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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Shazbot


Starting in 1978, the class clowns had fresh, new material. That is, certain kids were handed popularity on a plate. The reason? They were able to imitate Mork from Ork.

Marty was one of those kids in my school. He was one of the fortunate ones that was able to deliver a well-timed Shazbot or Nanu Nanu, rendering the rest of us in giggles.

Each week Marty would have new material and we, his audience, paid close attention. He could deliver the lines and could match the frantic, manic style that marked Mork’s behavior.

It was a good time to be a class clown.

....

So, then we have Robin Williams, the person. He had his addictions during the show, but we kids didn’t know any of that. He had his successful movie career, and a long period of being sober. More recently, it seems depression took hold of him.

In the most recent years, he didn’t look very comfortable. In live situations and as a guest on TV shows, Williams has been coming across, to me, as a bit nervous and unsure. It was almost as if he wasn’t certain how to be funny anymore, and was trying to imitate a younger version of himself - an impossible task.

He didn’t look comfortable in his own skin, he seemed a bit out of touch with the pulse of “kids these days,” and seemed to be having trouble aging gracefully. Watch some of his most recent appearances and look beyond the jokes to see someone in pain.

Despite his super success on stage, on TV, and in movies, he found the world depressing enough to check out yesterday, leaving friends, fans, and family to wonder.

With celebrity suicides, it always strikes me as a bit ironic the tremendous worldwide love expressed for them after they are gone. If only we had a mechanism to, say, fake it for them and let them see what they mean to people near and far. It is unfortunate they aren’t around to experience the outpouring of appreciation and kind thoughts. Always a day too late.

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Power of Imagination

This is the best written obit I think can be done for someone’s passing.

It’s a shame that most of us will never have our lives brought to mind, as you have done here with “Mork.”

But you very nicely lend the power of imagination through the experiences of another.

Bye Robin.

 
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Suicide

Very sad.

There are probably many motivations for suicide.

I believe that one of them can be a desire for the type of outpouring of grief that one anticipates will happen after one is dead. Do you know that famous summation of it in that Police song, "Can't stand loosing you"?

"I guess you'd call it suicide
but you don't care
so I won't cry
but you'll be sorry when I'm dead
and all this guilt will be on your head"

It's pretty cartoonish to be sure, and its certainly an unhealthy and immature portrait that the lyrics are creating.

I do wonder however if the highly visible, televised outpourings of grief and belated appreciation can't in some instances also elevate the appeal of suicide, in people who already are searching for something to alleviate the pain in living that they experience. How nice, comforting to think that people will miss us. On the other hand, the high potential for emotional wreckage that is left is not as comforting to contemplate.

Human beings are so complicated, and in need of compassion. Its such a sad topic.

 
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With apologies to Sting

I swapped around the lyrics a bit, by mistake.

 
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This is a lovely post, Chris.

This is a lovely post, Chris. Robin Williams always -when he was not "on"- seemed to me to be in pain. There was always a sadness in his eyes and that seemed to be more prevalent; more difficult to hide -in the last couple of years. But it was always there-just under that brilliant, manic, eager to please facade. Depression is a deadly, life sucking disease that can make even the most intelligent, the most accomplished, the most talented or seemingly happy person reach a point where they simple have no choice but to buckle under the weight of their illness. We look at people - particularly the wealthy or celebrities and think what a wonderful life they have. We look at our friends; our neighbors; our family members and see happy, caring, productive human beings. Any of them can be carrying the enormous weight of self doubt; of self loathing; of total hopelessness.Sometimes there are signs -more often there are not. We only see the aftermath and wonder, perhaps, what would make a person take their own life; how could someone be in that much pain and not have anyone see it? That's the talent of depression-it increases the need to hide our sadness, to put on an even happier facade. It must be exhausting trying to always be the person that people want you to be. You will be greatly missed, Mr. Williams.

 
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Depression

I’ve been thinking and reading about depression for the last couple of weeks after we lost a great one here in Vermont when Cheryl Hanna committed suicide on July 27th. I thought what you wrote was lovely… And… I would guess that Robin Williams most likely knew that he was so loved by so many. If anything, I wonder if that knowledge added to the pain of feeling that he was unworthy of that love. Molly Pohlig wrote an interesting piece that talks about her depression and reflecting on Williams’ death: http://slate.me/VjaqfC

“There were a lot of comments on Twitter about how much Robin Williams was loved and what a shame that he didn’t know it. I didn’t know Robin Williams, but I bet he did know that he was loved. I know that I am loved. Maybe not on a Robin Williams scale, but I have friends and family who would do anything for me, and I absolutely know this. But there comes a point where love does not matter. When things are bad, I don’t care that people love me. All I can see is that I’m a burden, that everything I have ever done is wrong, and that these good people who love me are wrong as well. At my lowest, love cannot save me. Hope, prayers, daily affirmations—none of these can save me. Therapy and medicine are what matter, and those don’t always work either."

 
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We'll never know if it was true

Not to diminish the bleak causes behind this, but if it's true...

Who told him he had to be funny all the time? He really could have been however he wanted to be. Not because he was a Mega movie star, but because he was at bottom a human being too.

More proof, fame is a poison, the uber-trap of ego. How could all that bloat not further a locked-in feeling which accelerates the no other option option

I’m mad at Robin Williams for pushing the one envelope he damn well wouldn’t have wanted pulled on himself.

-
And now the story of the one time I ‘met’ him, and it’s a good one. At least it sticks with me…and I bet it did with him too.

Early eighties, probably just post-Garp…history buffs could date the night easily, it was the opening of the Hard Rock cafe, in San Francisco. I found out the next day that’s where he was headed when we had our moment.

There’s a long of this, but I’m going to cut to the short. Fulton St runs E-W parallel to Golden Gate park traversing its length, and on into down town.

As the gods of comedy would have it, we ended up side by side for awhile, with him all snazzed up in his Range Rover, his wife, I presume, driving, he riding shotgun. I was adjacent, on the back of a motorcycle, a passenger. The bike a small honda street beater, the driver young female, punk, flared hair, surfeit of leather and steel…me, in a tweed coat- my father’s- casual office slacks, adidas runners, slight afro.

The traffic flowed us into tag with each other and the lights. He kept regarding the doofy but rad duo we must have been, chauffeured as he was a few feet away, for a mile or more... He wasn’t making with the jokes…he was serious and observant. Calm. That’s how I’ll always remember him.

 
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If you honestly believe that

If you honestly believe that he "could have been any way he wanted to" you are incredibly naive and uninformed about how depression works. People who suffer from severe depression don't get to be the people they want to be. That's what this disease does- it robs you of the ability to be the person you want to be. Depression fills you with self doubt, with self loathing, with a desperation to do anything, everything to dull the pain and make you feel "normal"if only you knew what normal was. Mental and emotional exhaustion overtakes you when you realize you can't be that person that everyone wants you to be. That person that you want to be. And, sadly, way too many people reach that dark place where they just buckle under the weight. If you haven't lived with severe depression you really don't have any idea what it's like. Nobody gets to choose.

 
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Search for Meaning

Well, I'm probably incredibly naive, and to post my thoughts and recollections here without expectation of being corrected proves the point. I won't post my depression bona fides. My own dark nights, or those of loved ones, or seeing idols like David Foster Wallace or so many of the surrealists suffer the same fate- I'll measure or endure or understand this as best I can.

My impetus behind posting was a nagging speculation. Surely it wasn't to add to the media frenzy. My rumination involved the price and ravages of fame and success. I can't say firsthand how it affected Robin, but my guess is that having been present at John Belushi's death, and riding the roller coaster for so long, he must have known there was a risk that involved the battle between persona and mortality.

You call it a disease in no uncertain terms, but I see that there are aspects which get furthered by causes that at some point are in one's control. Viktor Frankl talks about existential frustration, and writes about how in much of his clinical work, suicides are often predicaments of the human condition, an existential distress, and not mental illness per se.

I've got no interest in a tug of war of words here. I'm saddened too.

 
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Just Sad

I don't know why this particular death has so saddened me.
Robin Williams' work has lifted me up so many times when I was at an end myself. I wish I could have returned the favor.
RIP

 
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"Golden boys and girls all must as chimneysweeps come to dust"

More generally speaking, it is often overlooked that suicide is likely a normal component of life’s experiences. To end one’s life at one’s own choosing should not always be treated as a negative or bad thing to do.

While I imagine depression itself is no bowl of cherries to live with, it is only one of many reasons for a person to end their own life. In fact, suicide may indeed be one kind of a natural conclusion of depression.

Of course, today’s media and social standards sells us so often on the big business of mental health in the areas of pharmacology and mental health institutions. I don’t see the profitability of the medical and insurance establishment holding up well economically if depression was cured…kind of like cancer.

Aren’t we really overselling depression?

 
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Understand their decision to end their life...

Washington Post comment about suicide which I wholeheartedly subscribe to myself…

Alaric Sonne
8/12/2014 11:19 PM EDT
I take issue with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. While they do a great deal of good, helping to spread awareness and providing options for those feeling lost and abandoned, they simultaneously lose sight of their goals. As an institution they are not the authority on individual freedoms, in other words, they have no right to police the subject of suicide and place a stamp of disapproval. There position should be to provide options and support, not pass judgment, which is essentially what they do in much of their rhetoric. As a therapist, I have a legal responsibility to keep my patients safe and acts as their insight and hindsight when they are incapable of doing so themselves. It is my responsibility to lend them my ego in an effort to help them resolve conflicts. With that said, I also have a philosophical belief that no one, not even myself, can forbid someone from ending their life. For those left behind, it feels like a betrayal and they dwell on both the unsaid and what 'should' have happened but did not. That's an unfortunate way to think of suicide, but it is human and emotionally raw. It is completely understandable for people to want to prevent suicide and intervene in any way possible, and I advocate that. However, while you intervene, lend that person your foresight and help them evaluate the notion of taking one's life. And this doesn't mean bombard them with personal judgments and well-placed anecdotes intended to sway them by devaluing the process, rather have them think of options. In many ways, those who end their lives feel as though life is an unmanageable torrent of emotions, and yet, there is an emptiness and ambiguity that plagues them. And, quite possibly, there are others who understand their decision to end their life and they have an innate freedom, an aspect of their individual autonomy, to engage in that process. It is unsettling, but who are we to place measure on their right as a free-thinking person?

 
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Lots of interesting thoughts

Lots of interesting thoughts here to digest.

I think people should be able to end their own lives, in certain situations and with some required steps must one go through. Some time should pass, loved ones should be consulted, and so on. I think it is a bit selfish to check out suddenly.

There are certainly numerous things to be depressed about. The list seems to grow. Wars, pollution, poverty, illness, homelessness, rising prices, lack of jobs, corruption in government, surveillance, the militarization of police, drones, torture, bills to pay, rising taxes, decreasing quality,… and so on. Add to that any personal demons nagging and pulling at you every day and it can seem daunting, unreal, and unfair. It becomes hard to see the point in being on the planet.

Fame can be quite dangerous. The industry that creates it, like the military, likes to break one down and rebuild them into a product, dropping them into an unreality of handlers, makeup artists, agents, photographers, promoters, and so on. The industry likes products that fall neatly into categories they can control and sell, and it is quite easy for one who becomes a celebrity to become disconnected and ungrounded. Many stars end up abusing drugs or alcohol and need to seek help. The industry then adapts their story and sells it again. The recovered star, on a comeback, but it is also unreal. More handlers, legal prescriptions, and quite possibly even more pain as the person behind the celebrity remains unable to escape, or find their way back. I think of Michael Jackson needing to be knocked out to sleep, for example.

So, why are we here? Maybe it is time to ask that once again, and take some time to really think about it. I think I'm here to enjoy my time on the planet, to learn and explore and be the best me I can be. I think I'm supposed to help people, and create things. I think I'm supposed to do my best to be a good citizen, to participate and lend my expertise and assistance where it might be helpful. I'm pretty sure I'm intended to be nice to animals. And, lots of this makes it hard when I think of the list of depressing things I started with. I want those problems solved. I see no reason they can't be taken care of, and we could move on to more interesting things.

Perhaps we are collectively approaching a snapping point, where enough is enough. Or perhaps we'll try to make do with what is presented to us, and not imagine more.

I do recall a snapping point for me, personally, in DC. DC had a high murder rate of more than one a day. It was mostly between people who had issues with one another and wasn't really a threat to me, unless I just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I didn't feel unsafe, but I did think it was a lot of killing.

One day, there was another news report of a shooting. No real difference from others. Someone drove by, shot at their enemy and drove off. One of the bullets hit a little girl bystander and killed her.

That moment, I lost it. I really felt the straw breaking this camel's back. The absurdity, anger, and unfairness of robbing the girl and her family of so much, for no reason, knocked me out. I was profoundly sad, and decided to move away from DC.

It could have happened the week before or the week after. This incident had no special details. Kids were getting killed all the time. And still are.

So, I have rambled on and will pause for now to enjoy the rain.

 

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