Tag Archives: life

I did things in my 30s that were ignored by the world, that could have been quickly labeled a failure. Here’s a classic example; in 1974 I did a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. Phantom of the Paradise, which was a huge flop in this country. There were only two cities in the world where it had any real success: Winnipeg, in Canada, and Paris, France. So, okay, let’s write it off as a failure. Maybe you could do that.

But all of the sudden, I’m in Mexico, and a 16-year-old boy comes up to me at a concert with an album – a Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack- and asks me to sign it. I sign it. Evidently I was nice to him and we had a nice little conversation. I don’t remember the moment, I remember signing the album (I don’t know if I think I remember or if I actually remember). But this little 14 or 16, whatever old this guy was… Well I know who the guy is now because I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth; it’s Guillermo del Toro.

The work that I’ve done with Daft Punk it’s totally related to them seeing Phantom of the Paradise 20 times and deciding they’re going to reach out to this 70-year-old songwriter to get involved in an album called Random Access Memories.

So, what is the lesson in that? The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future.

Just a note

Doing really well this week anxiety wise. Even Sunday I felt good. Now just to catch p on the sleep part.

Handling things, even when I get those little panicky or perfectionatey twinges.

Not everything needs to documented.

Lots of great projects to focus on.

“I just want to be happy.”

I can’t think of another phrase capable of causing more misery and permanent unhappiness. With the possible exception of, “Honey, I’m in love with your youngest sister.”

In our super-positive society, we have a zero-tolerance policy for negativity. But who feels ‘Great!’ all the time?

Yet at first glance, it seems so guileless. Children just want to be happy. So do puppies. Happy seems like a healthy, normal desire. Like wanting to breathe fresh air or shop only at Whole Foods.

But “I just want to be happy” is a hole cut out of the floor and covered with a rug. Because once you say it, the implication is that you’re not. The “I just want to be happy” bear trap is that until you define precisely, just exactly what “happy” is, you will never feel it. Whatever being happy means to you, it needs to be specific and also possible. When you have a blueprint for what happiness is, lay it over your life and see what you need to change so the images are more aligned.

Still, this recipe of defining happiness and fiddling with your life to get it will work for some people—but not for others. I am one of the others. I am not a happy person. There are things that do make me experience joy. But joy is a fleeting emotion, like a very long sneeze. A lot of the time what I feel is, interested. Or I feel melancholy. And I also frequently feel tenderness, annoyance, confusion, fear, hopelessness. It doesn’t all add up to anything I would call happiness. But what I’m thinking is, is that so terrible?

I know a physicist who loves his work. People mistake his constant focus and thought with unhappiness. But he’s not unhappy. He’s busy. I bet when he dies, there will be a book on his chest. Happiness is a treadmill of a goal for people who are not happy by nature. Being an unhappy person does not mean you must be sad or dark. You can be interested, instead of happy. You can be fascinated instead of happy.

The barrier to this, of course, is that in our super-positive society, we have an unspoken zero-tolerance policy for negativity. Beneath the catchall umbrella of negativity is basically everything that isn’t super-positive. Seriously, who among us is having a “Great!” day every day? Who feels “Terrific, thanks!” all the time?

Anger and negativity have their uses, too. Instead of trying to alleviate some of the uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions you feel by “trying to be positive,” try being negative instead. Seriously, try it sometime. This will help you get in touch with how you actually feel: “I feel hopeless and fat and stupid. And like a failure for feeling this way. And trying to be positive and upbeat makes me feel angry and feeling angry makes me feel like I am broken.”

If that’s how you feel—however you feel—then you have a base line, you have established a real solid floor of reference. Sometimes just giving yourself permission to feel any emotion without judgment or censorship can lessen the intensity of those negative emotions. Almost like you’re letting them out into the backyard to run around and get rid of some of that energy.

A corollary to the idea that we must all be happy and positive all the time is that we must all be “healed.” When I was 32, somebody I loved died on a plastic-covered twin mattress at a Manhattan hospital. His death was not unexpected and I had prepared myself years in advance, as though studying for a degree. When he died, I was as stunned as if he had been killed by a grand piano falling from the top of a building. I was fully unprepared.

I did not know what to do with my physical self. It took me about a year to stop thinking, madly, I might somehow meet him in my sleep. Once I finally believed he was gone, I began the next stage: waiting. Waiting to heal. This lasted several years.

The truth about healing is that heal is a television word. Someone close to you dies? You will never heal. What will happen is, for the first few days, the people around you will touch your shoulder and this will startle you and remind you to breathe. You will feel as though you will soon be dead from natural causes; the weight of the grief will be physical and very nearly unbearable.

Eventually, you will shower and leave the house. Maybe in a year you will see a movie. And one day somebody will say something and it will cause you to laugh. And you will clamp your hand over your mouth because you laughed and that laugh will break your heart, it will feel like a betrayal. How can you laugh?

In time, to your friends, you will appear to have recovered from your loss. All that really happened, you’ll think, is that the hole in the center of your life has narrowed just enough to be concealed by a laugh. And yet, you might feel a pressure for it to be true. You might feel that “enough” time has passed now, that the hole at the center of you should not be there at all.

But holes are interesting things. As it happens, we human beings are able to live just fine with many holes of many sizes and shapes. Pleasure, love, compassion, fulfillment; these things do not leak out of holes of any size. So we can be filled with holes and loss and wide expanses of unhealed geography—and we can also be excited by life and in love and content at the exact same moment.

This is among the oldest, deepest, most primal truths: The facts of life may be, at times, unbearably painful. But the core, the bones of life are generous beyond all reason or belief. Those things which ought to kill us do not. This should be taken as encouragement to continue.

The truth about healing is that you don’t need to heal to be whole. And by whole, I mean damaged, missing pieces of who you were, your heart—missing what feels like some of your most important parts. And yet, not missing any part of you at all. Being, in truth, larger than you were before.

Human experience weighs more than human tissue.

Augusten Burroughs (via hurricanesandhighfives)

A fascinating and thought provoking read.


The World of 100 (People)

Something I wrote about equality and anger and most of all my understanding of compassion and struggle to practice it.

One of the most disheartening things for me is hearing extremely intelligent people talk in a pompous and non-compassionate way.

It reminds me of something I read when the 99% vs. 1% was at the forefront and people were shouting about how they got where they were with no one else’s help so why shouldn’t everyone else. This is simply not true, most people were helped by many people throughout their lives from their parents and family who fed and clothed them, the population at large which paid taxes which paid for their school, paved the roads they drove on, and for the medicine they took. There are those who built companies before the, or the very company who they came to lead, and everyone who showed them any type of kindness or guidance along the way. “Self-made” is really a foolish term among humans, who seek ways to nurture one another, who form alliances, and build monuments.

In our society, even the people with the roughest lives have probably been helped along by someone, or the infrastructure our ancestors built, kindness from a stranger. It is preposterous, in my opinion, to believe that we’ve made our lives by ourselves, and that we do not need help, or that we don’t receive it. It is just as folly to believe others don’t deserve that same kindness.

One of my favorite lines out of all I’ve written is that “equality is not equal circumstance, but equal opportunity.” There are those better of and worse of then us, there are billions of people on this planet with unique needs and wants and skills, and giving them all the same life would not lead to happiness. I believe people deserve to have their abilities and dreams and ambitions nurtured. That everyone should have the rights to basic needs, to the support to achieve further, the understanding from others that they may need more time, or more encouragement, or more practice then someone else would. I believe others should be treated with respect even when we don’t understand their motivation, or actions, or mistakes.

I think we all deserve to make a lot of mistakes without being looked down on, or told off, or treated as failures. In fact, making mistakes pretty much requires putting in effort, often on something you are unsure of, and that is a type of bravery that needs to be more widely celebrated. We should respect the things one another try hard enough to fail at. Even if they are not the things we would choose.

As the title of one of my favorite books, and a quote that has stuck with me ever since “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” Or for those of you wrapped up it literality, don’t judge a person until you’ve spent two months in their place. Of course, the twist is, we can never really be in another’s place, that is one of the miraculous and mysteries things about being a human being. We never really be anyone but ourselves. But to me, that is what the practice of compassion really is, giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and trying to imagine what it might be like in their place. What challenges they may face, what past struggles have weakened or strengthened them, how their upbringing and experience has affected their world view, goals and morality. Because how else will we ever understand each other, if we don’t leave our own thoughts behind, and forget that someone makes us mad, or thinks differently, but instead pause to think why they would think the way they do. What circumstances have caused them to be the way they are. What have they suffered through, and found joy in?

And with that, I would like to thank the person who inspired this post, who I have felt so angry at, for believing so differently then I do. And I will try to remember the struggles you’ve been through, the things you’ve needed to survive from, and the insecurities you may struggle with, and think more compassionately towards you. For we are both young and learning and although I don’t doubt you will become incredibly successful, I know also that you will change and learn and probably see things differently one day. Maybe not the same as I do, but still differently, and I hope you the best.