The tragic death of Anthony Bourdain, of Kate Spade; wealthy and famous, influential-glitterati should give everyone pause to consider just how fragile we all are, how easily any one of us may succumb to despair.
The things you have, or have done, the stuff you have accumulated, the accolades; by themselves they are not enough, and they will not sustain us, or keep us whole.
There are billions of us in the world, human beings, most of whom have no choice in what they do with the hours in their day, they are busy surviving, with no spare minutes to set aside for reflection, or to wonder why, to contemplate justice, the meaning of existence, or the purpose of life.
Woe to those who do, because the world is a troublesome place, both beautiful and grotesque, like the flight of an eagle, as Saint Augustine said; nature is red, in beak and claw.
I have no insight into the lives of Kate and Tony, the particularities of the despair they endured, but I have dozens of friends that took their life into their hands, to end it, to set aside their burdens and move on.
I grieved for them, I grieve for them still, crying at the memory of them and over my own helplessness sin the face of what they endured.
I could not help them.
They could not help themselves.
Many of them suffered in silence, with few people, or even no-one knowing what was happening inside of them, behind the veil of their persona, in that infinite-space behind their eyes.
There are moments, especially when I am driving on the freeway at night, when all I see are taillights in front of me and headlights passing me by, when I get caught up in the sense that every-single light, lights as far as the eye can see signifies the presence of an individual human being, a person just like me. Each one carrying with them their own private world of experience, their own collection of hopes and dreams, of pride and shame, of successes and failures. Each has their own story of trauma; traumas they have endured, traumas the have witnessed, traumas they have inflicted on others.
I call that moment the existential fugue, because in that moment time becomes meaningless.
The demands of compassion are such that we are called on to remember this, to at all times keep in our heart that we do not know what is taking place in the lives of the people we encounter in the world, even in the lives of our friends and family, of those closest to us, let alone the stranger. There are places within each of us that we cannot share, that we never disclose, that we can hardly look at ourselves, for the pain that it brings.
Compassion call us to simply accept this and them, as they are, as we in turn desire to be accepted and understood.