Today is November 8 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you deal with reality?” People who navigate the chaos understand the significance of being honest with reality. As American writer Alex Haley noted “Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.”
After facing the reality that he did not belong in college, Haley dropped out and at his father’s suggestion joined the Coast Guard and enlisted as a mess attendant. Later he was promoted to the rate of petty officer third-class in the rating of steward, one of the few ratings open to African Americans at that time. It was during his service in the Pacific theater of operations that Haley taught himself the craft of writing stories. During his enlistment other sailors often paid him to write love letters to their girlfriends. He said that the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long voyages was not the Japanese forces but rather boredom.
After World War II, Haley petitioned the U.S. Coast Guard to allow him to transfer into the field of journalism. By 1949 he had become a petty officer first-class in the rating of journalist. He later advanced to chief petty officer and held this grade until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959.
He was the first chief journalist in the Coast Guard, the rating having been expressly created for him in recognition of his literary ability. Haley would go on to two the best-selling 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family and co-authored of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Haley dealt with reality and taught himself how to write instead of letting reality deal with him. Much like Haley, American singer, songwriter, and poet Jim Morrison had to confront his reality.
Together with Ray Manzarek, Morrison co-founded the Doors during the summer of 1965 in Venice, California. The band spent two years in obscurity until shooting to prominence with their number-one single in the United States, "Light My Fire," taken from their self-titled debut album. Morrison wrote or co-wrote many of the Doors' songs, including "Light My Fire", "Break On Through (To the Other Side)", "The End", "Moonlight Drive", "Wild Child", "The Soft Parade", "People Are Strange", "Hello, I Love You", "Roadhouse Blues", "L.A. Woman", and "Riders on the Storm". He recorded a total of six studio albums with the Doors, all of which sold well and received critical acclaim. Morrison was well known for improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live. Manzarek said Morrison "embodied hippie counterculture rebellion.”
Due to his poetic lyrics, distinctive voice, wild personality, performances, and the dramatic circumstances surrounding his life and early death, Morrison is regarded by both music critics and fans as one of the most iconic and influential front-men in rock music history. Morrison developed an alcohol dependency during the 1960s, which at times affected his performances on stage. He died unexpectedly at the age of 27 in Paris, among conflicting witness and alleged witness reports. As no autopsy was performed, the cause of Morrison's death remains disputed.
He achieved icon status despite his father’s disapproval of his son’s career choice. One day, an acquaintance brought over a record thought to have Jim on the cover. The record was the Doors' self-titled debut. Upon hearing the record, Morrison's father wrote him a letter telling him "to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction."
In a letter to the Florida Probation and Parole Commission District Office dated October 2, 1970, Morrison's father acknowledged the breakdown in family communications as the result of an argument over his assessment of his son's musical talents. He said he could not blame his son for being reluctant to initiate contact and that he was proud of him, nonetheless.
Reflected on his sense of reality, Morrison noted "The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large-scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first."
Both Haley and Morrison dealt with reality in their own ways. Many have asked if Morrison had a destructive approach to dealing with reality. Perhaps. We may never know.
How often do you recognize and then deal with reality?