I stumble across all sorts of stuff in my archives, some of which has never seen the light of day. Here’s #5 in a series of posts I’m going to make when I find some of these treasures. Some will be captioned, others will not. The only criteria for posting in this series is that:
a.) I’m in the photo or…
b.) … I took the photo.
Nephew Andrew Kimes graduated from the Basic Parachutists Course at Fort Benning in the summer of 2003. From left, me, Andy and Andy’s mom and my sister, B.J.
Garrett and Nate visited Mount Vernon about a year or so ago and while we were there, I snapped this with my cell phone camera, dragged it into PhotoShop and aged the photo. (Garrett did not age abnormally from the process.)
Me on television circa 1980 anchoring “Fort Gordon On The Move!” a weekly information program seen on tens of screens worldwide.
Always loved this photo of Garrett and Nate being pursued by the late Bella. They always loved to take Bella out for a romp in the back yard.
Following is my opinion and my opinion alone and is not based on any scientific study or thesis, just my own individual observations over the years. So don’t go off on me and tell me I’m wrong – I may very well be. But this explanation fits based on what I know and represents one of many scenarios. There. Now this essay has been sufficiently disclaimed.
It’s not about cowardice. It’s about relief.
I could never defend suicide as a rational, reasonable solution to anything. No reasonable mind could possibly draw that conclusion, so don’t think for a second that I condone suicide as a remedy for what ails the suffering mind. I do not. But I do understand it.
Committing suicide, in my opinion, has more in common with curing a headache than it does with cowardice.
When your head hurts, you seek relief by grabbing a bottle of ibuprofen or aspirin or something. The goal: to make the hurt go away.
Suicide is similar in that killing one’s self becomes the only relief available. Unfortunately as we all know, the consequences are far direr than grabbing 800 milligrams of ibuprofen and taking a nap.
It’s all about relief. It’s all about making it stop.
When one is in the depths of depression, sleep becomes a blessed relief from the past, the present and the future – all of which during the waking state appear hopeless. Only in sleep is there a blessed unconsciousness. Only in dreams are there precious few moments free of the hopelessness of the waking state. That eight hours becomes the focus of everything else one does during the waking state: “I have to go to work so I can get back to sleep and not hurt for awhile.” Or: “I need to hurry up and finish dinner and get everything settled for the evening before that moment when the real, oppressive, and horrible existence fades from view into the darkness of sleep and the freedom of dreams.” These are the things that go through one’s mind as the drudgery and the misery of a hopeless existence weigh heavily upon each and every day.
Then sleep. Blessed sleep. The relief of unconsciousness and of dreams. Even the unconsciousness brings relief. Especially the unconsciousness.
And that’s where the problem comes.
Once the unconsciousness of sleep and the perceived unconsciousness of death become equivocated, the rational barriers between living and dying break down. The attractiveness of that relief that is only temporarily found in sleep spills over to that which is perceived to be in death.
You see where I’m going with this.
It’s not about being a coward. It’s about needing the hurt to stop. Unfortunately, there’s no medicine which can mitigate that kind of hurt. And it’s tough to see a rational way out for such a visceral experience.
Regardless of how you feel about it, Robin Williams and others who commit suicide every day aren’t cowards. They just want the hurt to stop.
So please stop accusing those who commit suicide or attempt it of cowardice. “Tough love” doesn’t work here. It’s not helpful to anyone least of all them. Instead, consider empathy, compassion and offers of help and comfort. There are other ways to make the hurt stop and it starts with all of us.
Even though I was part of the entertainment industry for over a decade, I never had occasion to meet Robin Williams. Even working at E! Entertainment Television, where big name stars routinely roamed the halls, Mr. Williams was not one of the ones I encountered wandering about the building. (I did ride the elevator with Lou Diamond Phillips once. I also walked past Raquel Welch one day grotesquely stretching every muscle in my neck just to get another fraction of a second’s glance at her beauty, which really was um… substantial.) But I think Robin gave me one of the biggest and most memorable laughs of my life while I was at E!.
In those days, E! routinely covered movie premieres. People from E!’s talent pool would camp out on the red carpet and conduct the usual interviews live on the air with the stars as they proceeded to whatever venue was hosting the premiere. This was pretty early on at E!, and we didn’t have a lot of the technological bells and whistles that the major networks had. In fact, it wasn’t too long before this that E! got its very own steerable satellite dish. We hadn’t yet installed a delay and dump button. (We didn’t do that until one of our hosts said “I’m sweating like a fucking pig!” before she had been cleared by the floor manager.)
Anyway, down the red carpet comes Robin and he stops to talk with one of our reporters. It was a routine interview with the usual questions: Who are you wearing? What was it like working on the film? What do you have coming up for your next project? Of course with Robin, nothing was ever routine and I honestly don’t remember how he got started. I assume he was going off on one of his riffs when he said “tits” live on the air just as plain as day. Realizing that he’d just said “tits” on the air, he raised his voice, looked straight at the camera and gleefully said “Tits! Can you say ‘tits’ on E!? TITS!!!”
Of course, it was insanely funny to hear this on the air as long as it was Robin Williams and not Joan Rivers. I remember the entire master control room where I worked erupting in raucous laughter. There was no delay, no dump button, and no way to stop what was then still a verboten word from making it out on the air. But because it came from Robin Williams, who knew without a doubt that he was doing something naughty on the air and that probably (correctly) that there was nothing that we could do about it, all we could do was laugh. And that was OK with us.
I saw Robin in concert here in DC just a few years ago. I wound up sitting in the front row of the audience that night. He was funny enough, but he didn’t look as though he was having a lot of fun up on stage. But I surely did.
One final thought: I saw Disney’s “Aladdin” probably five times in the theater when it was first out back in 1992. I remember seeing it at least three of those times at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. (Still one of my favorite movie houses, along with the original Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.) First of all, it was a genuinely great movie on its own merit, but much of the draw for me was the strength and magic of Robin’s performance as the Genie. For years I listened to the soundtrack album and again, much of the draw was his voice performance.