Mork & Mind
I’m a comedy kind of guy:
I was born within a few days and a few miles of Lee Evans, I share the same birthday as Jerry Lewis, and most poignant at the moment, I look (a bit) like Robin Williams. It could be worse, I could look like Mrs Doubtfire. Essentially, my destiny is to laugh, make others laugh and generally be a bit of a tit.
Robin Williams was always a hero of mine, and having grown up with him his loss is hard to comprehend. As a kid I laughed at Mork & Mindy, when the hormones kicked in and adulthood beckoned I laughed at ‘Live at the Met’ and when the laughing stopped my admiration only grew when he demonstrated that such a loose cannon comedian could even carry a straight role.
He was clearly a creative genius, but as is so frequently documented, genius is a firework factory and he was so sparky something was sure to go boom.
The idea that so much fun can originate from within a vacuum of misery is heartbreaking, and it has made me think about mental illness and what can be done.
Mental health awareness
Awareness is something that the ordinary man on the street can contribute, and because they don’t come much more ordinary than me, I decided I wanted to do something to help raise awareness. But what? Fortunately, comedy again supplied what I was looking for, this time in the form of long-time sufferer and ambassador to the cause, Stephen Fry. As president of the charity Mind, I figured ‘if it’s good enough for Stephen it’s good enough for me’.
So, I had my chosen charity, what do I do now? Charity means fundraising, and fundraising often means sponsorship.
The sponsorship challenge
For a long time, I was unsure what to undertake as a sponsorship challenge and contemplated the usual activities. I could have followed David Walliams’ lead by swimming, but not being too strong in the water the idea of a couple of widths of our local pool didn’t really match up to his swimming the entire length of The Thames. Various assaults on The Great Wall of China and Mount Kilimanjaro are popular activities when it comes to fundraising, as is skydiving, but I wasn’t sure what to put in the ‘amount per’ column on the sponsorship forms. I suppose I could use amount per mile if I walked the Great Wall, but amount per mountain and amount per plummet didn’t sound right. I did consider making a triathlon of all these ideas whereby I would roller-skate the Great Wall of China, Cycle up Mount Kilimanjaro then skydive over the Great Barrier Reef, but that is such a big challenge I might need someone to help. I wonder if John Bishop has got rid of his blisters and fancies doing another biggie?
In the hope that I could match the task to the cause I contemplated the issue further.
Thinking about it
To say suicide is cowardice is to miss the point. It is failing to realise that the desire for self preservation is so strong that when that desire is lost there has to be something seriously wrong.
Looking at it from a perfectly rational point of view it is hard to understand why anyone would do such a thing, and that is where the understanding falls down. If someone has plummeted to that point where the faintest glimmer of hope has been extinguished, then there is no rational thinking. Attempting to comprehend such a state of mind is like gazing at the starlit sky and trying to grasp the size of the universe. If you think about it properly it will quite quickly screw your mind. Big doesn’t even begin to quantify it. Johnny Vegas is big, but you can’t use the same adjective to describe the universe. The scale of magnitude is different by a factor of about a gazillion. And the same rules apply when thinking about mental illness. When you start by thinking about it so deeply that it screws your mind, then you have to realise you are still nowhere near understanding it. If your idea of depression is ‘getting a bit sad at the world’, and your idea of treatment is ‘get a grip’ and ‘pull yourself together’, then you are unlikely to ever understand, and you are as much a victim of modern life as they are.
So what happens when someone does reach that point? Sadly, the answer so often is ‘nothing’. We are so cocooned in our preoccupied modern lives that we are numbed from the reality of pain, misery and hardship and we don’t recognise it when we see it. Or rather, we don’t even see it in the first place. Part of the problem with mental illness is that it is invisible, silently wreaking havoc on the delicate structure of the mind, eventually revealing itself as an aftermath.
So what am I going to do?
And then, as I pulled myself out of the sadness created by the thought of severe mental illness I realised what the task should be. It should represent the nature of mental illness, its lack of visibility, its solitary nature and unwillingness to show itself or be seen. I should do nothing.
I hereby propose to carry out a sponsored ‘Nothing’ in aid of Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity. The challenge will take place between now and July 21st 2015, the date of Robin Williams’ birthday.
My donations page can be accessed here,
In exchange for your hard earned cash, I shall endeavour to do nothing.
For the duration of the challenge I shall not attempt to swim the Zambezi, pogo up K2 or skydive naked from a hot air balloon. What I do after that date remains to be seen.
Thanks for the laughter Robin Williams
I don’t want you to pay me for having fun. I want you to pay me to drop something into the charity box labelled Mind in the hope that it may help someone who needs it. It may even help someone to laugh again. And on that note I say thanks for the laughter Robin Williams.