I recently watched a series entitled “Breakout” which was about how men in U.S. prisons planned and accomplished their escapes. What stood out to me in each instance was how every prisoner was sure that if he could only get outside the prison walls he would then be able to live a “normal” life. They really seemed to think that once outside the prison walls the past deeds which had landed them within those walls would be as if they had never happened. This struck me as both bizarre and the ultimate expression of the narcissism fostered by our me-centric culture, this thinking that reality can be remade according to our likes and dislikes.
Reality is not at all interested in our interpretation of it, and… to some extent… reality insists upon our compliance with its demands. This is certainly something made clear to me through my five foot surgeries as well as my recent cryosurgery for prostate cancer. The irony at the heart of these events is that I now have a better chance of being healthy and happy by having faced up to and complied with what those realities insisted needed to be done.
This past year we lost Robin Williams, the world’s greatest talent. Since his death I have often reflected upon how distressing his inner reality must have been to have driven him to take himself away from us by his own hand. During his career he gave us so much happiness, and yet his own unhappiness was so profound that the only solution he could see for it was at the end of a belt hanging from a balcony. Like the prisoners in Breakout, he thought that he could be happy only if he could escape. In no way am I taking him to task since no one can know, as he did, the terrible dark depths of his inner conflicts. What a sorrow his pain blinded him to the joy that we found in his reality when he was among us. The reality of who we are does not belong to us solely: It also belongs to those who are touched by our being-in-existence. As we Orthodox say, and pray, in regard to our beloved departed: Memory Eternal, Robin.
You escaped… but are you free?