I, like everyone else, have been contemplating the passing of Robin Williams. I am especially struck by the juxtaposition of comedy and art to the darkness of depression and life-ending desperation. It is amazing to watch people fight so hard for their lives and to stay afloat, that their coping mechanisms ultimately emanate from every pore, disguising whatever horrors they internally experience.
Over the past year especially, I have been on the periphery of extreme pain- the kind that makes one's soul curdle. I've watched my dear friends move about the world, fighting against the desire to scream "You have no idea what my life is like right now. The endless circles of Hell I'm going through." They instead smile and nod through gritted teeth, slightly twitchy, but still (sort of) presentable to those they encounter. And I now think the only reasonable conclusion is to assume everyone, everywhere, is treading water and fighting for every breath.
David Foster Wallace gave the graduation address below about this very dilemma a few years before he took his own life. He poignantly discussed that "the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about." But (thank heavens) he also points out that we don't have to walk around avoiding the pain and heartache that plagues us all. In fact, maybe even once in a while we can acknowledge these scary, devastating, ever-pervasive aspects of our existence and swim in them together, buoying one another, thus making the journey a little less wet, a little less cold, and a little less lonely.