A Look into The Truth: Thoughts on Neil Strauss’ new book
I’m lying down in bed. The room is quiet and I have no company, save the dull hum of a large black fan with ‘Lasko’ imprinted in silver text on its face. It is the tail-end of several weeks of heavy depression for me, and I lay there, listless and drained wondering if somewhere in the outside world, there is someone like me, staring out another window into another grey sky, prone and filled with fatigue that has nothing to do with the physical body. It is often in moments like this, moments of dark inner truths, that I stumble upon texts like Neil Strauss’ new book The Truth. Upon reading the manuscript at around 11 a.m today, I have just finished reading it in one sitting.
It is, as much of his writing tends to be, a revelation.
There is something about the idea of our own inner truths and issues that we intrinsically know. In situations where we have limited experience, we often feel something is wrong, or a little bit off, because our spiritual radar is trying to signal the best course of action for us. But we do what we want anyway, raging through life in a blur of consequences that hopefully leaves us unscathed when we wake up each morning. In reading this book I had constant flashes of images that have defined me throughout my life. A shouting match between myself and my father many years ago when I was literally begging him to lower some of the walls he erects to maintain a manly posture, a time when I was pretty much so broken from stress and depression I had to take a year off from school. I also have a memory of petulantly asking my girlfriend when I lived and worked in Japan to just open up to me. She had this fear that “everyone leaves” and fittingly refused to acknowledge the reality of someone actually trying to be there for her. I have flashes of images of being teased consantly in high school, sometimes with scenarios where thirty to forty young children are all cackling with endless amusement and my discomfort as I fought to process what was happening around me. There are memories of the times some of my friends provoked me to trigger rages, because at the time I had a very short fuse and this was often amusing for them. I see myself in these moments, a young man with his emotions wounded, able somehow to deal with the emotional maelstrom and not snap. Through all these scenarios, fights I didn’t choose to pick and people I begged to open up to me that didn’t I asked myself:
What is wrong with me?
I think this, more than anything, is what I am left with after finishing this book. The feeling that we all have these lingering questions inside us from unfulfilled places and broken memories, past traumas and the screams in our subconscious from the voices of the wounded children we once were. Through Neil’s situations and experiences, though many of his are explosively sexual and filtered through the lens of a man who has sold millions of books and has the fame and contacts to go with it, I felt a heavy understanding of many of his scenarios. I remember going to the Cannes film festival immediately after graduating from school, my body wracked with trepidation not because I was worried about the festival, but because all I was thinking of was another ex-girlfriend of mine. A woman I could have loved, but things didn’t work out. In France, there were many nights I lay in my bed, staring out at the sky, wondering how she was doing, feeling terrible when I rang her up one day and she sounded less than interested in speaking with me. Not disinterested, mind you, but distant with a touch of friendliness, the way someone speaks to you through light obligation, not because it is necessarily a pleasurable activity for them.
I asked myself at the time if she didn’t see the real me, or the true me, and if this idea of “truth” was pervasive. Can people see a broken man walking towards them, even if he is in the prime of his health? Or is it actually the observer who is wrong?
As a writer, i’ve often wondered if it would make sense to write about these things. I’m certainly not as brave as Neil, to write about my deepest darkest scenarios, the women i’ve slept with and the tragic backlash of how past decisions can drive you nearly insane. I’m too afraid that will give people even more reasons to avoid me, to clam up and stay distant.
But the flashes from reading this book dredged up too many of my own scenarios to count. Dark places that I thought were long suppressed and recent situations of rejection and anger, including a night where I recorded an angry voicenote speaking virtually to my father, and the time a (now former) friend threw a sailor’s notebook of curses at me with the (false) accusation that I had done something with a girl he had seen briefly.
But like Neil, who truly believed he needed a certain kind of relationship to be the self he had imagined, I also imagine there must be another reality than the one I experience now. A reality that is not filled with a carousel of broken people around me, jaded women and unexpectant peers, a past where my days are not simply looking at a grey sky with one cloud drifting meekly to some unknown destination.
So what then is the truth? Is it the pain we go through, diving into the blackest pits of our mind and surviving the journey? Or is it the fact that pain and pleasure exist in equal parts in our realities? I am not sure. But again, in reading this book, it is powerful to see the journey of one human being in a world of seven billion souls and his fortunately amicable outcome.
I’m writing this immediately after finishing the book, to preserve these thoughts while they are fresh. Like Neil, I have asked myself many times, should I get hurt, would there be a girl who would call me? My phone and e-mail inboxes are filled with texts from bots and invisible people. I feel like an empty man, living out the painful existence of an unfulfilled artist, with nothing but the empty thoughts of my past as my constant companions.
I wrote an article last year, Osaka Memoria & Bina Historia , where on a random night, I experienced the most clear sensation of the presence of my ex-girlfriend from Japan through a wafting smell in the nighttime air. It was shocking how powerful this was, and how I drifted immediately back into the brief time we shared and was reminded of the gravity of a connection with the right person. Then once the scent faded, and I stood alone in the dark, going to some meaningless destination, I realized an aspect of what love and desire is… but it often comes after time has passed and only then can we can understand what happened.
But reading this book, The Truth, maybe lets me feel I may be able to take a step to find my own personal truth and that the world isn’t just this dark and unfulfilling place. Maybe I just need to find a place with a bit more light and have friends like Rick Rubin :)