Robin Williams

I was as shocked as everybody else when I heard the news of Robin Williams’s apparent suicide. I wanted to write something about it because I am ardent fan of his work. In fact, I’m a fan of all those talented people who can make others laugh, starting from Ted Danson of Cheers to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, and all the f.r.i.e.n.d.s in between.

It also gets me thinking. Most of us want to be rich and famous. But money and fame don’t seem to be enough to keep anybody happy. Why is that? As usual, I have a theory about it. In fact, I have two. I will share both with you, but keep in mind that these are merely the theories of an unreal blogger, nothing more. The theories notwithstanding, right now, I just feel profoundly sad, almost as though Robin Williams was somebody I knew and cared about. It is silly, of course, but something about his age (and how uncomfortably close it is to mine), the suddenness of his death, and the fact that he made us laugh out loud, makes his parting something of a personal loss.

Why do celebrities have a hard time staying happy? We have seen a long line of celebrities with substance-abuse problems and taking their own lives in despair. The incidence of depression seems to be more prevalent¬†among them than the rest of us. They say it is probably the pressure of being a celebrity, the unrelenting media attention, paparazzi and whatnot. But I wonder… I feel as though if the media suddenly stopped paying attention to them, the celebrities would be even more depressed. I think the depression comes from something more fundamental. Celebrities are geniuses in their own right — otherwise they wouldn’t be celebrities. Geniuses, by definition, are away from the norm, from the rest of us. Their brains are wired differently. Then it seems likely that they would be more prone to psychological extremes; after all, extremes are also defined as being away from the norm. This could be one reason why so many of them end up being depressed. It’s possible that an equal number of them are euphoric, but that doesn’t make headlines, does it? Coming to think of it, I already wrote something like this before.

The second theory is that fame and money, while giving you a lot, might rob you of something very fundamental — your animalistic instinct for a strife. Once you are well off, you don’t face the daily struggle for survival. This may sound like a great thing, and I’m pretty sure it is. But I think we all have this need to fight, and these innate hunter-gatherer instincts are written in the recesses of our genes. Once the expression of this instinct is eliminated from our lives, we do go through some amount of stress, or a feeling of being lost. Perhaps in celebrities, with all their resources, this feeling is stronger than in among the rest of us loafers. Is that what is manifesting itself as depression and substance abuse?

Photo by theglobalpanorama