Robin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

 

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

 

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.”
Walt Whitman
This guy made me want to sit on rooftops and let out barbaric YAWPS!

This guy made me want to let out barbaric YAWPS!

So it’s been about 24 hours since the news surfaced that Robin Williams indeed has died by suicide. I have never seen a comedian who was so quick, so fearless, so damn funny. A whirling tornado of crowd work, act outs and witty prepared bits, there’s not a comedian I know who didn’t consider him one of the all-time greats at this art form.

As an actor, his range is unmatched: Mrs. Doubtfire to World’s Greatest Dad, from Good Will Hunting to Mork. The Fisher King. Dead Poet’s Society. 24 Hour Photo. Awakenings. The World According to Garp. The masks of tragedy and comedy seamlessly adhered to his essence, a virtuoso performer that always left me saying, man, no other actor could have pulled off that role but him…

I’m not the only person to have been touched by the man’s performances, and as so many of us mourn this loss, it’s exceptionally difficult to find solace or a silver lining this time. It’s as if the compelling drive of stand up comedy has screeched to a halt, and silence reigns.

Where’s the light at the end of this tunnel? As I stop to think about Robin Williams’ work, I feel as if I just want to scream: approach your life with fearlessness, for it’s only life…approach your work with passion, for it’s your work, so make it the kind of work that matters to you…and approach others with warmth, because warmth is just so much better than cold.

In the end, what I hope to take from this senseless death is to continue striving to discover the answer to one question: How good can I be?

And maybe that’s what is so sad about this – because when a guy like Robin Williams – with money and talent and family and adoration and seemingly endless possibilities decides that he doesn’t care about the answer to that one question, it’s like a sting that ripples through all of us who hope to create great works that might possibly enrich people’s lives.

Rest in peace Mr. Williams. For you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills.

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