On Robin Williams’ “Top Ten”

Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. . .

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Consider this a tribute to Robin Williams, who had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with – much as he did with the Vietnam War, as seen above.  [Note:  This post was originally published on August 13, 2014.  That was two days after Williams “committed suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California, at the age of 63.”]  

But this is a blog about reading the Bible with an open mind.  Therefore, this is a good time and place to remember – among the slew of tributes to his life and work – Robin’s list of Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian.  And here they are:

10. No snake handling.

9.  You can believe in dinosaurs.

8.  Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7.  You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6.  Pew aerobics.

5.  Church year is color-coded.

4.   Free wine on Sunday.

3.   All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.

2.   You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1.   No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

That particular version of the list is from All Our Voices: Top 10 reasons to be an Episcopalian, a blog for St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, seen at right.  The site added this reader comment, dated May 17, 2010:

I found something very interesting about Robin Williams recently that made me admire him even more.  My partner works at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco in the Pediatric ICU on the night-shift.  He told me that every year – without fail – Robin Williams comes to the Hospital at Christmas time to bring all of the children toys.  Furthermore, he does this without the press having any knowledge…   When I found out that Robin is an Episcopalian, I smiled.  I have recently become a member (I was raised Catholic) and I absolutely love my Church at St. Paul’s Cathedral…  May God bless you Robin.  What a wonderful gift of making others laugh…

A second comment noted that Robin also participated in the “local San Diego Triathlon challenge with the Challenged Athletes foundation.  It’s really cool he does this without the hoopla of celebrity.”  All of which is something else to remember him by.

This Top Ten list spawned a host of imitations (and imitation is indeed the “sincerest form of flattery”), two of which will be mentioned here and taken up later.

One list came from then-Bishop Neal Alexander, at a talk for the  Diocese of Atlanta Ministry Fair in March 2012 at St. Philip’s Cathedral.  The Bishop said there were Ten Essential Elements of Anglicanism, and presented them in reverse order, like Robin Williams and David Letterman.  That list too a fitting topic for a number of future posts, but here are some highlights:

Dharma Wheel.svgEssential # 6. We strive to follow “the Middle Way” or Via Media, rather than turning to extremes on either side.  This path is consistent with that of the early Church, and we “seek to share that experience of the early Christians by continuing to follow the path between extremes.

“We focus on life’s journey, leaving our destination to a ‘Higher Power. . .’  We celebrate life as a pilgrimage as the basic metaphor of Christian life.”

Essential # 3.  We strive to become fearless pursuers of all truth.  Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin were both famous members of the Anglican Church, yet they pursued “the truth” even when it threatened to be in conflict with current church doctrine. . .   For example, the motto of the Virginia Seminary is, “Seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will.”  Or as comedian Robin Williams said (as a “card-carrying Episcopalian”), “You don’t have to check your brains at the door.”

And finally, there was Anglican Essential # 1.  We strive to be “relentlessly hopeful.”  We strive to be and must be “prisoners of hope.”

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line Robin Williams lost that sense of hope – and humor – by which everyday life can be endured and its obstacles overcome.  And who knows, maybe if we worked to make this world a better place there wouldn’t be such despair. . .

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Ten years ago I lost my nephew to a freak accident, when a car he was riding in plunged into the Chattahoochee River.  He was so young and the death seemed so pointless that I got some of that despair noted above, and it definitely challenged my faith.  Oddly enough I found comfort – eventually – in the First law of thermodynamics.  That law of physics states that “energy is neither created nor destroyed, but simply changes form:”

So if the human soul is a form of energy – an idea that seems self-evident – then it too can neither be created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.

I have a feeling that somewhere, somehow – “even as we speak” – the spirit of Robin Williams is making some being – some entity – laugh his or her spiritual butt off.


Alexander Pope by Michael Dahl.jpg

The upper image is from Channel 4 News apologises for Robin Williams gaffe, which added this:

Channel 4 News has apologised after airing a clip of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam saying: “Get a rope and hang me,” a day after the star’s suspected suicide. . .  Channel 4 came in for criticism for the gaffe.

 The lower image is courtesy of the Alexander Pope link in Hope Springs Eternal – Wikipedia.  The quotation comes from Pope‘s An Essay on Man:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed:  The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

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Other notes:  A blurb is a “short summary or promotional piece accompanying a creative work.”  See Blurb – Wikipedia.  See also, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – Idioms.

The “First Law of Thermodynamics” was addressed in On Ascension Day.   And a BTW: The other “Top Ten” spin-off list noted above was “Ten Reasons to Remain an Episcopalian,” at Ten Reasons to Remain an Episcopalian Use your ….   But see also – in the interest of being “fair and balanced” – Top Ten Reasons to Stay Catholic | America Magazine.


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