Thursday, December 24, 2009

'The Art of a Deeper Truth'

For my Christmas Eve post, I want everyone to know that I am not discouraged--I try to be honest with what I am feeling at the moment, however, I am always looking at the big picture, and always finding ways to keep optimistic, even when it seems I am down. I have so much to be grateful for on this Christmas Eve. I am indeed, carving out a vision, have my health, it is cold and windy in Texas, and for the first time in three years, it feels like Christmas. I am sober, alert, and I can feel my emotions on the surface of my body. The fridge is full of good things to eat, I am warm, content, and I have a place to go for Christmas dinner. I am surrounded by some good books, have a computer I can write on, a car that I can drive, and the freedom to say what I think. I have a family that loves me, a hot shower, and a telephone from which to communicate across the world. I have a guitar that has been with me since 1984, a printer, some good music I can listen to, and a variety of clothes to wear. I am so much more fortunate than 80% of the rest, in the world. Every day brings about a new adventure, and the journey is ever before me to be seized. This morning, I found out I have a royalty check coming from Samuel French that spans twelve years. (They said they had no address to send it, and it won't be a large sum, but it will make me feel like a writer, at least!)

This morning I was thinking about the trajectory and the history of my life, as I make my plans to write, 'the book'. I was inspired all over again, even though most of the time it seems to me I am a small speck on a vast mass of rock tumbling through the solar system. I do, however, have a firmly rooted belief in the collaboration of the past, the present, and the future in an attempt to give life a face that I can look at. I was also thinking about the history of my family, and the friends and acquaintances I have known, and the intersections and experiences we have that unite us in a universal journey to our destinations. My God, I'm starting to sound like Proust, who I could not even follow! I pray God, that I will not bore the world with my story!

What gives meaning to a life lived? Perhaps I'll make an attempt to find out, at least some of it in part.

I heard this quote this morning: "The success of a life is not measured on how much we are loved, but how well we loved others." Its very easy to get self consumed in our own desire to be accepted and loved, and for me, self indulgence sometimes seems so normal. Still, I suppose there is a balance that must be obtained, it's a cliche, but one must love one's self to be able to love others. My God, that sounds so cheesy! Probably, because I watched the film, 'Rachel Getting Married' for the second time this morning, (where I heard the quote). What a brilliant film, It is the perfect Christmas movie for me today. I would encourage you to watch it, (especially if you are dealing with a family member who is the very marrow of your family's dysfunction).

There are so many who have difficulty this time of year. I know that the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings here are full, as many fear the triggers that will create the climate for a relapse. It was only two years ago at Christmas that I found myself in a detox unit, and after watching this film, realized how self centered it must have seemed to some--to have the 'drama' of Raymond in detox at Christmas. You think I could have waited until at least the middle of January until things quieted down, but in retrospect, I might not have made it to the middle of January. That, unfortunately, is the harsh truth of the matter. Although I don't always write down everything that is happening to me, I am having the gradual revelation that I must tell the truth, after all, if a writer cannot be honest, well, I guess he can write fiction. I have begun to tell my audiences at the beginning of the play (Bohemian Cowboy) that the story they are going to hear is true. Even though there are things in the play that did not happen in a stark reality, the marvel of theatre is that you can get to a deeper truth by finding living analogies, fractured dimensions, and alternative universes which in many ways, are miraculous truths in comparison to reality. The last night I was performing the show here, as I was kneeling in front of the audience with my arms outstretched saying, "I laid there on that desert floor and I finally wanted to live! I laid there on that desert floor and I wanted to live forever!" I thought, gee, this is pretty vulnerable material to be displaying for a bunch of strangers to see, they must feel so uncomfortable for me. But really, why should I hold anything back? Who am I trying to conform for? I think the more I write, the less I feel the need to hold things back, (that may scare the hell out of some of you out there!) Don't worry, I can still keep a secret, or can I?

I know that the conception of the play I'm doing now, was initially written down in a composition book at AA meetings. I was going at that time, to two or three a day, and furiously writing everything that came into my head. I had a realization at the time, that if I was ever going to get beyond a vanished father, along with "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to..." I was going to have to get honest with what was going on inside of me. For weeks I wrote down these entries, some that could only be written in the state of mind and heart that I was in. As I go back to these entries presently, I realized that they may have saved my life. Through the writings and the experiences of being a theatre creature, I was able to find its outlet, another play. Playwriting is a process of extremes, more grueling and gut wrenching I think, than most people understand. There have been several instances in my life when someone has come to me with the 'idea' for a play, as if I will stop everything and write it for them. I have always been polite in the circumstance, but in mind I was thinking, "You have know idea..." In writing a play, in my opinion, it must cost you something, sometimes more and sometimes less, but the price is high and the pay is low. I love the story of De Kooning, who was living in a small studio in NYC, in the dead of winter, while burning some old frames for firewood, knew he needed to paint his way through the winter somehow. He scraped up enough money for some black paint, (which was the cheapest) and painted his 'black paintings'. Today, they are worth millions of dollars. Luckily, he did achieve some status as a painter before he died, but his life and his art cost him everything. Although, those who wish I had a better sense and some security, (and there are days when I wished it too!) I am not the first nor the last who had to find the art of confession and honesty, the sacrifice of worldly goods, and face the possibility of dying in obscurity.

For my family, let me assure you that even though some of you may not understand what I have had to go through these last few years, know that I am coming out of a dark tunnel, and I emerged with a play. I also emerged with some sort of reconciliation with my connection to the universe, and I found peace between me and my father. Granted, not all plays cost the same, but the ones that tell the truth do, and those are the plays that will create an interesting piece of art. They are also the ones that will make some people uncomfortable. I have always been willing to take that risk, and now the craft of executing it is catching up with the story.

A Merry Christmas to you all!


Gerry said...

I am glad to read that Christmas is going to be okay with you away from home. We will keep a thought for you as we celebrate in a family dinner. Mom

Gerry said...

Later: I see that no one else has caught up with this entry yet, probably not expecting you to write so soon again, but I read it again and thought parts of it quite brilliant, made me look forward to the book of memories you might write, for I think your memoirs of theater would fascinate a lot of people, and only you can tell the inside story for that was a great drama, too, a very twisted and unbelievable drama. I decided I could not write it even though I have a lot of the pieces of that history in my possession. I just don't know enough. It needs to be told from the inside by the one who was orchestrating all the evcnts, great issues, great drama, write the story yourself, because nobody else can really tell the story of how Playwrights' Workshop Theater made history, and was followed by the teen history of playwrights emerging at Metro Arts.

TJ in Boulder said...

Raymond -
God (if there is a God or even if only the God within us) bless us every one.
It's Christmas morning and you are here in Boulder, in our thoughts and hearts.
And, wishes for a happy and SUCCESSFUL 2010!
As always, Peace. T

DB said...

Raymond this is one of the most profound things I've ever read on the nature of writing, theatre and life. I'm going to have to read it over several times. You know I've thrown my guts at strangers for years and I know how dangerous it is.

No, people don't know how difficult it is. If they really did there wouldn't be so many bad plays.

I doubt if you will ever end up in obscurity. There's too much fire in you.


Cheryl said...

This is an incredible entry. Amazing the places of thought that you can enter and at Christmas. We are thinking about you and wishing you were spending Christmas with us. The entry makes me feel as though you are.