Failure Unmasked

I was six the first time I saw something “Kisstoric”.  It was a Tv Movie where the Band Kiss saved Six Flags Magic Mountain from an evil wizard… or something like that.  It was way after my bedtime.  I liked it because there were lasers and roller coasters and loud music.  I was also fascinated by the idea that the 4 stars of the show were treated as heroes regardless of the fact that they were clearly dressed like villains from a Kabuki performance at Studio 54.

I don’t know how Kiss saved the roller coasters or the girls in the short shorts, but I do know that the incongruity of the situation kept me watching and then later wondering… for years.  It was strange to see people talking one way, but appearing another.

The men of Kiss are the kind of men who made the 1970’s what they were; vain, vacuous, and incredibly entertaining.  The ’70’s may have been the first time in American history where a society chose to completely ignore how implausible entertainment had become, for the sake of escaping how terrible the state of reality was.  If you’re wondering how things like Three’s Company, tank tops, and Richard Simmons come to worldwide prominence, place them alongside Airline Hijackings, Oil Embargoes, and Jimmy Carter.

Of all of the insubstantial things to come to prominence in the 1970’s, my favorite continues to be the human propensity to place inaccurate definitions onto failure in an attempt to maintain credibility, like attempting to downgrade the Vietnam War to “the conflict in Vietnam”…  because you can’t lose a war that you didn’t fight.

Which is where Kiss re-enters the story.

Gene Simmons is the bass player, sometimes vocalist, and financial brain behind Kiss, arguably the most financially successful rock & roll enterprise in the history of this, and possibly several other, universes.  Mythologized by his fan-base and the economic mavens who profit from the commerce of “music”, Gene is a master of “repurposing failure” while managing the expectations of those around him.  He’s been printing money since 1979.

Simmons has always made a big deal about how much he enjoys sex without the burdensome entanglements of relationship.  He’s known for celebrating the tawdry Bacchanalia of the “Kiss Lifestyle” and making it a point to let everyone know that he doesn’t make commitments to his partners, and whatever commitments he may or may not imply, don’t include exclusivity  in the bedroom.

This causes others to accuse Gene of cheapening or devaluing sex.  Critics decry him for making sex of little value.  Sadly they are wrong, Gene doesn’t undervalue sex, he overvalues it.  He believes that sex between consenting adults is a validation of the experience.  Each person he engages in sex with receives the message that sex is very important… and that they are not.  Therein lies the problem.

By repurposing his failures in relationship as “successful sex”, Gene has papered over the real problem he  faces; he’s a rich and powerful person who has no ability to maintain relationships of any depth.  He’s currently in the middle of a relational meltdown sizable enough to overcome his powers of persuasion.

Because you can fail in relationship, even if you don’t call it marriage.

This week “actress” Shannon Tweed, his live in partner of 26 years, decided to let the world know that she’s “had enough” of Gene on several media outlets.  Apparently she’s been faking happiness with their “arrangement” (while promoting it) until their kids went off to college.  She was willing to live in his repurposed world until she experienced how little purpose it contained.

The effect that this will have on Gene’s reality television centered life can only be positive.  The drama certain to ensue will most likely be entertaining enough to be financially advantageous for his commercial ventures.  The results it will have on his actual life will be disastrous.

With Shannon, Gene made the rounds like a tiger and then came home to be cared for like a lion.  He was having his cake and eating it too.  Now, unless this is a carefully crafted plug for his show, it looks to be ending.  In terms Gene would understand, “Relationships are like money. You can say that you don’t need it when you have it, but when it’s gone you realize that you were bluffing for the crowd.”

If you don’t believe me check out what happened to the godfather of repurposing sex and relationship earlier this week.  It’s easy to say that you don’t want someone to grow old with when you’re young.  Truthfully though,” old, rich, and lonely” is worse than “old & lonely” because “old & lonely” never has to worry about whether or not its friends are “repurposing companionship” for cash.

If I learned anything from the 1970’s it’s that humans can look better with makeup on, but make up only covers what’s wrong with the outside of us.  Each of us turns to something to whitewash the brokenness infecting our heart.  Each of us attempts to repurpose our failures as clandestine success.

If you listen, you can hear it in our own words and phrases.

“I don’t regret anything I’ve done, each of those things has made me who I am today!”
What if I’m a jerk though?

“I didn’t fail, I just found a new way to NOT do something.”
Sometimes life only gives us one chance with people.

“I’m not looking back anymore, it’s only forward from here on out.”
My mistake didn’t just hurt me though, right?

“Come on guys, what happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.”
Actually bankruptcy & herpes make it on the plane with you.

Life isn’t about picking apart things that are obviously wrong, it’s about letting Jesus search our hearts for the failures we’ve repurposed.  It’s only then that we are faced with the opportunity to repent and be changed.  Our failure doesn’t become success through our efforts, it becomes success through Jesus’ success on the cross.  We don’t find that success until we finally stop repurposing our failures.

Regardless of how much makeup we can afford.

One Response to “Failure Unmasked”

  1. Milo Curtis June 21, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    I like this Jon, it reminds me of how we’ve even re-purposed sin as failure. It’s easier to admit something failed (which often divorces me of responsibility), but to admit sin is to embrace responsibility. And as you wrote, regardless of how we frame it…it is what it is, consequences and all.

    Something I’ve been wrestling with is how sin is the result of finite, mortal beings. And as a result, it is temporal in nature. Unlike grace. Grace is an eternal, infinite attribute because it is a quality to who God is. Hence Paul’s words, “where sin abounded Grace much more.” I can’t exhaust the resource of grace which dives into my soul and mends my brokenness and shame.

    But I can exhaust the charade of make-up and “spinning” the latest “failure.” Thanks for the reminder that a broken soul requires an infinite remedy.

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