From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
Russell Brand: Robin Williams’ divine madness will no longer disrupt the sadness of the world. The manic energy of Williams could turn to destruction as easily as creativity. Is it melancholy to think that a world that he can’t live in must be broken?
I’d been thinking about Robin Williams a bit recently. His manager Larry Bresner told me that when Robin was asked by a German journalist on a press junket why the Germans had a reputation for humourlessness that Williams replied, “Because you killed all the funny people.”
Robin Williams was exciting to me because he seemed to be sat upon a geyser of comedy. Like he didn’t manufacture it laboriously within but had only to open a valve and it would come bursting through in effervescent jets. He was plugged into the mains of comedy.
I was aware too that this burbling and manic man-child that I watched on the box on my Nan’s front room floor with a Mork action figure (I wish I still had that, he came in a plastic egg) struggled with mental illness and addiction. The chaotic clarity that lashed like an electric cable, that razzed and sparked with amoral, puckish wonder was in fact harvested madness. A refinement of an energy that could turn as easily to destruction as creativity.
He spoke candidly about his mental illness and addiction, how he felt often on a precipice of self-destruction, whether through substance misuse or some act of more certain finality. I thought that this articulate acknowledgement amounted to a kind of vaccine against the return of such diseased thinking, which has proven to be hopelessly naive.
When someone gets to 63 I imagined, hoped, I suppose, that maturity would grant an immunity to adolescent notions of suicide but today I read that suicide isn’t exclusively a young man’s game. Robin Williams at 63 still hadn’t come to terms with being Robin Williams.
Now I am incapable of looking back at my fleeting meeting with him with any kind of objectivity, I am bound to apply, with hindsight, some special significance to his fragility, meekness and humility. Hidden behind his beard and kindness and compliments was a kind of awkwardness, like he was in the wrong context or element, a fallen bird on a hard floor.
It seems that Robin Williams could not find a context. Is that what drug use is? An attempt to anaesthetise against a reality that constantly knocks against your nerves, like tinfoil on an old school filling, the pang an urgent message to a dormant, truer you.
Is it melancholy to think that a world that Robin Williams can’t live in must be broken? To tie this sad event to the overarching misery of our times? No academic would co-sign a theory in which the tumult of our fractured and unhappy planet is causing the inherently hilarious to end their lives, though I did read that suicide among the middle-aged increased inexplicably in 1999 and has been rising ever since. Is it a condition of our era?
Poor Robin Williams, briefly enduring that lonely moment of morbid certainty where it didn’t matter how funny he was or who loved him or how many lachrymose obituaries would be written. I feel bad now that I was unduly and unbefittingly snooty about that handful of his films that were adjudged unsophisticated and sentimental. He obviously dealt with a pain that was impossible to render and ultimately insurmountable, the sentimentality perhaps an accompaniment to his childlike brilliance.
We sort of accept that the price for that free-flowing, fast-paced, inexplicable comic genius is a counterweight of solitary misery. That there is an invisible inner economy that demands a high price for breathtaking talent. For me genius is defined by that irrationality; how can he talk like that? Play like that? Kick a ball like that? A talent that was not sculpted and schooled, educated and polished but bursts through the portal, raw and vulgar. Always mischievous, always on the brink of going wrong, dangerous and fun, like drugs.
Robin Williams could have tapped anyone in the western world on the shoulder and told them he felt down and they would have told him not to worry, that he was great, that they loved him. He must have known that. He must have known his wife and kids loved him, that his mates all thought he was great, that millions of strangers the world over held him in their hearts, a hilarious stranger that we could rely on to anarchically interrupt, the all-encompassing sadness of the world. Today Robin Williams is part of the sad narrative that we used to turn to him to disrupt.
What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction? That we live in a world that has become so negligent of human values that our brightest lights are extinguishing themselves? That we must be more vigilant, more aware, more grateful, more mindful? That we can’t tarnish this tiny slice of awareness that we share on this sphere amidst the infinite blackness with conflict and hate?
That we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us? That all around us people are suffering behind masks less interesting than the one Robin Williams wore? Do you have time to tune in to Fox News, to cement your angry views to calcify the certain misery?
What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.
Did you know that right now, 62 million girls around the world are not in school, and in some countries, fewer than ten percent of girls complete high school (as compared to 85 percent in the U.S.)?
Did you know that when girls are educated, they go on to earn higher wages, get married later, and have healthier children who are more likely to attend school themselves?
So you might be wondering: why on earth are so many girls worldwide not in school?
There are many answers to this question. Sometimes, families simply can’t afford to send their daughters to school (some countries don’t have free public education, and families have to pay school fees); or girls live in rural areas, far from schools, and have no means of transportation; or girls can’t afford to buy sanitary pads, so they’re unable to attend school during their periods, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.
But often, the problem isn’t just about resources, it’s also about attitudes and beliefs.
In some places, girls are viewed as less worthy of an education than boys, so when a family has limited funds, they’ll educate their sons instead of their daughters. In some parts of the world, girls are forced to get married young – sometimes before they even reach puberty – to men who might be three or four times their age, and instead of attending school, they wind up having children at a young age.
And often, even when girls do have the chance to attend school, they do so at great risk. For example, in some countries, there are terrorist organizations who view educated girls as a serious threat and do everything in their power to keep girls from going to school.
We saw this in Pakistan when Taliban terrorists boarded a school bus and shot a 15 year-old girl named Malala Yousafzai because she had spoken out for girls’ education. We saw it in Nigeria when men from a terrorist organization called Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.
These girls were well aware of the risks they were taking – they had been receiving threats for months – but they insisted on showing up for school because they were determined to pursue their dreams and make their families and communities proud.
Knowing the heartbreaking challenges so many girls in the world are facing, think about all the girls you know who don’t take their education seriously – girls who skip class, or don’t do their homework, or even drop out because they don’t see the point of school.
To any girl – or any young person – who might be thinking this way, I have a simple message: you can do better – for yourself, your family and your country.
I know that your school might not be as good as it should be, or you might be facing challenges in your family that make it hard for you to focus in class. But if girls across the globe can walk hours each day from their villages to attend school, or work two or three jobs to pay their school fees, or even risk their lives to attend school, then I know you can overcome any obstacles you face.
Maybe that means talking to a teacher or a counselor to get some help, or committing yourself to concrete goals each week, like showing up on time for class and getting your homework done each night.
Whatever you do, I urge you to take your education seriously, because no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you will need a high school diploma and some higher education, like a two-year or four-year college degree or a professional certificate.
And as you get yourself on track for higher education, I hope you’ll work to give girls around the world opportunities to attend school too. Get involved with an organization that focuses on girls’ education; form a club at your school to raise money and awareness; use social media to educate everyone you know about this issue.
So many girls around the world would give anything to get the kind of education that so many girls take for granted in the U.S. And I hope you will show just a fraction of their courage and determination in getting your own education and helping them get theirs.
”—Michelle Obama’s open letter published on Seventeen Magazine’s website.