While I agree with the existentialists (and the novelist John Barth) that the question of suicide is the first question that a truly wise & self-aware mind must confront, I have known too many suicides to ever treat the subject glibly. No two suicides are the same, and the pain they cause to survivors is too great to reduce to a philosophical syllogism.
Now comes the latest Freakonomics podcast (entitled "Gambling With Your Life") which looks at the suicide rates in Las Vegas and asks some very interesting questions.
How does the suicide rate in Sin City compare with the rest of the country? Is this difference significant? And is Las Vegas a place that CAUSES suicides or is it merely a place that ATTRACTS the suicidal?
Unfortunately, the data does not offer a complete explanation of this phenomenon, but the sociologist Matt Wray from Temple University offers some provocative interpretations of the numbers. And I'm interested in what these interpretations say about my hometown.
Needless to say, I urge you to listen to the podcast and then contact me with your own reactions.
hosted by Stephen Dubner and featuring sociologist Matt Wray