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On Suicide (The Leap)

For them

If you have the courage to die you will have the ingenuity.


He climbed over the ledge without hesitation but with much fear in his heart. With his hands clutching the rail, his feet searched for something that could support his weight, something he could finally count on. He looked down; and it was a long way down. Five floors, to be exact. The other people were busying themselves with window-shopping and hurrying to their unknown destinations. This man knew what his destination was: nowhere but death.

His foot finally landed on what he thought were pots of plants that were displayed off the ledge of the railings to make the shopping mall more attractive, more glamorous. Only then did he realize that the pots were not pots of clay. They were made of styrofoam, thus, they were light, and the brackets that supported such beautiful but absurd plants will not support his weight. There was no more time to blame the plants or himself. There was no more opportunity to curse the God he no longer believed in.

He went straight down amidst the screams of the passers-by; it looked like something came down from heaven. The immaculate and glistening white floor of the Shangri-La Plaza was stained by blood. He was dead on arrival.

Why did they have to put those stupid plants anyway?

* * *

When Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) published his ground-breaking doctoral dissertation Suicide (1897), he did not only lay the foundations for sociology but also brought suicide from the dark (where people talk about it in hushed voices) to the light of day (where it could be pinned down to an exact science). Durkheim's main thesis was that, while there is nothing more private and individualistic (and hence psychological) than a person deciding to take his own life, the act itself could be interpreted to be a by-product of a cause which would be larger in scale, that is, by society.
He says:
If, instead of seeing them only in separate occurences, unrelated and to be separately studied, the suicides committed in a given society during a given period of time are taken as a whole, it appears that this total is not simply a sum of independent units, a collective total, but is itself a new fact sui generis, with its own unity, individuality and consequently its own nature - a nature, furthermore, dominantly social.

By finding or by creating a new object of study apart from psychology, sociology was well underway to become a new science that would investigate social phenomena and its effects on the private, personal phenomena. And the phenomenon of suicide was key for Durkheim; in it he was able to gather and discover that the act was not really
only a matter of a person's idiosyncracies and history but something social, that is, relevatory of a community and a culture at a given period of time.

An example of what Durkheim discovered were these theses:

Suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of religious society.
Suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of domestic society.
Suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of political society.

For Durkheim, this explained why Protestants -- who interpreted Scripture by their own hands -- ended their lives more often than Chirstians -- whom he said merely inherit unquestioned faith initially and for the most part -- while the Jews commited the least number of suicides. This may also explain why suicide happens more often in first-world countries (like Japan and Korea) than in the Third World. Or why people call it quits more often during the winter and not in the months of summer, etc. We can go on and on.

Thus, by bringing something so private and personal to the level of the interpersonal and the social, it was hoped that through the rigors of science these phenomena may be better understood as a whole, and then finally grasped and accounted for (the need to render reasons or find a cause to such a troubling loss, to such an unexplainable act). Hence the explanations vary from "political turmoil, "war," "overall despair," "the unemployment rate," "the rise of oil prices," "the dollar exchange," etc.

* * *

Yet what perhaps suffers in such an integrated and inescapable view of suicide as a whole is the individual himself who committed this act by taking away this life. (The particular always suffers for the whole). Forgotten and unexplained so as to remember and study the whole, sociology is silent about this cut or that leap. It is true that "the dead don't talk;" and this is even more true for the life and the living that were also not understood. Yet what can be certain is that this suicide will always count as an incident, a figure, as "one suicide," to be added on an already long list.

We shall never know if the man really meant to jump or if he was only looking for a little consolation. It was reported that he and his girlfriend had a fight and that they were about to break-up. He couldn't bear that. It would be too much. All this blood for that love.

What if he only wanted to get her some plants?

To be continued


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