(cartoons by my Great Uncle Bill Lewis, circa 1930 training for Walt Disney)
It is easy for me to feel despair and often I do. I am essentially living in a prison created by myself. But, this realization is the path out: to let go of the past and future, to live in the present, to meditate on cause-and-effect, to study the sutra's, to strive for self-actualization, to free myself from ignorance, and to live for the purpose of helping other's in emotional pain.
There are two people I've known who committed suicide. My close friend Francie Cotrell Gallishaw in the Peace Corps in Togo was a stunningly beautiful woman who always seemed happy. I appreciated her friendship since I am generally not outgoing but do want friends. She ended up marrying a fellow volunteer and I went to her wedding. Her father was so proud and her husband deeply in love.
I lived in Takoma Park near where she lived so ran into her from time-to-time. The last time I saw her she was parking her car in Takoma Park. I considered going up to say "hello" but she looked extremely frazzled and upset so I thought maybe I better not intrude. A week later I learned that she killed herself. I am left wondering: what if I had gone to her that day and reached out as a friend? Could it have made a difference? I'll never know.
The other person was my grandmother's brother (my great uncle?). His name was Bill Lewis and he lived in Fort Worth, Texas. He was one of the original cartoonists for Walt Disney. When I was a teenager I was visiting my grandmother when she received a call from Texas. She was at first thrilled to hear from a relative but then sunk as she learned the purpose of the call: to inform her that her brother had shot himself. Later that summer I went on a family trip. We went through Fort Worth and I met the niece of Bill Lewis. She told me how she had found his body. He had shot himself in the kitchen. It was awful and traumatic for her. She gave me a pile of his drawings (a photo of some is above) which she didn't know what to do with. I have many of them framed in my apartment.
I am sure that my "Uncle Bill" never considered how much it would have meant to me to meet him, since I too love cartooning. I doubt he considered the traumatic effect his suicide would have on his niece.
Of course, the person who commits suicide is in such emotional pain that thinking of others is the last thing on their mind. In fact, suicide is really an attempt to gain some sort of emotional control by people who feel emotionally alienated. Still, suicide is a selfish act with unintentional consequences on the emotional lives of others. If I committed suicide out of despair it would go either unnoticed or be celebrated by some, like my ex-girlfriend.
Also, I like to believe in the idea of reincarnation. It is a useful idea because it is centered on the idea of creating merit to achieve a higher rebirth. We only come around as humans once, for the purpose of achieving self-actualization. To commit suicide would halt the path towards self-actualization, this opportunity I've been given.
I understand the roots of my despair, the childhood I experienced created certain patterns of behavior that were counterproductive, like distrusting relationships.