Suicide is not at the top of my to-do list; it’s too much of a commitment. I don’t normally watch TED talks (I usually watch them suspended from the ceiling with my feet crammed in a pair of matching goldfish bowls), but I saw a good one yesterday featuring a man named Kevin Briggs. He works for the San Francisco police force in a life-saving capacity. His job involves trying to dissuade people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Briggs, who has saved two hundred people from taking their lives and lost only two, says that a leap from the bridge is no walk in the park. After a brief fall of four to five seconds, you hit the surface of the bay at a speed of seventy miles an hour. You might as well be colliding with concrete. The impact shatters most of your bones and makes mincemeat of your internal organs. He says those who are “lucky” enough to survive the crash usually end up drowning amid fruitless cries for help.
He says that the thing he does that changes people’s minds and gets them to climb back over the railing from the narrow pipe on which they have to stand before plummeting to their demise, is listen.
It’s kind of sad, when you think about it, that what might drive a lot of people to top themselves is the thought that no one cares enough about them to listen to them describe their problems. I certainly don’t. (Just kidding. I hope I do. But that’s only partly a punchline, as I don’t always give money to panhandlers–it depends on my mood and their attitude.)
As for my own aspirations to discontinue this absurd preoccupation with existence and become a fast food extravaganza for worms, I can tell you that being married to someone who once threatened suicide in a convincingly earnest fashion is enough to prevent me from going out of my way to seek that kind of attention–at least not as a cry for help. I also know enough people with loved ones who’ve done themselves in to realize that self-extermination is a woeful disservice to the people who love you.
Although I was not raised in a particularly religious household, one thing that keeps me going, despite certain melancholy tendencies, is a sense of duty to the people in my life who care about me. I’m not as idealistic as I used to be. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve my dreams of success in this lifetime, and forget about achieving them afterwards. No such dice, Jose. I’m also dubious that our species can outgrow its more self-destructive and aggressive inclinations, if I may wax wordy.
I don’t know whether it’s an overstatement to dub the machinations of governments in collusion with corporations who achieve their goals through coups d’etat, sabotage, warfare, and murder as evil. Or maybe it’s just human. Despite what Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltcheck suggest in their book On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare, I’m not sure if the more quixotic elements in society can overcome the demons at the helm. More than pure and plain good and evil, it’s more like the disease of desire pervading the way most of us live. Who among those of us who live in the wealthiest countries in the world isn’t at least partly culpable? I know I am, and in a big way.
So maybe I should kill myself after all! That way I’ll be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
Hey, thanks for helping me figure that one out.
In other words, thanks for listening. Now I can get off this bloody bridge before it gets taken over by hooting troops of chimpanzees led by Godzilla twirling a baton in the foggy air.