One Belief to Change Everything, or Not

I have not published anything here in near a month, but a lot can happen in a month – a lot can happen in a day; your days can have significance. This is true (Along with everything else you believe). 

I believe I’m fortunate beyond measure. Where there is love there is life – I have love: abundant, sweet, free, generous love. And it’s the love I have for myself that counts most and makes the rest possible. My heart is a magic kitchen; I am an alchemist; I turn shit into gold. I don’t even want to die anymore

Thirty-two is a very good year: there are no limosines but the perfumed hair comes undone and my heart beats for it. I am a man. No Christian. I am a man. A human, and I think humanness is something we must aspire to. 

But, in order to be human, we have to be whole – imperfect – and I am not talking about accepting flaws, but, rather, acknowledging our status as complex biological and psychological entities. This means listening to our bodies as much as our hearts, and – if we are brave enough – serving both without betraying one. 

That’s the thing about life: it isn’t so much important to be true to ourselves as it is to not betray ourselves. Sometimes, we make mistakes, and that’s a part of life, but I don’t want to live in the shade of the freeway, forever a pretender, trying to buy my own happiness till I die. That would be a betrayal of who I am, as would be a cookie cutter anything – or anything that resembled a normal life at all. I didn’t make it through what I’ve made it through to be bored and unhappy. Ha. 

Hell nah. To quote it for the billionth time, I would rather be whole than good (Jung). I would rather live a life  according to the dictates of my own soul than follow arbitrary mores. My own values are what count. There are many a moralist whom I would not dare break bread with. But this is life, and they fucking love Donald Trump. That’s just the world we live in. Sorry kids, but life is a macrocosm of high school. Most people still playing a game called “who’s coolest” – of course, in the adult world, we call these people boring, unimaginative, and unoriginal, which is precisely what most people are. I really do wish there were more humans I wanted to hug, but like the homie James Comey, I don’t play that. Me no conversate with the fakes

Water, however, finds its own level – as do persons. I refer here not to class, status, race or religion, but values. Unfortunately, however, xenophobia is very real in America. So is Fox News.  

But I promise you, the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps not in number – or even power – but, as far as the stuff that makes life worth living goes [love], there is plenty of it. And when you have those good people in your life, stick to them like glue – and when you meet other good people, stick to them too. 

If you are not the social type, I understand. My late twenties did a lot to incline me toward introversion, but still, sociometer theory is well and true, and being likable goes a long way toward being happy.  Being happy, of course, making you likable. 

Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. I love Lawrence Black. I love my life. 

This same life, I made a hell of at times. That’s the thing about being an alchemist – that’s the thing about perspective – you can turn shit to gold but you can also turn gold to shit. Humans are lenses. Paradise and hell, and all between – you can experience it. This we call thought. Feeling. Being. 

But few of us question it. Only, when we do – and we do discover that – gah! – we don’t fully like ourselves – this is precisely when we outgrow it. Most ideas the unconscious mind holds, which hold us in turn, are absurdly illogical. How many times have you learned something about yourself that you let go of upon discovering? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to see the error of my ways – and just the coming to truth with myself about it was enough to resolve the matter – even if it had personally gripped me for years. Realizations, therapy, mistakes, life: it takes a long time to learn about yourself. But the more you do, oh how life gets better. 

I’d keep going, but I’d like to return a few messages before bed. And I think I’ll come back here soon. I’ve got more to say. That’s for fucksure. 

My unassailable, unimpeachable confidence is almost diametrically opposed to the fact that life is delicate and I will die, but why not be strong? Far better to trust life, to trust yourself. As I wrote long ago, society is a mirror no person finds themselves likable in. Be secure. That’s my advice. And the only way to be secure is to look within. Because that’s the only way you’ll ever change. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing you’re not happy. 

Lastly, is like to say something about optimism. I brought a book from Urban Outfitters late last year called You Can Be an Optimist, and while the book taught me a lot (Specifically on optimism and locus of control) – what really hit me was a thought I had while driving the other day: optimism is nothing more than the genuine belief that things will work out – and that one belief changes everything. 

After all, whose side are you on? 

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Drunk on Henry Miller, Ruminating on Life

I am the happiest man alive – or, at least, I aspire to be. My restlessness, my stressors, my impatience, my work – the machine of automatic process by which man is conscripted to live and work in this society – all of these pale in the face of death, which, I concede, is the final result of life. 

As Henry Miller wrote in Tropic of Capricorn

Take a good look at me. Now tell me, do you think I’m the sort of fellow who gives a fuck what happens once he’s dead?

And rightly so; for this is my heaven, right here. 

But a distinction must be made: I was not always diamond hard on the inside. This blog – my life – is a testiment to that. 

I have learned how to be a true Stoic, to see what lies beyond my control; again, quoting Henry Miller:

I soon found out you couldn’t change the world. The best you can do is learn to live with it. 

But in learning to live with it, you change your world, your perspective broadens, your prejudices die off. 

Where I am now, at 31 and change, I have learned to live with it [the world] via the acceptance of personal responsibility. I – and only I – am responsible for how I feel, what I do. 

I fear this (and much of my writing here) all sounds very pollyannish, very self-congratulatory, very smug. And fuck it if it does; although, I am very much inclined to state that no man is immune to the human condition entirely. I’m a Homosapien; I have foibles, which, if left to their own devices – that is to say lived unconsciously – would ruin me; however, that’s not how my story goes. At 31, I’d much rather feel nothing at all than pain (A sharp departure from the shadow days of my late twenties, when I was hellbent on burning my world down – a world I didn’t see fit to live in). 

Pause. 

I am begged by the muse to answer a question here, and the question is one I have heard other fortunate souls ask: why me? Meaning, instead of falling in love with Sarah, instead of many of the good things that have happened for me (All my loves included), why didn’t life just fuck me, ruin me?

I don’t know: I suppose it did; I just don’t see life that way anymore; instead of seeing a tragedy, I see a golden goose. Sure, shit sucked – I have felt the twisting pains of heartache – but I no longer feel I know what heartbreak is. 

As I have said before, every woman I ever loved has loved me. 

Why lead all roads back to love – what else? I find nothing save the ability of my soul to weather anything – to endure – to make an ecstasy of solitude; all else is waiting. 

The bounds of my love, however, are merely shores I have yet to tread upon. I’ve only now, in my eyes, become what may be called a good friend, a good son, a good brother, a good uncle – a good person, which is to say nothing of morality and everything of generosity. 

I have covered this – and wish to cover it no more – but I will:

I wasn’t always this whole. 

Again, I am not one for morality. Save me your reproaches. As the newest beau of my muse, Henry Miller, wrote:

I had no more need of God than He had of me, and if there were one, I often said to myself, I would meet Him calmly and spit in His face.

I am of the basic belief that humans are no more than a goddamned species of mammal. The great tragedy of life then is, that in the advancement of life, the most advanced species on earth is also its most base.

Slavery, Abuse, Rape, Murder, Torture, Oppression: the human is master of these crimes. We are inherently base because we are a bunch of fucking mammals with egos. 

And in being human, I wish no more than to transcend the petty, the ugly, the banal; for it is very difficult to be human and not feel like a piece of shit. 

Real life, which is to say life amongst the human race – shit – good luck buddy. Because even if you are happy, it is only becacuse you are not in a North Korean prison camp eating rats. 

Why the world is like this? I don’t know. I’d like to say that humans will continue evolving, that we will overcome the darkness of our own age, but I also fear the inroads to the soul are dying – that man is exchanging knowledge for truth. 

Facts are stubborn things, sure; however, despite myriad human progresses, I am increasingly inclined to view society as a machine that will eventually – given the dangers of AI, genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics – eat man. 

Not all progress is forward. 

There are, within futurist circles, those who would happily see Homosapiens go extinct, and frankly, aside from the hardwired preservation of my own mortality, I can hardly disagree. We are the single most oppressive, harmful form of life on earth. More suffering can be attributed to man than can be engendered to any God. But I suppose this is merely the unfolding of evolution. I just wish we saw our place in the universe more honestly. 

We are a species with hopes and dreams. But we are a species nonetheless and not the children of Gods; we are the children of men and woman, as flawed as any ever were. 

I am stretching my mental legs, thinking aloud, as I always do here, but it is late and I am tired. So, allow me to wrap up. 

Life is a road, and we are born in a lane amongst many. Our lives are spent largely ignoring our passions, lost in petty pursuits, chasing trivialities at the cost of our grandeur, our splendor. 

Society asks that you participate in exchange for acceptance, which is a catch-22 of the highest sense. You are made to exchange happiness for comfort, time for money. But that’s all there is fundamentally: time. 

You are born then you die. Humans, sadly, however, choose to spend their lives pretty fucking stupidly. Put simply, the metrics by which we measure our wellbeing are not doing our being well. 

Great food and nice homes. A nice car. Clothes. Is that all you want out of life? 

Do you not wish to live in flow? Would you not rather enjoy peak state as a circumstance rather than a luxury? 

That conception of you, your very values, these are products not of the self but of society. 

And there is only one way to change society, which is to say the collective values of humans, and that is via art; for only art has the power to create change in others, in ourselves. It is the mirror; the place where we form our heroes, where we catch the conscience of the king, as Hamlet did. 

Art, I feel, is then the royal road to life as the Buddhists see it: the purpose of life being the reduction of suffering. 

Art can be anything. 

To quote Malcolm Gladwell, ‘art is using your humanity to create change in other people.’ Only, via capitalism, via governments, via the leveraging of labor, we enjoy our comforts instead. 

Only Yesterday

The sun will rise tomorrow,
As straight as the crow flies;

Daylight will come.

And it will be a good day for some,
And for others: one dark and tired

But I promise you this:

They’ve already decided –

For whether they know it or not:
Their day is upon them.

But –
Shall they meet us,
Perhaps then they will know what we do:

Which is that the human heart – if unafraid –
Shines right into the blind-spots of our souls,
That pulling darkness,
That invisible, secret shadow-side to each individual’s light

And should someone’s light throw shade on my shine
I am unafraid to use that yin,
And wear the black darkness about me like a cloak
So that I may once again slip in,
And explore the depths within this heart of mine –

Where I,
Brave and trusting,
Shall seek the light –
That yang-energy hiding behind the wound I have yet to find

And finding the sad thing
– As the seeker always does –
I will carefully remove the stitches,
Drenching the lonely sad plains in my soul with undiscovered parts of myself,
Where only yesterday,
I didn’t know I existed.

And when our wounds have been finally opened and examined,
We will be more whole –
Our wings once again dipped in gold,
We will have grown,
Not simply older,
But better, brighter, lovelier, and wiser –
Than we ever imagined,
Only yesterday

Sour, Sweet, Salty

What can I say: I’m good. 

I used to write with another muse in mind – I used to live that way: constantly hoping to live up to some arbitrary measure; always insufficient for my estimations of myself, and always short of her’s. 

Only, today, now, I dissappoint no one; for this is who I am, and I am loved for it – by myself and by the one I love in turn. 

But it was not love that saved me, it was me – my desire for my own [love], which I earned, and which in turn earned me another’s. 

But this is not a love song; this is my life. 

The cowboy poet, finding his way home, dreaming of horses and a tree lined drive where I will lay me down beside the one I dream with. 

This is our fairytale. 

And we have fun in our happiness.

You see, neither of us pretend nor try to be anything we are not. In fact, I’d venture to say we like ourselves pretty damn genuinely. 

We’ve been reading Ricketts’ and Steinbeck’s prosaic and philosophy laden Log From The Sea of Cortez together lately, and in it Ed Ricketts describes a donkey whom he discovers doesn’t directly dislike him so much as he [the donkey] suffers from “…a sour eye for the world”. And so it is, most opinions of us – including our own – stem from our sour eye for the world, and thus we are condemned by the very thing which might free us: our perception. 

I think for a long time I felt that projection was always something that was inside out, meaning my perception of myself as something that reflected outward, but I don’t think so anymore. The donkey with the sour eye for the world has begged the question for me of whether the view of the self or the view of the world is a greater influence on ones perception – and I argue the latter, for it was only when I saw through the veil of perception that I was able to form a healthy inner reality (Or disposition if you will), and a true liking of myself. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to burn the world down and sow these wild oats from time to time, but greener pastures call. 

And I’ve come a long way from sowing the seeds of my own destruction – from seeing through that sour eye I once thought normal. 

But today I know that it takes a long time to become the one. 

And I’m not trying to escape who I am any longer. 

Took me thirty years to accept myself. 

Wish that were a joke but I fear some never do: stuck behind sour eyes, few seem to see the sweetness of life. 

And it is sweet. 

So don’t be so sour. 

For it’s all over one day. 

And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see that someday isn’t what it used to be.

And then, and only then, the sour will fade into the past, and the salty will be seen for what it is, and the sweet – oh the sweet – what it may be and what it is: only the heart knows these things. 

Just remember that sour eyes, as the sweet do, have a way of meeting. And even the sweetest eyes can become sour in the eyes of the beholder. So look neither without nor within, but in your own heart. And perhaps it is then, that we may finally see into the heart of another. 

A Sweeter Sin: Wilder Dreams

Returning to writing after spending the past few weeks living my life – in many ways as I never before have – feels faintly like an act of infedility against the one I love, whom I have been busy living with; however, this is no act of indescretion; this is what I do. I write. 

Only, writing feels different now. 

Despite the sweet sin of writing being recently displaced by another, sweeter sin, I still find a glorious joy in the act of composing my thoughts into prose. And perhaps it is the very act of enjoying a pleasure without the other true pleasure in my life, which causes me to draw such a foolish conclusion; however, there is no need for this man to feel he is missing the mark; for a mere twenty paces from this fairy-tale-lit-balcony, whereupon I am writing tonight under a string of lights near our garden, sleeps the woman I have chosen to spend forever with. 

And, yes, my words are – to borrow lyrics from Jimi Hendrix – bold as love. 

But at thirty, I know what love is. 

And to borrow a page from Buddhist philosophy: love is wanting another to be happy. 

And I am – as I never before have been capable of. 

As I said to Sarah tonight: “I was prepared for failure, but I was planning for happiness.”

Yes: happiness has prevailed. 

And I will be the first to tell you: 

I deserve this. 

I have been through the dark night of the soul, which my writing stands testament to, and I have done the inner work a man must do to face his inner depths, which again, my writing is a testimony of. And now, I expect the next six months of my writing to be a kind of letter from my soul to my ego, explaining how wilder dreams have come to be. 

I would be lying if I said I ever could have imagined finding a woman who just got me. And I too would be lying if I said I don’t feel a haunting tinge of guilt at being this happy, this healthy, this free. 

The onion peels yet further back; and this is why I write: to peel onions where tears do not flow – to heal the parts of me that have never before been this at home. 

My life – our life –  Sarah and I – we are a miracle. 

And I pray on the off chance the priestesses – the past goddesses I have prayed to or upon alters I built – on the off chance you are reading this, I hope you are happy for me. If you are: you love me – as I you, as I would want for your happiness – and if you do not: then you do not, and I nonetheless wish you the best.  

Period. Next paragraph.

It was Shakespeare, the great bard, who spoke of sweet sin in the tale of Romeo and Juliet, and who wrote that, the course of true love never did run smooth. 

But I disagree; for I know better

For our love is easy. 

And, as my sister taught me, healthy relationships are. Not to say, exclusively, that in my decade plus of luck-in-love (AKA – being a good fucking person) that I have not had a healthy relationship, but, rather, that I have not been this healthy. 

It takes a long time to become the one. 

And all I know of God, and of Love – and of the Universe in myself – has taught me that, life contains lessons that must be learned for the sake of the soul.

Only, most of us are dead to our inner voices, which is why I write: to hear my own [inner voice], and to show others what a human life looks like, when lived with a measure of bravery.

Because I live and I love from the heart, and I know I have made mistakes – but I also know that I didn’t know any better, and neither did you.

Period. Next chapter. 

 

A Minor Breakup Poem, Magical Optimism, and The Toxicity of Self-Pity

Thought she was my priestess,
But she was a chimera

Her head in my lap,
Eyes on fire,
Masking the truth behind black mascara and desire

Looking up to me always,
Only to let me down again
And in our tempests, I tried my best to swim

But joy perished,
And I returned to the depths within,
Where I discovered our island was an iceberg

And she didn’t have the depth to see,
How her selfishness was slowly sinking me
But now I found bravery to sail back out to sea

And so I go on, once again happy and alone
To pick up the pieces and build a home she’ll never know

And that’s okay with me

I only wish I could have seen it was a dream

But I woke up and remembered,
How no soul can exercise the ghosts within me

So I look to the horizon, past the storms that made me


Onward

This is something I learned through writer Elizabeth Gilbert: the power of onward – of moving ahead – past my own bullshit and beyond my own ignorance via the difficult and highly valuable lessons life has blessed me with. This, of course, is much easier for me to do at thirty, having aligned my perception more closely with the truths of reality, or, rather, having spent my twenties suffering enough at the hands of my own indiscriminate idealism, until I finally started to learn that not everyone deserves to share in what I can only describe as my gift for magical optimism.

And this is something I am still learning. Because I have wasted a lot of my magical optimism on others.

This is, I admit, a difficult concept to describe – as I am only coming to see this in full now – but I am discovering, in hindsight, that I have invested a lot of this magical optimism into relationships, where I put my brightest energies only to have them burn up into a vapor, a misty fog of memories. These are not regrets I am airing out, only lessons. Because moving onward, I have dreams, I have desires in my heart, things I want to build and become. And like all human beings, I have recreated my fate time and time again in different relationships, different people, holding onto the same fallacy laden hopes, destined to repeat the errors of my ways until I have seen them.

But now I am seeing. And it is in this light that I genuinely am not regretful about the trials fate has engendered through me. Of course, as I get older there are tinges of sorrow in moments, things like realizing young love is a memory, but I am wise enough at this age to choose my perspective and remain grateful I’m still relatively young.

I also remind myself that I am a better man now than I was then. And, having finally seen the foolishness of letting my stock rise and fall with relationships, I know today that I am okay, and, with that fickle security blanket called modern love once again gone, I am returning to my magical optimism, never to forget it again.

This is important because the hard truth of reality is that modern love can and often does come and go; however, you should never lose the best parts of yourself with it – even if briefly.

I will personally admit that it is easy to fall back into my own depths in the tail end and wake of a relationship. But a person must, as I am, move onward. Hence the power of the written word: to draw maps on the uncharted territory called the future. And this is what I am doing: I am designing my life, I am writing my Wikipedia page, one aware, intention filled moment at a time. Because I believe I deserve better now than I did then.

Because then – looking back across the sea of time to the shores of my twenties – I see now how I spent long spells of time completely unaware, entirely blind to all that I was or could be. In a word: I wasted a lot of my life in self-pity.

And nothing kills dreams and robs life of it’s magic more than that which we call self-pity. Nothing. Failure is a mere thorn compared to the piercing arrows we sling at ourselves in self-pity.

Self-pity will eat away at your soul, and no amount of soaking in the acid of your own sorrow can heal your wounds. They will only demand greater, more destructive palliatives to ease the pain of feeling bad. And like Ed Ricketts said, For a very long time I didn’t like myself.

My own self-loathing was almost entirely the result of the self-pity I held onto (Coupled with a lack of self-compassion [Footnote 1] and a lack of understanding that what others do is not about you – something I will touch on again).

And as is the case with all time spent in negative feeling, self-pity is a total waste of life.

Self-pity is the default answer for those whose low self-image and lack of confidence compel them to make a martyr of themselves so that they may feel that they are the hero of their own suffering. But I’m such a good person, why me!! – or whatever version of the “I didn’t do anything to deserve this” story they choose to tell themselves.

I may sound callous in making such a statement, but I can only do so because I’ve been there: no, I absolutely did not deserve my first love fucking my best friend and mentor, nor did I deserve people in my first business conducting themselves without integrity at my expense. But this is life. Some people, when it comes to the things they feel they are owed, are savages. It’s just a fact that in the course of a human life you will be the collateral damage of selfish people. Now, whether you let this stop you from going onward is up to you. I will sheepishly but unashamedly admit, I let these things stop me from a successful second love, and a successful second business. Failure was one of the costs of my self-pity.

The problem was, I simply loved people. And I took things very personally. This made me a hell of a fantastic means to other people’s ends. Thankfully, I have begun to learn that not all people are worthy of my unconditional love and my magic optimism. I’ve also started to see that it is not about me. Some people are simply selfish. And they never think they are, because they lack the compassion for others to understand how self-centered and hurtful their actions are.

This is part of the spectrum of human nature, something we think we are experts on, but in fact requires decades to learn – just as it requires decades to understand yourself.

This is why I am writing, because I am learning.

And tonight I have been reflecting on the absolute toxic nature of self-pity, of denying yourself the compassion you deserve. It’s just another fact of life that some of us can give oceans of genuine compassion and empathy to others, yet treat ourselves with nothing but crippling self-pity. This is a grave injustice to ourselves. But nonetheless, few of us ever wake the fuck up and pick ourselves up and move onward. Thankfully for me, my age is a ticking clock. I don’t want to be forty and not have spent my thirties living my dreams. In my twenties, I lived some of mine, but those dreams are mostly vapor today.

Looking onward, I want to honor the crucibles I have passed through by applying the hard-won lessons they have brought me. I don’t want to waste my magic optimism on another over-entitled partner, and nor do I want my past self-pity to again push away a good one. But more than that, I don’t want my life to be about relationships, dreams that can vaporize. I have a legacy to build. And it’s not for me or the children I don’t have, it’s for the world. My mission is bigger than getting laid. My dreams are greater than the unfortunate things I had to face to get here.

And so, once again, I look to the horizon, past the storms that made me.

Onward.


You do not need to be loved,
not at the cost of yourself.
The single relationship truly central and
crucial to life is the relationship
to the self.
It is rewarding to
find someone whom you like,
but it is essential to like yourself.
It is quickening to recognize that
someone is a good and decent
human being,
but it is indispensable to
view yourself as acceptable.
It is a delight to discover people who are
worthy of respect and admiration
and love,
but it is vital to believe
yourself worthy of these things.
For you cannot live in someone else.
You cannot find yourself in
someone else.
You cannot be given a life by
someone else.
Of all the people you
will know in a lifetime, you are the
only one you will never leave or lose.
To the question of your life,
you are the only answer.
To the problems of your life,
you are the only solution.

Jo Coudert
Advice from a Failure

Footnote 1: Self-pity is not self-compassion.

edit / addition, 11/13/15: Wisdom on Self-Pity from Charlie Munger

“Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self-pity are disastrous modes of thoughts. Self-pity gets fairly close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity. … Self-pity will not improve the situation.” – C.M.

“Another thing, of course, is that life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every missed chance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every missed chance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and that your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in constructive fashion. That is a very good idea.” – C.M.

Happiness, and Two Kinds of Selfishness: Having The Courage to Be Happy

If we could take our days, from today out, and write a fairy tale of our lives, what course might we chart? What destiny might we find to occupy our time before our days run out?

My heart beats in me, ticking, reminding me that one day, it will give up the ghost. My shortness of breath, a symptom of what seems to be walking pneumonia, too reminds me that I am but mortal.

And so, at thirty, I am conducting myself like one who knows he will die.

This, of course, means that I today am regarding myself and my time with an appropriate degree of reverence – particularly when it comes to others who do not.

There are, in fact – and unfortunately so – few who possess the shining disposition, joie de vivre, and omnipotent idealism I have so fiercely fought to cultivate within myself. Qualities that lead me towards happy solitude rather than resigned contentment; for happiness is everything.

Happiness is everything.

Happiness is the key to success, the cornerstone of love, and the linchpin of inner peace. Only, we chase our tails, placing the cart before the horse, pushing an impossible stone up a hill with no summit in sight; in short: we make life a very hard battle in our fight to be happy – in our belief that success, love, and inner peace will bring us happiness.

What we forget, what people who are old and dying remember, is that happiness is a choice.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that while happiness is a choice, it can very often be a hard choice. And, as I have long said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same. Our happiness is no different; we must choose between making the hard choice or facing the toughest of consequences. When viewed in this light, some of the hardest choices you will ever have to make become very easy.

Yes, happiness sometimes means leaving that person who says they love you (But won’t stop communicating with other people behind your back and lying to you about it). Happiness also sometimes means going against what other people think you ought do and become. Happiness can also sometimes mean not listening to others, who often have their very own selfish motives for trying to chart your life course to suit their aims. But all of these choices have one commonality, and that’s the thread that each is a decision between what others want and what you want; for happiness always means listening to your own heart and intuition, which, in borrowing the words of Steve Jobs, somehow already know what you want to become.

courageHappiness requires courage.

Happiness requires that you be the hero of your story – not the victim. Happiness requires you to exercise the latent traits that exist in each of us: courage, faith in ourselves, a belief in our desires, and the ability to face our fears. We can all do these things. Only, most of us are too afraid to let others down. We are too afraid to exercise the healthy selfishness that happiness demands of us.

I spent my entire life living this way. And not only did my happiness suffer as I made myself a martyr of other’s happiness, but I also made myself incredibly easy to manipulate. In essence: I was walked on like a doormat time and time again, because some people are savages. Some people take advantage of others. Some people lack the things that most make us human, things like empathy and compassion.

There are two kinds of selfishness: the first is wielded by those who let others down and never take responsibility for it, instead, often blaming the very people they hurt. Whereas the latter, is a kind of selfishness exercised only as a means to preserve happiness, rather than selfishness that serves as a tool for happiness at the expense of others, as the former does.

The first results from lacking empathy and compassion for others, which is, in effect, a kind of ignorant malice. The second kind of selfishness, that which preserves happiness, is simply when you put your own happiness and inner peace before those who would do repeated harm to it.

Unfortunately, the very people who would exercise their own ignorant selfishness at your expense will have you believe that you are doing the same to them, when you are simply saying, I’m sorry, but the sanctity of my self-respect, the security of my inner-child, and the inner peace of my being – the very things my happiness requires – are more important to me than any relationship.

Because if you spend your life afraid to speak up for your inner voice, too scared to stand up for your values, and too concerned with pleasing those who do not have the depth of empathy and compassion to care for you in the manner you do them, then you will suffer. And the acid of your suffering will eat away at your soul, often until you find a greater pain with which to bury it. Addictions, self-harm, destructive behavior – these things are often all manifestations of a soul in pain. And what a soul in pain needs, what your inner child needs, is a hero. Someone to stand up for you, someone who will speak up for the sanctity of your self-respect and the security of your inner peace. And the only person who can do this is You.

You are either the hero of your story or the victim. Any victim can be miserable. But it takes a hero to be happy.

And yes, you will have to let others down. But there are always two people to let down: yourself or others. And you have to choose whom, in a given situation, you will let down. You have to ask yourself, which choice will let you sleep better at night. Because betraying yourself is the worst kind of betrayal there is. And it will eat away at your soul. It will eat at your soul until you are a shell of the person you once were. And then, after you have tried to fill that shell with whatever hurts more than the pain or your own self-betrayal, and that pain becomes too much for you, then and only then will you learn. And maybe this time, you will let down those who deserve it, by virtue of – or lack of it in – their own actions.

So, from here, where do I go? Well, I begin to reward myself; for the hard choices I must make, I decide that I will make a fairy tale of my life. And no one will stop me.

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.”

Mindsight: Going Back to The Start

The imagination is the greatest ability we have – for what may be born of dreams extends far beyond the reaches of the eye, which is limited by our reality – yet the bounds of reality extend far beyond the morrow, all the way into the clouds and past the horizon. Mindsight – our ability to see past today, past practicality, beyond the abyss of fear and the cove of doubt – this is the key that unlocks doors where others see walls. It is through this magic of evolution that we may dream while we are awake, seeing what others do not.

If you think this is the stuff of mere daydreaming, fancies and whatnot, then you, my friend, are seriously shortchanging yourself.

Things do not happen by mere chance: that couple that is going to make love tomorrow on the yacht of their dreams, you think that is mere fortune? No. That, my friends, is the product of a dream, a plan, a goal, and, of course, hard work.

The problem is, most people confine their dreams to their resources rather than letting their dreams detemine them. If your dreams do not guide your reality, as a needle does a thread, your reality will guide your dreams. Unfortunately, most people lose their ability to dream – both through lack of use and the normal setbacks of life. We’ve all given up at some level.

That last sentence is heartwrenching, isn’t it.

You see – dreams need to be curated, protected, and evolved, but the difficulty is that we live in a society that applies immense pressure on us; our values, our goals, and our desires are constantly being dictated to us by our peers, our parents, and ultimately our fraglie and insecure egos.

I hit a point last year when I realized my dreams weren’t even mine.

They belonged to an ex or someone I felt I needed to best, or my wish to gain approval from someone who doesn’t matter. Ayn Rand was right; selfishness is a virtue. Luckilly, I can still afford to be selfish: no wife. No kids. No limits. It sounds absurd but it’s true; if you’re out there and you’re feeling sorry for yourself about being single, you are seeing it all wrong. No, you can write your own ticket.

But most of us, single or taken, struggle with this – with determining what is we really, truly want.

The irony, and the key to unlocking the mystery within us, lies in the past; before society replaced our dreams with things: flat TV’s, great shoes, nice cars, a great place, this is adult shit. Children, on the other hand, know better. We all know better. We’ve just forgotten.

Go back in time. Remember when you were a child. Remember that thing you did that made the hours pass like minutes. The thing that dissolved reality into a mere sidenote. That; the call you stopped answering a long, long time ago still lives within you, and if you pick it back up, it will ring as true today as it did on afterschool afternoons twenty years ago. It’s 1995, and you are on the floor in your room looking at a book, feeling like you just set foot on the moon. Fast forward ten years and you were working in a call center not even realizing what happened to you. Five years later and you just wanted what others had. It’s a sad story, but it’s the story of an adult life. Wrought down by the weight of living, we forgot what we loved. We traded in our dreams for flat screen TVs, twenty inch rims on our leased SUVs.

It is time to reach back in time and take back the light that once kindled your soul.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

Awaken. Please.

I am begging you, as the pain I brought on my soul has long begged of me.

I write this because today I am taking full responsibility for my childhood dreams: I own them once again, and I am no longer owned by the pressure of society, a pressure no child really knows.

When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than books and boats. I read every book in my school library on sailing, even Kon-Tiki. Dove, Spray, Adrift – you name it. I remember one day, while reading a story of sailors eating hard-tack at sea, just wishing I had some old, stale bread in my kitchen. I just wanted to taste it, I wanted to live it. And for a time, I did.

But then life happened. That drug of love, and the desire to be cool, to be admired, the desire to admire myself for the things society upholds as measures of happiness and success took over.

I’ll save you my autobiography, but at thirty I am once again as bitten by those same bugs as I was at eleven.

It’s an incredibly beautiful and healing thing. This, my friends, is as true to myself as I can be.

Books and boats.

P.s. We may know the dreams most suited to us by the ease and comfort in which we can clearly imagine ourselves in them. So, try them on, until, just like Goldilocks, you find the one that feels just right. So chill out; you had it all figured out as a child. You need only remember. Now go get lost in it. Once more. For your own sake. Don’t let yourself down another day more. You read this, and I wrote this, for a reason.

Dear Society

There is a pain to growing up, a hurt inherent to not knowing how to ease the woes that accompany a given life.

Woes arising from the truths we dare not face; our identity naturally in opposition to anything that threatens our core underlying beliefs about who we are.

These core beliefs are typically unconscious, childlike assumptions about life, formed at in early age in order to allow us to understand our families, thus becoming our blueprint for navigating the world at large.

This is why childhood patterns of anguish persist throughout adult life. Our guiding stories – paticularly in regards to relationships, and generally from a gender correlative view – in turn become our very limited and incorrect assumptions. It’s as if our parents are the unconscious, assumptive benchmark by which we judge everyone else – for better or for worse.

And from an evolutionary and anthropological standpoint this no doubt equipped us with a set of intutive assumptions about our kin, by which we could cohesively assimilate into primitive, tribal, or village cultures – essentially the world that humans knew for tens of thousands of years before the relatively recent development of modern, high-density societies.

Only, today, instead of a few hundred, interrelated realities intersecting, we’ve got tens of thousands in a given city, all with their own homegrown beliefs about how people are supposed to be. And if you grew up in an average middle class family, with relatively neurotypical parents who instilled fairly vanilla values into you, this might not be so terrible, for you are apt to follow a fairly typical life path, and assimilate healthily into a world that needs more accountants, realtors, or whatever you end up doing; however, if you grew up like I did, which is to say the typical childhood of a writer, painter, or whatever oddity life has made you, well then, your woes are apt to be much grander – at least in your own eyes – for life is a little more difficult for those whose values do not center primarily around fitting in. The artist has world views that often oppose reality entirely, or values which fall into direct opposition to society’s priorities. Read enough ‘great’ writers, and you will see this truth time and time again, both in their characters and in the lives of the writers themselves.

This is why the artist is such a tortured soul. It’s his values that torture him; he is a misanthrope – a castaway from his own people – he worships different Gods, which is to say he cares naught for the trappings of society, and if he does, then he secretely detests what he lacks the courage to renounce.

Story of my twenties; so rife were the last five years with torment; I lived as one does who lacks ample courage to be completely true to himself; in a word, I was miserable.

I spent the last five years trying to escape my woes, afraid to face what I could not, opting instead to cling to my innocence, as if my idealism were the Jedi force by which the world would magically conform to my view of it (This is a fantastic recipe for self-pity, by the way).

Ironically, our futile attempts to deny or escape the truths we find ugliest only strengthen their presence in our lives, proving the adage that, what we resists persists.

I’ve quoted it a dozen times, and I again lay the words out like a blanket on the grass:

Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate. – C.G. Jung

The unconscious, repressed truths we feel incabable of accepting posess us, directing our fate back to them in a grotesque paradox. But it’s through the same inescapable and utterly painful truths that we become whole, mature, actualized adults.

For me this has culminated in a coexistence between my ideals and reality.

To quote Jung’s protege, Marie Louis Von Franz:

If we can stay with the tension of
opposites long enough —sustain it,
be true to it—we can sometimes
become vessels within which the
divine opposites come together and
give birth to a new reality.

Which, after years of the unuterable. and inescapable truths I fought to deny kicking the absolute shit out of me, I am finally managing to do; for, my beliefs are in almost all aspects directly oppositional to reality. If I did not posess the learning I do, I surely would have found the chasm between my soul and reality too great, and would likely have killed myself. But, having the balm of art, philosophy, shamanism, and psychology, I have tended my wounds and in the process kept my head.

My soul intact, my heart whole – my spirit resilient – I am ready to dive into the gulf, to live between the hard facts of life and the comforts of my beliefs, refusing to again sacrifice one for the other at the expense of myself.

Wonderfully, at this same time, I am reconnecting to my childhood dreams in a very realistic, almost magical way. I do not want to say too much – for I desire to go about my plans quietly – but it is as if I am becoming who I was meant to be, who I dreamed of becoming. The priviledge of a lifetime, as Joseph Campbell said about being who you are.

The depth I have as a man and as a writer has been hard won, but it would be completely false for me to say my life hasn’t been guided by something greater than myself. And if I had let the world shape my values I simply wouldn’t be who I am, which is an individual – in the most rugged and impractical sense.

Have your life society. Get fucked. Swipe right all day. Keep up with the Joneses Kardashians.

I am going to keep on following my intuition, my heart, my G-d, my dreams, my passions, and my purpose.

And that is the difference between you and I.

Dear Society

Reached a truce at truth
Let go after thirty years of youth
“Innocence lost”
Feared the cost
Clung to notions,
In oceans of debauch

Feared for naught
Never taught
Bitter truths
As a youth,
Thought my family was the bad of the lot
Hah

Care of The Soul: A Recipe

I’ve been blessed, but this is gifted: I gave it to myself.

It’s a simple recipe, centuries old – timeless really:

I am on a blanket, under the stars, with a candlelit lantern, and a cup of homemade chai tea.

Mexican Blanket: $20.00
Chai Tea: $0.35
Stanley insulated thermos: $30.00
Lantern & candle: $4.50 (flea mkt)

Inner Peace: Priceless.

This is what life is about. Inner peace.

Inner peace is not something you are blessed with (I tried that recipe the first thirty years of my life). No, inner peace is a gift, it’s something you give yourself. And you must; it’s your G-d given right to be happy.

Do you think hapiness something other than inner peace? Pity you if you do, for I’ve already tried that recipe too.

On this blanket, writing this, the breeze playing with my face; I could do this everynight, and I practically do.

I’m grateful to Thomas Moore for connecting a lot of Jungian dots for me. His book, Care of The Soul, has been a great asset in my life. Prior, I had made progress towards consciously caring for my soul, but after his book found me, caring for my soul became my paramount duty. A duty that has given me deep and lasting fulfillment. As a matter of chance, I also happened to read Walden at the same time, which only added to my understanding of Moore’s work. Thoreau certainly cared for his soul with the dedication of a true master.

I am far from Walden Pond, but my view shares a watery reflection. And here, following Thoreau, I experience the simple beauty of life. (Although he might pass on the extravagance of my stevia sweeted tea).

This is how life is meant to be lived: simply and naturally. It is insane we confine ourselves within doors so resolutely. Those crazy misanthropes: the Eustace Conways, the Christopher McCandlesses; the Thoreaus, they are the normal ones. It’s the rest of the world, in their walled in castles; they are the very form of crazy, neurotic, anti-social type that they deem an outcast.

The outcast is merely a shadow figure, someone to pile the the scorn of their buried envy on. Don’t believe me? Buy a blanket, brew some tea, go drink it out of doors on a starry night and tell me otherwise. This is living.

Only, we’ve been sold a house with a living-room full of nice furniture so we can deposit ourselves repeatedly to stare into an electronic box until we die.

The American dream: sitting in your castle watching your box. I’m laughing but, I tell you, this stuff is stranger than fiction.

Yes, I am happy. And sure, I live in a box too. But mine is near the sea, my backyard the very form of nature and the place I deposit myself to stare out and look at the real world. Here I peacefully contemplate life, occassionally looking down into the box phone, I now type this on.

What amazes me, however, is that I’m the only one out here doing this. This despite the fact that behind me, thousands of residents in tall condominium buildings live, none ever opting for an evening spent in fresh air.

Not to say they never get out, but for me, I pretty much have to. It’s my black rock.

In the distance, the bleating siren of an ambulance reminds me that I’ll be living in LA again soon, apart from nature I enjoy at present.

It’s this bittersweet note that prompts me to walk home. On the way I see my neighbors having drinks with their friends in a house so brightly lit that I am disturbed by it’s synthetic luster.

Back in my castle, I lie in bed, the glow of my salt lamp maintaining some semblance of the organic, which I value so deeply.

Returning to my thoughts on LA, I am coming to see that I will need to find a place with either a rooftop terrace or a yard, for sitting on a blanket in LA, outdoors at ground level, is not reccomended. I love the city of angels for many reasons – it’s natural wonders aren’t among them. Sure there is Runyon and Santa Monica’s beaches, but neither offer me the sanctuary I have now; however, I do intend to recreate this sanctum using the recipe above. After all, this blanket is going to last for a long, long time.

The Substance of The Soul

Edit: I’m beating myself up after publishing this. It’s not that I don’t like the content, which was inspired by a conversation I had tonight with two new friends. The problem is, this is simply not the right form. There is a reason Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables. I must work on my stories. This comparitively is masturbation. Pleasurable, but not fulfilling. Nonetheless, the following freewritten message written post haste is something worth reading. But it is a tiny star compared to the cosmos brewing within me. Time. Time.

I love nights spent in deep conversation, talking about things that matter. Substance. This is something most lives lack an adequate volume of. Instead they are filled with things that burn our time and waste our minds, and for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?

We live in a world of gains at the expense of the things that make us most human: love, relationships, a connection to something deeper; our entire inner lives are but an abyss. I am one who suspects we fear what’s beneath the surface. After all, the vast majority of our encounters with our soul tend to be painful experiences: breakups, loneliness, rebellion, pain, breakdowns. But these too are aspects of the soul, for no soul is purely calm and peaceful. Like the sea, the disturbances of the soul are found on it’s surface, and the calm rests far beneath, at a depth few reach. A human soul, when brought to light, shines brighter than a thousands suns. I see this light in the faces of babies, animals, and those in love. It’s light stifled by the thinking mind, and thus the souls of most adults have long been snuffed out. But the darkness need not be permanent, for this light may be rekindled. Art, music, dance – even great conversation; any form of honest self-expression brings soul to light.

As Voltaire’s Candide teaches us, we must cultivate our gardens. Only, like Candide, we abandon the garden of the soul in pursuit of our fortunes. And in our neverending pursuit of doing and being more we suffer the cost of our pursuits. Costs we never realize until it’s too late. When I have children, I want them to know they have the power to create themselves; to be rather than to become. To actualize the soul rather than the self.

I believe we are all creators. Only we have been taught to consume. Our values have been twisted by a society ruled by power, by a people obsessed with prestige. It’s the businesses of the world that conscript us from birth to make a living instead of making a life.

Nothing is sacred anymore. All that ever was has vanished under the tide of image, pulled by the endless greed of the ego. For in a modern society it is prefferable to be seen as smart rather than to think for onesself. So we let others define happiness and success for us, and we live according to benchmarks that ring true only in the light of day. Look at me, look at how good I am at life, the bourgeous seem to say.

Our egos and our personas are defined not by our souls but by the times we live in. The values of the human soul are timeless. The values of a society live and die with its people.

What are you giving this world? What are you giving the future. Is your life a good model for others? Do you want for your children what you have for yourself? Do you even want for yourself the life you have?

Modern life isn’t conducive to independent thought. The system is designed to create good workers not great thinkers. After all, good workers can buy good TVs, good cars, and all the other bullshit (aka eventual junk) we have been programmed to exchange our lives for.

I can’t change the world alone. But I believe together we can. If each of us lived a life true to the values of our souls, the world would be a beautiful place. This isn’t just about getting to paint, eat organic salads, and make love. This is about being part of a system that has enough money to feed starving children, real humans with real names. A system that places profits over people. A system that ignores the plight of 200,000 Koreans in concentration camps in order to maintain diplomacy with China for capitalist gains.

This system is fucked up. You are a part of it. Are you really going to let yourself be another brick in the wall? Is this all your life is worth?

These are just thoughts written on a Saturday night by a guy in a warm bed. But they are part of a human life, the life I am living. A life I want to use rather than be used. While society may call me a misanthrope, I don’t think it can ignore my voice. This is why I write. This is why my dreams of the self, replete with all the trimmings of a successful life, are secondary to the dreams of my soul – a soul that values inner peace, love, communion, family, truth, beauty, and goodness. A soul like any other.