Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Mess

The first time I lived in New York City, I was a blue eyed kid living in Astoria, Queens and was sure that I would be a famous writer before the age of 25. Life happened to my plans and though my writing was passionate back then, it was far from mature. The thing I needed to learn in my writing and in my personal life is that the most intriguing part of life is the Mess. The Mess is what connects people to each other for better or worse. People who have their shit completely together on all levels do not exist and they make for dull inauthentic characters in any kind of story. One thing I know about story telling is that it is the human experience that we crave and that stays with us long after the telling is done. It is the peacemaker who abuses his wife and the killer who hates cut flowers for destroying living beauty that seduce us to follow them through their stories even if we don't like where they are going.

I once heard that you should never meet your heroes because they will only let you down with their inevitable humanity. I think it would be more interesting to meet them and realize that we too can be heroes or for that matter, villains as well. Each of us possess the ability for great goodness as well as harm in the core of our being. Life is a series of choices that end up becoming our story. I read Gandhi's autobiography a few years ago and was deeply touched by his Mess. It was a moving tale of one of the world's greatest peace makers who was abusive to his wife and so self critical that he never truly appreciated the work he did. It was honest and raw on every page his persona was shattered and the living man came forward. I also saw the documentary on Hitler's secretary and how she was enamored by his kindness and that he, the killer, hated cut flowers because he could not stand to see them die. This is a chilling image, aren't killers supposed to be 100 percent pure evil? Aren't heroes supposed to be 100 percent pure good? But it is in our polarity of dark and light that we make the choices the define who we are.

So I look back on my writing and see characters with their shit together. Currently I am working on a memoir so I can wade through my Mess and hopefully be more real, raw and authentic in my writing. The naive child in me is sorely disappointed that there is no holy grail, no magic number or age or key to perfection. For many years I hoped that the guru with the laser whitened smile really did find inner peace through his God and for only $99.99, I could too. How fantastic that for less than 100 dollars I could have my shit together just like my characters did when I was 20 year old.

On my second New York journey, I am awake with no God to cling to and more questions than answers about life. Frankly, stories with guy smiley bore me, unless of course they tell both sides, like when he steps off stage and into bed with his boy prostitute, then I am going to be with him until the end of his tale and he will be with me long after. It took me a long time to realize that the Mess is not only where you find the truth, but also the beauty. I am saddened to see people, many of whom I love dearly, try to whitewash their Mess. That whitewash comes in the form of drugs, religion or just the rewriting of history and leaving out the absent father, the molesting uncle and all the things that are unpleasant to think about.

It would be awesome if everyone wrote a memoir with only honesty as the requisite. Then we could all exchange them and I doubt there would ever be a lonely person on this planet again. We all have imperfection in common and it would be truly phenomenal if we would stop holding in our guts and burps and pretending to be mannequins and instead each and everyone of us could reach out and embrace the Mess.