Our greatest enemies...
"To live will be an awfully big adventure..."
- Robin Williams as Peter Pan in 'Hook'
God, that quote is something, isn't it? The line from the book is "To die would be an awfully big adventure." Peter says it to suggest that even a greater adventure lies ahead. At the end of the play and the movie, the above quote is said. Casting Robin Williams as the boy who won't grow up...Why didn't I ever see the magnificence of that until just now?
Grandtots, I didn't know this human. I knew of him. He made me laugh. But something more as well. He was onto something, wasn't he?
Celebrities die all the time. Someone who found their way into the limelight can do so for any number of reasons. They could have met the right people, gotten a lucky break, stood in the right place at the right time. They could be physically attractive, touching upon people's natural longing for beautiful things. Some people get into the limelight through hard work and tenacity, some get there by burning a path through every obstacle, leaving a wake of destruction behind. And some people, some very rare people, found their true selves, who they were meant to be and what they were meant to do very early in life, they held fast to that "spark of madness" and never let go.
Robin Williams was that last kind of rare person that was doing what everyone in the world knew he was meant to do. He was designed by forces beyond our comprehension to make people laugh: to lighten their burdens, to walk out before them and offer himself up in the hopes of providing people a few minutes of respite from sometimes very difficult lives.
I don't think I've ever realized how noble a pursuit that was until just now. How important a thing it is to have people of mirth in the world. Without humour, really think about your days, our lives, the human condition. Humour and wonder is the real difference between children and adults. Without mirth, this world can be undeniably bleak. Thinking about it, that may be my only true virtue - the one from which all other flow - I honestly believe I can find humour and absurdity in just about anything. I can see the humour and absurdity in the death of this good man; honestly, it's like a chapter out of Joseph Heller's Catch-22: to think the man that gave this interview, and said these words (55:10) would eventually turn around and change his mind. It's humbling to think that it wasn't enough to save him. That in the face of depression and despair, one of the greatest senses of humour in the history of the world wasn't enough protection from the darkness within the minds of women and men. Khalil Gibran writes: A sense of humour is a sense of proportion. I couldn't agree more. Death by your own hand seems to me like an over-reaction, a disproportionate response. That's exactly what Robin is saying in his internal monologue in that interview - it's just a drawn out discussion of how excessive suicide can be.
But death is a type of salvation too, I guess. I don't like thinking that it is, but I have an open mind. Gibran also writes: Perhaps a man may commit suicide in self-defense. What if your mind is your own worst enemy? What if your own mind is hurting you? What if it offers you no hope of a better tomorrow? Isn't death, in this conception, protecting you from yourself? I honestly can't imagine it, but I try. I try to be able to imagine the Kobayashi Maru, the no-win scenario, the decision between stepping forward off a cliff or waiting for the flames to burn you where you stand.
But, then again, Jim Kirk solved the kobayashi maru - by changing the parameters of the game. Couldn't Robin have done that - changed his expectations of tomorrow?
When I think of the value of humour in the world, I actually fully understand the outpouring of grief and love at the passing of this one person. By that criterion, the world is measurably diminished by the death of Robin Williams. I say 'measurably' not as a commentary on the intrinsic value of a human life. But rather as an acknowledgement that large swaths of humanity wake and go to bed without ever directly contributing to the spiritual health of their fellow man. I don't lighten anyone's spirit other than my Sheba. Robin Williams did that for millions, including myself. He did it with smiles, with laughs, with jokes and gags. He did it through humour and through drama, filling the air that he passed with passion and joy for life. He did it with ferocity and with meekness, with confidence and humility. He did it selflessly, when no one was watching, when there was no benefit in doing so other than the fact that it might have, for a short while, made the world a better place. One struggles to think of anyone in the public eye whose public virtues are so disproportionate to his public faults. It's hard to imagine many people as uniquely situated at the nexus of talent, goodwill, breadth and depth of work as this man. It would be fine if we only wept for ourselves and for his family, at what is lost from our world with his untimely passing. But it occurs to me that we weep for him as well: for someone who has given of themselves in so many ways, put a memory in so many minds, to die alone. Millions of people would have gone out of their way to sit down and try and talk him out of it. The idea that he died alone leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
When I pictured Robin Williams dying, it was as a very old man, with surrounded by family, with a smile on his face. God above, the man deserved a happy ending.