For all of my talk about people being seduced by culture and violence, it’s worth saying that I’ve fallen under the spell many times.
From late gradeschool on, when I first discovered writing, oftentimes I tried to sum up my sense of loneliness, and later actual depression, by writing fictional accounts of school shooters. One of them was a kind of jailhouse interview after the fact, where I was able to funnel my cynicism and bewilderment at the world through some extremely articulate but also violent young man.
It took a long time to realize, however, that I was neither articulate nor violent. The few scraps of a journal I still have from early high school reveals a vaguely suicidal kid with, alas, no clear-cut vision for improving himself or society. And as for violence, only too late did I see that the kind of high-school-revenge that most attracted me were actually the suicides in the Pearl Jam video Jeremy, and near the end of the movie Dead Poet’s Society.
In a way it makes sense, to kind of redirect the shame of depression and awkwardness into a posture of strength and certainty, however horrible. I’ve said elsewhere that I was lucky to have been exposed to such an evocative movie as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining as early as I was; but I don’t know if I’d say the same about A Clockwork Orange, which I perhaps did see at the wrong time, or too early, since Kubrick’s sophistication, of telling the story from the perpetrator’s point of view, does make ultraviolence seem pretty sexy and cool, and “cultured” in a way that a shitty horror movie never pretends.
How different is this, then, one of the few times I’ve been able to write in fiction about how awful those times were, unvarnished and loosed from revenge fantasies against others:
But it’s always my mother, I think of how it’d all be over in a second, it’d be so easy, but I know she’d be the one to find me, my mother I’m nothing but a trouble for—I’ve thought of taking one of the guns and driving somewhere, anywhere, it doesn’t matter, it could be on top of a mountain a million miles away, and they could report me missing, and the entire world could know I was missing and go looking for me, and I could shoot myself in a cave in India, and she would be the one to find me, the same as the kitchen downstairs, her only child with his head blown off and why did I do it, and she kneels and lays me across her lap and screams and sobs, and I can’t do that to her—
Nothing very cool about loving your mom, and knowing that she loves you, or in the realization that we are sufficient in ourselves and worthy of love, but there it is. The entire story that paragraph is a part of would have been impossible to write in high school, so that even as I began my largely self-educated road which has led to my mantra of Empathy, empathy, empathy, pretending to be violent and in control was immensely more satisfying than realizing I was none of those things.
It’s a lesson I take when I look at—and reject—nearly any ideology which pretends that all the answers lie in certainty and power. Rather, our ability to see our own worth through the recognition of that same worth in others, is inestimable.
I don’t really have an end for this, except to say Go care for somebody. It’s the best thing we can do.