Seeing all the television coverage of the death yesterday of Robin Williams just brings home the point that we seldom truly see all the colors of anyone’s prism nor have we the ability to fully see through the eyes of others. Williams lived a public life for forty years and we saw him in all sorts of roles, both as an actor/comedian and as a real person with real world problems. Though we knew of his struggles with addictions and depression, we will never know the depth of his fears and anxieties, never know how he felt as he walked through this world. And that’s a hard thing for many of us to accept when this person is such a beloved and public figure, someone who we thought we knew well.
And Robin Williams gave us reason to think we knew him well. He showed us multiple facets of his personality and talent, more than many other performers. Most knew him for his manic, stream-of-consciousness spews, where he caromed from subject to subject in a a tidal wave of energy and one-liners. That’s how I first saw him around the time he emerged as Mork on the hit TV show in the 70’s. But for me his comedy only served as a contrast to the depths that he showed as an actor in the years that followed. Movies like The World According to Garp, , The Fisher King , Dead Poets Society, Moscow on the Hudson, Awakenings, One Hour Photo and several others gave us a glimpse of his ability to find something deeper and darker within, to show the complexity that made his comedy even more striking.
There’s a lot more that could be said and I’m sure over the course of the news cycle it will be said at some point. We are baffled and horrified at the thought of someone we thought we knew taking their own life, leaving us to wonder at the whys of the situation and shake our heads at the loss. But let’s not let this singular event blind us to the body of work that Robin Williams left behind. While we may not know his pains, we do know some of his joys.
And they are his gift to us…