July 21, 2008

"'Crackhead' is an embarrassing line item to have on a résumé."

New York Times writer David Carr tells his astonishingly sordid life story and then reflects on his storytelling:
Junkies and drunks frequently end up putting a megaphone to their own pratfalls in the form of memoir because they need to believe that all of the time they spent with their lips wrapped around glass, whether is was a bottle of vodka or a crack pipe, actually meant something. That impulse suggests that I don’t regret the past — it brought me here to this nice, happy place — but I’d also like to squeeze something more from it. And so I have.

42 comments:

Ron said...

If you yell 'I was an idiot' loud and often enough, are you supposed to feel good through accumulated irony points or something?

Pogo said...

they need to believe that all of the time they spent with ...a bottle of vodka or a crack pipe, actually meant something

Interesting he would say this and still do the memoir thing.

People love stores of redemption, and the narrative of the car crash life preceding it can be interesting stuff, too.

100 years ago, these stories never saw the light of day, except hastily mentioned by the redeemed, or used as a warning to others.

Nowadays though the author gets to be 'cool' for having been a drug abuser (not being one, though). It imparts a certain radical chic. Not as cool as bombing a college building used to be, but cool.

Non-junkies can't get this kind of cool. Their square stories are never told. Their sacrifices for their babies, their work ethic, their getting up every day is old hat, assumed. Ex-junkies get to talk to high school students in auditoriums and are paid fat fees. Squares don't.

They won't ever write a book about being there, every day, being the boring middle class adult. Country music people sing about them. No one else much notices.

Pregnant teens get the same fawning treatment. Newspaper articles, magazine profiles when they get through college. Nonpregnant teens get nothin'.



I wonder if kids notice this?

gophermomeh said...

I have some experience in this area, so feel a little compelled to speak up here. First off, junkies and drunks don’t frequently memoir their experience. Some do, but most share their stories with other addicts – it’s called ‘carrying the message,’ in hopes that what you have to say might help someone else. Step 12.

It’s not for the money. It’s not for the attention. It’s not to be seen as cool – I can assure you. If ones’ motivation were these things, then you need to just keep your mouth shut – you’ve got it all wrong and you’re not doing anyone any good.

Pogo said...

‘carrying the message,’ in hopes that what you have to say might help someone else. Step 12.

I'm glad they do. I'm not talking about their own motivations.

Popular culture rules, and it has a different view altogether. Celebrity Rehab and the like seem to laud the transformed, or even the attempt at transformation. But movies and TV lend a certain gritty admiration to addicts, even buyers and sellers (rap & hip hop culture).

How bad can addiction really be if, despite being a cokehead for several years, he goes on to a good job and a bestseller? The media don't dwell too much on failed addicts, one might here note.

The message to young people: Don't worry about it, it's curable.

Host with the Most said...

While I am second to no one in my disdain for the damage that the New York Times has done to this nation's social fabric through it's incessant pretending that it's "news" reporting is unbiased (sadly, most people reading the Times are too intellectually inept to question whether or not they're getting a partisan, incomplete version of the "news"), the Times occasionally stumbles across a gem and picks-up a good decision.

David Carr was a great hire, and a terrific writer. His Carpetbagger blog during Oscar season is something that actually informs AND entertains at the same time - unlike every other version of entertainment media, one actually comes out smarter after reading David Carr's take.

As an example of his great writing, take a look at "When Fox News is the Story", where his take on Fox News - unlike any other reporter or Fox News-hating organization- actually has the goods to make his point.

His redemption story is good, and sorely needed in a society that daily trades on the illusion that the successful are that way because they remained pure and self-disciplined throughout their careers.

Host with the Most said...

Pogo,,

I have a read for you. A new book by a friend.

Lost Boy: My Story by Greg Laurie.

If you can at least check out something about it, I am truly curious as to your thoughts on it. Particularly in light of what you wrote above.

Also, Paddy O, if he's anywhere around.

gophermomeh said...

Pogo - the media likes 'feel good' stories that's why you don't hear much about them.

Also, you're never cured. Your choices are practicing or recovering.

Pogo said...

Thanks, Host, I will look for it.

gophermomeh, you're quite correct about the 'no cure' point. It bears repeating because the teen's view of the recovered addict who has done well is often, so what's the big deal?.

I myself read stories of redemtion. But I notice that all three of my kids are receiving an education from the culture and in school that does not glorify or even favor rejection of these behaviors. No one explicitly states anymore that it's wrong to do these things. Instead, they talk about (I kid you not) poor choices, like one were deciding between different brands of toothpaste.

I absolutely loved Mary Karr's The Liar's Club. Rick Bragg's All Over bu t the Shoutin' was also compelling, as was Blackbird

But shit, these kind of memoirs are now everywhere. Is that good or bad? I have my misgivings.
Do young people hear the avoid this risk message?

Middle Class Guy said...

Crack Whore is right below crack head as an embarassment. But this guy is a crack media whore. Another media schmuck who figured out how to make a buck out of his sorrid past.

Susan said...

Being an addict is not cool. Having never been an addict is not cool. Only being an ex-addict is really cool. Hollywood has known this for a long time. I think I first noticed this with Murphy Brown. To have her as a drunk and a coke addict would not have been cool but making her a graduate of Betty Ford gave her a cachet of hipness.

vbspurs said...

What Susan said (beautifully).

Richard Dolan said...

Reading the comments, there is almost an angry dismissal of Carr, as if he doesn't deserve his obvious talent and rather than writing his lifestory, should instead have found a rock to hide under. Virtue's self-regard can be quite blinding at times. Carr's writing is strong, gripping, compelling -- it wouldn't work if it didn't convince the reader that he is writing honestly, casting himself as the antihero in an all too familiar tale. Whether it's truthful only Carr and those who lived through it with him can say.

Donald Douglas said...

"Nonpregnant teens get nothin'."

Or,"nonpregnant, un-crack-addled teens get nothin'."

The fact that Carr's got a NYT gig is redemption enough for the paper's (rag's?) readers.

Interesting quote. I'm sure enough people personally identify with it as well, so there's little shock value...

American Power

vbspurs said...

casting himself as the antihero in an all too familiar tale.

This reminds me of an observation I once made about British humour (for those Althousians who joined in late, remember I'm British).

Do you know why we love self-deprecating humour?

Because it allows us to be the centre of attraction.

--

It used to be that all the best writer's were drunks. Hemingway, St. Vincent Millay, Fitzgerald.

The thing is, they were current drunks when they wrote their best stuff.

In our age, to echo what Susan said, it's not possible to be a current addict-anything and hold down a respectable job, as even Lindsay Lohan learnt. One has to be seen as a recovering one.

OTOH...

It's fairly certain Bush did blow. It's known, because he admitted it himself, that Barack did it.

Both conquered something in themselves and transcended their crackhead moments, if you will.

They too got rewarded for their recovery.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

"Centre of attraction", heh.

That should be centre of attention, of course. But you know, I rather like the oops. It especially rings true given our topic.

William said...

Pogo: Thanks for several wise and insightful posts on this issue. We like to hear the stories of those who have been to the dark side and tell us of their brave trip back. Revelations about their character flaws and depravities are used to establish credibility and heighten the drama. Going back to Lost Weekend the genre consists of the writer detailing what a wretched sinner, the worst on earth, he was and what a sadder, wiser man he has become. The subtext of all these stories is ME ME ME ME ME ME. But the true story is not told by ME. The story is told in the bruised eyes of his children, in the disappointments and second guesses of his parents, in the irreparable damage that the addict has left behind....This story has a comparatively happy ending, but, as you point out, there are many more who travel further into darkness and do not come back. They collapse into their own black hole, and the vacuum they leave behind sucks down the generations that surround them. I think the truest story of addiction was told by Eugene O'Neill in Long Day's Journey into Night.

gophermomeh said...

Pogo - the thing is, is that while it may be 'wrong' to do these kinds of things, saying that, in most cases, is not going to keep someone from self-medicating to the point of addiction. If someone is in enough pain and without constructive tools to deal with it, they’re going to turn to what works right now to ease that pain. With any luck, they wake up and realize even that isn’t working for them anymore.

I have a few friends who knew the consequences and swore up and down that they’d never go down that road, only to one day find themselves there.

Pogo said...

almost an angry dismissal of Carr, as if he doesn't deserve his obvious talent and rather than writing his lifestory, should instead have found a rock to hide under

He has talent to burn. No argument. I got about half way through and though Shit, another wastoid telling me all about it. I no longer care about these stories. Their sheer ubiquity I find disturbing, however.

Are there any non-addicts left in the media?

And what's the takeaway message? Damn. I mean, what am I, a non-addict, supposed to learn from his redemption? Kids, don't do drugs.
Well, no shit, Sherlock.

And I'll disagree on one thing Richard: the ring of truth appears to be easy to fake. Just ask Oprah re: Frey.

If someone is in enough pain and without constructive tools to deal with it,
Exactly!
And these stories do nothing at all for those seeking such help.

It's the ultimate question, as usual: How do I manage a life of suffering?
Some choose chemicals.
Do we highlight their journey? Why?
Is their a better, more useful path besides through addiction?

I wonder what it might be.

vbspurs said...

Do young people hear the avoid this risk message?

All I know is, when I came out of the cinema after Trainspotting, I wanted nothing more than to jab a needle in me.

Ditto with Aronovsky's Requiem for a Dream and Tarantino's famous "blood mixing with heroin" scene in Pulp Fiction.

I was young, and hadn't done anything naughtier than clove cigarettes, but damn, they made being a junkie look like something you don't leave this world without experiencing, if only to say you survived it.

Cheers,
Victoria

Richard Dolan said...

"They too got rewarded for their recovery."

Not "rewarded." They were able to put the pieces together in a way to move past what they had recovered from. "Recovery" is its own reward, but it doesn't necessarily (or often) result in any other "reward." Life is hard, and doesn't much resemble a fairy tale. Neither does Carr's story.

vbspurs said...

"Recovery" is its own reward, but it doesn't necessarily (or often) result in any other "reward."

I disagree, largely for reasons we are discussing right now -- how there is such a plethora of those who do recover, whose lifestories are positively ENHANCED, indeed, to the point where they are advanced by their addict past.

I realise that's not exactly the case with Bush or Obama.

In Bush's case, this triumph of self (because that's what these cases are) is muddied in popular terms by his born-again Christianity.

In Obama's case, a young black male experimenting with drugs and walking away becomes a clarion call of heroism to others.

But the message people still get is that they were able to do drugs, and still advance in life.

It's tough to say to a young kid, "Just say No" when the possibility of success exists anyway.

No, I'm not a literalist-realist like Plato. He had an antagonism towards theatre because it allowed villains and their ignoble behaviour to be portrayed (however fleetingly) to the audience. In turn, this allowed the audience to make them into heroes, after a fashion. Just think of Heath Ledger's dynamic performance as the Terrorist-Joker.

But you know, Plato is somewhat right.

You cannot excise the human desire to glorify immoral behaviour. You just have to be wary of it.

Cheers,
Victoria

Richard Dolan said...

Pogo: "Their sheer ubiquity I find disturbing, however."

Would you rather read a story by the foster parents that Daddy Dearest was a homeless bum, found dead on a park bench amidst the detritus of his addiction? He came back from the abyss and wrote a story about it. If his story is ubiquitous (I don't know that it is or isn't), I don't see what's "disturbing" about self-redemption stories, even assuming you're right that they are so common as to be hackneyed.

As for whether his story is in any way faked, I can't say. If so, the important point is that his talent is large enough to ensure that the fakery doesn't come through in his telling of the story. He hasn't been nominated for sainthood, and so his virtue (or, frankly, even his truthfulness) is not what matters. All one can really react to is his narrative. If it turns out that there is fakery afoot, that will probably kill the sales of his memoir. (Perhaps we should stay tuned for Anna's appearance on Oprah?) But it still won't detract from his talent for storytelling.

lurker2209 said...

I guess I'm in the minority, but I read the article as a subtle critique of the addict memoir genre. Carr gives us his version of his story, his narrative, and then shows us how the drugs messed up his memory and obscured the truth. He points out that the "crackhead who cleaned himself up to be a good father" story was in many ways a myth. And he shows how that myth, that illusion, was the thing he clung to was the thing that kept him from slipping back into addiction. It makes me look at other works in this genre and wonder how much of those stories are true and how much is a lie that gets one through the day without using.

Pogo said...

I don't see what's "disturbing" about self-redemption stories

Here in Minnesota, there was a young man regaling high school students with tales of his meth addiction and then his recovery. He was lying about the recovery part, doing coke and meth during the time he was giving these uplifting speeches.

He was recently arrested when he tried to kill his wife, and his house of cards collapsed.

I agree, it's a story well-told. But to what end?
Isn't it just high quality prurience? Rubbernecking at a car accident is about as useful.

I just read lurker's comment. I will finsh the story, hoping that view might be true, but he lost me pretty early on. Not this again.
Yes, it's everywhere.

Richard Dolan said...

Victoria: We're reading Carr's story quite differently. I don't see in it any effort to "glorify immoral behaviour." Just the opposite, really.

You may be right that there are many recovered addicts "whose lifestories are positively ENHANCED, indeed, to the point where they are advanced by their addict past." Never having been an addict myself, I can only say that my observations are that few former addicts feel they were ever "advanced by their addict past." Instead, they seem to be aware that they are one slip away from falling back into the trap. The recognition that the weakness that led them there on the first go-around could do so again never stops terrifying them, even if they try to put it out of mind.

I have a lot of trouble with the idea that "[i]t's tough to say to a young kid, 'Just say No' when the possibility of success exists anyway." Isn't it worse to suggest that there are some sins so unforgiveable that there is no hope of redemption? Dante imagined that the gates of hell warned all who entered to abandon hope. Isn't it wiser not to import that warning into the land of the living?

Richard Dolan said...

Pogo: "it's a story well-told. But to what end?"

Where there is life there is hope, and hope is God's gift to us all.

William said...

They says co-dependents are people who are addicted to addicts. Addict lit gives the reader the vicarious experience not of addiction but of co-dependency...I have done a certain amount of field research into the subjects of addiction and co-dependency. There is a good chance that I will be the first male member of my family in four generations who will not die an alcoholic. I have always had a taste for strong liquour and credit my reprieve from alcoholism not to the strength of my character but to the strenth of my other addictions. For a long while I was a kind of skid row workaholic. I routinely worked 60 to 80 hrs a week for over 10 yrs. My rational explanation was that more money would somehow validate my life and give succor to my family. The real reason was that I had not the slightest idea of how to be a family man and that my clumsiness in this area filled me with self loathing. I could handle all the hurdles of my job and this skill gave me the illusion of competence....Later on when the pursuit of money became pointless I became a compulsive long distance runner. Endorphins and carbs...the devil's tools. Sciatica so bad I have to sleep on the floor, but still I lace up..... I met a woman who claimed that she had had a problem with cocaine, but that she pretty much had it under control. She was slender and pretty with a pre-Raphaelite face that inspired poetry and destiny. When she said this, it was as though she had slipped into a pink baby doll nightie and confessed that she was trying to control her addiction to giving oral sex. I was a goner. We paired off. I thought that the money I made would soften her life. Instead it enabled her problems.....I could go on with this melodrama, but the point is not to tell the truth or draw a moral lesson. The point is to start as many sentences as possible with the first person singular pronoun. That's the real high.

gophermomeh said...

Pogo: I’m really enjoying our conversation and I love your question: How do I manage a life of suffering?

All I can come up with is that everybody does the best they can with the cards they’re dealt. Some have an innate ability to deal with the world on it’s own terms, others, to varying degrees don’t have a clue. Why highlight their journey? I don’t know, why not? It’s a real part of the human experience. It’s interesting. It’s engaging. Maybe we’ll learn something about people like them or ourselves.

And your “Is their a better, more useful path besides through addiction?” Some days, I wish I’d of known one. Other days, I’m grateful for the experience. It’s taught me things I wouldn’t have found out otherwise.

vbspurs said...

Isn't it worse to suggest that there are some sins so unforgiveable that there is no hope of redemption?

Modernity and condemnation do not go hand-in-hand, but just to note that this is what kept people from straying for millenia.

One thing that needs to be mentioned is that ex-addicts have, by force, more adventurous tales to tell than others.

This consequently makes their lives more interesting, certainly more readable than those of ex-prostitutes or the ex-homeless which continue to sound less glamourous, than those who stayed in the straight-and-narrow.

It is this sensibility that people today wish to tap into, vicariously, and that's why ex-addicts frequently get "rewarded" for their tales (by having their books published, by becoming pop heroes, etc).

In other times, all people had hard lives -- high and low alike. They ran away from home, joined the military, they emigrated to other continents, became prairie pioneers, roughed it in Siberia, toughed it out in Cochin.

Now, with varying degrees of welfare states to nurse us from cradle to grave, and with militarism seen as a negative, there are relatively few ways to have truly gritty tales to tell, other than to be an ex-addict.

We've been babied into prosperity, and though decency has transformed itself into being in "recovery", it's basically the same thing with different values.

vbspurs said...

My rational explanation was that more money would somehow validate my life and give succor to my family. The real reason was that I had not the slightest idea of how to be a family man and that my clumsiness in this area filled me with self loathing.

This is the second gut-checking confessional I've read from you, William. The first lives with me to this day, as I surely would've been one of those people you might've resented, and resented yourself for your resentment.

Both of your memories leave me marvelling at your honesty, so rarely seen in its rawest form online.

But above all I admire your way with words.

Just thought I'd say that, before another opportunity passed away.

Cheers,
Victoria

gophermomeh said...

Victoria: Granted, there are those who glorify this type of behavior and there are many who do do drugs, recreationally, with few side effects. But when you get into stories, as cited above, most people with these kinds of stories don’t get better, they don’t advance in life and some even die. There's no 'get out of jail free' card. It’s hard and it’s scary. You can pull yourself together and be a success or be ordinary, but it doesn’t always work.

Pogo said...

Well said, Victoria.
Like extreme sports, addiction is one of the few remaining adventures. No one really cares anymore about a marathon or scaling a mountain because it's there. It's all been done.


gophermomeh, I agree that in being interesting and engaging, the stories may teach something about others or ourselves.

But I most like how you said Some days, I wish I’d of known one. Other days, I’m grateful for the experience.. I think there is that very element of wisened regret I am searching for in these tales, but which are too often lacking.

To have experienced a crucible and come out hardened yet brilliant is a gift. True redemption expresses gratitude this undeserved grace, and sorrow for all the trouble caused and people hurt.

Carr does not seem to do so. His kids appear here as props, the motive for his slow improvement. He left two babies freezing in a car for hours while he went inside to shoot up. Did I miss his apology somewhere? Shit. This stuff just makes me sad.


Richard said Where there is life there is hope, and hope is God's gift to us all.

Carr mentioned this, just after he'd left the 8 month old twins alone in a frigid car.
"God had looked after the twins, and by proxy me, but I realized at that moment that I was in the midst of a transgression He could not easily forgive. I made a decision never to be that man again."
I liked that part.

I think I am looking for someone who breaks free of the conclusion that "my addiction narrative arrives at some very common lessons." Mary Karr does a painfully good job of this in her book of poems Sinners Welcome: Poems.

"The winter Mother’s ashes came in a Ziploc bag,
all skin was scorched from me, and my skull
was a hard helmet I wore to pray
with my middle finger bone aimed at the light fixture—Come out,
You fuck, I’d say, then wait for God to finish me
where I knelt; or for my dead mother to assemble in clouds
of the Aquanet hairspray she’d used abundantly
in her bleach blond Flashdance phase at sixty when she’d phone
all slurry and sequined with disco playing to weep
so I’d send cash..."


And later

"Then from the hard knot at my skull’s base
I felt warm oil as from a bath bead broken open
somehow flow upward to cover my skull, and my hair
came streaming down again,
and the soft clay crawled back to form my face"

1970_baby said...

Carr (the NYT writer- not Mary Carr) is simply telling the story of the prodigal son. Its always a tough one to understand, even after the verse is read to you and the [insert clergy type here] explains, or attempts to explain it. The good son is still left at the end saying, "where is my reward for being good all this time".

gophermomeh said...

"God had looked after the twins, and by proxy me, but I realized at that moment that I was in the midst of a transgression He could not easily forgive. I made a decision never to be that man again."
I liked that part.

That was the beginning of his amends. With some grace, he'll be able to continue.

amba said...

Carr's writing is strong, gripping, compelling

I didn't find it so. I found his writing melodramatic and unpleasant.

1970_baby said...

He does a good deed by publishing his before and after pictures. He looks like he is 100 years old. That ought to serve as warning to the kiddies.

blake said...

How do I manage a life of suffering?

"All life is suffering." --Buddha

No one really cares anymore about a marathon or scaling a mountain because it's there. It's all been done.

"No place worth goin'
Ain't already been
No sin worth sinnin'
Ain't already sinned
You get thunder in your lovin'
And lightning in your lust
But a man is just a handful of dust"
--Loudon Wainwright Jr.

Tom Snee said...

I worked with Carr years ago, right about the time his chemical ingestion went from recreational to really messed up (no, I'm not in the book, but many of the people and incidents he writes about are familiar). Last year, I saw him for the first time in many years and the first thing he did was hug me and apologize for whatever he did that fucked me over. He couldn't remember having done anything to me specifically, but he apologized anyway because he knew that he probably had (he had). So I don't have any questions about his sincerity. I think he genuinely seeks redemption, and sees the book as a part of that.

At the same time, he freely admits that a big reason for writing the book is that he has two daughters in college and the advance helps to pay their tuition. I can't argue with either reason.

vnjagvet said...
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vnjagvet said...
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vnjagvet said...

In further confirmation of some of the points William has so beautifully made, yesterday morning, we woke up to a call from one of our neighbors. She reported the 22 year old daughter of another neighborhood family committed suicide Saturday evening by jumping out of the window of her boyfriend's condo while the boyfriend was speaking to her mom about coming over for dinner. She was, at one time, the youngest child in our neighborhood and all of my five daughters (aged 27-32) had at one time or another baby sat her.

She had an addiction problem since she was 14. Her dad was bereft, but told a friend of ours that "...at last she is at peace".

At the other end of life's spectrum, last fall, a close friend of mine who now is in his mid 70's lost his first born, who had just turned 50, to suicide (his second attempt). This son, had been addicted since he was an early adolescent, and had become paranoid/shizophrenic because of "bad trips" which had profoundly altered his brain chemistry.

But his parents, who had some means, used them to get him the best care available and took over his affairs as his legal guardian since 1975. I handled much of the considerable legal work over the years helping the parents deal with their son's problem. He continued to hear voices telling to do bad things, never recovered the full use of his mind and remained addicted until the day he died. He was living in an assisted living facility as a "trustee" when he left one day and jumped off of a bridge over an interstate highway during the rush hour. For two weeks he clung to life, and finally died.

Reading the article which is the subject of this post and these comments brings feelings of profound sadness and respect for the families of all of these troubled souls, especially those who have not been blessed with recovery.

Their experiences are proof to me that there is indeed such a thing as Hell on earth.

I pray that Mr. Carr's family only has his past problems to deal with.

Paddy O. said...

Host, thanks for the recommendation. It's definitely on my to-read list now. I just finished a book on a Jesuit peace activist and was really disappointed because he so entirely glosses over the messy side. He talks about being a total frat guy in college at Duke, but mentions nothing before that and only barely mentions that college time at all. There's so much left out. That Greg Laurie was so honest is very nice, and likely makes for a great read.

At the same time, coming from the Evangelical world I've seen and heard this kind of stuff a lot. In those circles it's called a testimony. And the worse a person was the better the testimony is. I lived a pretty standard life without rebellion. Had some deep poverty, but that's not particularly spicy, so I've a terrible 'testimony'. In such circles there's a common joke about getting into drugs and all sorts of other stuff so that I could come back to Jesus and have this great, great testimony.

It is about hope. People want hope, and knowing that another person was even worse but got even better gives a lot of hope about my less than terrible circumstances. It's also a reminder about grace. People assume that everyone is judgmental. But that's not entirely true.

Stories like this, coming back from beyond the brink, are welcomed because it allows people to be both strongly moral, disapproving the formal lifestyle, and extremely neighborly, welcoming him back to normal society. We are able to exercise both strong drives of judgment and grace, feeling quite good about ourselves in the process.

It's also why good apologies are so important--where Nixon and Clinton went wrong. We don't care if a person makes a mistake, we just want them to be honest about it being a mistake, so we all can move on.

It's not the sin, it's the denial makes us mad and suspect as participants in the community. We're always ready to forgive, we want to think we are the forgiving types.

These kinds of stories aren't entirely new, though there was a long time where culture did hide from these. We see the same sort of story in Augustine's confession. Would he be so popular if he hadn't been such a great, passionate sinner? The little sinning greed-filled baby, and lust embracing adult, makes the contrast to the mature theologian. Saint Patrick made a point of saying how his youth was wild, but he reformed, and yet his wildness was even still held against him. All throughout spiritual autobiographies, throughout history, we find the bad person making good, and then becoming brilliant.

Having messed up, often really bad, is part of the path to wisdom, which couples knowledge with humility. That latter one is really hard to learn without spending time wallowing with the pigs. But not everyone gets out of the mud, and that's where the danger is with such stories. For the few really talented people who do make their way out there are thousands and thousands who lose everything and never find light. Evil should never be tempted. It likes to let go one or two along the way in order to tempt people that it's not as bad as others say.