In His Short Life, Aaron Swartz Refused To Be Categorized
The New York Times today has a very detailed, very well-written and very touching obituary for Aaron Swartz, the master coder who invented RSS, forever changing the way we use the internet, and who took his own life on Friday.
Here is a snippet about the 26-year old's struggle with depression:
Recent years had been hard for Mr. Swartz, Ms. Norton said, and she characterized him "in turns tough and delicate." He had "struggled with chronic, painful illness as well as depression," she said, without specifying the illness, but he was still hopeful "at least about the world."
In a talk in 2007, Mr. Swartz described having had suicidal thoughts during a low period in his career. He also wrote about his struggle with depression, distinguishing it from sadness.
"Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel. Everything gets colored by the sadness."
When the condition gets worse, he wrote, "you feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none. And this is one of the more moderate forms."
Also, some have wondered whether Mr. Swartz was gay. In fact, he was not. Not by his definition. While he did hook-up with men, Swartz refused to identify by a label he found to be completely fabricated. His sexual thinking was very much in line with his generation's.
From a piece he wrote in 2009; it's called "Why I Am Not Gay":
Having sex with other people of your gender isn't an identity, it's an act. And, like sex in general among consenting adults, people should be able to do it if they want to. Having sex with someone shouldn't require an identity crisis. (Nobody sees having-sex-with-white-people as part of their identity, even if that’s primarily who they’re attracted to.)
People shouldn't be forced to categorize themselves as "gay," "straight," or "bi." People are just people. Maybe you're mostly attracted to men. Maybe you're mostly attracted to women. Maybe you're attracted to everyone. These are historical claims — not future predictions.
If we truly want to expand the scope of human freedom, we should encourage people to date who they want; not just provide more categorical boxes for them to slot themselves into. A man who has mostly dated men should be just as welcome to date women as a woman who's mostly dated men.
So that's why I'm not gay. I hook up with people. I enjoy it. Sometimes they're men, sometimes they're women. I don't see why it needs to be any more complicated than that.
It is truly heartbreaking that someone so smart (clearly he was a genius), so motivated to justice and so young could not, would not or did not get the help that could have saved his life.
If you are someone you know is experiencing suicical ideation, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, the national GLBT National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743), or The Trevor Project, an organization specifically focused on LGBT people, at 866-488-7386.