What happens is that you’re standing at the cold iron rail on the Golden Gate Bridge looking down at the mesmerizing ripples of water. Or, there’s the metallic ting of the gun barrel; so tantalizing in your mouth. And in this moment you really do believe it could be that easy, like turning off the switch of the bedside lamp when you go to sleep. The steady, rhythmic binary of night and day. It could be over, you think, that baffling discomfiture, the gnawing agony of unknowing, the clueless mystery that is your depression, a black hole that sucks in everything, including any glimmer of light. If you are lucky it is in this moment when you experience what Eckhart Tolle calls an ego collapse. The building is razed. Not even the foundation remains. And what you are left with is a gaping pit and a pile of smoldering bricks.
I don’t post obituaries. And this is first time I have ever led with a photograph that was not taken by myself in a moment of revelatory sartori. But this is an exceptional moment. Please excuse the diversion. The transition of Robin Williams from corporeal form into mythic mist has been, for me, a coaster ride through the land of sadness, empathy, confusion and joy. I am reeling.
So you’re there, in that spot. With a bottle of pills and the whiskey jar. The gleaming .38 with a barrel like a drinking straw. A mottled jade ocean eight-hundred feet below. It really does seem like the answer, because, let’s face it, it’s the only act you can take into the unknown future that is sure. It’s the ONLY act whose result you can predict with any clarity. Anything else would be terrifying. Life, in this moment, is so much more terrifying than death.
Your delusion, though, is that you are utterly alone in this and that no one wants to hear about your pain anymore. Your mistake, your precious, childlike error, is not that you believe you aren’t loved, but that you are unlovable, and undeserving of joy, of sweet gentleness and ease. For, when have you ever felt that? Because this began when you were a little boy, a terrified man-in-the-making, coping the best way that you could with what appeared to be such a cruel and heartless world, and the sense of alienation, the strangeness you feel, the conclusion that you have to do it all alone, accumulates like thin layers of lime forming stalactites, sharp as dragons’ teeth, hanging above your bed at night where you lie in the dark unable to sleep because you just don’t understand who you are. Well I will tell you. You’re a light house. You’re a star. You’re a lantern filled with God’s kerosene, running on empty because you just never found the valve that let’s in the fuel. And that bone-shattering tug of a finger promises to hurt just briefly, just that one last blinding flash of pain, you think, and then no more.
If you only knew how much you are loved. If you only KNEW how much you are loved, you would gaffaw. You think you’re going to save us from yourself, that you’ll spare us your agony any longer, too. But you see, my love, it’s not your death that will spare us, it’s your living. It’s your life. You are here to save me. But you don’t see that yet. Stay awhile longer and I promise you that you will.
I cannot fathom this Robin. You gave and you gave and you gave. A billion smiles. More. The joy you blessed us with was like an ozone boost that will sustain the atmosphere of us, that did sustain us, through those many tough years between Mork & Mindy and The Fisher King. You were the Hitler of laughter. That joke for you, friend. You did so much more good in this world than he did evil. And I did not have a chance to tell you how much I love you until now.
Captain, O 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.
~ Walt Whitman
Forget about the Death of Robin Williams. It doesn’t exist. Remember the birth of him. Of all of them that couldn’t make it in this world of illusion. They were born! They were here! They graced us with their genius and their beauty. I sound my barbaric yawp.
(Photo by Jake Chessum)