A consistent theme in this last decade has been to escape pain at all costs. It became so insidious that I avoided pain, even when it caused pain to do so. This, in my opinion, is nothing short of pathological.
Ironically, my salvation came in going into my pain and transmuting it into peace. It is what I teach but admittedly, it is a lesson no one readily wants to hear or do. Can’t blame them, I avoided it too until I couldn’t anymore.
Mac Miller died yesterday and for some reason I decided to finally watch Dead Poets Society. Thankfully, I only watched the first half last night because if I watched the entire goddamn movie I would’ve been more obliterated.
A funny thing happened. Right at the climax of the movie, I said to myself, “Wow. Now the movie’s really good.” A fair movie became extraordinary once the climax hit. If you watched the movie, you know what I’m talking about. (I might overtly mention it later in the article, I don’t know yet.)
Now the movie’s over, the ending was very touching but I’m incensed. For the second or third or fourth time (I’ve lost count) in a couple days, I’ve had to face another uncomfortable truth: It will never get easier.
Childhood held optimism but ignored the evils therein. Adolescence spewed negativity but ignored the blessings. My twenties brought the positivity back, with healing and blessings. Now, at the crux of thirty, I am well aware of the evils.
But it is the evils along with the blessings that make life really good.
I look at Mac’s life and I find it alarming how everyone says the exact same thing about him: his spirit was infectious. He radiated this light that you couldn’t help but get swept up into. Same goes for Neil Perry, the protagonist in Dead Poets Society. And then you wonder how can a self-luminous entity have so much darkness within?
I can’t speak for what exactly was going on in Mac’s life, especially because there seems to be a theme of, “It isn’t as bad as it looks.” But you see, because that’s a theme, it makes one think, “Okay, but I’ve heard this before and now it definitely makes me think something is up.” Maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems, but something is bad. Am I right in concluding that?
Faces came out in 2014 and I still bump it. It was essential listening for the soundtrack of my summer that year, a summer that would change my life forever. Nowadays I listen to “Marriage” a lot. Maybe that’s why I had that dream of getting married and a sniper trying to kill me once I realised that maybe there’s a certain sobriety one needs in such a situation. I got hit several times before I started running, but didn’t die. The shots felt like mosquito bites or like a tiny shard of glass hit me. The jig really is up.
That mixtape is super dark and super fun, and I love it. Nevertheless, it highlights what I briefly mentioned earlier. I ask myself, “Is it that you want an easy life or an interesting life?” My twenties was spent chasing an easy life where I’d have enough cash to do whatever and the people to do it with. But what I got instead was an interesting life, where trauma, loss, misunderstandings, wisdom, gain and love were interwoven. There was some money and people but life wasn’t easy.
This vision of an easy life really isn’t a vision at all. It’s a lie. It’s a couple of scenes that loop in your mind that is absent of suffering. No one’s vision of a good life has any suffering in it whatsoever. Why? Because it’s the suffering that we’re running from. Religiously, we try to escape it. Perhaps we should welcome it instead.
I’m not trying to do a PSA on drug awareness right now, but people take drugs in proportion to the pain they feel. I’m thinking Mac has been in pain. Same goes for Neil. He couldn’t bare the pain bending to his father’s will and giving up his dream of being an actor. Neil couldn’t dream of a good life anymore, so there was no point in sticking around.
Then when I think about the fact that Mr. Keating was Robin Williams, it makes things that much harder to piece together. That’s another luminous object that… burned out? Then I remember his episode on Louis and Louis C.K.’s ordeals over the last nine to twelve months. He’s still here but if you’ve ever watched the show, you know the darkness almost won a couple of times.
You could get the money, the people, the comfort; hell, you could even heal the trauma. But it will not exempt you from suffering. Something you love will end, someone you love will leave. It does not get easier, but what you can do is embrace that fact and embrace the suffering when it comes.
Mac said it himself in Vulture this week,
“I really wouldn’t want just happiness, and I don’t want just sadness either. I don’t want to be depressed. I want to be able to have good days and bad days … I can’t imagine not waking up sometimes and being like, ‘I don’t feel like doing shit.’ And then having days where you wake up and you feel on top of the world.”
I don’t think any of us can get an easy life. Movies are modelled off of our lives. It is harmony that sets up the story and conflict that drives our plots. It is death that we are all moving towards. It is loss that we are all going to suffer or cause others to suffer. And yet, aren’t you glad that you found someone or something that you valued so much that it made you cry when it was gone? That’s a blessing! Malcolm, Neil, Robin, Chester, Chris, Jahseh, Gustav, Chi, my grandma — all blessings.
This isn’t a new revelation. Many people have told me this, and I agreed. But I really get it now. This is not the end of my tears because I have a lot more people that I will lose. There’s even those I haven’t even met yet. There will be events and places that will be long gone. I’ve suffered the loss of those too and there will be more to come. Eventually, someone or something turns off the light. Sometimes, the light gets turned off unexpectedly and it makes for a hell of an emotional rollercoaster.
So, how can Mac or Neil or any of these people be such a light for so many people yet have so much darkness within? The same way life itself does. The same way you do.