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Reality: What A Concept! August 17, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Health & Wellness, Mindfulness, People.

alice26thMany of the on-line tributes to Robin Williams had something in common.

Instead of looking at life through Robin’s eyes to garner the whys of his demise, bloggers mentioned him, in passing, as a stepping stone to get other issues into the spotlight.

That’s understandable.

It is easier to know man in general than to know one man in particular. ~ Duc de la Rochefoucauld

* Some called for more resources for those who struggle with mental illness.

A laudable goal, for sure, but I suspect that Robin had adequate (if not ample) resources available to him.

* Others called for us to be kinder in our daily doings and dealings.

An excellent suggestion, but I doubt that Robin took his own life because of   bullies on the cyber-playground or people looking at him askance.

* Some cited the need for open discussion about depression and addiction.

A noteworthy objective, which I suspect is irrelevant to Robin’s death since he spoke in public forums about these “taboo topics” with great regularity.

* Others encouraged us to lend an ear and really listen to those around us.

Yes!  We should do that.  And, yet, I’m not convinced that our poor listening skills, even collectively, caused Robin to end his life.

Sometimes talking makes “it” better.  Other times, talking just makes it BIGGER.

220px-Alice_par_John_Tenniel_27I could keep dunking the teabag, but you get the idea.

Instead of focusing on the reality of Robin’s life, many tributes gave Robin little more than a passing glance before veering off in other directions.

Not surprising, really ~ our view of reality is skewed because we’re looking at life through a dirty lens and cloudy filter.

When something happens, our experiences, concerns, and viewpoints form an opaque overlay, obscuring reality.  We tell ourselves stories and fanciful fictions in a futile effort to create order from chaos and sense from nonsense.

We see the world behind our eyes.

That’s not to say that our creation of ostensible tributes to Robin Williams was misplaced energy.  I don’t have a suitable vantage point to understand or oversee all the various ripples set in motion by our actions and inaction.

Perhaps the outpouring of emotion following his death will cause a tidal wave of love and compassion, lifting us high above the surreal landscape.  From that heightened perspective, maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of reality as IT IS instead of as WE ARE.

A quiet mind, like the surface of a still pond, provides a more accurate reflection.

Reality: What a concept!

Aah . . . that’s better!

On the outside chance that Robin is reading this in Never Never Land, let me close with his view of reality:

Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs. ~ Robin Williams

Related post:  Why We Mourn the Death of Celebrities (Smart Living 365)


1. Val Boyko - August 17, 2014

People live from their perceptions … and the gap between mine and theirs appears to be getting bigger.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

When I see others “losing their way.” I remind myself that being “led astray” may be part of their path.

The best way to cripple a butterfly is to interfere with its efforts to emerge from the cocoon.

Our struggle to emerge is part of the path. _/!\_

2. katecrimmins - August 17, 2014

You have crystalized something I have been feeling. We have a need to understand “why” but we can never truly know that. We have to accept what it is and not fill in the empty blanks.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Ego likes to be “in the know.” So it transforms “opinion” into “fact” and puffs out its chest, proud of its pseudo-knowledge.

Facile explanations skim the surface. They sound good . . . but have no more depth than a sheet of paper whipping about in the wind.

When we know that we do not know, we have at last realized something of lasting value.

3. http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com - August 17, 2014

I think I mentioned it along the way, but he was both blessed and cursed by a mind that had its own way. As he said, he often felt that he had no control, had no idea what he was going to say. It was genius and madness together. That was the reality, and it took a terrible toll. Put that together with ongoing Parkinson’s disease, financial worries, career concerns,and bouts of depression, and you have the makings of a tragedy. He was a gentle, compassionate soul who needed to be out of the pain, and he found a way.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

And, perhaps, he tired of being “on stage,” in the public eye, day in and day out, 24/7, where people who had never met him “in real life” digested and dissected and critiqued his daily choices of how to spend his limited time here?

As hard as it is to move from anonymity to celebrity, it is harder still to move in the opposite direction. The price of Fame is a loss of Freedom ~ the inability to even go to the beach or the grocery store without having strangers, in your face, watching your every move.

4. elizabeth2560 - August 17, 2014

It has now been revealed he was battling the early stages of Parkinsons disease that he had not publicly revealed. So it may not be as simple or as complicated as it first seemed.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Life is a bit like a cruise ship.

After you’ve experienced all you want to experience, after you’ve shared all you care to share, perhaps it’s time to jump ship?

Especially if all you see is stormy seas on the horizon.

5. ericjbaker - August 17, 2014

We can always count on you for insightful and measured observations and life and people and events.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Thanks, Eric. Of course, with a less/more skewed perspective, you might see me as the Mad Hatter dunking a dormouse I’ve rather inconveniently confused with a teabag(ger) . . . resulting in tea which is weak, bitter, and unsuitable for general consumption. 😎

6. NancyTex - August 17, 2014

Very insightful, NH.
I’ve been struggling with the seeming rush-to-be-first to tweet/FB share RIPs for celebrities. I was shocked and deeply saddened by news of RW’s death, but didn’t feel compelled to write about it on FB or Twitter. I read any interesting article on Kathy Gottberg’s smartliving365.com where she wrote about the psychology behind mourning celebrity deaths. Your post here sheds even more light on this for me, as you rightly point out some of the agendas pushed by some writers through a loose coupling to the news of the celebrity death.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Robin touched many lives. His death shocked and saddened those in his audience, especially because he exited Stage Left in such an abrupt manner, long before we anticipated the final curtain coming down.

* Some of the mourning deals with our beliefs about death. When we see death as “The End,” it is harder to accept than when we see it as a passing into the beyond.

* Some of the mourning deals with our attachment to attachment. It is hard for many of us to relinquish and let go of anything, even clutter which no longer has purpose. So letting go of someone we LOVE is next to impossible.

* Some of the mourning deals with our beliefs about the sanctity of life. For many, suicide is both selfish and wrong. As such, it is something for us to prevent . . . which is difficult to do if we are not in someone’s sphere of influence.

* Some of the mourning stems with our desire to be in control and at the helm. To steer our ship through the darkness until we see the light. When someone “jumps ship” . . . it’s unsettling. We realize how little control we have over others.

* Some of the mourning deals with our own struggles to keep going, not give in to despair, to believe that “the best is yet to come.”

I could go on, but I am going to stop and go read Kathy’s article. Thanks for mentioning it. Seeing how people have reacted to (his) death has been fascinating.

NancyTex - August 17, 2014

Fascinating, indeed.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Kathy’s article was great. I added a link to the bottom of this post. What we do (or do not do) is not as interesting to me as the why behind it all ~> human motivations range from primal urges (food, clothing, shelter), to egocentric concerns (the desire for immortality or concern with our fictional reputations), to spiritual beliefs and practices (compassion, kindness, integrity, and empathy).

It really runs the gamut . . . talk about rabbit holes!

7. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com - August 17, 2014

Hi NR! Nice to have found you….how come I’ve never found your page before? It sounds like we write about similar topics on occasion. And yes, the “why” of things is continually fascinating to me and helps me stay both present in the moment AND more awake and aware of Life Itself. Now I’m going to check out some of the rest of your posts. ~Kathy

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Thanks, Kathy. I felt the same when I got to your post this morning . . . why haven’t I been here before? I’ve subscribed and look forward to more of your awake and aware views on life!

8. 2e0mca - August 17, 2014

First – all I can do is wish love and hope to Robin Williams’ family and friends. Then, what then? I’m just a voyeur via his movies which cannot possibly give me an insight into who he truly was. I’ve enjoyed some of his movies and believe that he was a great comedic actor. The pleasure he brought to so many people was his gift to the world and we should remember him for it.

On Tuesday (in England) I sat my family down to watch an old classic movie – North West Frontier – little realising that Lauren Bacall would pass on that same evening.

These are both people who transcended the glitz side of Hollywood and created performances for the ordinary person out there.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Even if we’ve never met our comedic and dramatic favorites in the flesh, we do feel a shared history with them and miss them when they’re no longer on the stage.

I grew up with Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Robin Williams, and the cast of Monty Python. The gift of laughter is no small thing.

2e0mca - August 17, 2014

I agree that we share a history with them – I know Bill Cosby but I’m not sure that I know Bob Newhart; and thereby hangs a tale…some of my favourite actors will be as unknown to you as some of yours will be new to me. That all of these people have importance in helping our feelings as individuals is not in doubt and the ability to make other people laugh is a wonderful one.

But sometimes it is the gift to involve the audience, even in actions that are abhorant, that marks out the great actors – people like Donald Pleasance playing Himmler and exuding such evil on the screen that I felt that I needed to wash my hands after watching him! Lots of great actors out there and we are all diminished when people like Williams or Bacall leave us because the hold a mirror to ourselves.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

I have had that feeling on occasion ~> a performance so mesmerizing that I feel tainted by the evil portrayed on screen.

Like you, I felt I needed to wash off the nastiness.

Kathy’s post at Smart Living 365 delves into reasons (beyond that of Shared History) that make the masses mourn celebrities. It may be a simple need to connect after being reminded of the fragility of life and/or finite time we have remaining to us.

9. livelytwist - August 17, 2014

“Instead of looking at life through Robin’s eyes to garner the whys of his demise, bloggers mentioned him, in passing, as a stepping stone to get other issues into the spotlight.”

This is my experience as well. I have read more about depression in the last few days than at any other time in my life. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing . . .

Bottom line, we knew him in ‘general’
Thanks Nancy, you’ve given me thought for my tea.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Living life without a sense of humor, while weighted down with depression, must be sheer torture. Laughter can be a life preserver in the midst of stormy seas.

Last night I read something about wrapping our sadness in happiness ~> being happy that we are human enough to feel sad about losing those we love. Sometimes even a slight shift in perspective helps.

Enjoy your tea. :mrgreen:

10. Jill Weatherholt - August 17, 2014

It appears his untimely death has resulted in more discussions on depression, at least for now. Millions of people suffer in silence…it shouldn’t be that way.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

Some may be silent by choice. I can’t argue with that because talking about “it” doesn’t always make “it” better. Sometimes it just makes “it” bigger.

But for those who long for a listening ear, I hope they find one.

11. Pix Under the Oaks - August 17, 2014

I think Robin was just tired. Tired of fighting the “beast”.
I listened to the first couple of minutes of the video. I will be back to listen when I have some quiet time. I think, no I know.. it will be a fun 43 minutes and it is great to hear his voice.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

I think so too, Pix. Perhaps he’d talked “it” to death in Rehab and realized he’d had enough.

12. Silver in the Barn - August 17, 2014

I had no idea about the Parkinson’s on top of everything else. Oh, the poor soul. I tend to agree with Pix Under the Oaks here. Tired of fighting it, day in and day out. May he rest in peace.

nrhatch - August 17, 2014

I echo your thoughts, Barbara. Life is a very challenging playing field, especially when it seems like an uphill battle.

13. Patricia - August 17, 2014

We can never really know what someone is thinking or feeling. Or what their private battles are. Who am I to say that Robin should have done this or that instead of ending his life. We are given life to live the best we can and I think he did his best but it was hard and getting harder and he had enough. I get that. It seems peace was elusive for him. I hope he has peace in the great beyond…

nrhatch - August 18, 2014

At best we know what others are willing to share with us ~ and then only to the extent they are able to translate squishy inner feelings into words we can internalize without transmuting them based on our own experiences.

To Peace: May you be free from suffering. May you be at ease. May you be well.

14. JOriginal Muse - August 18, 2014

I don’t have a need to say anything more profound than what you and others have covered here… Just thanking you for reminding us that in spite of the way he exited, this just may have been his chosen path, emphasis on “chosen.”

Years ago I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Not all who wander are lost…” We may never know for sure whether or not Robin wandered from his path or just decided to exercise his free will to choose another one that was his Stage Left.

I’d like to believe that Robin exited in the same way he lived ~ true to his own nature ~ a genius at impromptu with surprise punch lines, sometimes as surprising to himself as they were to his audience.

My daughter was playing a song from her mobile app, while I was driving today.Your post reminded me of one particular line in the lyrics ~ “It’s okay not to be okay…” When I looked up all of the lyrics to see that line in the context of the whole song, I reflected on how on some level they might be appropriately shared here:

“Who You Are,” by Jessie J.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror
Why am I doing this to myself?
Losing my mind on a tiny error
I nearly left the real me on the shelf
No, no, no, no, no

Don’t lose it all in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing
It’s okay not to be okay
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart

Tears don’t mean you’re losing
Everybody’s bruising
Just be true to who you are

Who you are, who you are, who you are
Who you are, who you are, who you are
Who you are, who you are, who you are

Brushing my hair, do I look perfect?
I forgot what to do to fit the mold, yeah
The more I try the less it’s working, yeah, yeah, yeah
‘Cause everything inside me screams
No, no, no, no, no

Don’t lose it all in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing
It’s okay not to be okay
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart

But tears don’t mean you’re losing
Everybody’s bruising
There’s nothing wrong with who you are

Yes, no’s, egos, fake shows like boom
Just go and leave me alone
Real talk, real life, good luck, good night
With a smile, that’s my home, that’s my home, no
No, no, no, no, no

Don’t lose it all in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing
It’s okay not to be okay
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart

Tears don’t mean you’re losing
Everybody’s bruising
Just be true to who you are
Yeah, yeah, yeah

nrhatch - August 18, 2014

Thanks, Joanne. Your comment reminded me of two quotes by Nisargidatta Maharaj:

* There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself. To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that. Just be. Let your true nature emerge. Don’t disturb your mind with seeking.

* For me the moment of death will be a moment of jubilation, not of fear. I cried when I was born and I shall die laughing.


15. William D'Andrea - August 18, 2014

After reading all these comments, what more is there to say?
“Nano nano to you Robin Williams. Shalzbot!”

nrhatch - August 18, 2014

I picture him living n Never Never Land, but maybe he’s on Ork.

William D'Andrea - August 18, 2014

Maybe. Would you know if anyone’s heard from Orson?

nrhatch - August 18, 2014

Orson who?

16. William D'Andrea - August 18, 2014

Do you remember on the TV Series “Mork and Mindy”, Mork was in contact with his superior officer on Ork, named Orson?

nrhatch - August 18, 2014

When you said Orson, I thought first of Orson Bean and then of Orson Welles. I don’t remember Orson from Ork.

17. William D'Andrea - August 18, 2014

On the show, you only heard Orson’s voice. Mork addressed him with the title “Your Fatness”. That title gave the impression that the character was probably based on Orson Wells; due to Mr. Wells association with the Radio Drama “War of the Worlds”, about an invasion from Mars, which many listeners mistook for an actual event.

nrhatch - August 18, 2014

“Your fatness” rings a bell. Thanks!

18. jannatwrites - August 19, 2014

I read several posts/tributes about Robin Williams. Of course I’m saddened that he felt such a burden that death seemed the best solution, but I don’t have enough insight to comment on it 🙂

nrhatch - August 19, 2014

Just as well. The tributes I read hijacked his death as a means to an end never reached. Instead they ended up buried by more of the same.

19. Three Well Beings - August 20, 2014

Your perspective is really interesting, Nancy. It’s a sad situation for his family and friends and that’s about the only thing we probably know for sure, and we don’t need to know more.

nrhatch - August 20, 2014

I think you’re right. It’s OK to be in the dark and not have all the answers about other people’s lives ~ it’s not like we can extrapolate to our life anyway.

Even if Robin were here and spent days explaining the landscape inside his head, most of us would still not be able to see his reality. Because our reality is blocking our view.

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