Looking is Really All That We Have

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If I’ve been down this road before I apologize, but after a month of staring down the same scenery I’m taking this turn so I can look at something different.

When I was younger it used to grate my nerves when people would get sad about a celebrity dying. Why get sad about someone you’ve never met when there are real people leaving real people every day? And then four years ago Robin Williams committed suicide and it messed with my head for a long time.

On the surface, yeah, it was sad that a guy I grew up with on my TV was gone and I loved a lot of his work. One of the first shows I can remember watching was Mork and Mindy. Apparently, when I was 4 all I needed to be entertained was an alien who said “Na-Nu Na-Nu”. But I think more than anything I was always attracted to his energy and what seemed like an insatiable itch to make people feel better by laughing. Growing up, when I’d ask myself important questions like “What do you want to do when you grow up”, the only thing I could ever answer was “I want to make people laugh”. Not to say I ever had intentions of being a comedian, but I do love to make the people I love laugh. At a minimum, 51% of my conversation time is spent coming up with the most asinine things possible hoping something funny comes out. Robin Williams lived my dream. He made people happy and got rich doing it. From afar, you’d think someone who spent so much time laughing had life figured out and was pretty happy.

Clearly, that wasn’t the case.

His reasons for leaving were his reasons. We can guess as to why, but who really knows? It’s impossible to put into words everything that goes on in our own minds let alone someone else’s. But what stuck with me when Robin Williams took his life was that he was older. He was 63. And while 63 isn’t ancient the only thing I could think was “Damn, he made it through all this crazy shit in his life. How bad did it have to get for him to make this choice at this point in his life”? See, I would have believed that by the time you reach your 60’s you’ve learned some tricks of the trade, that you’ve figured out your problems to the point that while they may never leave you, you at least know how to cope (or have become comfortably numb) and you can kind of coast through the rest of life enjoying it for what it is. And if this man, Robin Williams, the guy with the biggest laugh in the world couldn’t figure it out without wanting to tap out early, what chance do I have? That thought scared me.

Flash forward to earlier this year when Anthony Bourdain took his life. Here, another guy who had seemingly beat his past demons, was living the life, travelling around the world showing his viewers how to find hope and joy where to the naked eye there wasn’t much, and at 61 he decided his own continued search for happiness wasn’t worth the effort and decided he was out. That fact alone, more than anything else surrounding his passing, really knocked me on my ass for a long time.

I think one of the big draws to travelling is the search for answers about your existence and existence the super concept that can’t be answered within the normal confines of your life. So you go out to look and learn. Anthony Bourdain covered just about every square inch of this place and even he couldn’t find what he is looking for. Or maybe he did and he was just disappointed with the answer? I don’t know. Either way, I found myself once again asking how bad things can get after someone as successful as Anthony Bourdain decides life isn’t worth living, when, relative to the time he already put in battling his demons he didn’t have much time left anyway before the end that comes for all of us naturally showed up at his doorstep.

More recently, the death (probable OD) of Mac Miller has really hovered over me. And it’s funny because he was never someone I really invested much time into as far as listening to his music. All I knew was that he was a kid from Pittsburgh and what I knew of his music was older stuff that just didn’t speak to me 10 years ago so I didn’t keep up with the progression of his music.  I regret sleeping on him. Unfortunately, I waited until after he died to find out what he was about and while I was reading different interviews I kept seeing him make different references to depression. Well, I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to that topic. It’s not that I like depressing things, but I’m always trying to see where my experience crosses paths with others and what they have done to combat it. It’s comforting when someone can put into words the things you’ve felt or are feeling but haven’t been able to contextualize yourself.

You can tell this dude was battling hard for years. If there’s one thing I learned over the past month listening to every album I could find it’s that Mac Miller’s library of music was prodigious for someone who was only 26 years old. And if I had to guess where that drive to produce came from I’d wager it was from a desire to come up with answers. I think writing music is a lot like writing in general when it’s about personal stuff. You just keep saying stuff in the hope that the mess going on inside of you can start to be understood and managed once you put everything into words.

Small Worlds is the first song of the video

There’s one verse in particular from his last album that rips me up every time I listen to it. It’s the last verse from Small Worlds on the Swimming album.

Yeah, nine times out of ten I get it wrong
That’s why I wrote this song, told myself to hold on
I can feel my fingers slippin’, in a motherfuckin’ instant I’ll be gone
Do you want it all if it’s all mediocre
Staring at the wall and the wall’s full of posters
Lookin’ at my dreams, and who I wanna be
I guess you gotta see it to believe
Oh, I been a fool, but that’s cool, that’s what human beings do
Keep your eyes to the sky, never glued to your shoes
Guess there was a time when my mind was consumed
But the sun’s coming out now, clouds start to move
Don’t tell me nothing but the truth
I’m tired, I don’t gotta spare a second
Win or lose, win or lose
I don’t keep count, nobody checkin’

I know what it’s like to feel like “Okay, today (or more realistically in my case, tomorrow) is the day I get it together. I’m going to do this, it’s going to make that better, and then I can finally focus on what’s important.” And then I do this, that gets better….but not enough or maybe just temporarily and so the will to push on breaks down and you’re back to square one trying to come up with your next plan. It’s exhausting.

And so what’s the point of me writing this? I don’t know. I guess all I’m saying is that there are a lot of people in this world hurting. It’s not just me and it’s not just you. Anyone that tells you that they have the answer is a liar, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find one anyway. What else are we going to do? Looking is really all that we have.