By the time you read this, we will have been a week deep into a very dark place, a place void of laughter, quick-thinking, brilliant-funny, and sometimes heart-breaking emotions, with the loss of Robin Williams and his cast of characters, including Mork from Ork, sitting on his head in a chair, and John Keating, a professor taking a stodgy, aristocratic school of boys and helping them see the world differently by standing on his desk whistling the “1812 Overture” in Dead Poets Society.
Sometime around 1978, I was living on Beacon Hill in the fine aristocratic city of Boston. I have never been one to engage in an outpouring of vocal belly-busting laughter, but on one particular day (and for decades to come) Robin Williams was able to invoke that behavior in me. Then in 1989, he brought me to tears in the Dead Poets Society as a professor bringing humanity and real learning to a brain-numbing line-stepping school. I know how that can be, having spent two years in such a place until I convinced my father I would get thrown out if he didn’t take me out. Good old dad decided I would indeed disgrace myself in private, so he figured it was better I do it in public, and I was released from those gates, and off to public school I went. Fifty years later I am still marching my own line-step and to my own beat. John Keating was that type of true Teacher. Mork from Ork, John Keating, and other memorable characters have left us, but fortunately for us all the memories remain.
People ask why such gifted people end their own lives--by drugs and alcohol in a slow death or more quickly. Personally, I think the powers-that-be do not always give great gifts and an unconquerable soul. The mind and heart are often veiled behind the gifts they give us. Emotionally, I am standing on my desk, whistling the “1812 Overture.”
Speaking of whistling, we also lost Lauren Bacall to a massive stroke this week at age 89. Lauren Bacall had the level of sophistication and sensuality I look for in every woman I have ever known. Just check out the film To Have and Have Not and the “whistling” exchange between the characters played by Bogart and Bacall. From the voice to face no one will take her place.
There is so much spinning around in my head right now, and this blog has only touched the surface. Our learning to lock-step in blind obedience starts in the first year of school. Somewhere, I hope there are a lot of students who, if not now, will someday stand on their desks on their own two feet. I'm going out now to do what I have been doing all my life: whistle into the wind and hope someone catches the tune.
I have no idea what we may find on the shores of Rambling Harbor this week, but join me there and give a listen.