Louis CK – Should We Forgive But Not Forget?
In late December 2018, the full audio of one of Louis CK’s first full-length comedy sets in over a year was leaked. Louis CK had not performed in public, apart from a few ‘secret’ short sets in small clubs, since he was accused of (and admitted to) sexual misconduct.
In early 2018, two female comedians went public with their story of an interaction with Louis CK in 2002. They described hanging out with Louis CK at a comedy festival and being invited by Louis back to his hotel room. Once in the hotel room, Louis asked the two female comedians if he could masturbate in front of them. They laughed at the request and did not say no. And so Louis CK took his clothes off and masturbated in front of them.
The two female comedians did not report the incident and said nothing publicly about it for 16 years. When the #MeToo movement exploded in 2017/18 they decided to come forward and tell their story.
Once the event came to light three other women came out with stories about Louis CK masturbating in their presence.
Louis CK Has Served His Time
This masturbatory behaviour made Louis CK a pariah to many people. He lost millions of dollars and stopped performing comedy or making any public appearances at all. He apologised and then went to ground for a year.
The December 2019 leak was the first full-length set of new material since Louis CK’s fall from grace.
The new set contains lots of crude language as well as content relating to transgender people, school-shooting survivors, and differing average penis sizes between races.
He has been attacked in many mainstream publications and accused of making fun of school shooting victims and of racial minorities. He has been labelled an ‘Alt Right comedian’.
If you listen to the set you will soon realise that these accusations are baseless. They are strawman arguments and ad-hominems delivered by attention-hungry content-providers who are willing to lie and defame in order to get attention.
Louis CK’s Reaction
Louis CK has refused to apologise for the content of his leaked set. He has not bowed to the mob who are unjustifiably attacking him.
He apologised thoroughly for the hurt caused by his past masturbatory indiscretions. But he has not apologised for the content of his latest set.
And this is a good thing because the content of his leaked set is simply Louis CK being Louis CK. He has always been crude, dancing nimbly on the edge of bad taste. That is what Louis CK does.
Louis CK’s material is obviously coming from a place of love. It’s obviously to be taken with a pinch of salt. Most people realise this, and this is why millions of people the world over adore his comedy.
Louis CK’s refusing to apologise and cower any more is inspirational.
And it raises the question…
How Should We Think About Our Own Past Selves?
It seems that we have two distinct options in this area…
We can… live as a prisoner of our past self, always running from it, living in a way that is overly influenced and dictated by notions of the ‘bad person’ we used to be. We can, in perpetuity, regret and obsess over our past indiscretions and forever grovel to make amends. We can view every action we take in the present as an opportunity to make amends and to get back ‘on side’ with our critics (and chief among these critics can often be aspects our current self!!). We can live our lives forever desperately running from our past self that we have decided was totally bad, flawed, broken.
Or we can… deeply accept our past selves. We can fully own who we have been in the past, and what we have done – good, bad, and indifferent. We can search for, and focus on, the good we have done (while remaining mindful of our misdeeds and trying hard not to repeat them). We can choose to LOVE all the incarnations of ourselves that have existed up to this point. We can deeply accept that we are (and always have been and always will be) flawed human beings who are capable of good, bad, and indifferent behaviours. We can love ourselves in spite of our past failures and strive to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be in the present and future.
Never Damn Your Entire Self
If you have an overly negative and absolutist idea of who you used to be you will live in pain. You will always be striving and fighting to make amends and atone for the ‘looser’, or ‘bastard’, or ‘louse’ that you believe you used to be.
This is an irrational view to take because every person that has ever existed has made mistakes. You can be very sure that the people who are accusing Louis CK the loudest have myriad gory skeletons in their own closets!
If you live life constantly running from your past you will be tight, tense, and stressed. And you will never quite manage to relax and be yourself.
You must accept yourself and learn to be your own mental point of origin. If people criticise you for behaviour that you can examine and conclude is, in fact, rationally OK and acceptable by your standards, then you need to learn to truly not give a fuck what your critics may say about you.
If you misbehave – which you will, and so will every other person alive on planet Earth!! – you must apologise, atone, make up, make sensible amends…. and then get on with being yourself. Don’t carry past mistakes around with you forever!
How Did Louis CK Respond?
Louis CK did not change who he was hook, line, and sinker. He remained himself – a comedian that millions of people love – despite unyielding pressure from a baying mob of disingenuous, fame-hungry, bandwagon-jumping, schoolyard bully/gossip monger, hand-wringing, herd-following, no sense of humour…. keyboard jockeys.
Louis CK did what we all should do when we behave badly… he apologised for the specific bad act, but he did not damn his entire self. He remained true to himself, he hopefully learned from his mistake, and he moved on. He got on with being himself.