My Reflections on Celebrity Suicides

June 20, 2018 by

pink flower by seaEnglish coastline. Photograph by Darius Clement

It seems as if a lot of successful people have died lately: Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Avicii, in this year alone. People who we look up to and aspire to be, people who at least in our eyes have succeeded in scaling that greasy pinnacle, are finding despair instead of fulfilment. This is nothing new of course; success and fame have never guaranteed personal health and happiness, but according to a recent Time article, rates of suicide are up across the board. What the hell is going on?

I couldn’t come to an answer to that question that didn’t sound as if I had a particular axe to grind. There are two opposing worldviews though. The most prevalent one is that things are getting better and better: we are living longer, have more money, and we’re finally breaking free of the shackles of history (think of those wretched ancestors, with their funny notions of morality, religion, etc.); what’s not to like? The other is that things are getting worse and worse: we are increasingly isolated from each other, lonely, stressed, and confused. I guess I subscribe to the second point of view. In any case, most or all of us go through times where we can’t see a way out.

Below is a William Saroyan quote that has stuck with me for a number of years:

I’m drunk, I said, and Paula’s getting married to a lawyer, and Pete wants to save the world, and my grandmother is homesick for Armenia, and Nick’s wife is going to have another baby, and listen, comrades, if I don’t go easy climbing these stairs I’ll fall down and bust my head, comrades. What good will it do when everybody has bread, comrades, what good will it do when everybody has cake, comrades, what good will it do when everybody has everything, comrades, everything isn’t enough, comrades, and the living aren’t alive, brothers, the living are dead, brothers, even the living are not alive, brothers, and you can’t ever do anything about that.

Here’s the part where, as a Christian blogger, I guess I’m supposed to make the big argument about the importance of faith in God. In the UK certainly, the prevalent view of Christianity is that it is a crutch for people who just can’t cope, a view bolstered by the fact that most of the clergy in the C of E believe the same thing. There’s no doubt that faith (religion if you like) helps you deal with the ups and downs of life, but if that’s it, if that’s all you use it for, it’s a bit like using a Ferrari as a chicken coop: it works, sort of, but it’s designed to do a lot more than that, and eventually it is going to get totaled.

If you want to get a bang out of life, you need a cause worth dying for. For me, that purpose is the kingdom of God.

If you want to get a bang out of life, you need a cause worth dying for; for me, that purpose is the kingdom of God. It’s not really a mainstream point of view. People who actually live in expectation that Jesus is going to come back soon have always been the radical fringe – the first Christians sure were. I love reading the letters of Paul, to think about what it was like in those early days of the church. Clearly there was a lot of confusion and a lot of apostasy, same as today, but you can also sense the power of the spirit of love and enthusiasm for this new way of life that drove them to risk everything for it. I want to be part of a group of people that does the same.

Despair, depression, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, and mental health issues affect everyone at some point in their lives. Anyone who has ever tried to help someone suffering acutely from any of these will know the futility of words as any kind of solace. One of Paul’s most significant lines, though, is this one: “…the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” It’s a power I’ve experienced; I pray you do as well.


About the author


Ian Barth

Ian lives at the Darvell community in East Sussex, UK with his wife Olivia and their four boys.

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