The husband and I talk a lot. It’s kind of our thing, the talking. Sometimes I am half listening while doing something else and other times I am completely focused on the conversation. It’s hard to slip the first one past him because if I don’t disagree completely, he usually gets suspicious and asks me to repeat back to him what he said. And then I tell him he’s being ridiculous and scurry off to a fake burning dinner.
Sometimes his perspective on something is so daft that I refuse to listen any further. We recently had one of those. He shared a topic he wanted to discuss, gave me his point of view, and I responded that if he ever mentioned his perspective on that ever again we would divorce. Other times he can be cynical; it’s in those cases that I am less focused on the conversation and more focused on convincing him to be a little softer on humanity.
About a hundred yards from our apartment is the bench from the famous scene in Good Will Hunting. Since the news of Robin Wiliams’ death broke, it’s become a memorial of pictures, words, and momentos to the late actor. Swarms of people are gathered at any point in the day, snapping photos or adding something to the pop-up alter. The husband and I walked by it on Tuesday afternoon and he made a comment about the absurdity of it all, commenting on how disingenuous it felt. I was going to let it go and allow him to remain the soulless, shell of a man that I have come to accept and love as my life partner, but I couldn’t. He needed the counsel of his wise spouse.
I can’t speak for everyone and I know that. I realize that my perspective of this earth and this life is vastly different than someone–anyone– elses, but I do think we share a few very basic things. I think celebrity deaths and national tragedies awaken in us a desire to be in an emotional community and to be recognized as alive and feeling. I think that without even realizing it– often eschewing it, in fact, we crave that connection to other human beings. That reminder that we are each fragile, vulnerable beings. In the face of communal suffering, strangers hug and make selfless sacrifices and show that our basic instincts are what define us, not our premeditated and over thought actions.
We’ve become desensitized to the value we each have to one another and that’s the reason we become cynical. Yes, it is possible that a no one man in a nothing suburb of a normal city in a largely rural state was affected by the passing of Mr. Williams because one time, two times, five times– however many times– that actor gave that man a moment of happiness and laughter. And he remembered it. Maybe it was a point of reference. Maybe it was a turning point. Or maybe it was nothing more than a a few hours in an air conditioned movie theater, but that man had a moment’s worth of unexpressed appreciation that he carried with him. And he never got to tell anyone. And now he can. On the day that Mr. Williams died, that man could saddle up to the bar and look another man in the eye and start a conversation about his feelings and no one could bat an eye. Because remembering is the greatest form of appreciation. They could share their lives with one another through Robin Williams.
So when I looked across the pond at all those people standing at an abandoned bench, together, I didn’t see a bunch of people standing there remembering Robin Williams, I saw them standing there remembering themselves. That made them feel something. Maybe it was a sadness at the loss of a catalyst in a world that continues to make it harder to be. Maybe it was the hard realization that someone had worked so hard to lift them up when no one could do the same for him. Or maybe it was that feeling that in saying goodbye, Mr. Williams had given back all the laughter he had ever brought to this world so that we could play it all again and remember how much we loved…