1000 Days: a Postmodern Man Curates His Own Suicide

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Here’s the awful story: Mark Rife, a pastor, saved his wife’s life after she fell off a 75-foot waterfall. She managed to recover, but six months later, she died in her sleep. Mark was devastated. After her funeral, Mark wanted to kill himself, but he recalled a question his wife asked after watching one of their favorite movies, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. She asked, “Do you think Romeo would have still killed himself if he’d waited 1,000 days?”

So Mark decided to find out, and gave himself 1000 days, which is approximately three years. The thousands days were up last Thursday. Mark killed himself.

I don’t like suicide. Neither the act nor the way we compartmentalize it. I resent the liberation inherent in the decision. Once you decide to kill yourself, then inherently you have become free and no longer need to. You can go anywhere, do anything, suffer any consequences, and they will never be as bad as what you planned to do to yourself.

We call people who kill themselves victims of suicide. But really, they are perpetrators. They are murderers. Crazy Mark Rife murdered the Mark Rife that all his friends remember as a warm, loving, man.

Mark Rife is a murderer. When people who commit suicide leaves a written explanation of their actions and their grievances against the universe, we call it a “note”. The note is important, almost sacrosanct. The last words of a loved one who was too gentle a soul for this cruel world. The world gets the blame. When a murderer leaves a written explanation, we call it a manifesto. We use that word because murderers who leave a written account of their grievances against the world after hurt innocent people are assumed to be crazy. We are comfortable labeling them crazy, because the alternative would be to accept their actions as the products of rational thought. As acceptable choices.

This dichotomy is maintained in the interests of the loved ones left behind. They want to think that the deceased person they loved was an innocent victim of madness, even if that madness was the victim’s own.

That won’t work here. Mark Rife is a murderer, who left behind a manifesto. Let’s read it.

Mark Rife's website, "1000 days"

Mark decided he would create website, “1000 days”, in the spirit of his wife’s hypothetical question, which would chronicle his search for meaning and reason for continuing to live after the death of his wife. The site, now removed by Tumblr, included links, pictures, and videos to whatever Mark considered relevant, important, or interesting during that time. He also left this video explaining the project:

Remember as you watch the video that suicide is never a rational response. No combination of words in any language will make you conclude “Yeah, suicide makes perfect sense.” So to help with maintaining your focus, remind yourself that the person talking in that video is going to kill a human being at the end of the 1000 days.

1000 days is called by some as a chronicle of his life, and by others as a map of his mind in that depressed state. From what I have seen of it, those assessments are all wrong. It seems to me that the moment he started making the site, he had decided to end his life. In that light, the website is a man curating his own suicide.

On the literal level, he is showing us the things that have meaning to him, or that he thinks say meaningful things. But he is arranging them in a way that he thinks will be meaningful to us. So he picks things that have the aura of “spiritual advertising,” of propaganda. What he has collected are example of mass media’s idealized searches for meaning. This is what a search for meaning looks like, to him, and he thinks it is what it will look like to his friends who will see it after he’s gone. And the crazy thing is he is right. Mark Rife knows his audience.

He is making his death a public event, a spectacle in the truest Guy Debord sense of the word. In those last 1000 days, he wasn’t living, or searching for meaning, or grappling with the big existential questions. He was producing content that would convince others that he embarked on a search and came up empty.

Take a close look at the screen shot of his site, and the background of his video. Notice how many of those images are pithy quotes or pop culture images. Movie posters, TV, pop psych books, and celebrities. If he was simply documenting everything he saw in those 1000 days, then we have before us proof that this man did not search particularly hard. If he was collecting what he thought was important, we have proof that Mark had no idea how to distinguish the meaningful from the trivial.

Let me remind you that Mark Rife was a pastor. The existential questions were his job. He counseled other people. I understand that to be a pastor in many American churches requires little more than a soul patch and a practiced smile that is 40% good friend and 60% carny, but let’s be old-fashioned for a moment and assume the occupation of “clergy” involves some intellectual rigor and philosophical introspection. One would think that pastors would know to whom or what to turn in their darkest moments.

A pastor who reads Eat Pray Love and takes it even remotely seriously needs to turn in their Bible and quit. Which is exactly what Mark did, by the way. But we shouldn’t be surprised. He’s looking for guidance in the story of a narcissist who has it all, still wants more, and embarks on a superficial spiritual bar crawl across the hotter and more ex-pat friendly countries of the world before finding what she’s looking for in the arms of a European diamond trader. (Seriously, that’s what happens in Eat Pray Love). I wonder, did he ever counsel one of his parishioners in their crisis of faith to watch Eat Pray Love or Seven Pounds? Did they ask for their church donations back?

I don’t really know what he was thinking when he took his life, or the depths of his despair. But I do know that by packing his “search for meaning” with soft, trivial, cultural pablum, the quest was doomed to failure.

He was a pastor. He must have at least heard of the names of the kinds of people who’ve attacked these problems? Did he turn to Niebuhr, Merton, or any other theological heavyweights for guidance? How about Paul Tillich? Or Martin Buber? This is the internet age, for God’s sake. You want to search for meaning? Just Google “search for meaning”. If he had done that and clicked the very first result, he would have learned about a little book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. It’s a book about Frankl’s search for meaning over the five years he spent in Auschwitz. But 5 years is 1825 days, and I guess Mark already had the other domain name, so…

Besides, Man’s Search for Meaning is like 200 pages. Contemplating death is one thing, but that’s like, hard and stuff. Mark would rather go to a restaurant, take a photo of his dinner, and blog it. This is the new spirituality we’re talking about here. Theology for the Powerpoint generation. Glib answers, fast and easy. No confessionals, no ancient Hebrew, Greek or Latin. No studying, no reading. No theological contradictions to struggle with, no confounding intersections with philosophy, art or psychoanalysis. Just soft non-answers designed to make the answerer feel like he helped more than they actually help the bereaved.

Put down the book by the black-and-white German philosopher, okay? Let’s listen to some Creed, turn our baseball caps backwards, groom our clever facial hair, and rap with the kids about God’s plan for our sex lives and complement each other on our tribal tats.

Mark Rife’s narcissist manifesto reveals he put no effort into his search for meaning partly because he was not intellectually capable of recognizing meaning when he found it, but mostly because he didn’t want to find a reason not to kill himself. What he wanted to do was mythologize himself. He wanted to create this story about how he gave life a chance, so he could end it with a self-inflicted death in order to communicate to us just how deeply sad he was. It’s important for Mark to know that his friends understand how sad he is. So he’ll murder himself to make them feel it. I realize that sounds crazy, but I’m not the one who watched Seven Pounds here.

The lesson in all this tragedy is that pop culture makes for a sorry port in the storm. Pop culture is very much an escape from the petty inconveniences that occupy our days, and works as a means for getting us through them. That dreck that you think is so important you made it your yearbook quote is only meaningful for inconsequential situations. Eat Pray Love is the fantasy you entertain after a hard day’s work listening to your boss yell at you. Romeo and Juliet is romantic if you are a teenager, and by definition know nothing about real love and relationships.

And that’s another thing. What precipitated all of this is not Romeo and Juliet the play. It was the movie Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo di Caprio and handguns. This is the level of intellectual engagement he started with. A movie that did to Shakespeare what Frank Miller’s 300 did to ancient Greece.

The moment anything extremely real happens, none of that specular crap has anything of value to say, because none of it has any real meaning or substance. Eat Pray Love isn’t any more meaningful a story than Transformers 3. Their intellectual and spiritual payload is identical. They are both fantasies, each providing a demographically customized escape from the tedium of modern life. But they aren’t escapes from the big problems. BECAUSE THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

And that is the point. We are all going to die. Most of us don’t have the luxury of knowing when. But Mark Rife did. He picked a date. Started a clock. He had financial resources and the time to end his story however he wanted. He didn’t have to work, meet obligations or anyone’s expectations. He could have set himself to the purpose of giving his life meaning, rather than searching for it. Instead he made a website namechecking all of Hollywood’s idealized searches for meaning in order to get the point across that he was on one too. He packaged all those meaningless anecdotes into a monument to narcissism that Mark Zuckerberg can only envy.

But he wasn’t on any quest, journey, or search. He didn’t want to put the effort into it. He didn’t want to do the hard work. He didn’t want to construct for himself a meaningful life, and instead constructed a monument to its meaninglessness. Did he care about the effect his death would have on the people he loved. Not as much as he cared about finishing his monument. There is a legend that people die three deaths: the first death is when your body ceases to function. The second death is when you are buried and exists nowhere but in the minds and memories of others. And the third death is when the last person who remembers you dies. I wonder if Mark considered that in killing himself, he was in a way killing his wife again by obliterating so many memories of her.

If the world was going to end in one thousand days, would you spend that time being a good little pop culture consumer? Of course not. But Mark did, and that’s how we know he is irrational, crazy, delusional, and depressed. That’s why, like all suicides, we can ignore his explicitly stated rationale for the project (his rationale for being completely irrational), and see this for what it is: narcissism masquerading as pseudo-intellectualism, and pseudo-spiritualism; a monument to a postmodern man who constructed his superficial identity out of the cheapest and most unreliable materials, and is somehow proud of it. 

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  4. Deus ex Machina: if there is no God, Heaven, or afterlife, could we create them?
  5. Gay teen exposes brainwashing at Utah re-education camp

105 Responses to 1000 Days: a Postmodern Man Curates His Own Suicide

  1. operator says:

    No combination of words in any language will make you conclude “Yeah, suicide makes perfect sense.”

    That’s funny, because Mr. Rife – as you describe him – need only review your critique to see why his sincerest self-criticism was wholly warranted: here was a man whose appreciation of English literature ended at 1990’s pop cinema, a pastor who had no faith in his calling, a man who – sans soul-mate – was so narcissistic as to build a monument of pop culture kitsch to his own shallow and ineffectual struggle.

    • TheDevastator says:

      We don’t execute people for being shallow, I think is Pastabagel’s point.

      • operator says:

        His suicide? Yeah, makes perfect sense.

        There are a lot of useless people on this planet and they’ll probably drag the ones that would’ve had a chance down with ‘em on their way out – if they haven’t already.

        • TheDevastator says:

          No one is useless. He had a job, he did things, he had relationships.

          And even if he was useless, by whatever definition you want to use, that’s not a capital crime. We don’t execute people for liking bad movies! He didn’t deserve to die, not even close.

    • ThomasR says:

      Any argument that assumes its conclusion as its premise is utterly worthless (except possibly as an exercise in logic). This site is supposed to be about considering and questioning assumptions?

      You (PB) BELIEVE that suicide is never rational. I bet Rife BELIEVED that suicide was rational. Do you say he was wrong? Then make a case for your BELIEF. Do not assume it.

    • wla629 says:

      I was friends with Mark for 13 years. His death haunts me everyday. I googled his name just to help in my grief and I ran across this article. Im gonna go out on a limb and say that whoever wrote this was not a friend of Mark and new nothing outside of what was posted in this video. I would like to ask just who the hell you think you are for publishing something like this??? Thank you for making the hurt worse.

      • operator says:

        I googled his name just to help in my grief and I ran across this article.

        So you’re replying to the article… or to the comment? (Not responsible for the article, just the comment you replied to)

        In regard to the statement regarding useless people, please note that the qualifier for “usefulness” is one’s usefulness to oneself (the will to live/thrive/cope) and your friend – for better or worse – has indicated his judgment.

        I would like to ask just who the hell you think you are for publishing something like this???

        Someone who didn’t even watch the video.

        Don’t take it personally – blogging is all about finding debatable controversy (it’s the only way to draw readers’ attention away from the 24/7 TV reality-show-drama/news-fear factory).

        Thank you for making the hurt worse.

        The article was written in the spirit of telling others to work through the hurt (because there’s nothing a narcissist hates more than being called out) and the comment which you replied to was written in the spirit of identifying why the hurt existed, insofar as Mr. Rife was described.

        No one lives up to their ideal self (no matter how hard we all try to convince others otherwise) and that epiphany may help people work through their failings instead of allowing the projection of the ideal self to annihilate the living, breathing person behind the ideal… but perhaps that understanding isn’t articulated clearly here – sorry.

        Given that you’re up late searching for information about your friend, please know that you can call 1-800-273-8255 if you need someone to talk to.

      • allisvanity says:

        this comment might be better placed somewhere else in the blog… but, I just want to get this information on here.
        I am also a friend of Mark. He was my best friend since 1994. We were kindred spirits (as he so often signed letters). We laughed, cried, and prayed together often. He was unique. That is why I loved him. He was like a brother. He personified Christ to me so many times.
        Yes, his death continues to assault me… I still have his number in my cell phone. I also googled his name today – found this. No, the author did not know Mark, only what Mark allowed him and others to see at the end. So this article is simply an attempt to explain something/someone based on only a few facts. Arguably successful in light of what was evaluated. But to assume his thoughts and intents is, at best, grossly arrogant. The intent of the article might be charitable. However, the information and circumstances surrounding Mark’s life and death are very deep. That was Mark. He was deep. Melodramatic. Very meticulous. Clean. Organized. Even his closet… only white hangers… facing the same direction… same amount of space between. Minimal amount of clothes. So were his thoughts. He lost his faith and his mind (rationale) when his wife fell. This was the beginning. I was there. He never recovered. But what precipitated this happened before the fall. At some point, Mark began to love his wife more than his God. This is what we call idolatry. (I know this is not a theological forum, but if you are interested in analyzing this man, know him.) Mark would have said the same thing. When his wife was taken away from him, he lost all faith. I saw him a few months afterward. He came to visit (and, as I learned later, to say good bye) and I could tell he was different. He tried to be the same Mark, but I knew he was different. Therefore, your assumption that he was looking for meaning is inaccurate. He knew the meaning and lived his life for that meaning for the majority of his adult life. you said,
        “Mark Rife’s narcissist manifesto reveals he put no effort into his search for meaning partly because he was not intellectually capable of recognizing meaning when he found it, but mostly because he didn’t want to find a reason not to kill himself.”
        Again, he already knew the meaning – he didn’t care at that point. And intellectually capable? again, based on ignorance of the subject. Did not want to find a reason not to kill himself. Yes. That is accurate.
        The media that he used in his website and video was not a reflection of any trivialness. It was, as you said, that he knew his audience. He was trying to get a point across and did so in such Mark Rife dramatic fashion.
        I hope this sheds some light on this issue and encourages others (including myself) that God is our ever-present help. I wish Mark had held on to that. I cannot imagine the grief that he was suffering. I only know of one that went through such incredible grief and remained faithful to his God – Job. So I am not here to throw stones at my brother. I miss him immensely and can’t wait to see him again.

        • acalvinist says:

          Wow. I first read the story of Mark over there and was disturbed. A christian who commits suicide?
          Then I read your comment here. The world preaches “love your wife/children above anything else”. That’s what the movies preach, the heartwarming stories. And this is what happens if you do that. It’s just not good in any way to do it. It’s idolatry. God cannot die. He never gets disabled and He never changes. That’s the only truth in life which can get you through.
          I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more suicides since the world becomes more and more estranged from God.

          Thanks as well for you humility. Can happen to anyone else. And I hope God has mercy on him and Mark will go to heaven – not primarily for his wife, but to see Jesus glorified.

      • baby76bear says:

        wla629 ~ me, too ~ and while it had been years since I interacted with Mark, the incredible gift/curse of empathy was crushing in the first few days. As it’s been quite a bit longer, 10 months since his death, I’m not so much hurt as outraged that someone who clearly did not know Mark and obviously (by his own admission) had NO CLUE about the depths of his despair, seems to speak with such authority about a person he did not know, in a situation he couldn’t possibly understand!

    • bananarama says:

      I am a Bible College student and there yes is a lot of studying involved in it like any other school. I myself have seen this man and his wife at the beaches on the big island and would have never thought that he was capable of doing something like this. The only reason I am commenting now is I have been doing some research on suicides. This is not for school but for my own knowledge. I myself will not judge this man for what he has done, for I have no right to, but I feel pain inside my soul when I hear him twist the logic of it all to make sense for his own gain. I was taken back by all the picture in the background and on his website (when it was up). Reason being that it was bits and pieces of thing and quiets that unless you knew the background you would think it fits. All I can really say is I am saddened by his choice and that he tried to display it as ok. I pray that the young people will see past the blinds that covered his eyes.
      Thank you for writing this article.

  2. max says:

    Well said.

    Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who read the excellent article by Ira Glass about Jad Abumrad and then downloaded the “After Life” Radiolab podcast. If you haven’t heard it, there’s a great story about a guy who attempts suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, only to survive with no injuries.

    He said he regretted it the instant he let go of the railing. Too bad a bullet doesn’t leave time for reflection.

  3. rafaelmadeira says:

    I very much disagree with your assessment of suicide. It would be nice if you had gone a little past simply declaring all suicides to be the same, unjustified under any possible circumstances.

    But the rest of the text seems well reasoned.

    • TheDevastator says:

      “It would be nice if you had gone a little past simply declaring all suicides to be the same, unjustified under any possible circumstances.”

      Agreed. Read David Foster Wallace on depression — for some people, suicide is the only escape from something literally intolerable. Those people deserve nothing but our sincerest pity.

      But Rife’s story suggests that this was not the case for him, so he (and would-be Rifes) deserve much less sympathy, and much more anger.

    • Guy Fox says:

      In many, if not most cases, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. HOWEVER, it’s the only human right worthy of the name (i.e. not that other human rights aren’t good or better, just that they are much less real than the right to choose to end one’s own life).

      I agree that the criticism of the HOW stands, but the WHAT is kinda untouchable.

  4. barrkel says:

    Murder is *never* rationally justifiable? Never? Not even in philosophical trolley problems? Not even if it was the most evil person in the world, about to commit the most heinous crime in the world, and you have a chance to stop them by murdering them?

    Suicide is *never* rationally justifiable? Never ever? At what limits to place self-determination, when the self begins to break down? What right do people have over their own existence, or are they bound to be slaves to other people for the rest of their natural lives, against their own will?

    I do not accept your absolutes. They seem childish to me; the products of someone who has not spend time examining the assumptions underlying them.

    • TheDevastator says:

      Points well taken. But I think what Pastabagel is trying to do is make us see that moderns (or maybe post-moderns) as a group drastically underestimate the moral significance of suicide. “Well, it’s tragic,” someone might say, “and we should enact suicide prevention programs, but ultimately it’s their choice, so I don’t see how I have a right to condemn…” which is bullshit. You’re destroying something good, which is evil, the fact that the good thing is you is irrelevant. So suicide, under “normal” circumstances is as morally wrong as murder.

      Your point is sort of unrelated; you’re saying that there are extreme cases where murder or suicide are justifiable. This is probably true, sure, but the relevant point here is that those circumstances need to really be extreme. Any situation that allows you to morally commit suicide must be approximately as unlikely and distressing as the trolley problem. Pastabagel argues that Rife’s situation didn’t rise to that level, so his suicide wasn’t auto-manslaughter or auto-self-defense, it was auto-murder.

      • operator says:

        … moderns (or maybe post-moderns) as a group drastically underestimate the moral significance of suicide.

        It’s morally significant alright – but to whom and for what reason?

        What you call “morality” is how you happen to want others to behave: if they believe as you do so much the better, but, for those who do not, is it moral for you to restrain them from taking their own lives if and when they decide to do so? How about from their perspective?

        Would you use potentially-lethal force to prevent the completion of an “auto-murder”? Is it still morally justifiable if you later learn that you prevented the “auto-murder” of a David Foster Wallace-type, the kind whose self-determination you sympathize with?

        • TheDevastator says:

          I’m not talking about enforcement, I’m talking about the right thing to do. Of course I have very little power to stop someone like Rife from committing suicide, but that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop me from being pretty sure that I’m right and he’s wrong.

          Which is not to say there aren’t things I can do. If I knew Rife beforehand, I’d try to reason with him, and maybe my conviction that it would be, not just unfortunate or stupid, but wrong to kill himself would lend some urgency and weight to my arguments. If he could be argued out of it, that means he wasn’t so desperate to begin with, and if he couldn’t, then there’s nothing else I can do for him anyway.

          Physical force? I don’t know. Case-by-case basis. I don’t have a good answer for that, but that doesn’t erase the principle.

          Also, if I ever feel as sad as Rife does, and get into a place where I think it’s a good idea to kill myself, maybe I’ll remember this and remind myself that it’s not all about me. People who love me will be destroyed if I commit suicide; they have rights too. “Every one of our actions has a blast radius, and there are other people in it. Kaboom.”

    • Or says:

      Actually, I can’t imagine a more evil person than Mark Rife, if this is not revealed to be an elaborate hoax. The video and web site and the premise of taking exactly 1000 days and all the time he took designing things and practicing his monologue are more than a way of convincing himself and others that his choice makes sense — the manner of presentation and organization signify his complete control over his death and its meaning as a creative act. It’s not a rambling note in chicken scratch. Right now there must be countless people out there who have half a mind to do what Mark did but are afraid that their shoddy execution might expose them for a fraud, that making a grainy and poorly shot video would make them look like just another sad freak, like the guy who put panties over his face and shot himself in the head over Bjork. But they will see what Mark did and come to the conclusion that it is possible to exert fine-tuned control over the production of a suicide note cinema extravaganza and, as a result, exert fine-tuned control over how it will be perceived. Many of them won’t come up with something nearly as slick as what Mark put together, but they will be terrible judges of the quality of their own work, and it’s not as if they’ll be asking their friends and family for suggestions on improving it. And so they will make a sad little video or web site or scrapbook and it will not have the impact that Mark’s has, but they will believe it does. And so they’ll end up sinking a bullet into a brain that harbors two delusions: 1) that it is important for them to fool somebody into seeing them as they wish to be seen, and 2) that they succeeded in fooling them. In order for the act to occur, they only need to convince themselves that the audience’s perception will be as intended, that they will not have the same legacy as pantyface. That’s what Mark will help them do.

      • baby76bear says:

        Let me assure you, this was NOT a hoax! Also, did you miss the part where the actual 1000 days video was removed?

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      I completely agree with your appraisal of Pastabagel here. The traditional understanding is that the act is no longer “murder” or “suicide” if it’s justifiable — but this is an understanding that Pastabagel is abusing through his equivocations.

      If an act would fit the category of murder except that it’s done against a political leader and the perpetrator believes that (a) this killing will halt some existing evil and (b) he has standing to do it, it’s tyrannicide; if it would be murder except that it’s a legally constituted authority killing someone for the commission or genuine conspiracy to commit a capital crime, it’s execution.

      As for suicide, there’s less of a recognition of morally licit forms in the English-speaking world, but examples that come to mind include “going down with the ship” and “kamikaze attacks.” The novelty of the Japanese kamikaze missions was that they were done with planes specifically equipped for the purpose; ramming attacks by pilots who didn’t want to risk capture, or who doubted they could bail out successfully, were a long tradition by this time. (Also see the discussion of jumping on grenades, somewhere in the Partial Objects back issues.)

      As for the particular case we’re nominally discussing here, I think pity is the appropriate reaction; say some prayers for his soul, too, and that others likely to go down the same path may receive right guidance, wisdom, and exposure to something other than American pop culture.

  5. me says:

    Why are you so angry? You use a lot of words to vilify and demean him and his choices.

    Have you spent much time asking people who wanted to die why they decided to live? If so did any of their responses include “I read this philosophy text and I realized I wasnt good enough to kill myself?” Or did they reply with smaller and closer events that would be meaningless to others?

    What did you do to reach out and help lessen his pain before he died? Nothing? Then shut your damn mouth and stop being an asshole.

    I know it hurts less to demonize those who have suffering you can not help. If somehow it is their fault for the awful thing then you can be not so afraid, not so guilty, not so helpless in the face of it.

    I dont care who he was or what popculture he worshiped or what books he didnt read. He didnt deserve the pain that lead him to kill himself.

    • Rocket Surgeon says:

      Ugh. This is pretty much par for the course on this and it strikes me as nothing but trite and unthoughtful response.

      Have you spent much time asking people who wanted to die why they decided to live? If so did any of their responses include “I read this philosophy text and I realized I wasnt good enough to kill myself?” Or did they reply with smaller and closer events that would be meaningless to others?

      Does it matter? There’s about a bajilion resources out there of “survivors” accounts. It basically comes down to the fact that they stopped actively avoiding the idea of overcoming the pain and decided to face up to it.

      What did you do to reach out and help lessen his pain before he died? Nothing? Then shut your damn mouth and stop being an asshole.

      Let’s set aside the name calling because you’re quite content to give the thumbs up for his action, and in that case I don’t see what’s wrong with giving the thumbs down. Instead, let’s say for instance you have a friend right now who’s ready to commit suicide, what would you do? Lipservice here just doesn’t cut it, trust me on this it’s not an easy position to be in. If your friend went ahead and took action without even asking you, like Rife did, do you think you would be really pissed about it like Rife’s friend is? Rehetorical, of course you would be, your their friend and your supposed to care about them. It’s kind of implicit.

      He didnt deserve the pain that lead him to kill himself.

      What pain? What do you know about it? At what point does pain crossover into ‘okay to kill yourself’ territory? Stub your toe. Ouch! Might as well grab a pistol and get it over with, right? Life is pain.

      • me says:

        My anger is with the OP where PB calls names and pretends reading a philosophy book would have stopped Rife and ending with how Rife didnt understand life and meaning and therefore didnt deserve the right to kill himself.

        For survivors (or even those who carried the great desire but did no action to end themselves) – I would argue for some it wasnt their choice to overcome pain but a change in life that reduced pain.

        I dont like that he or anyone commits suicide. I dont give it a thumbs up. I also dont think it is evil or wrong.

        As for what I would do if it was my friend? If I know and they are in acute distress (with clear plan and means) then as much as they may hate me its a call to 911 and 72hrs of protective inpatient custody to help keep them safe until they ride out the impulse.

        If my friend is not in acute distress then I listen. Hear out what they feel is overwhelming, what has them trapped, what they see as making their life unlivable. If I take the responsibility of telling them they must live their life then I take the responsibility of helping reduce the pain and finding a way out.

        I do not take responsibility for their life. I am not required to fix it. I will not take away their free will. I will not be angry with them if my interventions do not prevent their suicide. Grief and regret are what I would feel.

        Life is not pain. Of the vast experiences in life, pain is only one and every individual has a limit to the level of pain they believe they can tolerate. Demeaning or vilifying or being angry with a person because their level of tolerance didnt met my expectations is my problem, not theirs.

        • Rocket Surgeon says:

          Your responsibility begins with being their friend, and without that then you are not much of a friend. Grief and regret are rarely without anger, so I’m not seeing the division there.

          So you would be willing to take away your hypothetical friends right to suicide by putting them on a 72hr suicide watch? Then the true difference here is that Rife is not your friend and you are far more objective about letting that man “rightfully” die. The thing is that’s odd about this conversation I’ve seen here and elsewhere is the idea that “it’s his right.” It’s a slight deviation into strawman territory because that “it is not his right” is rarely the argument outside of some religious fervency. Realistically nobody could stop another person who takes the precautions of doing a good job of it in the first place. So my answer to the “rights” argument is: great, okay, it’s everyone’s right. Let’s move on to the part about why he’s got this in the works. Or even the part where we just take a basic look at the idea that within the context of the mindset of a person felling tremendous grief and anxiety that it’s almost impossible to make a clear and objective decision about this.

          Life is a series of hardships (read:pain) that we all have to go through to get to the good stuff. Pushing that rock up the hill is a pain in the ass but the view at the top is what makes it worth it.

          • ExOttoyuhr says:

            “Life is a series of hardships (read:pain) that we all have to go through to get to the good stuff.”

            So life isn’t pain after all, it just contains painful elements?

          • Rocket Surgeon says:

            Let’s stop playing twister with my point. Pain and hardships are an unavoidable ‘fact of life’ as they say. To suggest otherwise means you’re either highly delusional or have been an enlightened individual from birth. Reality dictates that everyone experiences pain and hardships and therefore must overcome them. Or, you know, the human race would have self terminated long ago. This does not mean happiness does not exist.

          • Rocket Surgeon says:

            To get to the point; pain is a given, happiness is not. No, really. Some people are born into a world of pain and hardship.

  6. Rooster says:

    No combination of words in any language will make you conclude “Yeah, suicide makes perfect sense.”

    No combination of words in modern english will make you conclude that, but that’s only because we have the word “euthanasia” already. But all of this is quite contingent on culture: in classical cultures suicide was the only honorable response to defeat, and a generally respected choice in many cases.

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      Also in the navies of present-day cultures as recently as WWII: see “going down with the ship.” You expressed far more concisely what I tried to say above, that we normally use “suicide” only to mean “unjustified deliberate action that ends the actor’s life.”

  7. geerussell says:

    Pop culture isn’t a port in the storm. Pop culture is the sea.

  8. xiphoidmaneuver says:

    Rife may not have been ready to kill himself at day -1000.

    Posting things on the internet and making a public commitment (indirectly implied) may have been the death of him.

  9. Eva says:

    Remember as you watch the video that suicide is never a rational response. No combination of words in any language will make you conclude “Yeah, suicide makes perfect sense.”

    In your opinion. Objectively, it is his life and he’s the only judge of whether or not it is right for him. Suicide is not murder.

    • DJames says:

      “Objectively… he’s the only judge…”

      Seriously?? It is for comments like this that someone says: If you’re reading it, it’s for you.

      • Eva says:

        Well, explain to me how objectively someone other than the suicidal person is in a position to judge what should be worthy of death or not.

        The suicide has known himself his whole life – he is probably in a better position than anyone else to judge what can be overcome and what can’t.

        And was Hitler’s suicide a bad thing? Tragic?

        • sunshinefiasco says:

          Yep. It’s tragic he didn’t have to answer for his crimes

          • Eva says:

            But that is YOU thinking that – it is a subjective position. But Hitler knew that whatever was going to happen to him was going to be way worse than just taking his life with his lady friend in that bunker. It makes perfect sense for the suicide to kill himself in this case.

            Likewise, only Mark Rife had made the judgement that whatever happens in the next 1000 days would be worse than ending his life. He was the only person in a position to make that call.

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            So wait… your position is that Hitler was right to kill himself because it totally would have been a pain to live through Nuremburg (that’s probably spelled incorrrectly)?

            …And that’s why people who kill themselves shouldn’t be called selfish.

            Uhhhh, no. First off, when trying to generalize about people, using Hitler as a baseline is typically a bad idea. Secondly, even if we accept him as an example, it’s still a ridiculous, selfish position– killing himself hurts his cause and his ideology’s reputation. It shows that his bullshit was about his ego, not about an ideology.

            Lastly, re-read your last sentence: “made the judgement that whatever happens in the next 1000 days”. Are you joking? I’m supposed to take an otherwise healthy person who has decided that 3 years aren’t worth shit seriously– before they even start? That’s a crock of shit. And Mark Rife is an asshole, if only because he spent his 3 years seeking fame and notoriety for his project with two major impacts: strangers begging him not to jump (and honestly, explain how that isn’t the most narcissistic thing ever), and sending a horrible message to any depressed people who run across his site.

          • ExOttoyuhr says:

            Suicide to escape torture or the plausible fear of torture is at least a massive extenuating factor, if not a full justification.

            And there was a real possibility that Hitler would have been tortured. Consider that (a) he would have been captured by the Soviets, and (b) even the Americans junked the Geneva Conventions and routinely abused prisoners after the war, now that there wasn’t an independent international community powerful enough to stop them.

            And any escape of torture is a good thing — including for the souls of the aspiring torturers. You can’t deserve torture. It’s evil in all circumstances, even if torturing a torturer.

    • max says:

      Spoken like a true Libertarian.

      • ExOttoyuhr says:

        Or a Stoic.

      • allisvanity says:

        sunshinefiasco says:
        “And Mark Rife is an asshole, if only because he spent his 3 years seeking fame and notoriety for his project with two major impacts: strangers begging him not to jump (and honestly, explain how that isn’t the most narcissistic thing ever), and sending a horrible message to any depressed people who run across his site.”

        Revealing your hatefulness and ignorance of the facts.

  10. Pingback: 1,000 Days « cara ellison

  11. inarticulateinthecity says:

    I confess I had to re-read the introduction, because it really seemed weird that the favorite film of a pastor would be Romeo + Juliet. I mean, I’m a girl and not even my girl friends think this it is that much of an oeuvre, although they loved it. It is really weird, as if he and his wife were teenagers at heart.

    Which they were.

    I’ve just watched the video and unfortunately it comes across as maudlin and fake. He seems to be displaying his grief like a badge. This is completely disturbing to me.

    I agree with most of your points, but your vision of suicide seems too restrictive. You’re a smart man, so I wonder why you chose to use the words you used.

    • baby76bear says:

      Sadly, it was NOT fake! Mark did, in fact, save his wife, Sarah when she fell off a cliff & six months later she did, in fact, die in her sleep. Mark did, in fact, take his own life exactly 3 years to the day after Sarah died! :(

  12. inarticulateinthecity says:

    Another reason he uses his grief as a badge:

    His wife wondered if Rome would still want to die if he had waited 1,000 days after Juliet’s death. And, given the fact that part of the tragedy (in Shakespeare’s play, at least) they are both young, full of life, passion, and hope, they are also somewhat naive. Probably what they felt for each other was fickle, but the tragedy of one lover dying because their lover died is too strong and it obliterates anything. The only conclusion is that, as fickle as it was, it was extremely real and powerful, at least in those last moments.

    Therefore, they cultural symbol of Romeo’s death is that he truly loved Juliet. This is what trickled down to pop culture: a love so strong that only death could reunite them.

    His wife posing the question to him is almost like a challenge. “Theirs seemed to be a true love. But if we remove despair and impulsiveness from the equation, would he still want to die?

    If, at the end of 1,000 days, Mark Rife had decided that life was awful without his wife, of course, but that it was still worth living, the pain he wore like a badge would be meaningless. It would mean he didn’t truly love her.

    The only way to make everyone believe he was a man who truly loved his wife was to travel the world and live life to its fullest and and the end realize that it wasn’t worth it. He had to display it so people would remember him as someone who loved her. That’s the man he chose to become: the man whose wife died and who didn’t want to go on living because of the love he bore her.

    Which is disturbing.

    • allisvanity says:

      Bullseye. That is the man HE CHOSE TO BECOME. You have done it. This last paragraph is a complete summary of the facts. However, which came first, the chicken or the egg, is what we don’t know and can only speculate. Did he do it “in order to” convince people? or did his love/idolatry force him there?

      and, yes, disturbing.

  13. inarticulateinthecity says:

    Many typos and omitted words. My apologies, I’m in a hurry.

  14. claudius says:

    They are both fantasies, each providing a demographically customized escape from the tedium of modern life. But they aren’t escapes from the big problems. BECAUSE THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

    God, somebody finally pointed it out. Yes, there is no escape. It’s kind of crazy how many of the spiritual “seekers” believe that they will find escape in their spirituality in the same way people find escape in drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. Essentially, it becomes another excuse not to deal with personal problems, or another way to run from the storm clouds.

    Real philosophers and mystics have embraced the struggle. There is no escape, and inevitably “bad” things, “terrible” things, chaotic things will happen to us. And this is absolutely good news, utterly good news. All of those terrible things are incredible learning experiences. It does not take a particularly religious, spiritual, or philosophical person to figure this out and apply it in her life.

    • Lauri says:

      I’m curious–what “incredible learning” do we experience when terrible, bad things happen to us?

      • claudius says:

        The potential for learning is there. All hidden agendas and neuroses are forced to the surface. Then you have a choice: 1) run away from them or 2) run towards them. If you run towards them, you discover they are workable, and (over time) develop the ability to transmute them.

        • Lauri says:

          In some situations, yes. Let’s say your house burns down or you lose your job or you get dumped by the love of your life. I can see learning from that. “Transmuting,” if you must.

          Let’s say your child is hit by a car and dies, after some minutes of terror and agonizing pain, in the middle of the road. I can’t think of anything I would “learn” from that that would trump the devastation. I can’t think of any philosopher who would “embrace that struggle.” And the last thing I would call it is “utterly good news.” I mean, talk about the height of narcissism! “Well, my baby is dead, but now I have the opportunity to really learn something about myself.”

          Basically, the only thing I have learned from such experiences is that I never, never want to have them again and that I would never, never wish them on anyone else.

  15. claudius says:

    Ok, but different question – Pastabagel, to play devil’s advocate,

    A US spy gets captured behind enemy lines at the height of Nazi Germany’s military dominance during WWII. There is not chance of rescue. The spy knows that he will face a terrible death through torture by the Nazis (e.g., have his finger nails pulled out, put through Nazi medical experiments). Furthermore, he has knowledge of the Allies’ plans, knowledge which, if discovered by the Nazis, would deliver a serious blow to the Allies. However, he has a cyanide capsule embedded in his tongue, and if he bites down on it he will 1) avoid this painful death and 2) not create a possibility of revealing the Allies’ plans.

    Since he only has a few hours left to live, he has a choice: spend those last few hours in extreme pain and possibly endanger the Allies plans, or bite down.

    Why would undergoing a painful death and possibly endangering the lives of your fellow soldiers be the right thing to do in this situation?

    • TheDevastator says:

      Can’t speak for Pastabagel, but I think that would be fine. Suicide is preferable in some situations, and yours is one of them. But needless suicide is very wrong, on nearly or at the level of needless murder. The analogy would be,

      Your spy : Mark Rife :: A soldier killing an enemy soldier in battle : The Virginia Tech killer

      • ExOttoyuhr says:

        This is why one should be very careful with categorical statements — especially in English, where all the native vocabulary means pretty much whatever the speaker and/or listener wants it to.

  16. Or says:

    This postmodern man sounds like a spokesperson for the new Age of Authenticity. I’m not sure they’re as distinct as you think.

  17. eqv says:

    No one thinks narcissism? No one thinks he found a very effective way to make himself the main character of his own movie (shit, he even got a nice piano soundtrack, in the clip PB posted)?

    I’m surprised. But maybe that’s because I’m wrong.

    I wasn’t aware of this man until now. It seems like a sick twist on those blogs people do, where they watch a Woody Allen movie every day, or whatever– a gimmick. Do you think he was pleased with the amount of traffic his site was getting? Or do you think he didn’t care either way.

    • Or says:

      That’s exactly what we’re thinking, but the guy was so over-the-top it goes without saying. It seems he’s gotten very little publicity so far and that’s the way it should stay, because the few people who are talking about him are giving him exactly what he wanted:

      “Much of Mark’s 1000 Days is about his grief, anxiety, and longing for Sarah. I wish I had met Sarah. Descriptions of her sound like sunshine and ocean waves and kindness and laughter. If their relationship was like The Notebook or Romeo and Juliet, or like the complex uncertainties in Vicki Cristina Barcelona, or the peculiar forces like Moulin Rouge! (Mark’s second favorite film), or the songwriting of The Civil Wars… you can see how their romance was touched with angelic fervor…. The 1000 Days website is Mark’s expression through art as a dying man. I think he died from severed love long before his body died. He trace the contours of his heart those 1000 Days and recorded it for us as a gift and a legacy. To paraphrase Mark, As a high as a man can fly with love, so the depths of grief can fall equally as low. I think he’s telling us this from his 1000 Days. There is such a thing as romantic love that is as strong as death.”

    • baby76bear says:

      You can think whatever you want, but Mark’s family & friends know the sad reality that Mark’s wife Sarah died on August 25, 2008 & exactly 3 years later to the day, Mark took his own life on August 25, 2011. It’s just 10 months & this is only the beginning…

  18. vprime says:

    Great post. I don’t find it all surprising that a pastor would turn to these sources, as religion has begun to remodel itself after self-help culture.
    I do not think that suicide is never justified. We really don’t believe in the sanctity of life (or as a society how could we endorse war, the death penalty, allowing uninsured people to die for lack of funds to treat their illnesses) until it becomes a question of restricting someone else’s choices. There certainly are circumstances in which death become a mercy (terminal illness or incapacity, chronic pain etc. . .), but this man’s story doesn’t seem to be one of those.

    PB, what’s your opinion of Primo Levi, who experienced many of the same things Frankl did? He survived, only to commit suicide decades later. Is his death similarly unjustified?

    • Or says:

      I don’t imagine that Primo Levi put together a timetable for his suicide. Mark Rife’s suicidality is clearly unlike that described by David Foster Wallace (“The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise.”) If life really wasn’t worth living, he could have killed himself on any of the days numbered 1 through 999. If his wife had said 10,000 instead of 1000 he might have lived out his natural life.

  19. SeanM says:

    You missed it. It’s right there in the video. He’s a Christian, a pastor, and he’s going to “go be with her.” You want to know who the 1,000 days were for? Her, while she watches from heaven. Which is where he thinks he’s going.

    Suicide makes perfect sense if you think it’s a form of transportation.

    • Fifi says:

      “Suicide makes perfect sense if you think it’s a form of transportation.”

      Nicely said SeanM and a good point.

  20. The essence of Mark Rife’s problem is that he tried to find meaning outside himself, under the principle that there should be meaning outside himself but, importantly, not in other people except his wife.


    And then that person was taken away a second time.

  21. Braineater says:

    If he had waited a week, he would’ve seen that Facebook’s upcoming Timeline could have done a lot of the introspective legwork for him.

  22. PeteMichaud says:

    This is one of your best ones PB, good work.

  23. Pingback: If a cardboard tree falls over in a forest, does anyone give a shit? | Spleenville

  24. Pingback: 1000 days to confirms his death « the de-scribe

  25. thestage says:

    This whole thing is about as awful as I can imagine, but it is telling that you dip it immediately into a pop vs. culture framework. I don’t care what books he read, that man wasn’t going to find meaning. He wasn’t even going to find that he couldn’t find meaning. Philosophy and literature would not have saved Mark Rife, because they have never saved anyone.

    Your conceit is that Mark never found meaning in his life, and your evidence is the inanimate things he surrounded himself with and the narrative he painted in lieu of the narrative you would like him to paint. The truth is that Mark did have meaning in his life. He just happened to lose it. He was never going to get it back from a book–whether that book is Eat Pray Love, The Bible, or a bit of [fill in your favorite German] is irrelevant. You would find meaning in that book under these circumstances (maybe), because that is what you are programed to do. That is who you are. You’d go into the thing with the answer already there, just like Mark did. You’d both be tricking yourselves. Mark was going to have to find another Mrs. Mark, or a reasonable emotional surrogate for that relationship in order to come out of this one. He failed, yes, just like anyone that starts a suicide blog in order to complete the narrative that he plucked out of the words of the only thing in the world that ever gave him meaning is destined to fail, but his failure was not an intellectual one, and no amount of postmodern theory will ever change that.

    • thestage says:

      Then again, I’m a rube–I don’t think he bothered with the charade in order to “convince others” or as a narcissistic attempt to aggrandize himself under the guise of devotion to memory of wife and/or the education of the public and the pacification of friends; I think he bothered with it because he was a pastor, and while he could trick himself into believing suicide would not keep him out of heaven, he could not trick himself into believing he could face his wife on the other side without trying. Which is to say: he chose his wife over his God. That’s a big no-no. That would be why he turned in the book, and that would be why theology was not going to save him. Why he fled to pop culture as the alternative is not something I will even deign to interpret, because that paints this as something too close to an artistic act, and there are certain lines I will not cross.

      The point: we all have our narratives and our own interpretations of things that have no narratives and no interpretations. You want your postmodern mofit, there it is.

  26. RotJ says:

    “Do you think Romeo would have still killed himself if he’d waited 1,000 days?”

    Isn’t this a trick question? Because if Romeo had waited literally 1000 milliseconds or just glanced back down at Juliet within those 1000 milliseconds (based on the Romeo + Juliet version), he would have realized Juliet was alive and not killed himself. The question would be more logically directed towards Juliet.

    Alternate question: Do you think Thomas Jane in The Mist would have still shot his son and the other occupants of his car in the head if he’d waited 1000 seconds?

  27. trytothink says:

    Thank you for this article. As someone who has lost someone as close as a brother to a gradual mental illness that ended in a suicide, I found your comments to be very insightful and able to encapsulate many of my own thoughts on the subject after many years of reflection. I wish that my friend could have made it through his darkness to the better future that he could have enjoyed.

    This man was truely sick on many levels. After his “lost love” is done bitch slapping this man-child for a few thousand years, maybe he will awaken from his delusional stupor to see what an arrogant clown he was..I feel sorry for his family and loved ones that have to deal with the grief and sadness that he has caused…and for you posters who like to play intellectual patty cake with this subject…not really the point of this article. Many of your comments clearly show no experience on the receiving end of a loved ones F- you to the world.

    • Eva says:

      I’m sorry you lost a loved one to suicide, Trytothink. Do you think a suicide is more acceptable if there is nobody to grieve the person? What difference could it possibly make if there is nobody to ever be affected by the suicide?

    • baby76bear says:

      Then again, some of us who loved him stumbled across this & read comments like yours that are incredibly hurtful to those still grieving!

  28. Comus says:

    Great article PastaBagel. You have several good points, and were even able to suppress shouting “Narcissist!”. Which is nice.

    I think that we could dissect suicide into two branches; the existential suicide and the narcissist suicide.
    The former would be of the type, where the inner world and self become overly saturated with negative thoughts and emotions, when the reality is too hard for you to endure. The latter being of the type where suicide is a means to build up martyrdom, to regain or maintain the positive illusion of yourself in the minds of others. When noted that people die thrice, it is worth noting that for the existentialist suicide the first death would be the horrendous one, for the narcissistic the one where people forget you. That is what happens when you only live through the mirrors of others.

    What is interesting here is the role of the wife and the allusions to the bastardization of Shakespeare. In Romeo and Juliet the plot goes like this: Juliet fakes death in order to get Romeo, and the grieving Romeo not-knowing this kills himself. But a-ha! Juliet is not dead, but is stricken by grief over the death of Romeo and kills herself. Mark takes his wives notion of whether Romeo would have done it after 1000 days a bit too much to the heart (and indeed as pointed out, the better question would have been what would have happened if Juliet had waited for a 1000 days). Now this can be seen as romantic or utterly passive-aggressive, as he sort of shifts the responsibility to his wife. “Your statement made me do this, and as you’re no longer here, I’m telling the world. I am a Martyr, a victim of my love.” Now this implicit passive-aggressivity is quite normal in people who have lost someone important, and as it’s culturally a taboo to speak (or indeed think) ill of the dead, the sorrow and the injustice gets turned inside (depression) and manifests only unconsciously in passive-aggressive behavior. And when the ball gets rolling there’s little to do. You think there ever was a possibility for Mark to not do this after he decided to see whether it is possible?

    Also inherent in the R + J plot structure is that Juliet, when awaken, is so struck with grief she kills herself. So in an inversion of the plot Mark finds out whether 1000 days will change suicidality, and (as he has decided to begin with it does not), and when this still fits the structure of the shakespearean myth it would also logically follow that his wife would have died for him as well. Because that is the gist of Romeo and Juliet, that they both are willing to die for each other, and from this spawns true love. It also effectively idolizes and sanctifies the relationship; there’s no option for Romeo + Juliet II, navigating with the mortgage and the colic twins, or the uncomfortable family events. In order to stay romantic they have to die and suspend the moment.

    • Joe says:

      I disagree with this little bit in your reply:

      “Because that is the gist of Romeo and Juliet, that they both are willing to die for each other, and from this spawns true love.”

      Actually, no. The gist of Romeo and Juliet is that they were stupid teenagers who threw their lives away for a stupid reason. At the start of the play Romeo was depressed about getting rejected by some other girl he “loved.” Juliet was 13 years old. The two of them knew each other, at most, for six days. Their “love” can’t be true.

      That being said, the misconception is so common that your analysis of Mark’s decision within this framework is probably still correct. It’s safe to assume he didn’t get the point, since that was probably part of what his wife was driving at with her question.

  29. DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

    Isn’t it narcissistic to condemn suicide just because it makes us feel sad? What about the guy who actually did the suiciding, what does anyone else feelings but that guy’s got to do with anything? Why not celebrate the guy for taking charge of his life and going out however he wanted, instead of just calling him a coward because now we have one less person to text message about whatever dumb shit is going on in our lives. That’s how it always comes across to me, like people just get pissed that there’s one less person around to help shoulder the burden of the general meaninglessness of this life thing around.

    • Rocket Surgeon says:

      So the narrative you’re putting forth is: he’s a hero for committing suicide because he had to face up to grief?

      • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

        No. I don’t know anything about hero narratives. I’m only saying I don’t get how condemnation is the default reaction for most people towards a suicide.

        • Fifi says:

          DonDrapersAcidTrip – You make good points about the selfishness of grief (it’s not necessarily malignantly narcissistic but it is selfish). Grief is generally about what we will no longer get to experience with the person who has died, it’s about mourning what we’ve lost by the loss of a relationship or that person’s company. Ultimately, needing to condemn a stranger who has committed suicide and becoming morally indignant does seem malignantly narcissistic, if only because it’s using the dead person as an object to affirm one’s own self image as superior and “moral”. But, hey, a lot of “moral indignation” is really about narcissistic affirmation.

          There’s this assumption that the person who commits suicide is harming their family and friends, this isn’t necessarily true and it’s ignoring the fact that watching people you love suffer creates its own suffering. It’s very common for people to experience relief when a loved one who is suffering terribly dies – people feel guilty about this sometimes but, in reality, the end of suffering is often welcomed by the person who is dying/in terrible pain. Death is just death, nothing to be scared of there. Dying is a whole other ballgame, it’s often slow and painful and there can be a deterioration of the brain and personality. I can also understand that people with untreatable mental or physical illnesses might decide that not existing is preferable to an existence that is/has become only suffering. Having worked with people who have chronic pain, I’m well aware how incredibly insensitive and even abusive some people can be to those who are suffering intensely but don’t have an open bleeding wound. It’s narcissistic if you’re simply transposing how you belief you would deal with their pain (a pain that is usually being minimized by the person saying “man up, get over it” because they’re inconvenienced by someone else’s suffering). Anyway, all to say that suicide (assisted or otherwise) is much more complex and context specific than people who crave to control the world through simplistic morality (and controlling others) make out.

          • Rocket Surgeon says:

            Oh, I guess the amnesia ray went crazy again seeing as we keep losing the context within which this guy did the deed. I guess it does make it easier to strawman about freedom to choose.
            I’m guessing it also makes it easier for narcissistic self affirmation.

        • Rocket Surgeon says:

          Condemnation implies a lot here but okay. The reason why is because the usual default reasons for suicide ARE irrational and “wrong”. It’s been well over a century since Durkheim published Suicide and we’ve accrued quite a bit of info since then about the subject. Nobody can read minds but we do now know about the basic general thoughts and reactions that can lead to suicidal ideation.

  30. Tiburon. says:

    Random thoughts:

    It’s all so carefully put together.
    He put music to it.
    He carefully positioned himself to the side of the camera, not centered, “artistically”.
    He sounds like he’s telling a story. He’s rehearsed.
    It’s not the core of his being, the thoughts that he’s actually scared to tell people but feels that he has to. He’s proud of it. And I disagree with PB in that I think suicide can be the product of a rational, if emotionally broken mental process. But it can’t be an intellectalization. To be understandable, it has to be heartfelt, instinctual. And this is anything but.
    Which makes me respond to Rife’s “point”: bullshit.

    “Contemplating death is one thing, but that’s like, hard and stuff. Mark would rather go to a restaurant, take a photo of his dinner, and blog it. This is the new spirituality we’re talking about here. Theology for the Powerpoint generation…. Put down the book by the black-and-white German philosopher, okay? Let’s listen to some Creed, turn our baseball caps backwards, groom our clever facial hair, and rap with the kids about God’s plan for our sex lives and complement each other on our tribal tats.”

    Going way too far with the generalization, I think. You can’t tie it to a generational thing. People are vapid and thoughtless now because people have always been vapid in some sense. But in this case the point happens to stand.

    You know, after the first couple of paragraphs I felt like Pastabagel was being too harsh on people who choose suicide, but he’s not in this case. I couldn’t watch past a minute or two, not because it was painful, but because it was pointless. I wrote that before I read this:
    “He didn’t want to construct for himself a meaningful life, and instead constructed a monument to its meaninglessness.”
    Amen. I’m even for euthanasia, but this is just a validational thing.

    Isn’t the point of his wife’s rhetorical question that Juliet wouldn’t have killed herself if she had waited a thousand days? This suicide is a repudiation of his wife’s memory, in that sense if no other.

  31. wanderinggambler says:

    This article is very difficult for me to pin down an opinion that I would support. First and foremost, I utterly disagree with the notion that those who kill themselves are somehow murderers. On Sunday, it would have been 11 years since I attempted to take my life, which was due to the severe depressive state I was enveloped in during high school. I also know how it is to lose a family member to suicide, losing my cousin (and practically little brother) about 3.5 years ago.

    I think suicide is a topic that is really difficult to speak out about unless one experiences it, either through losing a loved one or attempting it yourself. I find when people who know nothing about it talk about it, they end up saying something either incredibly stupid or naive. Not saying that’s the case here, but I do think it’s a little much to say that someone who is suicidal and takes their life is somehow analogous to a murderer. A murderer takes someone else’s life, it’s a crime against humanity. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life. Our society has determined that murder is a terrible thing because it’s the extinguishing of another and essentially the freedom of that person to live their lives, to do whatever they wish. Suicide is something much more personal and as such, disconnected from the rest of humanity. As someone who has fought suicide in the past and has dedicated their life to preventing suicide, I find suicide to be a terrible thing. That being said, it’s a terrible thing because it’s a decision made by someone who is obviously not okay, someone who is sick. Suicide is not a rational thought, but I would not say it’s wrong the same way murder is.

    However, I find this gentlemen’s decision to kill himself to be quite… puzzling. My suicide attempt was a reaction to myself believing and feeling that life was terrible. My mind was playing tricks on me. I lost all faith in God and in humanity. I suffered an extraordinary amount of pain through being severely bullied in high school. I had nowhere to turn.

    This guy seemed to make his decision almost immediately and wanted to suffer the entire 1,000 days without his wife. Furthermore, where was his family? Did they not know about him actually doing this? It seems so odd to me that they would watch him approach the 1,000th day without doing anything (an intervention, what not). I certainly would not have watched him get to that day without sitting him down and seeing how he truly felt. Then again, I’m a former depressive and survivor of suicide.

    This is a tragic story, but it didn’t have to be. I understand why someone would want to die. That’s a pain I can never shake, a shame I’ll never live down. But I don’t understand why someone who drag it out for so long and have no one or nothing to turn to. It’s one thing to decide out of the blue that you’ll kill yourself. It’s another to write a story with bullshit anecdotes with 1,000 different chapters only to die at the end before finishing the tale. This is someone’s life, not a Robert Jordan book series.

    • Pastabagel says:

      but I would not say it’s wrong the same way murder is.

      First, I wasn’t placing a moral value on suicide vs. murder. Sometimes moral choices are not rational ones. But moral choices are also notoriously difficult to explain to people who don’t share your morality. My point was in the broader context of how to consider Rife’s web 2.0 version of a suicide note. Does it make sense? No, it does not. Did he think it was right? Maybe, but who cares what he thought.

      I generally don’t like the idea that “it’s his life and he can choose to end it when he wants.” He is connected to other people, and those connections are shared. He is not entitled to severely them unilaterally without suffering some social consequence. His death hurts others. Let’s stop trying to understand the suicidal person because it is impossible unless we ourselves are suicidal or we think that there are common situations where suicide is the best option (which it never is). Instead, let’s try to empathize with the people in Mark Rife’s who Mark deliberately and severely hurt. Don’t they get any sympathy? Doesn’t Mark deserve to be judged by us for what he did to them?

      • wanderinggambler says:

        Of course they should get sympathy. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I know how it feels to lose a loved one to suicide. It’s pretty god awful, worst feeling in my life.

        But, I don’t think it’s your place to judge someone who does kill themselves because chances are… you have no idea how he felt when he did it. Sure, you might, but a lot of idiotic people make assumptions and charges about suicidal people all the time and it ends up HURTING the people who are suffering from the results. I got a bunch of “he was selfish”, “he’s better off”, etc. etc.

        That stuff is total and utter nonsense and it’s people not truly understanding the cause of why one would kill themselves.

        By and large, I don’t think we should judge the suicidal unless you’ve been there and you’ve seen it. It’s such a personal and disconnected decision that no one except those who knew and loved the person or the person themselves can actually know why they killed themselves. It’s all bullshit assumptions and speculation.

        You refuse to try to understand Mr. Rife, but you have no problem judging him for his actions. Maybe his family really didn’t care about him? Maybe his brother never sought him out and asked him how he felt about his wife’s death? Maybe they weren’t there at all?

        Do you see how difficult it is to actually analyze this entire situation?

        We should have intense sympathy for the family and friends suffering from this loss AND we should have sympathy and pity for the suicidal. I do think Mr. Rife’s situation is far more odd than the typical suicide, but I still think it’s a difficult endeavor for us to play armchair quarterback.

      • me says:

        the people in Mark Rife’s who Mark deliberately and severely hurt.

        Was it his deliberate intention to hurt them? Or are they (or you) talking his actions as personal attacks because they were hurt by those actions.?

        His choice was not about them, it was not about you or me or anyone else but himself.

        You and they choose the response to his action and your choices are your responsibility. Do not blame him because you opted to be a martyr.

        We all want everyone to be different. To think and act more like what we want or expect. But they dont and its not about us.

        • wanderinggambler says:

          Your post here proves the inherent subjectivity required to “judge” a suicide.

          Someone who is suffering from that much emotional and psychological pain cannot possibly think in a rational, well-thought out manner. Mental illness of that severity lends itself to what “normal thinking” people call “selfish.”

          I can certainly see how a “normal thinking” person might see a suicidal person as “selfish” for not thinking about their loved ones before the noose is tied around his neck, but that’s the inherent problem. The thought process of a suicidal person isn’t even in the same ballpark as a “normal thinking” person.

        • Joe says:

          His choice was not about them, it was not about you or me or anyone else but himself.

          If it was only about himself, there would be no need for him to construct this online shrine to his act.

          Remember, we’re not talking about someone who just suddenly decided to kill himself. Most people who successfully commit suicide do it as a reaction to some external event and without much advance warning. Rife’s suicide was the climax of a play that he wrote, directed, and had been acting in for almost three years. The other characters in the play are now acting out the denouement. Some of them are sticking to the script (“Look, he loved his wife so much. That’s terrible.”), others aren’t (i.e. Pastabagel and other people on the internet), but it doesn’t matter, we’re still in the play.

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  35. suislyde says:

    The article did not speak to me because the author’s audience is composed of people not contemplating suicide. I have obsessed about suicide since my first day in high school. I am in my 50’s now. I have done my own search for meaning reading extensively in the fields of mythology, philosophy, psychology, and religion. This includes Frankl’s logotherapy. I have seen a multitude of psychologists & psychiatrists and have taken every form of psycho-pharmaceutical concoction known to work for the clinically depressed. The psycho-literature guarantees that depression may be treatable but not that it will be.
    The thing that is being discounted in this discussion is how meaning itself is lost. Gradually. Values are slowly displaced with apathy, eventually the well just runs dry and very little that I do adds to it. I am a great actor. People think I am a great guy but in reality I care little of other people’s opinions, a child’s laugh or cry, a beautiful sunset or anything else that is said to give life meaning. How did I come to be this way? I think of skin. How when it becomes abraded it becomes overly sensitive. In order to protect itself it grows layer upon layer of skin but in turn it also loses feeling as each layer is added. It becomes callous. I am not there yet but I know eventually all feeling will enventually become lost.

  36. Fifi says:

    The continual assertion that this man “murdered” himself is all about what the author wants to be true. Redefining suicide as murder (which is taking someone else’s life) as a means to try to justify your personal feelings as moral outrage is, well, pretty narcissistic (because apparently this man’s suicide is all about you and how it offends you). Hell, you even claim “the moral of this story is…” Exactly why do you assume you’ve got some moral high ground to stand on because this man didn’t conform to your moral code and have taken personal offense because, hey, his suicide is all about you (hint, it isn’t even if you’ve become complicit and participated in the spectacle so you can make it part of your public spectacle and move attention to yourself and what you want to be true).

  37. suicism says:

    He says quite clearly in the video that, “I decided I was going to go and be with Sarah.” Isn’t his belief in some sort of afterlife pertinent here?

    A question: What if Mark and Sarah had been a couple in their 80s or 90s? And what if she had died first, and he had thought life wasn’t worth continuing without her? I have a feeling quite a few of those who condemn him now would excuse the same story in an older couple, if not find it romantic or sweet. But what, really, is the difference?

    Anyway. I’d no more condemn Mark than I would any other suicidal person. I wish he’d gotten help, or even been more open about his project to begin with–the fact that he lived with such a grand secret for so many years must have only served to make him feel more alienated and alone, and death that much more a relief–but it’s too late now.

    RIP, Sarah and Mark.

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  39. debra says:

    Where were his colleagues in ministry? Where were his congregation members? Where were his friends and neighbors. His death is a tragedy, but the fact that for three years this went on in front of friends and family members is an even deeper tragedy. That he should have felt so alone in his grief says more about us than it does about him.

    I’m both glad and sorry to have read this. Glad to know about it, but sorry that the author felt the need to judge Mark in this way. Instead of urging us to critique his behavior, why not call us to pay attention to the depth and breadth of grief that surrounds us. How painful for any of his friends who might stumble on this and read it. Grief upon grief.

  40. Lady says:

    The writer assumes a lot of things but labels them as fact, as if he knew the details of this man’s life. He automaticlly assumes this person was a pop-culturally limited idiot. I hardly doubt it!

    What precipitated all of this is not Romeo and Juliet the play. It was the movie Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo di Caprio and handguns. This is the level of intellectual engagement he started with.

    First off, there is more than one Romeo and Juliet. Second of all, he refer to it as “Juliet and her Romeo,” which was a 1924 film. If you want to talk about Romeo and Juliet as a film, there are dozens of recreations of the play to film. The 1968 version is perhaps the most widely seen as, at least in the US, is shown to more young people as visual examples of the classic play. But this person zooms in on the P.O.S. 1996 edition.

    So many references to pop culture made me feel the author hadn’t a clue of much media outside of the mainstream. It’s likely the author was trying to get a rise out of people in order to get his little article more hits. And they have done just that. Or perhaps they are victims just as much of “pop culture” as they rage on about in terms of Mark Rife.

    Too many assumptions about details. I hope this person doesn’t go into academia. They would be eaten alive.

    I sympathize for the two. My fiancee always says that if I died, he couldn’t go on living. Honesty, Mark’s experience and how he dealt with his grief has helped my fiancee and I sit down and work out and “what if” plan. So much could happen in 1000 days. My fiancee was surprised I brought it up to him, but I would never want him to take his own life over my loss. I would want him to be happy. But what if he couldn’t be? What if he took a few years to try to move on and couldn’t? He’s now considering taking the time to try to move on should something like this occur. And I’ve started to make peace that perhaps not everyone can move past their grief. I wouldn’t take that choice from him if he truly tried, and could find no meaning in going on.

  41. as_eye_see_it says:

    I’ve known Mark for 20 years. There is so much more to this story than what was found by the poster. And yet, it was good to see an unbiased response.

    Mark was human and made human mistakes. And although Mark had TONS of great qualities, and was loved by SO MANY, his demise began when his love for Sarah became more than his love for God. Most people do not realize that it was he who (accidentally) knocked Sarah off that cliff that day. He never forgave himself! It didn’t matter than Sarah had forgiven him, or that God was Sovereign (thereby allowing His will). He could not forgive himself. Those that knew Mark, aslo know that Mark craved attention. He spent his last three years consumed with “the end.” It did help him cope. He never could get past the personal guilt he had for the day he caused Sarah to fall–a tragedy that ended in her death months later.

    I am against suicide because God is the giver of life. Who are we to refuse that gift? Man (mankind) was created in the image of God. The reason murder is wrong is the same reason that suicide is wrong. We all go through emotional and physical pain. God is Sovereign and allows it. In fact, Philippians 4:19 implies that God GIVES us pain on purpose because we need it! How do I know that? Well, He promises to give us what we need and if pain is what we get, then we must need it! BUT . . . God also promises to not give us more than we can handle. He has been through more emotional and physical pain than we can even think of (remember the passion week?). he also gives us pain so that we can grow and learn from it. If we believe that God is Sovreign (i.e. He knows what He’s doing and IS doing it) , then we show a lack of faith by disagreeing with it or wanting to change it. Job, Joesph, David, Paul, etc. were examples of this. Mark’s suicide was a cop-out in my opinion, but who am I to judge? I cannot truly know what he felt. In fact, I’d hate to be in his shoes.

    I could not sleep well for many days following Mark’s death. It was surreal. Hopefully, Mark was truly saved and I’ll see him in Heaven some day. I don’t want to think of the alternative.

    May we all learn from this.

    • baby76bear says:

      Well said ~ I hadn’t seen Mark in MANY years, and I was stunned by how his death rocked me, in some ways more than deaths that I knew were coming. Perhaps it was that it came barely six months since my Pastor’s son of 23 died unexpectedly, I’m not sure, but regardless of the why, there are still days (like today) when I think of him…Thankfully, there are the many positives to consider…like the video interview of he & Sarah that I recently came across. Like you, I hope Mark was saved & we’ll see him in Heaven…like you, I don’t want to think of the alternative.