O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills.
When my social media started blowing up last night with the news of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams, I was sad that another creative bright light had gone out. I didn’t always think Robin Williams was funny; he was often crass and, at times, seemingly unhinged. But he lived a life that showed us you don’t have to color inside the lines. Differences are to be embraced and celebrated. There is beauty in simplicity. Inspiration can be found… anywhere.
I grew up watching Williams’ films like millions of other people in their 20s and 30s. So many were profound the first time I saw them. In my angst-y teen years, I found a hero in John Keating who urged us to seize the day. In Sean Maguire, I found a tempered soul who challenged and inspired me (not Matt Damon) to stop being afraid to live a better life outside the boundaries of what I’d known.
Then there are the movies for which he is perhaps most well known–the movies that brought riotous laughter and those that made us let go a little bit as we used our imaginations. He made us delight in the absurd. I’m sure future generations will continue to be entertained by the legacy that Williams left, by the laughter and joy he provided so selflessly.
I feel for his family now. Everywhere they look in the coming days, they are going to be sharply reminded of their loss. And it really is their loss to mourn, not ours. I think, perhaps, the best tribute we can pay is to reach out to those around us who are suffering through depression, loneliness or other mental illness and simply let them know we’re there.