Spelunking

I’ve come to see that a big part of maturity – if not the core of it – comes down to our ability to perceive reality without bias, without denial, and without escape. 

To be well-adjusted to life is to be at peace with it, for better or for worse, because, fact is, you will always experience unpleasant feelings: they are a part of life. 

I have quite recently come to see that there’s just never going to be that day when I become Buddha; although, I have definitely tried (Psycadellics, meditation, Stoicism, CBT).

The point is, life is life: we have to accept it. 

In the words of Albert Camus:

“At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.”

And having acquired something akin to this, I can attest that acceptance is an integral part of wellbeing and inner-peace; however, acceptance is not everything. 

Many of us, myself included, have long had an unhealthy relationship with negative feelings – so much so that we often seek caustic escapes in an attempt to avert ourselves from our unpleasant feelings, which often leads to a kind of vicious cycle wherein we create more problems for ourselves rather than simply facing our original adversities head-on. 

I can’t remember who said this, but I recall a quote to the effect of:

‘One thing about humans is that they love to feel good and they hate to feel bad.’ 

I think it was Steinbeck. Anyhow, this is true: we don’t like to feel bad; in-fact, I would say that many of us are addicted to our feelings, always seeking to feel great, at the expense of good. 

All this said, today I wholly believe in welcoming negative feelings. 

Part of this comes from the idea of Positive Disintigration, and the other part of it just comes from my experience in learning to be courageous, in learning to face my feelings – to face life.

Facing negative feelings is the very mechanism by which I have grown. 

Any negative feelings I experience come from some part of me: be it my ego, my soul, my anima, or my intuition. None of these are invalid; they are ultimately all just different aspects of me, and, in my experience, it does not serve me to ignore them. 

I mean, aren’t we supposed to listen to our inner voices?

I think in theory we all relate to this idea as a valid practice; however, in real life, I think many of us are only wanting to actively listen to the happy, satisfied inner voice. 

So it is, we live in our own shadows, standing in the way of our light; after-all, listening to our negative feelings would require facing some unpleasant, and maybe even scary feelings. 

But this is the way; as Joseph Campbell said, “The treasure you seek is in the cave you fear to enter.”

After-all, isn’t our very reluctance to experience and examine our negative feelings born out of fear? 

It’s fear that causes us to turn away from life. And in doing so, we shun our own development.

As Marcus Aurelius taught me:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Without facing our negative feelings, we do not advance. 

But I think part of the problem, and the reason why people cower and flee from negative feelings is that they don’t fundamentally know how to address them. They don’t know how to face their feelings – regardless of how capable they feel in facing their problems. In short, we need our feelings in order to face our problems. We are often just too scared. Too afraid to accept that we are uncomfortable and upset. Also, once we accept the negative, we become responsible for it, and that can be equally frightening. 

In a sense, however, facing our negative feelings is not actually that mystifying or scary. 

Our thoughts really fall into two binary categories: rational and irrational.  

Unfortunately, few people examine whether their thoughts are rational at all. 

For me, the ability to cipher rationality from thoughts comes largely from the Stoic perspective of asking whether something is in my control or not. 

My reeling over the daily shit our government is taking on the people of America, for instance, is not rational; for I have no control over that. 

On the flip side, my negative feelings about not getting to bed earlier or hitting my work goals, are rational, for those things are under my control. 

But not all negative feelings are resolved or even realized as simply as that. 

For the most part I think we just tend to feel slightly nervous and unsettled in general, never quite diving in and inviting our inner-voice to be the bearer of bad news. 

Once we do that, once we listen to the negative inner thoughts behind our  feelings, we suddenly uncover the ugly truths that have long been staring us in the face.

And when we do that, when we acknowledge the elephants in the room squat before us, we actually have a couple options that we can use to effectively face them. 

But in order to face them, we have to break them down into what they are: 

ABCs. 

  • A= Activating Event / Adversity 
  • B = Belief (About the event)
  • C= Consequence 

Note: Learn more depth about the above ABCs, here

Most people only see the C, the consequence, i.e., we focus exclusively on the negative feeling. 

For instance, I feel like shit because I don’t have more financial security. 

That’s the C (Consequence). The A (Adversity) is not having the money to do more of what I want. The B is my belief: that I will be more comfortable with more money.

Essentially, in this case, there are two options within the ABC framework for me – since I can’t change the consequence directly. 

Either I change the A, i.e., earn more money, or, I change the B: my belief that I will be more comfortable with more money. 

For me, the belief that I will feel more at peace with greater financial security is fairly unchangeable; paraphrasing Drake here: I know money doesn’t buy happiness but I’m happiest when I can buy what I want to, get high when I want to.

In short, since I can’t change the belief (That I will be more content with more success), I can either suffer the consequences of that belief passively, or I can change the activating event, removing the burden from me entirely. 

That example was a tad of a rant, but the alternative to not facing it, of not understanding what I have to change in order to experience greater inner-peace, is simply to suffer. 

Are we really just supposed to live our lives taking pills for our feelings? Or are we meant to listen to them, to evolve and grow by facing them bravely, nobly. 

When it comes to our negative feelings, many of which may have haunted us for years, I believe we’ve all got some spelunking to do. 

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers to the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”

– Shakespeare, Macbeth

Thirty-One and Change: Reflections on Experience 

This is my third and final attempt to write this entry. The previous two night’s efforts yielded a dozen or so paragraphs but nothing palpable, from the heart.

Unfortunately, I am tired and slightly stoned atm; however, this might actually work in my favor, given that it ensures I will be (Relatively) brief. And I recognize I am not generally so; although, this is largely because my prose is more the result of a process than a purpose – but I digress. Back to the matter at hand.

Twice I have worn myself out attempting to write this entry; and it would seem simple: I want to write about some of the things I have come to realize this year; however, it is not simple: it is complex.

To share my realizations – what amounts to my bedrock values and priorities at thirty-one – is to draw from what I have learned, often by living in a way that is entirely contradictory to what I am now prescribing for myself; however, this is growth – meaning: I am not losing any part of myself; in my heart, I am still the boy I was at eleven; only, now, I am a happy, peaceful, and constructive adult, which is nothing to scoff at – as any adult learns.

That said, here are the things that are sticking for me at thirty-one:

Proportion > Balance

Balance is frequently espoused as part of a happy, healthy life, which makes sense given that extremes and excesses are destructive forces for many, if not all who fail to practice moderation in their lifestyles. Unfortunately, however, my idea of balance never moderated my behavior; my idea of balance was: “Everything in moderation, including moderation itself.” Not exactly a wise prescription for living; although, most certainly a forgiving one. Only, I don’t want to stem the tide of cognitive dissonance with beliefs that directly negate my personal responsibility. As an adult, it is my responsibility to make sure that everything I do is authentically attuned to what may be called my “higher-self”, which is to say: the me that I aspire to be – the me I am committed to being. So, instead of trying to live a prescription for a balanced life, today I am more concerned with living proportionately to my needs, based on what works for me.

Balance may work for others; although, I do not pretend to know what it best for another; my principal concern is only what it best for me, based on the individualized needs of my soul. And I need proportion.

This [proportion] applies to many aspects of my life; I simply require the things that work for me in direct proportion to the degree in which they serve me. For some things, this means total abstinence, for others, it’s open season.

In short, attempting to practice balance is not a specific enough prescription for me, whereas viewing things from the perspective of proportion allows me to consciously choose only that which is suited for me. 

Cannibis, Entheogens > Alcohol

I used to think alcohol helped me, somehow made me better, more able to be myself. Talk about shit thinking; I couldn’t have been more wrong: alcohol is antithetical to who I am, to what I value – and most certainly is only a detriment to my higher-self and soul. Put simply, it doesn’t serve me one single iota. Cannibis however, and certain entheogens (Ritually used in a healthy, safe environment), have helped me. In-fact, I cleanse the doors of perception not infrequently; however, it should be said here, that this is something that works for me – again, proportion.

For those curious to learn more about psychadellics, I recommend following MAPS

Introversion > Misanthropy 

I once proudly proclaimed myself a misanthrope (Nine months ago, lol). Today, largely thanks to Sociometer Theory and Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Both of which have helped me understand man’s function as a social animal.), I actually care what other people think (As, I never before did), and my self-esteem is a million miles better for it. In short, humans need human love, acceptance, and even approval.

Experience > Wisdom 

It might be said that wisdom without experience is only advice.

It is only when we have the requisite experience and learning that we can understand the depth of even the most banal cliches.

I can’t think of how many times the most oft-uttered (And heretofore seemingly meaningless) adages, have suddenly made perfect sense to me in light of personal experience. Things like, “Be careful what you wish for” now strike me as profound and invaluable, whereas before they meant little if anything.

In short, wisdom is cheap, experience is priceless. 

On the same note, it’s amazing reading something I have read for years, and being struck in the heart by passages that before went in one ear and out the other (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations comes to mind).

As the Tao says:

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Mature Responsibilities > Base Animal Drives

I think what separates humans from animals isn’t the lack of base, animalistic drives, but, rather, our ability to transcend and rise above them.

For much of my life I have followed the dictates of my base impulses, and it has come at the expense of my resposibilities.

I am reminded of the saying, “The mind is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

Today, I am happy to be master of the castle, lord of the manor. I no longer feel conscripted by my animalistic desires to abandon my responsibilities. Instead, I am focusing on my higher animal desires, which, unlike the lower, do not rob me of my dignity and gravitas.

Dignity > Pride

I spent much of my twenties defending my pride and abandoning my dignity. It hurts just to think about. Thankfully, however, life has humbled me. Where I once defended my pride at all costs, today I defend my dignity, which is a much more honorable source of pride than my ego ever was.

In a word, dignity, like class, is how you treat people and how you respond to the way others treat you: it is saving the world from yourself; it is the very basis of social and personal morality. 

Habits > Impulse, Whim, Folly

As mentioned, I am no stranger to my base animal desires; however, what’s more, I also know what it is to live subject to every passing whim, impulse, and folly.

I used to think this was freedom: living according to my nature  – regardless what presented itself to me as pleasing – consequences be damned.

How foolish and young I was; this was not freedom, it was ignorance. To live according to impulse is to lay victim to habits, which require self-discipline and control – the very enemies of the puer.

Today, I love the ritual of habits. As I lay here writing this, Sarah reads beside me, the dogs lay about, a fire burns in the hearth, and “Awaken, My Love!” plays cooly, melodically, in the background – a typical evening for us.

In short, I am no longer plagued by restlessness and I love the peace and security my habits bring me – Friday wake and bake included. Whatever fun I had to get here was worth it (Mostly), but I thank my lucky stars my twenties are over, and with them the impulse, whim, and folly that for so long kept me from being able to live a calm, stable life, which is by no means to say an unexciting one. 

Security > Freedom 

When most first-world white people think of freedom, they tend to envision something like the 4-Hour Workweek or perhaps being able to travel or live remotely, as many Facebook ads promise. Only, that’s not freedom (Sounds more like retirement to me); my concept of freedom looks very much like the life I am now taking up: consulting from home and daily writing fiction. Fuck getting rich if I am not writing. That is not my dream of freedom; my freedom today comes from the security I maintain, which affords me the ability to do what I love: pursue my career as a major writer.

In short, I would have no freedom without the security afforded me by the very things I once thought diametrically opposed to freedom: hard work and discipline. 

Freedom is following your dreams. Without security, this is not possible. 

For my writers out there:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”

– E.B White

Actions > Dreams 

Following the spirit of the above, I am today interested in actions over dreams.

In a word, action is what brings dreams to life; without action dreams are only fantasies. And life is too short to spend fantasizing. Besides, real life beats masturbating any day. 

Temporality > Mortality 

I have long felt myself a Stoic – fuck, I had to be, lol *laughs at life’s major tragedies. 

Part of what has allowed me to laugh at my misfortunes (And a big part of my philosophy) was the concept of my mortality – memento mori.

Unfortunately, however, while focusing and meditating on death put things in perspective for me, it also gave me a devil may care attitude, as if saying to myself: “Don’t worry, you’re totally GOING TO DIE,” hence, why stress over this or that. In a sense it gave me the peace of a nihilist. And we all know nihilists DGAF.

Only, I want to give a fuck. After all, I can use any number of philosophies and maxims to strip myself of personal responsibility, but the fact remains: I am responsible for myself while I am here – temporarily. So, while I am here, let me live well (In accordance with reason and nature), and let me follow my dreams.

For not only will I one day die, but I will also one day be old and the ships will have sailed. 

Let me remember that I am here temporarily; let me make hay while the sun shines. 

Health > Pleasure 

Health isn’t everything, it is the only thing. Without health we have nothing; in-fact, health is my top priority in life – as it should be.

Honesty > Fear

I’m closing with this becuase without honesty – personal honesty – I would have arrived at none of these understandings.

Whatever fears, whatever vanities and insecurities might prevent me from examining my life, all are mere trivialities when compared to the benefits of living life honestly, with both feet planted on the ground.

Without personal honesty we are forever condemned to our prejudices and illusions.

In order to grow, we have to confront our fears, which simply requires being honest with ourselves. That is true bravery.

Postscript

I pride myself on living with a light-heart, and this entry was by no means heavy-hearted; however, I have definitely written many things here that were much more fun, joyous even; although, this was certainly not one of them. 

This was a serious, mature declaration of truths, many of which I had failed to consider or realize up until this point. That said, in my effort to attain proportion in my endeavors, I most certainly seek lightness, laughter, but those things require that I adhere to the above principles – for without them, I would be rudderless. 

– LB

The Beauty Forgotten

Thirty one trips around the sun, always changing, always growing; I enjoy Pearl Jam, I watch Rugrats again (The latter as musical as the former). What’s more, I have reclaimed some of the beauty forgotten, the long-lost treasures buried in the epoch of my youth. For I received a box of childhood memories from my sister this holiday, which my father had held onto unbeknownst to me. The box contained awards, certificates, report cards (“Excessive talking”), notes from teachers, two trophies: one for winning a spelling bee, the other for sportsmanship (Basketball).



In addition to these mementos were a variety of childhood writings, ranging from the funny to the hopeful. As I wrote to Santa Claws, at perhaps 8 years old:


These items were no less than treasure rediscovered. 

They connected me to a time of purity and innocence, if not joy.

I admittedly have not always had a healthy relationship with the past.

I’ve spent much of my life in the shadow of the past – either because it was too beautiful or too ugly. Each was something I did not know how to live down, how to accept and let go of. This, thankfully, is changing.  

As I recently heard (From a talk by self-proclaimed neuroscientist Joe Dispenza): ‘Wisdom is memory minus emotion,’ – only, that’s not quite right; for, when it comes to my memories, I find wisdom is only found when I acquire the right emotion, which is to say, a healthy one. After all, sometimes it is our happiest memories that haunt us most (As in the case of old loves, past successes, friendships etc,.). Or perhaps it was wisdom itself, which lent me a new perspective, facilitating the healthier emotions that ultimately allowed me to accept and let go of the past. Either way, my past does not haunt me any longer. 

Today I am Wolf Waldo. 

And it is today, my relationship to the present moment, which allows me to live my past down. 

Today I look upon my youth with love and affection, knowing it is over (Not happiness but youth, and do not confuse the two – or else adult life will be difficult).

Yes, I am still respectively young and healthy, but I am no longer the boy I was for so long; the puer sleeps these days, waiting for the real fun. 

Dreams yet to come. 

For now, however, there is not yet teakwood beneath my feet, nor the wealth to facilitate such a Gatsbian playboy lifestyle as I could imagine (The playboy being the only puer that is not outwardly or inwardly pathetic).

Thankfully – my puer no longer running the show – I no longer dream a playboy lifestyle.

I dream a mature, kind, resolute life. A life lived with dignity, a new love of community, and a deep sense of personal responsibility.

Wanting nothing but to live from what Marcus Aurelius deemed the directing mind, the inner citadel, or the god seated within; I just want to live a well ordered life of peacefull happiness. 

This is not to say I do not dream sexy, exciting, grand, and even sensual dreams for myself. On the contrary. 

I am 31, almost 32, and just as my father passed – his life gone in a cosmic blink – I too will pass.

For my life is not only finite but shortening each day. Just as I was 21 on a very real day once upon a time, so too will I be 41. 

Note: For anyone wanting to accept this truth [that their life is passing in a flash and they too will die], simply read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations – hell, just listen to Lukas Graham’s Seven Years

I intend to spend my remaining years living and thinking much differently than heretofore. I intend to fulfill the destiny life has given me, and I intend to forever  remember the beauty forgotten. 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sSY5HaXxTgI

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.