"Tide By Tide" Big Sur, California, 2011
One of the most lovely men I know lost his partner yesterday. This guy was a wildly talented and very successful painter who was the absolute love of my friend's life. Unfortunately, he decided this life wasn't worth staying around for anymore. So, he prematurely checked out.
They had been lovers for over ten years.
It's the most chilling shift in one's mental state when something as profound as suicide occurs during our watch. And the questions of what could have been done to have stopped it plagues the mind. I often think about the person who left us, though. How difficult it must become for them to have found happiness, how painful it must have been for them to try and just get through each and every day. For those of us still breathing it seems like such a wrong choice to terminate one’s existence early. To someone who decides to forgo the opportunity of another spin on this planet, I can only imagine passing on is a relief.
My friend's lover had been depressed for quite some time and for anyone who has experienced even the slightest bout with depression, it essentially turns life into an endless loop of hopelessness. And life without hope is like being trapped alive in a steel coffin with no way out, no way to breath, no way to see the beauty of the world, no way to live. And going through that sort of torture doesn't seem like a real choice at a certain point for anyone with half a mind. For a magnificent artist like my friend's lover, the options are even more limited. The most profound art, in my opinion, comes from a place of deep feeling, and to tell an artist to take a pill to even out or repress their feelings in any way is like asking Michelangelo to paint with his fingers and mud as opposed to using a brush and a palette full of colors.
Still, we think, there has to be something that can be done to stop such drastic action. And while there is truly so much about another's life that is out of our hands, there is one thing I believe we must learn to do more often in our society, and that is to give people hope.
This particular need struck me as I was sitting in the writer's room of the show I'm currently working on moments after hearing the news of this tragic passing. The subject of the state of our world came up and the question was raised as to whether things are getting better or whether are they getting worse on our planet. And while everyone in the room was of the mind that our world is in steady decline: ebola, rape, guns, sexism, climate change, politics, global unrest, etc., it was hard for me to agree, because I feel the exact opposite. I look at smog and I'm amazed at how much easier it is to see all the way out to the ocean than it was 16 years ago when I first moved to Southern California. I think about technology and how it's allowing us to seek out injustice all over the globe and organize protests and charity drives and send military assistance to snuff it out. I think about the acceptance of talk therapy as a good means of maintaining our health when only 20 years ago it was still looked down on as quack medicine. I think of the fact gay marriage is quickly becoming not just the law of the land but celebrated by hundreds of millions of people the world over. I think about the consciousness more and more people share about eating organic and locally grown foods. I think about waterless urinals and massive recycling efforts and disposable cups, plates, and utensils even most fast food restaurants use now that literally break down in a matter of days as opposed to the years it took their antecedents to decompose. I think of the speed at which we can educate ourselves on any topic via the internet, or the fact that in less than twenty-four hours anyone can make it to any place on our globe to record things and share events that otherwise we would never have the chance to even imagine. And in seconds we can reach each other with texts, phone calls, and emails night or day, rain or shine.
I'm not saying everything is perfect, but ask anyone over the age of seventy if things are getting better on this planet and there's a resounding "Yes." And I think even when things aren't so wonderful we must still challenge ourselves to find the positive light, to breed hope where we can, because no matter what, life will always have downsides. But anyone living shares one thing in common: hope. If we didn't. If we truly did not believe it was getting better or couldn't get better, we would all be taking long walks off short bridges. And the fact is, you never know when the life of the person sitting next to you at church or dinner or even work might have become too difficult. You never know when you might need to be the one to give them a reason to keep going just a little further, to remind them that the pain they feel isn't all there is, to help them recall the truth that the sun always rises and without a doubt even in the darkest moments things do get better, and there is always, always, always hope.