Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suicide: the big WHY

Robin Williams' death is affecting me more than I ever expected, and now I want to try and examine WHY for the sake of understanding. I believe that the reason a person wants to die is that living feels meaningless, and they are unable to connect to meaning.

There’s also pain and sadness involved. But I think the feeling of despair caused by meaninglessness is the primary thing going through a suicidal person’s head.

How can Robin Williams feel meaninglessness?  His career and work meant a lot to people, he was loved, he had children and loved ones.  He was both creatively successful, and successful in traditional measurements, and had people in his life that mattered to him and that he mattered to.

Usually despair comes from a lack of these things. (At least for me.)

Perhaps his existence as incredibly famous, especially as a funny person who makes people feel amazing - was also incredibly alienating and lonely.  He couldn’t relate to most people or identify with them.  He had an expectation of who he was supposed to be and how he was supposed to act.  He was not SUPPOSED to be depressed.

Perhaps he was driven mad by the fact that he couldn’t make himself feel the way he made others feel. Maybe it was the suffering in the middle east.  Maybe it was tension at home, or an inability to love or be loved as he desired.  A disconnect.  Maybe he felt powerless and unable to change or feel.  If he was able to make people laugh so easily - why didn’t it work for him, when he was alone?  I can only imagine this was maddening.  And so his great power, his gift, the world’s wonderful gift of laughter - felt empty, shallow, pointless.

His happiness was fleeting.  It left him.  He wanted to escape.

He escaped all his life.
In his performance, and in a bottle.

It was ultimately just too much.

Can you imagine what it feels like to have everything at your fingertips that SHOULD make you happy - but it’s not working?  What if you had money, freedom, loved ones, influence, fame, and appreciation AND STILL you couldn’t FEEL right?!  Can you imagine that?  I am certain that it’s not the case of him not appreciating it.  I am certain that he felt even guilty, like absolute shit, for not being able to feel good, perhaps not being able to truly feel anything at all, in spite of all of his fortune.  That’s the disease of depression.


Killing yourself is sad, but I don’t think it’s evil.  It’s something else.

The truth is, it’s a choice, as it’s a choice to stay alive, which some philosophers refer to as “the existential absurdity.”

I wonder about the sex slave’s will to live.  
I wonder about the severely impoverished and diseased people’s will to live.

Why would they stay alive?  Their life is misery and torture.

Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s why the caged bird sings.  

we only know darkness because we know light
we also know that we all wanted Robin to live

I think we all identify with Robin now more than ever


One of the most remarkable songs about survival in the face of trauma is Tori Amos’ “Me And A Gun” which recounts her thoughts during and after surviving rape.

The refrain is “but I haven’t seen Barbados, so I must get out of this.”
And that’s the tiny voice that Robin Williams couldn’t hear inside his own mind, the cry of survival.  The will to live.

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