What is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life?* Do you have an answer to that question?
Harry, a man in my general social circle, killed himself last Monday. Maybe he didn’t have an answer to that question. Or maybe, given that he was 61, he’d had an answer or series of answers that sorely disappointed him. He lived alone, had become increasingly isolated and his business as a self-employed accountant had been going poorly. Still, I’m shocked and disturbed by his suicide, and the people who were closer to him much more so. Rejecting one’s own wild and precious life creates reverberations and shock-waves of sadness throughout a community.
Switching from the individual micro-view to the societal macro-view: thousands of Egyptians are putting their lives on the line day after day, demonstrating in hopes of a better government and more just economy, one in which they can afford to feed themselves and their families. I would say the demonstrators in Egypt are clear on what they are doing with their precious lives. I wish them success, in the most nonviolent means possible.
Here in the U.S., the richest nation in the history of the planet, suicide is actually more common than homicide. Our human lives aren’t just wild and precious; they are fragile too. Material wealth isn’t enough to sustain us; we need purpose and connectedness to others. We need to be needed, and to be part of a greater whole, rather than the hyperindividualism that our culture uses as its default mode. I suggest that we need diamond-cut lives.
*From the poem Summer Day by Mary Oliver