The Tao of Robin Williams

(Robin Williams | Dead Poets Society)

(Robin Williams | Dead Poets Society)

Out of the exceptional works of late actor and comedian Robin Williams, three performances stand out to me. Not for the acting, but in what they can teach us about living more examined lives.

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It begins with the king as a boy... having to sleep alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. While he’s spending the night alone, he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy Grail — symbol of God’s divine grace. A voice said to him, ‘You shall be keeper of the Grail so that it may heal the hearts of men.’

But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement, he felt for a brief moment, not like a boy but invincible — like God. So he reached in the fire to take the Grail, and the Grail vanished leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now, as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any men, not even himself. He couldn’t love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die.

One day, a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple-minded. He didn’t see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, ‘What ails you, friend?’

And the king replied, ‘I’m thirsty, and I need some water to cool my throat.’

So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. And as the king began to drink he realized his wound was healed. He looked, and there was the Holy Grail that which he sought all of his life.

He turned to the fool and said, ‘How could you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?’

The fool replied, ‘I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.’

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Things Discussed

  • The wisdom of innocence

  • Crossing the threshold

  • Carpe diem – seize the day

  • The Fisher King

  • Good Will Hunting

  • Dead Poets Society

Books I Recommend:


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