to the Next Generation
The following essay appears in Take My Advice : Letters
to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or
Two by James L. Harmon (Editor). Over the past 10
years, Mr. Harmon has queried hundreds of social thinkers,
academics, poets, artists and more--and has published
Advice? The only good advice is the
one you give to yourself, too late; that is, from the
vantage of years, you look back on who you were and you
wish you had been able to have a blunt talk with yourself
that would have helped you avoid what you regret, events
that pursue you in judgment, times when you may have added
to the world's overload of unkindness, of cruelty. But
then, without having gone through those turbulences, you
wouldn't be the person who would be able to look back
like that. So: Advice? Somewhat worthless, finally.
If you're creative, don't squander
your talent. It's the blessing of blessings, the one substitute
for salvation. If you're a writer, remember that what
is written--or painted, or filmed, or composed, etc.--is
all that never changes, never dies--if one is lucky enough
to get one's work published, filmed,
composed. In literature, Catherine and Heathcliff will
forever search each other; Buck Mulligan will forever
be coming down a stairway to greet Stephen Daedalus, and
Molly Bloom will forever be ruminating in bed. That, then,
is the only way to stop time. This, too: Not advice, but
observations based on one's own view: One should live
like the star of one's life, and lead one's life as if
it were a grand novel--a grand film. I'll stick to the
imagery of film for ready references and examples . Many
people live their lives as if they are featured players
in others' stories, others surrender to being supporting
actors, actresses; still others disappear into the crowds
as bit players, many become only walkons in others’ lives.
Some, alas, act like “extras.”
Be the star.
Always look as if you're going to
be photographed; dress consistent with your starring role--self-conscious
elegance, self-conscious disarray, depending on the context.
Always be conscious of yourself. Talk like the star of
your life, give yourself quotable dialogue; walk like
the star of your life, turning action into choreography.
Never put yourself down--others are too eager to. Praise
yourself deservedly, but make certain you deserve the
Don't listen to advice. Except this: Don't add to the
vast cruelty in the world. And: Be creative.
Los Angeles, California
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Original material by John Rechy appears
frequently on these pages.