Anthony Bourdain is the most recent prominent example of someone who chose death over life. Of course, I cannot know the reasoning behind such a decision, but I do know that the response to his or anyone’s suicide is varied.
Some are sad and mourn the premature snuffing of a candle of life. Some are angry, pouring scorn on the “selfish” decision of suicide and judging the person for inflicting pain and suffering on those left behind. Some become psycho- and societal-analysts, attempting to unravel the tangle of threads that lead to the voluntary cessation of life. Some preach cautionary tales and some use the suicide as a fire starter for their own base or noble schemes. But what I rarely see are people saying, “It’s okay to kill yourself.”
I am someone who, on the inside, is prone to bouts of melancholy. For example, I sometimes ask myself, “Do the possible joys of life outweigh the inevitable suffering?” I often end up answering in the negative, indicating that I don’t think this thing we call life is worth it. Hence, I have some understanding of what it means to contemplate ending it all. When the world feels heavy and you cannot wait for the lightness to return, suicide is an option. In fact, contrary to the crowd that judge suicide as an irrational act, I believe suicide is a perfectly reasonable response to reality. Thus, the problem is not so much suicide itself—it is the cultural perception and response to it.
I won’t expand upon the mechanics, rationale and consequences of this perception—Sarah Perry does a much better job than I ever could in Every Cradle is a Grave—but I will say this: I find myself unable to feel anything but compassion and respect for those who take their life. Especially when the act itself is considered illegal, the culture regards it as a violation of the sanctity of life, and the means available are both scarce and not guaranteed to do the job.
We all agree that continuing on in the face of hardship is a courageous act—but so is recognising life as an immovable object and yourself as an easily-resistible force.
If someone I love made that decision there would indeed be sadness. But it would be a selfish sorrow, and it certainly would not be accompanied by anger at their choice, puzzlement at their motive, or the wish to rewind and alter the fabric of reality—except to make their departure from this world more peaceful than it probably was.