by Mike Pyatt
“For what is man, what has he got, If not himself, then he has naught, To say the things he truly feels, And not the words of one who kneels, The record shows I took the blows, And did it my way. Yes, it was my way.” Nearly fifty-years ago, Frank Sinatra recorded, “My Way,” a song written by former rock n roll heart throb, Paul Anka, in1967, specifically for Sinatra. That song has been played at funerals and President Trump’s inaugural ball, and covered by nearly every vocalist, from Elvis Presley to David Bowie. Anka reportedly said, “I’d never written something so chauvinistic, narcissistic, in-your-face and grandiose.” It personifies too many contemporary lives. We’ve seen this rerun-it’s not a comedy.
Sadly, that “My Way” philosophy hasn’t ended well. History’s replete with perilous outcomes, and wrecked lives, for those who belatedly discovered that like Hemingway, Bourdain, and too many others, who’ve looked externally, for what was vacant internally. Actor Val Kilmer lashed out at Anthony Bourdain’s suicide as, “So selfish. You’ve given us cause to be so angry.” Kilmer suffered through the anguish of throat cancer, and asked why Bourdain turned his back on his 11-year old daughter, who Bourdain, claimed before his death, “Changed his life forever.” Fifty-five year old fashion designer Kate Spate, like Bourdain, hung herself, in her posh Park Avenue apartment. Last year Spate sold most of her empire to Coach for $2.4 billion. One Hollywood wag opined, “She had it all!” Did she? Something was awry.
Tinsel Town has a morose, storied history of suicidal endings. ”Charmed lives” cut short at their own hand. Comedian Robin Williams’ 2014, suicide was anything but comedic. It also lurks in distant, bucolic Wyoming, where Casper multi-millionaire, and philanthropist, Mick McMurray, reportedly snuffed out his life at the wrong end of a shotgun. It was widely reported he’d experienced insufferable pain and depression after back surgery. Not a few have questioned, “How could he, with unlimited financial resources, and the best of medical care at his disposal, opt for suicide?” Iconoclast Bill Maher, who’s anything but humorous, added his acerbic slant to the conversation, “Suicide is man’s way of telling God, ‘You can’t fire me-I quit.’” G.K. Chesterton disagreed, “Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life.” No “dignity in death” slavering.
In spite of a myriad of crisis hotlines and suicide prevention initiatives, suicides are on the rise nationwide. Wyoming has the fourth highest suicide rate in the U.S., according to the Wyoming Health Department, reporting that more teenagers and adults die of suicide than from cancer, heart disease, birth defects and other maladies combined. Most of us withstand the vicissitudes of life; the ebb and flow on our journey. We’re resilient-adapting and recovering from troubling times. Most troubling is that something has changed drastically. There’s a larger swath of the population who, for a variety of reasons-opioid and drug abuse, alcoholism, mental disorders, and loss of hope-take their own life-beckoning eternity on their own misguided, reckless schedule. Abdicating the rescue of those at risk for suicide, to a wholly secular approach, is like leaving CPR training to the late Dr. Jack Kervorkian, who, in the end, rejected his own draconian advice.
Whatever modality interventionists are pressing, to counter suicide, isn’t working. It’ll take more than a dose of happy talk, telling youngsters, carte blanche, “You can do anything, or be anything you want!” There’s cavernous gap between the message and reality, that adolescents are ill-equipped to calculate. They clumsily mimic adults’ feeble attempts to do it “their way.” Absent wise Godly counsel, outcomes will be equally destructive. Then we instinctively, throw up our hands, and feign we’re horrified at the carnage. Like giving car keys to an eight year old, then being shocked they’ve ended-up in a ditch.
It’ll take a real “bridge over troubled waters” to curtail suicide. We’ve been warned of the dangers of prescription and illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, and dependency upon substances and materialism. How many adults sleep and awake abetted by a prescription? Our younger generation observe adult habits and excesses, seeking their own version of “happy hour.” Our culture’s driven by “happy hour” mentality, which turns out to be “not so happy.” Evangelicals understand the enticement of transient allurements, and that absent an enduring relationship with Christ, one’s subject to being tossed to and fro by besetting temptations. None are exempt from debilitating habits. However, Christians are assured of an immovable anchor during tumultuous personal storms, that would’ve otherwise stranded us on the shores of despair. In this secularized culture such notions sound archaic, and are quickly dismissed as religious mumbo-jumbo. For centuries, those who’ve embraced this unshakeable foundation, will attest to its puissant outcomes. Never have we needed the transforming message of the Gospel more.
We’ve indulged generations of individuals with undisciplined, insatiable appetites for addictive lifestyles, obsequiously transmitting this flawed culture to future generations. Boasting a life of doing things “My Way” has a trajectory fraught with danger and predictably disastrous consequences. The undercurrent that runs through this unfolding drama is self-deception. In the famous words of Sir Walter Scott, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” Are we too urbane, too big for our breeches, relegating God’s rightful claim on our lives as passé? What happens when that “Way” is wrong? Dead wrong?
As Biblical underpinnings are supplanted by secular idioms, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Prosperity won’t alter this postmortem. We’re left with the ashes of unconsolable emptiness.Suicide’s the symptomatic price we’ve paid. Will we ever learn? While masquerading as a Christian nation, the slide to paganism has been gradually uncontested. Anyone noticed? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org