One of the few rewards of being a terrible sleeper is that I dream a lot. Twenty years ago I was even featured in Janet Sonenberg’s book Dreamwork for Actors, but mostly I experience hours of wandering NYC or some tropical paradise and can’t find a way to the subway/airport. Every once in a while, though, something breaks that mold.
A few weeks ago I met Robin Williams. He showed up in the middle of the night in my unconscious and lectured me. Not Good Will Hunting Robin Williams or Dead Poets’ Robin Williams but dead, ghost-ish Robin Williams. I have realized in the weeks that followed that it was recently his seventieth birthday (and soon, the anniversary of his death) from which I can infer that a Twitter comment may have stuck in my craw. Day residue, we can call it, or not.
The crux was this, paraphrased or reconstituted, or whatever.
“Most people,” said Robin. “Live life looking over their shoulder. They’re constantly turning back, watching for Death sneaking up on them. Don’t do that.”
“Run toward Death. It’s where you’re headed anyway. Don’t try to avoid it, live in fear of it, cower and shuffle away from it. Accept it and sprint whatever distance you get.” Do it consciously, he seemed to be saying, as hard and as fast and as intentionally as you can. Do not live recklessly, do not hasten the end, but don’t let fear ruin the race.
Other stuff happened. I think Michael Douglas showed up and gave a rendition of his Greed is Good speech from Wall Street. By that time Robin was gone back whence he came.
I awoke with that idea seared into my brain: Run toward Death.
There are generally two interpretations. The scientific side that accepts this as a projective narrative on neuronal impulses firing in some yet-to-be-fully-understood manner, or that my sleeping brain channelled wisdom from beyond the grave.
This time, I don’t know that it matters. From wherever the direction originated, it seems I have some running to do.