The Genie's Lamp Has Extinguished!
O Captain! My Captain!
To invoke the immortal lines of an American Legend that preceded him (Walt Whitman), the comedy world has been left rudderless by the horrific departure of a man who justified such a description.
I grew up seeing Robin Williams on my screen. From reruns of Mork and Mindy, to invigorating Aladdin with his inimitable voice over as the Genie. I saw his turn in Jumanji stun (I haven't seen a movie in the cinema as much as I did that movie), allow comfort in my identity watching The Birdcage and was moved by masterful acting in Good Will Hunting where he nurtured two new acting greats to the screen (Damon and Affleck). The actor and comedian was a remarkable talent, to whom invoking laughter in others seemed effortless, yet we can now see this mirth cast no shadow across his soul.
This darkness was submerged in a tempest of alcohol abuse, attempted to be covered with drug abuse, but powder and liquor prove an elixir for the summoning of one's personal demons.
Why is creativity usually such a hive for the relentless buzz of personal disquiet and unease? Life is pain, right? We all know this, but such a wonderful gift is often the exchange for internal anguish.
Robin Williams was accustomed to nuance in his roles. It's what made his performances so wonderful and inspired. This too filtered through into reality, his irrepressible fervour was coloured by the ghouls of despair. Is this a fuel for such a talent?
Of course, he is not the first. Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway... the list extends like the litany of said talent's bodies of work. Those organisms such spectacular minds create are adored globally and are stored amid the echelons of greatness. Though within is the seed, the core, and it niggles with a handicapped motion unable to exert itself, so it works through a conduit. This is true talent.
This is the lonely man deserted once all the spectators have gone home. The jester unable to dine amid the lavishness of those hordes he has entertained so briefly earlier.
Every harlequin dons a mask when taking to the stage, under the glare of the limelight. Yet the caustic lime has to burn in order to emit such brilliance and pool upon the soul it drags into the cruel zeitgeist. Something is consumed in that process, the tranquility of a soul beseeching approval? When an art speaks for you, the words you have left to nurture yourself are spare, shallow husks and platitudes you wouldn't waste on that which the artist searches for, peace with themselves.
Akin to his role as Alan in Jumanji, the truth of Robin Williams was marooned in a disturbing, unworldly wilderness, unable to find it's way back to reality. A common trauma many are living with, day after day. Mental illness still goes woefully in disguise amongst us. Masquerading in the clown make-up of our alter-egos of the every day, happy, dynamic, friendly, iconic comic performer.
Internal torture often finds it's route to the paintbrush, string or keys, page or screen, you can mould that fantasy in a way one cannot with the reality it runs parallel to. Art serves as a mirror and therein lies the crack, it's tangible, it can be seen with astonishing clarity, but it is an illusion and reality lurks in the air you breath.
Robin Williams was a one off. His own turmoil forged unique ability to make everyone happier for having met him either directly or inadvertently. He truly was a gift to the world, although among his extraordinary gifts, was never one that could bestow the words upon him: "it's not your fault."