I envy Sean Penn.
Not because he gets paid truckloads of money to dress up and play make-believe every day, not because he’s lauded as a paragon of progressive values and left-wing activism, not even because he once tied Madonna to a chair and beat her for nine hours until she gave him a blowjob.
No, I envy Sean Penn because he can publish “sentences” such as this one:
The conflicted principle here, is that which all too often defines and limits our pride as Americans who, in deference to an omnipresent filter of mono-culturalism, isolationism and division, are consistently prone toward behaviors and words, as insensitive and disrespectful, while at foremost counterproductive for the generations of young Americans who will follow us.
That little gem is from an editorial that Penn “wrote” for the Huffington Post to express his outrage with, well…to be honest, I’m not sure what he’s upset about and from the looks of it, neither is he.
One can only marvel, though, at the devastating power these words represent. Not because they are in any way forceful, touching, or insightful. On the contrary, they are a monument to blithering incoherence, but as a writer, I am forced to kneel in the shadow of their sheer awesomeness.
Imagine, if you will, what it’s like to be an editor at the Huffington Post. You spend years kissing your way up the ladder until one day, you finally arrive in a place where you get to screw around with other people’s writing.
There you sit, red pencil sharpened and at the ready, when a piece of drivel so devoid of legible meaning that it might as well be written in hieroglyphics plops upon your desk. This is precisely the opportunity for which you have spent years studying English and brown-nosing your superiors.
But then, just as you are about to pounce, your boss says no: The piece must be published exactly as it was submitted.
That, my friends, is a writer’s wet dream.
Most writers never attain anywhere near that sort of power. That’s because their approach to the whole writing game is completely wrong. They grind their lives away in a never-ending quest for the subtle but telling detail, the inflection in meaning, the mot juste that will light a tiny spark in the minds of their readers and allow them to see the world a little differently.
Sean Penn doesn’t care about any of this because he doesn’t have to. He knows that “editors” will scratch each other’s eyes out to get an exclusive on whatever bloated, pretentious piece of crap he chooses to spew out of his pampered little movie-star ass.
O, sweet nectar of fame! How wonderful it is to be a celebrity, exempt not only from the laws against assault, drunk-driving, and ungodly acts with unfortunate gerbils, but those that govern English grammar and basic communication as well.
These days, it doesn’t even matter what you’re famous for. Tape yourself having sex with that two-headed girl on TLC and The New York Times will be calling to offer you an op-ed quicker than you can say “The Gray Lady is my dirty little whore.”
Wanna change the world? You could claw your way into Harvard, spend years studying economics, and write a dazzling Ph.D. thesis that is a blueprint for ending third-world hunger and poverty. Or you can drop out of school like Bono, start a band, and churn out little ditties such as this:
I’ve got no self-control/
Been living like a mole now/
Going down, excavation/
I and I in the sky/
You make me feel like I can fly/
Cats running back and forth over keyboards have produced better lyrics, but who has world leaders lining up to be teabagged while he lectures them on African debt?
It’s not about what you say any more – if it ever was – it’s about how many people will take your picture while you’re saying it.
Language is the foundation of any culture. To encourage its deterioration at the hands of those who cannot respect and appreciate its importance is to do our society a great disservice.
When looking to the stars, we would do well to remember they are neither celestial bodies nor beacons to guide us through the darkness. They are, in fact, nothing but big balls of hot gas that tend to destroy everything they touch.