I’m being asked a bit about Kanye’s recent album Ye, which I listened to over the weekend as part of my “remain pop culturally relevant in my 40s” project. (I read recently we stop exploring music in our 30s…I wish/beg to differ; I’m also resisting increasing the font size on my phone, but that’s another story.) Kanye uses the album to come out as bipolar. The album art from the outset sings it:

I hate being bipolar. It’s awesome.

It’s a copy-and-paste of a well-worn Instagram meme, should you find it particularly clever.

Four thoughts, however, for discussion:

Bipolar as superpower

On the track “Yikes” Kanye raps off the back of some mysoginist, self-serving ranting:

That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout

That’s why I fuck with Ye

See, that’s my third person

That’s my bipolar shit, nigga, what?

That’s my superpower, nigga, ain’t no disability

I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero!

In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful I refer to the worth of recasting anxiety as a superpower.

So I get it.

But superhero status comes with responsibility

I note that this tune is accompanied by some unevolved buck-passing. On the track,”I Thought About Killing You”, somewhat appropriately, he encourages (or justifies his own) unconsidered blurting from on a manic high:

 Just say it out loud to see how it feels

People say ‘don’t say this, don’t say that’

Just say it out loud, just to see how it feels.

When you’re bipolar, when you’ve been pressured to turn the volume down on yourself for most of your life, you would royally love to be able to make such a pronouncement. But around the age you realise you’re jack of turning the dial down on your very spirit, exhausted from having to be smaller to fit everyone’s ability to cope, you also, hopefully, experience a sense of mindful responsbility for those around you. And for your “special” condition. I almost think that the joint realisations arrive in tandem for a reason. When you wake up, you don’t just wake up a little bit.

Being a superhero requires art

Around the same age as Kanye is now, I got wolloped with the double-whammy wake up. And so I wrote The Beast.

In it I point out this:

I stress over and over, being bipolar is a responsibility.

Some of us can use a mental illness as a cover

It takes a fair bit to admit to this. I have to challenge myself on it often. Since the book came out I’ve been able to explain to loved ones a little more about my bipolar condition, instead of masking it, as I did for 43 years. This has been joyful in so many ways. The acceptance and in many cases, extra support, has been sweet relief. But just as the lovely sweet cocoon of understanding oozes over my being, I am aware I am millimetres from recasting it as a cloak that I could so very easily use to block growth, reject challenges from others and to justify bad behaviour. In short, to get out of carrying my bowl of water.

So, to conclude my pop culturally relevant opinion, part of having a superpower means accepting we have super abilities that must be utilised. And one of those is a capacity for freaky vigilance. Another is a capacity for refinement (i.e. not blurting vapid, cruel brain farts). This kind of sacrifice, this service to humanity, this rising to a truly big, expansive best self, is what makes you a superhero.

What do you think?

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