beyond the darkness lies the truth

Emotional truths are risky things to obtain. To place yourself in the emotional abyss in order to tell us something about the human soul is a dangerous enterprise, whether you are an actress, writer, philosopher, musician, creator of art installations, dancer… Why do we search for this? What possesses artists to go on the difficult journey to bring us some kind of truth? Showtime’s series Californication gives us some insight into this journey, telling the story of Hank Moody, a New York writer forced to stay in LA by a relationship that subsequently disintegrated, leaving him washed up in the brutal city of artists and dreamers. The first episode of this series was a masterpiece in miniature. It revealed the writer, played by David Duchovny in a manner described by the Guardian as “revelatory,” tormented by the emotional realities of a life truly messed up. The writer whose “exercise in nihilism”, God Hates Us All, was turned into a romantic comedy. The writer whose insistence on an alternative, punk, rock’n’roll, Bukowski-loving, tradition-shunning outlook on life has separated him from the love of his life, and his daughter. He journeyed into the darkness to write brutal truths, and perhaps didn’t come all the way back. That first episode ended with Hank staring helplessly into the darkness of an LA night, with My Morning Jacket’s version of Rocket Man drifting mournfully in the background. It conjured an intergalactic loneliness, the lonely voice of God murmuring truths about the dark night beyond the lights, the lizard kings and run-down bars, strange creatures moving around out there, and nothing human left in the universe; a perfect encapsulation of isolation. By the end of episode two, Hank was alone, again, sitting in his car at night, desperately haunted by the emptiness of the passenger seat, while a voice on the soundtrack described how “some nights I wish that the sun would never show its face.” Hubert Selby Jr, author of searing, unflinching portrayals of the human soul such as Requiem For A Dream and The Demon, writes of the requirement to to go as deep into the darkness as possible to bring back the truth into the light. He notes that, “obviously, there is always the chance that you will go too deeply into the darkness and not come back.” He took the risk of the artist in placing himself in unsettling and terrible emotional places; walking the emotional and psychological high-wire out to, and back from, from the loneliest of places. Searching in these lonely places for truth, discovering things about what it means to be human; this is not the end. The journey back still awaits; the truths must be conveyed. It has been said many times that writers lie to tell the truth, since words on a page are not truths or things in the world; they are words on a page, symbols, non-representational. How should the artist convey the things they have discovered? What language should they use? Words and movements, art and music, can evoke these elusive emotions. The most non-representational form can convey the most exact truth. Acting, for example, is not real, but the transformation of consciousness it requires cannot be faked. Who really knows what transformative effects the truth will have upon one’s consciousness? One cannot truly know without experiencing it. It’s why we do it.

2 thoughts on “beyond the darkness lies the truth

  1. Darren, a wonderful blog post, full of truth itself. I love “The most non-representational form can convey the most exact truth.” I find that is so true. By writing “fiction” about “fictional characters”, I am probing into what it means to be human all the time. On a more amusing note, which I know you’ll like, New Scientist just reprinted my story The White Road, which was inspired by a New Scientist article. I’m thrilled that they like the stories, but some odd comments have resulted from members of the public, who perhaps are not used to reading fiction! They have accused me of inept grammar….Check it out here and, if you are so moved, leave a comment. I know that Mr Semi-Colon will have strong feelings about this!!

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