A Misunderstood Genius

I do my best thinking inside a straight jacket. I first discovered this after an incident, which the psychiatrist, whom I won’t dignify with a name, refers to as my “mental breakdown”, but which I remember as the flowering of a burst of creative clarity.

I’m surprised that no one else seems to recognize this incident as the genesis of my major work—”The Apocalypse Cycle”. Without the slightest reservation, I trace the seed of my Magnum Opus to that evening, when I was being awarded a Lifetime Achievement award for my earlier compositions. What a paradox: at the very moment when I was being honored for that hodgepodge of popular songs, which now seem like outhouse buildings surrounding a soaring cathedral, there arose before me the grand edifice of the Apocalypse.

According to reports based on copious video footage of that evening–each like those phony stories in the National Enquirer written by people with a shockingly low moral threshold–I went completely crazy on stage. And I admit that I did fling the lectern against the wall and started screaming at the top of my lungs.

I’ve had to watch that footage more that I cared to in my sessions with the psychiatrist, who says that my only path to recovery is to admit that I am sick and that I now want to get better.

I’m surprised that the medical team here can’t at least acknowledge that I was humming the three-note sequence, which is the defining coda of the Apocalypse, as I was being carried, strapped to a stretcher, off the stage that night. Their refusal to do so stands in the way of any possible dialogue between us. Those three notes, so haunting and other worldly, can be heard on the news stories of reporters, asking me inane questions with microphones inches from my face.

I continue to insist on that recognition, but no one here even believes that the Apocalypse is a great work. To the contrary, I’ve yet to encounter anyone who thinks it is anything other than offensive noise. That is the most galling part of my involuntary stay here: they think that I have lost my creativity.

I regret that the lectern shattered and a shard pierced the shoulder of a camera man who has not been able to hold a camera since. Art always takes its toll when it reaches beyond the paddock of the ordinary, but I should have borne the entire cost. No one can deny that I have paid the heaviest toll–spending a year here at this mental facility with no prospect of a release–but I am sorry for the collateral damage my sudden burst of insight inflicted on another human being.

Why am I unlikely to be released for good behavior (by which they really mean repentance)? Because I cannot speak against the Apocalypse or pretend that I agree it is dissonant garbage. I cannot even say I believe that what happened on that stage was an ugly aberration in an otherwise ‘illustrious career’.

When I am not sitting demoralized in my cell, I am actually grateful for this year, during which I have been spared cloying flattery for my earlier work; I am grateful for an environment where I am considered a pariah in need of reformation. It fuels my determination to express a vision that yearns to fly free.

It sounds like a paradox that this incarceration should have led to my most luminous creation. But is it a paradox that a vision of unbridled flight should have had its evolution in confinement? After all, a butterfly soars into the sky all the more ecstatically for its time confined in the crawling body of a caterpillar.

One comment to “A Misunderstood Genius”
  1. In the grand tradition of Edgar Allan Poe — first person singular recounting of incidents based on an inner logic all his own. “The Tell-tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado” come to mind.

    Part of my own definition of an adult is someone who can imaginatively put himself in someone else’s shoes and see life from a totally differing perspective. Michael, you are masterfully adult!

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