Robin Williams ~ His Words and Ideas Changed Our World

Robin Williams
Robin Williams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our world changed on Monday evening…

Famous people die every day. It can be a celebrity, a states person, an infamous character, a sports figure, or a world leader. For sure we almost always stop a bit and take notice, but every once in a while we find ourselves grieving as a society writ large.

The news broke on late Monday afternoon: Robin Williams was dead. For the past few days the conversation has continued…almost as if we can’t hear or read enough. There is so much more we want to know about this man who made us laugh…but more than that he made us stop and think about life and how we live it.

Did we really know Robin Williams?

While Robin became a public personality, his 63 years of life paralleled so many baby boomers. He was born in 1951, spent his early years in Chicago and his middle school years he moved with his family to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. When his high school years approached it is reported his father took an early retirement and the family moved to Woodacre, CA, and he completed high school at Redwood High School.

It occurred to us that when someone dies we often find ourselves trying to recall how much we know or remember about the person; however, at the same time, we discover how much we never knew and how much what we think we knew was filtered through our own lens and may, in fact, have nothing to do with reality.

This can happen even when we are closely related to the deceased. We can find ourselves participating in a wake, funeral, a celebration of one’s life all the time picking up bits and pieces of others’ memories.  And it is those memories that fill in the gaps and can make us wonder with delight to learn new facts or grieve that we missed so much.

We know this much…Robin was a communicator

People who followed Robin’s career were aware that he abused cocaine and alcohol in his young adult years. He didn’t hide it, he spoke freely and frequently about his sobriety. He got sober around 1982 after losing his close friend, John Belushi. Sober for 20 years, he relapsed in 2003, got sober again in 2006 and it is reported he sought treatment this year for both alcoholism and depression.

He was a son, brother, husband, father, an actor, comedian, writer, producer and director. Through it all he entertained us starring in movies, television series, one-man shows, on Broadway, participating in Comic Relief …the list goes on. He won awards, too many to list, entertained our troops in USO Shows and supported many charitable organizations including St. Jude’s.

His body of work is long and rich. You will remember your favorite movies or television episodes recalling lines from the script that just make you stop and wonder aloud how powerful the words he wrote or simply delivered were.

Williams did exactly what his character John Keating of Dead Poet’s Society quoting Whitman asked of his students:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play ‘goes on’ and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

He gave us a verse…more than one.

Today take a few minutes to enjoy clips from Robin Williams’ performances

In April 2013, compiled what they considered the Top 10 Robin Williams Performances. It is about nine minutes, complete with some “R” rated scenes. We hope you will take a few minutes to enjoy this walk down memory lane. You will smile, maybe laugh out loud, or even feel sad…but mostly you will marvel at Robin’s range and his ability to connect with people.


If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Some closing thoughts…

Over the next week or so we will continue to learn more about Robin’s life and all that he was to so many of us. We understand that TIME Magazine is publishing a special commemorative edition on Robin Williams.

We will continue to learn from his life and how he pushed forward to help everyone he came in contact with. 

In 1998, he starred in an interesting movie, Patch Adams. As Dr. Adams he delivered the following line:

“What’s wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.”

Let’s fight indifference…the indifference often noted when we try to start a conversation about mental health.  

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