Oh Captain, My Captain!

Robin Williams

It’s been a week since Robin Williams died, and I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing the comments I posted to Facebook last Tuesday morning, with a few minor modifications. I end this post as I begin it (“Oh Captain, My Captain!”) because of all the ways that Robin touched my life (The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting), it is The Fisher King that most shaped my young mind, inspiring me to go for the life that was authentic, the life that is mine alone. Thank you, Robin, for shining so bright, and for inspiring all of us to let our own lights shine. And now my thoughts of last Tuesday, which are as true today as they were then.

“I was at a play last night by the Pulitzer nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph. Joseph and the male lead both worked with Robin Williams on Rajiv’s pulitzer nominated play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” with Robin in the titular role. It was an intimate performance in a very small theatre, but afterwords, the lead actor spoke on behalf of himself and Joseph about their great loss and the world’s great loss. People sprung into tears all around me. A reminder of how deeply we sometimes touch the lives of those we do not know.

In this in this year of great loss in the Hollywood community (Philip Seymour Hoffman and now Robin Williams), I just want to say that we owe a great great debt to those who open themselves fully, who feel so very very deeply for the rest of us (who, like the scapegoats of yore, agree to carry the wounds of the tribe).

Those who make art from our joy and our suffering both, and who sometimes pay too heavy a price for being open to the very things that make us most alive, but that also bring us to that razor’s edge between life and death. It is here that the deepest truths are found, and it is a precarious place. We owe a debt to those who travel there on our behalf, especially the greats, them most of all, for what separates the great artist from everyone else isn’t talent — or isn’t talent alone — it is the willingness to walk that thin line between life and death so that they might offer something greater to the world from the depths of our collective soul. And so yes, to everything my cousin James said about reaching out if you need us, about knowing that we are there. And for those who cannot reach out, who stand in an aloneness that even love cannot penetrate, I offer you my love and my solidarity and my deep deep respect. It is a difficult journey. Some of us walk it more valiantly than most. Some of us burn brighter and burn out faster. Who is to say when a life’s journey is done.

Oh Captain, my Captain!, may you rest in sweetest peace.”


PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.

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