I don’t pretend any direct connection or association with Robin Williams. That said, I love to share the story of him buying a ring from my former in-laws, who used to own a jewelry shop on Union Shop which he visited. And I love to hear my daughter’s friends’ stories of seeing him around southern Marin riding his bike on the trails along the bay or standing in front of the Throckmorton Theater. The loss is huge and palpable right here in our backyard—which was his backyard—and, of course, around the world.
This past Sunday I preached a sermon on the creative Wisdom of God. In the Bible, Wisdom is not just a quality. She’s a divine character, a kind of aspect or dimension of God. She appears, among other places, in the Psalms and Proverbs. Jesus ties himself and his ministry directly to Her—“Wisdom is vindicated by all of Her children,” he says (Luke 7:35), counting himself among those children.
Wisdom is the creative and creating energy of God. She represents the sheer joy and delight of creation and creating, as well as the sheer joy and delight that all of God’s children are invited to take in living in and with God’s creation. As indicated by her speech in Proverbs 8, those two words—“joy” and “delight”—are among Her favorites. She finishes her speech there with this warning and promise: “And now, my children, listen to me…whoever finds me finds life; but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.”
The relevance of that teaching, that profound and simple truth, speaks deeply to our world. In Sunday’s sermon I applied it to the violence that we do to each other: the various and horrific armed conflicts and terrorist acts around the world, the violence driving refugees across our—and others’— borders, the hatred directed at others in the name of religion. Mr. Williams’ death, and the circumstances surrounding it, put Wisdom’s warning and promise in yet another profound light.
If anyone embodied and promoted the sheer joy and delight of creating it was him. When fans and critics and colleagues and pundits shower accolades such as “there was no one like him,” he was a genius,” “where is he getting this?,” it’s all true. It’s not overstatement. His ability to create on the spot was a delight to witness. It brought joy and meaning to many of us, over and over again.
If anyone embodied and, in his own way, promoted the sheer difficulty of living life in an imperfect and often brutal world, it was—again—him. Wisdom says, “whoever finds me finds life; but those who miss me injure themselves.” He found Her—that is Wisdom; that is God’s creative and creating force—through his art and his life and he shared it with us in so many fun and meaningful ways. The world is richer for it. And he also missed Her—that is Wisdom; that is God’s life force—and the results of that are tragic. The world is poorer for it.
Mr. Williams’ art and life and tragic death embody, and what Wisdom tells us, is that God is a God of love and joy and creating and that all that pulls us away from that love and joy and creativity leads to injury and separation. Whether it’s the horrible impulse to inflict harm on others that we see in our headlines OR the horrible impulse to inflict harm on ourselves that we so often keep hidden, it’s all horrible. Let us all wake up—to the joy of life and love and creation. And let us all be aware of all that pulls us away from that and injures us. In light of Mr. Williams death, let us all be aware of the depths of depression and addiction that tear at the life force of so many all around us.
To paraphrase Wisdom: And now, my children, listen to me: find life and nurture it always, in yourself and others. When you miss life and the joy and love of life, reach out for assistance and assurance. And and when you experience others missing life, reach out to offer assistance and assurance.
As Mr. Williams’ life’s work shows, and as God’s Wisdom ever knows and shows, life is precious.