I’ve been a bit annoyed with myself over the last twenty-four hours. After all, we don’t know celebrities. We might think we do because of what we see of them in the press or in their work, but we don’t know them personally. They aren’t our friends. So why should it physically hurt when one of them passes away?
But that’s where I found myself last night. In actual, physical pain because of the passing of Robin Williams.
I have a love/hate relationship with his work. A love relationship in that I love it. What better film could there be out there than Dead Poet’s Society? It helped mold, in my own mind, the glorification of a field that I would eventually pursue, and adore, because of that glorification.
But a hate relationship in the way it made me feel things that I didn’t always necessarily want to feel.
I remember I was watching a movie with TJ, and I told him that it was painful to watch a Williams’ character get hurt. It was like watching a dog be kicked or a child’s heart be broken. The pain bled out of his eyes and puddled onto the floor, a reflection of the frailty of the human race.
Whenever I would watch one of his movies, I would have to consciously remind myself that it was acting — it was a movie — it was fake. To allow myself to fully live in the moment was too much. Art was too close to life. So I kept it at a distance.
But then when you learn of his battles and his wounds, you realize that sometimes art isn’t fake. Sometimes it’s the only way we have to show what is real.
To me, Robin Williams represented the innocence of humanity. The part of us that is raw and open and incredibly vulnerable. And that vulnerability is a great gift bought at an even greater price.
And it makes me wonder — perhaps we do know celebrities more than we think we do. Perhaps in their art, even when playing a character, we are seeing into their depths and we are feeling their pain. Perhaps each character is just a representation of one tiny part of the soul. A small glimpse into the magnanimity that makes up a person.
The innocence we saw cracking in the eyes of his characters taught us that innocence exists. And I pray gives us courage to live it in our lives. Even though it hurts. Even though it’s painful. Even though it’s crushing.
Surely he wasn’t perfect. With his demons, I would surmise that he wasn’t always easy to love. But he perfectly held up a mirror to our world and showed us what comes when the heart breaks. Our culture will be lesser because of the loss of that mirror, but I hope its lasting reflection can teach us all to listen to the pain beneath the surface, to search out the battles that are hidden, and to protect that innocence when we find it within ourselves and within others around us.
Perhaps being a mirror was too much for one person to handle. Perhaps the cracks from our shattered world were too much to withstand. Perhaps empathy can sometimes crush.
Depression is a real disease. Suicide is a real threat. There is help. Out of all of the lies depression feeds us, the greatest lie is that it is truth and it is real. You don’t need to feel the hope. You just need to convince yourself that it is possible. Reach out and seek help. Suicide doesn’t end pain. It just passes it along.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Dead Poets Society
“You don’t know about true loss because it only occurs when you love something more than yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody so much.” Good Will Hunting
” You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Robin Williams