(There's not really a point to this blog post. Mostly a brain dump, and I hope the Ben Stein piece will reach more eyes. As a writer, there's supposed to be a one-or two sentence takeaway possible afterwards, right? this doesn't meet that criteria, but I'm very sad and wanted to share.)
I've just heard the news about Robin Williams' grappling with the beginnings of Parkinson's. It's a comfort to know he was sober, according to his wife, and it makes sense that physical sobriety is in fact unbearable without a program of recovery. To an addict, the toxic (for us) substances are the solution, not the problem. Strictly speaking, "the problem" begins when the drugs run out or stop working. Also, other people seem to have a problem with our ... antics.
Weed Question, there was an almost un-nameable strain of, "Stoned losers are always going to be stoned losers, so who cares." This stung ~ as a former stoned loser and an escapee from addiction, I couldn't reconcile my own experience with such extreme dismissal of the human journey. In my mid-teenage years, after writing off notions of family and faith as naive, but before meeting judges and hospitals, I was given the benefit of men like Mr. Eddy --- who somehow intimated that I was made for better stuff than even the best dope around. Notably for those who love him, Mr. Eddy is in his third decade of living with Parkinson's Disease. I think of Robin Williams, with John Belushi hours before his fatal overdose in 1982, and the decades of public joy and productivity which followed -- all created by an addict saved from the trash heap.
As to the Parkinson's Disease, facing certain physical decline is often touted as a reason for "assisted suicide" and abortion. We hear fallacies about being 'productive' as the measure of a life. I think of John Paul the Great and his witness of a holy death. I want to blame the culture of death for its utilitarian treatment of people, but blame belongs other places, too: misapplication of psychoactive drugs, highbrow culture, Hollywood, lowbrow culture, selfie culture, Major Depression, the Sexual Revolution (see utilitarian treatment of people), and predictably, the whispering plunder of the Devil himself. Lower power indeed. Like Bob Dylan says, You Gotta Serve Somebody.
Last year, Simcha wrote a memorable piece about beating a cause to the point of becoming deaf and dumb, and I risk doing that if I pretend to know the details of this tragedy. And as my husband shrugged, "Do you know how many people offed themselves yesterday? Nobody cares about them. Even this claim of caring is selfish. He was a thing." (this is how my husband talks, but he's not endorsing --- just describing. He is the best describer I know.)
Before despair comes desperation. When desperation is shared, it recedes. By the same selfie culture which pierced his blameless daughter, Robin Williams' privacy was finally so desecrated that his options for spiritual salvage seemed to close in on him.
With a few kids who have a flair for dramatic, we've begun conversations about the ultimate isolation of the performing arts. They can be fulfilling, noble and ordered to the good, sure --- but the risk of becoming a 'thing' to surrounding caretakers, pawing fans, or well-intentioned managers seems ever-present. No matter our affection or connection with an artist, it's not my Christmas morning that will be empty without Robin Williams. He was someone's Daddy.
NB --- I have to link it again --- every word of Ben Stein's take rings true, from where I sit. I wasn't a big fan of Robin Williams' raw comedy because of the hints of sex-tinged stuff that put me off, even as a kid/before I could name or recognize the "blue" as blue. My preferences aside, his talent was so grand and generous, his range so vast, that his loss feels like a hunk of the earth dropped away. I guess it has. Addiction has only three ends, unless arrested ~ jails, institutions and death. May God help me to be less selfish. To reach for Him through sharing my needs with others, and doing my best to meet theirs.