One of the things that surprises me the most about modern life is how our culture has turned on the vulnerable -- mentally ill music stars, people struggling to eat, those with pernicious illness.
In the last day or so, Kanye West has done what he does best -- he has stirred the pot. He claimed that slavery was a choice. He said that Jay Z owes him money. He blamed his plastic surgeon for his opiate addiction and another plastic surgeon for his mother's untimely death. (The New York Times did this round up of what he said.)
And we have a lot to say about it. Everyone has a joke or criticism.
Yet this is what Kanye does. This is how he sells his records. He did it to Taylor Swift at the Grammy's almost a decade ago.
He is so offensive, so provocative, and then dances around the flames he's created.
In these interviews, he also spoke about spending a month in the mental hospital.
"There was elements about going to the hospital and having a breakdown — or a breakthrough — that was fire,: Mr. West said. "It was incredible, the feeling," which he compared to an out-of-body experience." (From NYTimes)
That's serious mental illness of genetic origin.
It's not something that just goes away without serious work on self exploration and potentially lifelong medication. What's clear is that Mr. West is not getting the help he needs.
He is the show.
He is the object that we can project our angst and pain.
Just prior to his death, Tip O'Neill said: "I am sorry that I lived long enough to see the middle class I helped to create turn on the poor."
He was referring to Ronald Reagan's policies, what he called "evil."
That was 1984. It's now 2018.
How can we have sunk so low?
Then I remember Marilyn Monroe. She never received the help she needed either.
"Visiting us now when we so badly need an angel, she may be surprised to find that Marilyn Monroe remains America’s only angel. Not because her stardom transcends every other star’s, but because more than any of our many icons she is us -- the “us” that is America: angelic and possessed of demons; brilliant and falling apart; always more a symbol than a reality; yearning for greatness and suicidal; articulate and incoherent; secretive, even while displaying herself naked; made of so many marvelous bits and pieces but never whole; wildly successful and inevitably tragic; voraciously ambitious and hopelessly confused; more famous than all before her and all who will follow, but never certain of who or what she was; always trying to be Marilyn Monroe, as America has always tried to be America -- and, like America, failing her image of herself. Nothing could be more American than Marilyn Monroe -- clear but vague, angelic but desperate -- when she said in that whispery voice, “Anything’s possible – almost."
This shadow has always been with us.
We are not dancing in the light. We are merely burning our own shadows and calling the resulting fire "light."
If it were me, I'd hope that the people around me would help me -- tell me that I'm out of line, to remind me of my essential nature, to whisper that kindness is love and love is life.
I have those people in my life -- people who listen to what I have to say and reflect back to me the truth.
But I do not have a serious mental illness of genetic origin.
I am able to have honest, truthful people in my life.
I have desperately loved people with even more serious mental illnesses of genetic origin. I know that people loathe them. As a young child, I watched the desperate loneliness of the mentally ill as they were completely unable to keep people in their lives. I see it now in adults I know with mental illness of genetic origin.
I ask you this: If this were you, what would you want people to say about you when you've lost your shit?