ISIS, Robin Williams, and “Those Who Mourn”

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The descriptions are many, the adjectives are abundant. Travesty. Horrific. Incomprehensible. Senseless. You can’t scroll down one page on Facebook without seeing a shared link of the pain, suffering, and death of people around the world.

The implications of such extreme evil and despair are difficult to wrap our minds around. We want to grieve deeply, truly, effectively, but we aren’t sure how, so we scroll one post down until we get the relief of a Clash of Clans invite or yet another “I couldn’t believe #17 was real!” post.

But let me encourage you to slow down the scrolling, momentarily. Lift your hand from the mouse. Let the twinge of saddened confusion be an alarm clock, a reminder, a barrier even, shielding you from the temptation to self-medicate with the opiate of distraction.

Just hurt.

Let your heart break. Let your soul crush. Let your back bend, bow, and slouch.  There is a world of pain that can shatter us if we let it in and, in many times and places, it is prudent to let it do so.

The unbelievable pain being endured worldwide at any given moment is staggering, to say the least, and a chintzy blog post by an inexperienced writer with absolutely zero credentials has very little chance of adequately speaking even an ounce of comfort into the suffering.

I recognize that.

But I also recognize that we are not powerless in the face of the wounds and mass graves. We are not without means. We—you and I—are capable of astounding feats of sacrifice, healing, and love. By virtue of our existence as human persons, made in the “image and likeness” of God, we not can only participate in the heights and depths of infinite joy, we can also willingly step down, condescend (descend with), and enter into the mire of pain and persecution. We can, like Christ, blend “into the gray mass of sinners waiting on the banks of the Jordan”(Ratzinger). If we choose to, we can make a dent in the utter heartache that many of those around us and abroad experience at each moment.

Whether it is the unspeakable atrocities we read of in news reports from around the globe, or the devastating news of the apparent suicide of one of the greatest comedic minds of all time, we do not need to run from the sadness.

On the contrary, we can hurl ourselves headlong into the onslaught. We can size up the meteor of ache that we see hurtling towards us and, with all confidence and joy, lean in to meet it.

When we see terror on the rise, we can, if we choose to, bring peace of mind and comfort. When the “hissing false witness” of depression claims another precious life through its deceit, we can, if we choose, open our eyes to the overwhelming presence of the same lies in those around us and work towards their healing. When everyone else is building walls of “us” and “them”, we can work to prove them wrong through our idiotically loving actions.

For some, this will mean allowing the brokenness to finally help them sell all they own and travel to the most visibly pained places of the world. For others, it may mean quitting multiple “extracurricular” activities in order to place themselves in a position to meet the needs of a suffering friend. One thing is certain, for ALL who choose to do so, it will require sacrifice akin to death on their part.

If you’re not hurting now, choosing to love will take care of that for you. If you’re not bleeding yet, love can do the piercing for you.

I don’t know if “the world” will miss Robin Williams or those slaughtered in Iraq, but I do know that you and I can, and must, grieve their loss. I know that you can choose to hurt with those left to tidy up the affairs of the departed. I know that you can mourn with the most downtrodden.

There is hope. Always, always, hope.

Death does not have to be the end of the story. “We are the Easter people, and ‘Aleluia’ is our song”!!! You can toss yourself headfirst into the mourning, because we are assured of joy in “the morning”. We are blessed if we weep now, for someday, we shall laugh (Lk 6:21). It’s fine to feel the sting, the lack, the blood now, because they are capable of ushering us into the balm, the fullness, and the life later.

Again, stop the scroll down, open your heart and eyes, and find a way to grasp someone else’s burden in your own two hands.

In his book Descent Into Hell, Charles Williams addresses the concept of bearing one another’s burdens. I think it is a fitting springboard into the healing the world so badly needs:

But that means —-“ she began, and stopped.

“I know,” Stanhope said. “It means listening sympathetically, and thinking unselfishly, and being anxious about, and so on. Well, I don’t say a word against all that; no doubt it helps. But I think when Christ or St. Paul, or whoever said bear, or whatever he Aramaically said instead of bear, he meant something more like carrying a parcel instead of someone else. To bear a burden is precisely to carry it instead of. If you’re still carrying yours, I’m not carrying it for you – however sympathetic I may be. And anyhow there’s no need to introduce Christ, unless you wish. It’s a fact of experience. If you give a weight to me, you can’t be carrying it yourself; all I’m asking you to do is to notice that blazing truth. It doesn’t sound very difficult.”

“And if I could,” she said. “If I could do –whatever it is you mean, would I? Would I push my burden on to anybody else?”

“Not if you insist on making a universe for yourself,” he answered. “If you want to disobey and refuse the laws that are common to us all, if you want to live in pride and division and anger, you can. But if you will be part of the best of us, and live and laugh and be ashamed with us, then you must be content to be helped. You must give your burden up to someone else, and you must carry someone else’s burden. I haven’t made the universe and it isn’t my fault. But I’m sure that this is a law of the universe, and not to give up your parcel is as much to rebel as not to carry another’s. You’ll find it quite easy if you let yourself do it.”

“And what about my self-respect,” she said.

He laughed at her with a tender mockery. “O, if we are of that kind!” he exclaimed. “If you want to respect yourself, if to respect yourself you must go clean against the nature of things, if you must refuse the Omnipotence in order to respect yourself, though why you should want so extremely to respect yourself is more than I can guess, go on and respect. Must I apologize for suggesting anything else?”


Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God. He was a youth minister in Duluth, MN, spent 3 years working as a missionary on the Caribbean island of Dominica while his wife attended Med School, and just finished writing a 3-year youth ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, MN. While on-island, he and his wife adopted three wonderful siblings. He has returned to the States and blogs at Death Before Death and keeps you updated on his family at The Dynamic Davidson Duo.

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9 thoughts on “ISIS, Robin Williams, and “Those Who Mourn””

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for so beautifully making this connection between Williams and ISIS. It was heavy on my mind and really appreciated you elucidating it so well.

  2. Pingback: Vatican Asks Muslim Leaders to Slam Islamist Barbarity -

  3. Avatar

    It has been a long time since I’ve heard Charles Williams quoted, and never more beautifully than today. Thank you.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you so much, Peggy! Descent into Hell is one of my favorites of all time. There’s so so much in that book and it’s so rarely talked about!

  4. Avatar

    I have been angry with so much attention on Mr Williams and so little on the martyrs. This helps me resolve the grief onto the total. Mercy always trumps justice

    1. Avatar

      Amen, Diane! My intent, when I sat down to write it, was to focus on the different travesties displayed in the martyrs and the suicide. I wanted to show that, while the horror of what ISIS is doing is, very truly, wretched, there is also a deep, deep…”anti” good aspect to what Robin Williams had to go through.

      For ISIS to not recognize other people’s inherent dignity is a common, though terrible, occurrence. We do it to ISIS all the time in the way we respond to what they’re doing.

      However, we can also really see the devastating state that the fall has put us in when someone, whether through external circumstances or internal imbalances, gets to the point where suicide appears to become a valid “out” for them.

      Both are horrific, just in different ways.

      But, alas, I didn’t write that article. 🙂

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