Vietnam 2015-16 047

Some Thoughts in Memory of Anthony Bourdain

To me it isn’t the exotic that makes travel so magical.  Sure, it is fascinating, sometimes spell-bounding, to witness different rituals, traditions, ways that people live.  Whether it is crossing a local bridge or traveling to the other side of the world, the miracle of travel is about sameness.  Everywhere, no matter where you are, people are going to work; children are going to school.  There are markets with meats and vegetables, sometimes refrigerated, sometimes not.  There are great monuments to human imagination and spectacular natural wonders.  There is beauty and there is also horrible squalor, chilling deprivation, and heart-wrenching poverty.  There are people gathering together in families and with friends; and there is terrible loneliness.  Wherever one goes, there humanity can be found in its wonderous and tragic forms.  It is a reminder that we are all just travelers, entrusted with this brief time to love one another and be custodians of this fragile planet.

Over the years I have worked with many people who have struggled with depression and suicide.  Some who have attempted, others who have had persistent and nagging thoughts.  And while suicide is a complex human phenomenon, often in my work I have seen people think of ending their lives when no other options for coping with pain and suffering exist.  At the heart of psychotherapy, the work we do, is insisting on options, expanding the field of what seems possible.  We try, though the relationship we form, to reestablish connections to others, human bonds, as a source of hope and comfort.

The death of famous people often touches us deeply; I am feeling Anthony Bourdain’s death today as something very sad.  I knew him only through his TV show of course.  But it seemed he possessed a strong curiosity about life. I appreciated his focus on, not the rich and famous, but the ordinary people who sometimes cooked mouthwatering dishes and told fascinating stories.  There was a light in his eyes.

Finally, there are these words and the countless stories of the strange and familiar places that he left behind:

“Travel isn’t always pretty.  It isn’t always comfortable.  Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart.  But that’s okay.  The journey changes you; it should change you…You take something with you.  Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018)


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