Thursday, August 14, 2014
Glacial Water + Suicide
Another painting from my trip to Mt. Rainier.
The water coursing off the mountain is mostly melted glacier which gives it a milky look. The opacity comes from tiny particles of ground rock shaved off by the weight of the ice sliding over it. We were in a vast canyon carpeted with stones. A modest stream flowed down and crisscrossed the boulder covered floor. The mighty glacier that once filled this chasm had retreated upstream beyond our view. But it was easy to imagine.
Sadly, though he could not save his own life, Robin Williams may have saved others. I`m so hoping this tragedy will be a watershed moment in our culture and a serious, frank discussion about depression and suicide will ensue. That there is still so much stigma and taboo with these issues is appalling and pointless. We lose so many that may have been reached.
Depression was a crippling reality for me when I was young, but I was lucky to live in an age when promising research and effective therapies evolved and became available. I have been a grateful user of anti-depressants for decades. Though I never considered suicide myself, I know some who have. Each of them radiated pain like a furnace.
The subject of suicide so so utterly sad we choose not to think of it. I think that is a terrible mistake. If we are informed and understand the conditions for such an act, we might be of help.
Our local NPR station carries Krista Tippet`s wonderful show on the many varieties of spirituality called "On Being". One of her guests recently was the poet and philosopher, Jennifer Michael Hecht, who has written the book, "Stay: a History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against it". In that one hour of radio I learned so much, including this important fact; the actual act of suicide is very impulsive.
Beyond the facts around suicide, the point of her argument is that even leaving God out of the considerations, there are instinctual and intellectual reasons to reject it. Moreover we need honest commitments with each other where we promise to stay. We stay for each other. No one leaves early. We decide to stay, if not for ourselves in this moment, but for our future selves and for those we care about. If that pact is real, I think it will follow that we will have deeper bonds and more accurate insight into the lives of others. We might be able to help one another to stay.