Robin Williams’s death and the meaning of life

The world was shocked with the news that the much-loved Hollywood actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life. It was hard for his fans to reconcile his animated persona on screen with the revelation that he was actually an unhappy person off screen. It was discomforting to think that someone who made it a business to make people forget about their worries was himself overwhelmed with anxieties.

It must be exhausting having to project a wacky image all the time.
It must be exhausting having to project a wacky image all the time.
There were other celebrities who have come and gone in equally tragic circumstances but their star wasn’t as bright as Robin Williams’s. He was a household name and this is evident in the continued tremendous outpouring of tributes and support from around the world weeks after his death.

Williams’s death was a great loss not just to the show business industry but also to generations of people who enjoyed watching him breathe life into the characters he played in films. He has been in our lives since some of us were kids. To this day, I still laugh when I watch footage of Williams as the Genie in the animated film Alladin.

Williams was an all-around entertainer. There was no film genre he couldn’t fit himself in. He was in comedy, drama, musical and animation. A lot of actors ruin their careers after unsuccessfully switching from one genre to another. Williams did not share their problem though because moviegoers did not have a problem watching him being a funny man or a serious bloke.

When you watch Williams in action, you would be amazed at how quick-witted he was and at his mastery of improvisation during live shows. One can be forgiven for thinking that he must have been high on drugs while doing his shows because some drugs have been known to help people lose their inhibitions, make people appear confident and sharp. Considering he has admitted to being addicted to cocaine and alcohol in the past, that theory is not too far-fetched.

William’s death made me appreciate my ordinary life. When I look at celebrities, I feel tired for them. They always have to put their best foot forward. I can’t imagine being funny all the time like Williams. It must be exhausting. It can be difficult being in the limelight and Williams had been in the limelight for almost four decades.

While I was watching a video of his stand-up comedy show in his early days, the possibility of why Williams ended his life occurred to me. He must have been sick and tired of entertaining people but could not retire just like how ordinary folks would when they have reached a saturation point in their career.

Only someone who felt trapped would think of killing himself. He probably felt trapped because there were too many people who were depending on him. Those who were relying on him included his family for emotional and financial support and the millions of strangers who he felt obliged to entertain. It was reported that Williams didn’t want to get more acting jobs but was just forced to for financial reasons. In other words, he was doing it for other people. That reason alone could have been a source of his depression.

Every time someone dies especially from suicide, people tend to become more philosophical and question the meaning of life. The meaning of life has eluded a lot of people, indeed.

Yes, we will all die one day and the things we do now – the struggles and the squabbles we go through to get what we want – will not matter in the end. But while we are alive, we have to do something to make our lives worthwhile.

Life is about having options. The less options you have in life, the less you will enjoy life. When you don’t have an option but to stick to a job you don’t like for instance, you will feel trapped and depressed.

What gives meaning to our lives is what we do between now and the day we die. We may spend hours in our jobs but our jobs need not define who we are as a person. We should have hobbies and pursue other interests for the fun of it or to gain a new skill. Some hobbies can give people financial rewards and result in financial freedom. Financial freedom can give people more options.

As a rule, you should not be doing things only because it makes other people happy. You should do things because it makes you happy foremost. If you have to disappoint someone because you have to stop doing something you no longer want to do, do not think twice about it. You always have to remind yourself that life is too short to be trapped in a situation you do not enjoy.

Of course there are times when you have to play the cards you are dealt. But that is just life challenging you to be more creative in looking for a way out of a bad situation you find yourself in. Challenges can give you character. You should embrace them. Always remember that the secret is to think about what you want to do and not what others expect you to do.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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15 Comments on "Robin Williams’s death and the meaning of life"

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Jerry Lynch
Robin Williams was not simply depressed, but rather, he suffered from a medical condition called “Clinical Depression.” Many, in fact most, people have no understanding of this condition and how it affects someone’s life. What does the term “clinical depression” mean? Answers from Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical… Read more »

I don’t think you can really look for reasons ‘why’ someone was depressed. Depression is a force of nature. I’m sure we all know people living with it (or are those people ourselves), and the only positive outcome from the tragic Robin Williams story is that it might make fewer people spout unhelpful and ignorant sentiments along the lines of “What do you have to be unhappy about?” or “But he/she has such a good life,” when what’s required is their empathy.

I think you should have not stated the speculation about financial trouble as to a possible cause that pushed him over the edge. It is a rumor/speculation and should be kept out of this. He has been very open about his battle with addiction and depression and I recall watching his interview on Inside the Actors Studio wherein he publicly admitted to it as well. It is hard to comprehend for us who don’t suffer depression what extent they reached to push them to suicide, but that’s the thing. We who don’t have it would not be able to comprehend… Read more »

Ilda, I think this article should be illuminating of the comic-as-depressive mentality (especially as it is from a comedy website):