There’s something that people need to ponder about me which actually opens them up to the whole arc of writing. What does it cost to be an artist? What did it cost me to be Gary Freedman? What being Gary Freedman cost Gary Freedman was a normal relationship with a mother, it cost me a normal relationship with a father, cost me a happy marriage that never took place. It cost me children I never had. It cost me the friends I never had because I didn’t know how. I had never learned that. Now you say, that happens to a lot of people. It does. But not everybody can write about it. Not everybody is really willing to look deep within themselves and see what’s going on. Not everybody is able to invest energy into writing about the question, “What am I doing?”
But I am capable of that: writing about my life and those I have known. And that’s hard. It is hard to take a pencil and say: This is me in the deepest part of my gut. And this was my mother, and this was my father, and this was all the people who were close to me. And they all in some respect were strivers and failures. That’s not an easy thing to say. And what it cost them–artists–what it cost me, I am not sure our artists are truly appreciated and recompensed for their effort.
A long journey into the unknown, into night, we shall eventually fold into it. That is a journey where I put myself. I have put my family on the stage, so to speak, in an effort to try to understand. Now that could be described as a cruel thing. Because I expose everybody. Honesty and truth are hard. Truth is clean but it’s hard. And I have spoken the truth about those closest to me.
In my life I was not given the grace, the opportunity, to work things through with my sister, with my mother, with my father. Is that not the case with so many of us? In the here and now. In the tyranny of the moment. The tragedy of time. We so often can’t finish things. Art finishes the things that life leaves unfinished.
To a remarkable degree my whole life has gone into the making of my project, as if the truth it conveys and feelings it lays bare were almost more than I could endure in life. Haunted from the start by memories of my past, my whole life has been a kind of seeking flight, a restless search for meaning and identity, reality and truth. At once an escape from and a search for the gorgons of my past and the oblivion I feel at the center of my soul.
“You’re the most conceited man I’ve ever known,” a friend once remarked of my habit of continually looking at myself in mirrors. “No,” I replied, “I’m just trying to make sure I’m still here.”
It was a great mistake my being born a man. I would have been much more successful as a seagull, or a fish. As it is I will always be a stranger who never feels at home. A person who doesn’t really want what others want, and who is not really wanted, who can never really belong. Who must always be a little in love with death.
My life has been a turmoil and I spent my life trying to understand something of that turmoil. And I see the turmoil in others. I see the torture in people because I feel it in myself. I feel that in myself–the pulling apart, I was being pulled apart by the questions that I introduced into my life.
These are the age old questions, I suppose, of life itself. Who am I? And where do I come from? And do I have a part in my own fate? Am I simply a checker on the board, being moved around? Do I belong to anything, to anyone? To whom do I belong? To God, who seems to be abandoning me?
I am someone who has suffered terribly as a result of my complete fealty to a vision of the truth, to a notion that there’s a depth, that there’s a profundity, that there’s great complexes and abysses of meaning underneath the surface of life, and that our job as artists and as people is to dig, and to go deep, or to dive, as Melville kept saying, deeper and deeper and deeper. And that it hurts, and that the more deeply you dive you’re at more risk of being dismantled or crushed. But that’s what your job is. You don’t flinch from it. In me I see this absolute God-ordained mission, which is to keep searching, even if in the process you discover that there is no God. It’s a terrifying sort of mandate. But it also, I think, should be the mandate of all artists, and, in a way, of all people.