I think it’s humbling to realize that we never really know what is going on inside another human being. On the face of it, Anthony Bourdain would seem to have had everything: good looks, enormous creative talent, wealth, an entire world to explore for his popular CNN travel show Parts Unknown. The final episodes of that program will begin airing on Sunday evening, with Kamau Bell as guest host. Bourdain was in the process of filming the season when he took his life.
I don’t know a lot about suicide. I suspect that suicide in the young often may be a matter of despair that peaks but can subside again, and that when the young person can be dissuaded, further attempts might be forestalled. I think suicide, assisted dying, in the terminally ill is perfectly logical. I suspect that suicide in a person of Bourdain’s age is the culmination of a lot, and that following through on the impulse to end one’s life is considered and intentional and hard to reverse. There’s such a thing as suicidal attempts masked as a cry for help — the person tries, but in a way that he or she is likely to be discovered. I sense that Bourdain’s death wasn’t that. He wanted to die. He was surrounded by people in whom he might have confided his dark thoughts and who might have helped him hold off. That didn’t happen. He died.
I liked Bourdain’s show, his easy manner with a variety of people and the number of places he was willing to go and the sometimes bizarre culinary things he eagerly tried. He seemed like a person with a zest for life, and more chances to add richness to his days than many of us. He looked like he was having a wonderful time.
I’m probably not the only viewer who had fallen into the trap of thinking we knew him. I suspect that even with foreknowledge of his death, I’m going to watch right up until the last episode and see him as a man living at the peak of his game.