No one gets any awards
The Oscars are around the corner and I am most looking forward to 1) Michael Keaton winning Best Actor for “Birdman” (because come on) and 2) the reel where they show all the celebrities who have died in the last year. And then I think about that for a bit longer and suddenly remember that Robin Williams fucking killed himself in 2014 and I start to feel a bit weird and ill about it, like I’m some voyeur watching a funeral from far far away. But we’re all voyeurs like that, aren’t we? We don’t intend to be voyeuristic or lewd or sneaky about it, like it’s our tragedy to mull over and warm in our hands like a little stone; but we do, as a society, we practically jerk off to it, to the heartache when someone in the cultural spotlight steps backstage for good or what have you. I still feel bad about it and I’m still, honestly, a bit queasy over the whole fact that Mr. Williams committed suicide, and I still know I’ll watch the whole thing during the Oscars and huff and sigh and secretly be sneaky and warm that stone between my palms.
A very close friend of mine once said in so many words that I was very confident. That perplexed me and it still perplexes me and my ears burn when I think about it, because I don’t know where that perceived confidence comes from, where that supposed spring bubbles up so Ponce De Leon can sup from the waters and be forever eternal. That perception of self, of who I see myself versus what people see me as, it… well, it bugs the living crap out of me. I don’t know how people perceive me and when I try to envision it, it usually goes down a bad path: people think I’m an idiot or people think I’m kind of an asshole or people think I’m an introverted loner. But then: “You’re very confident.” That doesn’t fit what I think people perceive of me and it surely doesn’t fit how I see myself. My own self-perception is this shifting, blobby miasma comprised of self-doubt, an unwillingness to change even in the face of overwhelming evidence, no small amount of selfishness, frustration, and black t-shirts. Okay okay, I’m being a bit hard on myself; but that right there highlights the problem, doesn’t it? I don’t know how people actually see me and I surely don’t know how I see myself. Perhaps there’s a Venn diagram where the idea of “self” is the intersection of those two perceptions, but that whole “very confident” thing kind of throws that off because I don’t know where it goes, and when I try to stuff it somewhere, everything goes cockeyed.
The vast majority of us won’t go out in a blaze of glory, we won’t be lauded on the nightly news and remembered on a large screen in front of teary-eyed jackals. Given the current human lifespan and the various diseases, inflictions, conflicts and general bad luck that live alongside us, most of us will simply take a final breath one night and fade to black. Thereafter, the sense of self-perception is gone, a rabid weasel stuck in a cage for roughly 76 years before being unsummarily buried in concrete. Everyone else, though, might remember you in some small way, especially now that we’re all digital ghosts. Facebook pages can be converted to eternal digital shrines and whole swaths of the Internet proper have been and continue to be archived: it’s immortality in code. The perception of you by everyone else changes and shifts and largely settles after a time; “that guy was an asshole… but I guess he had his reasons” or “she was inspirational but you could tell she was always a bit sad and depressed” and such. They’re the last ripples on the surface of the lake as the little pebble that was “you” finally hits the bottom and stops being singular. Except, now the lake can be digitally rendered in the latest Unreal engine, and the pebble can be tossed in over and over again with different kinds of physics engines applied and cool specular lighting and explosions and what-not; people will say “Ooh” and “Wow” at the nice colored lights, but hopefully hopefully they’ll still remember the pebble and perhaps go “Oh, I remember him. I kind of miss him.” I guess it’s all anyone can ask for.
Ultimately, a guy like Robin Williams will be remembered by a very large number of people, myself among them. His story and the perception of him will be writ large on the Internet, baked in routing tables, etched with lasers on the moon. And it will settle, mostly, and we’ll remember a bit less year after year the clarity we once had when he was still around, and he’ll end-up along with all the rest of us, resting peacefully and quietly at the bottom of the lake.
I’m going to go to bed now.