So this year we've lost two of my favorite performing artists: Philip Seymour Hoffman, and now even more painfully, Robin Williams.
"Favorite" really doesn't say much. These two were actors who somehow forged a resonant style that was not confined to the screen. Such depth and humanity were so rarely combined, in so many performances, as was done by these two.
And in the case of Robin's, the art was never so effervescent, so frenetically hilarious, while carrying with the laughter the gentle memorandum that time also begets tears.
So we know, if we hadn't already, that the man cried just as much as he laughed.
But he put himself out so that others could laugh and get some relief from weary dark days. I just heard that Stephen Spielberg, while he was filming Schindler's List, called Robin every night and -- with the heavy weight of Shoa on his head -- asked this extremely depressed actor who rendered Mork for our viewing pleasure, "Please make me laugh."
Robin Williams made me laugh many many times. Over and over again.
This despite the congenital sadness that physically threw him down into spiritual crevices. Depression, it must be said and remembered, is a condition that may or may not be caused or accompanied by the passion of despondency. They are two different things.
Robin was one of many, many artists who have not only made art despite their melancholy: it may be that these comedians, performers, writers, actors, and ultimately poets were able to create such depth and breadth of beauty because of their long-suffering sadness.
They chose, and were singly able, to gather sweetness from the twilight.
I do not think that the Christian mind should deny this, just as it should not refuse the gift of mirth from a jester out of concern for grim proprieties. This world really is, as GK used to say often, deepened with the minor tones of tragedy. Sure enough, we have the present tense of eschatological joy.
But cannot mirth be part of that joy, at least analogically?
And cannot tragic beauty deepen the story, and defer its peace, only to the advent of the singular Word?
In the meantime, let the Lord minister to Whom He wills, and to the humane jester, Robin Williams.