Robin Williams appears to have died through suicide. This is a tragedy. It raises many questions. Did he murder himself? Where, then, is he now?
The World has two approaches to this question. The World (of unbelievers) refuses to raise the question. Instead, it seeks an entirely medical and psychological answer. The World (of believers) immediately runs in two directions. One group sadly and deliriously (see my post on Balthasar) turns from the questions, “Did he murder himself” and “Where is he” to the hope that maybe he is saved. After all, God is merciful and we are all sinners. Another group sadly turns to the medical explanations to assure itself of the conviction in its hope. None of these paths do I prescribe.
Still, just about all of us have this World in us tempting us along these paths.
But in my opinion there is a way closer to the truth. This way states that passions, emotions, have their authorship in the human mind (mens). The mind is the seat of the man, the locus of intellect and will, of intellect and heart as they say. Thus, the mind is the personal center of the man. For it is by his mind that his body is human and personal.
Through our minds we make decisions, we think on certain things and not on other things. By our thinking in these ways, we open ourselves to varying desires. I cannot love what I do not know. I cannot have joy if I think on the loathsome. Thus, the state of our loves follows the state of our thoughts.
Yes, there is circularity here. For if I am sad, I shall think on the sad. Yet there is the Glimmer of Universal Truth that outshines even the passions and the distortions of bias. This Glimmer of Universal Truth shines down upon us in our dark valleys and allows us to move from our thoughts on sadness to thoughts on hope, on love, on mercy, on true meaning, on relationships that have genuine foundations, on the lasting, on the eternal. Just like the Hobbit, nearing Mount Doom, saw through to the piercing stars in the midst of his isolation and gloom. He saw through and, though he failed to follow through at the moment, was gathered together in another moment.
Thus, we are always handed our freedom. This Glimmer of Truth reaches down into our every situation. We must believe this, if we are of the gathering – not the World – of believers! Consequent upon this freedom is responsibility.
Every man shall bear his own burden.
This is a marvelous and terrifying reality. Shrink not from your manhood, man! Shrink not from being a person! Do not deny yourself. Lay no hand on yourself. The great and terrible day of judgment awaits each of us. Lie your way out of it; it shall come to you.
I too laughed countless times at the humor of Robin Williams. We all saw his humanity. We saw his sorrow even in his humor. In just about every role he played. A deep sorrow. That sorrow made him more of a man than most of us superficial, laugh a minute, spend the money, don’t rock the boat, entertain ourselves Americans. I recall in high school thinking how deeply pathetic our American way of life is. I could not take it up. Too sorrowful. When Pink Floyd’s critical lyrics rolled my way, I was immediately taken captive. Their criticism of the culture at large was spot on.
However, it had no foundation. Hence, it had no solution. And as R. Waters admitted (if memory serves me here), after the checks for Dark Side of the Moon started coming in, they cashed them. So much for the lyrics, “Money, so they say, is the root of all evil….” The subsequent albums, musically mesmerizing as well and more intricate, tell of a man unto himself, enclosed in a wall, angry at God, object of his own scorn. This was no way towards hope.
Why are you so sorrowful, oh my soul? Why do you groan within me? Take heart, and Hope in the Lord.
What was missing, palpably missing, in Robin Williams’s persona (By this I refer to what he bequeathed to us of himself through film), was any sense of transcendence. No I have not seen his every film, nor every episode of Mork and Mindy. I have seen many. In each of these, I saw a man with deep pathos concerning man’s sufferings. A man who wanted to do something about it, make it better, not settle for the humdrum.
However, this was a man who thought that this something to be done could be conjured up from within. A man who thought the energy would come from himself, from his own heart. He saw his responsibility for others but gathered the love from within. I did not see transcendence. Robin Williams’s characters hoped in man.
BUT MAN CANNOT FEED HIMSELF.
That is why you are sorrowful, Oh my soul. That is why you groan within me. But Take Heart, and Hope in God!
Robin Williams was in that sense the consummate humanist. And his end is the end of humanism. Humanism is not good. It is evil. It is not the beginning of good. It is another path of evil. Does it have ingredients that could be employed upon a good foundation? Yes. Even the beauty of a porn star gives us such an ingredient. However, if the foundation is evil, everything built upon it is evil. There is but one solid foundation in this valley of tears, Jesus Christ.
Only Jesus Christ can show the way and be the way, can be the end and the very means to the end, of Life. Short of following the way of Jesus, we are all doomed. Each and every one of us. In the dark scares at night, when one wakes to a nightmare at 2am; in the lonely hours; when the panic sets in; the gnawing anxiety. The thought of a child drowning. Being hit by a car. Being seduced. Questions. Where should I go? Why won’t he do that? Who will fix the toilet? Whether to apply for another job? Where will the money come from? They will ask for the debt tomorrow; tomorrow the house will be gone. Why did she get pregnant? I told her to keep herself for marriage. Why is he hanging around those friends? I thought we did everything we could?
What can answer these serious questions? Nothing but the Cross.
Have we done many things badly? Yes, most likely.
Will God have mercy? Yes, certainly.
Then does nothing I do matter, asks the believer? Only if you have a “Faith alone” mentality. But faith alone is false; it is a lie of the Ancient Serpent that struck, yet again, in the death of Robin Williams, as he struck in the sad personal demise of Mel Gibson.
But TRUTH, Jesus, comes into the world to address me, just as he addressed the sad Samaritan woman. “You have had many husbands, and the one you are with now is not your husband.” And as we gather from the Gospels, collating his mysterious truth through the hints of the Gospel authors, we can discern that Jesus instructed this woman to leave her sinful past behind and adhere to the Law.
Jesus came into the world to preach Repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Until the end, he freely hands us new Life and a Way.
If we repent and follow that way, we maintain the Life that shall flower into our salvation.
If we turn our backs, if we keep tilling the rows we have decided to till, keep our own way and not his, mind our business and our bucks rather than his wounds, if we fail to follow him in harmony with the trajectory that leads all the way to his True Church, we have turned our back on his offer. And then, we shall be the chaff that will be gathered at the end of times, and even at our own end, gathered together to be burned in the unquenchable fire.
I have faith that most men are free. I have faith that men are men; that they are persons; that they live with deliberation; that they are thus responsible for what they do.
At the same time, some have greater clarity than others. Yet, oh sad World, do not take delight in these exceptions to the rule. For those who do not have that clarity of freedom—what a sadness to be living less than personally.
No man knows the depths of another’s heart. Yet woe to us if we use our cognizance of these partial limitations and wield them for an excuse for our own sloth in following the call of Truth. Woe to us if we use them as an excuse for our own sinfulness. Woe to us if we keep not foremost in our minds the objective teachings of Truth. For the first precept of human morality is this: DO THE GOOD, SHUN THE EVIL.
And that precept implicitly leads us to all the others. Our first question, “What good must I do to be saved? What evil must I avoid?”
If we ask not these questions, in our superficial, pass the beer and flip the channel American lifestyle, then we are as crazed men raving and running about atop a lofty peak, covering our faces with some board, covering our eyes on account of the great terror of seeing how horrible it might be like, both our own actions and the unending depths of living eternally into them. Thus spake Pascal!
These are the considerations why, were Robin Williams Catholic, sober pastors of the Church would unhesitatingly refuse to grant him a Catholic burial. Why? Because the public testimony of his deeds tells against a faithful death; the signs of this demise contradict the prayers of the rite. Secondly and consequently, because of scandal. Truth, objective truth, must be kept firmly in mind.
Would those sober minds have left him for damned? Rather, they would have prayed a private Office for the Dead.
Because “all are saved,” as Balthasar deliriously implicitly hoped (despite his casual justifications to the contrary)? Nonsense.
Because perhaps after death he could repent, as Balthasar deliriously suggests? Nonsense.
Because we could “annihilate” ourselves if we really wanted to be forever lost, as some stupidly (in terms of reason) and heretically (in terms of divine faith) think?
Rather, because perhaps in his last breath, he repented of his self-treason, despaired not of God but of himself, and gathered strength from above, from Our Lord. Even in the last hour, one may repent.
But cold death extinguishes our period of ransom.
So, one may have hope, a hope filled with sober sadness and even a moderated horror. Nonetheless, unless we preach the Truth, the Full Truth, and leave behind the Vain Hopes of the World – in whatever form The World presents itself – there shall be another Robin Williams who will hang himself. For suicide is the manifestation of despair. And despair arises when one hopes not on Truth. And one hopes not on Truth either because one fails to see the tragedy, as does the superficial American laugh a minute, arm the rebels and bomb the Russians lifestyle, or because one fails to find the Merciful Strength to endure till the end.
Those who love will pray, while fearing all the while at the alternative possibility which alone it seems bears the testimony that man can read, that Robin Williams repented as he breathed his last, and so, repenting, escaped, despite the tragedy of his earlier life which led him to his tragic physical death, the terrifying fury of eternal death.
REQUIEM aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.