Robin Williams said some of the more important and formative things for me as a young man, either himself or himself through his characters. His honesty, his focus (yes, I call it focus), his speed, his fearlessness, his accuracy, his fluidity, all showed me that a kid others labelled as “ADD” and that “seemed a bit off the wall,” could still fit in, could use that power to create things and moments of meaning, things that affected everyone around him for the better.
I haven’t had time to process until I got home from work today. I’ve felt cloudy about it all day. Robin Williams’ life and, for that matter, his death were never mine to consume. To take and pull meaning from to use for my formation and life, so I have been hesitant.
A friend of mine who teaches ballet once said, “Dance is the art of giving yourself away.” I think all performing is like that. Some people, you enjoy their gifts for an evening, and a few performers give gifts away with such ferocity and sincerity that you are able to keep them your whole life. Robin Williams did this better than most anyone, which is a reason why I think we all feel such a loss, because his gifts were so real and so lasting.
I didn’t realize it until he was gone, and I didn’t think about it in a conscious way for years, but when others told little-kid-me to sit down and stop goofing off, Robin Williams said, “Go for it; don’t just make em laugh, make em laugh till they can’t see straight, seize the day, double down on the funny, and do so in the most sincere way you can muster.”
This weight in my gut comes from a feeling that something terribly important is slipping away from me. That the man who ran the 4-minute mile in comedy is gone. That these gifts and lessons will not last through my transition into adulthood. That I am becoming fearful to crow as loud as I can, and I will never fly.
I thank this man for being willing to give so much and for gathering rosebuds while he could. I hope by giving what I got from him, that I might keep it to give again.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Jodie Wilson