I often marvel at the frequency with which people self-destruct. My memory easily recalls a slew of names – Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, Al Campanis, Charles Barkley, Prince Phillip, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Sarah Palin – politics is rich with blunders. Almost daily our wired-in-world reports some celebrity, sports star, or politician rushing off the cliff like a lemming. In all fairness a sharp mind, wisdom, or a familiarity with Standard English have never been prerequisites for Hollywood stardom, sports fame, or a political career. But what truly baffles me is how often I do the same thing (which eliminates being rich or famous as a cause). If the metaphor of shooting myself in the foot were literally true I would not be able to walk to the cliff. I’d have to wheel myself up to the edge. No doubt I would get there too. But this is a blog and not a confessional (I’m not Catholic anyway), so I’ll limit my revelations.
Years ago Fox Television put into production a script I had written titled Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. Actor Jason Priestly, at the time famous for his role on the series, 90210, had a fan at the network with the power to greenlight productions. He was willing to let us make Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye if Priestly directed and acted in it. Priestly longed to be behind the camera.
The TV movie was my first experience as a writer/producer on an actual production, but I quickly discovered (a) how little input the writer has during production and (b) how much rewriting is involved due to weather, set changes, budget, and director’s whims. At the same time I was rewriting scenes for the production every night (really!), I also was writing a new TV movie for NBC (my day job). It was the busiest and most financially rewarding time of my career. Perhaps I could not handle the success or the demanding schedule or my own ego (is all the above an option?). One night while having dinner with Priestly, Fox executives, the real producer, and others, Priestly and I got into an argument. I don’t recall over what. Priestly often fell asleep while in meetings or on the set of the production. If only I had done the same that night at dinner. But I didn’t. In my frustration I flipped a breadstick I had picked up to eat. It sailed toward Priestly. The chatter around the table died as quickly as if someone had called out, “Quiet on the set.” The next day I was banned from the set of my own movie.
Now, this incident might be forgotten had I not on many occasions over the years made similar blunders, most recently in an e-mail exchange with the publisher of my first novel, Claws. I don’t consider myself dishonest, although at times my blunders have nudged me to lie. I don’t consider myself unintelligent. I have degrees and IQ tests that say otherwise. I don’t even consider myself unwise. Sometimes others seek me out for my counsel. So why, I wonder, do I seem hell-bent to self-destruct?
For that matter, why are so many of us inclined to self-destruct? Is it because of childhood trauma (my family was not particularly supportive)? Is it because of guilt (Catholics and Jews do not have a monopoly on it)? Is it because of the fruits of karma (Buddhist karma both lets you off the hook and hooks you at the same time)? Or is the reason for self-destruction built into our DNA? If anyone knows the answer, I’d like to hear it, and sooner instead of later, before I do something else stupid. Could you hurry, please?