I am sad all of the time. Obviously, not all of the time, but when I am sad it always feels like this is the only thing I have ever felt. Sometimes I pour that sadness into a bottle while pouring its poison into me. Sometimes I project that sadness onto a virtual stranger's erect penis. And every once in a while I will write through it.
I know writing isn't supposed to be therapy. But can it be escape? Can it be anything but that? Every word I've ever written, and every moment I've spent on stage, fills me with shame. Because it has never felt like work.
In college I worked at a cafeteria. And whenever I was on sandwich duty, I would make little smiley faces with the condiments because I was sure that some customers would find it cute enough to want to have sex with me. But none of them ever did.
While I worked there I was also allowed one free meal valued at $15. The cost of each meal was measured by weight at check out. And I calculated that three heaping plates of pasta were valued at $15. So one day I tried eating all three plates during the thirty minutes allotted to me for lunch. So that I could get all my calories for the day without having to spend any money or time on food. And when I went back to work the sandwich station... imagine the most attractive person you can think of... they were next line.
I made a little horseradish smiley face for them. They actually asked for mayonnaise but I was already too nauseous from all the food I just ate to know the difference.
I looked up at their giggling, charmed face, knowing that finally, this was the one.
And I vomited all over the sandwich station.
That only happened so that I could write today's post.
I gave today's post the title Desperate and Selfish. Desperate is what suits the above story. And Selfish because a part of me has always questioned... why a so-called "blog" where I am invading people's inboxes? And (almost) everyday? Why not just focus on my podcast and my stories? And just Tweet or Facebook when I feel like it? The truth is... I want you all to myself. Sure, I might get likes and retweets (and this is by no means a criticism of those things) but what I really want is an exclusive relationship with you. If you read this on social media, you are still, in the most basic sense, in relationship to the platform. Which, again, is fine.
But when you sluts read me I don't want you sucking off the rest of the internet too. When your ass is mine, it's mine.
The blush on your face is a generic brand called death,
And no one's eyes speak here.
I look and see emptiness.
Haha! Everything they say about you is a lie!
Maybe I should be more specific; less metaphorical; give it to you straight; not waste your time; because in New York, it is possible to own time. To own god.
I lied. Well, not really, I just skipped a part. There was some wonder in the beginning. That part where you look out from the window seat on the plane and see the face of god in all those lights from the buildings. And I know it's in all the movies. But the movies got it right that time.
I would name all the places you own, but that would be a little tedious. And I don't really care about them. I am ok with sitting on the bench and watching all those people staring at their hands miraculously cheating death day by day. Whose hands are we all in, that we can do that? God loves New York. Her most sinful and wretched child. This big apple of god's eye. Ha!
An abusive lover told me once that you were like everyone's abusive lover. When it's good it's gooood, and when it's bad it's baaaad. They weren't wrong about this.
Why am I writing about you, when I know nothing about you? I try to write about people too. People hate how crowded you are and the way you smell. And they love how crowded you are and the way you smell. These people have never been to Cairo. But I don't know that place at all either.
But the cold... that got me. I am a wimp when it comes to the cold. Not a lot of iron in my blood. What you think I'm a fucking viking?
What is there to actually say about you? From my point of view? Since so much has been said before? And continues to be said? People joke about you like you're a crazy ex. And the jokes stay funny. I still need to watch that documentary about you.
Sleeping on my hippie yogie uncle's coach... sneaking peaks into his library of half-read books.
Lovers get mad at me for leaving underwear on the floor. But you never judge me for littering. That is why I love you most, New York.
Catering while hung over for all those angry chefs at glorious bar mitzvahs to make a quick buck; wondering if the trapeze artists will fall onto those below. They never do.
Wandering sober through the free museums and finding it a little boring.
Leaving the too long lines at the jazz clubs and trolling plays at all those "little" theatres that seem so big to me.
Practicing my Shakespeare with all those actors shuffling in from Broadway matinees. "Well say there is no kingdom then for Richard?" I knew I would torment myself to catch the American crown. Or hew my way out with a bloody axe. Because I am a son of desert poets with the blood of an American salesman. And all of this will be mine.
And all of it will leave me in the gutter, blue and bloodied. Last man standing. I'll just hang among the women, then. If they'll have me.
When I was seven I saw the towers burn on a little tv in a little house from across the country. Before I knew there was a place called New York.
When I saw ground zero as it is now, I was sure that it looked better this way. And it is beautiful. I know all those people died just so I can appreciate this honest monument. And I went to the museum next door and it kind of spoiled it for me... but I did laugh out loud when I heard the French guy on the tv say in that funny accent "nobody cared about those towers until I walked between them."
All of you got mad at Susan Sontag for telling you the truth. But I only read about this.
I came to you once. And never wanted to leave. I wanted to hold on to you, abusive lover that I am, so that some history book could count me among the millions who came to you to find the best of what they could find in life. But I know that I wasn't seeing the real you that older men and women saw. But I was seeing the real you. When I am old I will tell the young they never saw the real you, too.
I love you as you are. You are perfect.
What would I change about you, first? The subway system. But that's everyone, I know.
I had to leave because a plague came. I had to go and protect ones that I loved. I had to go and be protected by them. And now I know they are safe. Er. And now I have returned and the plague is still here. We'll see who lasts longer. The place I went back to, no one respected the plague. And here, no one is respecting the plague. I am not respecting the plague. But I am playing it safer than most... which is frightening.
I often insult the dead. I forget to mention them when they leave. I know people will do this to me when I die, too.
I will walk your streets, with face covered. Or I will wait when the plague is gone; when the cold is gone. Will they ever be gone? Over the bridges, I will go. It's the walking that means something to me. Not you, New York, you mean nothing to me. I know you are nothing but an idea.
Such a beautiful idea, though.
You are real. I am the idea. And you are really beautiful.
There is a world elsewhere.
But here, you are the world.
Will you be remembered for your beauty and the slaves that built you? Like all those great cities of antiquity? Or will you fade like all those dying stars in the sky who's names we do not know?
I was born for you, because I want to be immortal too.
Death will show us both, the error of our ways.
Till then, let's have as much fun as we can.
The terror and the pain and the cold will handle itself.
Ah, fuck you New York.
I will go into your sacred monuments. And I will destroy all the idols there and remind you of the one true god you once knew and have since forgotten. A, fuck off! you say. Yes. This is your declaration of faith. Your sign that you are part of the club. This is how we humans do. I worship your idols and your gods too. Because I am a dirty, bloody pagan. I am you. I belong to you. I serve you. I am yours. You are the truth.
I am among the hypocrites your elders must snuff out before I destroy the integrity of your beloved community.
I love you. I love you. I love you. I barely know you.
I need to get serious for a minute.
If your aim is to be an entertainer in America, intense political consciousness is part of your job description. And the quality of your work is always a reflection of those who you allow to hold power.
America is a financial empire. "Foreign" policy is domestic policy.
Shakespeare's plays were so human because he wrote them for a Queen. A woman who traded openly with the North Africans whom her male counterparts routinely saw as barbarians. And who's current day autocrats are paid off by our government. Othello may have been based on Abd el-Ouahed Ben Messaoud... ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I who negotiated for an Anglo-Moroccan alliance to thwart the Spanish Inquisition--the three hundred and fifty year long purging of Muslims and Jews from the Kingdom established by Ferdinand and Isabella. These talks culminated in arms deals and on and off talks of mounting a joint operation against Spain, but the Queen and Morocco's ruler at the time both died within two years of the embassy.
Neither Othello in his tragedy nor Shylock in the Merchant of Venice are perfect reflections of the complex collectives they stood to represent in what seemed like the most fully fleshed form for the time. But it matters that they exist at all. And though there are complex women in Shakespeare's plays, there just aren't enough of them. But it matters that they exist at all. What matters is that the attempt to flesh out these characters genuinely is notable and due in large part to the heroic behavior of those in power.
America is a cultural backwater. We do not experience the capacity for genuine artistic abandon that much more socially progressive countries do.
The increasing numbness you feel in your Netflix binges is only compounded by the performative wokeness the platform tries to project. And it is a deadening lie.
Entertainment is not human if its makers are not conscious of the corruption of the state. And even if they are, their entertainment is still not human if it only exists in antithesis to that corruption. But how can conscious entertainment not exist in antithesis to a corrupt state? It is impossible in this case for our entertainment to reach a level in which we may regard this entertainment as art.
Justice is the parameter in which art can thrive. And the only one. And so it goes without saying that a concern for art is a concern for justice. And a concern for justice is a concern for art.
The popularity of "performance art" is a reflection of our inability to face the corruption of our state and our culture with any real courage. These performances are in precise submission to the kind of censorship they supposedly aim to denounce. And they are boring. Just say what you mean.
In this country theatre is dead, television and films are malaise-inducing, hack paintings are overvalued, and books are unreadable past the preface because we pay our taxes to an organization more deadly than any mob or terrorist group. And that organization is still in power.
It is understandable if this is all too unbearable. The best thing to do for your art, in this case, is leave the country.
It could all be so much better.
Someone who is very talented and who I respect a lot told me that my last blog post read like their horoscope and now I want to drown in self-pity.
I'm being dramatic. They didn't mean what they said in a negative (or positive) way it just shattered me with self-consciousness because I know I am above horoscopes. I know people like horoscopes but I am too good for astrology. It's not like I compulsively scan my Co-Star app every morning and spiral inwardly whenever it suggests I connect with someone I have a crush on. No... that's not me at all.
But I got thinking about "feedback." Does it really matter if it is a compliment or not? Lately people who think they are cool and respectable have been calling their responses to work "observations." As though posturing like they are some objective alien come to show humans the error of their subjective ways.
Also, let's stop calling "feedback" feedback. It's sounds too much like that screeching noise I don't want my microphone to make whenever I am recording my podcast. Let's start calling it "response," now. If you call it "feedback" I will disown you.
And when it comes to response... "positive" or "negative" or some vaguely neutral (though obviously loaded) "observation" doesn't really matter. What matters is that the person is responding and it always deserves your appreciation. You will know intuitively how to respond or not respond to the response. You will know whether or not it informs your work moving forward. But a response is always to be honored... like the time or money someone spends to actually enjoy your work.
Speaking of my podcast... based on responses to my latest instalments... I'm starting to realize something. People don't give a crap how smart I am, they just want the truth.
So fuck it. I'm just going to tell you the truth. I will make your horoscopes eat their own asses out of jealousy for my truth telling.
Worse than empty outrage is the beaming of gratitude onto the unacceptable.
Why celebrate the status quo?
Be relentless with yourself and others.
Gentleness towards the given circumstances is no virtue if it is a privilege.
The reality is that, right (or left) side of the issues or not, your thoughts and righteous ideals are mostly governed by the influence of the interest lobbies that back them.
That means the ideas with the most money are the ones that are probably going to steer most of your thinking.
It doesn't mean these ideas are wrong, it just means you need to take in other variables before jumping to conclusions. Having your mind made up is probably a more dangerous sign than you think.
Just because everyone says it, and it seems bad to not say it, doesn't mean it's true.
It's harder than ever to call it as you see it and say to hell with it all.
You have to expose yourself before you know what it is you are exposing. You might not like what you find out about yourself or what others see. But what matters is that they do see. If your attention is on your own fear of what is inside you as opposed to a genuine wave of responses to what is outside of you, no one ever sees who you actually are. And that is a spiritual death before the physical one. And when people see who you are, they might see the potential for a prophet king or potential for a complete monster. Or something in between... what does it matter? Now you know. And now you have information to act on. As opposed to going through life with this vague grasp of what it means to be alive, or worse, being exposed for something or someone terrible before you had the means to control the impulses that could lead to actions which cause harm.
Aristotle thought that the purpose of drama was to allow the audience to purge its uncivilized impulses so that the harmonious state may remain unthreatened by them. In a way, an artist is meant to keep everyone from eating each other. The audience can experience the work... laugh, gasp, cry, whatever it is... and afterwards take a quick glimpse into the mirror before heading off to bed a bit more aware of their true nature. And that they and the rest of the world are a little safer from it, and all it took was the price of admission or the forms they had to fill out for their library card. And the benefit is achieved when no one else had to see who they were except themselves. They don't realize this is what is happening but it is what happens by virtue of their being entertained. That is their prerogative as the audience.
But the artist has no mirror. There is nothing out there to tell them who they are before everyone else can see it. But everyone else must see it if the artist is to be of any service. An artist is a sacrifice.
All you're risking is a little bit of embarrassment.
No one is going to cut your head off. Not yet anyway. So don't be so humble, you're not that important. But you are necessary... and if artists stop doing what they do, and doing it honestly, for long enough that they suddenly become "important," that's when we're all in real trouble. Because the sacrifice holds status with the gods, and not with the living. And "importance" is about holding status with the living. Necessity is about holding status with the gods.
We can, and must, aim to place ourselves at the center of events. Aim to be seen. Half our work is about removing barriers between us and our audience. And that entails some imperfect decisions. But it's not our business to line up for medals or awards or grants or a place at the shiny institution. All that stuff is important. It is not necessary. It has no status among the gods. And if we find ourselves to be a generation aiming to be important as opposed to necessary we're going to start seeing a whole lot of our contemporaries cannibalize one another. We might already be seeing it. And when we do see it we'll know all that blood is on our hands. Because we were so greedy for our own blood. That blood that was meant as sacrifice to the gods.
And now the gods are angry.
What an opportunity we have to say what we have to say when all has been said before. It's a chance to change what things mean. And that's really all that anything is about. Changing what things mean. I don't know how to be direct about this. Things changed their meaning for me recently. They change their meaning for me every day.
I don't know how to be direct about this so here's a dumb metaphor. The cream might rise to the top, but sugar kills you and the caffeine is what you are drinking the coffee for anyway. It's what fuels you... that bottom shit. I have now changed the title of this post from you have to keep working to that bottom shit.
But you have to keep working.
I have had (have) a lot of pain in my path as an actor (and writer). A lot of pain. But I've never, for a single moment, felt bitter about where I was in the "industry."
I am the industry.
I ought to be on Broadway. I don't believe this. It is the truth. The actor who was on Broadway might have thought, "I ought to be an academy award winner."
Broadway is closed.
And I might crack open wider than I ever thought. Nothing stops me from showing up everyday.
And you have to face every road block from preventing that showing up. And those roadblocks change and adapt as quickly as things change meaning for you. And if you are an artist, things change meaning for you every day.
One day you are in the cave, alone.
The next day, Gabriel shows up and nearly eviscerates you.
These roadblocks are more insidious than bed bugs. They are Oedipus not realizing he is the cause of the plague or the Dauphin's tennis balls at the start of young Henry's reign. You never see them coming, ever.
Praise can be as head spinning and debilitating as rejection. It might send you spiraling because you had no idea anyone was even paying attention.
Praise and rejection are the same thing. Just bullshit that gets in your way.
All praise is to god alone.
You get cast in the big part for the big company, but the reviews destroy you. You're sleeping in a barn with racoons wondering what the hell you're doing for this nothing of a company, but the right person sees you. Whatever... this isn't even the story to begin with. It really isn't. Because you might very well have been sleeping in the barn and have had the reviews destroy you while you did the thing for the little company anyway. And deserved the opposite. What do you deserve? Nothing. Nothing but your work.
You miss your shot by seeking it. Gaining status has its own benefits. Real benefits that you will eventually need. But it in itself means nothing.
It's not the same as showing someone the face of god. Which is what we really mean when we say something is art. We see the face of god in it.
You might end up seeing yourself all of a sudden at the center of events... a place no artist would refuse... but then be granted an opportunity to see something or someone no one ever dared to see before. And miss that shot. Because you are afraid of insulting those who gave you the keys to the gate. You miss your shot to truly change the face of god. And if that happens... nothing else will matter.
The Qur'an says that when all else is gone, it is only this face of god that will remain.
Broadway is closed. The gatekeepers will die and be replaced. New forms and mediums will arise and people will start making the wrong moves thinking they are "adapting" when they are just jumping from one shallow hoop to another.
Only the artists will remain. Only the face of god.
I've had a good week. But this good feeling is a lie, I know it.
But it's not.
But it is.
In the grand scheme of things... what is "brilliant" and what is "crap" is all the same. If done with the intention and presence of one who does not answer to the circumstance of this... what do you call it? Applause? Status? Attention? Success? If you just do it for the joy and play of it all. It's all the same. Just more pieces of the face of god.
I am excited to show you what's next not because it's anything different from what came before. But because it is what's next.
Nothing gives me more pain than hearing about extraordinary talent that has been devoured by the woods of circumstance. Some people just don't get their shot. It is a tragic story.
It is a false story.
Because if that person was or is extraordinarily talented, chances are they were (are) doing their work. And someone is seeing the face of god in it.
It might be the keen and sincere (and influential) producer. Who makes that talent a star.
Or it might be the fifteen year old kid eating chips a little too noisily in the back row. Who the world calls nigger. And who sees the face of god and decides they want nothing more than to show someone else that face. And they change the meaning of art on this planet all together. And in that invisible moment, two complete strangers create an unbreakable lineage. All because of the art. And the work.
I don't know about you but that second story sounds a little more thrilling to me.
I am excited to show you all what is next. God willing.
Jeremy Renner. Who did that bastard sell his soul to to end up in Wind River AND Arrival?
Anyway, I like what his character says in Wind River to a troubled kid. When the kid says something like, "I've just got this feeling like I've got to fight the world."
He says he once had that feeling too. But he chose to "fight the feeling instead."
I don't think I can or even have to unpack that exchange. That's the power of great dialogue.
Also, the end of that film? That's exactly how you deal with a monster. Justice is not a human prerogative. It becomes vengeance then. I'm not saying vengeance is bad... I'm just saying justice becomes a different thing all together when employed by humans. And just because something is unforgivable does not mean the perpetrator is outside the boundaries of the universe's compassionate though firm eye for retribution. Being affronted is not a reflection of your moral compass. It is a reflection of your being affronted.
And Arrival is just... just watch that movie. I won't quote Renner's character from that movie here... because funny enough his accomplished scientist character comes off kinda dumb in that movie compared to his character in Wind River. And I'm with Amy Adams' character Arrival... it is after all language that is the cornerstone of civilization. Not science.
Why is this turning into a random movies I like blog?
One of my favorite filmmakers is Jeff Nichols. His first film, Shotgun Stories, is about a violent feud between half-brothers. Three from a father's first marriage... which was miserable and left behind. And three from a father's second marriage, which was prosperous and made the father seem like an upstanding person.
The feud starts when the brothers from the first marriage show up at the father's funeral and spit on his casket.
The film implicates men in the atrocities they perpetuate against each other. But implicates their women enablers just as much. Which is why I love the film. It does not judge. It simply presents the world as the filmmaker sees it.
At the height of the Ottoman Empire, the first born son would order the execution of his younger brothers to prevent any challenge to the throne.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that most killings in history have in fact been brother against brother.
What is it about men that makes us feel like we must destroy each other? Who are we honoring? Who are we protecting?
Why can't we just stop?
I set out with two self-imposed and arbitrary rules with this blog.
I would not make it about my anger. Too much.
I would not delve into my personal life. Too much.
Loss disguises itself in its own shadow. And the last person to notice it is the one which the shadow follows.
The good old coming of age story. The child's fairy tale... these are core narratives. Because they represent an attempt to cross the lonely oceans of time to retrieve the irretrievable.
It may very well be that aging and decay and emotional trauma are faults in our genes. But for now eternity eludes us.
Except in our attempts to live it backwards in the stories we set down about our selves.
What an immeasurable thrill.
Why else would we bear what little life we have already?
A game like chess or soccer has a lot of rules. But you can't play it the same way twice. And you can't plan what each player is going to do ahead of time. It kills the game.
It will kill your art too. Valuing consistency is sham institutional piety. It places the need to please those with financial power over you at the center.
Does consistency count for something? Sure. Showing up. Your health. General common sense and decency and respect. That's about it.
But there is no room for obedience once you're in the ring.
Anyone who tries to tell you this is the way things must be can shove it. Don't tell them that though. Your job is to say thank you very much, and go your own way anyway.
The penguins are just mad at you because they know they can't fly.
Freud said that if you name a terrible thing, it begins to lose its power over you (and for our purposes, the audience).
We spend so much of our lives pretending things don't happen, just to survive. But in the theatre (or the page) everything must be acknowledged, or else the ritual is betrayed. The actor mustn't pretend the vase did not fall off the coffee table even though that was not blocked or scripted; the writer mustn't ignore that thought they know they shouldn't be thinking--that's exactly the thought we need.
Nothing was more freeing to me than being told that acting is a way of seeing. And that one does not have to be or even to believe. One can wipe one's feet at the door. One can leave the pretentions of polite society and political correctness when they enter a space where all that matters is the truth--and of course, the ability to wipe one's feet of what occurred in the space in order to reenter society as whole as they left it (which is what we really mean when we say safety).
It's just as important to look at writing this way. It can be difficult (although very fun) to dissociate oneself from the terrible truths one puts to paper. Just because you can (and must) be held accountable for what you write (and believe me you will) does not mean it is a reflection of who you are or what you actually believe about how things should be (who really knows, in the end?).
The stories you tell--if you tell them honestly--are not a reflection of your beliefs. They are a reflection of what you see. What you see is rarely so correct and fully formed. You control your beliefs. You don't control what you see. You only allow yourself to see. Or you don't. But having been granted the physical and mental privileges to do so, why deny yourself the thrill of seeing?
It is the audience's prerogative to make judgements. Not your own. Judgement is a kind of cowardice for the artist. It is safe. It shields you and the audience from discoveries that might elicit an honest response. And a growth of understanding in who we are.
It is still a kind of vain glory to present the world and people and outcomes of circumstance as they ought to be. It is an invented task. It is waste.
More difficult and more simple and more generous to present things as they are.
Dave Chappelle prefers not to talk about his religion, Islam, publicly because he doesn't want it associated with his own flaws as a person.
Ruth Negga admits to being very territorial about her identity because it's been "hijacked by so many people with their own projections." And that she doesn't trust anyone who's identity does not shift.
Both these perspectives and their lives in action contain immense wisdom.
You are what you claim to be. And it is ok, necessary in fact, to protect that.
And on the other side of the fence, there are people who do not understand the pain of having one's truth denied. Careful around them. And if you do understand that pain, notice the shields people have up about themselves.
And respect them with your life.
Albert Einstein said that he wasn't smarter than anyone else, he just stuck with problems longer. People--including myself--work so hard to make their craft more difficult than it is. Problems with the work almost always come down to a question of commitment. As an actor am I going to stop telling the story as it was written for me because I am bored? Do I stop writing because my work isn't going anywhere recognizable?
The solipsism our society induces within us makes even people-watching seem like an aggravating tedium to most. We can't stay with a thing long enough to allow for surprise. And there always is surprise, if we pay attention long enough.
"I am shocked but not surprised" has been a kind of slogan among my contemporaries over the last half decade. I am sad... not for the state of society but for them. Whoever says this. Because if you are going from shock to shock, you are addicted... continually hunting for the new shock. And the meh feeling you project whenever someone asks how you're doing is not an honest response, it is an attempt to connect in the most safe and predictable way you know; a signal to your tribe of floating meh people.
But if you are surprised, and the surprise further fuels your curiosity, you are paying attention. Some things just aren't worth the time allotted to you. You and I both know what they are. Pick something worthy. And commit. Stick with the problems that count.
You don't have to think twice about how to respond to this moment. Whatever this moment is for you. A moment is already the past unless you seize it. And anything you seize is yours. The moment is yours. You don't have to respond to the moment at all.
You're an artist... you lock yourself up and do the work. You keep your head down and you look up every once in a while just to know what the hell you're doing it all for. What you see can often disturb you.
Turmoil, suffering, danger this is the cycle.
The stories, the beauty, the work, the art we create despite the cycle is the exception. That is the immortal thing.
I care about what happened at the capitol. But, no, I don't care. I really don't. To be honest if people weren't blowing up my phone I wouldn't have noticed.
I cared enough to write this post. I think every blog post is like the remains of an aborted child. Something that could have grown into something more but the world is not ready for it. But the remains are the result of a process that will not be forgotten.
Do I care that I just compared blog posting to abortions? Does that draw me closer to the maniacs who stormed the capital the other day? This sort of non-filter? Am I scared that I wrote that? A little. Yeah. I am a little scared for writing that.
But that's what separates me or anyone else from these utter fools who think they are alive. They're so wildly self-confident they've never experienced the terror of true living. And they've never been alive. The true person, the one who stumbles over their own crippling self-doubt with just enough momentum to do what they were called to do, that is the hero in every single one of us. And we don't need to respond to a call to arms or a call to the streets or whatever call that is loudest in attempting to squelch this wave of anxiety over the collective soul. We have an opportunity to be that hero every single moment we choose to. Because we possess the wisdom of doubt. The wisdom of fear. Fear is our power. The humility to cower before the vastness of our unknowing. Every moment in our lives is a potential for true courage. What a thrill.
I care about what happened at the capitol. I looked up. And then I put my head back down and got back to work. Because that is what I have. And no one, no one can take that away from me.
No one can take it away from you, either. Get your ass in the chair with that brush or that keyboard. Teach yourself to sing, call a meeting for your grassroots campaign, solve quantum gravity... whatever you are called to do. There is not much time.
Is it a privilege? Yes. Privilege is a word. A beautiful word. It used to mean something nice. Life is a privilege. Seeing, hearing, feeling. All privileges. All entail responsibilities afforded by privilege. These responsibilities are demanding. Going after them will make you feel cold and alone because the responsibility is to make what was not there before into being. Something new. Something people don't yet understand. And people so fear what they don't understand. Our own families will doubt their love for us when they encounter something we make of ourselves that they do not understand.
There are people who have this privilege; this responsibility who won't go all in--not because they are lazy, they are often far from it, but because in their heart of hearts they think they do not deserve a place. And so they play at an idea of doing something worth their while in order to hold themselves at a distance from the pain this sort of path may entail. I have no patience for such people, though I have been there. Maybe I am still there. Today I am not there. No. But tomorrow is a new story.
Pay attention. Get your outrage out of the way. Get yourself out of the way.
Stop feeling so ashamed of yourself.
I think maybe that answers your question is a sentence I heard while listening to an interview recently. In fact, I must have heard some variation of this sentence in every interview I've ever listened to. It is such a strange and beautiful phrase.
I think maybe that answers your question. The interviewee seems to want to appease the host... look, I know I'm a fallible fool but I am working so hard to be clear for you! If anything, I am complimenting you because your question is so complex and interesting I really have to search deeply for my response.
How does one answer a question? Like actually answer it? When is a point of perfect understanding ever reached? Has anyone ever truly answered a question? Has anyone ever truly asked one?
Plenty, I'm sure. And I don't need to name them.
My point is this,
questions and answers. The most exciting of human endeavors is the process of increasing the former and decreasing the latter.
The villain is always more dynamic; more fun. And even if they're not a fun sort of villain their story is always deeper; more layered. The villain is carried with an inspiring and insurmountable conviction and resourcefulness. The villain is always played by the better actor in the movie. Why do I always root for the villain?
It's not a race thing. I'm not talking about Cowboys and Indians; I'm talking about dynamics that have flesh.
And it's not because of some "natural capacity for empathy." No, nothing so cliched as that.
Why do I find the classic hero so unbearably obnoxious but their cosmic role so compelling?
The hero has their perks too. People like to look at the hero. And I like to be looked at. So it's clear I want to be the hero, too. The hero has a destiny.
I still love the classic story structure--hero and villain driving unstoppably to an unforeseen but inevitable meeting point.
How this structure evolves depends on how they get to this point, and what they do when they get there.
I want to live in a world where this meeting point is more rewarding for the villain, and more punishing for the hero.
And that's when we can ask the real question,
what is the incentive to do good?
God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his child,
and at the last minute god said,
This was not a malevolent test of loyalty. It was a trial of trust.
All of the best stories; all of the best jokes operate as a trial of trust.
Just before the end faith is all but forsaken, only to be replaced by an even stronger faith needed for the more challenging trial that emerges from this end. A new beginning. A new story.
How far can you and your audience go together before dropping the ball? Before you go so far afield they never forgive you; never return? How do you get them to follow your lead somewhere even crazier than before?
Abraham forgave god.
And went on, at god's command, to leave his spouse and child alone in the desert.
Abraham's child in the first story went on to father the world's most celebrated bloodline.
Abraham's spouse and child in the second story were blessed with a well-spring of the earth's purest water, which continues to be drunk with zeal by millions of pilgrims every year from across the planet.
That is the power of trust.
That is the power of a good story.
What if we understood one person's rigor and commitment to address a specific question as the result of an irresistible build up from a kind of human web of internetted thoughts? An internet of thoughts that existed thousands of years before the computer age. And I don't mean prophets, artists, scientists or philosophers building on the work of previous prophets, artists, scientists, and philosophers.
I mean the cumulative psychic affect of a bunch of normal people going about their lives thinking these amazing thoughts; thinking up these passing questions that just scream for an answer and the universe finally going I've had it!
And picking someone and going, you! fix this.
Copernicus was not the one. Whatever one which had been built on the residue of the exploding human thought web somehow landed on him.
So daydream; think; you don't even have to write it down. It will be remembered. And the energy will always find an outlet. Your effort is not required.
Just your presence.