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The Robin Williams tragedy

By now, surely everyone knows that actor and comedian Robin Williams has committed suicide. Certainly, everyone realizes what a tragedy it is as well. How could anyone who made so many people so happy have done such a thing? How could someone with such a profound ability to entertain and also make others reflect on important things (if you've heard him tell the story of The Fisher King you know what we mean) do something so final to himself? Suicide, really, is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

We are not trying to criticize Mr. Williams nor anyone else who has fought the demons which influenced them towards suicide. That we can't understand it perhaps ought to make us all the more considerate of the mind which contemplates such an act. Of all the things a human being might do this, being so very beyond what other ills a man might commit, stops us in our tracks. One can almost understand someone hurting someone else for personal gain or private pleasure. But taking one's own life? It seems about as extreme of a thing as possible to imagine.

Again, we're not condemning Robin Williams or anyone else who's committed suicide. That's not our job, and the very nature of the act appears to us so incomprehensible as may also make it easily forgivable. The trouble is that we can't do that too readily either. We don't want to be so willing to excuse suicide that we might however inadvertently encourage someone else to do it to themselves. We don't want people to believe that it's okay to do that if things become, at face value, too difficult to handle. And as difficult as it is to say or hear especially right after news like that of Robin Williams, it's within the realm of possibility that someone taking their own life fully understood what they were doing, but did it anyway. That is the basic rationale behind the late Jack Kevorkian's ideals, you know.

What we do affects what others do. We are all role models, whether we want to be or not and whether we think so or not. As such, we can't be too forgiving of suicide lest we make it a reasonable alternative, particularly for someone who is facing demons we can't imagine. We can't encourage a world which effectively says, if it were the only option Robin Williams saw, it must be all right. It may be splitting hairs to say love the person but hate the action. But we don't see any other acceptable outlook.

What we need to do is be on the lookout for signs of trouble among our friends and family and to encourage fortitude in dealing with the issues they face, and help them find better solutions to their problems. We ought to be charitable (we will not say nonjudgmental, because to be that would actually require us to a blanket acceptance of things like suicide if you think about it) if as a result of their battles something tragic may happen. If it comes to that, all we can say is, Rest in Peace.

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. And for those interested in hearing his story of The Fisher King, here it is: It seems specially poignant today.

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