In an open letter after Chris Cornell’s death, Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington, wrote “Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.”
This morning, Bennington was found dead, presumed to have committed suicide by hanging. For his many, many fans (“Hybrid Theory” alone sold 30 million copies, making it the biggest debut album of the 20th century) Bennington probably helped them too understand all the feelings he found in Cornell, in life and death alike.
We don’t know the circumstances behind Bennington’s death. Do we really ever know anyone’s circumstances? But I can already hear angry fingers clicking with rage and sadness and aggressive apathy, the things that create the most fervent convictions on the internet, and beneath their fingertips, the word is forming en masse: the word “selfish.”
Because that’s what we hear when someone commits suicide, when someone commits to making the choice to end their life. That they were selfish. That they were cowardly. That they were weak.
I’m not here to lionize and deify those lost to suicide. It’s by no means a courageous or heroic act, but that does not make the act inherently opposite. What it is, rather, is a massively complicated form of calculus, a series of numbers and code that make sense only when processed through the most specific kinds of minds. It doesn’t make sense to most of us. For that, we should be grateful—not judgmental. Because if you don’t understand the code that must be in place for the decision to end it all to make sense, you’re fortunate. For far too many, the code exists. The code makes sense. And all too easily can the code be processed, resulting in a banally catastrophic ending. A solution to that mind’s complex math problem.
The suicidal mind, the mind warped and tattered by depression, you must understand that this mind is not necessarily capable of seeing any worth to its existence or the existence of the screamingly numb vessel in which it resides. To the suicidal mind, the rest of the world would be better off, or isn’t thought of at all, so deeply hurting the mind is and rendered incapacitated by pain and rage and nothing at all to operate the way another mind might be able to.
The suicidal mind is not an adequately functioning mind. Or at least it is not functioning in the way we might refer to as “normal” or “healthy,” where the primary goal is survival. To the suicidal mind, survival is often a burden.
The thing about a suicidal mind, the saddest, most frightening thing, is that it isn’t always locked into that state. You can still feel happiness, joy, laughter. You can still feel at all. But then sometimes you can’t. And it doesn’t feel temporary, it feels like forever.
It feels like the answer. The only answer.
So don’t call it selfish. You just don’t understand the math. And for that, be grateful.