One heartbreaking feature of modern society is the spate of suicides. For men under 50 you are more likely to be killed by yourself than anything else. I have had dark moments myself so I can relate to the black despair that blights people – many of whom appear to have it all.
A recent documentary by Horizon has raised this terrible trend again in the public consciousness, and with depressing inevitability the Guardian takes cheap shots about Tory spending, saying ‘government funding into suicide prevention continues to lag behind’. Some things are not to be solved by politics, by policy, legislation and directionless spending.
This awful trend has been bubbling away for a long time now, and is the symptom of a sick society. What can be more indicative of dysfunction than a way of living that leads its best and brightest to end their own lives?
Whilst reading about some recent cases I was reminded of Albert Camus’s book The Myth of Sisyphus, a book I read a few years ago as I floundered around looking for the answers to those big questions. Camus’s offerings were unsatisfying.
Camus’s book promulgated his philosophy of ‘absurdism’, that man’s search for meaning is futile in an unintelligible world devoid of God, yet man can exist regardless. What Camus struggled with most was the seductive logic of suicide in the face of an absurd, random existence.
It is perfectly rational to commit suicide if you don’t believe in an afterlife, or anything bigger than yourself. If the world is just a random occurrence, then for what are you fighting? Why endure the crippling suffering that the world throws at you? You might answer: ‘For your children’ but why have children in the first place, if they are just a meaningless collection of cells too?
Camus is stuck: on the one hand he enjoys life, yet on the other he believes his very existence to be ‘absurd’. His solution is to say the point of living is living. His book is named after the Greek myth of Sisyphus: the man condemned to rolling a boulder up a hill, only for it to fall down, for the rest of his life.
In this analogy we are Sisyphus, and life is the pointless rolling of the boulder. What a bleak view of life. The sole reason Sisyphus – i.e. us – doesn’t give up is because he learns to accept the absurdity of his position, and derives some sort of contentment from this. ‘All is well,’ Camus concludes, and ‘one must imagine Sisyphus happy.’ How, and why, is he happy?
Camus now has more influence than God, and his nihilism grins down at us constantly. The news is unremitting negativity with no explanation for the wanton suffering; TV shows such as Friends and Sex and the City feature people living self-centred and pointless lives; the slow march of euthanasia continues unabated.
This is the world we live in: meaningless, lonely, atomised. No wonder that talented stars kill themselves, that people think abortion is a human right, that the UK birth rate is below replacement levels.
Christ, the light, has been rejected, and so the West becomes darker and more chaotic. As things stand it will only get worse as people are too proud to admit their mistakes, even if subconsciously they are drawn to the truth.
Suicide is a terrible sadness and I do not sit in judgment here. I openly admit to having had struggles of my own. I just wish we would stop this destructive path we are careering down, and realise the solution to our problems is staring us in the face: Jesus Christ.