I have no idea why Robin Williams was depressed, although it often comes with the territory of being in the arts or merely being creative. You so often are at the mercy of other people, and if you don’t have a lot of grounding to begin with—as a lot of people in the arts do not—it can be hard to find your footing during the inevitable times when you’re not having the impact you want to have. Having had my own battles in that realm, and having talked a lot to friends who have gone down that path, I always think of this story:
When I was in high school, I wrote a pretty brazen paper for my 11th grade history class on the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus. My teacher, accurately finding my work a bit strident and maybe not so historical, had me talk to a local priest. It was pretty heady stuff for a Jewish kid who was starting to doubt the truth of a lot of things he was brought up to believe. Of all the things he told me during this fascinating interview, the one I remember most is his interpretation of a New Testament parable, in which Jesus ends his instruction saying, “He who has ears to hear, hear.”
"Most people, especially teachers, feel that if they don’t reach everyone, they’re a failure," he told me. "What Jesus was saying is that if you merely reach one person, it’s a small miracle."
It never left me. As artists (and people), it is easy to lose sight of the true measure of our impact. Amid the inevitable ups and downs, victories and flops, it can be hard to maintain a sense of scale and remember the true reason one creates. But I tend to agree: If you’ve reached just one person, it’s a miracle. That goes both ways: We often are unaware of our impact *and* we often don’t communicate the impact that others have on us.
Nothing good grows in the dark. Like a lot of people, I am heartbroken about losing Robin Williams, and wished something could have kept him from the dark road that led him to his end. I wish he’d known his impact. He reached so many people, and will continue to long into the future.
Andy Brownstein, artist and friend.
I know this is a bit out of the ordinary, but I appreciate that you let me make an impact on you so I want you to know you make an impact on me as well.