Robin Williams: A Tribute
By Jose Mario De Vega
The meditation of the wise man is a meditation not on death, but on life. — Baruch Spinoza
Last August 11th, the great actor and comedian, Robin Williams died to the shocked of the world!
It is a world that cannot believe that one of the happiest men on this planet has decided to go and did it in such an unexpectedly way and utterly abrupt manner!
How could he do what he did? What led him to decide what he decided?
Nathan Feiles in his article, “Why the Death of Robin Williams Is So Hard to Accept”, PsychCentral, August 20th had offered the following incisive analysis:
“We could all speculate on the underlying issues that led to his suicide, but any explanation would only assist in helping us deny the reality: Robin Williams had a deeply suffering part of him, and he chose to end his life.
“This leaves a lingering question (among many others): If Robin Williams — who appeared to be the master of summoning joy — couldn’t find some element of joy worth remaining alive for, what does that mean for all of us? What are we all striving for if the man who seemed to successfully live life on his own terms couldn’t be satisfied enough to keep living?
“The answer first takes recognition of a notion that I found difficult to come to terms with: we didn’t know all of Robin Williams. At times, it may have felt like he let us in to his deepest childhood and adult states of emotion. However, there was more he didn’t let the world experience (possibly a part he wanted to hide from, as well, considering his multiple addictions). He was a great actor and embodied many fantasies for many people. But this is also a man who suffered greatly, even if we may never know what his demons truly were.
“For me, the reason his death is so difficult to take is because I wanted to believe that what we saw of Robin Williams was in fact who he was. And really, what he gave to us was still part of him. He brought life to these characters through parts of himself. And was so convincing in these roles, that it became easy to feel that Robin Williams was giving his full self to the world.
“But in the end, we’re reminded that that’s what we saw on screen. Characters. Showing the world only what the character was meant to show. Sure, they were parts of Robin Williams, but they weren’t all of him. It’s hard to juxtapose these beloved characters portrayed by Robin Williams with the depth of darkness that remained mostly hidden from our view.”
Robin Williams who played Patch Adams in the movie of the same title uttered the following lines:
“Death. To die. To expire. To pass on.
“To peg out.
“To push up daisies.
“To push up posies.
“To become extinct.
“Curtains, deceased, demised, departed and defunct.
“Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring.
“Dead as a mutton. Dead as nits.
“The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep.
“God’s way of saying, “Slow down.”
“To check out.
“To shuffle off this mortal coil.
“To head for the happy hunting ground.
“To blink for an exceptionally long period of time.
“To find oneself without breath.”
The Greek philosopher Epicurus famously stated: “Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.”
What is death and why are we so concern and worrisome about it?
Hence, we return to the one of the most perennial philosophical questions of all time: what it is about death that makes us conscious of it? Why do we fear death and why it is that we do not want our love ones to die?
Professor A. C. Grayling said that:
“The fundamental question is how to deal with others’ deaths. We grieve the loss of an element in what made our world meaningful. There is an unavoidable process of healing — of making whole — to be endured, marked in many societies by formal periods of mourning, between one and three years long. But the world is never again entire after bereavement. We do not get over losses, we merely learn to live with them.
“There is a great consolation. Two facts — that the dead once lived; and that one loved them and mourned their loss — are inexpungeably part of the world’s history. So the presence of those who lived can never be removed from time, which is to say that there is a kind of eternity after all.”
Interestingly, Robin Williams (again to quote from the said film, Patch Adams) said these moving and passionate words in addressing the board/panel of doctors:
“What’s wrong with death, sir?
“What are we so mortally afraid of?
“Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity and decency and, God forbid, maybe even humor?
“Death is not the enemy, gentlemen.
“If we’re gonna fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all — indifference.
“Now, I’ve sat in your schools and heard people lecture on transference and professional distance. Transference is inevitable, sir.
“Every human being has an impact on another.
“Why don’t we want that in a patient/doctor relationship?
“That’s why I’ve listened to your teachings, and I believe they’re wrong.
“A doctor’s mission should be not just to prevent death, but also to improve the quality of life. That’s why you treat a disease, you win, you lose.
“You treat a person, I guarantee you, you win, no matter what the outcome.”
I am one of those people who up to now have yet to accept that this great actor is no more.
It is my take that when we say that we already accepted the death of a love one, we are not telling the whole truth, for we are lying (to the teeth) to ourselves. For the sad truth is the brutal fact that we merely accepted the lost or the passing of a love one — in a sense. We were just compel to accept, by the force of the reality that a love one is already gone, but the ultimate acceptance that they already died will only dawn upon us — ironically — on the very day we die ourselves.
For “it remains true that we never quite get over the sorrow caused by losing those most loved; we only learn to live with it, and to live despite it; which — and there is no paradox here — makes living a richer thing.”
Perhaps, one of Robin’s characters is correct when he says that: “You don’t know about real loss, ‘cause it only occurs when you loved something more than you love yourself.”
Now, whether it was the “dark side” of Robin Williams who kill himself or one of his characters; makes no difference to me! For in truth and in fact, what he did to himself will not diminished nor will it shatter his legacy, greatness and humanity!
May you live forever, Mr. Funny Guy!
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Philosophy and Social Science lecturer
Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Unibersidad de Manila
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