Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why Live?

As Creed asked whenever Creed was asking things, 'What's this life for?'--and who wants to be in a world where there is Creed?

Attempting to comfort a suffering friend recently, I found myself jumping into a conversation with him with the intent on lightening his load, but found my mind immediately filled with questions of a different nature.

All of the platitudes a person offers someone going through a tough time felt hollow to me. I was calling myself out on bullshit left and right. Eventually, I came to feel like someone who stepped out on a ledge to talk someone else out of jumping, but then decided, 'hey, maybe I should jump too'.

These thoughts occur to me. There are philosophical answers to the question of whether or not we should go on living, but philosophical answers are of small consequence when the embrace of life and the retraction from it is something that is more felt in the blood than experienced in the brain.

This, it turns out, is actually much more than a metaphor:
"Because of the brain's complexity and inaccessibility, the search for predictors of suicide risk has instead focused on molecular signs, or biomarkers. These biomarkers help to indicate which people are at even higher risk. Niculescu and his colleagues have found six such biomarkers in blood that they say can identify people at risk of committing suicide."
So once again it comes down to the domain of science. Telling a person with depression that they 'have to make their own happiness' or 'fake it 'til you make it' is really weak tea. The problem of suicide is really something that is literally in the blood, and does not boil down to merely a conscious 'yes' or 'no' to the problem of existence.

And for many of us existence is a problem. It is a problem that comes bundled with a series of other problems too. There is not only the question of 'should I live', but there is the question of 'how should I live', and at every step along the line there is a chance for our answers to those questions to turn one way or the other.

I want to comfort my friends when they are suffering, but I understand the pull of existential crises entirely. When in the grips of a crisis, word barely suffice. Good advice can only go so far, and often feels more like it is intended to bolster the self worth of the advice giver than the person who is suffering. Is it best to simply be there for a person in crisis, to listen to them, to sympathize, or should we be rifling through our working memory for anecdotes and Facebook quotes that will make it sound like we've figured out something that we in no way have?

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