The passing of any great person is normally accompanied by a certain amount of respectful mourning from those who considered them to be so. I can remember clearly the death of President Reagan, and his funeral procession. Oddly enough, while his death made me reflect on his life, I never felt the need to deeply mourn and weep. Neither did most of the public at the time. The same could be said of Rodney Dangerfield. His death was announced, but there was no great outcry from the public. Perhaps that’s why I find it so odd that there are so many people publicly wailing the death of Robin Williams.
Don’t get me wrong. His death – like the death of any person – is sad. The circumstances of his death especially so. However, I find it odd that the death of a person that these people didn’t truly know and was famous only for his comedy would hit them so hard. The man was a comedian, and yet there are many who weep for him as though he had actually been some great hero. To be fair, he had been on the board of directors and given no small amount of money to charities, which mustn’t be overlooked. On the other hand, I think my curiosity comes from the idolization of the man – and not just him, either.
Perhaps we live in a generation where we don’t know how to pick our heroes. Perhaps we simply don’t know how to recognize them when we see them. I can’t remember such an outcry over a public death since Michael Jackson, and again the man was simply an entertainer. (With a lot of accusations over certain leanings, and who seemed to enjoy endangering his youngest child, but I digress.) In the same way, why do the American people idolize musicians, actors, and people who are famous simply for being famous?
I can’t help but come to the conclusion that we idolize them for the way they make us feel and because we admire their greed. We don’t say that we do. But in a culture run by consumerism and materialism, we tend to worship at the altar of the “successful.” While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being successful – if you want to define it as making a lot of money and having possessions – it’s our favorite American false god. Our tendency is to care about the lives of those we envy. No one seems to make heroes out of teachers, or police officers, or soldiers any more, simply because they offer acts of selflessness that they consider to be more important than a big paycheck.
And for all this worship, Robin Williams was still miserable. I can only conclude that Robin Williams was left so empty by his fame, success and wealth that he couldn’t find happiness the only place that true peace and happiness can be found: in Christ. I believe that his depression had a deep spiritual element in it. I know this because I have been depressed myself. Reaching out to other people didn’t work, laughter only delayed the feelings from coming back briefly, alcohol certainly didn’t help, and sometimes the medications doctors give can make it worse instead of better. (Besides, would you really rather medicate an emotional problem to where you can ignore it, or would you rather fix the problem?) I know that at the end of the day the only thing that got me out of my depression was good Biblical counseling and growing closer to God in faith. I wish Robin Williams had done the same. Ultimately, fame, success and money will leave you feeling just as empty as ignominy, failure, and poverty. I would urge those who idolize the man to learn from his death, not just bemoan it.