by Brian Haycock (b. 1978)
Noir novels, short stories and films often express the darkest side of the First Noble Truth (noir is French for “black”), as noir short story writer Brian Haycock is well aware. “Critics often characterize noir fiction as being about people who are doomed to suffer. They live in a cold, hard world, and they have little chance of finding something better.”[i] As a Buddhist, Haycock disagrees about not having choices which is a fatalistic P-B outlook. Haycock continues: “We all have choices. We create our own karma, day by day.”[ii] However, to make a choice, we must know that the choice exists, and for people today the choice of how to avoid human suffering is largely unknown.
Of course, it would be good if more people knew that we always have the choice of reaction or response to what is happening in our lives. Few of us make the choice of remaining in the present moment, instead we unconsciously let the false self that identifies with the body, mind and emotions have control. Doing that is definitely going to lead to a “noir” outcome.
“We’re all ruled by our desires. That’s the appeal of noir fiction. We can all see ourselves being taken over by desire and making the same bad choices. We can relate.”[iii] Compassion which is part of our natural True self enables us to “relate,” to feel and express compassion for ourselves and others. We are not, however, “ruled by our desires” unless we choose to be or unless we are ignorant of our options. After reading the content of Simple Reality, we can no longer be unaware of our choices.
Haycock’s short story, entitled Escape, is an excursion into the noir, ghetto-like underworld of P-B, which indeed, we can all relate to. The protagonist overlooks “the avenue,” and its inhabitants. “He walks to the window and pulls the curtains open, raising the sash. He lets the city sounds come in. Then he climbs out through the opening onto the fire escape and stands on the steel grate, looking down on the avenue. It hasn’t changed. People on the sidewalks, standing on the curbs. Sirens in the air. The avenue never changes.”[iv]
And indeed, the old narrative never changes unless we change because we create it, day-by-day moment-by-moment. The narrator of Escape has a universal problem found in P-B, namely addiction. “He’s been six months sober and still wants another hit. He spent four months on the avenue, chasing the high that would make it all make sense. In the end he hadn’t cared about sense. He only cared about the high.”[v]
Being a slave to our survival strategy conditioning is familiar to all of humanity which explains the popularity of noir fiction—we can all “connect,” not only because we have been there but because we are there now. Only the details of our lives are different from those of all the other inhabitants of P-B.
“He looks back down at the avenue, watching the people in the shadows. He knows that life. It’s almost all he knows. He can tell who’s dealing, who’s hustling the girls in the rooming houses, who’s waiting for a chance at snatch and grab. And he can tell which ones are just standing in the shadows with nowhere else to go but down and down. He has a sense for that. He knows about down.”[vi] All of us do!
So life in P-B is about the story, the choices and the conditioned habits of the characters. So it is in a noir story and so it is in the global village. “In classic noir fiction, ordinary, flawed characters are ruled by their desires, leading to wrong choices and, ultimately, their undoing. It’s a sort of formula—a fall-from-grace, bad karma morality play. The world of noir is the world of the first and second noble truths without the redemption of the third and fourth. It’s a world of people ruled by the desires.”[vii] Or as Buddha would have said, it’s about the suffering caused by craving and aversion.
Haycock sees noir fiction getting darker as it naturally would as the level of fear increases on the planet. “Modern noir stories often have no moral compass at all. In today’s neo-noir fiction the criminals often walk away grinning. And reloading.”[viii]
P-B: Perennial Noir: No Escape
[i] Haycock, Brian. “Escape.” Shambhala Sun, May 2011, page 173.
[iv] Ibid., page 69.
[v] Ibid., page 70.
[vii] Ibid., page 72.
For an indepth discussion see print books by Roy Charles Henry.