Oh Captain, My Captain: An Ode to Robin Williams
There are certain times when you search and search in the vastness of the English language for the right words, but you still come up short. There are few words that can really capture the essence of this man: quirky, lovable, funny, talented, introspective… These barely scratch the surface. Robin Williams meant so much, to so many different people. For some of us, he was a steady voice throughout our beloved childhood years, making us smile in movies like “Flubber,” “Aladdin,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.” He continued to inspire us throughout our lives and his, through his immeasurable talent in such films as “Good Will Hunting,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Good Morning Vietnam.” He was a father and a husband. But most of all, he had the unique ability to evoke emotion in every film, TV appearance, every role, no matter how insignificant, and make us believe it was a milestone because of his dedication and passion. That is why in his death he brings us as much profound sadness as his life brought us profound joy.
However, if he were here, he would not want us to mourn over our loss or be sad or dejected for long. Although his life was cut short, if a person’s life is measured by the number of laughs that occur as a result of his existence, then Williams lived a very full life indeed. Although there was certainly another side to him beneath the surface, manifesting itself in his death, that has taken us all by surprise, his life’s work was in making people happy, and thus, in honor of his memory, and also for the sake of his family, we should dwell on the happy memories he graced us with over the course of his life instead of the details surrounding his death.
Despite his more serious roles as his acting career advanced, like only a handful of brilliant actors, Williams was born into comedy. He was raised in Chicago, Illinois, a perfect place for a young comedian to get started; he was discovered first on an episode of the 70s show, “Happy Days,” for his role as Mork, and a few years later he debuted his first TV show, a spinoff of this role called “Mork and Mindy.” Williams set himself apart straight away as an undeniably, incontrovertibly, riotously funny comedian. And right away, with his quirky, hilarious sense of humor and his sincere spirit, he had America hooked.
From “Flubber” to “Dead Poets Society” Robin Williams was a boisterously funny comedian at the appropriate times, but he also had a soft side; he showed up, inspiring the nation, in movies like “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Will Hunting” with this calm, soft-spoken but strong-voiced demeanor, which we all began to know as linked to a dimension of his own persona. Williams put himself into every role so fully, that it is almost as if we come to understand a small part of his soul through each performance, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Every appearance of his seems to be drenched in meaning; he made us believe in something deeper, something profound, just from his utter presence in the scene. No matter what the movie was about, or the TV plot, or otherwise, his true, genuine emotion touched anyone who watched.
He will be missed for his comedy, his timing, his spontaneity, his goony smile, his wit, his trademark, distinctively reassuring voice, and his kindness, sensitivity and compassion. Whether we realized it or not, he was and is a part of all of our lives in one way or another, and as much as we selfishly wish for more laughs, more tears, and more joy, his work here is done. But his memory lives on, and his life’s work will continue to inspire us for years and years to come. In the words of Williams’ unforgettable character John Keating from “Dead Poets Society”:
“But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer: That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse… What will your verse be?“
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