I wrote “The New Fatalism” a couple of weeks ago, noting a “spike” in suicide imagery in popular culture (13 Reasons Why, the Kurt Cobain-themed Father John Misty video “Total Entertainment Forever”) as well as a couple of actual suicides that had recently happened.
Then there is the case of 24-year-old Bruno Borges, who made elaborate “preparations” and then simply vanished (just about to the day of the 20th anniversary of the Heaven’s Gate suicides); there is no evidence Borges killed himself, but there is a similar energy in terms of “disappearing.”
And now Chris Cornell is dead.
To be clear, there is some indication that Cornell might have been under the influence of a new medication that might have triggered the episode. This is not surprising to me at all, and only adds to the immense sadness of this situation: he was trying to be responsible and “get help.” But some of these meds do have these sorts of unexpected and extreme effects on some people.
I remember where I was when I first heard that Kurt Cobain had died; and though Scott Weiland was a personal favorite of all the Grunge musicians, I wasn’t very surprised that he had passed on.
But for some reason, Cornell’s death has really made an impression on me that I am still wrestling with. I’ve never encountered a celebrity who has had his cause of death so “telegraphed” in his music videos and lyrics…to the point where I don’t even have the stomach to write about it.
On the same day as the Soundgarden frontman’s passing, I watched news footage of a driver described in the media as “suicidal” purposely plow into pedestrians in Times Square. The man, Richard Rojas, had psychological problems from back when he was in the Navy and had recently reached out to a counselor at a local veterans center. The counselor promised to call him back, but it was too late.
Yesterday it was revealed that the 20-year-old daughter of director Zack Snyder had committed suicide back in March, and that he’s decided to pull out of the Justice League movie to be with his family.
A lot of people in this world are suffering psychologically. Some, like Cornell, try to get help; some take medications prescribed for them that suddenly make things a lot worse. I don’t know what help Autumn Snyder was receiving, though I would imagine her family attempted to give her the best.
And there is a growing pattern of middle-aged men like Cornell committing suicide. Out of the 121 people in the United States who die of suicide every day, 93 are male.
And so what do we do with this? Is there anything we can do? Or does this “wave” of The New Fatalism evoked by 13 Reasons Why and the Cobain redux just continue?
I’m not here to give platitudes or say I have any “answers.” But I feel we really need to be aware of just what is going on here.
[Note: I finished this post and put it in the queue before finding out about the Manchester bombings yesterday night. Apparently, this horrific act was carried out by a suicide bomber. I can’t even wrap my head around this. It becomes a thing where you become overwhelmed by the news. Again, this speaks to the sort of “white noise of violence” reported by the media—and certainly, it is a serious thing (children were murdered) and must be reported, I’m not disputing that—that ends up maintaining this low-level anxiety within the public. It all starts to really compound and weigh on each individual soul.
How does the soul get replenished in order to deal with all the everyday things, the grind, the inevitable personal sufferings and even agonies? How do we end this spiral of overwhelm, suffering, violence?