What Did Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain Have in Common?

Kate Spade / Anthony Bourdain (Reuters images)

It’s challenging for us to understand why successful, famous, rich people such as fashion designer Kate Spade and TV chef Anthony Bourdain decide to put an end to their lives.

Typical answers will vary between hidden loneliness and depression, drug addiction, and mental issues. But if we delve into a deeper, more fundamental layer of human nature, the answer is one: lack of meaning and purpose in life.

From an ordinary person’s point of view, the rich and famous already have everything that the rest of us dream of. But as we focus on what they’ve got, we miss what’s happening inside their minds and hearts. Thus, we overlook what they’re losing.

When people reach the heights of fame and fortune, their lives change dramatically. Their new status and power separate them from the rest of society. People treat them as symbols or idols, and stop looking at them as ordinary human beings with feelings. As a result, they gradually lose a lot of their friendships and human connections.

But it doesn’t end there. As they reach the top of their game and conquer their dreams, they are more prone to lose their passion and drive to keep going. Paradoxically, their accomplishments and abundance put them in front of the undeniable question: What do I aim for next? What else is there to live for?

It’s as if they lose the drive to carry on in this world, while on the other hand, there’s nowhere else to go.

When that happens, even highly creative and passionate people who initiate meaningful projects will struggle to find the reason and purpose behind anything they do. And then, a single emotional trigger could be enough for them put an end to their life.

Anthony Bourdain — June 11, 2018 (Reuters)

In contrast, the average person struggles to get by through the daily grind, craves a promotion at work and dreams of the next vacation. His or her relations with other people feel a lot more real even if they’re challenging. He has a desire to make his life better in various aspects. And hope for a better future means there’s something worth living for.

The irony about fame and fortune is that those who achieve it may feel like there is nothing more to aspire to, and those who do not, still have a drive to achieve it.

But beneath the surface, these opposites complement each other as a single system. There’s a collective process of development that gradually brings all of us to face the question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?

A human being has a need to discover the purpose of his or her existence. It is the only thing that truly differentiates humans from animals. In fact, all of human culture can be seen as an attempt to answer that very question of meaning. And in our time, it is becoming increasingly necessary to provide a satisfactory answer.

It is not by chance that suicide has become characteristic of the modern western world, with suicide rates in the U.S. increasing more than 25% since 1999, and close to 800,000 people globally committing suicide every year.

Yet, the meaning of life is not a philosophical or mystical question that doesn’t have a clear answer. The exact opposite is true: it is a natural question that has a natural answer.

When human beings tap into their inherent wiring for connection, they reveal that they are parts of a single integrated system, connected to each other and to the natural source of life itself. Then, their craving for meaning and purpose finds its fulfillment in connection with the harmony and wholeness of nature.

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