Thursday, August 14, 2014

Glacial Water + Suicide

                                      watercolor on Yupo 20x26

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 is 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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Randall. Not only do I enjoy receiving your paintings in my email, but the honesty and insights that you share are also very welcome.

Anonymous said...

Well said indeed. This resonated with me so much.

Libby Fife said...

You have made the intersection of these trees so graceful; the whole scene really. I especially love the rendering of the rocks.

Depression is hard to understand for those who don't experience it. It's even harder to explain-one of those things that is difficult to relate to unless you have gone through it. The commitment to the people and things around you is imperative. It's the only thing to hold onto sometimes.

Thank you for the link to Krista and the show. It looks like it is going to be interesting.

And thank God for modern medicine is all I can say. People knock it down but there are things about it that do work. I am glad that you received help:)

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks for this post, Randall. So moving and so full of good information. Why are we so ashamed of our pain and suffering? We need to acknowledge it and try to do our best to help ourselves and one another. It's what makes us human. Big (HUG) to you today!

Mary Ann Machi said...

Beautifully said Randall, and your painting illustrates the disease so well - a darkness against the light. It's hard for most people to understand depression and suicide if they haven't experienced the level of despair involved. Some think one can just "snap out of it". I, too, struggle with depression and have for years. What I've found is that at the time I am most in need of help, is the time I am most unable to ask for it. Stephen Fry described exactly the feelings that permeate in the darkest hours, blackness and hopelessness. May Mr. Williams rest in peace.

Ruth Armitage said...

Beautiful post... I am indebted to you for your honesty, in words and in paint. I enjoyed the program and the discussion of our need for each other, and the invective to stay for each other. Suicide resistance and the perseverance in the face of a painful life is something to honor.

Maureen said...

Perhaps I should be but I'm appalled by the lack of knowledge and understanding of depression and even of empathy for its sufferers as indicated in comments on social media. I posted Dr. Robert Sapolsky's lecture on the subject, which is among the very best I've seen.
It's called "the black dog" for a reason its sufferers know all too well.

Jo Reimer said...

You, my friend, are wise beyond your years. Like you, I've learned so much from the life I've lived, both good and bad. It's important to pass it on, especially when we can show others that there is usually light at the end of the dark places.

E.M. Corsa said...

Fascinating about the rock being shaved off by the glacier.

As far as your take on Mr. Williams, "Well Said". People are harsh in their judgments when they haven't the experience to truly understand the situation. Thanks for taking a stand.

Julie Ford Oliver said...

The painting is beautiful.
The words following it are moving and profound. My closet friend of many years suffers from depression so severe the EST is the only way out of it at times. I have admired her courage to survive, love and be loved.
I value Mr Fry's words.
I value you for yours.

Melody Cleary said...

Wonderful quote there by Stephen Fry....thank you for sharing, Randall. No more secrecy or stigma about mental illness, I hope. I'm proud that our son has felt compelled to work in the field.

Anonymous said...

You have said all this so well. Robin Williams has left an amazing legacy and an amazing gap in so many lives. A much loved man. The struggle with depression can be overwhelming and he worked so hard to free himself from his demons. Who can judge who hasn't walked IN his shoes. Walking beside him we have some idea but can't understand completely. I'm sure often for those who suicide there is just one thing that tips them over the edge, maybe small to the rest of us but it is just that final thing, no more. Maybe it was the diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, maybe not. In Australia there is an idea put out by Beyond Blue, an organisation for those coping with depression, it is R U OK, just ask if someone is ok, can you help. Stephen Fry's cope is so good and to the point. Thankyou for writing this post, so good.

Sarah Bachhuber Peroutka said...

Thank you as always for your courage in sharing your authentic thoughts and feelings about subjects of importance. Your sensitivity, awareness, and deep insights are revealed not only through your words but your art. Heartfelt appreciation from someone whose family has severely damaged by depression and mental illness for generations.