Sometimes I feel like a complete pussie. I look at how cushy and safe everything I do is and it makes me disgusted with myself. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something inside me that spurs me toward suffering. Somewhere, buried deep underneath my yen for comfort and familiarity is a thing that wants to see me scarred and wounded, strung-out and unsuccessful, dead and dying, alone and lost. This is why Tyler Durden’s fatalism appeals to me. This is why I’m happy when I’m camping and it’s raining. This is why I’m pleased when my bike breaks-down. It isn’t until you’ve lost things important to you that you can begin to crush your desire for those things (comfort, serenity, underwear that fit, etcetera). Sure, I could pursue mentally stable sexual partners, I could get a solid job and save money and invest in stocks and socks, but failure is more fun because I have to work. And failure doesn’t always suck, even. Sometimes, it results in transcendent, life-affirming moments (sunrises on remote, desolate highways, monkey fights on mountaintops, sharing a Shirley Temple with Frank Black). Sometimes it results in near-death experiences (hooker kick-fights, nearly falling into pit-traps, stalling vehicles on railroad tracks in-line with oncoming trains, tense confrontations with armed men). Usually it leads to a little of both, which isn’t necessarily good or bad so much as it simply IS and you can’t avoid something that IS, which is great.
I don’t think my preoccupation with morbid life-mess is unique at all, though. I think most people are at least secretly obsessed with failure. But the vast majority of people are “successful,” right? I mean, they have jobs, spouses, lives, insurance, groceries and shit like this. Maybe suckers are occupied with the blood and guts of existence because theirs have never been spilled at its altar? I might be going somewhere with this; consider every movie ever made about heroin. Why do these movies give so many people so many boners? Why has everyone seen Trainspotting? Maybe the same thing that makes those movies compelling for viewers makes the smack compelling to the characters?
Most people want to wield the social cache that tragedy gives us, I think. Failure is glorified in many cultures in a clandestine sort of way. Any John Wayne/Frank Castle character is only a bad ass because they had some serious failure/tragedy. I mention this because I struggle to fail a lot. I don’t think I know true tragedy at all which maybe makes me feel less bad ass. I mean, no matter how hard I fail, I still have a middle-class upbringing, white skin, a decent education, the cognitive capacity to pass in the adult world (barely) and the behavioral protocols necessary to not kill every single one of you motherfuckers, so, I can never really, really lose everything. I still flinch at pain, I still avoid death and I am still unwilling to utterly fuck myself over.
Movies like Trainspotting or Requiem For A Dream all seem like slow train wrecks, yet they enthral us. Stupid people doing stupid shit again and again until they’ve finally managed to permanently and profoundly fuck themselves into a hole. If movies are right, the only way middle class crackers can fail (in an un-Willy Loman sense) is if they get a joint bank account with the white lady. Did you know that Heroin (trademark: Bayer) users rate cigarettes as more difficult to quit than horse? There’s research to support the notion, as well. Cigarette manufacturers are pimps and smokers are prostitutes. If only I were all growed up, I could have the intellectual and ethical lack of substance to smoke.
I guess you do see a lot more suckers puffin’ on their camels than you do flippers shootin’ horse, but still, I grew up thinking that heroin was like a doorway to madness that claimed suckers hand over fist. Movies always made that shit look like a one way trip to slinging handies next to a dumpster behind the 7-11. That’s not really what it’s like, if science is to be trusted. I mean, hell, I don’t know, but from what I’ve read, some people are just more prone to addiction than others and it matters not what they get addicted to. Some people do fuck themselves into a hole and don’t stop until their wang is a smouldering hunk of char. Then, they try to get out using the same heuristics they used to get in. And no matter what your grandpa tells you, if you’ve banged your way into a hole, you cannot bang your way out.
Part of me (and possibly everyone else) wants to see things from Dorian Gray’s perspective, you know? Which makes me feel like a big god’am phoney; like Lara Flynn Boyle’s character in Happiness, and she makes me sick. If you really get down to it, even people who are experiencing things have no insight into what they’re experiencing, so maybe experience is worthless. Maybe you shouldn’t give credence to the old “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” chestnut? Fun Science Fact: when given the power to make choices about our lives and happiness, we usually choose less well for ourselves than friends (and often strangers) choose for us. Daniel Gilbert writes an interesting and entertaining book about this general subject called, Stumbling On Happiness, if you’re really curious about how terrible we are at using “experience” (if you can call it that) to make decisions about our future, I strongly encourage you to read it. Happiness aside, I’ve often wondered how much of our experience is stored in a way where it’s useful or relevant to us. What do we remember of the things that have happened to us? Beyond scant details and broad-strokes, not much. And even those things are subject to interpretations and rarely reflective of the reality of the situation.
Jennifer Connelly chooses the double D in Requiem For A Dream in exactly the same way you buy a new car or take your girlfriend’s shit or listen to your idiot boss for one more day. She presumes that it’s what she wants to do; it’s what will make her happy. Her insight into her happiness is as flawed as everyone else’s in the world, though. In the long run, it would have been a far better choice for Jennifer to go home, have a nice cup of tea and maybe think about redecorating her apartment and/or starting over. Instead of pondering recessed lighting, she ends up naked and contemplating her life choices on the floor of a party that’s the kind of filthy you only read about in wet magazines clinging to the floor tiles in truck stops.
Being faced with some dark times of my own and trying to wrap my brain around the whys and wherefors, I’m left with a question: assuming one can knock the shit out of something without trying it and that we have no insight into what will make us happy and that I want to avoid self-delusional bullshit (as much as a cunt such as myself can), what am I supposed to do to live my life in a genuine way while simultaneously having an awesome time AND tragically round-housing death straight in the cock?
The answer comes to me hidden in an Oscar Wilde poem:
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a scooter.