Leave it to the Drudge Report to link an article in The Guardian written by Russell Brand. This article truly drew me in and made me wrestle because it links Williams' death with some of the big questions in life.
I didn't know much about Brand until I read his Wikipedia page--assuming Wikipedia is reliable here. I found out he and Williams shared much in common. Both are/were very much tortured souls. Both, I think, struggle/d with some very tough questions regarding life. From the article:
It seems that Robin Williams could not find a context. Is that what drug use is? An attempt to anaesthetise against a reality that constantly knocks against your nerves, like tinfoil on an old school filling, the pang an urgent message to a dormant, truer you.I found an echo of this thinking in his stand up show "God Complex" (warning: raunchy and quite blasphemous) when Brand said the following:
Is it melancholy to think that a world that Robin Williams can’t live in must be broken? To tie this sad event to the overarching misery of our times? No academic would co-sign a theory in which the tumult of our fractured and unhappy planet is causing the inherently hilarious to end their lives, though I did read that suicide among the middle-aged increased inexplicably in 1999 and has been rising ever since. Is it a condition of our era?
What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction? That we live in a world that has become so negligent of human values that our brightest lights are extinguishing themselves? That we must be more vigilant, more aware, more grateful, more mindful? That we can’t tarnish this tiny slice of awareness that we share on this sphere amidst the infinite blackness with conflict and hate?
That we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us? That all around us people are suffering behind masks less interesting than the one Robin Williams wore? Do you have time to tune in to Fox News, to cement your angry views to calcify the certain misery?
What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.
Why are they doing this to us? Why are they positioning our heroes in these meaningless landscapes? Why are they creating a cultural malaise in which nothing has nutrition; where our food lacks nutrition; where there's an emptiness in my stomach that can't be filled by drugs or fame or money? Who is it that benefits from this system? Who benefits from us having a void within ourselves that can never be filled? Who is it that claims they can fill this void?
It is quite intriguing that Brand answers such questions in three ways: two in his article and one in his show. 1. Escaping by watching movies which have messages. To enter stories. 2. To be nice to people mindful of our fragility and delicate nature. 3. Worshiping sexuality.
Unfortunately, none of these things satisfy. None of them. Show me one person who has had their hunger filled by entering into story after story after story and/or watching movie after movie after movie.
Show me one person who has become satisfied with being nice to people.
Show me one person who has become satisfied with having as many sexual encounters as possible.
They do not exist. None of these things brings satisfaction, and they all lead to hopelessness. There is always another story; another person who needs to receive some niceness; another encounter to be had. There is always a desire which finds temporary fulfillment, but defies satisfaction. If you place your self-worth in such things, you will only find disappointment.
But such things are the default setting for humankind. These are the things we automatically search for. Brand asks who benefits from this system? (I'd not call it a system; I'd call it our selfish-nature.) We all do. We all seek our own benefit. We all seek our own will to power as Nietzsche called it. Our selfish gene dominates as Richard Dawkins would say. And our selfish gene does not become satisfied. Our will to power is never quenched. And if that will to power is threatened; if our selfish gene becomes thwarted as our false idols crumble, what happens?
What can bring satisfaction? What can lead us away from the desires for our own will to power? What can pound the selfish gene into submission so that it cannot dominate others or be easily exploited?
Only the Gospel.
Only God's action through Jesus Christ.
I have gone through this train of thought numerous times in this blog and in my more recent sermons. I never realized just how the Gospel truly is the hope of humanity as I was caught up in my own will to power; my own selfishness. I know I was on the path to despair and even hit a bit of depression. The Gospel changed all that.
I know Robin Williams was a Christian, but I don't know if he grasped the power of the Gospel. In his comedic routines, I'm not sure he did. I think he saw Christianity as a set of rules and regulations. I think Russell Brand does too. In my estimation, this isn't good. It shows a failure on the part of the Church to articulate what God has already done. It shows the Church has been more concerned with advice instead of proclamation.
That proclamation brings lasting change and satisfaction. It brings hope and peace and joy.
These are things much needed by the world. Williams and Brand show us that unequivocally.