Robin Williams Inextinguishable Laughter

Robin Williams made a lot of people laugh. But, in the end, it wasn’t enough to fix his inner turmoil. A lot of people are referring to it as darkness, I think this is incorrect. We can’t tell the light without the darkness. We need our darkness. It’s not evil. It’s simply a distinction. It’s one thing to make people laugh about the darkness, but it is ourselves who must stare into the abyss and laugh in its face. Treat it irreverently; for many, they don’t, they treat it like some mysterious Big Other that frames their own vision of reality. That’s why humor is important, it reminds us that nothing is holy, and that’s okay. For me, Robin Williams, although might not take the label ‘hero’, cause I personally think the ideas of heroes limits our own experience of reality through the lenses we’ve been given. He’s the closest that might come to it. His philosophy through acting was one of disrupting power, hegemony, and all around ideology. Many of his roles ‘spoke truth to power’ including: Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society, and even Good Will Hunting on a more subjective level. It’s one thing to become an actor for the sake of acting, and its another to use your gift to transform the fabric of the stage called life.

Laughter comes from the Greek “gelos.” We read the word first in Homer when the poet describes the gods’ laughter as “Asbestos gelos,” “fireproof or inextinguishable laughter.” For Freud laughter was a two-sided coin, in that it established social ties while allow the comic to satisfy repressed desires. In one sense, it’s no wonder Robin felt the need to ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’, mostly due to the characters he chose to portray, those non-conformists who didn’t bend to the whims of an oppressive system, who demanded that compassion be the centerpiece of human interrelations. He even gave his money away to charity, almost making himself poor. I am not trying to make him a martyr. Martyrs and Heroes is simply our repressed desire to not be ourselves and be like others rather than ourselves, something Robin through his characters would not have wanted for anyone. In one sense, he was committed to dreams, to the impossible. To seeing all the muck and the mire of human existence as something to overcome. But for some, this overcoming might need to be overcome through the self. For many, suicide is highly problematic, for some religious, suicide is evil and narcissistic. Suicide for some might just be the form of liberation they need to actually deal with the reality that they were either ahead of their time or before their time. Again, I am not trying to justify anything here, but demand that we see the things we have come to corporately demonize as simply part of our existence. 

In Robin Williams, I almost meet the father I never had. I’m not trying to be extremely sentimental or over-exaggerate his role but the the character he plays in contrast and in relationship to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting was almost a mirror of the father I never had but needed. I had two fathers. One biological who chose a lifestyle of selling drugs over being a father. And a father who was physically abusive and emotionally distant. In cultural anthropology there is a term called ‘fictive kin’; it’s this idea that someone can take on a role in place of what someone lacks. In this case, for example, it would be like Robin Williams becomes the father for Matt Damon’s character and simultaneously validates his existence and absolves him from blaming himself. He becomes what the boy lacks. He dies to his ‘real’ self (i.e., he is a comedic professor of psychology) and becomes what Damon’s character needs. In a sense, he punctures the very reality of the Damon’s character and enter’s into his world, not as a savior, but as a father-figure. 

This is the important aspect of acting, it plays in our fictional mythology but also responds to real life situation. Robin, as a character actor ended up responding to something deep within the human soul. The longing to be held. To be caressed. To be acknowledged.  

His death reminds us of something we already know. The tragedy of happiness. We can’t call what he dealt with ‘depression’, we must refute the need to label it so easily. The opposite of this is a recognition and promotion of the ‘happiness’ industry so prevalent in the world today. As if, one can buy a pill or purchase a commodity and find utopia within themselves. If anything, Robin’s last choice on earth maybe exists to liberate us all from the inebriated desire for utopia. That we can’t ‘always’ be happy, and that’s okay. That consumerism is a lie. Like the bag of Easter eggs that you buy to fill with candy during Easter, you have to fill them with things. Maybe another point of his life is to remind us that filling things hides us from ever dealing with the darkness of existence. 

Robin Williams is important, not just as an actor, but as a beautiful broken human being. His craft. His art. As a person who lived, shat, spit, ate, vomited and got dressed, now returns to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  But he lives on in our memories. He lives forever on our television screens, Eternity exists, not somewhere out there or down below, but in each of our own legacies. What we leave behind is a piece of eternity. Live it well. Rest in Peace, Angel of the Humans. 

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