My first memory of Robin Williams was as Mork from Ork. In those brief 20 or so minutes in the pilot episode, he stole my heart. His gentle soul resonated through the silly plots, bringing life to this fictional alien who came to Earth in an egg. I read once where he said he was so thrilled to be able to work on Mork and Mindy with his own idol and mentor, Jonathan Winters. Jonathan was yet another gentle and brilliant soul.
It seems to me to always be the most gentle and brilliant among us who bear the most weight on the inside where we can’t see it, until it’s too late.
Robin had been open for a long time about his illness and the symptoms that manifested because of it. He spoke openly of alcoholism and depression. He blamed himself for so many wrongs in his life and mistakes he made because of his dependence. We the public were spared from that. We didn’t see his struggles or his pain. He materialized for us only as the characters we saw when we rubbed the lamp. He came alive on screen and for the many people and charities he touched with his giving heart—as a magic genie to grant our wishes.
He was a Genie, dwelling in a dark, cold, lonely lamp.
But when he emerged, he appeared to us as a big puff of smoke—a giant persona with a booming voice and a dazzling smile, who manifested only to grant our wishes.
You need a smile? Poof! Take one!
You want a good belly laugh? Poof! Take two!
You want to feel a deep and emotional connection to a character on a movie screen? Poof! Feel this!
Where did that ability to draw out such emotion and depth come from? I think we all know the answer to that question.
But when the cameras stopped rolling and the flickers of light from the screen faded, the genie returned to his lamp, in his state of mind, completely alone. There may have been dozens of people around him who loved and adored him but inside of the lamp, there was only him.
None of us will ever know what went on inside of that lamp. The lamp wasn’t where the magic was held anyway. The magic was in the man. The magic WAS the man himself. We’ll never know how he felt when he was alone in there, waiting for someone to rub the lamp and awaken the magic.
The sadness of his passing comes from our emotional attachment to his genius. I believe so many of us believe we actually knew him because of his interviews, humanity and characters. So much so, that we’d watch his movies again and again because we missed him so much. Here are just a few of the characters he brought to life by climbing inside of them and releasing parts of himself:
The Wizard – August Rush
Adrian Cronauer – Good Morning Vietnam
John Keating – Dead Poet’s Society
Chris Nielsen – What Dreams May Come
Sean Maguire – Good Will Hunting
“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” –Lance “World’s Greatest Dad.”
Although this is a quote from one his films, “World’s Greatest Dad,” and not Robin’s actual words, it has been shared many, many times as a prolific statement on depression. However, to agree with that statement would be to blame those around us for this disease and I don’t believe I ever read anything anywhere where Robin blamed anyone for his condition. However, let’s turn this quote on its head for a moment and read it again: