“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
What kind of sense does the world make when you wake up to the news of the passing of a great soul, a comic genius, and an actor whom you enshrine on your wall and worship? The only thing left for you is broken memories of his work that slowly took you out of hell, the laughter he provided you as a blanket and kept you warm in the cold blitz of things that were wrecking your life. As I reel in sadness at Robin Williams’ passing, I realize that the world is now a lesser place.
It was my 16th birthday in September 2011. After all my friends left, I trotted into my room wondering why I feel alone even in the midst of people who love me. I felt misunderstood and lonely. Like routine, I shut the door and started watching a movie about which I’d never heard before. The film was Good Will Hunting. Cut to three months later; I’m walking home from school, clutching a mark-sheet in my hand that spectacularly announces: FAIL. I do the same as on my birthday, and as I hear everyone in my family obsessing over my ‘madness’, I let myself drown in the remarkable warmth and beauty of Dead Poets Society. My love affair with Williams’ acting career took a flight from that moment on. I had been an official failure at comprehending Physics and Chemistry and the world had started making sense in the form of the intricate poetry that was Williams’ portrayal of John Keating. For all I know, we did not just lose a terrific comedian and a respected artist, we have lost a psychologist, a teacher, a guide, a lively genie who made our wishes come true: a Man-Child unleashed from the confines of a board game and brought to life. Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Aladdin, The Fisher King, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting: fragments of my childhood and adolescence now float around my eyes and blur my vision with the tears that accompany them.
“Comedy is acting out optimism,” he once said. If such a brilliant comic mind had to resort to taking his own life, I don’t trust the kind of future we’re heading towards. He tells Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting that real loss is only possible when you love something more than yourself. I can almost see him smiling at me and smirking, “Son of a bitch. Stole my line.”
He taught me to view everything from a different perspective. He taught me that only in his dreams can a man be truly free. He taught me that I will have bad times, but it will always wake me up to the good stuff I wasn’t paying attention to. The fact of his death is a juxtaposition of sorts like it is for every other legend. I’d rather live in my illusory castle with Williams alive and kicking in it than this distressing reality that strikes him off as a non-living entity now.
I was completely in sync with Ethan Hawke’s shy and timid Todd Anderson when I watched Dead Poets Society. Mr Keating had the same impact on my life as he did on Anderson’s. I salute the immortal soul of the man who made us laugh thunderously and weep quietly. This post is me standing on the bench, exclaiming, “O Captain, My Captain” at the agonizing sight of seeing him go. Rest in peace, sir Robin Williams.
I really hope that right about now he’s looking around in heaven wondering, “Where’s the bar?”