Yes, I know the past few days there have been many blog posts and articles and tweets and status updates about Robin Williams’ death, depression, and suicide. I know that, being a whole 2 days later in this world of immediate mass media, that I’m a little late to the game to be posting something, but it often takes a bit of time for me to process my thoughts, so just bear with me here…
The past couple days, I’ve found that Robin Williams’ death has affected me, as it has also affected so many others. Though I have my own personal thoughts about depression and suicide (I actually once trained to be a volunteer on a suicide hotline), I don’t feel that this blog is the place for me to post these things right now. But still, in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death, I’ve for some reason found myself feeling. Feeling something. And feeling strongly. But what I’ve felt seems to be different than everything else I’m reading out there.
It’s hard for me to admit this, because I don’t want this to come across as callous, but what I’ve felt, rather than sympathy or a claim of personal influence/association, is, well, I don’t know the best word to say this and maybe there’s a better word out there – but is a bit of annoyance. That sounds horrible to say, I know, but I suppose it’s a bit of both annoyance AND sadness. Not sadness at his death, per se, but sadness at the way his death has been so widely acknowledged and his life so celebrated in all of this. For some reason I can’t help but instead think about all the other people in the world suffering and dying right now too. Suffering from much more fundamental human concerns like hunger, life-threatening disease, poverty, political unrest. Or even those right under our noses who lack that which most of us take for granted; the ones who face long-term unemployment, struggle to pay rent and put food on the table, or are in horribly physically abusive relationships.
I understand that any one person does not have the emotional capacity to deeply care about every.single.person.in.the.whole.wide.world. We instead are limited to feel emotion only for those around us, in our community, and in our social and familial circles. But in the cases of Robin Williams and other celebrities, many people (both in and out of Hollywood) still feel an emotional response. Even though oftentimes the only connection they have is a perceived connection through the celebrity’s impersonal public life.
Why does the allure of celebrity status make people take notice where they wouldn’t have before? Why are celebrities so esteemed? Just the mere fact that they are well-known? Surely there are people all around us, those who are only known by a few, who are just as worthy of our esteem and concern, right?
It’s telling to see what things our society cares about the most.
I’m in an interesting phase of life right now, trying to figure out exactly what I’m contributing to the world and what legacy I hope to leave it one day. And I find myself asking what kind of impact an individual should hope to achieve in this world? What capacity do I have make a real difference?
Do only celebrities have the ability to make widespread progress?
Yes, Robin Williams mattered. But there are so many other people around us who matter too. Why are we not more impacted by individuals that we have personal contact with and who actually directly impact our own lives than we are impacted by celebrities?
I moved out to L.A. almost 11 years ago exactly, and I think, in small part, it was in order to figure out the answer this question.
Coming someday soon: An entry highlighting some of the unsuspecting people who have unknowingly, yet significantly, impacted my life and why. None of whom are celebrities.