The Death of Robin Williams

Robin Williams

It’s easy to conceive of suicide as an irrational act; but all action is rational because it is purposeful and driven by the desire to replace a less satisfactory state with a more satisfactory state. If a person is convinced that the gain from immediately escaping his mental agony and despair is the most desirable outcome conceivable, then committing suicide is the rational course of action, the most desirable. What we find hard to understand, of course, is how someone could possibly arrive at such a conviction. Which is to say we, as relatively contented people, find it impossible to conceive of an internal anguish so unimaginably intense that it makes death desirable.

We cannot know what is happening in another’s mind, but we can deduce that the intensity and immensity of the mental agony and despair of someone who commits suicide reached levels such that the gain from immediately escaping it greatly outweighed any and all costs of not doing so. This is what happened to Robin Williams, and tragically he found the courage to and had the means to end his life in that moment; sadly there was nothing to delay or distract him long enough to live.

Perhaps Robin Williams became so very adept at making other people happy because he spent most of his time perfecting his talent and too little time trying to understand and overcome his own melancholy; his own unhappiness. His pain was the world’s gain, perhaps. This is at once the tragedy and beauty of humanity.

His suicide is a sobering reminder of the significant threat to ourselves and our loved ones that the various forms of depression pose; and a lesson in the infinite value of introspection, self-knowledge and empathy.

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