Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, R.I.P.

It's difficult to wake and learn that another someone who has been part of your life for so many decades has passed away. The reverberations are felt broadly because his countless films have repeatedly touched our lives. Many of these films would not have been the same without his "mad genius."

In the age of instant everything, his imdb.com profile has already been updated. His Wikipedia bio, too. Robin Williams is gone. His creative range was remarkable and he wasn't afraid to try new things.

Good Morning, Viet Nam
Dead Poets Society
Patch Adams
Mrs. Doubtfire
Moscow on the Hudson
Bicentennial Man
and on and on and on...

What would Aladdin have been without Robin Williams as the Genie?


He used to say his Hollywood hero was the late Jonathan Winters Perhaps like Winters his mind was just too hyper-active for a normal existence. Both men had the privilege of making a living in a career that enabled their electric-eclectic hyper-energy outbursts to run rampant and become streaming entertainment. But both struggled at times with who they were. Williams was open about his struggles with mood-swings and depression.

But Robin Williams was not all comic. He gave us serious and challenging performances that connected. It's hard to believe his role as John Keating in Dead Poets Society was already 25 years ago. This passage spoke volumes to me:

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?

And this line was delivered with equal eloquence.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

My kids grew up on many of these films. There's no question this was a normal experience for Gen-Y... growing up with Robin Williams as a part of the family experience. In some ways when a person like this passes, it is a family loss. I anticipate talking with my daughter about this as we watched Bicentennial Man together on more than one occasion. As the ever-living robot who is destined never to die, Andrew Martin asks (after the death of Little Miss), "Will every human being that I care for just... leave?"

Yes, we all must leave one day. That's part of the human experience. So is having one's heart broken.

In 2000 I wrote a journal note about Good Will Hunting titled "Heartbreaking Beauty."  Life is complicated because we're complicated. In the midst of all our challenges we try to give back something good. Robin Williams gave us some of that.... moments of forgetfulness where we laughed and forgot our troubles.... or moments we never forgot because they left an impression on our hearts and memories.

May the broken wings of his loved ones find healing, comfort and hope through the outpouring that washes their way in the days and weeks ahead.

Photo by celebrity photographer Eva Rinaldi, used by agreement with Creative Commons and does not imply an endorsement of this blog by the photographer.

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