Thursday, August 20, 2015
i did it all to entertain myself
damn, another two-edged epiphany. this came about a few moments ago when i questioned the true nature of success. maurice sendak, the children's illustrator, didn't like discovering he was gay. would the knowledge ruin his career? tomi ungerer, another children's illustrator, lost it all when mothers discovered his pornographic work. even now, after a great life, he dreams every night of being arrested and wakes in a sweat.
the list goes on. just watched a movie on Bert Stern, an acclaimed fashion photographer. Divorce, drugs, marilyn monroe, it all haunted him. and now he has closets full of famous pictures. tons of them. and what will happen to them? alas, eighty seems the age of reckoning for all these guys. growing old seems to be the major failure. success certainly didn't prevent it.
i think of emily dickinson wrapping up those slips of paper, saying, 'who wants fame, baying in a bog like a frog all day long?' even the grandson of diana vreeland, editor of vogue magazine, couldn't escape by becoming a monk. he loved photography, yet surrounded by glamor, he had his epiphany. ah, those masks everyone wore! he ended up in tibetan monastery in india. eventually his close relation with the dali lama led to him be appointed an abbot. and now it was all about politics.
who else has there been? oh, vivian maier, the photographer discovered as she was dying and beyond knowing. all the experts ask, 'how could she take thousands of photos, hundreds of rolls not even developed, and show no one?' her discovery an amazing mistake of history. and it really is a puzzle. i guess someone can do great work simply for oneself.
and there comes my own discovery. questioning the nature of success, i contemplated the times i've been applauded in theater. and i realize i didn't care about the acclaim, only satisfied when i myself knew a piece worked, the audience feeling a sense of completion. poor al jolson, he would have died without an audience. their hand claps meant 'they love me.' and i'm sure much of striving comes from the desire for love.
suddenly, i glanced at a picture on my iphone. beautiful, i thought. and there i realized i'd spent my whole life entertaining myself by making pictures, writing poems, travel, and even, shame to be told, love-affairs. nobody delights in one of my works as i do. and all this has kept me from being bored! maybe that's been my life's goal, to escape the monster of ennui, all the while hoping i could help someone else out of the dungeon.
my first psychic told me i'd had too much responsibility in past lives. i'd helped develop the power that blew up atlantis, l'd been a black magician in druid times, and a spiritual native american trying to make up for it. "this lifetime you get to play." well, i can't say it's always felt like fun. ah, now, i see why i've been so lucky. "take care of the present," wrote henley, "and the past will take care of itself." i like that. nothing about the future. truly, i'm stuck in time.
"I began my comedy as its only actor, and I come to the end of itas its only spectator."