“So what do you think of that beautiful bridge?” I started to say, but she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, an odd, wistful look in her eyes. “what is it?” I asked. She turned to me with a grave expression and said — “at the risk of sounding crazy, is there a reason that the bridge would be sad?” I understood just what she had sensed, and I suspect that you do too. There’s a blot on the bridge that mars its beauty. Every time I cross it, I think about those who have chosen to jump.

Officially, someone leaps off the bridge to their death about once every two weeks. The official toll is at roughly 1300 people since its opening in 1937. Only the recovered bodies are counted, however, and because of the swift currents heading out to sea many victims are never found.

This week’s show is dedicated to an unusual proposal. In some powerful way many jumpers who seek out the bridge as a means to end their lives are reflecting an established pattern engendered by the city’s history. If all they truly wanted was simply to end their lives, they could do it anywhere. but they don’t — they choose the bridge. San Francisco’s history is one of repeated destruction and rebirth — a pattern unconsciously reflected and tragically repeated by the jumpers, acting as characters in the final act of this repeating drama. What is being proposed is a way to change that script.

Havi Brooks, founder of the project, is an international teacher and an expert in recognizing problems in all sorts of narrative systems. Using a system of learning called the Fluent Self. She teaches people to read, deconstruct and heal their own problematic narrative patterns. Her efforts have proven to be successful in resolving all sorts of issues from the personal to the communal. Hours of debate about the nature of the problem and its relation to the history of the city have led to a concept that could not only cut down suicide rates, but add aesthetic beauty to the bridge — while not costing the city a penny.

For further edification:
» Lethal Beauty — SF Chronicle series
» Suicide Barrier Coalition
» Jumpers — New Yorker
» official site of the Golden Gate Bridge
» the Fluent Self

random episode from the archives:
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