There are many conversations to be had in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. About the perils of depression; the silent weight of scrutiny that’s internalized when we treat famous people like characters, not humans; and the love a generation could have for a man, though we hadn’t taken a moment to discuss him until he was gone.
When tragedies like these occur, the only thing there is to do is take something and grow collectively. At the end of the day, the million+ tweets and posts and discussions about Robin are (for all we know) unbeknownst to him. They’re for us. So while we’re at it, let us take this too: You will not be happier tomorrow if you do not create happiness today.
We are aggregators and perpetuators of the idea that external success yields internal fulfillment. We spend our whole lives seeking that greatness: a physical body others can appreciate, stacks of money you can measure, material items other people can get wide-eyed and jealous of, attention and admiration that we believe will fill some emptiness within us.
External success — success that is sought because other people can perceive it — is a dark and winding path of putting our whole lives into something that never does fill the gaping, heavy hole that sent us running away from ourselves to begin with.
I have a hard time believing that Robin — or really anybody who has perished despite a seemingly phenomenal life — wouldn’t want us to understand this. More importantly, because of those people, but more due to our own internal convictions of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and disconnectedness (that we all at some level understand) I believe that this is what we need to start understanding.
Despite the endless feed of overdoses and tragedies, we remain a culture that is, for the most part, decidedly unaware. If you asked someone, in theory, does money and fame mean happiness? They’d probably say no, because they think that’s the right answer. And yet. But still. It’s easier and more instantly gratifying to keep seeking the external. It’s common, it’s normal, it’s expected, it doesn’t require much by the way of fiercely letting your own light refract into the untouched darkness of others’.
We are a society driven by ego. We have monopolized even the most natural and simple of processes for the sake of these empty, meaningless, physical accolades. We took control of animals to help discover/conquer new territories, then put them in concentration camps to be slaughtered (though, then again, we’ve done that to each other.) We’ve changed more on the Earth in 50 years than in the last 13,000 combined. Industrialized farming poisons our food for the sake of cheap, exponential growth, and our food workers wear radiation suits. Everything has been cloned, standardized, copied and individuality has been destroyed, ironically, in the face of our very isolation that has to be mentally resolved before anything else can be. We just continue to take and take and take and take.
And when other things aren’t enough, we take control of each other, and in the interim, we monopolize ourselves, too. We do this every time we police someone into behaving one certain way. Every time we believe what we’re conditioned to and don’t think for ourselves. Every time we allow something ultimately meaningless to control our lives because the one thing we have not learned to do is find something that does mean something to us.
We created a culture that cares far more about how things appear than how they actually are. As long as this carries on is as long as we’ll be seeking a great nothingness.
And the funny thing, the important thing, the only thing worth knowing here, really, is that if every one of us took it upon ourselves to fill ourselves with deep understanding and conviction, to perceive unity rather than isolation, to learn to embrace individuality in harmony with everyone else, these problems would disappear. We do not have to fix the outer. We do not have to deconstruct the society we live in to fix it. We have to deconstruct the illusions within us.
This is not something we vote on. This is not something we influence others to do. This is not what happens when we take control of other beings and things. We cannot keep perpetuating the world that we do, and losing the things that we are, the people we love, and ourselves. We do not just owe this to our heroes and our children and the people who have passed. We owe this to ourselves. We owe it to our own happiness to stop feeding into the incessant cruelty, to stop judging other people and policing them into a life we deem acceptable. We owe it to ourselves to ask for help when we need it. To help others when they do. To let our suffering move us toward deeper, internal acceptance and awareness and okayness through the external knowing that all is one and one is all and to know that no matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.