The Suicide of Anthony Bourdain
There’s more than one way to know someone, more than one degree, if you will. I can meet you and shake your hand without immediately knowing what makes you tick, your aspirations, desires, fears, etc. It remains a mystery until you choose to give me a clue or just flat out tell me. If we spend enough time together, it’s likely that I’ll paint a picture of who I believe you to be.
Art can be a way to circumvent that, a cheat - for lack of a better word. If I read your writing, watch your television shows and read your interviews, there’s a good chance I’ll get a window into your psyche. And in the case of Tony Bourdain, it seems many people could relate to, or at least admired, the person that they knew.
In his death, the world lost a brilliant and uncompromising advocate of free speech, an enemy of the bastards who wield their power with disregard for the people they hurt, a man with no use for the odd concept of borders, an unlikely feminist hero, Gen-X’s bearer of Hunter S. Thompson’s torch, a champion of humanity and of the simple things that unite our human condition, the man who made being a food-nerd cool, the actual Most Interesting Man in the World, a punk-rock pain-in-the-asses of unreasonable blowhards who are more interesting in screaming than listening, a father, and a dude who I really wanted to have a beer and a sandwich with in a dark bar.
I’m going to miss the guy. I didn’t ever meet him, and yet I think I knew him a bit. I wanted to keep doing so.
It is reported that his death was a suicide. I was not totally shocked by this simply because of how many other brilliant minds unfortunately chose the same path. This lack of surprise does not make it any less difficult to digest. I’d argue that it’s worse.
See, I’ve always wanted to believe that at some point we could outgrow our personal demons, that with the right combination of success, adventure and merriment the asshole who lives in my brain and tells me that I’m worthless would fuck-right-off. This is magical thinking, though. Sure, over the years, I’ve become a generally a happy person who lives a rather fortunate existence, and that also doesn’t mean I am immune to the chaos that depression and anxiety creates. For me, the management comes by putting the work in during the good times, knowing that happiness and sadness are just fleeting emotions that are reliant upon one-another to exist… remembering Memento Mori.
The instance of suicide is climbing and according to the New York Times is now the 10th leading cause of American deaths, double the amount of homicides. I can only speculate about the reasons for this increase. I personally have known several people who have taken their own lives and most likely you do as well, especially if you are in certain stressful careers (ahem). So, if you haven’t already, fellow sad and/or anxious goofballs, I suggest the following: form an ANTI-suicide pact with your friends.
Pledge to them that you are going to ride out this maddening, frightening and beautifully screwed up rollercoaster that is the one life we get (or, FINE, at least, the one we are sure exists). Don’t cheat the dead-pool. Be the last person standing. (And, FINE, add a terminal illness exception if you must.)
Don’t be the dick who lets their own chaos rain down upon those left behind. Because no matter how brilliant you are, it’s an awful thing to do to the people who love you. Yes, the founders of Stoicism would tell you that your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters, but also you need to consider that said opinion might be bullshit and it might be time to listen to someone who isn’t standing under the same cloud as you are.
So, Tony, if by some strange supernatural phenomena that you are reading this, many years from now when I die of old age combined with eating too much charcuterie over my 80ish years (after winning the dead-pool, Sam, Kevin and Adam, as I am the youngest), I’m gonna slug your selfish ass right in the stomach when I see you in that dark bar in Purgatory. Then I’ll buy you a beer and a sandwich and we can talk about something else.