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Don’t We All Want To Kill Ourselves?

There is a fine line between creativity and mental illness. When tapping into the true artistry of the mind and heart, your sense of reality can change. People who move us the most with their creative gifts allow themselves to examine culture in a manner that digs deeper than most of us are willing or able. Yet the more layers you philosophically peel off of the onion of life, the more the tears are going to flow.

The tragedy of Robin Williams’s death does not simply lie in the questions surrounding his suicide. The specifics details may not be known, but I think we can assume the genuine and significant existential angst this brilliant man must have experienced. Creative, artistic, reflective people can’t be happy all the time. When you take the time to really sit down to contemplate humanity, the world, and the seeming futility of life, there is no way not to wonder, “What is the point?” People who truly consider the nature of existence will never naively subsist in society.

In order to get out of bed in the morning, most of us choose to ignore the harshness of life. I don’t wake up thinking about genocide or child prostitution. Instead I worry about what I am going to eat for breakfast and what form of caffeine to ingest. I read the news to stay informed, but I distance myself from the information I am inundated with. “Wow, that sucks about the Ebola outbreak in Africa… sigh… good thing I don’t live there.” To avoid paralysis, I avoid emotionally connecting with the horror of the headlines each day.

There are moments when the callous, protective, self-involved layer is shed and my rare underbelly is exposed while I weep about how helpless I really feel about the state of the world. In high school I often came home from school and cried – not only about drama in my own daily life, but largely about the merciless awareness growing in me about the grave injustices of the world. The innocent benevolence of my childhood was replaced by the brutal realization of history. I wished with all my heart I didn’t have to feel the truth in this way.

The reality is the human condition is depressing and many of us are probably slightly depressed all the time. There is so much suffering inherent in being alive. Heartbreak, death, failure, oppression, unfairness, the confusion of identity – there are endless reasons to feel destitute and wonder about ending it all. The journey is how we learn to deal with all the massive disappointments we face. For people who live in the world of Hollywood, the pressure to be adored is unparalleled. While the glory of being worshipped is an intense high, the moments you are not must be a serious low. Robin Williams’ career was spent in an industry that treats people as disposable and replaceable. It had to be challenging as he aged to understand his sense of self without constant public validation.

People who take their own lives don’t hate life, but actually love it the most. They see and feel beauty so acutely that the pain of the ugliness in our world is too much to bear. The schism of these extremes must be maddening. For those of us who have found self-preservation in the middle, we can never truly understand the power of having those bipolar forces to pull at you. I find comfort in knowing that in addition to the extreme darkness someone must experience to take their life, there was also a time when they were immersed by lightness so bright it was blinding.

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6 Responses to Don’t We All Want To Kill Ourselves?

  1. Laszlo Nagy says:

    He was such a cool guy. I just hope he wasn’t murdered. I haven’t been following any of the press, but it is terrible in my opinion when people do this to themselves. All we can do for them is remember them, pray for them, celebrate their life in terms of just enjoying their life (so in his case, enjoying his movies). But indeed, he was among those great ones who sought to transcend limits but for the sake of a broader humanity. Sorry to blather on but any suicide is more a punishment for us down here than for the dearly departed.

  2. Dianne says:

    Don’t draw too many fine lines in regard to mental illness. Some are no different in intensity than cancer and no less destructive. In regards to Robin Williams, if he was the caring person many sensed he was, I wonder if just being involved in the falseness of Hollywood and that lifestyle, would not be enough to crush anyone needing true connection with others outside his family..How much can you live with not knowing if “friends” truly care or are acting in a complicated web of “how will being beside you benefit me vs. I am really here for you”? It is just so very sad when people come to believe their existence does not matter or that the pain will never end, which is a hallmark of many mental illnesses. I do believe that very creative people driven to pursue their “craft” feel all things more intensely than others so that a precipice is always near.

  3. Khy Logan says:

    Toni,

    At the risk of being offensive (again) I am a little upset you spent ink on making this a focus for today -> I sincerely hope you are not thinking about this too deeply. Suicide is never a good option, sans using the body as a weapon to protect deserving others (i.e. our homes/families). I agree with you that those who do suicide love life (too much?) yet is this the selfish, fleshy, ephemeral reason we are really here? Viz. Is loving life really a sign of greatness in another or is transcending all the bullshit around us?

    In short, suicide is the cowards way out and no one should be immortalized for this act. As such, maybe you should spend more ink honing in on people who are facing life with bravery, courage, and determination (i.e. the Kurds in Northern Iraq?) rather than wealthy Hollywood folks who have an easy fuse to blow…

  4. Crates Johnson says:

    “People pontificate, “Suicide is selfishness.” [Some people] go a step further and call it a cowardly assault on the living. Oafs argue this specious line for varying reason: to evade fingers of blame, to impress one’s audience with one’s mental fiber, to vent anger, or just because one lacks the necessary suffering to sympathize. Cowardice is nothing to do with it – suicide takes considerable courage. Japanese have the right idea. No, what’s selfish is to demand another to endure an intolerable existence, just to spare families, friends, and enemies a bit of soul-searching.” -David Mitchell

  5. Khy Logan says:

    Since we are doing the good reads thing, I think this is fair game at this point. This being a quote by M. Scott Peck, one of the foremost advocates of assisted suicide in the world, and author of a book I actually read (http://books.google.com/books?id=tqH6cEDV31QC&dq=m+scott+peck+suicide&source=gbs_navlinks_s). “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” Point being, yes seppuku is a courageous act, covered under protecting home/family while finding existence intolerable is an abomination to God, the one who created us. Yes, Williams had problems and yes I empathize. Do I think we should spare one minute of our time contemplating what this (i.e. the suicide itself) means to our existence? I most certainly do not…

  6. Marc says:

    I think your right, Don’t We All Want To Kill Ourselves? That’s why we all die. All of our actions lead us to death. Some people hang on as long as they can, others take risks and end up getting run over by a bus or some sort of thing like that, then there are people who take control of their death and end it right when they want to. I’m not sure about all this talk of “mental illness” it sounds like some kind of demographic media BS spin to get some good coverage and advertising in. Everyone has ‘selfish’ reasons for their actions, how else would be able to give each other our own perspective on life. Like me right now. RIP Mork from Ork

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