Robin Williams is dead. More importantly, he lived.

We often miss the deep back story if it has not been shared with us. Every person on earth has a back story.

“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.” ~ Mark Twain

*****

“O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.” ~ Walt Whitman

*****

“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?”
~ Robin Williams as the character, John Keating in the movie: “Dead Poets Society”

*****

The Captain cannot now rise up.  But can he not?  Perhaps he learned things that could not be unlearned, thus taking him down a dark corridor previously traversed by Ernest Hemingway, whose death many have tried to explain, but most done with pathetic misunderstanding.  I cannot always fairly be the judge of what depression truth and knowledge will bring upon another.  I suspect Robin Williams had a profound understanding of things far more complex and much deeper than many people can even imagine.  Death is a part of life, and while death may end a life, it does not negate it.

I do feel Whitman’s poem (posted above) was used quite powerfully in “The Dead Poets Society”, a performance given by Williams, like so many of his other performances, so close to his awareness of circumstance.  In the story, he got through to a small group of young men, but in doing so, fell victim of the narrow-minded bullying hand of “status quo”.

In real life, Robin was loved by millions.  He was a masterful wit and performing artist.  But was he really only understood by few?  Some have said of genius that it is perhaps entirely understood by nobody else living.  While I can presume why it could be said, I do not entirely believe it so.

And to some degree, that is also fair to say there has been a great deal of misunderstanding about lots of bright people, particularly of the philosophers that gave birth toThe American Revolution.  In some ways, it was possibly often best to not expect the masses to grasp the depth of the tyrannies you oppose and why you opposed them, but to just listen enough to get a feel for what you’re about–that, at least for a bit, so that some of the good you intend to be a benefit to them might shine through.  But what is kept from them intentionally will not be heard.

The privacy desired by any man so much in the public eye is often filled with trouble, just as are the very reasons he would want to be allowed some private thought.  I will not likely to ever fully understand why Robin chose to end his story as he did, but it isn’t my place to know it.  Except for one thing, and that I can be brought face to face with the sobering concept that some things can seem insurmountable even at, and possibly because of, levels of extreme brilliance.  I do not necessarily always hold with Phil Donahue’s explanation that: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  While it is permanent, other than the permanence of it, no other solution may ever surface.

So often, Mr. Williams spoke out against tyrannies that suppressed the very thinking of people in such a way that it would suppress the right of self determination about ones own private life and behavior.  He was against suppressions that harmed people due to the power of largely accepted dogma and narrow-minded traditions.  And when he did so, he also felt the ridicule of the bullies who oppress others with their powerful myths.  So, we must suspect there were times, not at all unlike the times many of us feel so overwhelming, that we have to keep something inside sometimes that by being kept inside, makes us sick because of the poisons in it.  Perhaps he found something in common with another great wit and deep thinker:

“Death, the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the erring, the forsaken, the old, and weary, and broken of heart, whose burdens be heavy upon them, and who would lie down and be at rest.”  ~ Mark Twain

Robin Williams will be remembered for so many things he did, and for things he said.  But what we will not generally remember en masse will be the deep thoughts he held that remain now forever unsaid.  And some of those who remember, will from time to time…rise up.  If that is not true, it will be a pity.

“If a group of people hear a tree fall in a forest and nobody talks about it afterward, how do we know that anyone heard it?” ~ Matthew Stewart, p 34, “Nature’s God–The Heretical Origins of the American Republic”

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tom Quigley on August 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Van: An outstanding tribute! — tq

    Sent from my iPhone

    Reply

  2. Posted by Wayne Casasanta on August 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Life is full of “highs” and “lows,” clebrations and discouragements, all of which can seem overwhelming at times. I find comfort in knowing and believing Jesus and His promise to “Never leave us or forwake us.” We do not have to feel alone, when we know that God loves us and is always with us to provide His strength and support, no matter what happens in our lives. We are precious to God. Do not ever think that no one loves you or cares. I love the hymn, “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus.”

    Reply

  3. Posted by Betty on August 12, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks, Van !

    Reply

  4. Posted by Rhonda Amick on August 13, 2014 at 1:26 am

    When I first discovered the genius of Robin Williams I realized that I was so delighted by his talent because his talent reminded me of my brother Van’s talent. Van is also a genius, an actor, a writer, a humorist, but Van has enjoyed, and been saved by, the awareness of the vast amount of love for him by his family and friends.

    Reply

  5. Oh Van, I chose not to read this post until I had a quiet time to absorb your profound words and they are indeed profound. Life is full of mystery and people are so much more complex than many even want to contemplate. I think you are one of those special people, who despite your witty exterior, is prepared to go the extra mile to look at life and death and human actions in relation to them with a deeply layered compassion and courage. For all that, i say thank you with tears

    Reply

  6. Posted by Frances on August 17, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Van, I read this earlier today and thought you and those who responded had said it all.
    Tonight I read that he (Robin Williams) was in the early stages of Parkinsons Disease. Indeed, it was not something that would go away, or that he would get over. Enough to depress anybody. Some people see rough spots in life as potholes and others see them as sinkholes and are consumed by them. We don’t know the depth of his pain or what drove him, so to those who would, judge not. Just celebrate his life and his body of work and be glad that you had the pleasure of “knowing” him and witnessing his genius while he was still with us. R.I.P.Robin

    Reply

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