Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

I didn’t know Robin Williams any better than you did. A man is his work but he is more than his work.

By every account I’ve read and heard personally, Robin was a generous and kind man. Despite his meteoric rise, he remained approachable and those who had the good fortune of making contact felt richer for the experience. It was more than entertainment.

Yes, I didn’t know Robin. When I was with IDT Entertainment, he was the guest of honor at the Christopher Reeve Foundation’s annual dinner, which we co-sponsored. I had a reserved seat at a table in the front of the room, but I didn’t attend because I’m apt to find any and every excuse to not attend parties, so I missed him and had to settle for stories and selfies-with-Robin from my colleagues the next day.

I knew of Robin’s close friendship with my pal Harlan Ellison, so I considered Robin a fraternal cousin. Harlan is one of the few individuals I imagine whose mind and wit are as quick as Robin’s was. They were like Castor and Pollux, just separated by a generation. Harlan was certainly enchanted by Robin, and a phone call from him comes to me now in evidence of this.


“Okay. So Robin just got off a plane in Switzerland and he immediately phoned to tell me this joke he wrote on the tarmac. Ready?”

Harlan proceeded to share a joke about Jesus and Judas at the Last Supper and nuanced the ending precisely as I imagined Robin might have. It was a very good joke.

So I didn’t know Robin, but I felt like I did. We all felt that way. That’s what happens when someone that public is so warm and witty and seemingly fearless: we fool ourselves into thinking we know them, or very much want to.

At The Times of Israel, the headline reads “Honorary Jew Robin Williams, 63, Found Dead.” I’m sure the Catholics and Buddhists and everyone else are claiming Robin for their own, too. Everybody loved him, except for the Scientologists, who he compared with Enron employees. “The [Enron] employees being led on at the very end while the executives were selling stock like crazy was like people on the deck of the Titanic saying, ‘We are fine, and we are booking passage for the way back.’ Enron Hubbard, the church of profitology—aliens came to this planet with the idea of selling energy. It's almost like, ‘From the people who brought you the S&L. bailout.’ It's a similar school of investment. How do you make money from a loss? You hide it!” (New York Times Sunday magazine, Feb. 17, 2002).

Yes, Robin Williams had the perfect recipe, that rare blend of ingredients we find impossibly attractive in a fellow human being—humor, wit, warmth, generosity of spirit, endurance... Sadly, his endurance only went down so deep. Those who burn so beautiful and bright have a tendency to snuff out the flame before the rest of us think they ought to have, or had a right to. And that’s selfish on our part, not theirs.

Our job—our only one—is to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is. No need to judge the pain threshold of our fellows.

So goodbye Robin. You were excellent.


M. U. said...

Well said Mr. Meth.
Is our job - our only one - to help get through this thing, or also, to help others through their thing, whatever that might be?

Silverlion said...

I've suffered depression most of my life, but it became more intense in the last decade and a half.

I can only feel sorrow for those who suffer as I do, and who the illness lies to so much they cannot escape the pain.

Losing anyone to depression is a tragedy.