ve heard that siren call, in the midst of the black dog days (as Churchill used to call them). I have sat, quite literally, with that rope around my own neck.
And that’s as far as I can go in writing a post about Anthony Bourdain, and about his suicide. I write, in my fiction, about the demons and ghosts that haunt the backs of our minds. I write about it because I understand it. That’s life, as far as I know it, and I don’t need to give those voices any more power over me than they already have.
In the past forty-eight hours, I’ve read pieces from people who blame the political divide in this country for our increasing suicide rate…and pieces from those who say we should just “reject suicide”, as if it was a milkshake to which folks could “just say no”…I’ve even read pieces from those who say suicide is some nefarious plot carried in the music we hear, and the books we read.
In the end, suicide is hopelessness. Whether that hopelessness is real or imagined, the death of self is the ultimate victory of that despair. And, no, sayings like “choose joy” or “tomorrow will be better” or “it’s always darkest before the dawn” don’t mean a fucking thing. Those aren’t solutions, they’re insulting platitudes.
And, by the way, telling folks about how much better others have it also isn’t the answer. “Your old friend, so-and-so, just got a seven-figure job! Isn’t that great?”
Wonderful…thanks for that. Life is all unicorns and skittles, now…
Look, I absolutely guarantee that you know at least a handful of folks who have contemplated suicide at one time or another. Hell, I guarantee just as much that you also know folks who are currently contemplating suicide. And, look, just trust me on this one: you do NOT want to deal with the survivor’s guilt of wondering “what did I miss?”
Don’t lecture. Don’t offer bullshit platitudes. Don’t project your own wants and needs. There really is only one answer: LISTEN.
Listen to what they have they to say…and to what they don’t. Listen to what THEY need, not what you need.
And, for all of our sakes — from whatever God you choose to worship, all the way down to the guy sitting with a rope around his neck right now — get over the arrogant bullshit of assuming suicide is some kind of pathetic defect or failure. Get over the assumption that they are “failed” or “weak.” Get over, especially, the concomitant belief that you are somehow just so much “better.”
When the hell did we, as a society, decide to go all judgmental and forget the old “walk a mile” thing?
Those who commit suicide are hopeless and despairing, and they can see no way out, but they are not “failures” to be condemned to some judgmental Hell.
If suicide is a failure, it is one that belongs to all of us.