Tim Ferriss is one of the most interesting guys out there. In this long and worthwhile post, he talks about a time of depression and suicidal ideation.
I’m linking to and excerpting the post not merely as a public service announcement, although that aspect is certainly critical.
Ferriss’s post fits with the overall purpose of my blog. Unfortunately, the research is consistent and clear: for many who have suffered religious authoritarianism, spiritual abuse, or cult dynamics, suicide can be a real, substantial temptation.
Ferriss doesn’t seem to be a religious man in any traditional sense of the word, but he makes an interesting observation:
I personally believe that consciousness persists after physical death, and it dawned on me that I literally had zero evidence that my death would improve things. It’s a terrible bet. At least here, in this life, we have known variables we can tweak and change. The unknown void could be Dante’s Inferno or far worse. When we just “want the pain to stop,” it’s easy to forget this. You simply don’t know what’s behind door #3. — via Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss.
Read the entire post: Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss.
Some Christian beliefs make matters worse, insisting that God ordains each sin (and suicide is considered a sin).
However logically and systematically consistent some theological thinkers might be, the idea of God ordaining horrible things is abhorrent.
At very least we could acknowledge that an impassible God becoming incarnate to die in place of his creatures is anything but logical. Perhaps loving, but not logical.
Here one of G.K. Chesterton’s quotes pops into mind: “The mad man is not the man who has lost his reason. The mad man is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”
Maybe some theological thinkers have been orthodox and mad.
Logical and insane.
Logic and analysis are good. Problems come along when a mind becomes so focused on and so obsessed with the parts that it can no longer see the connections and the wholes. No one can live while seeing only fragments and pieces.
Which reminds me of a thought that, I think, came from C.S. Lewis: for the modernistic scientist, a real bird is a bird opened on the dissection table, pinned down and pulled apart. In an earlier time, a real bird was a bird on the wing, with its song.
Everyone knows the bird has guts. But even in a natural order sparked by a blind watchmaker, who would think the bird exists merely in relation to the functioning of its internal organs? The bird exists in relation to the rest of the natural order — bugs, fish, soil, water, and trees, as well as humans and human culture. We appreciate these relationships — they’ve been there as long as we can remember, as far back as we can see in art and literature.
Endless dissection is useful, even helpful, but discoveries made through analysis are never for themselves, but for better understandings of wholes.
Over-analysis of a single situation leads into a singular focus, a mental microscope on a single cell, with no context for its wider circumstances, its situations and connections. The suicidal person might feel like this one bad circumstance is all there is. But there is so much more.
So for some scientists and some theologians, reasoning has been a force for good, for making connections and seeing wholes, for continuing to live in spite of extraordinary difficulties.
They use reasoning to see the connections and the wholes — in other words, the meaningfulness of everything that exists.
Walker Percy’s passage on “the ex-suicide” from his book Lost in the Cosmos.