Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks for Robin Williams

            Last night the Mark Twain Award program was aired on PBS. This year it was given to Jay Leno. It always bothered me that it was never awarded to Robin Williams who, in my mind, was one of the funniest and wittiest people of his generation. He was a humorist, an actor, a stand-up comedian, and a philanthropist. I didn’t watch the program on PBS, but this morning I came across this blog post that I wrote about a month after Robin’s death, so I decided to post it today, as  little way of saying thank you to his spirit.

            I haven’t written a blog post for a while. Honestly, I didn’t like the things happening in the world, and I found it painful to reflect on them. We have suffered collective loss, and at first I was too close to grief to write anything worth reading. But since Robin Williams’ death, I’ve marveled at the human ability to adjust and adapt.
There’s no doubt that adaptability is one of the great blessings of human evolution, but the next day when I woke up to a world without Robin Williams in it, I didn’t want to adapt. I wished I could stand out in the street and protest, as I did over the Farmworkers Strike, or the abuse of Tibetans by the Chinese. I wanted to have some kind of power to bring him back. But all that was left was adaptability. Sure, I could feel sad, and sad, and sad day after day. But eventually I had to accept, especially in this case, that he chose this absence.
            I went through this to a greater extent when my father died. Not by choice.
            We had stoically nursed him, encouraging him in the smallest gestures: ‘Great, you finished your Jell-o.’ ‘You’ve managed to drink more water today than yesterday, that’s really good.’ But the fact was, though we didn’t want him to be so ill, at least he was with us, and we could love him, and touch him with our love. Then, he wasn’t with us anymore. Grief is a tornado that rips you from your moorings like Dorothy’s house in Kansas, without Oz. It whips you around and shakes you til your teeth hurt. Then it drops you back into your life, and all you can do is ‘adapt’. Get used to it. The world is a different place. Then you have to go back to work. You have to get your car lubed. Pick up the dry cleaning. Christmas saunters in again like a cruel, arrogant creature, red and hurtful as thorny holly. But it doesn’t kill you, and when it’s over you say to yourself, Okay, I can do this. I can keep going.
            The thing with Robin is that he was in a way an avatar of our inner wild child. Most of us tamed our wild child to stay out of the Principal’s office, or to ease up on the spankings (past generation). But Robin managed to feed that genie inside him, the creative genius who he managed to control at times, and sometimes not. And we loved him because he pulled us into his imagination and his lightning fast improvisations. When we watched him or were near him, we lived in that magic land inside of him, the type of place we tamed ourselves away from. It is right that he came to us as Mork, because he really did come from a place few people have ever visited, the world of uncensored, raw creativity. And now there’s no one to take us there, not the way Robin did. Watching him was like a hold-onto-your-seat roller coaster ride of the mind.

            I can’t imagine the loss felt by his family and friends. I mean, if the man was loved by millions of people around the world, people who didn’t even know him personally, how deeply must his family and friends have loved him? We can’t measure these things. No reason for measurement. But love endures, and the whole world will love Robin Williams far into the future. New generations will love him the way we love Charlie Chaplin. These are people who transcend their own lifetime. They live on in the laughter that meant so much to them, more to them than tears.