I have never gotten the American obsession with celebrities, even though I was born and raised here. Every once in a while someone passes where I at least understand why there is a strong fixation because he was someone who was trying to make the world a better place in some way. Steve Irwin or George Harrison for example. For the most part, however, I feel pretty confused when people grieve for the rich and famous. I didn’t know them, I’m not going to pretend that my enjoyment of their work made me somehow closer to them, and that’s that. I’ll feel an element of sadness for their friends and family, but that’s about it.
This was not the case with Robin Williams. Not by a long shot.
He was to comedy what Nicola Tesla was for invention and inspiration. What took me a decade or two to refine into a process where I can cleverly and humorously communicate my ideas was something he was born with. It was a gift he pursued, seemingly every day of his life, for the entirety of his life. He used that gift to bring joy and reprieve to others and, in the process, perhaps he was trying to find that joy for himself. It seems he did not, and that’s why his death is more meaningful to me than it might otherwise have been.
In Robin Williams’ passing, my own mortality was reflected back at me. I suspect that I am not alone in this. When one of the most joyous, fun-loving, laughter-filled men that recorded history has ever borne witness to can be felled by his own depression, all of our lives seem all the more fragile. I felt this all the more strongly because I understood, on some basic level, just exactly how it happened. Humor has ever been my shield in times of difficulty, my sanctuary and safe harbor. Seeing one of the greats take his own life and be failed by some of the same fortifications I myself have used is indescribable. It’s an extremely sobering thing to witness, and it effected me in a way that took me a few days to sort through.
I saw a friend on Facebook ask why so many tears were being shed for an actor and comedian, but barely a though goes by for the various soldiers and military men who die out in the field every day. Normally, I have a similar question in my head at the passing of a celebrity. For me, at the very least, that’s now what has given rise to my own sadness. I have been lucky in that my sadness has never been so deep, nor my shadows so dark, that I didn’t have an idea of how to overcome them. Seeing a man like him pass in this way shows me what my life could have been. Shows me what might have happened if things were different.
It also reminds me that one of the greatest comedians, a craft I myself attempt to practice in my own way, has just fallen. It’s emotionally profound on a level that’s hard to articulate.
I don’t often ruminate on the dead. At least on here. I recognize those people who have passed on before me, related or not, and I attempt to pay them their respects. For me, however, this is very much a silent recognition. That’s a personal choice; I don’t feel that anyone who verbalizes there memorials is somehow “doing it wrong”. I just feel that such recognitions are a private sort of thing, and I’ve felt no pressure or need to make it otherwise. Maybe this is the start of breaking that trend. Maybe this is just a moment where I need to grieve a little bit over the passing of a personal hero. Maybe I just needed to express to the world that I understand. I don’t know. It was just in my heart and head, I felt I needed to say something. So here it is.
In either case, I’d like to hail and salute the life and soul of Robin Williams. From his work with Charities to his appearances in USO shows, he was a man who made his life’s work creating laughter. From What Dreams May Come to Patch Adams, he helped people gain a touch of introspection. It seems in death, he may even help some part of the world take a closer look at depression and suicide. He was an inspiration to many, myself included, and he changed the world for the better. I hail a man of brilliance, passion, and depth, whose life meant so much to so many.
May your soul find the destination it seeks, and you find the laughter you have certainly earned.