Monday, August 26, 2013

Wondering about Martin Manley

I spent some time this past weekend taking a look at Martin Manley's blog.

Manley was a Kansas City sportswriter and sports statistician. He took his own life by firearm on the morning of his 60th birthday, August 15th, 2013. You can read the elaborate suicide blog he spent a year writing at this link. It was originally posted on Yahoo, and Manley paid for it to stay there for five years. Yahoo took it down, after learning of Manley's death. The link above is to a mirror site hosted by the hacktivist group, Anonymous, who felt the content was worth saving. I guess Yahoo feared it would inspire other people to commit suicide.

It won't, I think. But you should read it and decide.

I'm a little upset by Manley's death, not because I knew him (and because I don't follow sports, I didn't even know of him), but because he was, on the day he died, only six days older than I am. Turning 60 was, he felt, the end of his productive life. I understand that aging is not a pretty business; no one wants to end up in a nursing home, though most of us will. And debility and dependence are frightening. But Manley's reason for taking his own life was clearly deeper than insecurity about his future, and reluctance to experience the loss of autonomy that can accompany increasing age:

 "Frankly, I didn’t have any major problem that would cause me to do it. I did it other reasons. I’m sure there are those that suffer terminal illness or financial  calamity or loss of loved ones or serious addictions or fear of going to jail for life or just plain depression. And, I acknowledge any of those reasons might spur them  toward suicide. But, I believe some of us who do it simply have a dark side that doesn’t allow us to appreciate life – or at least extended life - in the same way as others."
-- Martin Manley
It's that "dark side" in the ascendant that I find distressing. Don't I realize that we all have our shadow side, our own personal darkness that is always with us? Of course I do. As a spiritual director, I also know that integrating our shadow side can be a potent source of insight, part of a journey to wholeness. It doesn't have to take over. It's not the whole show, for most people. I know it happens, in cases of mental illness, but Manley does not seem to be ill, at least based on his writing.

So I don't get it. I suppose suicide made sense to Manley, in view of what my colleague referred to this morning as his probable "existential despair." I haven't felt this way (I hope I never do), so I'm in no position to judge. But ... it doesn't add up for me. Read the blog and see what you think.

Martin, rest in peace, brother.

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