I'll Miss Robin Williams
To say that "I'll miss Robin Williams" is perhaps a bit presumptuous since I never knew him. I did meet him once, very briefly, and his taking the time to shake my hand and exchange a few words left a big impression on me. I caught a glimpse of the humble, gentle, and generous soul his friends describe him as, a soul which is obvious in his films and monologues, too. See Patch Adams, The Birdcage, or The Fisher King as examples. His best performances left you with the sense that he understood the sufferings of the marginalized. Maybe this is why I miss him already: knowing I'll never see another of his honest, empathic performances again, ones that convince you, "Yeah, he understands and he cares."
In my exchange with him I think I also caught a glimpse of the cloud that haunted Robin Williams much of his life. If you've ever struggled with depression, you can recognize it: glazed, slightly withdrawn, wanting like hell to engage as a real human being, but also wanting to run and hide. Maybe this is why I'll miss him. We had something in common.
Robin William's depression, by his own estimation, was rooted at least partly in his relationship with his father. His dad was severe and sometimes belligerent. He felt alienated from the kind of loving father he longed for. Robin's own love for kids is a counterpoint to that experience. Interestingly enough, his mentor and comedy idol, the brilliant Jonathan Winters, shares a similar story. Obviously, wounds recognize their kin.
But William's experience of alienation from a father's love was also the crucible for his amazing work. Humor comes out of pain. And he welcomed us into his and said in effect, "This is where we all meet as equals. We are all wounded travelers on a common shore searching for love. Let's laugh at the pain for awhile and love each other."
His humor was a generous gift. I usually came away from his films not only refreshed but also a bit wiser and more ready to live. His talent was rare. There was not only empathy in his humor but also understanding and intelligence about the human condition.
Flashes of revelation filled his best work. This is perhaps the greatest reason I'll miss Robin Williams. His revelations were compassionate and grace-filled. Even William's most confrontational humor was the kind of severe grace one needs to be shaken out of a malaise. His revelations were the beginning of hope because they reminded you, first, that no matter what you were not alone. It meant that he understood you, and the many who laughed understood each other. This is the beginning of healing and transformation, that is, by first seeing ourselves for who we truly are--broken and flawed humanity. Robin Williams helped us "seize the day." He gave us his broken self in myriad acts of grace and redemption.