Monday, August 11, 2014

Farewell, Robin Williams

When I was young, I wanted to become a performer.  And I did, in more ways than not.  I've got a somewhat serious and steady gig these days -- every Sunday morning -- but in my day I was a juggler, a magician, an escape artist, a fire eater.  Truth is, though, each of those specialties was really an excuse to talk.  I have been for most of my life, and still am, a professional talker.

When I was a kid, one of my friends and I memorized every word of Woody Allen's Standup Comic album.  And, of course, I wore the grooves off my copy of Steve Martin's Let's Get Small.  And if you could watch videos of my earliest performances you'd be able to hear the rhythms and pacing of Bill Murray, something I consciously tried to copy.  But hands down, if I could have become a clone of anyone in those days, it'd have been Robin Williams.

I had never seen a comedic brain move more quickly.  (And never did, until I discovered Eddie Izzard.)  So fast.  So smart. A master, a true master. Thanks to my parents I was already familiar with Williams' hero Jonathan Winter, and I admired him tremendously.  But I loved Robin Williams.

This morning Robin Williams apparently committed suicide.  If someone as loved, as respected, as admired, as appreciated as this could give in to the suicidal urge, it is proof positive that that act has nothing to do with those things.  Looking in from the outside it can be so hard to see how someone who has "so much going for them" could find life unbearably painful or, perhaps worse, utterly meaningless. And yet, from this inside, those outside can seem to be speaking another language, or about someone else.

Williams' wife has said that she hopes people will not remember him for the way he died, but for the joy he gave others while he was alive.  I want to remember both.  Because the struggles he faced were real.  His suffering was real.  The depression, and the isolation, and the despair, and the meaningless, and the desperation, and the pain ... these were all real.

Yet so was the joy, and the wonder, and the child-like playfulness, and the intelligence, and the daring, and the compassion (and mischief) you could see in his eyes, and the appreciation of life that poured off of him ... these were real, too. 

And, I suppose, the most important thing to remember is that the were both true.  Those of us who know depression from the inside know it can be hard to see anything else about ourselves at times.  And yet many of us know that there are people who see us and can't believe we're depressed.  Both can be true in one and the same person, even at one in the same time.

So thank you, Robin Williams, for all the ways your life, your gifts, have impacted mine and the lives of millions of others.  You will be missed.  You will be remembered.

Pax tecum,


R.I.P Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 ~ August 11, 2014)

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Shari Wolf said...

Erik... thank you for your musings, about life, about robin Williams... your writing stirs thought and thought is important.
RIP Robin WIlliams, you gave so much!

Lisa Kelly said...

I haven't been this ... affected by a celebrity death in a very long time. Depression is (at least to me) and ugly, and very real part of my life that I fight every day. I can't even imagine what Robin Williams was going through. I don't think I will watch "Good Morning Vietnam" for a good while without breaking into tears. Robin Williams was ... very easily, the voice of my youth ... I was always it seems, watching something with him in it .... he will be missed.

RevWik said...

Thanks, Shari, for those nice words. And I agree, Lisa ... there's something about this "celebrity death" that is hitting me harder than any in a long, long time. Maybe it's because of my attachment to William's work, his raw and vital talent. Maybe it's because it was suicide as opposed to illness or age. I think a lot of folks will be crying a lot over the next few weeks and months while re-watching some of his fantastically funny films (as well as his incredible dramatic work). He did give so much, Shari.

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