Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You're the Shepard

Like everyone else, I’m dazed by the loss of Robin Williams. Social media does a lot of things well, and a lot of things have room for improvement. But it’s hard to say it does anything better than react to the loss of a beloved figure. The fact that Williams’ was as cherished as ever, even though his work hasn’t been up to par for years, is absolutely beautiful to me. But do yourself a favor, and catch his guest appearance on” Louie” from 2012.

I have, as I’m sure you do my favorite Williams’ roles. John Keating, Sean Maguire and Adrian Cronauer were three iconic roles. That’s three iconic and career defining roles. Three old friends I could easily spend a Saturday afternoon with. The great teacher I wish I had, the therapist that I really connected with that never came along and the best morning DJ to ever walk the earth, who taught me everything I ever needed to know about the Vietnam War.

I’ll quote them often and thanks to Williams, I’ll always remember my father saying “shazbot.” But I’ll also always remember how I felt yesterday, when I heard the news of his passing and how he passed. While so many like to accuse a suicide victim of taking the easy way out, I just don’t see it that way. Williams’ suicide brought back a lot of darker memories for me. I’m reminded of a period of my life, from probably 12 until 22, when the same option was very much in play. I’m thankful that I received help and never went through with any attempts, and I’m mindful that the darkness of depression is always closer than I like to admit. Like the fact my daughter posted on Facebook a year or so ago, “you are never more than 10 feet away from a spider.”

I understand that for me, depression is probably never more than 10 feet away, and I have to remain vigilante to keep it at bay. I haven’t had those kind of thoughts in nearly 10 years, and I’d like to believe I never will.  It breaks my heart that Williams fell victim to his. Last night I was online looking for my favorite Robin Williams moments, and came across his appearance on “Inside the Actors Studio.” He was brilliant, but I distinctly remember feeling that I was watching a tortured man on that stage. He was manic. I heard that a member of the audience was hospitalized due to a hernia sustained from laughing during his interview with James Lipton. I don’t doubt it, and based on her laugh, I think I know who it was. At least I remember the laugh. But Williams’ entire interview, and it turns out his life, make me think of “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson.

“Now there’s some sad things known to man, But ain’t too much sadder than, the tears of a clown. When there’s no one around”

What has been made most clear to me, since hearing of Williams death, is how powerful social media can be. I found myself thinking, as everyone rushed to share their sadness or their favorite Robin Williams moments and expressed more compassion and kindness than social has ever displayed; what if we did this more often? What if, instead of waiting until Facebook reminds us of birthdays, we occasionally just told our friends and family how we feel about them? It’s naïve, simplistic and maybe even immature, but screw it. Maybe choosing to be kind over being cool could help someone out on the day where randomly hearing something kind could make all the difference.

Because you know what?  John Keating was right when he said, “no matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

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