I feel like journaling at the moment -something I sometimes do here but have done a bit more prolifically via pen and paper – however, like a young Leonard Cohen taking pictures of himself – aware of his (And their potential significance one day) – I think I might rather write here instead. After all, like Leonard Cohen – a man who also was once a young promising artist – I too will die.
And death is life’s greatest gift: for what do we have to lose.
I recognize we live in a world of fairly unwavering thought. Even our bright minds in universities are merely cogs in a machine, albeit intelligent cogs. Nonetheless, people do not think for themselves. If they did there is no fucking way they would suffer the mental anguish they live through on a daily basis. Stress alone is it’s own weakness, its own form of insanity; for there is no such thing as stress, merely the belief we don’t have the resources to handle a given situation. And what a fucking waste of my humanity: to live lacking belief in myself. But this is what I was born to; this is what most of us were born to.
But there are levels. And I know because I have been through so many of them.
I have grown immensely: perspective, understanding, maturity, love, independence, humility, compassion – all the things that have made my heart stronger and more buoyant.
And my philosophies are blossoming.
I am 100% free from the weight of religion, which, in the words of Pablo Neruda, is a collective neurosis.
What I seek is to be free. And I feel I am. This is no doubt due in part to my deep and abiding agnosticism. But it’s not freedom from the collective neurosis of religion alone that elevates me to the level of emotional freedom I feel today. It’s freedom from much of the collective neurosis that comprises life. These automatic, ingrained reactions to life.
Stoicism gave me much of my resilience, and I am a Stoic, but the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are not my bible. No book is. But I do stand on the shoulders of giants, carrying forward the intellectual presents from my spiritual grandfathers.
These persons have had a great influence on my philosophy, character, and disposition:
- Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca
- Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton
- Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalists
- Ayn Rand
- John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts
- Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas
- Carl Jung, Marie Louis Von-Franz
- Joseph Campbell
- Abraham Maslow
- Victor Frankl
- Kazimierz Dabrowski
- John Gardner
Note: I had made a list of these persons in another draft, and there I wrote that, “If I hadn’t discovered these thinkers, I would be a scared little man.” How apt.
This list is by no means complete, nor is it in any specific order; although, I would say Jung, Campbell, Emerson, and Aurelius hold key positions in my mental cabinet – but each person on the above list above has contributed immensely to my education, my philosophy.
It’s important to note here an idea posited by Emerson in his 1837 speech The American Scholar.
“Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.”
The point here being that intellectualism ought not be devoted to the mere worship of ideas, but to their very creation.
Having lived much of my young life a product of other people’s thinking, I connected deeply to the words of Steve Jobs in his 2005 Stanford commencement address:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
I know what it is to have my own inner voice drowned out; I know what it is to live a servant to the ideas of society. Having blossomed mentally – in large part due to the aforementioned thinkers – into something worthy of being called an individual, I can say that I am never going back.
The lyrics from Childish Gambino’s Not Goin Back echo in my head:
Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz
I refuse to go back to not likin’ who I was
Because I do like who I am. I am on MY side. And I’ll soon have a buzz bigger than insects in Texas.
And I am