It’s late, close to midnight. And I’m wide awake, maybe a little stoned, and having the desire to write. So here I am. Today in therapy we talked about my comedian self and my doubting, adolescent self. I had a conversation with myself, first being the doubting 14 year old, then the comedian self. It was very revealing. Especially when my therapist pointed out HOW I was relating from one to the other. I was gentle and accepting. Just how I, as both parts, want to be accepted. Like I said, very revealing.
My therapist also told me that she’s leaving, moving to another city on another coast. That was shocking news. And not so coincidentally, I’d only just an hour previously, been talking to my friend about how much I liked my shrink. And how she’s not sick of me yet, nor I of her! Ha ha, the joke’s on me.
I’m sad to say goodbye to her. I’ve really come to like her. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, I don’t think. We finish in four to six weeks, she said. Damn.
After so many years of being on this earth, I’ve come to the conclusion that life is about sharing our stories. We each have a need to share, to connect with one another. And that’s a good thing, for we are all connected when you think about it.
I’ve seen many seasons
I’ve lived many years
I’ve had several sorrows
Shed so many tears.
As well, there’s been laughter
And joy and great fun!
This life I am living
One day will be done.
I try to be mindful
I try to be kind
I hope that I leave here
With Goodness behind.
There’s going to be a tribute on PBS tonight, but I wanted to give my own here. Robin Williams was a genius comedian. And a generous, lovely person. I’d seen him on television and at the movies, and twice live at Bimbo’s, where he was phenomenal!! I only ‘met’ him once and this is my story. He had asked where to go for an open mic in SF so he could work on some new stuff. Dirty Trix was recommended to him by my friend Coree Spencer. Dirty Trix is (or was) on the site of what used to be the Holy City Zoo, where Robin began many years ago. So he went. And he performed to a bunch of elated comics, but I missed it. Then word got out that he was coming back. I went this time. And I had a spot right in front. He blew the roof off the place that night! He was hilarious. We all, every last comic there, knew brilliance when we saw him on that stage performing. And when he left, he had to pass right by me. I brazenly stuck out my hand into his and said Thank you! We shook hands though he didn’t look at me. That was okay. I had touched the magic that was Robin Williams. He had made us laugh and I was able to thank him personally.
It’s not much of a story… but it’s mine.
Another time at the Throckmorton Theatre, I sat in front of him and Mort Sahl. I would sneak little peaks at him, but didn’t want to intrude on his privacy. Not there.
Like many in these past weeks, I find it hard to believe that someone with such brilliance to make people laugh could have been so depressed. I’m sorry that we didn’t know. The world lost a shining light when he left us.
Thank you, Robin Williams, for being here, for being you.
Depression has been hanging around lately, making my life more miserable than usual. I say this tongue in cheek, cause I know I’m pretty fortunate – I have a roof over my head, food on the table, & people I care about. Plus, something I love to do. Comedy & writing. But it doesn’t come easy. And I don’t know why now? Therapists & doctors ask me, What’s the trigger? What happened recently to make you feel so depressed & suicidal? I don’t know what to tell them. It’s many things. It’s many things for a long time. And I don’t know which is the straw breaking this camel’s back.
Anyway, not to get too down about it. I know that everyone suffers in some way, shape or form. That’s why we’re here. Or so I believe. No, not to suffer, but to learn & grow. And yes, life’s a bitch, cause it’ll keep sending you the same shit until you finally get it.
I don’t have any answers or words of wisdom today. Perhaps just to say, reach out & connect. That seems to help me. And when all else fails & you think you can’t go any further, take a fucking nap.
I will pass away sooner than most people who read this, but that doesn’t shake my sense of wonder and joy
BY ROGER EBERT
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
I don’t expect to die anytime soon. But it could happen this moment, while I am writing. I was talking the other day with Jim Toback, a friend of 35 years, and the conversation turned to our deaths, as it always does. “Ask someone how they feel about death,” he said, “and they’ll tell you everyone’s gonna die. Ask them, In the next 30 seconds? No, no, no, that’s not gonna happen. How about this afternoon? No. What you’re really asking them to admit is, Oh my God, I don’t really exist. I might be gone at any given second.”
Me too, but I hope not. I have plans. Still, illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death.
Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”
Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it. I know a priest whose eyes twinkle when he says, “You go about God’s work in your way, and I’ll go about it in His.”
What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all also eventually die, but so it goes.
O’Rourke’s had a photograph of Brendan Behan on the wall, and under it this quotation, which I memorized:
I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
That does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
One of these days I will encounter what Henry James called on his deathbed “the distinguished thing.” I will not be conscious of the moment of passing. In this life I have already been declared dead. It wasn’t so bad. After the first ruptured artery, the doctors thought I was finished. My wife, Chaz, said she sensed that I was still alive and was communicating to her that I wasn’t finished yet. She said our hearts were beating in unison, although my heartbeat couldn’t be discovered. She told the doctors I was alive, they did what doctors do, and here I am, alive.
Do I believe her? Absolutely. I believe her literally — not symbolically, figuratively or spiritually. I believe she was actually aware of my call and that she sensed my heartbeat. I believe she did it in the real, physical world I have described, the one that I share with my wristwatch. I see no reason why such communication could not take place. I’m not talking about telepathy, psychic phenomenon or a miracle. The only miracle is that she was there when it happened, as she was for many long days and nights. I’m talking about her standing there and knowing something. Haven’t many of us experienced that? Come on, haven’t you? What goes on happens at a level not accessible to scientists, theologians, mystics, physicists, philosophers or psychiatrists. It’s a human kind of a thing.
Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing. All the same, as I wrote to Monica Eng, whom I have known since she was six, “You’d better cry at my memorial service.” I correspond with a dear friend, the wise and gentle Australian director Paul Cox. Our subject sometimes turns to death. In 2010 he came very close to dying before receiving a liver transplant. In 1988 he made a documentary named “Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh.” Paul wrote me that in his Arles days, van Gogh called himself “a simple worshiper of the external Buddha.” Paul told me that in those days, Vincent wrote:
Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.
Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?
Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.
To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.
That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive. Or, as his little dog, Milou, says whenever Tintin proposes a journey, “Not by foot, I hope!”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I suppose I should be wearing green – everyone’s Irish today, right? I’m remembering a St. Patrick’s Day way back when in NYC. I was coming home from work and it was around 4pm. I got out of the subway holding a box of cupcakes left over from work. There were tons of people on the street and half of them drunk already. I slammed right into one of New York’s finest and he bashed the box I was carrying. I was none too happy right then. I was so surprised, too, cause I was pretty sure he’d been drinking along with everybody else.
Another new year. 2013. Let’s hope for & work toward a healthy, happy, prosperous & peaceful year.
And may we all have love in our lives.
So, the world did not end. It’s raining, but that’s hardly a cause for concern. Unless I see Noah heading to the lumber yard, I’m thinking we’re okay.
I never considered that it might end. I know it will someday, not only for me in this life, then somewhere long down the road, for the planet itself. But it’s a curious thing to be thinking about this morning. What if the world had ended last night? Then what? And now that it, so far, hasn’t ended, what do we do about continuing? Perhaps it’s time for a new start as some are saying. It wasn’t the ending the Mayans were talking about – it’s the beginning.
We could certainly use a new awareness & consciousness in this world. I think for me, this means looking at the big picture. Not getting caught up in the day to day mishegos & living life with blinders on, only seeing what’s directly in front of me. There’s so much more to it. It’s hard sometimes. Often. It’s often hard. Depression can be like that. Robbing you of joy. Stealing your motivation. Making it seem like this is all there is & it’s pretty shitty, at that.
Deep down – and when I’m feeling okay – I don’t believe that. The Universe is so much bigger, much more complicated, than we can ever imagine. And everything matters. Even the smallest gesture of love.