The tragic death of Robin Williams has brought forth an outpouring of appreciation for him and how he touched so many lives. But also some confusion about suicide that I thought worth touching on.
Some have expressed he never would have done this if he had known how loved he was by so many. Or that he should have sought help (he did). Or that it was a choice or a way to control.
This article by Chaplain Mirabai Galashan speaks to how overwhelming pain can destroy love, hope and any sense of possibility or choice. It can blind you to all else.
Depression and resulting addictions were a struggle for Robin for much of his life. But in the curious way it is to be human, that struggle was part of what made him such a star. He used humour to escape the pain and to help others do the same.
Often, what drives us is what we don’t want, the pain we wish to avoid. This is what leads to statements like “an artist must suffer to be creative“. This is not true but it can certainly be a driver. A real mission statement arises from that place, an “I will” statement. I will help others avoid what I experienced, etc.
As the Yoga Sutra elucidates:
Attachment is the result of pleasure.
Aversion is the result of pain.
But both lead only to suffering.
These afflictions, when subtle, are removed by returning to one’s original state.
When active, they are removed by meditation.
Without this support, we are ignorant of what underlies the pain and thus caught in the battle between attachment and aversion – seeking satisfaction in the surface of life rather than the bliss within.
I’ve spoken of death here a few times before. Death is a rather distinctive chapter change. But it is not the end. Suicide is a rough way to transition. It is not an escape but nor is it the road to hell. I learned this in supporting a friend after their suicide.
Typically, suicides do not move on to the “pearly gates” or get lifted into the light. Their time here was not yet done. Where most people have a few days to adjust and say goodbye before moving on, suicides don’t move on yet. They will be supported but not yet relieved of the burdens of this lifetime. Outside the conditions of the body, they will see more clearly so learning can happen. But they lose some of the chance to work stuff out.
In a curious way the film he did, What Dreams May Come, speaks a lot to what he’ll be going through now. Only he’ll have both the role of the wife, caught in her trauma, and the husband seeking a way through to her.
Seeking a way though. That’s the story of so many of our lives.
Blessed are those who can make us laugh about it.
What Dreams May Come trailer
and a tribute:
(Sorry – this one is now set to Private.)