I think we all have witnessed this type of scene. A group of audience relishes a performance till the very end before putting hands together for the performers. It has been a norm, courtesy, or whatever you may call it, to wait for a process to conclude before we do our parts such as cheering and clapping. In the context of an individual’s life, shall we also stick to this convention and wait till an end to life takes place before we take our actions, or should we interject the process such that we might indeed make our actions count and possibly change the outcome of the life? “I think that will have to depend on where you stand with respect to your “closeness” to the victim in each case.”
This post was inspired by the incident of Robin Williams and the cause of his passing, depression. This is not entirely about Mr. Williams as we all know you don’t need another post to justify how influential he had been in many lives, both of commoners and celebrated. What intrigued me this time around after a celebrity’s death is the emergence of this question: why is a life recognized only after it has departed?
I used to have a writing mentor, Rothman, whom I really looked up to in college. He was a skillful, brilliant conversationalist in such a way that every time after you exchanged thoughts with him, you would never fail to notice how brighter you have gotten. He was the type of person whom you could talk to about anything: school, writing, philosophy, life. When the news sent from his wife to UC-Santa Cruz admins and then to email network got across everybody’s computer screens, it did feel like the world paused a little. On that very weekend of his death, I sent out a mass email asking peers in the STEM cohort who had been enlightened by Rothman to write a short note remarking on their transformations and feelings as a result of having crossed path with him. The responses I received were later put into a collage and sent to his wife as a condolence and proof of the differences he had made in every single student;
“Looking back at it, I did also follow the convention and waited till the life slipped away before I ‘clapped’……… In fact, that was all I could do as an outsider, to pay a tribute.”
In my opinion, when we choose to post-death recognize a person, we normally have accepted the life and death of the individual. There might be something we could have done to mitigate the agony leading to death, or to grant the victim’s last wish, but we have little to no rights as the priority of decision making is granted to immediate families first. Not to mention, the news of the person’s passing doesn’t often get announced to outsiders until later. So, a lot of times we don’t get to have any last words before the due time. Hence, as an outsider, however much emotional we become in the face of the situation, our domain in terms of carrying out our actions is restricted. We therefore can only wait till after the grand finale to do what we best do, to pay respect.
“Perhaps, life is recognized after its death because that is all an outsider can do for the victim, and because death caused by infirmity/natural cause proudly deserves this minutes of honor. So, waiting till the show to be over before you clap your heart out might be the most appropriate conduct as a spectator.”
Before I sign off and move on, I would also like to add that if you are in the front seat and entitled to voicing your opinion, do so for your loved ones. The suicide of Robin Williams should be the last record of a result caused by mental illness. And it should serve as a reminder for you to become more vigilant of those, especially families and friends, around you. It is very common for depressed individuals to be swamped in a state of negativity and to think short. It is an uphill battle and challenging for you and the person to overcome the slope, but the positive news is depression is a treatable condition.
Also, when it comes down to confronting depression, it might be a better idea to break away from the conventional code of “waiting for the show to be over before you clap”. Instead, clap along the show to encourage life. Be one of those daring individuals who isn’t afraid to scream out loud during the show. This is because, unlike the post-death tribute, the power of ongoing-life tribute: your words, actions, and compassion may potentially rectify the thoughts of the depressed and help them steer away from taking a nonreturnable leap into demise.
When it comes down to confronting depression, a life should not be recognized after it has departed. Proactively recognize the life in front of you by playing a role and assisting your loved ones in fighting against destructive depression. I recommend Daniel G.Amen, M.D.’s Change your Brain Change Your Life for some insights into understanding the cause of depression from the standpoint of brain imaging.
Finally, if you are depressed, don’t brood over depression, seek help. Love yourself, love your family, love those around you. ^_^