Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What dreams may come...

Like most, I did not have the good fortune of personally knowing Robin Williams. Yet – and again like most – I considered him a friend. Like the crazy uncle who would sooner join you in throwing your peas at the family dog than insist that you eat them, Williams was that rarest of treasures for a kid: a grown up who actually “gets” you.

That his work transcends generations cannot be disputed. But it remains my personal belief that Williams’ appeal was especially powerful – and remains so – with children. Whether donning tights to play Pan or prosthetics for Doubtfire, Williams brought a youthful vitality and exuberance that lit screens and faces the world over.

This appeal I attribute to his innocence. How rare is the creature who can face so many demons and still express the wonder and excitement of a child!

I am beside myself over the loss of Williams. It is the loss of an icon, of a comedic genius. But, as I have felt over the last 24 hours, it is moreso the loss of a friend. The loss of that favorite crazy uncle.

It is the loss of the father we all wish we had. The loss of the kind doctor with the clown nose who could fix anything. The loss of an all-powerful genie who could make wishes come true. The loss of our Captain.

And as we call “O Captain! My Captain!” and realize – again – that the master has left the helm, our collective guts kick with the winded realization that the loss we feel transcends reflection over the characters played… and shows itself instead to be what we are all actually experiencing:

A loss of our own innocence. The loss of a time in our lives where things were simpler and the world – which held the potential of magic! – was safer and more beautiful. Where a genie really could grant wishes, and a doctor really could heal with laughter. Where grown men could fly and fathers dressed in drag just to spend a few more precious moments with their children.

It was an innocence we associated with an all-too-familiar face. Albeit a blue or masked one.

A blue face... A masked one...

God bless you, Robin Williams. Both the man we knew and the man we didn’t. May the joy you brought to countless millions somehow transcend time and space and bring you peace.

Oh Captain! My Captain!

By Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.