Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams, Suicide, And The Arrogance Of Devout Fools

I didn't intend to write about Robin Williams' suicide, and I suppose I really won't.

Writer Matt Walsh wrote a piece that reveals a deep-seated fear and confusion about suicide. He admits he can't comprehend it, but his lack of comprehension doesn't stop him from “explaining” it, issuing condemnations and offering cheap, empty answers.

The seven pages of excessive verbosity is the following claim: “joy and love” are what people are “meant” for, and are the answer to depression. Anyone familiar with the vocabulary of Evangelist thought he's talking about 'the joy and love of knowing Jesus Christ.” In short, he condemns a suicide for not being Walsh's kind of Christian.

But the vacuous claim that joy defeats depression is similar to claiming that air defeats water and that all a drowning person has to do is breath in air. He follows up an empty-headed statement with a wrong one; he claims that joy and depression are mutually-exclusive. While joy and sadness are mutually exclusive, depression is different. Depression not simply an emotional state – it is an emotional and logical filter that serves as an anchor, making joy short-lived and despair a default state. It blinds the intellect to future hope and magnifies future misfortune.

Someone looking with a clear mind to a future goal sees a road with some difficultly and a worthwhile goal at the end. That same person with depression sees an impassable road filled with painful and insurmountable obstacles and at the end, nothing more than a mirage. The second view is entirely irrational, and that is the point: serious depression results in an inability to see reality clearly.

And here's the truth for many depressives – suicide is not unthinkable. It is, in fact, a frequent impulse. Winston Churchill, a man who saved the world, hated train stations because he had to fight the constant urge to jump in front of an oncoming train. Swinging into an oncoming semi while driving, consuming a whole bottle of painkillers, even just gouging open an artery are impulses, sometimes strong, sometimes negligible, that many depressives just have to live with. These destructive impulses can be frequent and common.

But Walsh dismisses these issues because he's been “depressed” too. Like someone who gets mild headaches confusing them for migraines, Walsh repeats many of the common-knowledge facts about depression while getting the details wrong.

Part of suicide is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. But another part is the irrational belief that self-destruction is the way things ought to be; that the suicide's existence is an error in need of correction. Suicide can at times be as strong an impulse as anything an OCD-sufferer has to go through.

It's very easy to condemn suicides from the safe distance of ignorance and religious delusion, but the truth does not conform to the blind beliefs of religious arrogance

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