One of the great lessons in life is that, in a sense, "school" never ends. Our days of institutional learning end after a decade or two, but in order to develop to our highest potential, we must invest in the idea that there is wisdom to be gained everywhere, every day, from sometimes the most unexpected of sources. I must thank my lovely Miamian friend Liz Tracy, music editor at Broward-Palm Beach New Times, for bringing such a source to my attention this morning in her blog about the second installment of RuPaul Drives, a new World Of Wonder video series featuring the towering, image-flexible drag queen RuPaul Charles, with guest passenger author-activist-performer and famous punk (Black Flag, Rollins Band) Henry Rollins. In RuPaul Drives, the heels, wigs, and gowns are absent and instead we see RuPaul in everyday clothing, in a decidedly-non-glamourous old red Volvo sedan. I did not expect to learn as much as I did in this 4:37-minute video, but I ended up thinking about what was said between the two men all day long.

I am far more familiar with the career of Mr. Rollins than I am of Mr. Charles', but both are fascinating, unique, multi-talented men, hard-working, successful, and well-respected. Both are 52 years old, and as mentioned in the video, consider themselves to be "lone wolves." RuPaul seems to know Henry well enough to be able to get right to a serious and intensely personal subject -- their common inability to sustain personal relationships -- what RuPaul calls "the final frontier." I've read what Henry has written on the topic before, and he seems to be very self-aware of and honest about his failures and limitations. But at what point does acceptance of past mistakes or a self-diagnosed "lack of character" become a shield against fear of further failure or an excuse not to work harder to become a person of greater maturity, depth, or empathy? There can be a great ease and a kind of comfort to being a lone wolf. You answer only to yourself, no man or woman can tie you down, your options are not limited by the needs or desires or expectations of anyone. You are responsible for yourself, which often is plenty enough on the plate, to be sure. With the majority of relationships ending in some kind of failure, it's easy to see why someone might choose to avoid them. Why cause pain for someone else? Why allow someone into your life, only to have them cause you pain? Isn't it just better to trust in what you know you can succeed in?

But as RuPaul questions Henry's solitary lifestyle, the discussion between the two reminds me of a powerful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: 
We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.
At many points in life, unless you fully face those things you fear and fight to defeat them, you will stall out as a person. Fear makes our minds and hearts smaller and harder. We make poor decisions because of fear, and start piling up regrets and sorrows and defenses: endless, excruciating loops of "what ifs" and "if only I had" and "if things were different." Conquering fear, in whatever form it might appear --worrying about taking on a new career, returning to school, dealing with abuse, being able to fall asleep without the light on, or falling in love with someone -- is the necessary work of human beings. When we fail in this, we are truly failing ourselves, and everyone around us. If there is something in your life you are avoiding or feel you cannot handle, THAT is the thing you must move closer TO. THAT is the thing that will unlock the box that is keeping you closed off from being truly free and happy.

Is having a girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse the end-all and be-all of life? Hell, no. But it can be really, really, really, really nice to share your time with someone you care about who cares about you. Who knows, maybe the twentieth time could be the charm, eh, Henry? Well, I don't know, and you don't know. And that's kind of the magic of it all. We still try, and then we fail, and then we try a little harder and a little smarter, and hopefully good comes of the process in the end.

Thanks, RuPaul. I was glad to attend your school today.

RuPaul Drives...Henry Rollins