In a world that sometimes seems to be spiraling into madness, we tend to cling to those who make us laugh. We rally around those that inspire us, who make us feel as though everything isn’t as bad as we think. There is a stigma in world culture that we shouldn’t mourn the passing of celebrities. That with all the horror that goes on in the world, that it’s somehow shameful to cry over a dead famous person. The fanatics call it idolatry, and the cynics call it superficial. After all, there are real heroes and innocents dying every day and they don’t get the same kind of press or attention some stranger who made a lot of money does. And they’re right of course. It doesn’t seem fair that we wail and beat our breast for the loss of a celebrity when a soldier dies for our freedom on an almost daily basis.
But it is fair, because we aren’t mourning the loss of a famous stranger. We’re mourning the loss of an artist. Art is about making connections with people. It’s about inspiring others. Art is about giving people new perspectives and asking important questions. For the artist it’s about sharing a small piece of yourself with strangers. It’s terrifying and exhilarating. Be it through stories or music, canvas or film, the medium doesn’t matter. All that matters is the art, and how we respond to it. How does the art inspire us?
Yesterday Robin Williams died and the whole world seems to have a feelings about it. Naturally, there are those saddened by the loss of a talented man. Of course, there are those who are taking the news as an opportunity to get on a soap box and berate the media and people who express sadness over his passing. One class act news pundit decided it was okay to beat the dead horse (literally) and call Williams a coward for taking the “easy way” out. I won’t even touch that last one except to say that ending your life takes a hell of a lot of resolve (misplaced though it may be) and warrior class of feudal Japan thought it was about the coolest thing you could do next to dying on the battlefield.
As a child, Williams meant a lot to me. Mrs. Doubtfire helped me deal with emotions from my parents’ divorce that I didn’t even know were there. Hook taught me never to lose touch with the child inside. What Dreams May Come played no small part in setting me on the path to my spirituality as it exists today. But probably my favorite moment comes from Dead Poet’s Society in which I learned how to appreciate art.
I never knew Robin Williams the man, but I like to think I knew Robin Williams the artist. It is this Robin Williams that has left a hole in my soul. R.I.P. Robin. I’ll never forget the things you gave me.