I have never been a "fan" of Mark's, but nor was I a serious detractor either. We both entered ministry around the same time. There were many things of his that I'd read and heard that were quite profound and helpful. He also spoke of many, many things I disagreed with. Even though we didn't line up theologically, and in many ways, socially, I still had a fair amount of respect for who he was and what he did. Sure, he often seemed brash and arrogant - and maybe he was - but that is also part of what made him who he was. So when I see people tearing him down - especially people who don't know him at all or know specifics of the situation - I tend to pull back a bit. Now that there is talk that he may lose his ministry... I feel for him. I still don't agree with him on a lot of things, but I don't see him as an enemy.
It's kind of the same with Robin Williams tragic death yesterday. I was never a big fan of his, but it's not that I didn't like him either. However, I know there are people who will think we're making much ado about some celebrity, or they'll denounce him for running from his responsibilities or problems by taking the "cowards" way out. And everyone has the right to their own opinion. But I think he represents a lot of other folks too. And, at his core, he was very much a human being just like the rest of us. It's easy to judge someone when you don't suffer in the same way they do. It's okay to not understand. But we are all human beings here. I could always sense there was a terrible struggle going on inside Robin just from looking at him. It's the same with Mark.
You know, we all have our "thing." That little glitch in our system that makes us human. We are all uniquely made, but also made from the same core. Some of us are wired like others, and some of us are wired like someone else. For me, personally, I think I am wired similar to these two guys. So I have a soft spot for them. I grieve with them. In a very small and distant way, I can relate a little bit to what they were/are going through.
A friend shared something on Facebook this morning (in regard to RW) that made a lot of sense to me. I think I'll just share it, and leave it at that. "Funny" is in the eye of the beholder. This is from Matt Conner:
The funniest among us often stand along the outside. I am not referring to comedians who settle for the easy joke intended for the lowest common denominator. Rather, the women and men who make us laugh despite the unsettling things they are saying, who move us with their keen insights -- insights that come precisely *because* they stand on the outside.
Culture needs such critics. In Biblical times, you had those labeled as "prophets", people who were largely outsiders offering a necessary critique of the culture. I've long believed that many of our finest comedians were just that -- prophetic types who tell us the truth about ourselves and our world. Robin Williams was certainly one such person.
Such wisdom and insight is a gift, and Williams was among the most talented. Even in his serious roles, he offered uncomfortable looks at our deepest longings to connect and belong. But I cannot help but feel that there's a price to be paid for standing on the outside. To be outside is to be alone. To be the truth-teller is to be the one saying what some of us (most of us) do not want to hear. Packaging it in ways that are funny make it palatable, but they're painful truths just the same.
Williams' documented history with depression and rehab and such is out there, and there's likely more information to come in the weeks ahead. Such a reality might be hard to stomach, but it reminds us of the price paid by those willing to be honest with us. Whatever comes out about Williams' death, I'm grateful for the laughs and insights he shared, and for those who continue to carry such a torch today, revealing truth to us in ways that are both humorous and poignant.