This week, the world became less funny. Robin Williams succumbed to the mental illness that had lurked in the shadows of his entire adult life. He took a pocketknife and a belt, and he stopped the pain he had tried so hard to hide. Like so many tortured creative geniuses before him, Williams left this life too soon. The shocking and sad news of the death of this man who had made so many of us laugh for so many long years made headlines worldwide, and the world mourned. In the movie “Dead Poets Society,” Williams famously portrayed John Keating, an unorthodox English teacher who ignited a passion for poetry and for life in his students. Perhaps it’s fitting that Williams’ death calls to mind a poem.
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all;
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.