Quoted from the memorable blockbuster film “Dead Poets Society,” these were the words I recalled when I heard that one of the funniest men on earth had died. His characters made me laugh, cry and remember to keep life in perspective. Whether in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” portraying the hilarious father who didn’t spare extreme measures to reunite with his children, or as John Keating, the unorthodox, free-spirited English teacher in “Dead Poets Society,” Robin Williams’ endearing personality conquered Hollywood and gave the world countless moments of joy for almost four decades.
I was thinking about Williams’ death while walking in the park this morning. I noticed a gentleman I often see there. He sits on the same bench and looks at the horizon, as if contemplating something that no one else can see. His demeanor is somber. His eyes, always sad. I have never seen a smile, even as regulars greet him. Because of his demeanor, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me he suffers from severe depression. Indeed, there are people around us who cannot hide their sadness.
Conversely, the news surrounding Williams’ suicide shocked the world because we, his fans, believed the smile. We believed those laughing eyes. We believed that the glamour that surrounded his life was enough to feed his spirit. We believed that the joy he portrayed while performing extended to his personal life.
However, no matter how many journalists and psychologists speculate about the reasons for his depression, one truth remains: Robin Williams felt hopeless. Hopeless enough to take off the mask, turn off the camera and put an end to his life.
His suicide brings hope and joy into perspective in a society where wealth, fame and status are synonyms with success and happiness. It reminds us that there is more than what meets the eye in the cover of magazines and under the limelight. We see famous people’s happy faces and we believe them. We watch them parade their smiles, perfect bodies and mansions and we buy the propaganda – that material possessions bring happiness.
“There is a hole in man’s heart that only God can fill.” In 1670, Blaise Pascal introduced this concept in his book “Pensées,” written as a defense of Christianity. The concept of the “God-shaped hole,” however, has taken on a life of its own and has been used by various theist authors to refer to that perpetual thirst in man’s soul that only God is able to quench. Many spend their lives attempting to fill that void with possessions, relationships and accomplishments, and often get to the end of their lives feeling hopeless and defeated. On the other hand, we meet people of great faith who have very few possessions and even go through unimaginable pain without losing joy and hope.
To many, these people are delusional. To people like myself and so many others, there’s a different answer. God is our hope. That special hole is filled. Indeed, because of hope, I have gone through cancer and did not lose my joy. I have experienced great financial loss without losing perspective. And as I focused on God, regardless of my circumstances, I have found the strength to press on.
No one knows Robin Williams’ relationship with God. I certainly would not dare to speculate. Indeed, even people of faith can lose hope. But I personally choose to keep God in that place designed for no one else but him. Because only in him do I find hope to indeed seize each day and the strength to make life extraordinary.