Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Parenthood Surprise: The Desire for Courage

Yesterday a friend asked me,
"What has been the most surprising thing about parenthood so far?" and I responded, "how confident I am being a Dad."

The latest gift my son has given me is the desire to be courageous. I am not inclined towards courage. I struggle with anxiety and depression. Melancholy is my friend and self-doubt my counsel. But Griffin has inspired a call to action where who I am in my values is no longer debatable. The thought that goes with this feeling is simple. I want my son to have a more hopeful outlook than the one I have labored under and I never want him to feel shame for his ideas. I want him to choose desires that expand the possibility of himself and others. I realize that my part in this is to act as if I have a hopeful outlook and no shame for my ideas. Griffin's possibilities inspire me towards the courage of my convictions.

I started this blog to see if I could write and if my writing might provide connection with others. It has. It has also led me to complete a full-length play (my first in 11 years) which has gone on to have a staged reading at The Performance Network and has led me to renew the craft of playwriting through Chicago Dramatists Theatre. I've become friends with smart and talented folks who have reviewed my writing and have given honest feedback. There's nothing better than asking for insight and having someone plant their feet and tell their truth. I love the courage.

My writing this year has also allowed me the pleasure of enjoying cowardice. I've enjoyed relating to an unscrupulous double-dealer who acts as if solipsism is wisdom and assertion fact.

Let's call this man "Force of Nature" (FON). FON is the artistic director of a rural Michigan theatre founded by a B-movie actor and his nickname here serves to help you imagine his tendency towards self-promoting tautology. Lets call the actor "Fart Joke" (the dramatic centerpiece to his most successful and famous play).

I've been fired three times by FON and "Fart Joke" due to my inability to have the courage of my convictions so, when I decided to write plays again, I thought it a good idea to return to where I failed and make amends for my failings.

I pitched a full-length play idea to FON last June.

FON was enthusiastic. He has a tendency towards manic co-dependence as a platform for his unfounded assertions (e.g. "Fart Joke's" fart jokes for FON offer a "window into the human heart") so I didn't put too much stock in his promise, "give us 100 pages and we will give you a reading, and consider yourself one of us!" I did use it as writing motivation and a call to show up with more maturity but, when I saw what I was writing and, how it didn't hue to the color of situation comedy FON enjoys, I didn't hold out much hope that he would want it.

I did expect some sort of definitive response when I delivered the script but for some odd reason upon script-delivery FON acted like a 13 year old boy who retreats from a first kiss because he doesn't understand the meaning of his boner. I didn't get it. He didn't return emails. He promised a reading in the new year but didn't follow up. He failed to show when a meeting was set to discuss my script where my wife and I drove up from Chicago to see "Fart Joke's" latest play. My wife, pregnant with Griffin, advised me to kick the dust from my feet and leave FON behind. I thought she had a point but wasn't certain if definitive action needed to be taken.

In the meantime I kept to my desires to write, continued with this blog, and sought out the company of people who enjoy telling the truth.

This week I needed to be definite in my response to FON.

The moral philosopher Alonzo Fyfe describes his philosophy "Desire Utilitarianism" as a morality of identifying desire-thwarting desires as immoral. When one's desires exist to manipulate another's desires as a means to securing selfish desire than immoral actions ensue. It is both subjective and objective. Subjective from the frame of personal perspective and objective in the frame of consequence.

Fyfe says that we can shape moral desires through reward and diminish immoral ones with ridicule. Therefore it is moral to both encourage and shame. I considered Fyfe when facing FON this week and decided the time was right for shame.

FON uses his position to expand desires towards the amelioration of self-centered fear grounded in his concern that he might be mediocre. He thwarts desire through dishonest promise and does so to manipulate affection.

I learned this when I was approached by people this past year who built "Fart Joke's" theatre yet were alienated by FON when they sought independent opportunities and formed their own companies. FON saw this as a threat and dismissed them as associate artists, embodying a George Bush unilateralism requiring a "with us or against us" stance.

I also saw it when my play was selected for a reading with a rival theatre in Michigan (The Performance Network) whereupon FON referred to that competing professional outfit as a "community theatre".

I finally saw it when to win a mild disagreement he offered his first criticisms of the play he had asked for, promised a reading of, and held in his hands for over a year by telling me in 13-year-old-bully fashion that I am a "pseudo-intellectual" and my play is "bullshit".

FON didn't realize that I had taken Jackie's advice months ago and his tactic towards desire manipulation failed. He kept at it without any realization of his impotence. I decided for the sake of good it was necessary to shame him. I enjoyed it.

He looked to cry mercy with an appeal to self-pity once I wouldn't surrender to his bullying. I let him know there's nothing in his behavior that offers resolution. He holds immoral desires that position him as evil. His morality is that of the Capo who saves his ass by thwarting the desires of his tribe.

I had no expectations for production nor the reading that was promised but, I did expect an honest response to my efforts that would respect my desire to speak truth through drama. FON could have said that he didn't like the play and it didn't work by keeping the appointment we set and, telling me to my face, that what his theatre needs is not what I delivered. I would have respected that; it would have given me an understanding of reality and an opportunity to examine my desires' utility. He didn't. He retreated.

That retreat is an ethic I once indulged but now see as shameful.

I hope Griffin never finds hope in such shameful desires.


Gandolf said...

Nice one ! Chuck.So glad Griffin and you are so very good for each other.

Best wishes to you all

kateherself said...

I love your blog, Chasley!!