Killing my Mother, Killing the Hero

I respect your opinion,
I do.

And you are closer to my source than you dream.

And we make         and become
                        from blood exchanged,
    (wound to wound);
from the time we sit in each other's shadows.

And we discover     and create
                        from the clay we see
    (in a soul);
from the shapes the dance of our hands would form.

But remember this,
remember this.

I may be Cloud,
  and ride capricious winds;
  scatter, reform, scatter again.

I may be River,
  and run swiftly on a slowly changing road;
  cut deeper, bow, cut deeper again.

I may be Tree,
  and stand stock still on ground I have chosen;
  hold strength, hold shelter, hold strength.

But if I am any of these things
  because of you
  because of the circle
  because of any   one

Then I don't know who owns me
and my heart
remains unseen

and locket-bound.

I have had only two complaints concerning my rants this past month. I will swiftly deal with both before I move on.

The first is that I haven't put anything much about myself personally online around here. Since this is true, and since several other people asked for biographical info, I put some brief information about myself online.

The second complaint is that my language in the last rant was a little strong, specifically the use of the more vulgar descriptive for sexual intercouse. To that end, I will try to make it through this rant without the use of that particular term the exception of the following sentence:

Oh FUCK, that fucking fuck-faced fuckhead motherfucker got fucking caught fucking some other fucked-up fatass fucker and now my fucking ass is fucked up because I sure the fuck can't fuck anyone after I fucking saw those fucking weak fuckers making fuck-bunnies in my own fucking bed - I'm fucked!

Ah. Now that I've got that out of my system, on with the Rant, which by now I am sure some of you must be entitling Is He Going to Start Off EVERY LAST ONE of These Blasted Things with a Poem?...

I was reading the intro to Jack Kerouac's On the Road (yes I occasionaly read stuff involving things other than spaceship-flying and dragon-killing, if rarely) this week, and I came across an explanation of how Kerouac wrote his first novel in the style of Thomas Wolfe and how Jack had to free himself, extricate himself from Wolfe, before he could find his own voice. A page or so later I suddenly had one of those epiphanies: a sudden string twanging in my gut, a disturbance of my inner ear, a brief snippet of song running from left to right.

The stuff about Kerouac and Wolfe resonated with a poem I had read long ago by a fine poet named Red Hawk which said that every man must kill his mother.

I realized that just as every man must kill his mother to find himself, so every writer must kill his heroes to find his voice.

I don't mean that a man must kill his mother in the same sense that OJ Simpson decided he must kill his wife. I mean that until you remove yourself from her breast, cut the umbilical, move out of the nest, and whatever other lame metaphor you choose to apply; until you kill your mother, you will never know who owns you.

I love my mom to pieces, and I'd take a bullet for her. She wants the best for me. She wants a lot for me. She'd like to see me get a college degree, get in better shape, eat better, find love, and remember my sister's birthday every year. I wanted these things to, or most of them, but I wanted them for her. It was only recently, after moving 500 miles away from her, that I realized how much of me she still owned, and began to purchase that from her for the first time ever.

I think I'm just about done with that now. It helps that she has grown as much in the past few years as I have. I don't know if I'm in any better shape or any wiser or any more happy or fulfilled for the effort, but I sure feel a hell of a lot better. It also has made me realize how much of a whore I am in other areas.

I rarely choose my own stances on things...I find someone who I agree with on other things, and who I think is wise, and listen to them and their opinion, and too often do not do enough research or thought to make that opinion my own. I choose my likes and dislikes of a lot of writing, music, and food from people who I like or who I want to like me, and I somehow think this will make me "cool". I also care way too much about what other people think and whether or not they like me, and I don't spend enough time showing myself as I do trying to imitate other selves.

This is probably why I'm lonely. But I'm working on it. It's kind of my next step, I think: to do things and like things because of I want to do them and because I really like them and not because of what I can buy in terms of adoration and companionship. I know this isn't my own unique cross to bear; that a lot of people (maybe everyone) does this. But believe me, I do it more than you, and even if I don't, well, the fact that a million people do something doesn't make it a Good Thing to do.

I'm probably not overweight enough to be called truly Fat, but I'm not going to win any Mr. Buns competitions this year either. I find myself wondering if the reason I don't Get It In Gear is because if I dump the spare tire and chipmunk cheeks then the only excuse I have for why I can't find Love and Satisfying Relationships and Tons of Friends is because of ME. There is a certain comfort in thinking that I am really a fantastic and utterly desirable person, but that everyone else in the world is just really shallow.

The problem is, I'm never going to get in shape or get out there in the world until I just don't CARE about any of that crap. And it IS all crap. You don't find your soulmates, friends, and lovers by looking for them. You find them as they wander the riverbanks. And you don't get up and down the river by trying to make yourself into something they want, but instead by making yourself into something YOU want and in the process letting them find you.

So that's the Next Big Thing I gotta do. And now we come to the part that scares me.

Eventually, I gotta kill Unca Harlan.

Even as I sit here, I realize how much of what craft I have I owe to him. The small, teasing paragraphs, the refusal to fear the invevitable results of bearing one's soul, the tendency to Write Stand-Out Things With Caps, I could go (and have gone) on and on. Even now I realize that in doing this web page I basically am standing on the shoulders of the man without having earned that right, that as much as I would like to own my own orneriness, my sense of humor, my passion, as much as I would like to think what comes out of my guy is mine and mine alone, I will always know where Harlan Ellison sits in my chest, taking his turn directing the orchestra.

That is, like I said, until I kill him.

This is the hardest row for me to hoe. I realize that I'm gonna have to slack off a little on the page and the rants and the obsessional devotion to Webderland and start to sing my own song. As much as I love his words, his work, I'm not him, and I do both of us a disservice by pretending to be.

I'm not sure if I take it as a compliment or an insult that of the many places listing Webderland, very few mention the personality of the site, but instead focus on Harlan's reputation, work, and eccentricities. I think I'm honored by this, because it means I did my job right: I made a homepage that had enough of him in it that the people who reviewed it didn't make a distinction between it being Harlan's homepage and it being Rick Wyatt's site about Harlan. By the same token, I'd like to own more of the work and words that went into the site. I'd like for the people who stop by to realize that it's ME pulling the strings.

Of course, that's selfish, and besides the point. If I want to get that kind of flattery and satisfaction, I should do something entirely my own. And I want Webderland above all else to be Harlan's site. As Harlan said to me, "you are now a caretaker of a part of our lives", and I take that responsibility very seriously. Although I have made his wife cry once and woken him up on an early Saturday morning, and doubtless disturbed the lives of both Ellisons with my nattering about this thing or that on the site, I'd like to think that I'm Doing The Man Good.

And more importantly than that, I feel I'm doing myself good. This site has given me a chance to learn more about writing and about how to both move and inform people, and if nothing else given me some hope that I can someday do so on a larger scale. I also take great satisfaction in knowing I've filled a void. When I first looked for HE information on the Net, I was dissapointed as to the paucity of it and curious as to why, puzzled if you will, and then frustrated beyond measure. Now I think of someone like me looking for (as one e-mail described it) Ellisonia, and badda-boom badda-bing, the first thing that pops up on most search engines is Webderland!

As much as I'd love to get on some Cool Sites of the Day, as much as I treasure every e-mail I get thanking me for the site or even just asking a question I can answer, as much as I'd love to see my vistor counter hit a couple hundred thousand, this (along with those e-mails which bolster the feeling) is what keeps me going. It's the first thing I've ever done that I felt made a difference in people's lives, and one of the few things I've ever done that I am truly proud of.

I'll still have to Kill the Hero, though. And that's going to be harder than a year-old jawbreaker. I think I can manage for a while, read other authors more, work more on the craft, make a hell of a lot of mistakes, but Harlan's always going to be somewhere in the back of my head, cavorting in the belfry.

The big thing, the kick, though, is this: I now know that as important as it was for me to hold him close for so long, it will be even more imporant for me to let him go.

And now I'll let you go. Keep your heroes precious and dear to your heart, because one day you are going to have to stare at them all down the barrel of a gun.

Rick Wyatt
October 1995

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