Join us as Brandon Witt goes Outside the Margins.
Death rarely makes much of an impact on me, at least if it’s someone I don’t know very, very well—or the circumstance are horrific. I’ve had several very important people lose long battles with cancer, or have tragic accidents. I’ve cried and hurt so much over them at a fairly formative time in my life, it sometimes feels like there are no tears left. Being a youth treatment counselor and now and teacher for students with emotional disabilities, sometimes I can be as callous to hurt as doctors are to dying patients. Not to mean that I don’t care, but you have to learn to laugh in the darkness if you’re going to remain to love people in the shadows. That said, the day of Robin William’s death was unusually impactful for me. Typically, I get somewhat irritated when so much is made of celebrity death, especially when pontificated upon by politicians and such people who I feel should be more worried about greater issues. Yes, I can be a judgy bitch.
That said, the day of Robin William’s death, I wasn’t able to slough it off. It got to the point that I was somewhat irritated at myself. I didn’t know the man. I’m surrounded by children who face hell every day, I shouldn’t be so impacted by the death of a stranger. I chalked it up to loving Ms. Doubtfire so much (if you’ve seen The Witty Hour, I’m certain you’ve heard her speak through my feminine characters, I tried to keep Euphegenia Doubtfire from my inflections, but I’ve given up the attempt). Maybe it was because of his work in the birdcage and his outspoken support of gay rights. Maybe it was because I’ve known of him my entire life and always thought it would be nice to sit in his presence. I can relate to both his humor and his darkness. Still, I was giving into one of my pet peeves. By the end of the evening, I was doing better, and settled into my nightly bath (yes, I’m a cliché gay, get over it). I hadn’t finished watching an episode of Downton Abbey as I did my cardio at the gym, so I viewed in the bathtub. At the end of this episode, one of my favorite, most innocent, characters was raped. It almost all happened off screen. Here is where I sound harsh again. I often get irritated as well by people who can’t handle talking about, or reading about, rape, molestation, etc. (unless they themselves were victims). After nearly fifteen years of working with the population of children that I teach, there’s not much of a rape story I haven’t heard. (I cannot adequately tell how strong these girls and boys are that face overcoming that trauma.) Much of my writing deals with this or similar issues (at least a little here and there). The reason is twofold. I write it as my own therapy and to draw people’s attention to it. It is much more common than most would dare to believe possible. Again, I was floored by my reaction to the off-camera rape. I sat in the bathtub, crying. For days after, for whatever reason, Robin’s death and the Downton rape scene comingled in my mind, leaving me rather raw and tender. So much so, that I had to give considerable thought in order to process through it. There are so many ways I could have gone with it, with both topics, but for this particular instance, this is where my brain went. Lofty or not. The correct response/interpretation or not. It is what it is. And my brain is what it is.
Both the death of Robins Williams and impact of the Downton rape scene clarified something for me. Something I already knew, but hadn’t had the ability to put into words. I began to understand why we are so obsessed and impacted by celebrity death (especially with such an artist as Robin Williams), and why I love writing so much (Downton is beautiful in every way, but part of the reason I love it is that I feel like I’m watching a novel).
A pivotal purpose of art is to impact those who come in contact with it (at least in my interpretation). By that definition, both Robin Williams and the writers/actors of Downton were successful. Lives/society/the world are impacted and changed by art. If that is not true, I don’t see the point. We often are numb to the horrors on the news. They are abstract stories that have stopped meaning much to most of us. Art has not lost that impact, and, I would argue, saves our souls/humanity in the process.
Therefore, I allowed myself to grieve Robin’s passing and chose to be inspired by his masterful portrayal of art. I applaud moments like the one in Downton that cut us to the heart and turn a light onto what so many children, women, and men keep locked away in their past or present circumstances. Whether it be depression or abuse or any other struggle, art allows us to not have to face it alone and reflects the human condition and experience. Many times, art finds a way for pain and beauty to comingle.
May both of my arts (written word and loving of students) have such impact that the world is changed by their existence. My hat is off to you, Robin Williams, you are an artist, sir. My hat is off to you, fellow writers, I am honored to be artist along side you. My heart is off to you, those of you who are current/past survivors of abuse, your strength is legendary. It is a dark and hard world in which we live. At the same time, there is so much beauty and love to be found.
~ Brandon Witt
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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