I do not know if you have noticed how mystified the media is over the highly publicized suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It is easy to assume that they had everything that is necessary to live a happy and satisfying life, most significantly wealth and fame.
Journalist Frank Bruni wrote a very insightful article in The New York Times on their recent deaths. He said:
Their deaths were noteworthy because of how powerfully it speaks to the discrepancy between what we see of people on the outside and what they’re experiencing on the inside; between their public faces and their private realities; between their visible swagger and invisible pain. Parts unknown: That was true of Bourdain. That was true of Spade. That’s true of every one of us.
He went on to say that their deaths reflect the faultiness of our assumptions, the deceptiveness of appearances and the complexity of the human soul. You have to wonder what was going on in the souls of these two celebrities to cause them to pull the plug on their lives which seemed to be flourishing.
I was reminded of the words of Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Denial of Death. Becker recognized how modern culture had become incredibly secular, and how God had become irrelevant such that many people believe that our ultimate future does not exist. We are here for a few short years, and then we die and that’s the end of it.
Becker contends that this widespread belief in no ultimate future has caused society to place more emphasis on sex, romance, money, power, and pleasure than any other culture in history. We are trying to deal with our cosmic insignificance; therefore, we look to these things as a form of escapism . . . as a way to retreat into our own worlds of distraction and diversion.
But this strategy never works. We are continually reminded that life is ultimately empty and without purpose. Consequently, we have no ultimate future. And it only makes matters worse when a person is struggling with his work, his finances, and his relationships.
And so depression and suicide have become major problems in our culture. One could almost describe it as epidemic. And the social sciences clearly back this up.
Nobel Prize winning French Novelist Albert Camus said, “There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” Camus saw many people take their lives because they saw life to be meaningless and therefore not worth living.
Thomas Masaryk, the first president of liberated Czechoslovakia after World War I, wrote a book entitled Suicide and the Meaning of Civilization. The thesis of the book is that the more godless a society becomes, the higher the rate of suicide. His research suggested that in the middle ages, the number of suicides was negligible. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, it was evident that suicide had become one of the top causes of death. Today, suicide has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of death due to injury. Furthermore, Masaryk uncovered the fact that the vast majority of these deaths occurred among highly principled, well-educated people who had no religious faith. His conclusion reveals the tragic story of those individuals who can find no purpose in life and therefore have no reason to live.
In order to find meaning, you have to look to God to answer the significant questions of life. These questions concern our place and purpose in the world, the significance of our lives, and our ultimate destiny. So many people have moved away from the Biblical worldview that has always supplied the answers to these questions. However, the questions have not gone away and they never will, and modern man is therefore left all alone, disconnected from the One who gives life meaning.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership, and best-selling author of The Power of a Humble Life.