This post evolved in part from the sad news of Robin Williams’s passing and the tremendous outpouring on social media, of grief and admiration for the man.
His life ended – apparently of his own choosing and now that he is gone, the world mourns the loss of his talent. We, the audience, grieve because we realize that someone who embodied great value and quality is around no more. We lament for those gifts of the future that would have come our way, unasked for, had he lived on. And we weep in acknowledgment of that unknown angst that might have led him to choose not to stay. Some of us might even identify with the darkness that surrounds suicide, having experienced that deep, dark hollow ourselves or with loved ones.
Who really knows for sure what the private struggles were, that Mr Williams faced and how he grappled with them? There is some mention in the press regarding depression and addiction, amidst other issues, and how dealing with this had been a long winded battle for him.
Something that has been weighing on my mind ever since I learned of this tragedy is the realization that in addition to our physiological and psychological wellbeing, it is our social fabric that helps keep us functioning optimally as human beings. Maybe it is to some extent the fine balance between social and emotional give -and- take that helps maintain a sense of harmony in life.
In view of Mr Williams’s battles with depression and other issues , aside from medical help, what could have been that bridge that might have brought him back from the edge of the suffering that enveloped him? What kind of support and in which sphere of his life-personal, social, professional or as a public figure – would have provided some hope, some reason for enduring? What was it that he, who seemed to give so freely, needed most to keep his will and spirit buoyant? It is unfortunately too late now to know the definitive answer to that.
Whilst this actor’s life and work played out on a very public stage, there are so many such ‘givers’ in our everyday lives that do their work and live their lives with meaning , dignity and compassion in a way that touches something inside of us.
We may admire and appreciate the wonders that they put forth, but more often than not we are really only celebrating how OUR lives are enriched by these gems – the love from a parent, child or significant other ; the unflinching support and understanding from a friend; the time, effort and commitment from those that we employ; the wonderful services and products we purchase – that we forget what we TAKE from those that give.
Are we paying back in kind? Not just in monetary terms or tokenism but are we acknowledging and commiserating with the spirit in them that celebrates and honors life, life’s work and probably, the best in us?
How are we offering our kinship and humanity?
What are we giving back?
Is it commensurate with what we have received?
Is it timely?
Is it a fair barter?
That is a question that we as audience, lovers, friends, family, co- workers and consumers need to ask of ourselves.