*Drawing Credits go to Michelle Seres
My hometown was stricken with a brilliant madness long ago. A wicked breed, this madness strolled in and stole the lives of countless individuals. It ripped families from their homes, displaced millions and broke families apart. It slashed and burned my town, breaking buildings and crippling the city. This plight kept new businesses away and drove promising young people into ugly habits. And overtime, this brilliant madness evolved.
Joblessness was the given name of this plight. And when it swept into my state it sent millions of hard working men and women to the unemployment house. It upended the economy, and decimated the job market. Factory jobs were sent to other places; to better and more profitable locations. But my town was not alone, production jobs slipped out of many cities. Companies traded the once honorable “Made in America” stamp for one of some foreign country. Taiwan, China, South Korea and Mexico were popular choices. But any place with lower wages and lower environmental standards where analyzed and scouted. Once the factories left, the rest of the jobs trickled away. One by one, companies exited my town, leaving behind empty buildings; charred husks of a once grand city. Like the businesses, houses began to empty out as people flocked to other job centers around the country. The neighborhood faded and fizzled out. From my bedroom window I could see boards tacked on vacant structures that people once called home. Wording was pasted in shades of black, red and blue across the boards. These hues formed symbols and phrases associated with gangs. With absent houses and vacant buildings comes crime. And with crime comes gangs. After my state began to dwindle and die, criminals unrolled themselves from the shadows; and the brilliant madness evolved.
From a young age I became knowledgeable with shootings, murders, drugs and prostitution. While not a participant of these trades, I was still a victim. I suffered from the effects of crime. I witnessed shootings and murders on the news, on the next block and on my way to school. I heard the calls and saw the chalked outlines that marked where another dead body once laid. Sometimes even, I wasn’t allowed to play outside because my parents were afraid I would be the next face of a tragic shooting from our street.
I saw what prostitution and drugs did to the community. I saw crack whores so addicted to cocaine they sold their bodies for a single high. These women offered themselves to the highest bidder to appease their cravings. I saw children at school ask their friends what it means to be an accident or unwanted. And when those kids grew up, they followed in their mother’s and father’s footsteps: they made their way into the criminal world. Many of the people I knew as a child died young, spent time in jail or killed their neighbors. From the time of my birth, the brilliant madness controlled my town. It is all I’ve known and it is all I’ve seen. My generation is one of death, displacement and desertion. We were born into madness, and to madness we shall fall. It seems so fitting, surrendering to such a powerful force. Surrendering to the will of the street, the will of the gangbangers and the will of the police. It seems we’re all meant to surrender to something.
We didn’t play outside on warm summer days because we didn’t want to be another bystander who was accidentally shot. We knew the cops in our town weren’t crooked or out to get us; but accidents still happened. The police officers shot criminals every day, and sometimes their bullets went astray and caught someone standing in their home on the next block. Sometimes their bullets slipped away and struck a person washing their dishes or cooking dinner for their kids. When I was younger, I used to think of the police officers as the only source of good in my town. I thought they were the good guys and the heroes. As I got older, I saw how they were overtly corrupt and violent. The cops became crooked and the bodies piled up. We didn’t look at police officers with a wild eye or a fearful smirk because we knew what might happen. And the brilliant madness evolved.
As I made my way through high school I began to wonder if college was an option that I could actually choose. My parents encouraged it because it would somehow guarantee me a job. Seemingly, I would be employed once I graduated, according to them. My teachers and counselors agreed I should pursue college. But I didn’t like the options and degrees that led to a job. I wasn’t a science or math guru nor was I enthused about studying medicine. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell grand stories and create unique and memorable characters. But my counselors and teachers suggested I forgo that passion and study something employable.
Why were the subjects I enjoyed considered unemployable and frivolous? Was writing and storytelling not a valued trade? But when other cities were building new buildings and people needed nurses it was not hard to figure out. The world needed only a small, finite number of writer and more construction workers and nurses. But, if I stayed home and didn’t go off to college, how would I evade the seemingly inevitable fall into madness? I could not. Growing up, all of my friends fell into crime and madness. How could I decide what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing when I had barely begun my life? I could not. But how could I commit myself to a life where jobs and money were not a guarantee? I could not.
I abandoned those tiny, drug riddled streets once I was old enough to attend college. I thought it would be better to work my way through a degree than rot as a petty criminal. With this change, I began a journey. I started out and began my life. I ventured into the world on my own without a lifeline or help. As a young man I wanted nothing more than to follow my heart and do what I loved. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to work on movie scripts and write TV shows. I wanted to create new and enthralling tales. All my life I had known desertion, death and crime. Now that I was an adult and ready to commit myself to a career, I wanted to create new adventures that would allow people to leave their boring and stressful lives. I wanted to help people live and cope with the pressure of everyday life. But, I was told I was not a gifted writer nor even an average one. I was told my skills were indeed subpar and needed much refinement. And while refining my skills, my professors and consolers warned me that I had picked a tough field. Jobs will come and go they said. Jobs will indeed come and go. And a career may never blossom or come to be. Do I press on and become a writer; a thing that I love without a doubt? Do I sell my sell myself, like the crack whores from the next block did, and work in advertising? Do I sell out but still become a “writer” just to craft advertisements and commercials? These questions haunted me throughout college.
An unending supply of questions taunted me and burned me with a vicious type of guilt. Should I sacrifice all that I hold in my heart for all that I may hold in my hands? Do I become what is considered a productive member of society or do I become another zombie; a disposable piece of the fading American economic machine? Should I to give up on my love and forget my dream of writing scripts? Giving up my love would up redirect my life and alter everything I had believed in. I considered myself a writer. If I went on and disregarded this passion and become something else; I would be a man without purpose. A shell or a husk, like the burned out buildings of my hometown. And like the young men and women of my hometown; I would be purposeless and susceptible to the madness. Should I do something I loved, therefore cultivating happiness from my actions and enriching my life and the lives around me? Which option was I to choose when all signs pointed toward the option I felt was so very wrong? And with these questions circulating inside my young mind, the brilliant madness evolved.
And if I am to choose the passions that lie in my heart; am I to be considered a traitor? Am I to be considered a foul man for acting selfishly? For these passions of the heart swell in creative directions! And they are not deemed worthy or valuable by the masses. Yes, cinematic theatrics and television productions are thoroughly enjoyed by audiences all over the world. However, the lack of appetite for high quality scripts, wonderfully acted parts and solid directing is pitiful. The market seems to support a higher turnout of finished products rather than a steady, yet semi-spacious stream of well-written, well-acted and well-directed movies and TV shows. And the brilliant madness evolved.
Why are we complacent with a plethora of lower quality products? Some may actually be crafted here in our country but many are crafted in sweat-shops abroad. Why has this been deemed okay? Have consumers lost interest in grand movies, rich stories, quality cars and blue jeans? Surely not! People still flock to movie theaters and binge watch TV shows. People still purchase cars and apparel of all kind. Why did the people of my town become complacent with their crummy jobs after the factories left? The brilliant madness!
This darkness oozed out of frustrated and confused hearts. It collected in the masses and grew in popularity. Without coming into the light, the brilliant madness corroded many and stained countless others with its corrosive charm. In time, the madness changed and revamped itself. It issued a new chemical that burned through my town, my state and my country with the same fervor as it had before. Only this time no light came to dissolve the brilliant madness. No words stood before the madness to stem its flow.
I came to the conclusion that I must give into the passions of my heart. I must write the words to stem the flow of the brilliant madness. I must stand before the brilliant madness, alone if necessary, and call it out for what it is: a disgraceful bundle of ideas that ought to be wrestled from the abandon and most secluded parts of our hearts and forced to stand in the light so we may analyze it and discuss it.
And if I am ever to be remembered for these actions, I want people to remember me as a man that did what he loved. I think doing what one loves is essential in cultivating purpose and harvesting happiness. Passions drive our hearts wild with notions of melancholy, fear and devotion. And that kind of passion, the kind that produces such vibrant and tangible emotion, is the kind that I want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for diving into the rich and warm passions of my heart regardless of the cost. That’s what I want to be remembered for: unrestricted passionate lust for the subjects that enrage my heart with an uncommon and youthful sentiment.