The New York Times reported today of a recent suicide by a lovely, intelligent 12-year old Florida girl who had been harassed for over a year via social media to the point where she no longer wished to live. I can remember being 12 years old and vividly recall how painful it was to feel that you were different than others or did not fit in with the social norm. Now, even at that time I was a neophyte “literarylew” so I did not fit-in and was socially uncomfortable, but I had adapted with an ego which allowed me to cope with the stresses and present an acceptable facade so that I escaped most of the social opprobrium that could have come my way. (Oh, if my friends there in “Smallville”, Arkansas had known what analytical chicanery was festering in my heart, they would have mercifully harassed me for thinking like that!)
Now most of us have found ourselves outside the pale of social approval before and can remember having this happen even at age 12. But, we did not kill ourselves and most of us did not even want to. Why would this precious young soul allow this social violence to get “to her” and cause her so much pain that she would take her life? Why not resort to the familiar bromide, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (or social media) will never hurt me”?
Well, the inability to resort to that childish contrivance is the issue. Some people are more thin-skinned and when subjected to criticism, it pierces them into the depths of their soul to the point of excruciating shame and humiliation, a point at which any of us would contemplate suicide. Most of us have a membrane in our soul beyond which the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” cannot penetrate. But others do not have this membrane; and still others have had this membrane violated as is the case with victims of trauma. Thus when hurt comes, “hurt” comes. It is not the notion or “idea” of hurt that visits, but it is the raw, unmediated subjective experience of “hurt” that invades the soul and makes the individual prefer death over the anguish of threatened annihilation. They know…and and I think they are correct…that when death has come, their torment by the threat of annihilation will be over. But what they have lost sight of in that horror is that there is hope available if they can find a helpful, loving hand that can guide them through the hell they are living in. They can suddenly realize that “this too shall pass” and that the very real hell they are being devoured by will loosen its grasp if they can only hang on and merely trust someone enough to allow them into that hell for a moment. (See concluding quotation from da Vinci.)
I’m so sorry for the loss of this lovely young girl. And I’m so sorry for the ugliness that constellated in her social group that brought them to the point where they were willing to treat her like that. And, I am sorry to have to admit that the same ugliness is in my heart and will always be as I will always be merely a human. But I’m very grateful that I have a bit of awareness of this dark side to my heart so that I’m less likely to unleash it as I used to do when I was younger.
O cities of the sea, I behold in you your citizens, women as well as men tightly bound with stout bonds around their arms and legs by folk who will not understand your language; and you will only be able to give vent to your griefs and sense of loss of liberty by making tearful complaints, and sighs, and lamentations one to another; for those who bind you will not understand your language nor will you understand them. Leonardo da Vinci, from “Of Children in Swaddling Clothes”. Just as Jaspers would note, da Vinci knew that we “have to take it where we find it.”