Monday, November 15, 2004

Ray Charles and Life as We know it.

saw the movie "Ray" the other night. For all intents and purposes, Jamie Foxx is Ray Charles.
My purpose here is that this biopic relates what I’ve come to recognize as some greater truths, perhaps greater questions that I see repeated in the stories of "Successful" people:
Great Art often comes from great suffering, usually over time.
What causes certain individuals to not only overcome, but excel as a result of a handicap/injury/devastating event? Was the talent always there, was it "blind luck", were they exploited, were they driven by it, or ??
(The answer is, it depends. I’ll save my theory for Ray, for the moment).
Successful individuals are usually driven, beyond conventional restraint. This, of course, is what sets them apart.
They (alive or not) are recognized and enabled by another. This relationship typically ends poorly once success is achieved.
There are always others looking to exploit the talented. It colors and poisons all of their relationships.
They are usually lonely people, alienated by the same abilities that make them singular, including their appetites, which often defy convention as well. Addiction is a remedy for loneliness, which in turn ultimately serves to further their isolation.
Fame begets or intensifies isolation. Intense feelings of love and approval from thousands, followed by the absence of same when offstage.
Those who choose to live with these individuals must either accept these appetites and behaviors, or risk rejection. As this is not an option for children, their lives are usually dysfunctional by nearly any definition.
While their legacies influence, comfort and please millions, their own lives are fraught with tragedy equal to or greater than their power, influence, and stature.
So, what do I want from this life?
Ray Charles was a very lucky man, and for these reasons:
He had a Mother who was willing to put his life ahead of her own happiness, to the point of her own heartbreak and isolation from him. She, according to the movie, was the drive for him to succeed, as well as to conquer his addiction to heroin.
He had the intelligence to recognize and learn what he needed to know – how to hear, how to navigate.
Someone taught him how to play the piano.
He learned to imitate the styles of the times – to make a living making music.
He had someone to help him find his own voice, and supported his doing so.
He found an extraordinary woman to love him.
He was able to overcome an addiction that has killed so many in their prime. This movie could have very easily ended where it did, with his death.
I do not admire him any more, or any less as a result of this movie. His is an extraordinary life. The fact that he was famous is only part of it. That he could face his demons and conquer many of them sets him apart from most of us.