When we lose a great genius everyone sits up and takes notice but certain ones, when they go, cause the people's hearts to ache in a personal, direct way. It's that way with Robin Williams - why? - because everything he gave was designed to lift the spirits of the listener, the audience. He lived to make people laugh. What kind of insanely great way is that to live? Think about it - you get up in the morning and every atom in you is focused on what you're going to do to make people laugh. And his laughter came with more than just chuckles - like our greatest comedians, he was an educator, an enlightener, a revealer of the human condition. Robin Williams exposed all that is achingly stupid and weak and confused and strong and noble and resilient in our behavior and made it so funny you'd ache with laughter. And then... ahhh, the pain of being a plain old pathetic human has gone away, replaced by the bouyancy of knowing there's a better self to be had. This was his wizardry. The dissection of the life condition of people, let's look at it, analyze it, dice it up and throw it in a blender and see what we got! His speed demon mad man methods were all solidly rooted in a deep understanding of the self and great kindness and compassion. No one ever accused Robin Williams of being a nasty comic.
But that kind of all-embracing understanding of people and of himself, the bare nakedness of it all - it's one scary proposition. Can you turn it off and go out and water the lawn, buy milk and doughnuts? When the mind's racing at 220 miles a second will it just keep going where it has to go on its own? Will there be a brick wall there?
Robin Williams battled depression throughout his life, along with substance abuse - standard fare for that level of artistic genius. He was by personal accounts a warm, kind person who was indeed perfectly ordinary among his neighbors and friends, never acted the celebrity or flounced his ego. Deeply loved by those close to him.
Which is what makes it all so hard.
My all time favorite bit by him is when he sang Springsteen's Fire in Elmer Fudd's voice. Here's a video of that. I just watched it again and laughed, and then, never expecting to, cried.
Goodbye Robin, it's been good to know ya.