"I don't like my mind right now," sings Chester Bennington in "Heavy", the single off his band Linkin Park's final album. On July 20, 2017, just before he was to embark on a 27-city concert tour for his new album "One More Light", Chester was found dead by suicide.
His band's 1st album had sold 11 million copies to date, and as one of the iconic bands of the 2000's, had adoring fans worldwide. Chester had a loving family with six children and a newly purchased mansion in Los Angeles. What was he missing? Clearly it was something deeper.
I wasn't much of a Linkin Park fan growing up, but their latest song and video created after Chester's death - "One More Light" - touched me deeply.
A Rabbi of mine once asked us, "what's the most important aspect of the body?" Some answered the heart; others the eyes. "It's the brain", he said. The state of our minds are paramount. When that level of dark depression hits, none of the accolades or blessings in Chester's life could dent his internal pain.
As a disclaimer, I can't possibly address the massive scope of the subject of suicide and depression properly here. Those suffering from clinical depression or suicidal thoughts should seek help and treatment immediately. Depression can be a disease. One in four families are affected by mental health problems, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among high school students and the second leading cause of death in college students.
Chester wasn't just momentarily sad; he suffered sexual abuse and bullying as a child, and fell into hard drug and alcohol abuse in his teens - likely to escape from his childhood trauma - something he struggled with throughout his life. A half finished bottle of alcohol was found next to his dead body.
But for those of us who struggle with bouts of sadness and dark, negative thoughts from time to time, what lessons can we take from this tragic loss? It may seem like those around us are content and perfectly happy, and have their lives exactly in order, but that's mistaken thinking; we all struggle with something. How can we give ourselves the best shot at living life with a happy perspective? How can we help others do the same?
Let's delve deeper into Chester's words in the chorus to "One More Light":
"If they say: Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars, It flickers, flickers
"Who cares when someone's time runs out? If a moment is all we are - We're quicker, quicker / Who cares if one more light goes out? Well I do"
Let's make sure that those around us know that we care about their life and wellbeing, that they can always turn to us for help if they need. Many feel: "Who cares if one more light goes out in a sky of a million stars?"
I'm 1 out of 7 billion people! What difference does my life really make?
The Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches that each of us must say: Bishvili nivra ha'olam – "the world was created for my sake." Every musician in an orchestra - no matter how unbelievably large - is crucial to its overall success. No person is expendable in the grand scheme of humanity.
"Who cares when someone's time runs out, if a moment is all we are?"
It's also true that in the vast time of history, our lives can seem like a momentary passing of the wind. Yet the great Maimondes taught (Laws of Repentance 3:4): One should look at the world as an evenly balanced scale: One good action can tip the scales and bring salvation to the world." Who's to say which actions are more precious to God and to mankind? Every moment and deed is infinitely precious, like a baby's first words to her parent's ears.
But my life is hard! How can I be expected to just change my perspective to a sunny disposition?
Joseph of the Bible was hated by his brothers. As a child, his mother Rachel died. At 17, his brothers threw him in a pit of snakes and scorpions, then sold him into slavery in Egypt. Soon after, he was framed and imprisoned indefinitely in a dungeon. Joseph had nothing. He was truly alone in a foreign place with no one to help him. Everything happening around of him was awful. But inside of Joseph's mind, in his soul, was a bright light of hope, trust and optimism; something that never wavered, regardless of the hardships he faced. He had a purpose on this earth to add light and better his surroundings.
One day, Joseph sees two dejected prisoners, and asks them: "Why are your faces sad today?" (Genesis 40:7). They reply that they had nightmares the night before. He interprets them and later, when word reaches Pharaoh of this young dream interpreter, Joseph is raised from the dungeon and becomes second in command of all of Egypt. All of this came because Joseph didn't let his circumstances define him. The power of the mind and our perspective is immeasurable.
After the Holocaust, Dr. Viktor Frankl wrote "Man's Search For Meaning," describing his theory that the longevity of life for a concentration camp prisoner depended on his perspective. "I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones."
Frankl believed that the power of the mind could rise over any circumstance, even one as horrifyingly awful and dehumanizing as the Holocaust. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (Man's Search for Meaning, 1946).
How can we help the world and increase everyone's wellbeing, there's too many people!
Last year, my youth organization created the Love in a Box Project where gift boxes are filled with items, stickers are added, and a loving, inspirational message is written. The teens then give their gift box to another in order to brighten their day. What I loved most about this project from the outset was the concept that one simple kind gesture we do for another person we see every day can make a big difference. Every day we have countless opportunities to smile or say a kind word to someone.
Life is a struggle; a struggle that all of us are going through. Our souls were placed in bodies on a foreign earth in order to struggle every day and shine light within the darkness. It's a beautiful struggle full of amazing moments - if we pay attention to them. Tough times are painful only when we can't see any meaning or purpose in them. Athletes in pain are happy with the knowledge that they're building something great. The burn they feel in their muscles is leading to growth. Every test and descent in your life is for the sake of a following ascent.
Television's children host Mr. Rogers once said that his mother used to respond to scary news by saying: 'Look for the helpers.' Instead of always seeking love and help from others, let's also try and be that help for others. Through helping we may find our purpose on this earth being fulfilled as well, adding more meaning and joy to our lives.
No matter how dark it ever gets, let's always work to focus our perspective, reminding ourselves that this darkness is temporary, that our lives have incredible meaning beyond this and a brighter future awaits. Often we're only having a bad day (sometimes a really bad day, month, or year), but not a bad life. Let's focus on the blessings we have, not just on what we lack. Today, in 2017, our quality of life and opportunity is greater than anyone who was alive a mere hundred years ago. By refocusing our perspective on what's good, and realizing there is a Divine plan to all of the downs as well, we have the ability to completely flip our mindsets to an optimistic offense instead of a negative defense. And it's amazing how things start to change when your mind and soul are in a positive, trusting and hopeful state.
And when none of that helps, I will always say to you (reach out to me anytime) - and what I believe God is shouting at you at every moment of every day -