gratitude-a-thon day 359: “O Captain! My Captain!”

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His eyes always twinkled. He had one of those faces that looked like the sun just broke through the clouds.

 

Some of the pee-my-pants funniest people I know have struggled with addiction and depression–those two lovers, that so often go hand in hand. They are diseases we look down on, think that they come from a lack of willpower. We say “buck up,” and yet, oddly, these take-over-your-life afflictions seem to result in people who often make us laugh the hardest. Oh, the fucking irony.

Robin Williams was one of those people, born with the twin demons. And he made us guffaw and giggle our heads practically off of our bodies. He did jokes and voices with the agility and speed of an olympic skier on a slalom course. And just as adeptly he could make you cry with his sincerity. A quick wit and a big heart. His range was boundless in movies as diverse as Mrs. Doubtfire, in which he played drag better than the pros, and Good Will Hunting, in which he played a therapist who changes the life of a Southie genius, while healing himself at the same time. And then of course, there was Dead Poet’s Society. “O Captain! My, Captain!” I seem to be one of the only people in advertising who was dramatically moved by the recent Apple iPad commercials, (legions of people hated these) in which Robin did the voice over, and quotes Walt Whitman:

“O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

He sold those words to me like nobody else could, with a depth and emotion that got me in my gut. As I type them, I can hear his passionate resonating voice echo through me. He contributed more than a verse. He contributed a million volumes. If we’re really lucky, he will have contributed more awareness to addiction and depression, too. Ah, nanu, nanu.

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