Every so often, there are events that unite people. It could be a natural disaster; achievements in humanity; New Year’s or even the death of a single human being. A few days ago Robin Williams passed away. Although many people will reflect on the circumstances of his passing, I want to join those who recognize the value a single person can have in the lives of others.
“Good morning Vietnam!!!”
“Oh captain… my captain…”
If you know Robin Williams, you know these lines are just a few of the things we will remember of what seemed like one of the loveliest people many of us will never get to meet. Thanks to Robin Williams, I was able to learn who Hunter “Patch” Adams is through a movie that was roasted by critics, and still I enjoyed. I was able to see a conception of the afterlife that resonates with me.. I mean really resonates with me. I was able to see a grown up man remember that once upon a time, he was just a little boy, unwilling to grow up… until he did.
He gave so many people so many laughs, although there was often an edge of sadness to his best material. Mrs. Doubtfire may be a feel-good movie, true; though think about it, how much did you cry in it? Good Will Hunting tore at me, as did Dead Poets Society, as did much of his often brilliant work. Even Hook had its sad moments; actually this is one of my favorite movies to highlight because even if it was panned by critics (pun intentional), it is beloved by many people of my generation who knew for a fact that Peter’s last name was not Banning, that to save a fairy you need to believe AND to clap your hands and that to fly, you need only happy thoughts and maybe a little pixie dust.
Thinking further, I can’t imagine anyone who could top his portrayal of Popeye or anyone being able to take something as nondescript as Nanu-nanu and transforming it into something timeless and funny. Then I remember Jumanji and laugh at the thought I had as a kid that just maybe a board game could come to life. I even think of Toys, which was awful in its own quirky way and still find many reasons to smile, courtesy of him: from the trippy music video to distract the guards, to the analysis of fake vomit in the R&D Department, to the thinly veiled message that maybe it’s nice to love your real toys and not depend solely on videogames.
Throughout most of his work, he always seemed brilliant, passionate, engaged, kind and ever so delicate. There was tenderness in his voice when he spoke that often got to me because what everyone is realizing, everyone actually already knew. Seeing the reactions of people, it’s hard to think of someone who could garner such love from so many people throughout so many ages, ethnicities, and social classes. He was easy to like.
Hell, when people used to dream of genies, it was a beautiful young woman dressed in pink and red… after 1992, it’s hard to say the word genie and not think of a bluish figure with a knack for expressing puns visually through the magic of… well magic.
There was often something Shakespearean in his manner, especially in his standup material, brilliant in his onstage madness. Yet still, he was also quite able to laugh at a fart joke, something that made me like him even more. He could be brilliant or silly, funny or melancholic, introspective or outgoing, and any combination of these and countless other things… he explored such a wide variety of emotions that it’s sad he wasn’t able to moor his ship elsewhere, on another feeling more befitting someone who was so kind to so many people.
Sadness can be an ocean and one can get lost at sea easily… the thing is, that the more I read of people, their feelings and their reactions to his passing, the more I realize that everyone would have gladly borne a drop of his sadness until the ocean was gone, and he was able to enjoy a little bit of sunshine.
For some people, happiness is actually a choice... others aren't so lucky. Today I am thankful for this freedom and feel the need to choose to smile, to remember fondly, and to imagine a blue eyed Robin soaring high.