Tony Scott took his own life a few days ago. Everybody’s talking about it. The idea that you could be successful in Hollywood and prefer to jump off a bridge is a terrifying one. Was he ill? Was he caught up in a scandal he couldn’t face? We may never know. And even if we think we do finally know, we probably won’t. In this forensic age, we have only to look to the assassinations of presidents and presidential candidates to realize we know very little about motivations or how far back conspiracies, if they do exist, reach.
I suspect Tony Scott was taken by the Black Dog. Every minute of every day, he felt the unremitting stare of the dog from a ridge above. The dog, he felt sure, could sift his soul, read into the shallowness of his existence. He felt himself to be worthless, to be less than worthless, even: a fraud. It is a mantra of the well to the sick: get help, get help, get help. Sometimes the reaching for the lifeline seems like an exercise in futility. My pain is unlike any other, my case is unfixable, the sufferer thinks, never realizing that there is no emotion he could feel that hasn’t been felt by millions of others before him. And that is at the core of the problem. The worldview of the depressive shrinks to the suffering self.
What makes a man park his car on a bridge and begin to scale the structure? What must he feel? Does he see the faces of his family before him? Is he too far gone? Does he feel only the wind in his face and the rusty rails of the bridge on the soft skin of his hands? Does he tear a fingernail and think, “That’s just how it goes.”
In other parts of town are people huddled in treatment centers, people who have decided to enter a vast water mill of torture in order to live longer. How much longer is never known, and is certainly never guaranteed.
These are the two sides of being human. To deny that is to deny all that people are capable of feeling.
Tony Scott had it all, they said. He may not have been in the first tier of directors, but he was very, very successful. He had money, fame, work, a new family and all the toys that come with box office. ”What he has, I want,” thought thousands and thousands and thousands of people. They still think it, but they’ve changed the tense.
I don’t want what Tony Scott had. Because ultimately it wasn’t enough to save him.
People take their lives every day, and few notice. That’s the saddest part of the story. Their depressions engulf them and they blow out the candle, feeling powerless to fight it any longer. How frail we humans are! How shockingly breakable! But then I think of the people who were able to overcome it and still keep the Black Dog at bay, and of those who, though half-destroyed and wizened beyond belief, fight their diseases day after day after day. How resilient, I think, how strong, how noble humans are!
We are either apes or angels, and at all times we’re comprised of both. We’re capable of seeing the end of all things, and of dreaming of partaking in a surpassingly good infinity.
Did Tony stand at the edge of the bridge and survey the horizon before looking down? Perhaps he didn’t look down. Did his cinematic eye take in everything after he leapt and tell him that nothing in a career of directing movies was as real as what he was now seeing? And how he’d gotten it so very wrong?
You can have everything and still have nothing. This is not a new idea, but it still seems to take people by surprise. Get that wrong, as the man said, and you are in a world of trouble.
Be a friend. A real one. Be family, the best you can be. Be good. Do good. Be humble and thankful and hopeful. Reach out to help and be helped. Reject, as much as you can, your dust-to-dust apeness and strive, as much as you can, for your innate angel nature.
If you don’t believe it’s there, you still have time to create it.