There were plenty of shares of news stories this morning in my Facebook feed about the death of Robin Williams. Shares from friends, shares from pages, and shares from media sites. People sharing their thoughts, people sharing YouTube clips, and people just sharing the sad news.
One by one they came in. His death has impacted so many. And when I heard the news I felt like crying but as I was doing the drop off to school and preschool this morning I had to focus on keeping my sons safe. I really felt like pulling over and letting the emotion take over me.
At one stage whilst I was standing in my kitchen making myself a hot drink and sandwich for morning tea I scrolled through Facebook on my phone while waiting for the hot water to boil. Two friends, both of whom are freelance writers for reputable magazines and newspapers, and two people whose opinions about a wide range of topics I respect more than most shared similar comments about his death;
“Good Morning Vietnam. Dead Poets Society. Good Will Hunting. I’m taking the death of Robin Williams unusually hard, and I’m not sure why.”
The second was from my friend Brooke Lumsden who is a freelance writer for Australian Family, Essential Kids, Essential Baby, Fairfax Media, Child (Magazine), Huggies (Online), Mamamia, Five Star Kids, travelmumma, Men’s Health and Women’s Agenda. She also is the creator and editor of the online magazine for kids call Bright Kids Club and you can find out more about her on her personal website It’s Babbling Brooke.
“I don’t remember ever being gutted over a celebrity death before, but Robin Williams has got me.”
She finished up her comment with a sad faced emoticon. And fair enough too; if ever you had the need to use the sad faced emoticon in any situation it would have to be the death of someone so well loved, admired and respected. If you want to know why losing Robin WIlliams has deeply impacted so many people today, just watch a clip like this and see how the world needs more people thinking like how he thought.
Having watched his routines and seen millions of his interviews, I have based a lot of my own thoughts on his. Not just him, but many comedians like him who cut through the bullshit of life and tell it like it really is. But as I wrote on Brooke’s Facebook page this morning in response to her comment;
“Me too. They say the ones who are the jokers are often the saddest people on earth.”
Some of the funniest people are some of the most empathetic. I know you can look at those comedians who challenge the status quo, who make fun of politicians, who call out the religious organisations and their dogma for the contradictions and lies they spruik, and who tell jokes about atrocities and world events that make you shout “too soon” and think that they aren’t very nice people.
But it’s not like that. The world needs more Robin Williams. It needs more people who care about other people. People like him who care so much about the crap that this world dishes out that it consumes them and they turn to drinking or drugs, or both until that kills them*.
Or, on second thoughts, the world doesn’t need people like Robin Williams caring too much and calling out the bullshit. What the world needs is less bullshit. That’s the world that I want my kids to grow up in.
In my Facebook feed I see on an almost daily things shared like;
“If Christianity and Islam are religions of peace, why don’t the extremists amongst them practice extreme peace?”
That is what people like him and Ricky Gervais, Tim Minchin, Wil Anderson, George Carlin, Jimmy Carr, Billy Connolly, David Cross, Larry David, Ben Elton, Janeane Garofalo, Kathy Griffin, Eddie Izzard, Jim Jefferies, Seth McFarlane and Bill Maher are asking in their televisions shows, movies, Facebook and Twitter feeds, and during their stand up shows.
And sadly, although these are some of the most intelligent and funniest people on the planet, it is widely known that many of these people deal with alcoholism, drug addictions, depression, anxieties, and other mental diseases. And that’s because they look at the world for what it truly can be; a dark and sad place. Psychologists will tell you that often those who are are seen as extroverts are often overcompensating for their true introverted personality.
The same it would seem could be said that those who want to bring humour to the world often do so to hide their own pain. When you look at the history of many comedians you’ll see common traits such as them being bullied as a child, being socially awkward, being different to others (homosexual, effeminate tendencies in young males, masculine tendencies in young females, etc.), being shy, being anxious and other types of social ineptitudes.
Robin Williams brought a spark to the world. He brought his A game to every interview and took the interviewer and the audience from A to B via X, Y, and Z when time permitting might have seen the line of questioning get to maybe G at most. Robin William let us escape reality even when he was talking about the harsh truths about reality.
With his impressions, his wide range of knowledge, his ability to pull out a reference from many years ago, and maybe even some jokes from somewhere in the future, he was The Simpsons and Family Guy rolled into one mind, not scripted, but still as animated as those shows and all their tangents and popular cultural references.
That is why this hit us hard. That is why those people I know like Aaron and Brooke and many others who write about the world, the good stuff, the bad stuff, and everything in between, and want to create a better world for their kids, and my kids, and your kids are asking the question;
“Why is Robin Williams’ death hitting us harder than the news of most other celebrities’ deaths?”
It is because when we look at this man, a guy who made us laugh, a man whose net worth is reported at greater than US$150M, and a man who seems to be happy-go-lucky, but sadly wasn’t – and wasn’t to the tune of having a life sadness and depression – we think what hope is there for us when someone like him decides to take their own life?
What hope is there for the average man and woman who do not have 1% of his wealth, 1% of his success, or even 1% of his perceived happiness? Well there is lots of hope for us. Especially since our lives have been enriched by artists like him. Our lives are enriched by those who prompt us to ask questions. Our lives are enriched by those who get us to think.
I just wish that he could have been a better influence on his own happiness.
*Turning to drinking or drugs and having those be the cause of your death is not okay. Please not I was just using irony.
In the US, for support on suicide matters call the National Suicide Prevention Help Line on or go to http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
In the UK, please contact The Samaritans at or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header Photo Credit – Robin Williams by Charles Haynes Flickr