A bit over a week ago, while I was still in KL, I sat down and watched an episode of Californication. Now people who follow me here will know that Californication is one of my favourite shows and that for some reason I identify with Hank Moody pretty strongly.
On the face of it, Hank and I are pretty different. I love Hank, but I’m nowhere near as juvenile as he can be, and generally – generally – I’m nowhere near as irresponsible and haphazard as he is prone. Or so I think. My identification with Hank goes deeper than that, maybe in part because he is a writer and does what I would love to do. Certainly, because I understand the lust that fuels so much of his lifestyle. And because a lot of the crazy stuff he does is stuff that I’ve done, or would do, stuff that may be crazy but is dead fun too. There is that laissez-faire, kicked back, cruising aspect of my personality that matches up pretty well with Hank – we could easily be drinking buddies, if not each other’s wingman. Bottom line, he’s one of my personas.
So, I’m watching and there’s a scene where his wife Karen is going off at him for the umpteenth time and he realises that he’s fucked up again with the thing that he holds most precious, his family. For all his foibles Hank has a mighty heart and a generous spirit. You can understand how he annoys the shit out of people sometimes, but you can also understand their devotion. He’s like a kid you can’t help loving, even as he stuffs up again. Such was this scene when the cost of all that hit home with him. Watching it I found tears in my eyes.
The tears were not for Hank, they were for me. I realised watching how much I’d fucked up. I saw something in his situation something of mine. I don’t think I’ve disappointed anyone, though others might argue that. The person I’ve let down is myself, through my own stupid, occasionally arrogant, machinations. I watched as the truth dawned on him, and it dawned on me at the same time – and it was such a shock that I choked on it.
It was a big moment. There I was sitting in someone else’s lounge room in another country far from home, and feeling absolutely bereft. The feeling went through me. I sat on the couch watching, my eyes wet, my mind going at a million miles an hour. What have you fucking done, H?
I’m a complex dude. I’m one of the more competent people walking around, and that’s just true. From day to day I function at a higher level than most. I’m switched on, perceptive, sensitive, and a lot of other pretty good things. And I fuck up and do more dumb things than most.
There’s some weird shit in me. There’s a long and enjoyable streak of irresponsibility running right down the middle of me. It doesn’t do as much damage as you might think because running the length of it is a streak of responsibility. What that means is that occasionally I might get crazy notions, but for the most part, they don’t get through the responsible filters and get aborted. Mostly, not always, but then it’s no fun being too responsible. What really fucks me up though is another part of me, the don’t give a fuck, pathologically independent, absurdly individual part of me. Somehow I’m wired that this part of me overrides the responsible inclinations and goes on its merry, often extravagant way.
The funny thing is that it works for me sometimes. Even a lot. I’ve achieved things I would never have without it. But it kills me too. On my worst days, it makes me Icarus and seems no matter how many times I crash to earth I don’t learn. That’s where I am now. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me in recent times that are beyond my control, and by and large, coped well with them. I’ve also made things much worse than they should be by giving the finger to the conservative way and being so perversely stubborn about it.
It was a revelation to me. I sat there considering my fucked-upedness. There was something amazing about it. For all my adult life I’ve believed I had it over the world, and often that’s how I acted. Now I understood: I was a person who fucked up, just like Hank. Like Hank, I was a serial fucker-upper. I could blame no-one for my situation but myself.
A funny thing happened then. I’d grasped this very unwelcome truth, and in doing so suddenly felt liberated by it. It was like, ok, I accept that. And in a strange way it gave me permission to fuck up – I’m only human after all – but knowingly. Funny how the truth works. When you find it, you know it. And, no matter what it tells you, it often releases you because it cuts through all the petty and meaningless lies and justifications you’ve built up over the years. Truth is a simple thing.
What then does it mean for me now? It’s another step on the road to self-knowledge. I’m not a great believer that we can change much of our fundamental nature, and excepting extreme cases, am doubtful that we should. I like myself mostly. This is who I am, and I have no desire to deny my self. This is what makes me, the person that people find and engage with. I said once that it’s: Easy to admire someone for their qualities, but end of day I think we love them for their frailties. It sounds grand, but think it’s true. It’s why we – or me at least – love Hank Moody, because he’s a glorious fuck-up we can ultimately relate to. And none of us are robots.
So rather than change the person I am the aim is to modify the behaviour of that person. I’ll still have these inclinations, and so I should. Difference now is that I know it, and can work with it. In truth I like that part of me, the arrogant death or glory bits, it’s just that when you put it that way it doesn’t seem terribly wise. So, here I am, hopefully smarter than I was, come late perhaps to the getting of wisdom.