Robin Williams – A lesson to us all?

I am amazed at the impact that Robin Williams’ suicide seems to have had on the world. Has any actor’s death ever had such an impact?

Many struggle with the fact that he apparently committed suicide. As somebody who is very familiar with depression and has also been close to suicide, and who just loves Robin Willliams movies, I find this especially relevant.

I realised long ago that depression is not just some ‘disorder’ or ‘brain dysfunction’. What is a ‘disorder’ in any case but a name that reinforces our illusion that we understand the human psyche? Depression is the body’s reaction to a state of mind.

Robin Williams was known for the kind of roles that effectively showed up the insanity of our society. What I see as a central theme in them is both Love – not just another human emotion, but the essence that connects us all – and the extreme resistance our society has towards this very Love.

Is there not a great similarity between what happened to Robin and what happened to the boy Neill who shot himself in Dead Poets’ Society? A boy who had seen that there was another way, but seemed trapped in the insane belief system that denied this other reality? The belief system that we call ‘normality’?

In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck wrote, "It has always seemed strange to me … the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second".

Robin seemed to have had all the traits of the ‘things we admire in men’. It also seems clear to me that the ‘produce of the second’ did not make him happy. My personal feeling is that he simply was unable to reconcile the reality of Love that he knew exists and had been demonstrating all his life, and the very different world he was living in.

Was Robin’s death not perhaps the most poignant expression so far of what he and his directors were trying to get across in the various movies in which he played?

Is his very death not a call to us to re-examine our own obsession with materialism and consumerism, blame and counter blame, and to seek that which connects us all – love?