Real Life Inspiration: Ed Ricketts

I heard an anecdote recently in relation to John Steinbeck (Prayerhand-6god-emoji) guy pal (And total bad ass) Ed Ricketts (Add another prayerhand-6god-emoji).

EFRicketts_42
Ricketts, photo taken aged 43 in 1939.

Ed Ricketts is a man whom I deeply admire. He was, like all the people I admire, a stark individual.

“His mind had no horizons,” as Steinbeck wrote of him, or rather, as “Doc”, the Ricketts inspired beer-loving bohemian science-philosopher who cut himself out of the granite-like sardine-packing population of “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches.”

Yeah, Ed Ricketts was a fucking cool guy.

Perhaps one of the coolest who ever lived. Ricketts is most definitely one of my “spiritual grandfathers”. In fact, he inspired another spiritual grandfather of mine: the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

Essentially Ed Ricketts = Star Wars.

And if you get that reference, you might actually be kind of cool too.

If you didn’t, hold on tight.

So, the anecdote with Ricketts is that he basically learned how to like himself through others. He got the idea that if other people could like Ed, then Ed could like Ed.

So he did.

And from the myriad legacy he left, we can only surmise that his comfort in his own skin made it very easy for others to like him. And I can surmise this, because I know the opposite to also be true: having experienced how discomfort in one’s skin ultimately manifests itself in ways that strangely serve to push others away.

I actually, as a treat, just found the Ricketts anecdote, which is from perhaps the man who knew best knew Ed: Steinbeck.

The story is quoted verbatim from the philosophy laden ‘The Log of The Sea of Cortez’, Steinbeck’s 1940 month long inward journey with Ed, then aged 44, to the Mexican sea of the same name:

Once Ed said to me, “For a very long time I didn’t like myself.” It was not said in self-pity but simply as an unfortunate fact. “It was a very difficult time,” he said, “and very painful. I did not like myself for a number of reasons, some of them valid and some of them pure fancy. I would hate to have to go back to that. Then gradually,” he said, “I discovered with surprise and pleasure that a number of people did like me. And I thought, if they can like me, why cannot I like myself? Just thinking it did not do it, but slowly I learned to like myself and then it was all right.” This was not said in self-love in its bad connotation but in self-knowledge. He meant literally that he had learned to accept and like the person “Ed” as he liked other people. It gave him a great advantage. Most people do not like themselves at all. They distrust themselves, put on masks and pomposities. They quarrel and boast and pretend and are jealous because they do not like themselves. But mostly they do not even know themselves well enough to form a true liking. They cannot see themselves well enough to form a true liking, and since we automatically fear and dislike strangers, we fear and dislike our stranger-selves.

So, Ed is helping me like myself in the very same way that I can like an admire my friends – only, I get to be less critical of myself now. haha

Sadly, Ed died too young. But he made sure to live before he did. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You’ve really inspired me Ed.

Thank You.

This past weekend I was up in Monterey (Guest of a girl I have been trying to date), and seeing the life-sized versions of Ed’s lab and some of his things, just really made me feel blessed. I’m just grateful to have found people I can admire and look up to in the ways that they too once looked up to their own little ambitious and upstart part of themselves.

Because I really am. I’m looking up to things that feel true in myself.

And it’s really nice. It’s nice to finally be at home with myself, where there are no horizons.

horizons
“His mind had no horizons.”
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I do not know how I am going to die, but I know I will.

If thirty years of edging towards the horizon of infinity has taught me anything, it’s that figuring out life takes time.

Hell, some [people] never do.

I think of those who are older and quip that they “still feel twenty five” or whatever age seems to captivate their disposition and persona, and I just could never imagine saying such a thing; I feel no more twenty five than I do sixteen.

I’m simply not the same person.

I am thirty year old Lawrence Black, which is really a beautiful thing.

The other thing thirty years of living on earth has taught me is that compassion is a thing of beauty, perhaps the seed of everything else we need to know about life.

And I say this because I look back on the boy who loved like a dog and hurt like one too, and I have compassion for myself. I understand my pain now in ways I never did – in ways I simply never could have before.

But this entry is not meant to be another look back – it’s just that no wise man can look ahead without seeing himself in time, between what was and what will be.

And that’s really what I am writing for right now. What will be.

Because I’ve figured something out.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we all know exactly what we want.

Hmph you say, well, yes, I too spent plenty of time “lost” to a degree – particularly in my mid to late twenties – but I am not writing this to lament that, I am writing this to prevent it from happening again; I am writing this to once again design my life with the conviction that has allowed me to live my dreams in so many respects.

You see, I think that deep down we all know exactly what we want.

Only there’s a fly in the ointment: we are too afraid to admit our desires to ourselves.

They lay buried beneath a terrifying fear, one that I believe goes hand in hand with that elephant in the room called death. And it’s this fear that prevents us from feeling and expressing our latent, innate desires. And the fear is simply this idea that we may not get them.

I’m almost certain that all forms of acceptable human madness – mediocrity included – stem from this failure to confess our desires to ourselves.

This is an expressly adult problem; no five-year-old faces this existential quandary. Hell, there are a million child presidents and astronauts and veterinarians and mommies out there. And maybe ten of them will become who they wish to be and the rest will simply become adults.

It’s madness. We are more afraid of not getting what we want than we are of getting it. We grow up being told to be careful what we wish for – because we just might get it. Well, what about being careful to make sure we don’t fail to wish for things because we most certainly won’t get what we don’t wish for.

Well, what about being careful to make sure we don’t fail to wish for things because we most certainly won’t get what we don’t wish for.

Let me tell you: I have been there and done that. I have lived the life of unwished desires, and I have faced that soul crushing dreadful misery that only an adult can know. I’ve been dead to life and asleep to the world. I’ve soaked in the kind of acid misery that only eats away at the souls of those living relatively blessed lives in first world nations.

NO MAS.

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I want bigger and harder erections, I want more happy chemicals in my brain.

The aforementioned desires are jests.

What I really want is a myriad of completely attainable things. The kind of things like health and happiness and wealth and creative actualization – the kind of things that make my figurative dick hard.

And I’d be a fool to let anyone stop me from attaining them.

I can only imagine, as a cognitive exercise, how therapeutically effective a simulation or virtual reality program would be in which you experience your death, a kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” thing. Why, people might actually start living instead of working and eating themselves miserably into their graves. Hating their lives deep down all the way, telling their once love to “go fuck themselves” and meaning it. We humans are fools – yet we lack in the foolishness that happiness requires – the kind of foolishness to say, “Why not me?”

I have been a damn fool – you don’t need to ask my exes who are happily living their lives without me to know – I’ll be the first to admit.

But I have compassion for myself.

I simply didn’t know any better.

Aside: Kristin Neff  (Love this woman!) at the University of Texas has done some really insightful research into compassion, and what her and her research team discovered, is that there is no relationship between compassion for self and others – as many assume. Put simply: some people have a lot of compassion for others and very little for themselves, while others – like my exes ; ) – have very little for others yet an abundance of compassion for themselves. Of course, like anything quantifiable, compassion exists on a spectrum, but I am glad to have moved more towards the middle after years of having very little compassion for myself, yet loads for others – like my exes. 

Anyway, as I was saying, I have been a fool. haha

But now, I’m learning, my mind is expanding (Thank you drugs.) jk

But no, I’m learning. And part of what I am doing is developing new beliefs. For what are a man’s beliefs but his theories, the assumptions and hypothesis by which he lives – or tries to live.

So, my new theory, ahem – belief -, my new belief is that I need to be foolish rather than a fool; for a foolish man is a happy man, happy because he is foolish enough to live the kind of life that happiness requires, which is a starkly individual life – as unique as he.

Did you think your fucking cookie cutter life was gonna cut it? ha

I did.

But like I said, NO MAS.

So, here’s what I’m gonna do.

I’m going to cognitively wrap my mind around some crazy ideas, concepts that most people don’t reject so much as fail to consider. These, my friend, are known as possibilities. Because the only certainty is death. Face your future as a kind of ant farm for worms. haha

Now make life great.

Make today great.

Take a vow. Honor yourself with the belief in your personal potential.

Look ahead on your remaining years and order up the kind of life that the universe has for you on the Chinese Take Out Menu of Possibility.

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna fucking get mine.

And I’m going to give back to the world in a major way. Hell, you ungrateful sloth, I’m already giving back with these words. Read em bitch. Make your fucking life awesome.

You know what you want.

Simple: you know what your desires are.

Admit them to yourself. Admit Lawrence that you want someone who possesses the kind of soul that is capable of loving you and only you. Admit that you want a thousand million dollars. Admit that you want the homes and the boat and the jar midwest family, and the life of the world’s most popular living writer  – Paulo Coelho did it, WHY NOT YOU Black? Seriously, admit that you won’t lose sleep if you are so immensely happy and successful in the pursuit of your dreams that your exes cry themselves to sleep next to their miserable husbands. Admit your desires to yourself Lawrence. Admit that you want to teach English in some public college when you are forty five and that you hope half the female student body harbors a healthy crush on you. Admit that you have a penis and a pair of testicles. haha

I’m serious.

Watch me.

To Be Okay

https://soundcloud.com/cderamos/brian-eno-the-big-ship

This year I have become myself.

Or, maybe, I have just crystallized into something whole, maybe I simply feel complete now that I know that this is as whole as I will ever be. alone.

And in all my solitude, in all my hours burning candles, in all my facing of myself, I’ve finally become someone who does not need anyone else to validate my own existence.

Lawrence Black: serial monogamist. Wannabe prince to those who shall remain nameless, those who are now blameless, to those who are, in my estimation, at least, changeless and perfect. And I lived through them, I saw myself through their eyes – for better and then for worse – until the bitter end.

And between those starts and ends, I was never a man unto myself, I was never okay – just okay – I was never okay; I was never okay – not on my own, at least.

And now I am [okay].

Now I am living through myself for the first time.

And for the first time, I am living for myself.

For this life is mine.

It is a wondrous thing to be okay, to know that regardless of whether or not anyone else does, that you yourself know, you know who you are; for to know who you are is to be okay.

Goodnight Moon

Each day, we have but one day.

And reality is as real in the moment as it is false in others.

Sometimes, we merely need different mirrors in order to see beyond ourselves.

This weekend I saw beyond my own [mirrors], which gave me a glimpse into my future – the life I want.

And this life is mine.

I no longer wish to be smart. I no longer desire to impress myself.

All I want is honesty.

All I love is beauty.

And the only beauty is in being honest with yourself.

Goodnight moon.