Tennessee Williams: The Human Instinct

Photograph by Gerard Malanga/1974

Interview with Tennessee Williams
Conducted by James Grissom
New Orleans

(Something I deleted from Follies of God, and wish I hadn't, for here we are again.)

The human instinct is brutal and selfish. There are schools of thought about that tell us to return to our basic sweetness and equity, but I find this utter fantasy. We do not return to kindness: we are elevated to kindness. The enlightened person behaves well; is kind; is fair; is generous. The natural person is perpetually replacing the nipple for which he cried the moment he was pulled into the world and slapped on the ass. Is this not just the perfect introduction to the world? It lets the newborn know what is coming.

We want our shelter and our food and our carnal comforts, and the animal instinct, which is our natural instinct, tells us--in a paranoid and persistent voice--that someone, a group, an ideology is out to take these things away from us. Be aware. Protect your women and your crops and your body. Someone is after it, and whether this is true or not--and it is mostly untrue, because we are looking for own shelters and comforts--it leads to fear and carnage.

The revolution comes when people feel ignored, when even their most paranoid utterings are dismissed. Lacking talent or elevated behavior, they resort to violence and slander; rage and destruction. Take the long view as you age and you will see this recurring phenomenon. The rise of the ignored, the people who never sought to rise only to appear risen by lowering everyone else.

Protect yourself. Elevate yourself. Be kind, strong, and ever-present.

The animal instinct appears as a primary character in all of my work, because it is a primary character in all of our lives.

©  2016  James Grissom


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