So I hear that you have chosen to want to write for a living. I thoroughly disapprove of this decision, as does your mother, but it seems as though you cannot be dissuaded.
Anyway, given your weak character and narrow worldview and general lack of wisdom or intellect or even knowledge, I can only hope that you will do enough reading and thinking to make up for it little by little. I am desperately worried about you, as is your mother, because wanting to write for a living requires a lot of self-assuredness and genius, neither of which I am convinced you have.
To be frank, I think you are a complete idiot to be doing this.
But you are me and I care about you who is me, whether you are a total halfwit or not. So I would more than anything like to see you survive your stupid decision, if only to avoid painful embarrassment. I would like to see you earn the dollar that can feed you and clothe you and free you from being hopelessly depended on your poor parents, who really shouldn’t be feeding you and clothing you in your twenties.
It is for these reasons that I want to remind you of some things, which I hope you will read and consider whenever crappy things happen to you as a result of this decision.
You are vain and selfish to want to write. You are vain because you think your stories are worth telling and you can be a storyteller who gets paid for her stories. You are selfish because you should be making an effort to be a contributing member of the society, but instead you are choosing to do whatever the hell you want.
You should be ashamed of yourself for these reasons – but you chose to want it and to want it openly, and you may never whine about it. You’re not allowed to be a baby anymore. Be responsible for your choices.
You are not writing a diary entry. You are writing for and on behalf of and at the cost of and because of everybody. Therefore, you may never write about yourself. Do not expect to earn a dime telling a story about you. If you do, you are a hack and a thief.
What Hemingway said: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” This is probably a moot point, because everybody already knows that you have to learn how to write, but don’t ever talk about the process.
Or, a simpler rule: Don’t talk about writing at all.
What Kafka said: “I need solitude for my writing; not like a hermit – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.” Kafka is exaggerating, but the truth of it remains: You are doing this. You are in it by yourself, so don’t expect somebody else to push you through it or pull you out of an unproductive day. They’ve got bigger things to fry, such as real life.
Your life is not a real life until you sell something. Even then, I’m not sure if it’ll become real. This too is a part of the choice you made, so don’t moan.
A child could potentially do this better than you. Don’t complain about that either. When you are feeling down about the crap you’ve come up with, be consoled in the fact that you aren’t letting your crap bewitch you into thinking that it is better than it is.
Creative people like Seth MacFarlane and Quentin Tarantino do whatever the hell they want, and we love them in spite of – or because of – it. MacFalane can flirt with topics like incest and bestiality and get away scot-free. Tarantino can shamelessly steal every movie made in the last hundred years, and still be called one of the most original filmmakers in the past few decades. Tim Burton can make a film like Sweeney Todd – a largely necrophiliac musical dedicated to blood, razors, and cannibalism – against all societal taboos about death, with a massive budget and complete creative control.
I like to call these people cultural fascists. They bend and break every rule in the book (except for the ones they like), behave as though even basic tenets of coherent storytelling is beneath them, do whatever they feel like, make a farce out of human existence – and we clap for them and laugh at all their sick jokes until our stomachs hurt. We cheer them on by staying on their channel and buying their tickets.
In this way, their creativity is fascistic. They are the most boisterous harbingers of pop culture and postmodernity in the 21st century, because they have the guts to lead the chaos. They steal blatantly, make obnoxious references to the current and past events, insult people, while remaining highly conscious of itself (they know better than anyone else that they are stealing and cheating and insulting) – and they don’t apologize for any of it.
They are fearless in their creativity. They “know absolutely” that what they are creating is awesome and argue that those who disagree with this “absolute truth” are just idiots who “do not get it”. They are funny, smart, interesting, challenging, culturally remarkable – and they certainly know it. They are unafraid of making mountains of enemies. They welcome hatred and don’t seem to care to be loved, so long as they are feared. And they indeed are feared, because there is nothing that frightens us more than tyrants with a massive and evangelical fanbase.
These cultural fascists have massive fanbases because no one can do what they do. Nobody can imitate their work and satisfy their passionate, intelligent, and exacting audience (i.e. fanatics and all of their friends), because a Tarantino fan cares about the difference between original Tarantino and a watered-down imitation. They notice the difference and will settle for nothing less. If the TV audience decides that they want MacFarlane’s million inappropriate jokes about pedophilia, the old farts in the conference room without a sense of humour (precisely the people MacFarlane ignores and mocks in the same breath with his jokes) have no choice but to give in to the demand – because they are first and foremost a business.
Case in point, Seth MacFarlane signed a deal last year with 20th Century Fox TV worth $100 million dollars. Now with the biggest paycheck in TV writing and producing history, he gets to make jokes about penis and boobs – and this is only possible because we the public are willing to watch absolutely anything the guy makes. It is interesting to note also that only a few years back, his main show Family Guy was canceled by the same company. Fox certainly tried to resist giving into the dirty fascist and put a stop to the man – but they never had a chance against his army of fans and enemies, ready and willing to watch absolutely anything he spews out.
I think it is important to recognize that these cultural fascists (I am hoping my repetition of the words will help the notion catch on) dictate to the public, but they are also nothing without the public. They are some of the most powerful people of the current zeitgeist – and we made them.
(Originally posted at Film240: Media and Pop Culture)
We like to have a “point” to everything we do. We are goal-driven. We worship having goals and goal-driven people and goals themselves.
Even when it comes to living. Which is why we ask ridiculous questions like “What is the purpose of my life?” or “Why must we go on living, if our lives are without purpose?” over and over and over and over again.
The amusing thing is that none of the other organisms on this planet care enough to ask these questions, because they are too busy seeking out the next meal. The human race is unique in that though it is biologically and fundamentally just a species of animal, it is dissatisfied with the answer an elephant or a mosquito might give as the purpose of its life: “N/A.” We demand our own existence to be rationally justified and understood, while none of the other organisms (even the ones that live in way worse living conditions, like penguins, camels, or cacti) do. But maybe we are “better” than penguins or bacteria (although I personally beg to differ) so it’s crucial that we ask “meaningful” questions like these (that those “dumb” animals don’t bother with).
But let’s look at the bigger picture here for a minute. We (the brightest of us, no less) have been asking these questions for ages and all we have come up with was a fictitious and/or hypothetical supreme being who can magically give us a purpose, with a divine (unquestionable and unverifiable) plan that is bigger than and incomprehensible to everyone.
And here is my humble suggestion in the face of these things: Let’s quit. Let’s stop belaboring these questions, because asking it over and over again isn’t going to lead to better answers. Maybe more answers, but they won’t be better. Instead, I think we should try our best to convert people to hardcore biophilia (love of life), courtesy of penguins and fruit flies. We should occupy ourselves with the daunting task of giving everyone enough reasons to fall hopelessly in love with and lust for life, rather than excuses for staying alive in spite of all the suffering. There is no purpose to human suffering. It doesn’t mean there is no such thing as human suffering, because whoever made this universe is not as goal-driven and point-obsessed as us. So shitty things happen, and when they do, it’s shitty – there is no way around it. Less suffering is always better.
So we can’t sit around wondering about (and writing books about and drawing pictures about and arguing with people about) why we are put on this earth (to become America’s Next Top Model? To be the next A-MER-ican Idol? the possibilities are endless) and what our afterlife (which may or may not exist) would look like, because people are suffering and miserable now. So many people (no matter what race, age, sex, income, occupation, lifestyle, etc.) hate their lives now and they decide to escape it, discard it, waste it, or do nothing with it. They find life unbearable and treat it like crap.
And that’s awful! That’s what needs to be fixed, not this apparent lack of meaning in our existence. We should not need a purpose outside of life itself. We should be able to want life while smiling. Not in spite of everything, but because of everything. We should be all given a chance at being happy. The real tragedy is not a life without a purpose, but a life that needs a purpose in order to sustain itself.
As for me: Sure, a life unexamined is life not worth living. But now that I have, I decided that although examining it is pretty fun (in philosophy classes and at bars with your philosophy majoring friends) I don’t really care at the end of the night. Even if someone listed me a million excellent and logical reasons to kill myself, I could never be convinced because I am an insane evangelical fangirl of my life.
And now I am going to go and drink my Iced Cappucino and munch on dried blueberries (I freaking love food).
On screen and paper, sex looks like pure magic. A kiss is a shiny end to an epic story, rather than a sloppy and banal attempt to be liked. Intimacy is wrapped in a clean sheet of pure white paper and tied with a pink silk bow, rather than unflattering desperation.
After encountering daily these exaggerated images glorifying sex! sex! sex! those of us that live in reality remain hopelessly prudish and awkward about all of it. We often touch another person as though there is a trite contract to do so, not just because we want to. We do it after long and careful contemplation, calculating the chances of rejection and weighing the costs and benefits. We rely on labels to create the appropriate context to do so (“you are my girlfriend, therefore I will kiss you”). We treat sex in reality as something to “get”. We consider it as a possession, in the way we consider a car a possession, rather than an act it really is. We want it in order to ease our boredom and loneliness or sometimes even just to claim that we have it (that we are not complete losers).
And I don’t think we do this because we are assholes incapable of real affection or anything like that. I think this problematic attitude towards sex emerges from years of disappointment and despair. We are tired of trying, enough to decide: “Awesome sex like that is what happens in movies and books. The perfectly smooth skin and the perfect kiss, they are not for us because [insert reason here e.g. the reality sucks, etc.]. As inhabitants of reality, we have to settle for unfortunate sexual encounters and uncomfortable attempts to be free of loneliness. Sex is supposed to be awkward and weird and not that great.”
But I don’t think that’s true. I think we aren’t giving real sex enough credit. We are trapped in our own paradox about sexuality.
Sex is fun and exciting, and it teaches us a lot about someone on a whole another level (even their deeply buried inhibitions and insecurities and needs and madness), but it isn’t going to save any of us. A kiss is a kiss is a kiss is a kiss. There is really nothing to it, except nice feelings and a big chance to learn about the person you are kissing (more on that later). But instead of recognizing this and reaping as much benefit from it as we can, we sometimes get caught in our romanticized version of things. We expect our intimate encounters to be fantastic, and either accompanied by witty and cute banter or ardent declarations. We expect to meet the one serendipitously and all our problems to disappear in a pink poof! We expect too much. So when we finally kiss someone in real life after all that build up, we are too busy being disappointed by (“What, no background music? No fade to black? What’s all this awkwardness about?”) and fretting over (“What if my friends judge me? Is this person attractive enough for me to kiss? Is this going to become a relationship?”) it all to truly see what a kiss is capable of.
And after that disappointment, and another disappointment, and then another – after enough of them – we despair of kisses and sex in reality altogether. We just discredit it as a “reality” (with the assumption that reality sucks) and make a joke out of it. We give up. While secretly dreaming about that perfect someone, we say to ourselves: “That perfect someone is a myth”. This, I think, is the paradox we often live with. We romanticize a kiss and then simultaneously grow skeptical of it.
But I don’t think for a second that a kiss is meaningless. Of course, it’s not a big deal at all – but it is not a complete joke either, even in reality. Any human interaction is meaningful, and when it comes to something as intimate and open (and naked, both physically and figuratively) as sex, it is extremely meaningful (if we give it a chance).
I earnestly believe that a kiss can change a person’s whole world. But not because I think the kiss itself has a magical power. Kissing is a part of one’s encounter with another person, and our encounters with people can and often do change our world (to whatever degree). A kiss is a powerful communication tool. A kiss is just a kiss, unless you use it to express something inexpressible otherwise. Sex is a method through which we can further understand and empathize with a practical stranger. It can teach us about others and simultaneously ourselves. It can be magical (like in novels) because it connects two people, and I think that connection is magic in its own right.
I think sex can be just as much of a song in reality as it is on our TV screens, if we treat it like a looking glass: A means to look more closely at someone. Sex should be about genuine interest and curiosity in someone, not save me save me save me and validate me and love me and make me whole. It should be about the person we are kissing, not me me me. It should be about understanding (and therefore loving) them better, or it remains a purely masturbatory act only concerned with oneself. If it’s just going to be about yourself, why go through all that trouble to pick someone up? Just sit at home with porn – it’ll be way easier.
Sex in reality is supposed to be fun, like an adventure or a quest or a puzzle or a trivia or an experiment. The perfectly smooth skin and the perfect kiss are hilarious overrated, because it’s never about perfection – it’s about looking at someone straight in the eyes and loving them, in spite of the ugliest and the dirtiest corners of their being. As inhabitants of reality, we have a chance to kiss (communicate with) other inhabitants of reality with their own thoughts, a distinct worldview, and a unique history – rather than scripted characters – and we should rejoice in this fact, not despair of it.
I had the most wonderful sensory experience on the way home tonight. It’s Canada day, so there were fireworks but this story has nothing to do with fireworks. I was in the passenger seat and my contacts were really dry and messed up. I realized that I’ve been wearing the same pair for too long. So I decided that I would take them off in the car and try to survive till I get home and gain access to my glasses.
Without my glasses, all the bright lights of the city (if I recall correctly, yellow, pink, white, green, blue, purple) all became pure light. I’ve walked around without my glasses before but the world sans clear vision never looked like it did tonight. Instead of everything looking fuzzy, there were dazzling clusters of light everywhere. The lights looked tangible, sharpened by the wetness of the dark evening. I couldn’t believe how pretty and colourful everything was. I’m practically blind without my glasses or contact lenses, so I saw none of the ugly buildings or bad fonts on signs or unattractive cars that embellish Toronto. All I saw were lights. I felt drunk. I felt like I was asleep so I started singing out of tune and said silly things with a big silly grin. It put me in a really good mood and I wanted the ride home to never end, because although I couldn’t see the faint fireworks that were supposedly happening in the sky to celebrate the birth of a very young country, I was seeing the accidental fireworks of the dirty (owing to the garbage trucks’ strike) streets. Banal became extraordinary. I turned to my mom to explain this to her and she wanted to take off her glasses too (to see what I see) but she was driving so she couldn’t. So it remained a very private moment, experienced by myself and myself alone.
I wanted to record it, but I realized that it was my personal perception and I can’t directly record that. You can’t share what you perceive without putting it through a medium of a sort — and I seriously thought of how unfortunate that is! I get to interpret it, put it in words, but I could never directly show it to you! I wished I could take a picture of it or film it, but of course you can’t do that from inside of your head. And even if I knew how to use the camera well enough to replicate the effect, the experience would not be the same and it’d just end up being a pretty cool photograph/film. And I don’t think that’s doing it justice.
I wish I could show you what it looked and felt like firsthand, because it was fantastic and extraordinary. This is not enough. None of this is enough and I hate that I don’t have a camera built inside my head that lets me record wonderful stuff like this.
Is this our zeitgeist? Are these what we consider to be the highlight of our culture? What are we doing and thinking? Is this how we express ourselves as a generation? Is this what we want to talk about? Is this it?
Because if it is, I might seriously cry. I totally consider myself to be an advocate and defender of the milennials. I even write about my faith in the millenials (here and here) in lengths to convince people (and myself ) that we are not in total shit. So I feel like I was just kicked in the teeth. I’m being laughed at. Would you think of me naive if I told you that I knew of the disturbing idiocy out there that effectively overwhelms the sanity out there twenty to one, but that I never thought it would be this bad? That I never thought MTV — the one that killed the radio star, the forerunner of visual culture, the cultural icon, the tastemaker of the youths — would give a fantastic blowjob to Twilight and High School Musical (both with shockingly mistaken, questionable, and even dangerous views on life, love, and people)? That I thought in spite of everything, an emotionally complex and truly sophisticated film like Up wouldn’t lose to a cheap and repetitive one-trick pony of a movie? That I hoped a shitty no-name movie (it’s not even like the film has Zac Efron in it) like Mall Cop wouldn’t “overperform”?
And I refuse to believe that this is what a real postmodernist society (that I argue the millenials are born into) looks like, because it isn’t. This is called quasi-religious fanaticism thinly veiled as fangirlism, love of cheap release, insanity, banal escapism, and lack of meaningful culture — not postmodernism. Postmodernism is vibrant and complex. It thinks and talks about everything without assumptions, leaving nothing and no one out. That’s what a member of the Y generation living in the 21st century is supposed to be about: thoughtfulness and worldliness. Not “I like to watch you sleep”, myths of abstinence, fanaticism, dogma, narrow-mindedness, extreme and all-harrowing selfishness, and copious amounts of sexism and racism.
I want to quit. I’m exhausted. But of course I will find evidence that we are not totally in shit, eventually. I think after a while, I might even sort of figure out why this is happening, why 21st century North American youth culture is vomit-inducing — and maybe then I might be able to forgive and move on. At the moment, though, I just want to shut my windows and sit in my room and play WoW.