Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Last night I was having some trouble sleeping so I did what I usually do when I can't sleep, I read. First I finished reading Sex Changes: Transgender Politics by Patrick Califia. Good times. Then I started reading "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey.

Basically, the book is about is six weeks in a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center. He had been drinking since the age of 10, doing drugs since 12, and got really fucked up. He landed in the treatment center at the age of 23. However, everything he said happened didn't really happen how he said it did, according to some of the people who knew him and were there. So basically, how much leeway do you have with creative nonfiction?

Aside from the problems of how "real" his memoir is, I found the book interesting. Partially because the whole AA twelve step thing supposedly didn't work for him, mainly because he felt that you were just replacing your addiction to drugs and alcohol with an addiction to Meetings and God. Instead, a book his brother gave him called Tao Te Ching was what helped him the most. "Lose everything you know and everything you desire and ignore those who say they know. Practice not wanting, desiring, judging, doing, fighting, knowing. Practice just being. Everything will fall into place."

That makes a lot of sense to me. Don't worry about the good and the bad, just be. I especially enjoy the section where he talks about how opposites define each other, dichotomies create themselves. In particular the quote "need and depend create and define each other." If you don't depend on anything or anyone you won't need anything or anyone. If you don't need anything or anyone you won't depend on anything or anyone. And when you are able to not need or depend, you are able to just enjoy life for what it is. It makes everything seem so much less complicated than it really is. I realized that that's where a lot of dysfunction in our lives comes from, needing and depending.

Now, while this is all well and good, I also was wondering why I feel compelled to read books like this. I felt the same way when I read the book "wasted" about a woman's lifelong struggle with severely disordered eating in addition to drugs and alcohol. I think there's some unfortunate part of me that secretly enjoys reading these books not because it shows me the depth of human suffering or because I empathize with their experiences but because I can look at how fucked up other people are and be glad that I'm not nearly that fucked up, and I'll never be that fucked up. I think that's actually part of the reason why books like that are so popular, because it allows affluent people to feel reassured in how no matter how screwed up their relationships maybe be, at least there are people more fucked up than them. And people write them, and end up fabricating events that didn't even happen, and it's all part of this weird twisted voyeurism of wanting to see people at their absolute worst. It kinda freaks me out.

Anyways, if I were capable of completely letting go of my wants and desires, if I could just be, I feel like I would live my life better and be a better person to others.

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