"Events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold..." -Dr. Manhattan
When I was in 5th or 6th grade I was given a class project to depict a truthful event from my life with some sort of illustration. I can’t recall the other sorts of philistine delineations the other kids in the class came up with and got “A’s” for but what I do specifically remember was being faced with a school district psychologist.
He held up the light brown eco-friendly (which is ironically expensive) paper on which I’d made my manifesto of artistic statement asked me if I was bad. “Do you feel threatened?” he said. A parent/teacher conference occurred slightly afterwards. My mom of course was incredulous as anyone as to why I’d depict a team of zombified surgeons beating a cartoonish doppleganger of myself to pieces for my class project. I'd tried to calmly explain that the year prior I'd fallen and broken my arm and had my first traumatic trip to the hospital. Sister Marie Christine, the high priestess at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, who had slightly too much facial hair seemed concerned enough to make her aware and then to my horror, open up my desk and go through the contents at an ignominious after-school meeting.
I remember she dropped some of the papers on the floor out of shock. I knew I’d been creating contraband a mile a minute but it was pretty amusing to see the degree to which I’d offended the censors at a young age. Drawings of the killer from scream with a bloody knife. Ironic stick figure cartoons depicting wanton violence. Pretty childish material, but even she couldn’t deny I’d put more detail into my work than the standard issue student. I was pretty proud of myself; and I kept repeating how “good” the drawings were the whole ride home to calm my mother’s tirade. Naturally the nuns came to fear me as a violent psychopath and a pariah until my dad re-framed a crudely painted portrait of Jesus Christ which I assume had gotten bored from the lectures on contraception and leapt from the wall. I don’t think I ever related to the ways of Christ more at my time spent in Catholic School than when I was carrying the enormous, cheaply painted visage of Jesus over my back and bringing it before the overseer of nuns.
Without realizing it, at a young age, I was starting to see art as an expression of pain. In a broader sense; art is a product of affliction and I think I’ve realized how beautiful it is that people are really coming to terms with this more and more in mainstream culture.
Kanye West offended everyone with his infamous “Imma let you finish” bit, but it wasn’t until I saw his frantic, jaunty tweets on an almost daily basis raging about the nature of true fans and his depths of depression that it was possible for me to see why he did it. The man is troubled. Perhaps insane even; but like a phoenix his music takes off from that with a life of its own and gives the world a chance to love him. And he's not the only person out there crying out his ramblings in fancy packaging just so he can get a hug.
Back in the 90’s, the term “the struggle” was often used for the narrative messages depicted in hip hop music. This referred to getting paid and hustling your way through the projects to earn your stripes as a man of true grit. I feel like in the modern scope of creativity now, we’ve reached an appreciation for depression. We come to expect it so that in the quietest corners of our mind, we’re watching tiny movies of ourselves in the shoes of the weary and the famous. It’s leading to something of a renaissance of depression. Releasing the pain through individualistic expression is easing the pain.
I swore when I finished poetry class after my junior year of high school, and three agonizing years of churning out poems with no thought in them that I would never write a poem again. I’d been forced for years to string together words with no meaning to further develop myself as an artist for the censors. I don’t think a single poem I ever created in that span of time really meant something that was original or had any sort of lasting merit that contributed to the creative collective or that could be read in with pride at any sort of hipster coffee and literature gathering. The point is you can’t rush art and you’re usually better at things when you simply give yourself and no one else. This metamorphic process continues to happen spontaneously and beautifully of it’s own accord. Songs and poems and films are full of flaws, but like people they’re flaws that we can appreciate and we can get a better sense of appreciation of the artist behind the screen reading too much into the psychosis. I’m reminded suddenly of a desperate boy holding up a boombox blasting Jefferson Airplane out the window of his sweetheart because he doesn’t know how else to tell her what he’s feeling. These “crazy artists” will gain a sense of worth when the rest of us feed off their depression and relate to it. In celebration of feeling sad, there’s comfort. And this will continue. Good music will continue to be produced. People will sing songs about how they lost each other, or attempt to articulate how much they want to be with each other but they’re too fucking stupid to say it in spoken English. Amazing portraits of amazing people will continue to be created in the wrong color schemes with all the flaws and inaccuracies of the people they represent. Violence will be shown on screens for our amusement and distill the grandeur of real war and the intensity of sliding .44 caliber bullets into a clip in the heat of the moment that ends or begins your life as you know it. I’ve spent my life in worry. Every action that I make is a function of nervosa. Self re-assurance. Self defiance. Self-depreciation. As a child I had to sleep with rubber gloves because when I found out about the concept of germs I washed my hands until they bled anytime I clenched them into a fist. When you're sad, draw me a picture of a house on fire. I'll know what it means and I'll know it's the right time to put my arm around you. Right now taking solace in the artistic movement and the promise of good sights and sounds to come, for a brief moment in my life, however, I’m not worried at all.
Take a walk on the wild side.