People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel
~ maya angelou
i'm standing here cycling through the many ways robin williams made me feel.
and i keep coming back to one that has been true for years: awe.
when i was much younger, it was enough that he was outrageously funny, in a runaway high-speed train sort of way. i mean, i laughed at the humor in his standup operatics (you absolutely cannot call them "routines"), but it was the delivery ~ the topical theatrics, the manic digressions, the painfully profound wisdom, and the nuclear thread fusing them together ~ that dilated your brain.
even back then, i didn't think of him as a "comedian." the word is too small to describe what he did. and though the G-word is overused and underdelivered, robin williams was a genius of some sort. "mind-bending," maybe. or "effortless" or "profane" or "pure" or some other word that escalates "genius," because that word isn't big enough, either.
that's what we saw onstage or onscreen. a preposterous expression of writing and stagecraft and camera work and editing and a thousand other details. it was like watching a fiercely intelligent blowtorch.
behind the scenes, maybe "distraught" or "stricken" or "broken" was more apt.
as the years swept by, i thought williams' best performances were when he wasn't being funny. the inexorable craft he demonstrated in moscow on the hudson. the agony of the fisher king. the vulnerability in dead poets society and good will hunting. the rage of good morning viet nam. and what dreams may come...that one still leaves me, uh, emotionally compromised.
he had the benefit of brilliant writing in those roles, but it was the all-in fearlessness he brought to them that will always stay with me.
i was stunned the day i heard robin williams had died. i knew he had brawled for years with depression ~ but i guess i thought that fight was behind him. then i read he was in the early stages of parkinson's disease. it's tempting to write, "...and it all made sense." but it didn't. not really.
no more so than anything else in this life.
today, the shock is wearing off.
but sense of loss rolls on.
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
"To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?'
"Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on ~ and you may contribute a verse.
"What will your verse be?"
~ from dead poets society
|his was one hell of a verse...|