Saturday, August 16, 2014

Robin Williams and this Depressing Summer

Robin Williams and this Depressing Summer

The events of the summer we’re living through have been so depressing and dangerous. It is the kind of summer that brings tears to so many human eyes; eyes such as Joseph shed in Egypt as we read about in our first lesson. The conflict in the Ukraine, the sudden rise of the super extreme ISIS militant faction in Iraq, warfare yet again between Palestinians and Israelis, another unarmed teen is killed and subsequent civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and now this week we hear of the death of a gifted comic genius, and Episcopalian Robin Williams. 

That one hit me hard. Well, to tell you the truth this summer hits me hard. The relentless bad news, day after day, after day. Even listening to it without the hype that the networks give it, has helped little. I prefer listening to my news on NPR and even there, the facts and details of it are all more than we can seem to bear.

Monday night as I was out for my evening walk, I heard the news of Robin Williams’ death; an apparent suicide. Oh my God, it took my breath away. Here is one with whom I share so much; a wonderful sense of humor, a common faith and the same psychiatric diagnosis as bi-polar. 

As for that unparalleled sense of humor, who can forget Robin’s ten top reasons to be an Episcopalian; 
10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. The Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine every Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

But all the comedy ended, all the laughter was silenced Monday. Not only do we share a common faith, we also share that demon known as bi-polar affective disorder. I had my break in 1990 and no recurrence since but I do take my meds faithfully, I see my psychiatrist, and my spiritual director just so that I can keep myself on an even keel. I pray and read my scripture every day and I keep a journal where I share with God my deepest thoughts.

None of us can know what it is that drives someone to this last great desperate act. But we do know from such books as the “Noonday Demon” that depression can be so dreadful and dark that many are driven to the depths of despair. From that point there is little comfort for those who suffer so. 

Interestingly enough I think Robin Williams dealt with the  question of suicide in one of his most self revealing movies; “What Dreams May Come” filmed and produced as long ago as 1998. It was not a critical success. I think it was probably too theologically profound to receive critical acclaim. In the movie, Robin plays a gifted doctor whose sons both die in dreadful accidents and then whose wife takes her own life. Eventually Robin’s character ends up in heaven, but he tells his angel that he cannot live in heaven without the one he loves. He decides he’d rather go to hell and be with her than to live in heaven without her. He then goes to go to hell and back for the love of his wife. And it is only that love that can overcome her deep and self absorbed despair.

I know what suicide leaves in its wake. As one who has gone to the graveyard with families of those who have taken their own lives, the question is often there, spoken or unspoken; is there really a heaven for my beloved? How can God embrace someone who forgets the mercy and love of God? 

The answer to that question comes in part, from today’s Epistle. “Can God reject his own people? God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

In today’s Gospel it is said that the woman has a demon. We live in an age full of demons. Now we call them personality disorders, schizophrenia, psychosis and so on, but the one thing we cannot fill with psychiatry is the void left when we take God out of the equation of modern life. 
When Jesus walked the planet, those with demons recognized him instantly. I ask you now to do the same. What of those today with empty souls? Empty bodies? With what shall we fill them if they cannot recognize Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit that dwells within? They cannot recognize Jesus unless we have the courage to tell the story of how God has made all the difference in our lives.
And when our lives are filled with demons, I only wish we could call out loudly and insistently like the woman in today’s Gospel. Even at the initial resistance of Jesus, the woman pushes back with daring tenacity. "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” At such such a statement as this Jesus says; “Great is your faith”.

How I wish I could have reached out to Robin Williams with my illnesses and my faith. I think we might have found a place to meet and laugh and cry and find God again beating in the human heart. Alas, that will have to wait until another day when “ What Dreams May Come” will be the dreams we dream. In the meantime, I will have to be patient. 

Sunday by Sunday and day after day we sings the songs of God and cheer one another on. I did write these words on Facebook Monday night not just for the broken hearted but for all of us. “A thought. Just a thought. Sometimes in the evening when you are wondering how somebody is, pick up the phone and ask them, "Hey, how are you?" You many save a life.”

Sure, I know it is a depressing summer. I know as well as anyone what demons lurk within the human heart as well as within our history. How long will it take for humankind to realize that the only answer to all our heartaches is the joy of knowing God our Creator, Jesus our Savior, and The Holy Spirit, the Holy Wisdom from on High. 

Yesterday I came across these magnificent words form a Celtic Psalter. Given the beauty of the land is it any wonder the Celtic land is a land of such poetry? Let me share these words with you now. 

At the heart of life and in its heights glory shines. 
Within creation and beyond
glory has its source.
Guide me to the heart of life
that I may know its heights.
Lead me further within, O God,
that I may know you as beyond.
In the sufferings of my heart
and the brokenness of creation
open to me further
the doors of the eternal
that through the pain that is within me and the struggles that are around me
I may be guided to you as the heart of life, that through the pain that is within me and the struggles that are around me
I may be guided to you as in and beyond all
that has life.

-from Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter. 

Keep singing the songs of God dear friends, cheer each other on. The Kingdom of heaven is among you and within us.

~Fr Paul


Maggid said...

Thank you for this post - it seems full of Hope and Understanding . . .

sigh . . .

Love & Love,

L.Lux said...

Thank you Paul share Hope.

L.Lux said...

Thanks for sharing Hope....

Fun and Thoughts said...

Bless you.