About a month ago I started watching World’s Greatest Dad with Robin Williams, but I stopped in the middle because the story was so cringe-inducing. So tonight I watched the rest of the movie. Near the end, Robin has a great line.
I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”
It’s true, isn’t it? You can be surrounded by people and feel horribly alone. Especially when those people become less human by developing a reflexive disdain for anything weird and a violent contempt for people who dare to be weird.
Sadly, “those people” can include ourselves in our weaker moments. I’m guilty. I’ve made people feel lesser-than and unaccepted so I could feel greater-than and more accepted. When I was younger I did it reflexively as an adaptation to our society.
This is one of the key reasons why I was so fond of Robin Williams: He consistently and gloriously embraced being weird and—this is key—he related to people in a way that acknowledged their fundamental human dignity. That combination was the antidote he carried around, inoculating people with the glint in his eye.
He recognized that our society had a bogus organization chart, and he elevated those who felt relegated to the bottom, and brought those who perceived themselves to be at the top back down to earth. And he did it all through weirdness, because celebrating weirdness and dignity was what made people feel human again. That was the beauty of it.
After his epiphany about people who make you feel alone, he runs down the hall, eyes alight, grinning and stripping his clothes off to “Under Pressure” and jumps into a swimming pool. Then he befriends his departed son’s one actual friend, and together they go to his strange and wonderful neighbor’s apartment, and they watch Night of The Living Dead, a movie about surviving zombies with aplomb.
We can all become zombies from time to time, but we can also return to our senses and save others. To do that, we need to put on some bells and ennoble ourselves for crying out loud. There are worse things in life.