The Bridge

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I just watched the movie The Bridge tonight about people who choose to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. What a haunting piece of work. In it the filmmakers trained their cameras on the Golden Gate Bridge for a year, and ended up documenting 23 people jumping to their deaths. And while that may sound incredibly morbid, and even irresponsible to some, I thought it was one of the most sympathetic depictions of suicide I’ve ever seen.

Even during my darkest periods of my life when I often thought of suicide, I never attempted it. But, I understand that urge, that need to be free of the pain. That sense that this will never, ever end. That you’re utterly and completely trapped in darkness and there is no hope for escape. That each day is meaningless and that your mere existence is a plague upon your friends and the world. It’s painful to remember.

The film does a good job of documenting the struggles of a few of the people who jumped by talking with their friends and family. These were people who were loved. Yet, that’s either not enough for the depressed person, or they just don’t believe it. Me, I just didn’t believe it. You are so wrapped up in your own pain, that even the fiercest of love cannot penetrate it. So while the jumper may be free from their pain, they have merely passed it on to those who cared about him. A lot of people have little sympathy for suicides for this reason – it feels to them to be a very selfish act, a cruelty towards the people who are left behind, the “easy way out.”

The film came back over and over to this one fellow, Gene, his long black hair flowing in the wind as he seemingly paced back and forth along the bridge, probably desperately weighing his options. While you couldn’t see the expression on his face, by the fact that he just didn’t walk up to the edge and immediately jump as some had done, you could tell he was tormented by his decision. Haunting, just fucking haunting.

I am grateful to all those who have helped me through the years, both professionals and friends, who have helped move away from that kind of darkness, and be able to see that things constantly change, and things are never truly hopeless. I remember when I first heard Buddha’s First Noble Truth – that the nature of samsara was suffering, I was so relieved! I wasn’t crazy. And then the second, third and fourth truths gave me hope that there was a way out of this suffering. And for that I will always be grateful for my teachers and the teachers who came before them and the teachers before them, etc. etc. Thank you, Buddha.

When I was finished watching the movie, I looked up volunteering for a suicide prevention hotline. After a 2 month training period, you have to commit to staffing the hotline 4 nights a week for one year. That’s a big commitment. Two nights a week, sure, no problem. Three? Maybe. But, four starts to become a part-time non-paid job on top of my full-time job. It would be way too much. For now. Maybe someday.

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3 responses »

  1. My Buddhist practice has been the key to overcoming a lifelong struggle with depression. An understanding of impermanence and knowing that our happiness comes from the love and compassion we generate towards others, goes a long ways in dealing with the two key factors in depression: that these bad feelings will never end and the incessant thoughts about my own unhappiness. Of course, in the cases of severe depression, therapy and possibly meds are in order. However, once the crisis has passed, I think meditation, and Buddhist teachings can be incredibly helpful to those who struggle with depression.

  2. medicate or meditate baby – thanks for all you insights in this area = radder than volunteer 4 nights a week on the hotline howz about hosting and series of events based on yer experiences – maybe at a clinic for fowks that tried it but didn’t quite finish it off? I dunno but it seems like a some one who’s suffered from this and who also has Dharma you are in a unique position to help. btw nice avatar.

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