*For the sake of this analysis, I’m going to assume that the letters Donald Glover posted on his Instagram were sincere and not some hilarious SEO’d publicity stunt. Is hilarious the right word there?*
Okay, let’s jump right into it. Paul sent me an e-mail this morning about Donald Glover (of Derrick Comedy and Community fame) having lost his mind or sumthin’r’other. I do love a good celebrity meltdown… Pity it’s almost always the ladies. But as I read through the tiny pages of Donald Glover’s worry journal, it seemed apparent that Mr. Glover was not out of his mind, but rather outside of society’s mind, which can be a rather lonesome place to be. He was looking nihilism right in the face, and nihilism is scary… Like space. By the way, see Gravity in IMAX 3D. It’s a 90 minute amusement park ride for less than the cost of a Costco day pass to Universal. Is it still in theaters? What day is it? Oh, Tuesday. Whew, okay, you can still see it.
Don’t question why someone who didn’t want to go to space would be forced to, just don’t.
But nihilism is also something else! Nihilism is peaceful, enlightening and exciting… Like space. It’s largely unexplored territory, because as humans, we are just stepping out of the glittering darkness of magical thinking into the blinding light of the truth, that we don’t really matter, that things don’t happen for some feel-good reason, and that we stop existing when we die, not to put too fine a point on it. The new nihilist’s plight will be to find a way to deal with this face-blast of honesty without giving in to despair. The problem is, when you start to look at the world with a nihilist bent, the dominoes fall pretty quickly. A couple weeks of non-stop thinking later, you’ve ostracized yourself from the rest of the world in a big way.
If you’re suffering from nihilism, try a couple of these ideas on for size:
- When you die, you may not go to heaven, but the matter that created you has existed since the beginning of the universe (maybe) and will continue to exist until the end of time. You’re borrowed matter to begin with, you might as well enjoy the rental, and then maybe get fed to a pregnant shark. You can be a baby shark! And a little bit of the mother shark. And a little bit of shark poop.
- Love is not magic. Love is a connection that you make with someone by *grooving your brains together over an extended period of time. This dramatically reduces the probability of the person you are with suddenly finding a deeper or more appealing connection with someone else. It ain’t rocket science. (But, it is neurobiology.) Well, I just said it’s not rocket science. (*In this case, grooving is a verb meaning to develop the grooves in your brain through shared experiences, communication and learning)
- If you’re a nihilist to stay, this is a brave new world for you to try to mine meaning and happiness from. Just leave some for the rest of us in case meaning and happiness are non-renewables.
- There’s no need to buy into the “you are who you are” crap anymore. The person you were five years ago is dead (hopefully). You don’t need to feel guilty about not being loyal to the wishes, dreams and desires of that person anymore. Change is life.
- Working off the last statement, the idea of a deity may be dying out in our society, but the insufferable concept of a well-defined identity/ego is an emerging kaiju in its wake. “I’m just a really generous person.” “I’m such an animal lover.” “I’m this, I’m that, myeh, myeh, myeh!” Damn you, Mark Zuckerberg…
- We (you, me and life in general) were all one tremendously improbable accident that did nothing special but persist. We always focus on the fact that life was somewhat spontaneously created, but what are the odds that it would persist? How many other planets could life have emerged on and then just as quickly been wiped out by the elements? To persist is improbable. And in a probabilistic universe, the improbable is what we fixate on. (*side note: do not confuse improbability in our favor with success*)
Okey dokey, Mrs. Nihilist tackles Donald Glover’s toughest fears:
1. I’m afraid of the future.
A lot of people are. It’s an unknown, and people fear the unknown. The past and present have the agreeable characteristic of being known (at least we like to think we know), leaving only the future to be completely shrouded in darkness. We can’t really know what the future holds, but we can feel content in knowing that the dark future we feared in the past came to light, was handled for better or worse, and then moved on from. Reality hasn’t been earth-endingly scary up til now, and unfortunately for doomsday media fans, probably won’t be that scary in the future. If what you’re really afraid of is getting old, then just say that.
2. I’m afraid my parents won’t live long enough to see my kids.
With millennials putting off having kids until they feel secure (which God knows when that’ll be) the fear of progeny never being able to meet grandparents is a decent enough worry to have. My dad died a few weeks ago, and I turned 26 about a week after that. Even if I were going to have kids, it wouldn’t mean that my dad would have lived long enough to have an impact on their lives. If you’re worried that the kids won’t know who your parents were, periodically record videos of mom and dad talking to your theoretical future kids, they’ll get a hell of a lot more than the pictures our generation got from grandparents that died before we were born. That’s the beauty of the digital age.
3. I’m afraid my show will fail.
Perhaps you have realized that work in does not always equal work out. You can work harder than anyone else has ever worked on a television show before and have it come out to a disinterested audience that gets it cancelled after one season (or less than one, see: Greg the Bunny). It could be the wrong time slot. It could be the wrong time culturally. But the things that you can control, that work will be preserved in the digital ether. Whether its torrented, streamed or (gasp) purchased in the five-dollar bin at a brick and mortar, your audience has a greater potential to find you than ever before. Count yourself lucky. Not magically lucky, but lucky.
4. I’m scared my girl will get pregnant at not the exact time we want.
Abortion. Sorry, that was insensitive. But seriously, we’re living in the best time thus far for planning when you want to have a child. And odds are, if you do have a tiny accident, I mean a baby, you’ll come to grips with it (as we tend to do with decisions that can’t be reversed) and be thrust into adulthood by way of having to sacrifice your life for the sake of your bouncing sack of meaning.
5. I’m scared I’ll never reach my potential.
Wouldn’t it be scarier if you already had? Hope for something better, hope that you can do better, is huge. There’s no reason for people to sit down and think, ‘Well, I’ve reached my potential, I can’t get any better than this.’ Why? Because how could you ever know? If we can get better at things into our 70s, we’ve already surpassed what our traditional life spans. If humans were able to live to 300, we would get better at things than anyone who had ever lived. You don’t have enough time in this life to get as reach your “full potential.” There is no glass ceiling on personal growth. (<=uh, speculation. Overruled! )
6. I’m afraid she’s still in love with that dude.
Maybe she is, but there’s no cosmic significance to it. She made a mental bond with that person, ingrained the thought ‘I love him,’ into her brain over and over again, and now you’re a new river trying to compete with the Grand Canyon. If she’s the nostalgic type, and she persists in thinking that she loves this other person, it may be even harder to catch up, and realizing that might be the point at which you decide to take your stream elsewhere. Forced mental fidelity probably won’t make you feel any better though.
7. I feel like I’m letting everyone down.
If everyone is resting on your shoulders, as you imagine them to be, what other direction can you expect to go? Focusing on success and the desires of others is a recipe for getting nothing you want done. If possible, find people who either care so much or so little about you that they will support you without expecting anything from you. Enablers? But that’s a bad word…
8. I’m afraid people hate who I really am.
Probably, but think about how many people you really hate. Probably not that many compared to how many people there are. Most people don’t think about you when you’re not in their face. If we’re referring to the people who meet or know you, then find other people to meet/know. It only takes a few (less in my case) people who truly understand the way you want to exist to be happy, and the internet should be on its way to making that easier. As a side note, you really are nobody, you’re constantly in flux, but I get what you’re saying, so I’ll let it go. Also, and this may be regionalist, but despite my being an atheist, I found a lot more people in the South who didn’t make me want to punch their stupid faces in than I have in fancy-free California. Yeah, definitely regionalist. What, NoHo?! It should be called AllHoes. I’m… not a smart man.
9. I’m scared people will find out what I masturbate to.
- Classical music? The Kentucky Derby?
Sex and the City? <-redundant Pie farts?
- Well, now you’ve alerted the worldwidehackernet, so for your sake, I hope it isn’t in your browser history.
- It’s called Private or Incognito.
- No one was thinking about it until you brought it up.
- Ah, it’s probably not that weird anyway. Did you know that men can and do inject solutions (usually saline) into the scrotal sack in a process known as ballooning or scrotal infusion/inflation?
“The visual effect of the scrotal infusion resembles a water balloon. Men do not report any pain from the procedure and claim that one advantage is found the next morning when the solution filters into the penis causing it to swell to the size of a beer can. Men claim exclusive license to this type of sex play. There is no sealed part of the female anatomy that has a hollow sack which lends itself to expansion.” – Brenda Love, Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices pg. 243
I read like this…
Anywho, if you’re masturbating to it, you’re probably not the only one. That’s how these billion dollar industries make that money! New markets are always emerging. All right, that’s enough.
10. I’m afraid I’m here for nothing.
You are here for nothing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Celebrate the unburdening of thinking you’re here for one pre-determined purpose. From the inside looking out, life is not really about results, it’s about the process. If life were about some particular result, what would be the point of living after?
11. I feel that this will feel pretentious.
Most people who read these notes won’t think they’re sincerely pretentious. Most online commenters will think that you’re suicidal, or a silver-spoon fed baby, or a scam artist trying to promote your new album, but pretentious? It’s like the masturbation thing, a few people will think things when you feed them the thoughts.
Holy… This is a long-ass post. Good thing these fears are so general, eh?
12. I’m scared I’ll never grow out of “Bro Rape.”
Way to prove me wrong. Okay, so this is not a super general question, but at the heart of it, it really is (provided I’m not taking the fear the wrong way). “I’m afraid I’ll never surpass an early success of mine.” Fair enough. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently, and, not to be a stupid bitch or anything, but I scored pretty damn high on my SATs. (20 points less than Ke$ha’s alleged 1500, but I was a National Merit Scholar, and somehow, Ke$ha was not… I’m not saying she’s a lying bitch or nuthin’, but come on… You didn’t have PSATs at your school? Or could you not afford the $11?) The point is that who are we, or for that matter, who are celebrities to think that an early achievement means lifelong success? Should people who don’t find critical success until they’re older, like Danny Boyle, be ever-lamenting their past existence as non-famous people? By doing what you want to do, you’ve already outgrown the person you were when you first hit it big. Your sensibilities may now not be so common as to garner the attention of the masses, or they may be the same and no longer be “massly” relevant. If you’re afraid of a past achievement haunting you, you’re simultaneously assuming that you “made” yourself successful to begin with, and you’re focusing on results in a way you probably weren’t when you achieved that initial success. Think about it, then move on.
13. I’m afraid people think I hate my race.
Do you? Once again, people probably aren’t thinking about what you think about your race anymore than they’re not thinking about you when they’re not seeing or hearing you. But if you don’t hate your race, (and how many people hate their own race outside of a Jerry Springer rerun or a Dave Chappelle sketch?) then it will become apparent through your words and actions, as true feelings tend to do.
14. I’m afraid people think I hate women.
See above. Replace vocabulary as needed.
15. I hate people can say anything.
This one is difficult, as I’m not sure whether he’s saying that he is jealous of people who are able to say anything they want or that people in general can say hurtful things due to a lack of censorship. I’m going with the latter.
Yes, for the time being, people can type virtually (<=get it? cuz the internet) anything they want and maintain anonymity (people aren’t nearly as likely to actually say these hurtful things in person). But, if they’re talking about you, there’s a value to that. Ask Miley Cyrus, or the people who are making money off of Miley Cyrus. People who take the time to read and write about you are giving up portions of their lives to do so, which begets more people giving up portions of their lives to read and write about you. That’s labor generated from your existence. And it’s free. They’re working for you for free.
When I was growing up, I hated that kids could say crazy racist things to my face, do the old slanty-eyes gesture, pull my hair out by the handful and throw rocks at me with no repercussions, but I got over it when I realized that this is how animals work. There’s no meaning to it, there’s no karma that’s going to punish them, it’s just a symptom of putting a seemingly different animal in a largely homogenized group. The group will not take kindly to them 99% of the time. Sometimes they’ll fetishize them, but they’ll always be seen as “other.” The taunts that you get on the internet (or in real life, for that matter) are no more significant than a dog growling and barking at the mirror. It’s actually pretty amusing if you care to stand back and watch.
16. I hate caring what people think.
It’s probably as close to natural as it gets to want others to like you. If you were in a small community, as people were for most of our history, people not liking you could be the difference between flourishing and having your house burned down. This is a difficult thing to shake when the task of caring about what people outside of your community think is thrust upon you. And people on the internet are almost entirely outside of your community. If your goal is to be famous, then your lot in life will be to care what people think of you when your star meter descends, but measuring it won’t make it rise. If, on the other hand, you believe that the onslaught of negativity outweighs the benefits of anonymous praise, then associate with those who think highly of you and censor yourself from anonymous comments in general. A life lived personally and intimately is not something you have to sacrifice if it doesn’t reward you to do so.
17. I’m afraid there’s someone better for you or me.
I’ll go ahead and assume that this is about his relationship with his girlfriend and not his fans, though it could be the other way around in some abstract way. And I have to say I’m tapped out on this one. I have never thought this about my husband. I would rather not marry than be with someone I felt that way about. As with kids, you might feel good about your decision once you made it, but it’s definitely not ideal. And what are we millennials if not idealists? We’re carving out a life leap-years away from our parents who grew up without the internet. We’re struggling to find meaning in a world that is becoming increasingly overwhelming with its possibilities, and we know that the possibilities will grow wider before the internet ever settles down. But the good news is that the requirements for happiness are still basic, and we are better able to cater to them now than ever before. All we need to do is find the elements that bring lasting contentment, whether it’s a spouse, work that you’d do for free, or a truly supportive friend to collaborate with, then tend to them well and limit the noise.
I know, I know, this isn’t the entire list of concerns, but the rest of the concerns have largely been covered, the last two pages are about his album, and no one’s going to read this tome to completion anyway. Peace!
By the way, I saw Donald at UCB a couple years ago when I was living in Hollywood. I hate that town. Anywho, I went with Paul once when Donald was not there (I think he was touring) and volunteered to go on stage for some bit. I was pretty high, so I don’t remember much, but I think the boys of Derrick Comedy called me a whore. Cool story, bro.