Thurman’s spirituality was grounded not only in the beauties of the black experience, but grounded as well in the terrors of the black experience, as only someone living in Florida and Georgia could know them in 1915 and 1920 and 1930. At the same time, it was a spirituality that says: “And knowing all that, I also know that all human beings are one.”
This kind of strange combination of spiritual truth with hard political social truth led one young man in the 1930s to say this about Howard Thurman: “I’m disappointed in him. We thought we had found our Moses. And he turns out to be a mystic.” That’s the spirituality that gets people all riled up.
A friend once said to me, “Suicide leaves behind nothing but miserable people blaming themselves.” My psychiatrist, a wise eighty-seven-year-old woman who has been practicing six days a week for more than forty years, told me, “Think of the example it sets. For your children.” That remains the most compelling argument I’ve heard against suicide: it sets an example — for one’s children, of course, but for others too. It isn’t that we want people to “tough it out.” It isn’t that we think the suicide has acted out of moral weakness. It’s that, when we look at the people we knew who committed suicide, they were often the very people we most appreciated having around. We need more of those people, not fewer. The bad weather of depression can and does change. The argument for awaiting such a change presupposes that life is worth living for its own sake, which I think is the deeper point Camus was trying to make. As far as we know, life is the only game in town.