Tuesday, August 09, 2016

It's All About Me

This post is starting as a political rant, but really is a personal reflection. Bear with me, I'll get there.

I think I've discovered what Donald Trump actually wants to be. He doesn't want to be President. He doesn't really want to be a real estate magnate, or business tycoon, or thought leader. 

He wants to be a stand-up comedian. He wants to be Jerry Seinfeld, or Rodney Dangerfield. He wants to have people adore him, laugh at his jokes, think he's the funniest guy in the world.

When I hear Trump make those little aside jokes at his rallies - like today's 2nd Amendment riff - he doesnt actually mean them in the sense he's advocating gun owners shoot Hillary Clinton or any Supreme Court Judges she may appoint. He's not even really saying them as some kind of political insult or dig at his opponent. He says it, and many other things like it, because he enjoys the laugh he gets from the audience. His loyal, rabid, vapid supporters at his rallies. It's happened many times before -  the bit with the baby the other day, the crowd ate up his snide comments about letting the baby stay, then getting rid of it. And when you're someone who craves attention, acceptance and affirmation like Trump does, you keep doing it no matter what. You can't help yourself.

In not the first bully comparison, Trump acts like the young punk in school who had all the girls and all the sycophantic friends, who made a crude joke at someone's expense that all his cronies just laughed themselves silly. You can almost see his elbows flail as he cracks wise, desperately searching for some flunky nearby to poke in the ribs, "Amiright? Amiright?" He gets off on the attention, it feeds his desperately needy ego, and I think all things being equal if he could just continue to lead rallies day after day for the rest of his life and forget about all the rest, he'd do so. Once he's in the Oval Office, who's going to stand around and give him the multitudes of snide guffaws - the Secret Service? The Whiite House Press Corps? The roses in the Rose Garden? Trump needs his followers like Gaston needs his LeFew, someone to sing his praises endlessly.

Ok, political rant is over. I said that, to say this...

I kinda identify with that. Well, not that precisely. I don't stand around making crude, politically incorrect jokes about my enemies to the delight of my mulltitudenous hangers-on.  But I certainly do recognize and appreciate the need to be appreciated, adored, to be shown the things you do and say are specifically pleasing to others.

For years, I've considered myself to be a student of comedy and its construction. I consider myself to have a good sense of humor, and I'm not afraid to crack a joke from time to time. Especially at strategic moments in time when they will bring the most positive reactions. It's extremely attractive and can be addicting to a degree, the feeling that gets when a room erupts in laughter at a carefullly-chosen and timed remark you have made. It's instant feedback to affirm your cleverness, your insight, your wit and wisdom. I think all of us need that from time to time, and I find myself needing it more often than not.

Oh, I enjoy making the jokes for their own sakes - to lighten a mood, to make a commentary on a situation that needs a less serious tone, to bring humor to a serious situation. These are all good reasons to bring out a good zinger every once in a while. But it has become somewhat part of my reputation, and a reflection of my character. Good or bad, it's there on the surface but with possibly a surprising source within.

For years, I've tried to assert my creative side, in many ways. I perform onstage as a singer and as an actor, with limited successes. I don't necessary fail, but my efforts rarely are met with singular acclaim. Nobody is waiting outside the dressing rooms to specifically give me high marks on my performance. I' there, I do the job, I leave. Again, enjoyable for its own sake but rarely elicits an emotional feedback other than basic appreciation.

I've achieved what might be my most notable creative success in musical directing, at least due to the feedback I get from my musicians and others that I am actually doing a good job and making a difference in a production. Music Directors don't get a lot of acclaim by nature of the job and that's fine. When your peers recognize your worth, that's pretty much the highest acclaim you can find.

Directors themselves can be high profile, especially in the big leagues of Broadway and film, rarely so down in the trenches of community theatre. Other than grateful parents and appreciative kids, there's not a lot of opportunities for the kind of positive feedback somebody might desire, or need. 

Especially when you're in a life situation now where there are no more opportunities for any of those things. None. My work life requires me to be in Nashville 4 days a week, and home in Knoxville for 3. Which as all theatrical veterans know most all productions at least at some point in the rehearsal and production process require someone to be there for weeks at a time. Therefore, I haven't done a show in almost three years. And as my creative outlets have dried up, so have any real opportunities for true feedback and appreciation of talent.

I have tried my hand at writing, something I find frustrating because of the process. I have great ideas for stories, but don't have the discipline to actually put hand to keyboard and write it out. This blog post will likely be one of the longest things I've been able to keep interest in and write for a long time. I've started two short plays and one longer play. Sometimes I will write here and there, sometimes I'll even show off examples off my writing to friends and colleagues. Very little feedback or constructive criticism, so not only is there no opportunity to grow and improve my skills, there's little to no impetus to continue at all. There's no reason to believe that what I'm doing is good at all. So why continue?

I remember early on in the blogging craze, a blogger friend of mine responded to a similar lament I had about nobody reading my blog. They said they write for themselves and not for others. To them, what others thought about their posts - and indeed, whether anyone really read them at all - was irrelevant. What was important was that they wrote for themselves, that blogging was not only a creative expression but a personal one. That in writing out their feelings and thoughts, they were addressing a particular need of their own. The response or feedback or engagement from others was distantly secondary. And they were perfectly content with the process.

I've often thought about that, and how easy and therapeutic it must be to not have the burden of acceptance hanging over your head. To be able to write what you want, sing what you want, say what you want and not worry about being judged for it. But I can't find it in myself to get to that point. I'm not secure enough in my abilities and my own thoughts to put them out there just for the sake of making a statement about myself. If I don't have feedback, if there is no interaction, then the effort is pointless. I need that actualization that comes from the acceptance, the approval -  the distinct, deliberate approval and appreciation of others stemming directly from something I've created, to make a difference in my personal sense of worth and meaning.

Not to get too meta here, but even this specific blog entry I'm writing. As I sit here typing these words, I haven't yet decided whether to actually post it. If I do, maybe I'll get feedback and supportive words from my friends. Maybe nobody will bother to read it. If I don't post it and nobody ever reads it, does it exist? Does it have merit or worth if nobody but me ever actually sees it? Just because I wrote it, does anything I have to say mean anything without an audience to read it? How can I be certain that anything I say or do has any worth to it at all without a reflection on someone else? I can't be trusted to judge my own work -  do we grade our own tests? A+++ for Barry on the Calculus final! All 5's on the vocal juries! 100 points to Griffyndor! No, I don't think it can.

Therefore, for one brief agonizing moment I can empathize and be jealous of Donald Trump. He has found his platform where he can say almost anything and be loved for it. As sick as his words are, and as lost as his followers are, he at least has found his self-actualization. 

As for me, I'll take these words and stuff them in a can someplace where the only one that can see them will be me. Maybe I'll let them out to play sometime. Maybe not. You be the judge.