Remembering Robin Williams, in gratitude

Few people made so many laugh or cry as Robin Williams. Today we’re not laughing. We’re crying.

What Robin’s world inside his own skin was like no one else really knows. His sudden death strikes us with an equally sudden sadness. It punctures a hole in our perceptions, brings to a screeching halt the presumption of dailyness and the ordered worlds in which we wrap ourselves in a society whose madness Robin himself helped us to transcend.

We are not among the few who knew him intimately. As in the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death, we are left to pause and pray for his family and closest friends and to consider again the greater tragedy of violent social order where reason and kindness are as alien as Mork was to this strange world.

The stories in the next days will feed public curiosity, appealing to the need for some cause on which to pin the tragedy, like pinning the tail on the donkey, some manageable explanation for why a man so funny and gifted would apparently take his own life. We will hear that it was clinical depression or bipolar disorder or drugs or or some other explanation.

But will they address the bigger human question that Robin raised in comedy and in drama: Why is the world so in love with death? Why is the world we have built for ourselves so cruel? Why does it take an alien named Mork with an innocent young woman named Mindy to deliver us from the love affair with a collective madness for which there seems to be no cure? And how do we, when we bump up against an tragic, inexplicable death like Robin’s, pause appropriately in his honor to give thanks for him in both his laughter and his tears?

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