Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice
By Matt Walsh
I’m not normally one to write a blog post about a dead celebrity, but then I suppose there is no such thing.
There are only living celebrities, not dead ones. In death, wealth and prestige decay and we are brought into a new reality, the only reality there is or ever was — one which, for much better or much worse, doesn’t care at all about our popularity or our money.
The death of Robin Williams is significant not because he was famous, but because he was human, and not just because he left this world, but particularly because he apparently chose to leave it.
A terrible, monstrous atrocity. It disturbs me in a deep, visceral, indescribable way. Of course it disturbs most people, I would assume. Indeed, we should fear the day when we wake up and decide we aren’t disturbed by it anymore.
So I’m just like you, then, because I can’t stomach the thought of it. I’ve seen it in the neighborhoods where I’ve lived and the schools that I’ve attended. I’ve seen it in my family. I’ve known adults and kids who’ve done it. I’ve seen it on the news and read about it in books, but I can’t comprehend it. The complete, total, absolute rejection of life. The final refusal to see the worth in anything, or the beauty, or the reason, or the point, or the hope. The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.
It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision.
And that’s why I felt compelled to say something here. There are important truths we can take from the suicide of a rich and powerful man, yet I’m worried that we are too afraid to tackle the subject, or too blind to tackle it with any depth, so we only perpetuate the problem. But worse than the glossing over of suicide is the fact that we seem to approach it with an attitude that nearly resembles admiration.
Take this well intentioned tweet from The Academy of Motion Pictures, for example:
Genie, you’re free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
Free? I’ve seen a lot of this kind of rhetoric. Robin Williams is “in a better place,” he is “free,” he is “at peace,” he is “smiling down upon us,” he’s “happy.”
This all might seem pleasant enough, but have we stopped to think how it looks and sounds to those who may be contemplating this heinous deed themselves? Can we tell our friend to step away from the ledge after we just spoke so glowingly of Robin Williams’ newfound “peace” and “freedom”? This is too important a subject to be careless about. We want to say nice things, I realize, but it isn’t nice to lie about suicide.
It is not freeing. In suicide you obliterate yourself and shackle your loved ones with guilt and grief. There is no freedom in it. There is no peace. How can I free myself by attempting to annihilate myself? How can I free something by destroying it? Chesterton said, “The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.” Where is the freedom in that?
I understand the inclination to be positive, but there is nothing positive to say about it. The cloud is infinitely dark, and there is no silver lining around it. That’s another tragic element to the evil of suicide — it robs your family of the solaces they naturally seek when a loved one passes away.
Do you want to be uplifted? Then concentrate on this:
Happiness and contentment are not found in our talents, our money, our luxuries, or our reputations. If wealthy, brilliant, beloved people tell us anything when they murder themselves, it must be that.
We are all meant to lead joyful lives, and the key to unlocking our joy isn’t hidden under a pile of money and accolades.
Also, incidents like this give us an opportunity to talk about depression, and we certainly should. Only we shouldn’t turn the subject into a purely cold, clinical matter. “Chemical imbalances,” people say. “A man is depressed because of his brain chemicals, and for no other reason.”
No, we are more than our brains and bigger than our bodies. Depression is a mental affliction, yes, but also spiritual. That isn’t to say that a depressed person is evil or weak, just that his depression is deeper and more profound than a simple matter of disproportioned brain chemicals. And before I’m accused of being someone who “doesn’t understand,” let me assure you that I have struggled with this my entire life.
We tend to look for the easiest answers. It makes us feel better to say that depression is only a disease and that there is no will and choice in suicide, as if a person who kills themselves is as much a victim as someone who succumbs to leukemia.
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