I never watched any of Bourdain’s shows, but only caught glimpses of him when CNN was on a television, like when passing through an airport, since we don’t have cable in the house. I knew he traveled around the world exploring unusual cuisines and the people who produce them. He seemed to be championing and celebrating local cultures and ways of eating—educating and entertaining, but also challenging viewers who might take for granted their own relationship to food.
It sounds like he was quite beloved, made many friends, and was known for his generosity. However, I have no idea what it’s like to be rich or famous like Bourdain, so it’s hard to know what his specific demons might have been, or how his success impacted his personal life. We could speculate, I guess. But it’s also true that suicide is an epidemic in the general population, not only amongst the rich and famous. Perhaps we can consider whether Andy Warhol’s predication has come true and all of us on the Internet are experiencing our ‘15 minutes of fame,’ with similar effects on our psyche?
After all, what is “Cosmos Café” but our own “reality TV” show? It is “tele-vision” quite literally, and we’re famous, in a sense, amongst each other and our 7 die-hard fans. (On the Astral Plane, I believe may have many more subscribers.) I do remember as a child dreaming of ‘being on TV’ some day, like it would be the most fantastic thing. And here we are: transdimensional Internet stars! There is something depressing about it, if you look at it that way.
Truth is: I have been feeling sad and disturbed since I heard the news about Bourdain, and I had no personal connection to the man, nor was I even a fan of his work. How does that happen, exactly? Is it purely a media effect? I think the trauma ripples, and then is amplified by the media, which spreads gloom, anxiety, and distress—without offering any real way to deal with the underlying situation. Instead, it proffers even more stimulation, consumption, and chaos.
I am open to discussing this topic, but maybe we could refine the topic a bit, since this issue is obviously not just about Bourdain or any other famous suicide (in my personal memory: Robin Williams, Aaron Swartz, David Foster Wallace, Kurt Cobain… it’s a long list) but a reflection of our own attitudes, beliefs, and ways of coping (or not).
Albert Camus (in the The Rebel) wrote that the choice whether or not to commit suicide is the only real philosophical question—perhaps that would be a good starting point. To be or not to be. To stay with the trouble…or into the nothingness, flee.