Robin, "we hardly knew ye..."

By Beryl Wajsman on August 13, 2014

If he couldn't make it, who could? If he couldn't conquer the demons, how are we to cope? As much as his art touched the millions that loved him, these questions also explain why Robin Williams' suicide touches us all so poignantly.

Williams' battles with depression and substance abuse are well-known. But one does not have to be clinically depressed to empathize with the everyday demons so magnified in illness that Robin succumbed to. We all have them, and constantly battle them.

They come from all the insecurities and challenges of life. Struggles for health; the efforts to mend broken hearts; the work for material sustenance and survival; overcoming loss of those close to us; recovering from betrayals. Robin knew them all, and so do many of us.

The fears they engender haunt us in the black velvet of night. In the stillness, thin rivulets of sweat pour out of us as we seek light in the darkness. Then with morning, we marshal our resolve and carry on for another day. Sadly, Robin Williams decided he had enough with morning's resolve. And his decision will haunt us too.

For part of Williams' genius was that though his art was often confrontational, loud and manic, it was always laced with biting wit, eloquence and brilliance. Yet his eloquence was always expressed from the heart of everyman, with the words of everyman for he never forgot that he was everyman. And that the best he could give was to voice the frustrations and rage of everyman. He stayed true.

So we will reflect on that and be troubled by it. We will be troubled that this special "everyman" seemed to have the arsenal to conquer, or at least deal with, the fears that plague us all. Health, money, status, it seemed to surround him in abundance. And yet, and yet...

There is an old Irish folk song entitled "Johnny, we hardly knew ye..." That phrase, "we hardly knew ye," conveyed the pathos that "Johnny" hadn't lived long enough for those around him to really know him, and also that perhaps they didn't try hard enough. For is not one of life's most difficult tasks to know the heart of a man.?

I remember an interview that Williams gave, it escapes me with whom, where he said his most painful moments in life occurred when those around him - people he was close to or had helped - display ingratitude. The ingratitude of moving away to a sort of benign neglect when he was in one of his black moods. That they only gave him warmth and feigned affection when he played the happy clown. How often have many of us felt that? Felt the need of a kind word or a call from a friend, just to know that there are those around us who care about how we are and not just what we can do.

We all have holes in our hearts. Sadly, Robin's grew too large and engulfed him. He gave so much joy to this world, let us hope that he finds the peace he sought at the end of this passage.

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