Everybody else is talking about Robin Williams’ death, and for good reason. The man was a cultural icon, a capital-G genius with a gift for improvisation and an energy that has rarely been matched in comedy or drama. This is not a typical eulogy. It’s not a eulogy at all, really. Because everyone is trying to find meaning in a beloved funnyman and entertainer’s offing himself at an age at which most of us are starting to wind down, and I have a few thoughts. For one thing, depression can strike at any age. When we picture people who are too sad and dejected to go on, we usually think of teenagers who haven’t yet realized how good life can get or middle-aged guys who have just gotten laid off and whose wives have just left them and taken the kids. Or something. I haven’t checked the stats, but I’ll wager that suicide is less common among men who have passed middle age. Because I’m a cynic, I won’t try to find closure in this mess; I’ll just offer what I know: there is no such thing as a wasted life.
I hear people my age say (or people older than me tell people my age) that they have their whole lives ahead of them. This is not technically true, obviously—the instant you are born, you have at least a little of your life behind you, but I appreciate the sentiment. I still haven’t done most of the things I intend to do: see the world, rule the world, marry Jon Hamm…if you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard all this before. My accomplishments so far include getting a killer education, having a decent enough run as an actor, and getting started as a writer. But that, as far as I’m concerned, is still just the tip of the iceberg. Joan Rivers was in her 70s when she said that she felt her best years were still ahead of her. It’s an admirable philosophy: keep on living, until you die. But it still doesn’t mean the same thing coming from a septuagenarian as a twentysomething.
Okay, so now we have the news that Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson’s. Maybe that had something to do with it. But this post isn’t really about him, anyway. I know one or two people who have offed themselves. One was a guy I went to school with who I hadn’t seen in years, another was a lady who I’d been in a play with who seemed perfectly fine and happy when I knew her. But people are complicated, and can you ever really know anyone? I think you can. My Japanese Lit professor in college had absurdly complicated rules to prevent cheating. I found all of it a little much, but he did say once that he’d been burned before, and you really just can’t tell the difference between an honest person and a good liar. I had my tips stolen at work a few weeks ago. I can think of one likely suspect, but I’m not saying who it is, because what the fuck do I know?
I’m not sure what I want to do with the rest of the millennium that I plan on spending on Earth. I keep thinking I should look into inventing, because it would combine my more creative side with the side that likes science and machinery. A lot of people peak somewhere around middle age. In Blood Meridian, the Judge talks about how man is exhausted when he hits his climax, because it means that he has nowhere to go from there except down. Except the Judge is a vicious, murdering psychopath, so take what he says with a grain of salt. I’m kinda just rambling here anyway.
If there is one thing that I have learned in my (relatively short) time on Earth so far, it’s that you actually can have what you’re looking for; it just takes longer than you’re probably expecting. It can range from a job that you had your heart set on to a school you really wanted to get into to even just a cool dude who you worked with for a little while but wish you’d gotten to know better. People who live with integrity can achieve at least some of what they set out to do, and who are we to tell them when they’re finished? It’s not really my place to speculate on what is going on inside the heads of the depressed, but I don’t think for one second that most suicidal people are unaware that there are folks who will miss them. Read Cloud Atlas (or see the movie) if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t ever let go before you’re ready.
It’s rare that I find myself telling other people that they are being too cynical, but the negative comments on this video had me thinking just that. What happened was that a couple of German students decided to surprise a homeless guy by sitting down next to him and singing a song for passersby. Then they gave him whatever the people dropped in the hat and walked away. (Since they didn’t want to film a homeless person without his permission, they did it once for real, then reenacted it with a paid actor and filmed that.) I don’t have a problem with that. The point is to draw attention to the plight of the homeless, isn’t it? Some commenters have pointed out that the most the dude could have made from that was, like, ten Euros, but that’s ten Euros he didn’t have five minutes ago, right? Who cares if they were doing it just to feel good about themselves? The homeless guy gets enough for a bite to eat, they get to make a viral video. Everybody wins.