This morning I awoke to the news of Anthony Bourdain’s tragic passing. One of the culinary greats, author of Kitchen Confidential and host of globe-trotting shows like “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”, has committed suicide at only 61.
Mr. Bourdain’s work is lively and enticing in a way that inspires those who watch it to go out beyond their front yards and see the world. I admired his relentless curiosity and his unbiased respect for each person he met on his journeys. I also admired his support of the #MeToo movement and his fierce loyalty to those he loved.
While admittedly rough around the edges, he was open and honest. Whether it was about his past with addiction or his opinions on global politics, people responded to his unfiltered truth with truth of their own, allowing him to show not only the food and sights of each locale, but an ability to find common ground and connect with characters of different races, backgrounds, and cultures. “Parts Unknown” in particular shows Americans that it is possible, and far more pleasurable, to embrace and connect with exotic people and places instead of fearing them. In the current political climate, he was someone we needed to model that which sets us apart from beasts. Empathy.
I suppose the shock in Mr. Bourdain’s death comes from a tragic misunderstanding of his life. How could someone that seems to have lived so fully and happily from the outside be so tormented inside? He traveled the world. He had wonderful friends and family. He ate, drank, and seemed merry. How did we miss this?
It is difficult to empathize with an act that seems, to those left behind, so incredibly selfish. Scouring the internet for any morsel of understanding this morning, I came across a quote by David Foster Wallace that struck me:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
Try as we may, we are unable to feel each other’s internal flames. Suicide rates have gone up 30% since 1999, with many cases involving persons with no reported mental illness. There are poor souls harboring unimaginable darkness and fear. All we can do is the best we can with the information available to us at the time. We can love and support one another and try to be a source of light. All of the money and fame in the world means nothing without our health and happiness.
My heart goes out to Mr. Bourdain’s family, particularly his 11 year old daughter. My heart is also with Mr. Bourdain himself. I hope that wherever he may be, he is finally at peace. I hope that his soul is at rest.
I’ll be spending the day re-watching “Parts Unknown” and cooking; mourning the loss of an inspiration.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite of his quotes: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
Please, if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit SpeakingofSuicide.com/resources.