Have you ever gone to Walmart, in the middle of the night, to buy 16 rotisserie chickens and a pack of gum? No, neither have I. It’s not surprising. There a lot of things I haven’t done, either because A) they involve Godzilla being real; B) me having superpowers; or C) me dying a horrific death and thus depriving you all of my wonderful blog posts. Why? Because they’re all bad ideas.
Why is it, when we go poking around the infinite chasms of our noggins, we always stumble upon the bad ideas first? Our first notion is never, “Let’s cure polio!” or “Let’s lock Nicolas Cage in an actual cage and make sure he never acts again!” More often, it’s something along the lines of, “Let’s go steal that box of Hot Pockets from that six-hundred-pound grizzly bear!”
Evolutionarily speaking, this makes sense. We have two brains (but not literally)–one that’s really primitive, and programmed with commands like “start bar fight to defend honor” or “choke a bitch”. These aren’t necessarily bad ideas, but–oh, wait, yes they are. Sorry.
The other “brain” is supposed to make rational, sane decisions, like “talk out your differences without resorting to violence” or “don’t go outside, Hank! IT’S A TRAP!” In this instance, Hank is you and you’re referring to yourself as a third person. Because if you’re one of those people that go outside during horror movies, you’re probably on drugs and do stupid things like that.
The problem with this second class of decisions is that they make so much sense no one ever does them. And do we want them to? No, of course not. That’s dumb. If people were smart all the time, we as writers–or actors, or directors–would be left without occupation. The entire basis of the art world is that people are dumb and make bad decisions. If people made good decisions all the time, the Godfather would look like this:
Don Corleone: I’m the Godfather. I like killing people.
Michael: I hate it when you kill people.
Don Corleone: H’m…sounds legit. I don’t want to upset my family, so I’m going to stop killing people and write a Broadway musical instead.
SIXTEEN HOURS LATER
Michael: That was the best musical ever. I love you, dad.
Don Corleone: I love you, too, son, but now I’m having a heart attack.
Michael: I will grieve for the appropriate amount of time and then move on with my life.
Don Corleone: Cool cool cool.
So the next time you’re feeling upset about all the horrible life choices you’ve made, like leaving Sylvia, just remember that art is pretty much one mistake after another, and transform that grief into lyrical music of words and images. A shot of tequila might do you well, too.