Saturday, January 12, 2013

Aaron Swartz

It's odd to be so saddened by deaths of people I don't know. The passing of Peter Sieruta, or the suicide of Alex Farrell, caused in me an out-sized sense of loss because they contributed so much to the world.

Today brings news of another person dying too young, and, like Farrell, from suicide. I never heard of Aaron Swartz until today, but in his 26 years he did an awful lot of good.

Cory Doctorow, science fiction writer, Boinger, and theoretician of all things open source, has written a remembrance that details Swartz's contributions. Swartz, as far as I can tell, may have been the inspiration for Doctorow's archetypal protagonist from his young adult books, such as Little Brother and Pirate Cinema.

But Doctorow's post also contains this plea that should be heard by anyone who deals with depression and has even brushed up against the thought of suicide:

...Aaron was also a person who'd had problems with depression for many years. He'd written about the subject publicly, and talked about it with his friends.

I don't know if it's productive to speculate about that, but here's a thing that I do wonder about this morning, and that I hope you'll think about, too. I don't know for sure whether Aaron understood that any of us, any of his friends, would have taken a call from him at any hour of the day or night. I don't know if he understood that wherever he was, there were people who cared about him, who admired him, who would get on a plane or a bus or on a video-call and talk to him.

Because whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn't solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever. If he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends. If he was despairing of the fight, he will never again rally his comrades with brilliant strategies and leadership. If he was sorrowing, he will never again be lifted from it.

Depression strikes so many of us. I've struggled with it, been so low I couldn't see the sky, and found my way back again, though I never thought I would. Talking to people, doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, seeking out a counsellor or a Samaritan -- all of these have a chance of bringing you back from those depths. Where there's life, there's hope. Living people can change things, dead people cannot. 
Thank you, Cory Doctorow, for that. I hope it helps many people get through the dark times.


troutbirder said...

Indeed. So sad so young. My eldest son was taken by the effects of bi polar...

Carl said...

Erratum: you've got "Swartzman" in the post header.

Daughter Number Three said...

Thank you, Carl. How embarrassing. I've fixed it.