The Training Table: “Carpe Dente!” B4 “Carpe Diem!”: Put Some Teeth into Your Worldview Today!

downloadWelcome to the Training Table where you can depend on some spiritually-nourishing chow, carefully prepared, to help you run the Godly and good race! For what good is a good race, unless it’s a Godly race (1 Corinthians 9:24)?

So… since many folks have offered commentary about Robin Williams, I’m going to offer a buck-and-a-half of my own: More than two-cents because my views are always in an attempt to honor God and bless others. It’s actually not about me… Seeking to honor God and bless people… albeit very imperfectly… is simply of more value!

I was/am a huge Robin Williams fan. In fact, when asked who I placed in the top ten great actors, he was right near the top. Versatility, depth, wit, insight, empathy, character study, strategy, spontaneity, always risky, William’s uncanny ability to BE… thoroughly, utterly, convincingly BE the character he was playing.

Identity… and Indentifying with a Character

The genius, as well as the great danger of being so convincingly “in character” is that there may well come a time when one’s actual, real, authentic, and bone fide “character”… that is one’s identity… is all-together lost—if, in fact, it was ever known to begin with.

As one website review of Williams’ work aptly describes, “…each of his movies gave audiences a glimpse of just how deeply Williams could sublimate the frantic restlessness that defined his public image…”

Sublimate… suppress… compartmentalize… repress… We need to take great care of discovering who we truly are and take great care in stewarding that “who”… As we get on with what we do.

Don’t ever forget, DOING B4 WHO’ING is a very dangerous yet very common formula for life.

This is hardly true of Robin Williams alone, right? Don’t many more of us than we’d like to admit “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18ff)… and are then forced to don the mask of however many parts we choose to play on the stage of life? Human beings are designed to live in a wholly integrated way; insisting we live life in a “disintegrated”, masked, and multiple-personality role always results in despair.

I believe that as the GAP widens between our real identity and the actor we create to get through life each day, the less we can know our true self; the more we have to flawlessly, award-winningly “act the part”; and the greater and greater and greater the risk that the existential angst that exists in the ever-widening GAP will overtake us… doom us… kill us… As dead men walking or worse as cold-dead men.

I might be getting ahead of myself, but maybe not.

Now—as if I had to state the obvious—I have no idea of what the nature of Robin Williams’ “true heart condition” consisted of. I could certainly conjecture a host of things and feel pretty confident that they were true… After all, the universally-acclaimed genius of Williams’ acting career DECKED AGAINST, set along side of, the history of self-destructive behaviors is exactly the GAP we’re peering into here.

So, in a serious yet droll way, I’m going to take a risk to posit some principles about Williams’ person that are well-worth ANYONE’S while to seriously consider.

Of Williams’ many performances where I thought there was no line of distinction between the script and his actual, personal worldview, a handful standout for me.

Scenes, lines, characters in, The World According to Garp, Good Will Hunting, Insomnia, World’s Greatest Dad, Awakenings, Dead Poet’s Society, The Fisher King, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Aladdin… So many ways in which Robin Williams portrayed a character… Or a character portrayed Robin Williams… Hmmm?

For me, there are roles and lines in each of these movies that are actually WHO and WHAT Robin Williams actually believed his heart of hearts that the reality of life consisted of [again, not that I know his heart like God knows his heart].

In the abstract this is hardly a surprise: All worthy actors “really get behind the script” when the story and role and lines deeply resonate with them… Deeply reflect his or her truths about life… Deeply FREE the actor to reveal his or her real self… That might be foreign to others or even themselves… Right?

But what about the part of life that continues on after playing the role in a movie is over… And we’re no longer The Pan [Williams as Peter Banning / Peter Pan in Hook]? We’re still back in that sweet scene where the youngest boy-pirate caresses Peter Pan’s face… pulls Peter Banning’s cut-throat merger and acquisitions visage back… to reveal Peter Pan… “The Pan”?!

“Ohhhh, there you are, Peter!” the young and innocent lad happily proclaims. Which is Williams? Which Peter Pan?

The Stage and Acts of Our Own Life

For so many of us, our friends, business associates, even our immediate family members… Who knows these daze where and person and script and “acting out” begins and ends? We live in an era where the GAP between the person and the poser… the me and the mask… the inward and the outward… is more gaping than it’s ever been, my friends. This is very dangerous… and many are those who are medicated to mitigate the ambivalences running wild within.

Is there any doubt that Mrs. Doubtfire [Williams] has some deep-running ambivalence with the break-up of a family and the hope of reconciliation? Does Professor Keating [Williams, Dead Poet Society] deeply, truly, actually believe humans beings come from nothing and end in nothing… And yet , and yet, can still find reason, hope, and inspiration to “Seize the Day!”?

Carpe Dente!” B4 “Carpe Diem!”:
Put Some Teeth into Your Worldview Today!

Even though it’s wildly unfair of me to grab such a scant few lines from two Williams’ movies to postulate a worldview and its implications for Williams, you, and me… But here we go.

Dead Poet’s Society
John Keating [Williams as English teacher pointing to hundreds of prep school alumni on display in the school hall]: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you; their eyes are full of hope… just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now food for worms… fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary. Carpe diem… Seize the day.”

Assertion One: I attended a prep school named Salisbury School which was exactly like St. Andrews in many ways—where DPS was filmed. The film’s portrayal of “the prep school life and times” was amazingly accurate—down to the suicide of one of the students in the movie who was under too much pressure to fulfill his parent’s dreams for him. I lost one classmate and one English Master [as we called the teachers] to suicide while I was attending Salisbury from ’68 to ‘71.

More than a few “Mr. Keatings” had a dramatic life or death influence on my own life: Mr. Riley, Mr. Reifschneider, Headmaster Ward, Coach Rudd…

Robin Williams was perfectly cast for the role: So perfect—worldview-wise—I believe Williams and Keating were one in the same.

“Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now food for worms… fertilizing daffodils. BUT if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary. Carpe diem… Seize the day.” [added emphasis]

Here’s the rub: It is logically, philosophically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and therefore physically… impossible to embrace a worldview of coming from nothing and then going to nowhere WHILE, at the same time—RE: “BUT”—striving to really, truly, with integrity, live life to the fullest… E.g., “Carpe Diem!”

It’s a bit part for a life that’s worth SO much more.

Keating like Williams… Williams like Keating… Wanted his sweet and tasty cake of a meaningful, exhilarating, passionate, and existentially influential life—while at the same time embracing a worldview that life is indeed and essentially meaningless.

If there is no hope before and after the grave, there is no hope. Unless, of course, as an Image Bearer of God you and I are really only food for worms.

There’s a logical and existential GAP far too wide and gaping to span…
Short of denial and anesthetizing, deadening oneself!

“If you believe that we come from nothing, and that we are going to nothing, at least have the integrity and courage to admit your life ‘in between two nothings’ cannot amount to anything.” (Pastor Tim Keller, sermon)

Sure, it’s one [incredibly convincing] scene out of many great Robin Williams’ films. But I double-damn guarantee you it’s a worldview, a pattern, and an act played out in many more of his films… His life. And far too many lives of the people in our own lives.

Mrs. Doubtfire
“Carpe Dente! Seize the teeth…” [A very inebriated Mrs. Doubtfire / Williams fishing her false teeth out of a glass of water.] A favorite scene of all time…

Assertion Two: “Carpe Dente! Seize the teeth…” THAT IS… Please put some teeth into your worldview before another “Carpe Diem!” goes by!

Tell me, tell yourself, tell SOMEONE ELSE which of these two worldviews are true for you?

Living two, three, numerous… contradictory and untenable lives? “Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now food for worms… fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary. Carpe diem… Seize the day.” (Mr. Keating-Williams)

Living one life, one dream, one unity, one hope… Designed by God? “My joy grows with every soul that seeks the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life)

I have the utmost respect for Robin Williams. I really and truly loved the many ways Williams positively influenced so many lives; I really and truly hope the occasion and means of his tragic death might be a teachable Mr. Keating / Mrs. Doubtfire… and many more… moment as well!

It May Not Be Your Fault…

But The Will Come a Day When No One Will Have Any More Excuses!

In closing, please consider another seminal moment in the life of Robin Williams, the man and the actor… And the millions of people who are in the exact same place… Via one of Robin Williams’ all-time greatest films, Good Will Hunting.

Sean: Hey, Will? I don’t know a lot. You see this? All this sh*t?
[Holds up the file, and drops it on his desk]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: [Will shrugs] Yeah, I know that.
[Will averts his eyes to the floor]

Sean: Look at me son.
[Will locks eyes with Sean]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: [Will nods] I know.

Sean: No. It’s not your fault.

Will: I know

Sean: No, no, you don’t. It’s not your fault.
[Sean moves closer to Will]

Sean: Hmm?

Will: I know.
[Will stands up, trying to keep distance]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: Alright.

Sean: It’s not your fault.
[Will closes his eyes, he’s fighting for control]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: Don’t f**k with me.
[Will shoves Sean back]

Will: Don’t f**k with me, Sean, not you!

Sean: It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
[Will breaks into uncontrollable sobs. They hug]

This meal at the Training Table may well have instigated some foreign… possibly repressed, compartmentalized, tucked away… yet very familiar and hurtful feelings about your own worldview, your story or childhood, or the worldview and hurt and misshapen thinking and existential pain that resulted from family and life’s brokenness. “It’s not your fault.”

But, FAIR WARNING, family and friends and anyone in the reach of my voice: God loves us enough that He will orchestrate life and life’s brokenness and life’s joys to get your attention… To woo you to Him… To bring you down low enough so you can be raised up in Christ Jesus, His Son, by repentance and faith.

True, certain things… certain very important, seminal things… are not your fault, but there will come a day—very soon for some and a wee bit later for others—where it will be counted as your faultNO EXCUSES… (Romans 1:20) if you or I or anyone continually ignores God’s offer in Christ for:

“Carpe Dente B4 Carpe Diem”… Put some teeth into your worldview… your faith… what you really and truly value… before another day goes by, Beloved of God.


A Reason for Living, by Tim Keller

Faith Has Its Reasons, by R.C. Sproul

Can Man Live Without God?, by Ravi Zacharias

Life Without Hope, Ligonier Ministries

Pessimistic Existentialism, Part 1

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