Genie, You’re Free And Death in the West

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must consistently look at things in another way…carpe diem, boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

– “Dead Poets Society” (1989)

Indeed, the whole world is devastated by the loss of Robin Williams. And none more so than us members of Generation Y who grew up with him.

Whether it was the manic brilliance of “Aladdin,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “The Birdcage,” the more subtle inspirations of “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Good Will Hunting,” or the laugh-till-you-cry political raunch of his stand-ups, Williams painted our subconscious humor palates. He is forever woven into the tapestry of popular culture, and for those of us who were “born in the 80s/raised in the 90s,” a chapter of our lives has closed.

But what hurt the most was the recent slew of insensitive commentary instigated by Williams’ death. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith called him a “coward.” “Diff’rent Strokes” actor Todd Bridges called him “selfish.”

And in what may be the touchiest topic amidst an ethical cyclone, Western medical professionals castigated The Academy for Tweet-ing the beautiful “Genie, you’re free.”

These folks believe this Tweet “violates the well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide” and that it’s a “written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, [and it] presents suicide in too celebratory a light,” according to the Washington Post.

What “well established standards” are these? And are the Christ-centric Gates of Hell still welcoming those who have ended their own lives into Dante’s Woods of the Seventh Circle?

Once again, The Western World fails. And once again, I’m deeply offended by the West’s conservative attitudes towards death. These folks are the cowards; not Robin.

In Eastern spiritual practices, death is respected and in some cases, revered. Buddhists, Hindus, and yogis alike believe suffering to be an intrinsic aspect of life, and death merely a part of the cycle. In a way, death is viewed as the ultimate liberation from this suffering, and/or “eternal Samadhi.”

Contrarily, in the West, death is predominantly viewed as a terrible, dark vortex that shouldn’t be discussed. And forget about suicide…

Those of us who were anointed and dunked in water are all too familiar with these attitudes. Remember, the West was build upon Christocentric values, and even if you’re not a disciple of the Great Commission, these brainwash-ey values are hard to avoid.

Now, allow me to clarify: I am not advocating suicide. But for an emotionally tortured person such as Williams, death was the only cure. I’m deeply saddened that he chose this method of liberation, but I’m happy that he is relieved of his suffering.

Judging someone for taking his own life is dastardly, and is a prime example of Western Society’s autocratic tendencies. For the sake of our own sanities, we must learn to view death in another way.

So to piggyback The Academy’s sentiments: Robin, you’re free. May you be at ease. Sleep well, and we’ll see you on the Other Shore.

-Michael Laskaris

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