I used to have a friend—a smart and funny guy. He is kind of an archetype to me, however. Because of his emotional unavailability, people really wanted to be around him. It was often commented that wherever he was around, you could tell he was calculated whether he might be having a better time somewhere else.
We often had arguments about art. He hated anything that had the faintest whiff of sentimentality. During one conversation he told me that he hated Pete Townshend’s third solo album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. It took me years to figure out what he didn’t like. It was songs like this:
The truth is that over the years, I’ve become very much like my friend. I think it is all about fear—the fear that people might see into your soul and know what you do: you’re a wreck. Over time, it becomes easier to live with yourself as you are, because you just don’t have the energy to hide. But as an artist, the temptation to hide yourself in clever craft and intellectual flourishes is strong.
This is why All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is so important. It reminds me that I not only can be utterly naked but that in order to do great work, I must be. Of course, that doesn’t mean I am able even to succeed with the first part of this equation.
I’d like to believe that.