Read Ian MacDonald's 16,000 word essay on Nick Drake for the first time in years. It's a powerful piece. He knew what he was doing. I also consider him the last person before myself to write anything interesting about the Beatles. He knew Drake's work very well. Both men took their own lives. MacDonald must have had extreme personal feelings in writing that piece, but his feelings never encroach upon his purpose. The writer must feel so deeply to be any good, but they also must compartmentalize in that there can be no bleed-through. The writing cannot be compromised by outside factors or forces. The work always comes first. The writer's responsibility is to doing the best work possible, not to airing what he might feel because he feels it.
You see the problem when emotion is involved in anything for people; they lose the ability to think rationally. They're just reacting. Lashing out, often. For instance, if someone sees something in these pages they can get all offended, but what they can't do is detail what's inaccurate and explain why it is so. Were I to say, "Is this sentence the problem? What do you think is false about it?" and so on, they'd not have a rational answer nor a counterargument. Were I to calmly restate something that they said was completely offensive, and if I then asked them whether they believed this thing that was the opposite was true, they wouldn't agree that it was. Because it would be absurd to do so. If they tried to double down, you could take them apart very easily. They're not in control and they're not cogitating. You are getting an emotional reaction, which is often about other things (insecurity, for instance, guilt, fear of the truth, shame, paranoia, envy, etc.)
It's quite a curious thing. The problem is typically the truth. One could then say, "Would it be better if I said something false instead?" No one is going to say, "Yeah, it would be." Or, if one asked, "Should I pretend that this thing that is clearly true is not true, no matter how absurd that is and how obvious what the truth is?" Again, no one is going to say, "Yeah, do that."
People are also not consistent. You can often use their own words against them. They won't remember having said what they did (or written what they'd written), in all probability, because they just say things often for no reason at all, or because they want what they want at a given moment in time. Plus, people usually have terrible memories. But they could be lashing out at you for something they once said themselves. And it wasn't a change of heart, or the new perspective; it's that they're involved emotionally, the control is gone, and they're going off.
If it's online, you could screenshot it. No one seeing that evidentiary visual would say, "That's noble and balanced behavior." The thing is, if you didn't pretend that it was, they'd get angrier still. It's like you have to chuck reality aside, and just lie. Then again, that's what a lot of life is. That's not new. It's worse now. But it's not new. What if you quite rightfully think that's stupid and childish and pointless? Then what?
People want you to think certain things. They can be the least true things ever. If you don't think those things, they will have a major problem with you. Why do they want you to think those things? Because they don't want to do anything--grow, face reality--or admit anything. Doing those things always feels like starting over. Starting over suggests onerous work. There is also the possibility of not being good enough. Or not being much at all. No one wants to think of themselves as not good enough or not much at all.
But you know what? That's a lot of people. That's just reality. That reality is hastened along by people not trying very hard to be as much as they might be. They often have say. Control. But they're not going to put forth effort. They're not going to work. I've become a lot of things I tried hard to become. I worked at it. It wasn't easy. It took a long time. A lot of effort. Energy. I made conscious decisions to get better. I was less before I did that. So what? This is only how it would be for me and no one else? That's not true.
But they also would be screaming--internally, anyway--blue murder if one raised practical points, and it wouldn't have gotten to this imagined conversation anyway (which itself would mark a kind of an end, unless the person who created the situation were a large person, and by definition, a large person is unlikely to have created the situation in the first place, which would not be an isolated act they did in life, but rather a prevailing form of behavior that they'll likely never amend). They'd be having a fit. They'd be raging. Taking the ball and going home. But they couldn't say what was incorrect or false. Then what? The person who behaves that way needs to call it something else, because no one can say, "I lost it, you're right, that was ridiculous," and do some soul searching and revising, because very few people have that kind of strength and humility.
What's also notable is that once someone loses it, they start looking--even if they don't know they're doing it--for other ways to lose it. They start projecting themselves into things so that they can find further reasons to lose it some more. They're hanging about now in order to fester. They're trying to fester. It's really like a form of entrapment; they're waiting for someone else to say something so they can "get them" with how offended they are. But were they to have a conversation, each attempted point they brought up would be a form of sputtering that could easily be countered with simple logic, expressed in terms a child could grasp. (As I suggested, this would end up producing more anger, because shame is involved, and the way shame works is the person who feels the shame blows that up so that they think this other person is thinking about them in a way they're not, as this shameful wretch, and with pity, which can be construed as a form of one person looking down on another, though with tenderness; there's a patronizing aspect now, even if it's entirely imagined; very few people are going to hold themselves accountable when they can instead just be angry at someone else, regardless if there is a viable reason, or a reason that when presented to a third party--who, to be fair, has the same shortcomings in all probability--would not produce a reaction along the lines of "Well, that's obviously wrong and not a good way to act.")
Complexity, as such, is often very simple. That's a paradox that people don't get. Or, if one prefers, complexity is made up of a lot of forms of simplicity. We can always scale it back and look at those building blocks of simplicity, in what's akin to a form of reverse order. If we're here, then this led to here. And if we were there, then this other thing led us to that point. And if we were at that point, then this other thing made that so. And if that was so, then this thing was what did that. And so forth.
It's very simple. Logic is very simple because it's a natural flow, a progression, and if you see one thing, you see how it connects to the next, and so on. You get taken there simply by reading the signs and proceeding accordingly. But logic explains much, which makes logic complex to many people, and beyond them, and certainly beyond them as they're compromised by their shortcomings and their inability to separate reason from emotion. And to control emotion, so that it's useful and may facilitate reason, rather than undermining it. Most people are this way, so when most people are a certain way that's not a good way to be, there is less and less accountability, which stems from standards, of which there are also less and less. Take away accountability and standards, and you have a lot childish adults who want to be childish adults, and who won't be more.
Moving amidst other such people, things will go as they go. A bump or bruise here, but nothing big. There are no stakes because there are no standards, and when there are no standards, there's also no respect for any of the people involved with each of the other people involved. Not real respect. Encounter someone different, though, and they can have real problems that will worsen until the ball is taken back home. Which is how it has to end for them. Then there's the miscategorization, false reporting, and the things people tell themselves so that they can live with themselves.
What that rarely is is the truth. Is that offensive? Is that wrong? Should one get angry at someone who makes such a statement? That seems pretty accurate, no? Or, do we think that most people face the truth and live with it and deal with it and have honest self-appraisal? That is a downright silly notion, right? Because that's clearly false.
But with what I wrote above, people will take great offense from that. They'll think they're being attacked. They may also think the person who makes the statement doesn't respect them. Should they? Is that not a fair question? Or that the other person doesn't think what they want them to think about them. Again: should they? Or is this just about paranoia and what people want, rather than what is?
What is and what someone wants are very different often, and what someone wants someone to think about them and what people think about them are often very different. What people often need is someone lying to them and saying they think things that they don't. These people will then have each others' backs, as it were. This results in a very strange, false form of loyalty, that really just propagates mediocrity and the absence of standards and accountability. Having to actually be the thing that one purports to be. You will get people losing their minds because they think that someone doesn't think what they're supposed to think about this other person having an ability or whatever that it's so easy to prove they don't have.
Say they were a folk singer, okay? Just because we started with Nick Drake. You could take a song and play it for fifty people and those people would laugh over how bad it was. Imagine it's from a guy in a flannel with a guitar at a local shop who has been hyped, with skin the color of a yellow onion because he doesn't believe in showers that week or whatever, just your totally cliched, predictable folk singer, and he says, "This is a song about an ex of mine called 'Gennifer.' With a G. She taught me a lot about how to love, and even more about how to let go. 'Oh, Gennifer..."
You'd be howling over how bad that was. You might have a witty friend who would try and come up with songs later in this mold, who'd text you, "I just wrote a new song called 'Why Do I Look Like a Cum Stain But Smell Like Cat Food'" and you'd look at your phone and laugh and continue on your run. Then you'd try and think of a pretend song title for later.
Not to be mean. This is how life works. It's how people are. It's how they talk. And it's especially how they talk when something is very obvious as what it is.
But if you suggested to the "wrong" person or in a different format that you didn't think that person was a great singer-songwriter, you'd get people defending their honor in these irrational, childish ways, when obviously "Gennifer" wasn't a song for the ages. It's like they're sticking up for a kind of person and culture, which requires lies because they can't rightfully be termed these other things.
There will be much offense taken, with the seemingly simple statement of truth--so this isn't the incisive, let's-examine-someone-down-to-the-bone truth, which would be apt to kill them--and anger. When people are angry, they then behave in ways that reflect very poorly on them. They rarely channel anger into what I recently called the good anger on here. This is the result of a basic, easily provable truth. It can be a given in addition to a truth, and a given is the result of logic when we are aware of the progressive steps of that logic. Do you see how it's both things at once? True, and yet a reason for someone to rage. It's not mean. It's not said to wound. It's just a simple truth.
What happens is, no one says the truth. They're frequently unaware of it on their own, no matter how simple those truths are, and they are almost always completely unaware of it when it's the truth about them. At least on the primary, conscious level. Because they can know elsewhere within their minds. People have these haunting voices, for instance. We give them different names. One of those names is doubt. Another is insecurity. Another is envy. Another is disappointment. That voice may be coming from further away, from a different chamber down below in the person, but that voice is still making itself heard. Or known. It can be the voice that is absorbed subconsciously.
People don't say the truth. They often don't know the truth. But when presented with the truth, that can be very different. Especially if they are made to answer for what bothers them so much about the remark. There won't be a logical answer.
So truth becomes this foreign body in the world. Almost like a contagion. Something one fears. Resents. Has villainized. Guards against.
A writer must feel for one's subject or subjects deeply. There can be a personal connection to the subject. But the writer cannot give themselves over to their personal feelings in their work except insofar as they are part of the rational makings of the work. I would say, too, that that writer cannot give themselves over to personal feelings in how they view the world, how they conduct themselves, how they process the world. It's a way of being. A consistent way of being. Not an on/off switch thing.
I feel as deeply as one can feel. But my feelings never compromise my thinking. I've trained myself over many years to become that way. It's like mastering a very difficult form of discipline. Ironically, one achieves that form of separation through a kind of oneness. A great deal of strength is involved, and vision. Mental discipline.
Here's something about people, too, which is one of the great ironies in the world. They want to be these things they are not. Whatever it is. They rage if someone doesn't think what they want them to think, even when those things are patently false, especially if it's someone about whom those things are obviously true. But they won't do a single damn thing to bring about those things. They just want them to be that way. Automatically. That's not how it works. It's not how being a great artist works. It's not how being an intelligent person works. How being a good person works. And it's never going to be, no matter how many people lie to however many other people, or themselves.