Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Phenomenal Comic Power!

...Itty bitty living space.

Yes, the spelling change in the title of this post is intentional. For those of you who don't recognize the title and the first line of this post they combine to make a quote from Aladdin. The genie (played by Robin Williams) is talking about the restrictions on his existence. (The original line is "Phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space.")

The spelling change is a nod to Robin Williams apparent suicide and just how small our worlds can become when we suffer from depression.

In a timeliness that the universe occasionally finds apropos, last night I went to the opening of an art gallery that features artists living with mental illness and forms part of a collective that works to educate, help, heal, and support those with mental illness and the people who love them. In addition they work to educate the general public about mental illness and work to remove the stigma surrounding it. For anyone interested, you can check out their website here.

Of course, when I went to the opening, I had no idea that Robin Williams was dead. It was just what we were doing with our Monday night. Corey was playing music with friends there and I was going to watch and mingle with new people. We had a lovely evening, went for a drink afterwards, and then came home and read the news.

I'm not normally much affected by celebrity deaths. It's not that I don't care, it's just that I don't know them. If I don't know someone personally how can I mourn their passing? Sure, I feel a pang of sadness for any life lost, and even a small sense of loss for their talent no longer being part of the world, but I don't generally get upset when strangers die.

Heath Ledger was probably the last celebrity whose death really felt like a loss to me, which I think was in large part due to the fact that he was only three years older than I am. We would have been in high school at the same time, university at the same time... he played a senior in high school in the movie Ten Things I Hate About You that was released during my senior year of high school. I had always enjoyed his work, had a bit of a celebrity crush on him, thought he was really starting to come into his own as an actor and then... He was dead. That hurt.

Robin Williams' death hits hard as well albeit for slightly different reasons. He wasn't a contemporary that I had a crush on, but he was an actor and comedian whose work I had enjoyed for years. He was always one of my favorite actors. I used to spend hours watching Comic Relief in the 80s and 90s just to see the bits with him, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg. I loved 90% of the movies he was in. If you ever asked me what living famous person I would want to meet, he was in the top five. Now I'll never get the chance.

I suppose the thing that's most striking about Robin Williams' death is the idea that someone who brought so much joy and laughter into the world could feel so isolated and low that he felt the need to take his own life. It's not that I can't envision how someone with so much going for him could be depressed, it's all too easy to see how it could happen. It's just that he brought so much happiness and humor into my life through his work, that it feels like I must have let him down by not returning it.

I didn't really have a master plan for this post. I just wanted to share that I'm sad. That I wish any of us could go back in time and do something to keep Robin Williams from taking his own life... Then again, who knows what demons he was dealing with? Is it possible he's truly more at peace now? Who am I to tell a man to live when he no longer wants to? Suicide seems so wasteful, but I've always thought people have the right to decide when and how they should die. Since I didn't know the man, I'll try not to judge him for how he decided to die.

I suppose the best we can do is to help those of us that remain. Hug your loved ones, be kind to strangers. Do those things every day, and not just because a famous man who we all thought was wonderful killed himself, but because appreciating what you have and trying to share that joy with others is just a good way to be.

Here's the suicide prevention lifeline number for the US:


And here's a picture of Robin Williams as Peter Pan in the movie Hook.  

Second star to the right, and straight on til morning. I hope we'll see you in Neverland, Robin.

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