I don’t know exactly how to begin this post so bare with me…
What I want to speak about is society’s perspective of what constitutes living.
Almost two weeks ago I turned on the news and was shocked to learn that Robin Williams had passed away. For a few moments I couldn’t speak, move or think. How could someone whom I’ve never met move me in such a profound way? Immediately I felt a deep sense of loss, followed by joy when remembering all the great memories he left behind. Each character he played produced their own set of indelible marks on pop culture. Quotes such as “It was a run by fruiting!” (Mrs. Doubtfire); “You treat a disease, you win, you loose. You treat a person, I guarantee you ‘ll win, no matter the outcome.” (Patch Adams); “Oh captain my captain!” (Dead Poets Society.)
My favorite Williams scene, because of its intensity, is from Good Will Hunting. For those unfamiliar with the Academy Award Winning film, a unique therapist, Sean, councils a brilliant but guarded under achiever, Will Hunting. In one tense scene, the cocky student attempts to analyze his own therapist, cutting Sean to the core. After some mental digging, Will narrows in on a painting and connects it with the death of Sean’s wife. Suddenly, the unaffected Sean character snatches the neck of Will Hunting and threatens, “If you ever disrespect my wife again, I will end you. I will fucking end you. You got that, chief?” Wow! The way Robin Williams was able to so naturally switch from empathetic to frightening (see: One Hour Photo or Insomnia) was mesmerizing. On top of his wit and charm, he was a real jewel to the art of cinema.
Watching and listening to the news reports and well-meaning colleagues spouting their condolences to the family and opinions about addiction in society, I noticed a repeated sentiment that his “addiction and disease beat him” and that he was “too young to die.” It was the same rhetoric used to describe all the other Hollywood actors who died of UN-natural causes.
But let’s not confuse “In their prime” with “before their time.” True, addiction is one of the most dire personal challenges faced but we also do not know our future. To assume we can count our remaining days on earth is to say that we can guess the number of grains on the shore. Impossible. George Burns smoked like a chimney but lived 100 years, while Bruce Lee – the epitome of physical condition – died at age 32. We don’t know how long we have in this life just as we don’t know how long William’s would have lived if he had not taken his own life. Perhaps years, perhaps days.
As a society, I think we fear death and see it as an enemy fend off. We see it as the antithesis of happiness, as if merely existing makes one fulfilled. Each of us has a unique talent to enhance world. Jimi Hendrix had music, Bob Ross had art and Mother Theresa had stewardship. Our goal should then be two-fold: discover your passion and use it to improve the quality of life around you.
“The measure of a man’s life and his effect on the world is not based on length but personal connections.”
When I look at Robin Williams-or any person who contributed a lot to humanity but died young – I don’t think, “He died too soon, what a waste!” I proclaim, “That person gave every ounce of talent he had to uplift society while he was alive!”
It’s a hard lesson to learn, and one I still struggle with, but death is not a curse. It’s a reminder to appreciate every moment above ground.
If you have breath in your lungs, a thought in your mind and a beating heart…..use them to find joy! #ConsciousPassion!