Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From those same wonderful folks who gave you unemployment

 The genie in the bottle is a splendid and appropriate metaphor for many of the stages and conditions in human life.  Younger persons, excited by the lure of energy, hormones, and possibilities, itch to be out of the bottle, convinced of their destiny or, at the least, impatient to discover what it is.  Mixing the metaphor now, you could compare the state of the genie in the bottle of a piece with the concept of entelechy, which roughly, right out of Aristotle's Metaphysics, is How does the acorn know it is supposed to become an oak?  The DNA of Destiny, right?  

Imagine for starters the acorn, somewhat aware of its destiny (via Jungian  analysis?), now becomes impatient to fulfill it, impatient of the need to, well, grow up, to grow into it.

One of your applications of being thus constrained, your do-it-yourself genie kit, was the fact of you almost invariably being the youngest in whatever group you were a part of.  You did not do particularly well with that, emerging as a sort of personality portrayed by Tom Hulse in Amadeus, significantly lacking, of course, the considerable abilities of the character Hulse was portraying.  You had, in effect, to learn how to fail with enough vigor and force to be able to walk away from the disaster, then search for the acorn that was you and, this time, not take yourself so seriously.  Trouble with that approach came from friends and family, wondering when you were going to settle down and do something serious.  Which you did; you settled down and did things of enough seriousness that you bored everyone within three feet of yourself and, most notably, you.

It is bad enough being a genie in a bottle at any stage of life but it is considerably worse if you are confined in a bottle and are boring because your chances for companionship, much less sexual encounters, are severely limited.

The bottle you are in now is a lovely reversal of the early days; now you tend to be the elder statesman, your campaign ribbons, or at least your curriculum vitae attesting your service as a number of things in a number of places.  Your CV does not show that you were once a box boy at McDaniels Shop 'n Save Market in Beverly Hills, where there was a strict rule against accepting tips from customers, causing you to be fired for accepting twenty-five cents from Lauren Bacall.  Nor does it say that your written ad lib for the host of the TV program I Search for Adventure, "And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, good night" was the direct cause of the show being re-upped for another twenty-six weeks.  Like all CVs, yours is tilted to give the impression that you know what you are doing and have visions worth following.  When you are an elder statesman, Young Lions tend to be suspicious of you, thinking your information and experience worked back in the day but is largely obsolete or naive or, worse, dumb.

The fact of the matter is, we are all of us genies in bottles, contained by DNA, but also by culture, by zeitgeist, and the very nature of the particular acorn that grows within us.  Those of us who have the writer acorn lust for the opportunity to get out of the bottle and be able to support ourselves entirely from writing.  Your take on this trope is that it is misguided.  Some of your friends, Christopher Moore, for instance, or Jerry Freedman ($500,000 advance on his first book), or Brian Fagan manage to do this and lead relatively sane writer lives, but I will argue that while the income stream is quite pleasant, that is not the thing that propels them; the driving force is enthusiasm and the driving force beyond that is curiosity to see what next the acorn will become.

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