Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On the Death of Robin Williams (with thanks to Amy Salloway)

Thank you to Amy Salloway for the post below, which I have copied from Facebook with her permission. 

I share many of the same thoughts about the death of Robin Williams (and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I was just crying for again the day before because I saw A Most Wanted Man and, to me, his pain was so very palpable). 

I also live in the pain place--endless, non-stop boatloads of grief and rage. And I am not mentally ill. I am mentally sane.

My work in the Human Body Project is about staying alive. 

The Human Body Project is also about me facing up to my responsibility for being an accomplice in a broken system.

And trying to make the invisible visible. Here is some grief and rage speaking: I also do it because I feel surrounded by so many other accomplices who have NO FUCKING IDEA and no desire to know. WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP I am forever futilely shouting in my head. One thing my many accomplices do know: the pain place sucks so much, much better to leave that shit for the sensitive among us to process. Who gives a shit what or who gets destroyed in the process?

For those who need to think of it as illness or don't get it, I'll tell you one more thing: having to explain is what makes me personally feel the most suicidal.

Below is what Amy Salloway has written:

I'm pretty torn up about Robin Williams.

I loved his work, and thought he was brilliant, and had decided in my head that he was a really kind, good person, just based on how much humanity and gentleness shone through all his roles (and also based on his episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio", which is so freaking amazing, omg).

There are a lot of people writing stuff today and tonight about depression, suicide, mental illness, getting help.

I wrote a series of (possibly incoherent) tweets on Twitter, and I don't expect anyone to read or understand them, but here they are in slightly edited form.
Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Our culture is inexcusably broken.

We've made this world harsh and unforgiving, judgmental and punitive, and yet we cry, BE FUNNY! BE VULNERABLE! BE PRETTY! BE SEXY! ACHIEVE! EXCEED OUR EXPECTATIONS! and believe that the people we expect that of (be they friends, partners, relatives, movie stars) can just…do so, with no deleterious consequences.

And when there are consequences - which there are, all the time - we don't want to know about it. We make that clear.

No one should have to walk around hiding anvils of pain, grief, fear, insecurity, dread, frailty, self-loathing. No one should live with abject loneliness.

But so many of us do.

I do.

I don't believe this latest huge, heartbreaking loss is about "get help", "get meds", "call a hotline". It's so much bigger than that. It's about how we see being HUMAN.
What I am saying is: we are, much of the time, HORRIBLE VICIOUS ANIMALS to each other. Not all of us. And not always. But a lot of us, a lot of the time. Competitive and snarky, rude and unavailable, dismissive, distant and too busy, and unsupportive and greedy and manipulative and dishonest, and just downright MEAN. And it doesn't even occur to us to be any other way, or to question whether this is really how we want to pass our precious time on the little blue planet, tossing the people around us into a metaphorical trashcan.

Until there is a loss of life. And then, suddenly, we get all weepy-eyed and say, Oh, how sad. Oh, why didn't he know how he was loved?

Why??? Because we TURNED AWAY when he NEEDED us. NOT just in those last five minutes -- no, by then it's pretty much too late. He needed us a LONG TIME ago, and we weren't there. We weren't there to "love", to be friends, to listen and offer support, to be present and to help out with whatever the fuck would help, like creatures do for each other.

God forbid we're needed. God forbid we actually take responsibility for someone or something outside ourselves…outside our safe, orderly, handcrafted lives. 

God forbid we put someone else FIRST, truly see and acknowledge their failure, struggle, imperfection and despair, allow it to remind us how small and weak and fragile WE really are as well. God forbid we get shaken out of our comfort zone. God forbid we have to open our eyes and become aware of how we're lucky and someone else isn't…or how maybe we're not that lucky at all..or how maybe we're part of a problem we didn't know about…or any other hundreds of thousands of realizations that might force us to consider changing in some way.

Our culture makes it uncomfortable and unacceptable to need help. Our culture makes it equally uncomfortable and unacceptable to be the one who's being ASKED for help. 

How the fuck is anyone supposed to win?


I loved Robin Williams, and Spalding Gray, and many other amazing artists who gave in to the pain and grief wrought by trying to be authentic and vulnerable in this very fucked and unforgiving world…and I don't blame them for their choice, EVER. 

I am actually totally, 100% down with their choice.

Because I live there too. 

Every day, I live there. 

Right now.

But people? It sucks. Beyond words.

And we will keep losing our brightest, most raw, most insightful, most vulnerable people if we don't figure out how to make this world KINDER and more COMPASSIONATE, for REAL. If we don't figure out how to fix things so that no one has to feel so fucking achingly, grindingly abandoned and alone.

I have zero answers, but I know that we have the chance over and over every day to change how we're present for each other…how we hold each other up…and how often we choose to extend out lifelines of empathy and compassion instead of ego, apathy, and abandonment.

Let's agree to stop losing each other.

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