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August 13. 2014: Robin Williams, Rest in Peace

The comedian Robin Williams died a few days ago. Actually, he committed suicide. I guess to say someone died is to indicate that they didn’t take an active role in their passing. But to say someone committed suicide is say that they did take an active role in their passing.

It’s ironic – Robin Williams brought great joy to many, but quite obviously, few if any brought great joy to him. Joy tends to root us, and in fact gives us good reason to keep plugging along. The cliché, “laughter is the best medicine,” might actually have some validity. Many are upset, angry, mortified that this man, who was obviously a gifted entertainer, chose to take his own life.

Sculpture from Fairbanks Ice Festival

My sense is one of relief, for quite obviously, he’s no longer being pinned down by the thick thumb of depression. I mean, why would anyone want that for someone?

It’s a truism that creative people often suffer from depression. Some will argue otherwise. They contend that this may be true of a handful of well-known poets, artists, writers, and musicians; however, it’s just a handful. However, I contend that there are many out there suffering from the same; however, they are not as well known.

The solution to the problem has always been to put a Band-Aid on the wound, that is, drug or hospitalize the depressed so that they either don’t want to or can’t kill themselves. Perhaps researchers might instead attempt to get at the root cause of depression. Might it be that this is genetic? And further, might it be that the chromosomal makeup of those who are creative and depressed be similar? If so, and if this was acknowledged, depression might be less stigmatized.

My attitude about suicide is this: you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Damned if you do. There are some who wrongly contend that if you elect to off yourself that you’ll go straight to hell. (Why this would be, I do not know.) And damned if you don’t. If you fail in carrying out this act, you’ll have failed at doing something you set out to do. Then you have to continue to live with yourself knowing that success in this matter eluded you. Some might say that my viewpoint is that of a cold-hearted individual. I disagree. Rather, it’s the viewpoint of a realistic individual. No one wants to have the stigma of failure on their soul if they’re unable to do themselves in.

When someone dies, people often say “it was their time.” No one says this of people who commit suicide. Rather, they say “it was not their time”; meaning that it’s preferable to wait until one’s called by their maker; this instead of electing to go of their own volition. This shouldn’t make a difference in our attitude as it centers around their decision, but sad to say, it does.
I have no doubt that those who succeed in putting out what Elvis Costello calls “the big light” go straight to heaven. This is not because they’re heroes, but rather because they did something incredibly difficult – that is engaged in an action that superseded the will to live. They are consequently in a place where they have no regrets, and in fact they are relieved to be feeling so much better than previously.

I think that we all need to be more empathetic when we hear about such losses. I know that Robin Williams would not want people to grieve, for this would counter what he was attempting to do, which was simply to make people laugh.

Next: 220. 8/15/14: Lessons Learned: Prep Work