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Friday, July 07, 2006

Suicide

Sigh - here we are in the other Dead Zone - nope, I don't mean the TV series, as opposed to the movie, I'm speaking of the dearth of commentary in blogworld lately. Perhaps this isa good time to post about a subject no one really likes to think about ... suicide.

I'm not really sure why suicide is considered a sin (maybe someone will tell me :-), unless it's due to that idea that our lives belong to God and we're just renting them out, so to speak. But leaving that theological question behind for the moment, it might be illunimating to check out some facts ...

Wikipedia writes that more people kill themselves each yar than are murdered, or killed in wars, or die of AIDs, and the numbers are probably higher than reported, due to religious and legal complications. More men sucessfully kill themselves, although more women make attempts at suicide. Whites are more likely to kill themselves than other races, and most people commit suicide in the spring and summer. Suicide is not always an act of despair and selfishness ...

Sometimes it's committed as a form of protest or defience. As Wikipedia writes ... In the 1960s, Buddhist monks, most notably Thích Quảng Đức, in South Vietnam gained Western praise in their protests against President Ngô Đình Diệm by burning themselves to death. Similar events were reported in eastern Europe, such as the death of Jan Palach following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

It's also committed sometime as an act of sacrifice in war, in an attempt to save others ... For instance, soldiers under cannon fire at the Battle of Waterloo took fatal hits rather than duck and place their comrades in harm's way. The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War.

But I'd guess that most of the time, despair and an inward-gazing have a lot to do with it ... illness, a perceived "difference" from others, financial problems, old age, loneliness. Even those illuminaries you'd think would be immune to such worries sometimes subcomb ... ranked among the famous people who've committed sucide are writer Virginia Woolf, missionary Minnie Vautrin, artist Vincent van Gogh, and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud

St. Ignatius of Loyola was tempted by thoughts of suicide (read more) and St Thérèse of Lisieux, in her illness, is said to have considered suicidal .... "What a grace it is to have faith! If I didn’t have faith I would have committed suicide without hesitating a moment." (The Tablet).

One of my favorite writes, Robert E. Howard, apparently did not have the resources granted Ignatius and Thérèse, for he took his own life at age 30, upon hearing that his mother would never recover from a coma. Here's one of his earliest poems ...

The Tempter

Something tapped me on the shoulder
Something whispered, "Come with me,
"Leave the world of men behind you,
"Come where care may never find you,
"Come and follow, let me bind you
"Where, in that dark, silent sea,
"Tempest of the world n'er rages;
"There to dream away the ages,
"Heedless of Time's turning pages,
"Only, come with me."

"Who are you?" I asked the phantom,
"I am rest from Hate and Pride.
"I am friend to king and beggar,
I am Alpha and Omega,
"I was councillor to Hagar
"But men call me Suicide."
I was weary of tide breasting,
Weary of the world's behesting,
And I lusted for the resting
As a lover for his bride.

And my soul tugged at its moorings
And it whispered, "Set me free.
"I am weary of this battle,
"Of this world of human cattle,
"All this dreary noise and prattle,
"This you owe to me."
Long I sat and long I pondered,
On the life that I had squandered,
O'er the paths that I had wandered
Never free.

In a shadow panorama
Passed life's struggles and its fray,
And my soul tugged with new vigor,
Huger grew the phantom's figure,
As I slowly pressed the trigger,
Saw the world fade swift away.
Through the fogs old time came striding,
Radiant clouds were 'bout me riding,
As my soul went gliding, gliding,
From the shadow into day.

***

Lord ... remember ... those whose faith is known to you alone.
- Eucharistic Prayer


13 Comments:

Blogger Paula said...

what i feel for suicides is a deep compassion...in general are poor, desperate souls...may God have mercy on them.
I was overwhelmed by sorrow at some point in my life (after a very bad thing did happened) and I had suicide toughts...when the pain was at its peak and i felt that either i will go crazy or i will consider suicide i heard a small voice in my heart asking me to try to bear the pain a bit longer...to not give up.I didn´t and here I am...suicide is to loose hope...but "There is always hope" Aragorn, LoTR.:-).

2:07 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Truly it is in the darkness that one finds the light,so when we are in sorrow,then this light is nearest of all to us.
~Meister Eckhart


Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
~JP II

2:15 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Paula. I've felt that despair in the past too. I think some people are more prone to it than others, and I seem to fall into that category ... thanks for your comments :-)

3:41 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Well, people who had to confront difficult situations may very well be like you said. It is like developing a reflex. Depression is also an chemical des-equilibrium and it can be treated as such.(It is a party nearby, here is 4 am, I cannot sleep, so I hope that i wont do too many spelling mistakes).:-).
There are herbal remedies for example. I used them for a while, during times of stress and depression following the divorce. It is also a question of exercising and eating properly. Depression leading to despair is preventable or can be at least diminished by doing simple things.
I belive that many times the Evil one (i do belive in its real existence) wants to make us belive that things are much darker than they really are. One of its usual tricks.:-).

7:10 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Don't you find there's less online activity in general this time of year? People are outdoors, taking vacations (I prefer to think of it as defecting), slaving in their gardens, trying to find homes for kittens...

7:17 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

After fighting a losing battle with severe depression for over 30 years, my only sister took her own life in the winter of 2005. She'd been missing for weeks and I found out fom the police when I returned for Holy Thursday Mass that she'd been found.

The laws and the health care system in this country are so messed up in regard to how they leave families powerless to deal with a loved one suffering from mental illness and chronic depression, it defies description.

Some people are just overwhelemed by the modern world and find it difficult to cope. My sister struggled long and hard with depression and loneliness for decades, and she just wasn't able to overcome it. They say that suicide is a sin, yes, but we have more knowledge and understanding of the effects of mental illness and chemical depression than we used to. I don't believe that a gracious, merciful God would punish someone for eternity who had already endured a living hell on earth. Our God is a good God. A grace-giving God. A God of justice. My sister was a seeker of God right to the very end.

No life should be described, defined, and sealed by this act. We shouldn't define these victims by their depression and our reaction to it. No one wants to define a wife, or a niece, or a cousin, or a Godmother, or a friend, or a sister in those terms. Those are names for loving relationships, and we can't define one of our own loved ones simply as a tragic psychological profile.

One of the cruelest things about a debilitating depression is that it can rob us of the positive memories and tempt us to forget the real essence of the person, the real personality that has been submerged under the disease. That shouldn't be so.

8:08 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Paula, thanks for the good advice :-)

12:57 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Susan, yes, I'm missing Maureen, maybe. And where's my postcard from Nove Scotia???

12:58 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Jeff,

I'm very sorry to hear about your sister. I wish I hadn't written this post and caused you the pain of remembering.

I didn't mean to be flippant about the subject ... I have been pretty depressed lately, and I have one suicide attempt in my past, so I tend to dwell on it when things are going badly.

My feeling is that God does not hold suicide against a person, but understands and loves them and has compassion for their despair. I'm sure that's true for your sister.

I'm sorry, Jeff - I wish I could hold your hand through cyberspace.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Jeff, i am very sorry to learn this about your sister. You pointed rightly that
"Some people are just overwhelemed by the modern world and find it difficult to cope."

I remember an episode from "Seven Storey Mountain" by Merton, about the death of one of his University colleagues: another victim of the heartless modern world.

Like Crystal, I would like to hold your hand.

Crystal, I am sorry to hear this. But it is good that you posted on this. I admire your courage to approach this subject. I wish to hug you and tell you that all will be well.Remember the words of Julian of Norwich?:-)

2:24 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Oh Crystal,

Please don't be sorry at all. If I didn't want to talk about it, I wouldn't post. It's a good catharsis for me. The worst thing is to keep things bottled up inside forever.

I feel secure knowing that she's at peace now. What I'll always have to carry around is whether or not I failed her. I couldn't keep her well and safe. I'll always wonder if I could have reached out to her more, spent more time with her, supported her more through her financial struggles, let old grudges fall away, make her feel valued, etc... Please don't ever despair. I've seen a lot of early death. Not to be morbid, but death comes early enough to all of us. Life is short. The world keeps on turning without each one of us. Life is such a beautiful gift. Embrace it and live it to the fullest, and be thankful for every day. You've got so much going for you, please don't ever despair. Please. :-)

4:17 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Jeff, thanks. Try not to second guess yourself about your sister. My own sister is the best friend a person could ask for, but I still get depressed at times ... not her fault.

12:21 PM  

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