It’s the advice I’ve been receiving as of late (“don’t say ‘as of late’—it’s pretentious.”).
I suggest that whenever you hear the same message from sources independent of each other you should pay more than the usual amount of attention.
This week I’ve had Charlie Kaufman and John Updike, and him from the grave no less, tell me that I’m going to have to let me be myself if I want to get anywhere. The thing is, I’m still stuck on this. I never got past self-loathing. Maybe I’m normal, I have no idea. But I don’t hear a lot of other people talking about this, so I conclude that I am not normal.
The thing that stops me is that no one wants to hear it. What does that mean? I’ll tell you: No one wants my typical white middle-class take on anything that I have to say. My insights are second rate. All I do is read other people’s art and get excited about it. I’m not a self-generating font of original insight. And anything that I do have to say has been said better by masters and genius’ (geniusai?) obscene amounts of times before myself. I’m not a spy (though you can never trust ANYONE who says that because it’s exactly what a spy would say), I’m not a savant, I’m not an expert on anything. I’m bringing nothing to the table to distinguish myself.
Furthermore, let’s say I had something to say. Well I wouldn’t say it smart enough. Eyes would be rolling, people, grandmothers from their couches, would cry “maudlin!” “trite!” “ill-conceived!”
And that is the logic that has gotten me to here, three months before I arrive at my third decade.
Now Charlie and John sit beside me on the side of the bed, gently pat my leg, and calmly say, “Even though there is truth to what you’re saying, it’s ultimately bullshit.”
“But you’re still doing it. Why?”
“Because I’m scared.”
CharlieJohn sighs. “Of course you are. Anything worth anything will be difficult to acquire. You have to walk through the pain.”
Unfortunately I don’t come out from that experience looking particularly erudite. “I know. I’m scared. Ok.” But two literary giants were sitting on my bed with me. I get nervous when I speak to my own friends, so you’ll have to pardon me.
Of course they’re right. And because everything is everything, their words are Red’s words—“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
When I want to piss myself off I remember that self-loathing is a form of self-worship. Somewhere in all the posturing about how lame I am there is a pride—there is a benefit I’m reaping from the whining and fear that I don’t want to discontinue collecting.
But. Forcing myself, now. I stand at the door. I don’t want to walk through it. On the other side is unknown. I have trained myself to look before I leap, to know what the shot is. I stand at the door. Knowledge, logic and experience tell me not to go through. Walking through the door can only be a step of faith—all of my evidence leads me calmly away from the door. I stand at the door.
All I have, is all I have. There is nothing else to say. If I’m supposed to speak, then it will have to be with this second class education, this non-genius brain, and only the tools that are currently in the box.
I can’t say if I walked through the door. That answer can only come later, just as wisdom is proved right by her children.