I recently made a reference to the Last Supper in Bad News, Judas. This poem was inspired by a recent visit from social rejection and its accompanying feelings of shame and inadequacy.
I began a kitchen job and to say that I am like a storm is an understatement. My mind wanders off to the semantics of possession in English while I’m supposed to be timing when to flip patties and grilling bacon. As I carry items to and fro from the walk in freezer, I feel trapped in a fiery head-cage, unable to be in the moment, to think about pickles, marinated onions, and if we need pizza sauce or not. “Sorry”s and “Oh God”s are uttered from my mouth and numerous eyes are rolled as I spill blue cheese crumbles and burn toast. I wish I could tell them that it isn’t that I feel superior to the work. I feel inferior to this work, a prisoner of my own mind that can’t seem to budge and learn what other people feel is the most basic work you can do. My weaknesses have resulted in minor social exile.
Like many others, I have talents that are very pronounced and weaknesses that are equally apparent. This hasn’t made rejection for me any easier or any less painful: when I sat down at our most recent employee meeting it felt like sitting down at the Last Supper. Jesus, our store manager, was at the forefront and I sat at the very end, the Judas brewing in the corner. None of my other coworkers looked nor spoke directly to me. Who could blame them? If I couldn’t be a cook, I was useless in their eyes. And without any use, who are you to a group of people, anyways?
Exile. Rejection. Group isolation. I thought of this on an even grander scale, in cases of exiled individuals throughout our history who have suffered through rejection and social exile. Judas was exiled from the apostles in his defiance of Jesus, though many say that Judas was simply criticizing Jesus’s increasingly entitled attitude, thinking that an arrest by the Romans would make Jesus a better rabbi. One might even say Judas was simply a critical person who dissented from a group mentality and took it one step too far.
Then, of course, we have the artists. Cody Delistraty, in his article Is Social Rejection the Key to Creativity?, chimes:
Aldous Huxley wrote, “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely,” and upon thinking about it even a little, it quickly becomes apparent that many of history’s creative geniuses have been deeply lonely people. There is the obvious reason for this: dedicating oneself to an artistic pursuit means one has little time for social endeavors. This is what has frustrated flamboyant, gregarious writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James, both of whom wrote about the dreadful isolation necessary to turn out great fiction. But whether it’s the mysteriously secretive writing careers of J.D. Salinger or Donna Tartt, the well-known loneliness of Joseph Conrad (“we live as we dream — alone”) or the friendship-loneliness conundrum of van Gogh, it becomes apparent that something else is at play. Loneliness is not just sufficient for creativity; it is necessary. It is almost as if one can only be truly creative when one detaches from society.
Maybe it’s unfair to aggrandize myself in this way, clinging to a sense of belonging to some niche. I can’t attune to the needs of whatever “collective” I belong to, whether this is because I’m simply different or maybe zero utility, a nice knick knack of society. As I flip patties, burn toast, drop Parmesan, and serve patrons their food, I keep mental tabs on the things that inspire me and make me dream. I’ve thought once that holding on to this would land me in a community of creative people, but maybe I will be lonely just as Huxley suggests. Maybe my defiance will earn me cynical glares for as long as I live. But no matter where I stand, in company or alone, I’ll stand true.
Melanie Falconer is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing mainly concerns philosophy, personal experiences, cultural commentary, and her love of the visual and performing arts. If you’d like to reach out to her, you can do so here.