This is what it feels like to be me, right now:
Inside my chest I have this massive ball of yarn. I don’t know how it got there, but it feels like it’s expanding and displacing some really important stuff. For a moment, I wonder if that’s why my eyes keep dribbling. But then I remember that the real reason I feel this terrible is because I just checked my email, and someone told me my writing wasn’t any good.
There’s this scene in Sister Act Two where Whoopi Goldberg’s character tells Lauryn Hill’s character that the way to know if she’s meant to be a singer is if she wakes up and she can’t think about anything but singing. She got the idea from Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” which I read in college but didn’t retain, because it was college. I like the idea, though. Awesome idea.
Except that I don’t get up in the morning and think about writing…— josh barkey: rejection (a.k.a. — i suck)
poem after a day spent tending a sick child…
I was never young,
snapping at lightning
as I straddled each new instant
across a storm-wild sky.
I, I was born bent-backed,
head full of obligation.
Always counting cost
like some long-singed crone
too afraid to fly.
I moan, sometimes,
to mount and ride the white-horse
ride back across the bend of time and sky
to kiss the ones I once watched fly away.
Kiss them hard:
in the electric burn
of a storm-whipped rain.
But I was never young,
and evermore will be…
only ever me.
…They seemed to be saying, ‘Come as you are, and then either publicly pretend to be who we want you to be until you are that person, or leave.’
In other words, if you want us to love you… lie.
But both good art and healthy living demand the Truth — ALL of it. The truth about the times when you’re joyous and grateful and in love and happy and excited, yes… but also the truth about the times when you’re depressed and self-loathing and anxious and horny and selfish and murderously angry. All of it, with all of it equally valid and important. And if you’ve created a culture where it’s not even safe to place some of the less-pleasant Truths about your human condition into your art (where at least they’re being contextualized), well… I’m sorry, my friends, but you’ve made it impossible for an artist to exist within your walls…— josh barkey: Why the Christian Church Is Not a Safe Place for an Artist:
Five Lessons in Screenwriting from Mr. Johnny Cash
- 1. You have a responsibility as an Artist to give voice to the voiceless: Johnny Cash understood that Art is Powerful. That it has the capacity to weasel past our carefully-reasoned objections to change, and thereby impact us at the real core of our decision-making--our emotions. So he wrote songs that spoke for the disenfranchised. He shone a light on Native American struggles. He pointed out the uselessness of the American Penal System. He cried out on behalf of the poor. As a screenwriter, I hope to do what Johnny did, and to use my work to make a difference.
- 2. Don't be afraid to be silly: The same guy who wrote Man in Black--whose heart broke for the poor and powerless--also wrote such comedic gems as Boy Named Sue and One Piece at a Time. He knew that life's hard, and that to get through, you've gotta have yourself a laugh from time to time. So when I write, I try to remember that it's okay to have fun with it. Not every screenplay has to cure cancer.
- 3. Expose Yourself: One thing Cash did well was to put his entire Self into his work. People love Johnny in part because they feel they know him... the real him--that interior self that most of us go to great lengths to conceal. When in his latter years he covered the Nine Inch Nails song, Hurt, he made it his own, and we went away from it feeling a little less alone in our own pain. This honesty (or "taking the piss out of yourself," as my Australian friend calls it) is the key to making human connection with a work of Art, and it's something I aspire to emulate.
- 4. Collaborate Widely: Johnny Cash worked with everybody. I mean, everybody. He knew that Art is at its best a communal act, and that the story of the Solitary-Artist-Genius is a deeply destructive myth. So he sought out the best and brightest to work with, and as a result left a body of work that is exponentially richer than anything he could've come up with on his own. This one's easy for a screenwriter, because to get a film made you have to collaborate with dozens or even hundreds of other people. Still, Johnny Cash reminds me that this is a good thing, and that I can be grateful for it.
- 5. Die Trying: Johnny Cash was making music right up to the end. When his fingers were crabbed with arthritis. When asthma was running him down hard. When health issues accrued from a life of hard-livin' and hard-playin' were bringing him low... Johnny kept doing his thing. He didn't need the money. What he needed was to keep expressing. Keep collaborating. Keep sharing his struggles, his faith, his doubt, and his hope. For this, Johnny Cash will be remembered with love and respect, and I only hope that if I'm given the chance he had... that after a long life of hard-writin' and hard-lovin', I'll fall face-first on my keyboard and go out with a banggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg
It is telling the number of people who, when asked what they would do with a time machine, will answer, “Go back and kill Hitler when he was young!”
We nod our heads at this, without giving it a second thought.
But no one ever says they’d go back and spend a few years loving a young Hitler. Or encouraging him in his painting. Or being his friend, and making sure he’s taking his bipolar meds. Because, given the choice, humans will always choose the more dramatic, less demanding option.
We love to argue about ethics and morality, but that’s not usually how we make our choices. We make our choices based on what’s easiest in the moment, what costs us the least, and what brings us the most pleasure.
And by we, I mean me. And you, I guess.— josh barkey: Hug Hitler!
My son is a big fan of violence.
I’m told this is an inherent part of his make-up. That because he is male, he will want to kill and to hurt things. I’m told that if I were to remove all weapons from his life (check: sort of), he would fashion bread crusts into guns, and carrots into knives. I’m told it’s inevitable.
I call male-bovine-excrement.— josh barkey: Why I sometimes help my son kill Legos.
So I’m at Walmart the other day, and I…
Okay. First of all, you need to back the truck up about Walmart. Yeah, sure, they’re a corporation, which makes them dirty in all the ways corporations are dirty. But so is that store where you shop, and just because Walmart’s maybe a bit more dirty doesn’t mean you get to act all high and mighty about it. You’re complicit in the dirtiness too, you know.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So… I’m at Walmart the other day picking up some of the organic food-items they carry, and feeling all superior about it, when I see this meshie-cap guy coming my way. He’s got an undersized polo shirt stretched over his enormous gut, but what’s even more impressive is the head of hair on his wife: white and fluffy, like somebody microwaved a French poodle and glued it to her head. It’s gargantuan. Like a hairy watermelon on a toothpick, if a toothpick could be round and lumpy and wear a denim dress.
I’m getting a chuckle out of this until I look past them to a redneck teenage boy who’s openly laughing at the massive, silvery fluffball of hair. I know the boy’s a redneck because he’s dressed in head-to-toe camouflage, as is his father beside him. His father’s getting in on it, too, and as I watch these chubby Bambi-stompers have a laugh at this lady’s fantastical chapeau, I have this sudden epiphany:
Everybody’s better than somebody…— josh barkey: everybody’s better than somebody