The night sky is full of brilliant starlight and we have been captivated with it since the dawn of time. We have wished upon those stars, sung lullabies to our babies about them, and at one time, we even navigated the dark oceans by their sentinel light. We have gazed upon the stars comforted by their consistent companionship, while at the same time, we have questioned and struggled with our place among them. Most of us have done these things without ever knowing that the light we see, much of the time, is the last breath of a star long since dead. How can something look so alive in our sights without revealing any sense of the darkness within? If celestial stars can wear a mask of vitality while secretly dying from the inside out, so too can kings, presidents, sports heroes, actors, singers and yes, even comedians. All of us endure that terrible dichotomy to some degree.
Robin Williams, the great actor, comedian and humanitarian, hung himself this week, presumably unable to further equalize his outward brilliance with his inner darkness. To know that someone with such life, humor, grace and talent could ever feel so inwardly unworthy, is a conflict unresolved by our tears. Depression is a disease still so misunderstood, minimized and outrageously believed to be born of a character flaw. As a society, we collectively imagine depression as coming from some deep-seeded mistake of the soul or laziness so ingrained that it robs us of our most intimate dignity. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Depression is a “real” disease, but one whose symptoms cannot be understood through the results of a blood test or an x-ray. You cannot suture that wound or mend that bone and know that in a prescribed amount of time the healing will be done. It is insidious that way and worse. It overtly invites the judgment of others. Ironically, I think you can call depression the “Great Equalizer.” Although it has a fondness for entire families, it can indiscriminately strike the rich, the poor, the educated, the simple, the young and the old at will. And clearly, it can strike the famous as well as the anonymous.
I have such an affinity for artists and creative souls and I am reminded of and confronted by their struggles on a daily basis. Even with my understanding of their orientation toward inner conflict, creative people, like children, seem to me to be unusually afflicted by depression and suicide. Not unlike the light from a dead star, we are afforded the enjoyment of their inspired gifts as well as their angst to live, without knowing they are suffering soul deep.
Suicide kills upwards of 30,000 people in the United States every year. Yet depression and suicide still come as a great shock to most of us. How can that be? How can we endure the devastating suicide of our teenagers, so awkwardly publicized on their social media security blankets, and still be caught off-guard? How can we be inundated with the news of celebrity suicide on an almost daily basis and feel so unprepared? I don’t have those answers either, other than to say that the light we see in our children’s eyes, in our hero’s lives and in the very stars themselves, seems too bright to be coming from a place of darkness. Maybe if we listen more, judge less and take better care of one another, we can all be afforded the light from a star that is not limited by time and space because it is encouraged by love and acceptance.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music That Makes Us Smile”