“O Captain, My Captain”
“He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.” Hamlet
In the scene quoted above, Hamlet holds the skull of a long departed friend. He speaks about him with love and sincerity as only Shakespeare could write. I learned of the beauty of Shakespeare from Robin Williams. I have loved Hamlet ever since. It is with great sadness that I write this article.
There are far too many celebrities, but few too many artists. There are not enough people that reach to the heart of people with their art. Robin Williams was one of those few. I must say that his death is no greater than any other death. I can only say that his work meant a lot to me. I do not claim that he was a saint. It is all the more apparent now that Robin had demons. He was human like any of us. His work is what brought us to him. It is his work that should be celebrated.
I don’t know if there will ever be another like him. I sincerely doubt that another actor will be able to grab your heart with such sincerity and make you feel with such passion. There won’t likely be another so desirous of our laughs. I don’t know if there will be another that will plead for us to see the beauty in simplicity. No one will ever look at us with the aged face of a father and the vulnerability of a child. I don’t know if another actor could speak with wisdom about his own failings and in so doing compel us to greater than he. Will we ever feel with another like Robin could make us feel through his passionate honesty? I truly do not know.
So much like Mr. Keating he has left us too early. He has taught us all he could and now it is our lesson to teach. He is hoping we will see the tragedies of our world and speak. He is hoping we will see the beauty and do the same. Perhaps he is waiting for us in some small office hoping maybe we won’t show because we went to see about a girl. That we may be so in love with life or someone else that we feel completely and totally vulnerable. I personally will take all these things with me as he has left.
That is what Robin did. In some moment he was able to reach out to humanity and speak to something pure in us. Through a laugh or a tear or perhaps a thought of desperate passion for something, he spoke to us. That is the work of the artist if it be writer, sculptor, painter, philosopher, composer, musician, speaker or actor. Their genius is in that for the brief time they were here they were able to connect humanity because of their work. I truly believe Robin was one of those. He will always be my Mr. Keating.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from 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. What will your verse be?” Dead Poet’s Society
So now I say with fondness “O captain, my captain!”