Monday, June 09, 2014
Mike's Story Part 45 - Lucy Does Some 'Splainin'
Recently, some readers have become riled by my account of living with Mike. (Others have been riled all along but have given up arguing.) "Don't speak ill of the dead," is the gist of their viewpoint. The irony is that the posts these people are responding to are not, to my mind, particularly negative. The last one that raised hackles was about a deal for $10,000 which got lost in transit. Mike was disturbed enough to return to active suicidal agitation, not that he'd ever left, but it had briefly been set to snooze mode. Although in the case of the waylaid $10,000, the government turned out not to be the culprit, Mike believed, correctly, that they had a vendetta against him to which they had devoted enough resources to do him in professionally. And they would not have hesitated to go further if necessary.
FTW was his baby, even Mike himself. It represented all that was best, most insightful, most humanity-saving and heroic about him and it was dead. The movie Collapse was not yet a glimmer in even director Chris Smith's eye and Mike believed that he had fallen from a position of high productivity and honor to that of a wandering obsolete prophet, dependent on the kindness of strangers. (Apparently, some readers have also been offended that I've depicted him as "couch-surfing." He made no secret of that and it is not offensive. There's a fine tradition from Socrates on of itinerant teachers. Those of us who were privileged to host Mike did so only for so long as we wished. He'd given more than we could repay.) He had no family and although he thought he should love me, and made a heroic effort to say the right words, he didn't and couldn't. At times, he hated me.
The events of that year should be told, I believe, for the sake of anyone who might learn something from them. This is what his work was made of; this is what it cost him.
Somebody said that a poet describes how beautiful a flower is while a scientist shows you how it works. Does the scientist find the flower less beautiful? Probably not. Not, I hasten to add, that I'm the scientist here. I present some facts from his life during a particular period; you're the scientist.
As anyone reading this knows, Mike's work was as controversial as it gets. Also, as important. This is why he transcends the, "Don't speak ill of the dead" rubric. The topics he investigated are still in play, big time. Telling those parts of his story that we know is a way to keep his work alive.
Part of the controversy over Mike has stemmed from that dichotomy which insists on casting people into mythic roles: Hero, villain and so forth. Those who've been involved with him over the years have witnessed oceans of cyber-ink spilled describing him as a white knight on the one hand; on the other, a nut.
Mike himself professed sympathy for Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud's contemporary and sometime colleague, who wrote of the tendency of the unconscious to think in universal archetypes. It's not a big leap from there to Hollywood stereotypes and Mike was, after all, a child of Los Angeles. Staying in that mode of thinking may be hazardous to your health. More than one of Mike's closest associates has remarked on how it may have ultimately contributed to his suicide.
Of course, it had also inspired him. The Jungian/Hollywood wish to be a hero (a noble wish in itself) motivated him to do the work to make that a real possibility (a heroic act in itself.) But secretly and not so secretly, he was aware of a darker side to his personality as well. No one hated that side more than he did as will become apparent in future posts. Remember what he said: "There is a deep flaw in me which is the source of everything I've done."
Mike's lasting legacy is his work at FTW, in Crossing the Rubicon, the movie Collapse, etc. In order for this work to be taken seriously in a larger arena, it might be helpful to break out of the clichés and accept the real guy.