The Awful Reckoning with Who Characters Really Are

Looking back over everything I’ve written so far, and several things I’m gearing up to write now, it seems that almost all of it is about characters being forced, through violence or depravity or horror of some kind, to confront who they really are.


The idea that peopleĀ are extremely reluctant to meet their true selves, and that they ultimately only meet those selves by having illusions stripped away, not by building up to them by adding on to what’s already there, seems to have struck a deep and ongoing chord with me.


Maybe I think that all deep, spiritual knowledge is negative — it’s about stripping dross away to get down to what’s already there, not building up to what isn’t yet.


Maybe this means I believe in fate, but it’s the fate of personality, not that of external luck or predetermination.


“Now here’s my chance … “

I was talking to a psychology student the other night when the topic of life-changing experiences came up. We wondered aloud what causes people to make changes that reverberate over a long period, rather than intending to make changes and then reverting to how they were before (which seems more common).


He said that people need to make changes within a psychic window — if you come home drunk from a party and draft an angry email to someone you hate, you know you have to send it then if you want to send it ever. If you wait until morning, the chances are very high that you won’t send it.


Same with proposing to someone on a whim, quitting a job, making a huge purchase or gamble, etc … any casting of the die that impacts your longterm future.


This got us thinking about a friend of mine who committed suicide five or six years ago, jumping off a balcony while tripping on acid.


Clearly, he (or some part of him) wanted to die — he must’ve seen very little future for himself, and very little ability to go on in the marginal state he’d been in for years.


But, while sober, the life-saving mechanisms in his mind kept him from killing himself, though I’m sure he thought about it, as we all do from time to time. It was only while tripping, and alone in the house, that he saw his opportunity — the window of insight, or insanity, through which he realized he could cross the boundary between thinking and doing, and actually throw himself off the balcony before any part of him stepped in to reconsider.


In essence, he recognized a temporary window of opportunity through which to make a permanent change.


Though not always so dire, the process of permanent change — rather than toying with change but ultimately staying the same — maybe always follows this pattern, seeking out such windows and jumping through them before they close and the mind’s tendency toward stasis returns.