Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

12 August 2014

Rage Against The Dying of the Light (In Memoriam, Robin Williams)

So Robin Williams committed suicide. Cue the flood of tributes, laments, reposts of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), how "cunning, baffling, and powerful" (to steal a phrase) depression can be, how it tends to infest comic souls* and how particularly insidious depression can be when substance abuse accompanies it.

I am not for an instant maligning this response. Renewals of human solidarity usually take a tragedy to happen, but not always. The Internet is laced with incidents promoting carefulness, courtesy, and compassion "between the acts." And we'll always be "between the acts" (of suicide), for "the poor you will have with [and within] you always" (Mt 26:11).

Persons suffering from depression, substance abuse, and suicide temptations can be helped, but many well-intentioned attempts end up reinforcing it. Helping seems a delicate art, but not impossible and certainly not "for professionals only," because it's the amateurs--literally, those who love--who are the "first responders" in emotional crises.

Among my initial reactions to news like yesterday's is frustration and irritation. "Robin Williams! Well, that sucks! What a waste of talent, generosity, and energy! What'd he do that for? Couldn't anyone have tried to stop him?" As an adult, in the minds of his loved ones he might not have merited round-the-clock supervision; perhaps by that point he had a sense of calmness about arriving at his solution.

I don't know...and that's just it.

If we knew, that knowledge still wouldn't control the situation, now that it--he--has passed. Suicide understandably prompts guilt over the very fact that we "didn't know," or perhaps may have denied, the extent of the person's problems.

We may also be angry--at depression made flesh, at the suicide victim for seeming selfish..for being him/herself in that mysterious state, which is already very much given over to silence, to brooding, to isolation and alienation, and their attendant pain, so that suicide appears the only available option, the last, best prescription for pain relief. 

Objectively speaking, the taking of one's own life is a selfish act, contradictory to "the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life...gravely contrary to [the just love of self, of neighbor, and of God]" (Catechism, 2281). It is one of many ways people deny and defy the goodness of their own existence and its Creator.

However, given the numerous factors that inhibit the full use of one's intellect and will, compromising the full exercise of understanding and freedom, we have every reason to entrust tortured souls to the Divine Mercy that exceeds the limits we conceive (CCC, 2282-83).

But we still should "rage, rage against the dying of the light" (as John Keating, Williams' character in Dead Poets Society, might exhort). Our rage may take many forms: prayer, sharing links to helpful articles on depression and suicide prevention, keeping your eyes, ears, and heart open to the people around you each day--which may present you the opportunity either to extend compassion to someone who suffers, or to disclose your own hurts to someone who cares.

*Language alert ("Cracked," remember.)

No comments:

Post a Comment