I have tried to explain to myself and to others over the years what it means to be an artist and more specifically a performing artist. In my moments of despair and rantings I have said, “A performing artist has to be discovered in his time.” There is no Van Gogh in acting or singing, or stand-up. A great painting can be found in an attic and the artist gets his due posthumously, but not so for the performer. Yes there are recordings and videos, but to be in the same space and time as the performer has to be present tense.
As a Springsteen fan, who awaits a new tour, like some wait for the Pope, it dawns on me that Springsteen has never known the joy of being a fan at a Springsteen concert. He knows the joy of being the instrument of that celebration of life, but not what we get form the exchange.
Robin Williams was one such talent. He didn’t know the joy of seeing himself rock a stage with Herculean ability, across genres and media. Smarter people will discuss the less smart take that the burden of delivering joy to others can leave the performer empty. And maybe that is the main reason there is sorrow for the artist.
The uniquely human experience of watching or performing for others, is about as analogue as it gets. Technology can’t do what Robin Williams did. The random, human, manic and otherworldly energy are never to be duplicated, or pixelated or regurgitated; they can only be absorbed in a molecular way.
We can be entertained by a video of a cat struggling with a ball of yarn, but that doesn’t in and of itself constitute art. Seeing a true spirit cannot be condensed into little bits and bytes. This is not a technophobe rant mixed in with eulogy. It is a life affirming rant to remind us the power the human possesses. We created the machine (unless the Matrix is real) and we need to remember how connected we are.
We don’t mourn the loss of someone’s success or power, what they were able to amass — it wasn’t enough to keep that person happy. We mourn life. Because living means dying and we mourn a true genius because they made us feel special to be human. At least that’s the way it feels to me, at this moment, mourning someone I never met, who, personal tastes aside, was unquestionably gifted and in a rare percentile.
It’s tough to be human, tough to be alive sometimes, but I don’t know what else to do about it. I think it’s to try to be a communicator, to create, to connect, to.., I don’t know. I think I’m gonna call a friend.