Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Loneliest Club In the World

I can't say I've ever heard of the band Pink Martini or of its percussionist, Derek Reith. But I heard of both when I read that Reith was the latest member of the loneliest club in the world.

And it's getting too damn crowded.

This past weekend Derek took his own life. 

Another suicide. Is there an epidemic of this? Or are we just paying attention now? 

Or maybe its the world we live in now. Everything moves so fast and lacks any certainty. Decisions upon decisions, small and large, that overwhelm our capability to process them. This breeds confusion which leads to doubt which leads to a less than positive assessment of life and one's place in it.  Life spins out of our control and we fail at so much. And there's the label: failure. It's a word that echos in the mind over and over again. Eventually the minds reaches what it considers a very logical conclusion: the universe neither needs or wants a failure. The universe neither needs or wants you. And who are you to argue with the universe? The totality of existence against you. And you are alone. 

Except you're not, are you? Someone somewhere is staring into a black abyss of despair. It's not like yours or anyone else's but you and this person and another and another and another ad infinitum are all facing a dark chasm that calls you and only you even as the refrain of despair reverberates in mind after mind.  So many people in pain yet so alone. 

It's the loneliest club in the world. 

Last year, I wrote on the subject of "the stupidest reason to live" inspired by a post by comics writer Matt Fraction on facing a darkness that threatened to consume him and lead him to end his own life. Except Matt remembered there was a comic book series he was reading and kind of wanted to see how that turned out. No, not family or friends but a comic book. What a stupid reason to live. But a stupid reason to live is still a reason to live. 

I've kind of followed that avenue to help keep my head on straight. If I'm feeling depressed, telling me about how much I mean to my family and my friends isn't going to work, at least not for me. When I'm in the throes of depression, I feel like I am a failure to everyone and it would be better for them if I'm not around. The big important reasons to live are a strong and vital anchor in the storms of life. But when those storms have tossed you overboard into the cold dark of despair, what's needed is not a heavy weight but a lifeline. Anything you can grasp your fingers around. Something small, maybe even stupid but something you can hold on to and not let go.  

In the weeks following the suicide of Robin Williams, the topics of depression and suicide have been foremost in my thoughts. I can't begin to contemplate what was going through his mind in those final moments before he decided that no, he couldn't do this anymore. Each person's darkness is their own.

But in that swirl of feeling lost and alone and a failure, I can't help but think Robin Williams would've given his fatal course a second thought if someone had made an appeal to live not for the important things but something small, even stupid, something to hold on to. "C'mon, Robin, you gotta be here for David Letterman's last show." Or "You gotta stick around for Scottish independence. What if that happens? A whole country of Scotsmen even more drunk than ever? You'll have a field day with that!" Could Robin's life have been saved with an appeal to the absurd?  

Suicide is the loneliest club in the world. So many people lost yet forever apart.  It's a harsh club and the membership dues are too damn high. 

But as Robin Williams did and sadly too many other people whose names I don't know, Derek Reith paid that price for admittance into the club. I did not know this man but I grieve not only for the loss of life but the absolute absence of hope that he felt at that crucial moment as he stepped across the doorway into the club. 

Find hope. Even a small hope. A mad and stupid hope if you need it. Can't handle the big stuff, the sensible stuff. Then find something that you can hold on to. Never had Rocky Road ice cream? Never been to Akron OH? Still haven't binged watched Orange is the New Black on Netflix? A stupid reason is still a reason. 

Even the smallest, flickering light means that the darkness is not complete. 

Be good to one another. 

Dave-El 
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