Soft Writing: Crazy Creative

    In Costa Mesa there’s a weekly philosophical meeting. I like to attend as often as I can. I like to have an external locus of control for my perception of reality. I’ll probably go more into that in a later date.

    I was at this week’s meeting and it came time where Phil, the leader, asked the group to share ideas that we had. I said, “I’m not a moderate person. Phil mentioned earlier that he’s torn between the tension to do good in the world and to have a house and feel secure. I have no such tension. I don’t care about houses or security.”

    While making ALGORITHM, I told Phil [A different Phil. Sorry, this story has 2 Phils.] that I’d be willing to die to make the movie. It’s that important to me. I take it that seriously.

    This morning, while laying in bed with Memi, she started talking about how a bunch of famous people she follows (explain again how following people isn’t creepy anymore?) like to play pranks on each other. 

    I told her, only half-joking, that if someone played a prank on me while on set, I’d say, “Don’t do that. I don’t like pranks. The next time you play a prank, I’m going to fill your house with dead bodies.” 

    Of course the bodies would already be dead. I would never kill anyone, unless they hurt Memi. Even then, I wouldn’t want to, but I know myself well enough that I probably would anyway.

    I was going to delete the above section because it might leave people with the impression that I’m crazy or really morbid, neither of which is the case. So, hopefully this paragraph works as the qualifier needed to accurately understand the section.

*    *    *

    I finally finished the diet Tae, my herbalist, had me on. I’ve been feeling very calm. The diet had me off alcohol, sugar, and caffeine, along with some other actual food that I never really missed. This morning I went and bought some really sugary bread from the local farmers’ market. I again made myself a mocha. I had the sugar-bread and the mocha for breakfast.

    The weird part, weird for me, is that for the last few years I’ve been slowly losing my desire to eat. I eat because I’m hungry, because I know my body is a machine and food is fuel, but I have no desire for it. I either eat based on the time of day, or based on my body telling me I need to through nausea.

    This morning, with the reintroduction of sugar and caffeine I expected it to taste good, for it to be a celebration of total decadent indulgence. I suppose it was all those things. The problem was, during Tae’s diet, I guess my desire for sugar went away too.

    With the absence of the desire for the flavor, I was able to realize something else: the feeling sugar gives me is WAY more energy. I felt electrified, hyper, almost to the point where I couldn’t control myself. I can see that feeling being very addictive. I could see myself eating sugar not for the flavor but for it’s meth-like effects.

    I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to keep eating sugar. I know Tae would say I shouldn’t, except in moderation. Memi said the same thing to me this morning. My reply to Memi was, “I hate moderation.”

*    *    *

    Ever since I saw the preview a few months ago, I wanted to see “Love and Mercy”. It stars Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti and I’m a fan of both their works. Also, John Cusack is pretty good in it too. It’s the story of Brian Wilson. 

    [Plot spoiler alert (I’m not sure this alert is necessary since what I’m about to spoil is spoiled in the trailer.)]

    Brian Wilson is the driving creative force behind the Beach Boys. They had a few really amazing, really creative songs, and it turns out all the really good stuff came from Brian. Right after the movie ended, I tweeted, “I just finished watching #LoveAndMercy, an exploration of creativity, while also probing the kind of madness it seems to require.”

    The thing about Brian Wilson was that for a portion of his life he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He heard voices in his head that told him negative things. 

    It’s kind of strange, considering yesterday’s post, about madness and voices.

    I wonder if it’s possible to push the boundaries of creativity, of what’s possible, what’s good, what’s genius, without a hint of that madness. I suspect it’s not for reasons I’ll explore in a moment. 

    But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

    To be creative in a way that hasn’t been done before requires thinking differently from other people, to see things in a way people don’t usually see things. John Nash (famous for creating Game Theory, and portrayed in “A Beautiful Mind” said, “Sanity is a form of conformity.”)

    That’s not entirely accurate but gets at a very real point. Sanity, and insanity are defined by statistical averages. Psychologists map out psychological standards and trends and plot the results on a graph called a Bell Curve. It’s called that because it’s shaped like a bell. The center of the graph is the tallest part, and going either forward or backwards on the X axis, the curve drops off.

    The center of the bell represents the most common, or average way people are. Then, slowly, as the curve drops off, there are segments market off called Standard Deviations. As those standard deviation progress, the group of people gets smaller and more different from the norm.

    Kevin introduced me to the concept of Sigma Six. It was created by Jack Welch at Motorola. Sigma Six is when something is statistically irrelevant. Memi and I, and most of my friends are, relative to society as a whole, sigma six. Our opinions and thoughts with regards to ourselves are useful in a conversation about the way society should be set up.

    That means, in order to have a meaningful conversation about the future of society, I must ignore how I feel it should be so I’m comfortable or happy, and instead focus on most other people.

    That brings us to sanity. If sanity is what most people are, sigma six is insane. It’s madness. It means we hear voices. It means we see things in a way that’s not palatable for most people. It means we’re capable of seeing things differently, coming to different conclusions that lead to innovations that are otherwise impossible.

    The question of sanity isn’t really the right question. The right question, from a sociological perspective is, is my madness harmful to society or helpful? I can’t know that without the aforementioned external locus of control. That’s why I like the weekly philosophical meeting.

*    *    *

    While in the middle of “Love and Mercy” I had a personal realization. It was the kind of thing that made much of my life clear, why I do what I do, how I can do it better, how I can optimize for who I am so I can be the best me possible.

*    *    *

    I used to live in San Francisco. 

    There was a girl there. She was very pretty, and smart and I wanted to date her. 

    She knew who I was. If not, the next part of the story would be more creepy than she already found it.

    I met her after work, when she got off work. I walked her home. I was trying to say clever things because that’s what guys do to impress girls they want to date. I’m not pretty enough to use my looks. So, I work with what I’ve got.

    Eventually the discussion/monologue got onto who I am and what I want. I told her, “I’m not a moderate person. I don’t want to be a moderate person. I will never be a moderate person.”

    Maybe I wasn’t pretty enough. Maybe I shouldn’t have met her after she got off work and walked her home. Maybe she had a bad burrito. (The last is least likely since there isn’t very good Mexican food in San Francisco, so just insert whatever food you want that makes you moody.) Whatever the reason, that was the last time I spoke with her.

    That moment, that conversation was part of my beginning to recognize who I am and being okay with it. I don’t like everything I do. I’m not perfect. But, I change what I can and accept the things I can’t change. 

    (Yes, I’ve been to N.A. Yes, I know it’s from their serenity prayer. No, I wasn’t going for me. I was going with a friend who had been sentenced to N.A. as part of his probation. And, besides, N.A. borrowed in from A.A.,which borrowed it from Saint Francis of Assisi.)

*    *    *

    One day I was helping a friend put up drywall in his garage to give it a more finished look. We were painting it and he decided, maybe it was the paint fumes, that was a good time to let me know some things. I had taken up the habit of saying I’m a selfish person. That’s one of the things that I don’t like about me, but I can’t seem to change. He asked me how I could live with myself knowing that I had such a horrible flaw.

    I almost unfriended him. Not like Facebook. Like, for real. Eventually I realized he wasn’t talking about me. He was talking about himself. He has some very deeply painful emotional issues that he hasn’t dealt with and had trouble with how I can be okay with myself while he wasn’t okay with himself.

    He’s still my friend.

    I learned that technique, of evaluating the source of a critic as a part of deciding if it’s valid. Some people say things because they’re true. Some people say things because they have issues. The best way to know the difference isn’t to ask yourself. It’s to use Kant. 

    Get a bunch of people and ask them to look at the same thing. If most of them say the same thing, the issue is real. If not, it’s probably an issue for just that person and can be ignored. 

    Realizing that the person who gives the bad note, be it on the story or on myself, really helps me learn to sympathize and care for people in a way I hadn’t before.

*    *    *

    During “Love and Mercy” the revelation was, I’m a wartime consigliere. I’m not a good person to be president or to lead much of anything, except battles. That’s what making a movie is. It’s a sustained war. It’s finding an idea that’s worth fighting for, and then fighting for it until the war is finished and the idea is as pure and perfectly captured as is reasonably possible.

    I’m okay with being bad at things. Because, knowing that I’m bad at things allows me to focus on getting better at the things I’m good at. It also allows me to collaborate with people who are bad at what I’m good at but good at what I’m bad at. Together we can make something better than any of us could make on our own.

    But to see that, to know what I’m bad at, to know who I am, required a lot of self-reflection, way past what’s normally socially acceptable. Way, way past what’s even remotely comfortable.

*    *    *

    Memi is learning a lot. She’s smart and that’s what smart people do. She’s at the stage where she’s developed a new mantra, “Ignorance is bliss.” I know she didn’t create the phrase, but that doesn’t make it any less true for her. 

    Memi needs to keep staring into the light until she starts to see the whole thing and that it’s working together, not to do something specific, as though it was designed with a purpose, but to see that it’s doing what it does, and that the doing, the life and death, the pain and pleasure, the suffering and thriving are all part of the beauty that is life.

    To say that all life is beautiful, which is what I say, isn’t to say that the ugly parts don’t need to be fought. I’m a bit of Taoist when it comes to that. Everything’s part of the Tao, but I fight when fighting is the right thing to do. That’s my part in the beauty. I need to fight the ugly things, not because they’re ugly but because that’s what I do. For me not to do it would be wrong, it would be an ugliness in itself.

    I don’t know if Memi will ever come to that conclusion. She’s not crazy enough to see it. She’s optimized to be a healer, which is what she is.

*    *    *

    The more I think about “Beta” the more I like the idea. I feel all the concepts that “Intelligence” and “Drought” were talking about slowly merging into a single project. “Beta” is also totally unlike anything else anyone is doing. It allows me to talk about the issues I see, to fight the ugliness in the world, to ask the questions that make people think and engage with their lives. It lets me be the iconoclast I am.

*    *    *

    For me to pitch “Beta” to any network, which is what I’ll have to do if I want to make it since it’s too expensive for me to make on my own, I need to write a treatment. I don’t know what a treatment is.

    Once the treatment is written, I need to figure out the right home for it. I think it will be Netflix, but I’m not sure. Once I’ve done that, I need to figure out the right title of the position at the network that I need to contact. Then, I need to figure out the right person in that position who would most like the kind of story I want to tell.

    Then, I have to hope/pray that my 1.2 million views with ALGORITHM is enough cred to get a pitch meeting with them.