The Emotion of Grief Really Stinks

If I had been able to get a tattoo in 1989 at the age of 17 it most definitely would have been the words “Carpe Diem” or if I were feeling super adventurous “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Thus was the importance of the movie “Dead Poets Society” in my life. I loved “Dead Poets Society” so much that it knocked “The Outsiders” out of the All-Time Favorite Movie spot and it would hold that title until 2000 when I saw “Almost Famous” and “High Fidelity.”

It is only now that I realize that we lost two of the actors from two my All-Time Favorite movies this year. John Cusack, please take care of yourself. You too, Matt Dillon.

Of course like any good child of the 80s, I loved Robin Williams long before he played Mr. Keating. I loved him the moment he showed up in that weird red space suit with the aluminum foil triangle on “Happy Days.” And it was one of those childhood loves I mostly put away and forgot about until I learned yesterday that Robin Williams stopped passing the open windows. I wrote about the phrase passing the open windows when David Foster Wallace died.

Like so many, learning of Williams’ death gutted me. He was one of those celebrities where you can instantly name five six things he was involved with that you loved, and then the more you think the more you realize how pervasive he was in your pop cultural upbringing. How could I forget Garp? I said to Sister #2. And Aladdin? And Ferngully? And One Hour Photo? And. . . the list marched on.

When people succumb to depression it saddens and scares me unlike accidental deaths or deaths caused by other illnesses. Depression mystifies and terrifies me. I don’t even pretend to understand what it’s like to suffer from it. I only offer endless gratitude that I have escaped it.

I turned to “Dead Poets Society” last night for comfort, a movie I watched endlessly in the late 80s. This movie loomed so large in my life that when I was a senior in high school I wrote my big, important honors English paper on Candide, The Count of Monte Cristo, and “Dead Poets Society.” I was such a nerd.

Anyway, I’m of the belief this movie should be required viewing for all seventeen-year-olds. Hell, it should be required viewing for everyone. When I was seventeen the movie was all about the power and beauty of poetry and gathering ye rosebuds.

“No matter what anyone tells you words & ideas can change the world,” Mr.Keating says, these are exactly the kind of thoughts a burgeoning writer wants to hear.

But as I watched it last night the bits that stood out were about critical thinking and how Mr. Keating worked relentlessly to encourage the boys to think. At one point as the boys are jumping off his desk Mr. Keating says, “when you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.”

And that has nothing to do with the death of Robin Williams, I see now, and everything to do with the death of critical thinking. I wish more people did it. The ability to think critically is one of the things I admire most in people.

Sorry for the selfish aside. I guess this is all a selfish aside, grieving is for the living I suppose.

Last night while the tears were still drying on my face, I went over to Hulu to watch an episode of “Mork & Mindy.” I picked a random ep, “Mork’s Best Friends.” In it Mork befriends a caterpillar, calls her Bob, and then she promptly dies. At one point he says, “If this is the emotion of grief, it really stinks.”

He was right.

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