In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide there have been many responses and reactions. Today, Henry Rollins wrote an editorial for LA Weekly titled “Fuck Suicide.” Rollins’ main point is essentially that people who are parents have no right to end their lives as it will traumatize their children, but he goes on to say that he has disdain for people who commit suicide:
When someone negates their existence, they cancel themselves out in my mind. I have many records, books and films featuring people who have taken their own lives, and I regard them all with a bit of distain. When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not. I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them.
In response, I’d just like to leave this quote from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which offers a nice counterpoint. Wallace hanged himself in 2008, but that should not negate the seriousness of his message:
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. Yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
By coincidence, earlier today, we saw a short documentary in which Thor Harris of Swans offered some very moving thoughts and revelations about his own struggles with suicidal thoughts and how he works to overcome them.