The passing of Robin Williams has hit me hard. It is only the second time that someone with celebrity status has died and I've been teary. The first was a few months ago with Maya Angelou.
As some of you know, I have no use for the concept of celebrity: the character of a person always trumps fame and popularity. But even though I knew Williams because of his movies and Angelou by her writings, I was always more impressed by their strength of character. And for me, that is what made them worth paying attention to.
I don't believe that Robin Williams' death was tragic. Yes, it is a loss for us, but I believe it was his time to explore the next phase of his journey. The man, this wonderfully irreverent being, was filled with intelligence that was tempered by love and kindness. I do believe that depression could have played a part but am highly cynical of our culture when it speaks of depression. I believe in life experiences and some of them are simply different. I believe in the few who are here on earth and are 50 years ahead of their time. They hold a brilliant light which is a combination of intelligence and empathy...greater than a compassionate heart. With that, in addition to joy and sadness, there is an isolation that is deeply felt and is carried. It matters not how many loving people surround the person. They will feel like an alien at times.
Human experience is such that we simultaneously all fit and don't fit. We are all the same and all unique. We can all (if we allow ourselves) feel deep isolation. It is the human condition.
Within that, there are a few who feel it more acutely than others. And I abhor the swarms of voices that clamor "depression, depression, depression". Americans are so reactive and honestly, most times it makes my head want to explode. I believe there are many reasons for depression, one which is the by product of being born ahead of your time. Hence, sometimes treating the depression is simply putting a bandaid - a quick temporary fix but it does not do much to alleviate the suffering of who immerse themselves in our world and live extraordinary lives.
We are quick to grasp at solutions in a futile attempt to make sense of life and sometimes, things just are what they are. In our world, our universe, there are more questions than answers. And guess what? That really is okay.
Everyone life is different. There is not one ideal path. We all have our wounds, our scars, our demons. And we all have our journey, specific to each one of us.
from Dead Poet's Society (the first Robin Williams film that branded its mark upon me):
John Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, [imitating a goat] "that's baaaaad." Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
And this...definitely this:
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
(photo taken in June 2007 in NYC)