Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The power of not hate

I hope yesterday didn't sound like I am in favor of hate and anger as long-term strategies. If that wasn't clear enough, let me talk about The Crow for a little bit.

I have not seen the movie (though I have seen some riveting clips set to music). I have been reminded lately of how much it influenced people, with contemporary comic characters and Halloween costumes showing up in my timeline. I also am trying to get around to different important comics, so I went looking for the original Crow comic by James O'Barr. The library didn't have that, but they did have an anthology that looked interesting, so I checked it out.

The Crow: Shattered Lives & Broken Dreams, edited by James O'Barr and Edward E. Kramer.

That title is pretty descriptive, but I thought it would be more comics. Instead it was short stories, poetry, and artwork. Also, some of the contributors were really interesting to me, especially Henry Rollins.

I love his spoken word, where he is charming and funny and sweet, even though he still self-describes as angry and I believe him. I don't really like him so much as a musician, with the undiluted discordant anger. (That is more of an issue with Black Flag than his solo work, but still.) His poetry is somewhere in between, angry, but not so overwhelmingly so that you are pounded away from the message. That seems about right.

The poems were generally pretty good, but those stories were hard. Sometimes in the middle of reading one I would wonder what was wrong with this person, and then I would look up the contributor's bio, and it often made more sense. Regardless, story after story about bloody revenge for rape and murder can wear you down.

That made me start wondering more about the original source material, and the loyalty it inspired in people. A lot of these stories read as fan fiction, and Eric Draven has fans. He has lots of fans.

Digging around a little, I saw that O'Barr himself wrote the comic after his fiancee was killed by a drunk driver. He hoped it would be cathartic, but "It made me more self-destructive, if anything... There is pure anger on each page."

With the anthology, I couldn't help but notice that most often the revenge trips didn't really set things right. It multiplied the total number of deaths, but nothing was fixed or healed. I thought the purpose of coming back was to set things right.

(As it was, I think the best of the stories was "The Blood-Red Sea" by Chet Williams, where the poet Homer chooses to forgo killing his last two murderers and instead to pass on his newest poem to a new listener.)

Things may get set right in the comic and in the movie, and maybe that was part of why it resonated for people. If readers and watchers had reasons to be angry - maybe needed permission to be angry - perhaps it helped with that.

But it didn't help James O'Barr. It won't always help. But I still believe that there should be something that could help him, and I would want that for him.

This feels like a lot of beating around the bush. Let me see if I can find a point.

I often will say that something is worth thinking about or needs to be thought about. I refrain from saying what the conclusion of the thoughts should be. That would often take a value judgment, which I try not to overdo, but also, sometimes you might reject something that you are simply told, but find its truthfulness by following a path that leads to it.

The need to think about things isn't anything new - we attribute "The unexamined life is not worth living" to Socrates - but what should we be examining?

Here is my value judgment: we should be looking for what is true, and what will make us happy.

People can wax very philosophical about truth. I acknowledge that there are things we can't know, and things we shouldn't know yet, but I believe in science and I believe in logic and I believe in the Holy Ghost, and I say that there is a lot we can know and we should live up to that.

People can be very skeptical about happiness, and there are reasons for that. I think about it more now because I am becoming more aware of people who specifically reject it. That's not that they know they have to give up something that stands in the way of their happiness, but that they specifically choose being unhappy because it seems stronger or smarter or something. That tends to increase the misery of others in multiple ways. Don't do that.

Anyway, think about it.


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