On my way home today, I noticed two people who seemed to have a death wish as I was getting close to home. While I was seeking to turn right from the exit ramp for Highway 217 onto Scholl’s Ferry Rd, a fellow in a white pickup truck turned the wrong way down the crowded exit ramp and tried to drive onto the highway. I hope he didn’t cause an accident, given that it was towards the end of rush hour today and traffic was pretty heavy. Those are not ideal conditions for someone to drive the wrong way safely. Thankfully, there does not appear to be any newspaper articles about any harm caused by this driver. Less seriously, there was a driver who had gone on the wrong side of the divide at the gate to my complex. It was a bit irksome to drive around her, but all the same it was not too dangerous for myself at least. I was puzzled to think why these people would put themselves in such a dangerous position, although perhaps they were in a hurry or simply had lost their mind for a little bit. Strikingly, the car that went the wrong way down the exit ramp had signaled their intentions to turn right onto the exit ramp, but I simply could not believe that someone would consciously go the wrong way on a busy highway ramp like that.
When I arrived home, I was told that Robin Williams had died as the results of an apparent suicide. Like just about everyone else I know, I have long been a fan of Robin Williams as an actor. Although he was a comic actor, Williams’ comedy often had a hint of melancholy about it. Let us look at a couple of movies to demonstrate this). Mrs. Doubtfire was one of the first movies in my family’s VHS collection when I was a preteen, and given that it is about the efforts of a funny but somewhat immature man to deal with his divorce through cross dressing, it was perhaps a little bit close to home of a subject for a broken family like my own. A similar thing can be said about his movie What Dreams May Come, which dealt with such subjects as suicide and reincarnation, both of which are subjects of occasional writing on this blog . Likewise, Patch Adams and Dead Poets Society both have a melancholy edge to their humor as well, as does Man Of The Year. Clearly, while it is impossible, and undesirable, to seek to make too much of what is going on inside of his head, all the same there was a wellspring of melancholy that deeply informed Williams’ often manic humor. Many people can hide terrible suffering and torment behind a laugh or a smile, and it is harder for us to cheer ourselves up than others.
In the aftermath of a suicide, there are generally two responses. One is to mourn the waste of a life that was appreciated and productive and respected, and to encourage other people to get the help they need to wrestle with their demons and deal with their torment. As someone who has known more than my own share of mental and emotional issues, the result of being an overly sensitive and reflective person who has lived a difficult life, I tend to be very empathetic with those who struggle with the darkness themselves. Those who have not seen the darkness that their own hearts are capable of wrestling with are often very harsh with those who commit suicide, saying that it is an immensely selfish act. Despair is not rational, though, and just as no light can escape a black hole, when our perspective becomes focused on ourselves, to the extent that no light and no love can reach us inside our own chasms, we too collapse in upon ourselves because we cannot support the weigh of our own world, or find meaning and worth in life for ourselves alone. And so I lament rather than blame. There is time enough for judgment in the world to come; for those of us who see the results of such pain and suffering and torment, it remains for us to appreciate the life that was, even if its end was a waste and a shame. May none of us be judged by our worst moments.
For suicide is not the only evil that results from having our perspective focused in only on ourselves. None of us are immune to thinking our own wants and desires and needs more important than anything else. None of us are immune to abusing substances or people in order to satisfy our own cravings. We may not hang ourselves or jump off a bridge, but we may kill ourselves slowly with overwork, with drugs or alcohol, with overeating, with sexual immorality, or smoking or any other self-destructive means of coping with life. I often wonder about my own family history and its dark turns, with so much alcoholism and generations of broken families and broken lives due to abuse. At some point we have to realize that the only way to break the cycles of abuse is to stop thinking about only our own pain and suffering and to realize that the whole world is broken and that the only answers lie outside of ourselves, and outside of the defective models that are copied generation after generation. We have to step out into the unknown, to walk in faith, and to recognize that other people have their own hurts and longings too that influence them just as our own hurts influence us. May God have mercy on us all–we all need it deeply enough.
 See, for example: