If you’re like me (and I hope you’re not), then the name Joan Rivers meant little more to you than “that horribly plastic old woman who can’t think of anything better to do than provide red carpet snark for E!”. Which is why, as news of her passing spread last week (having occurred during a “minor elective procedure”) it seemed at best trivial and at worst ironic, especially in light of other recent celebrity comic deaths.

And then I saw this video, from April 1967…

… and I had the following thoughts:

1. Joan Rivers used to look like a human being!

2. Wow. She’s really good.

3. Now I get it.

4. I’m a terrible person.

After all of that, another thought began to swirl in my head, one that filled me with compassion for both Joan Rivers, myself, and everyone else: Joan Rivers could diagnose the disease, but she couldn’t cure it. All this time I had been thinking how dim she must have been, how hopeless, to not recognize the cliche she had become – the older woman trying, desperately, to hold onto her youth, no matter how grotesque she became, until it actually killed her – but I had been selling Joan way too short. Joan Rivers knew exactly what she was doing. She knew the law to which she was so tragically beholden, and yet she was unable to free herself from  it.

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul points out that knowing the right thing to do (or not do) is very different than actually being able to do it, a truth which is demonstrated by the rest of the Bible and, indeed, by all of life. Just because we may see things clearly – see how pointless it is to chase beauty or money or success or approval or whatever might enslave us – does not mean that we will be able to actually stop chasing it. That is why, at the end of the chapter, Paul cries out for a savior, a rescuer, someone to intervene, to reach in and lift him off of the hamster wheel of self-harm.

The simple truth is that I am Joan Rivers. I have my own obsessions, my own incurable fears and desires, and no matter how clearly I may see them, I am still, like her, doomed to die in my sins. Maybe Joan actually did it right. Maybe, rather than fighting herself forever, she “made friends with the monster” and found some measure of peace.