Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote a moving, passionate essay about her feelings after two of her poet friends, Sarah Hannah (Click here for a sample) and Rachel Wetzsteon (go here for info & a poem) killed themselves. It’s great to read, informative and moving. But, au fond, the fact remains that she is wrong about suicide. How wrong? Click here for the essay and take not especially of this excerpt:
In the West, in the past, the dominant religions told people suicide was against the rules, they must not do it, if they did they would be punished in the afterlife. People killed themselves anyway, of course, but the strict injunction must have helped keep a billion moments of anguish from turning into a bloodbath. These days we encourage people to stay alive and not kill themselves, but we say it for the person’s own sake. It’s illegal, sure, but no one actually insists that suicide is wrong.
I’m issuing a rule. You are not allowed to kill yourself. You are going to like this, stay with me. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means that every suicide is also a delayed homicide. You have to stay.
I’ll review a book (Jean Amery’s classic, trenchant, impassioned essay On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death) on the topic next month that touches on some of these issues. I’ll also review Hecht’s own study Doubt within the next months, a fascinating book I’m not completely sure I know how I feel about. Her home page is jennifermichaelhecht.com, she has a poetry blog dedicated to the Fonz here and a blog at Best American Poetry.