Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Is that what I seek? Quite possibly, but not for the usual reasons — or so I tell myself. On most days, I’m content with my relative anonymity — and would, in fact, be content if it were as complete and silent as a grave, as it will likely one day be. I would sooner be a bird on a thistle, or a shock of windblown grain.
Recognition? The same.
Understanding? — maybe, in the way we understand a tree or an ocean.
What must be understood, and which in its very simplicity is even harder for many to grasp, especially in this superficial, commercial, and economically tough day and age, is that I really do write and make art for a living. Every so often, I’m asked privately what I “do” for a living. Well, this is it. This is my labor. This is my contribution. And yet I’m always stung by the assumption, and the painful, logical reality behind the question, the practicality, the blunt reason, as if the words had been uttered by my father, who long ago advised against pursuing such a course. Financially speaking, he was right — so far. And now he’s gone and I’m a grandfather.
And so, if there is any reason I would wish for fame, it would be to put food on the table consistently and reliably, and to make life easier for those who love me and believe in me.
I have done many things to survive, suffered the same fear, drudgery, boredom, and doubt that drives many of us insane. I have laughed through it, joked through it, wept through it, and cursed through it. And yet I’m fully aware that I’ve only scratched the surface of human suffering. The older family members on my father’s side survived the Armenian Genocide. Those who didn’t escape, perished — were slaughtered, or driven out to the desert to die. This is the source of my humor. I say this because I was taught how to laugh, how to hold up my head, and how to recognize hypocrisy by those very same survivors.
We need, in these our daily lives, to be much larger. We need to be great. Our fear of greatness, our misunderstanding of what it is and isn’t, and our mistaken idea that it’s out of reach keeps us small and thinking puny thoughts. Rich or poor, if we’re not defiant, if we’re too ashamed or embarrassed or self-centered to stand up and see and tell the truth, then why are we here? To reproduce? To be consumers and die in some arrogant damn fool’s war? To get ahead? To have more? Of what?
“Fame” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.
In the Forum: “The Data-Reduced Loaf.”