“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular.”
No one can deny his talents as a comedian, but Robin Williams was so much more than that. The emotional outpouring from showbiz types consistently highlight just how selfless and generous he was. When Norm Macdonald was just some “punk kid from rural Ontario” making his first appearance on Letterman, Robin Williams spent half an hour with him to calm his nerves and help him laugh. “It was like a dream, because no one else was there. No one.”
Robin Williams gladly and freely flew into war zones to entertain the troops and lift their spirits, though you’d never hear him boast about it. And that’s just the kind of man that he was. Through it all, he never really put himself first. As his greatest strength, this may have also been his greatest weakness.
For my part, as much as I enjoyed his comedy, I arguably enjoyed Robin Williams even more when he took on more serious, dramatic roles. He topped my list of favorite actors and he starred in two out of three of my favorite thoughtful movies. Looking back at some of his most tragic and darkest films, like One Hour Photo and Insomnia, I’m not entirely sure what to think.
“It’s not your fault.”
Robin Williams allowed us to see a calm, but ultimately vulnerable man in Good Will Hunting. The line above was directed at Matt Damon’s character, but we may feel compelled to turn the mirror back on Robin Williams with that same line now. Even though we were aware of the demons that he faced, we couldn’t (or didn’t) really reach out to help him.
“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.”
As a comedian and an entertainer, Robin Williams certainly recognized the value of the arts. Dead Poets Society had a particularly profound impact on me. I may not have ever really explored the dramatic or musical arts for myself, but the creativity of writing professionally–even if I only do non-fiction–lends itself to this connection. Personal expression and philosophy are incredibly powerful and important.
“Our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death.”
Maybe what Robin Williams really needed was a Patch Adams of his own. In taking on the role and responsibility of “the clown” who brings such joy and laughter to everyone else, he also bore a great burden. An unexpected article on Cracked.com explores this connection between comedy and suicide. The person who appears to be the most jovial and most lively on the outside may be suffering the most on the inside.
Mr. Williams, thank you for filling our lives with such laughter, such emotion, and so many tears. You will be dearly missed.