Ernest Hemingway

“Best of all he loved the fall
the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
leaves floating on the trout streams
and above the hills the high blue windless skies ...
now he will be a part of them forever.”

I watched this beautifully animated video about Ernest Hemingway and his tortured life.

I recently read "The Sun Also Rises" and it was great learning more about the man behind the prose.

His life is often portrayed as a hyper-masculine adventurer and womanizing chauvinist degenerate.

But there is a more profound story beyond the modern caricature.

His parents and generations of his family suffered from mental illness, and he was no exception.

There were six suicides in four generations.

Throughout his life, he self-reported depressive episodes over and over.

He wrote to a friend: "I felt that gigantic bloody emptiness and nothingness".

He was a temperamental manic depressive that swung between megalomania and melancholy

After his father's suicide he plunged into a life of daily drinking, and it is thought that his alcoholism permanently altered his brain chemistry.

In addition to the horrific mental issues that plagued him from birth, he suffered from a number of physical injuries - six traumatic brain injuries in total.

Seeking mental health in the early 20th century was unthinkable, it would mean throwing away your masculinity.

His father's suicide cemented the idea that it was an option.

He wrote letters about suicide to his friends.

"I understand for the first time how men can commit suicide. Simply because too many things in business piling up ahead of then that they can't get through."

I still claim that anyone that wants to can do it. Things are looking better and I look forward to not giving a demonstration of my theory for some time.

“Me. I like life very much. So much it will be a big disgust when I have to shoot myself. Maybe pretty soon. I guess."

"I'll tell you, it's like being in a Kafka nightmare. I act cheerful like always but am not. I'm bone tired and very beat up emotionally.

Towards the end of his life, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

He lost his ability to write after electroconvulsive therapy, and eventually lead him to his suicide.

That's not to say Hemmingway was a victim, he made a lot of bad choices in his life, was a bad father, and was a womanizer, and an ego obsessed liar.

But should look deeper than the labels.

We should consider not just the who of Hemmingway, but also the why and how.

We should carry some empathy and compassion into conversations about people, perhaps especially the dead, because they are not here to make their own case. To them, I believe, we owe honesty.