On Robin Williams life


This article may be the most relevant, yet, to the way Robin Williams ended his life: autopsy_robin_williams_had_lewy_body_dementia/

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I have known a marvelous woman, my second wife, who suffered similarly to Robin Williams from severe chemical depression. She also attempted suicide multiple times over the span of her life, finally succeeding. Personally and professionally she  also went way beyond what we might think of as “the extra mile” to make others happy. Tonight, I am wondering if Williams was more or less Driven to make others happy, and so was “always on”. I think many of us know what it’s like to feel the need to please someone, if not to please everyone. I’ve been told that most of us know at least a kernel of the experience of feeling less than “enough”.

In compassion I just want to offer a notion: Those of us who have a history of feeling a need to meet unrealistic, or even insane, expectations deserve time and room to take care of ourselves as well as we try to take care of others. This is another opportunity to absorb the wisdom of letting that need go, if at all possible  –more like a rough pebble in our shoe, instead of a cross we bear.
Wouldn’t that just go a LONG ways toward a happier, more sane, more playful, more connected world!?!

Thinking of those who were close with Robin Williams, I am reminded of a rendering by Daniel Ladinsky of a poem by Sufi poet, Hafiz: 

I Know The Way You Can Get
I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:
Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
And nose.
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.
Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent
And into one’s self.
O I know the way you can get.. .   

That said, I wasn’t even remotely close to him, so I don’t know for sure if it’s fair or accurate to say that Williams was driven to please. Maybe it’s not that simple? Maybe we won’t reduce his life and contributions to “lesson”, and will just let him be what he was and is.. in many ways a mirror of our love of playing, of creating, of giving others pleasure, and above ALL, of living life to his fullest. He was irrepressible, if nothing else.

I thank Robin for the amazing awesome gift of himself. Period.

Published by

Wayne Upchurch

For years, as a “professional ogler” (a newspaper staff photographer), I simultaneously explored photography as craft/process/medium in its own right. The photojournalism work –credentials and mindset– got me into (and out of) places I would certainly never have had access to on my own. I was also practicing the discipline of getting a picture where there didn’t appear to be one and getting it Finished in a timely manner, to professional standards. I also learned to create imminently readable images despite poor reproduction in a small size. Though it took me several years to get this, the value of making photos that illustrated something already laid out in the story was suddenly Not Enough, and I began to make assignment pictures that added dimensions not already in the writing, or better Yet, raised questions so that the reader would go to the story for more answers. Having gained more than dreamt of, when starting out, I left to pursue my own personal photography, mounting exhibits along the way. I also worked with commercial photographer friends doing studio product photography, and making headshots for actors. Later, I also helmed a Public Radio “spacemusic” program, and acted in a Wilmington, NC drama company. I put the cameras away for a few years, to finish shedding the habit of self-limiting my identity as just “Photographer”, and can now pursue personal pleasure and expression through the freedom that digital imaging offers. Sharing photos on Flickr and participating locally in meetups and outings has renewed a passion for making new images and for sharing the process with others. For some time, I’ve found myself writing detailed comments on other people’s photos, as well as thoughts and pet ideas about photography, in general.

6 thoughts on “On Robin Williams life”

  1. Wayne
    Thank you to sitting with this and sharing the light and shadow of your experience and that of those you know and love.

  2. Beautiful post and Hafiz does have a way of pinning our deepest pain. Thank you for this, Wayne.

  3. What a beautiful, insightful and illuminating commentary ~ I am certain Robin like all artists dealt with a darkness in his soul. His genius was so apparent to everyone but that heavy burden of the flip side he kept masked. I worked with him for a short time on Patch Adams and was struck by his quiet unassuming manner. He seemed a very gentle and kind spirit. I think he did have that people pleasing gene in spades. I hope he finds peace wherever his afterlife finds him.

  4. Thank you, Gloria, Mamie and Worthy, for your responses.
    By way of updating, I offer three references from the internet, today:
    1) In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, Robin Williams said in 2006 that he was Not clinically depressed.. not “manic/depressive”. Sad, yes.. acting manically when playing or performing, yes.. but not diagnosed with clinical depression. He seemed pretty clear on that.
    2) Writer Ann Lamott, who knew Williams, growing up, writes about them both, from her perspective.
    3) Bonus!!
    That Terrible Disease Called Loneliness

    Orson: The report, Mork.
    Mork: This week I discovered a terrible disease called loneliness.

    Orson: Do many people on Earth suffer from this disease?

    Mork: Oh yes sir, and how they suffer. One man I know suffers so much he has to take a medication called bourbon. Even that doesn’t help very much because then he can hear paint dry.

    Orson: Does bedrest help?

    Mork: No because I’ve heard that sleeping alone is part of the problem. You see, Orson, loneliness is a disease of the spirit. People who have it think that no one cares about them.

    Orson: Do you have any idea why?

    Mork: Yes sir, you can count on me. You see, when children are young, they’re told not to talk to strangers. When they go to school, they’re told not to talk to the person next to them. Finally when they’re very old, they’re told not to talk to themselves, who’s left?

    Orson: Are you saying Earthlings make each other lonely?

    Mork: No sir, I’m saying just the opposite. They make themselves lonely – they’re so busy looking out for number one that there’s not enough room for two.

    Orson: It’s too bad everybody down there can’t get together and find a cure.

    Mork: Here’s the paradox, sir, because if they did get together, they wouldn’t need one.

    Mork & Mindy: ‘In Mork We Trust’ (1979)

  5. I too have been pondering this. Words and thoughts fail me when the suffering turns to suicide. All I can think to do is turn to compassion.

  6. Thank you, Peter, for leaving a comment, and of course, for choosing compassion.

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