Some thoughts on Cosby

A few years back, T and I had the chance to work with one of my childhood heroes, Bill Cosby.   We spoke with him on the phone, and he was brilliant and funny, with a crystal-clear memory and just as charming as he could be, filled with enthusiasm for a new NBC project he wanted us to work on.  After I got off the phone, I remembered rumors I’d heard, and asked myself if I’d want T going to a meeting with him alone.    Or Nicki.  And felt the reaction in my heart.

The answer was hell no.  I knew the truth, dammit.  I knew.  Money be damned.



A piece of the Cosby puzzle.    I do not KNOW what happened with him.  I know no one who was an intimate, with any access to his private thoughts.   But if I was writing a book about a character with a similar public image and similar tragic arc (and make no mistake: this is an American tragedy we’re watching), I would look at a number of publicly known facts as highly suggestive.  Matching my sense of why human beings do what they do.

Start with a basic notion: (most) violence stems from anger.  Anger is a mask over fear.  If we look at sexual assault as violence, can we tease a bit of this out?

One conclusion  is that he was/is a man consumed with anger.  Is there any justification for this in the public record?  I found some twenty years ago, in his  autobiography.  In it, he makes a throwaway comment that really stuck with me.  It was that a comedian will pace and control the intensity of the laugh response, so that the audience doesn’t exceed their comfort zone.


Well…they will ordinarily. But when he was angry about race relations in America, when he performed for white audiences (which was most of the time) he would DELIBERATELY sequence and perform his routines to take his audiences further and further out of control, laughing hysterically, UNTIL THEY HURT.  And then increase the intensity, until he had an entire room writhing in laughter, begging him to stop.

Deliberately.  He was, in other words, beating the hell out of the audience, while smiling at them.  Holy SHIT, I remember thinking.  Did anyone else read this?   Did he realize how much of himself he exposed saying this?


Anger.  Seething and raw, enough to want to hurt people who loved (or at least admired) him.  And what is anger…?


Fear.    What did he have to be fearful of?  Well, if you’ve been following my thoughts on race in America, that answer would be easy.


One ignorant, shallow, selfish response is to suppose that since HE was rich and famous, HE had nothing to be upset with. I have to marvel at this, and wonder if the person saying it is aware of how much of THEMSELVES they expose by saying THAT.  Are they really saying they don’t care about anyone but themselves? That once they “get theirs” they don’t give a shit?


Maybe.  I’m not stupid enough to forget they said that, though, and they can’t take it back once said.




We know he was a serious supporter of HBU, and an Afrophile.  A “race man” in reality even though he very rarely addressed it directly in his entertainment.    He looked out at the world, saw things or experienced things that enraged him, and hid it behind that avuncular personality.


So…what we know beyond any doubt is that he had powerful negative emotions and did not honestly express them publicly.    Drawing a line between that and not being able to express them privately, or even within his own heart, isn’t much of a leap.   We KNOW he was dishonest.  How deep did it go?


Were there power fantasies?  Disgust with the people who “loved” him?   Impostor syndrome?   Anyone who would hurt a roomful of innocent people has to have a power fantasy.  But if we start with the assumption of human equality and “Num” (the belief that there is “one soul looking out through many eyes”) then we see that that is just ego shit.  He KNOWS he is not above them.  If he cannot forgive them, cannot see the errors and pains of the world from an elevated position, he likely cannot forgive himself either.


And that leads to despising the world.


I am a corrupt thing.  They cannot see it because they are corrupt things. The world is an ugly, corrupt place, a jungle place, where the only REAL rule is to take and get everything you can. But you must pretend to be good, to be loving, to be kind…or the illusion dissolves and we have nothing but the rule of fang and claw.


From this point, can you respect other human beings?   Hardly.

Can you respect yourself?  Hardly

Can you possibly respect the feminine energy of the world?  Hardly.

Men would be allies to be rallied or directed to conquer your foes.  Or if foes, to be crushed.  Women would be entertainments, or conquests, or talley marks, or momentary stress reliefs.


Or…if they were presented as unattainable, as ideals beyond your reach, they are symbols of your power.  Did he grow up in a world in which this was projected? Hell, I did, and I’m ten years younger. My mother was SURE I was only attracted to white women because of some forbidden racial fascination.    And that I would be destroyed because of it.


So…could that influence the situation?  Sure, it could.   I DON’T KNOW IF IT DID.  But if I was writing a novel about someone who ended where Cosby is ending…that would be one of the threads I’d wind together:


  1. A man with enormous fear along racial lines.
  2. That fear transforming into anger.
  3. That anger hidden behind a smiling mask. So many of us do this, without it ever becoming openly toxic.
  4. That mask gathering enough raw power, fame, and money to create opportunities to vent and slake the corrupt hungers.


I would use this notion as one of the threads. Others would have to do with general human toxicity expressed as male energy (and if you don’t grasp that there are both Yin and Yang, Female and Male aspects of this, you are pretty typical…but missing half the game).  With power drunkenness. And with some soul sickness that might have begun in the womb or before.  Who knows?


But THIS piece of the puzzle looks pretty sound, and pretty ugly.


So…what is the answer?  How does the “formula” work here?

What are the principles?

  1. Love yourself.   Can you see how a deep and abiding love of his own essence short-circuits the entire negative process? Part of the damage of racism is doubting yourself.  Internalizing the “you are ugly and stupid” messages.  It is grotesque, rarely discussed…and true.  Unaddressed, you are walking around with a time-bomb in your heart.
  2. Love one other person.   If he really deeply loved himself and Camille, does it take much to suggest that a compulsive need to screw other women, even WITH their total permission, would be less likely?  You think?   That when that connection is deep, his masculine/feminine energies would be balanced, and the notion of abusing that connection would be like slicing off your own eyelids?
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.  And if you can love yourself and others, and see how human beings do terrible things to each other mostly from fear and ignorance, isn’t that cured with love and truth?   If he can forgive others, he can forgive himself.  He is no longer a corrupt thing leering behind the mask. Can just…let the pain go and embrace humanity.
  4. Find his tribe. Who should his tribe have been?  ALL HUMANITY. We all responded to his deep, wise, broad grasp of human emotion and experience.  Look at the gap between what he knew about us and what he FELT about us.    That gap was too broad to be bridged with logic. It was a seething ocean of pain and fear, self-loathing and anger, and all the applause and laughter and money in the world couldn’t heal it.  If they knew what I really am…He didn’t need to keep fighting. He had won. What he needed to do was embrace the victory.  Do good to the world.  Trust time to heal the wounds it creates.  Sigh.
  5. Win with integrity. Well. We don’t need to dive too deeply here, do we?

And the simplest answer? Love himself.  Tell the truth.  Just those two things would have taken him into himself, and anchored him to the world, forced him to integrate his inner and outer worlds.

Could ANY of this have happened with just those two elements?

Just those two things.

When I say that artists need to dig into their truth, express their true feelings, it isn’t because it is fun, and comfortable. Or even because it is one of the most healing things you can do, although it is.  It is because THAT is the gift you have to give the world, your deepest, most healing treasure.   This is risky: you may be rejected. Those who do not believe as you  will NOT want you rubbing their noses in your perspectives, and pretend that they have not rubbed yours in theirs.


They are asleep, mostly. Mostly.


Tell your stories.  Speak your truth, with love and wisdom.   The tribe you find may not be as large as the one you can create with lies and artifice…but they are real, and they see you.


They SEE you.  And love the person you really are, not just the image.  Imagine the nightmare of having the whole world love you…and believing that if they really knew how ugly I am


That must be a horror beyond ordinary thought.  A true personal hell.   And the demonic things human beings are capable of doing from that place are hard to even wrap our minds around.


But every one of us has the seeds of that nightmare in our souls.   Don’t water them with fear.  Don’t fertilize them with rage.


While I don’t, and might never really know what happened here…I’m willing to bet that this describes a part of this. How much? I don’t know. But enough that I know how critical it is to speak my truth, and come from love, and love myself.

And for you to do the same





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