"Please, don't worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day ... make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did."
Robin Williams in "Jack"
If someone is watching our world from a few light years away through a very powerful telescope, Robin Williams must still be at his peak, delivering one great performance and brilliant line after another. Maybe that’s why we call people of his kind “stars”, something to be admired from a distance. They transcend space, time and everything – with the exception, of course, of their human selves.
The question is not why he did it, because every man’s reasons are his own. The question is how we can continue laughing while watching “The Birdcage”, or absorbing the inspiration that many of his roles provided so convincingly. How can we look at those sad eyes of his, through which some hidden pain seemed to struggle to get out even during his most hilarious moments, and not think they had been telling us something all the time?
Certainly, he did not intend to do this to us. The love and admiration that he earned through his career and the talent that he possessed were something a man would cherish and hold on to the very end even through his darkest hours. Even far less gifted actors would hug their glories for dear life. But here we are, either too emotional to pick up his videos or too wrecked by questions to enjoy “Bicentennial Man”. O Captain! My Captain, how could you..?
“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society”
“The Birdcage” used to be my highly effective stress reliever. To be fair to the rest of the cast, everyone is excellent in what I reckon is a perfect comedy. The film did not just cure a bad day in the office, it also made any bad day in life more bearable. The DVD is still lying there near my TV, but I haven’t touched it since the shocking news broke.
To others, it will be “Good Will Hunting”, or “Jumanji” or “Mrs Doubtfire”, or one of his tear-jerkers. It doesn’t matter which one you favour. Watching his movies feels strange at the moment to say the least. It’s one thing to cry over his fictional roles; it’s another to cry over the man.
But who are we to judge the life of a man who gave so much to the world, an exceptional human being but a human being all the same? He was capable of and entitled to right and wrong and the sometimes-blurry line between them.
“What is right is what is left, if you do everything else wrong.”
So, what is left for us to really honour a great man? I have come to the conclusion that, although Robin Williams surely did not mean it, this is payback time. We need to keep a distance, get hold of a telescope and continue to admire his talent, which was the very thing that he wanted us to see in spite of what those sad eyes might have been struggling to hold back.
I won’t lie. “The Birdcage” is unlikely to feel the same. (Having said that, “So, this is hell. And there’s a crucifix in it” remains, to me, one of the greatest and funniest lines ever delivered on screen.) But what he did for this world warrants our lasting tributes. From what we have seen, Robin Williams has a special place in many people’s hearts, but there is more we can do for him.
The world in general has been pretty decent in coping with his death. In this era, that tells a lot about how fellow human beings feel about the man. In a way, the payback must have begun already.
We won’t try to look too close, although that doesn’t mean we won’t try to understand his final moments. The best tribute to him is all of us continuing to enjoy and admire his extraordinary talent, the way we appreciate and marvel at the twinkling stars far, far away.