Reluctant Townie: Viewing the invisible tears of a clown
Like a lot of you, I was caught off guard by the news of Robin Williams' recent suicide. I usually don't get emotional about the deaths of famous people I don't know personally, but this one hit me unexpectedly hard.
I've read a lot of touching tributes to Mr. Williams' life over the past few days. From people who worked with him and knew him professionally to people whose lives had been touched by a brief encounter or through a personal connection to his body of work.
I can offer none of that. I was a fan of Robin Williams growing up, but not in any life-defining way. His work did not set me on a particular path, and I cannot pretend he was a patron saint of anything in my life.
And yet, I feel a tremendous loss with his passing. As if someone I knew long ago has been quietly subtracted from the storyline. He had a presence in my life; he made me laugh. Even now, I can see his face, his smile — that wide, squinty grin — burnt into my memory like fading film stock.
I think if Robin Williams had died in a car accident, or from a drug overdose, or from your average, everyday heart attack, his passing might have been easier to process.
But it is hard to reconcile the suicide of someone who brought laughter and joy to millions of people. The invisible tears of a clown, now bold and illuminated.
If everything that he had — wife, children, success, fame, wealth — wasn't enough to stem the tide of his depression, what hope do any of us have?
The death of Robin Williams is a potent reminder that not all that glitters is gold, and that no matter how someone appears on the outside, you will never know the internal struggle that drives them. As connected as we are in this modern age of social media and computers in our pockets, none of us will ever experience what it is like to crawl inside of someone else's skin and feel the world as they do.
I get down sometimes. Not sure you'd call it depression, I've never sought a diagnosis. But there are definitely times when I find myself in a mental stalemate, unable to reason hope in the future, overwhelmed by some of the harsher truths of our world and of my place within it. I think anybody who pays enough attention is bound to feel this way, at least in passing.
Over the years, I have developed a kind of mantra for whenever I find myself facing an abyss of pessimism, and I figured I'd share it with you, in case there is anybody out there peering over the edge of that abyss today. I hope it helps:
I am nothing. This is nowhere. My life is but a molecule of a drop of water in an endless ocean of all that is and will ever be. We are monkeys flying spaceships, we don't even know the things we don't know. The world is not a good place or a bad place, it is how we determine it to be. The most beautiful thing in all of existence is happening right now, as is the most heinous. The world is great and the world is terrible. Both are true, and both are fabrications. Which will I choose to see?
Ego is folly. Nothing I do today wil be of any consequence to human beings walking the Earth in 500 years or 500,0000. Nothing that I accomplish in my lifetime will be taken with me into death. Wealth, accolades, respect — these have functions in the day to day, but death will come for me the same as it comes for kings and peasants. It is an equalizer for all of human experience. There is no need to rush toward it, and there is no need to fear it. It simply is, as the world is, as the universe is, so am I, and so one day I will no longer be.
I choose to find comfort in my anonymity in the grand scheme, I choose to embrace my position as a molecule of a drop of water in an endless ocean. What can be expected from me? I cannot control chaos, I can only pass through it. My duty is to the people in my life whom I can touch. Do good, be good, fill yourself with it, because the alternative is ugly.
I will do my best to enjoy the beauty of this world while I am in it, and to soak in as much of the music of mankind as I can possibly hold. Because even when I can't hear it, I know it's still there, humming quietly in a frequency I cannot reach. One day the music will stop, and as they say, the rest will be silence. But by then, we will all be too far away to hear it.
Ryan Jackson can't help but wonder if all of this goodwill might have been put to better use during the theatrical release of "Jack," and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.