It's easy to be cynical about the response on social media to a celebrity death: Here's what the celebrity meant to me. Here's how I was changed from afar. Here's my status report. On the surface, it seems ludicrously self-absorbed.
Except that's the default reaction for everyone. It's not a loud minority of the self-absorbed Internet. It's everyone, everywhere. Most of us got to interact with Robin Williams only inside our own heads. It's where he lived. It makes sense to extract a response from that same condo in our brains. Focusing on the pronoun in front is the wrong way to interpret the response.
It's awkward, though, when it seems like you're the only person without one of those responses. That's me with Williams. I loved him in Good Will Hunting, and I still say "It's not your fault, (person). It's not your fault" about once a week. But almost all of his other movies fell into some weird apathy void for me, through no fault of his own. I'm not wild about the other movies people seem to love (Fisher King, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society). I didn't watch "Mork and Mindy" as a kid. I didn't grow up on his stand-up comedy or watch his HBO specials as a kid. I don't have specific memories of his improvisational genius redefining comedy for me.
You know when you haven't seen a movie like Star Wars or Ghostbusters, and someone yells at you for it? "YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THAT MOVIE?" That's how I feel about Williams. I didn't keep him out of my life because I wanted to. Just happened.
I'm also unqualified to pretend I know something about depression or mental illness. My life has been mercifully devoid of those experiences and encounters. Addiction is another story, but I'm in a bubble when it comes to other spheres of mental health.
I'm writing this, though, because this video is floating around today:
Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS is something I know about. It is still the very best baseball game I've ever attended. The feeling before the game, the relief as Tim Lincecum wriggled out of the first inning, the shock as the Braves kept chasing and kept chasing, the amazement that Lincecum chose then to have the best game of his already brilliant career, the noise of the slow mass of Giants fans as they descended the walkways after the game.
And I hope Robin Williams felt something like that. He'll forever be a symbol of outer mirth concealing inner turmoil, and I hope that on that night, Williams took the soul of a magical sports experience and used it to prop himself up. That's what sports is for, and for all my talk about how baseball is just a game filled with grown men in pajamas, there's always something more behind the greatest moments. If you ignore the meaningless of it all, there's so much meaning behind it. I'm not sure if that last sentence is about baseball or life in general, which is the point, I suppose.
I hope Williams walked out of that game and thought about it for a couple days, just like I did. He probably didn't. But I'd like to think so. I'd like to think that every Giants fan who watched that game used it to feel better for a short time, especially the people having an otherwise miserable time with life and the chemicals life assigned.
I don't know much about Williams, but I know he was at one of the greatest Giants games in franchise history. And I hope he enjoyed it as much as everyone else enjoyed his various movies, that it gave him the same temporary release that he provided for so many people. I hope that for those three hours, sports did its job, just like Williams did for so many millions of people over the last few decades.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. That's supposed to be the thing you say anytime someone passes away, but it's more than a platitude here. Seriously, rest in peace, Robin Williams. Rest in peace.