The Tao of Anxiety: Changing my Relationship to Life with Rollo May

I don’t write for artistic purposes, nor do I write for pleasure, or even to be a writer: I write to live.

It’s not that I’d go insane without writing – my life would just fall apart

I must write to understand myself, my life. The two of which I find more and more entangled as I grow older.

As I’m fond of saying lately, “Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.” 

Life is, indeed, one-hundred-percent psychological. 

In a sense, I am here to re-program myself. My brain is the hardware and the software, and – amazingly – the one rewrites the other (In the form of new neural synapses or connections [synaptogenesis and synaptoplasticity]). 

Neuroplasticity – the ability for our brains to physically change – presents, to me, the strongest argument for free-will; I am only as hard wired as I choose to remain. 

The overreaching goal of my life is the actualization or fullfiment of my potential. My younger, more naive goals of happiness and inner peace simply cannot exist without my own growth, fulfillment, and development. 

Happiness and inner peace are products: reaching my potential is the process by which those objectives are achieved; however, happiness and inner peace are not goals in themselves, but are, instead, the feelings you experience when you achieve your authentic goals – aka, becoming yourself. 

In the words of existential psychologist and humanist Rollo May:

“Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity.”

That said, irrespective of motive, goals are not as simple as plan, do, profit. There are a myriad of factors at play from self-esteem and health (physical and mental), to self-handicapping and motivational theories (Not to mention environmental and social factors, i.e., opportunity) – all of which can make our break our potentials. 

As any adult short of the current first family knows – nothing comes easy. But, still, we want what we want and we aren’t going to give up, so we have to discover a way

What excites me right now, as far as my own way, are the discoveries I am making in relation to my own mind. In short, I’m coming to discover that my anxieties are an integral part of my journey, my path. These [anxieties] are what push me to want better for myself; although, I have not always held this viewpoint. 

For most all my life, anxiety has been the same crippling, uncomfortable, destructive, and unpleasant force it can be for anyone. 

My perspective began to shift, however, when a friend said this to me: 

“I don’t believe we would do well if we weren’t hard on ourselves. We need those selfish insecurities to feel like there’s more we could accomplish.”

This clicked for me (Anxiety can be healthy too!) and sent me further down the rabbit hole, arriving at these words from Rollo May: 

“Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.” 

Rollo May’s work deals largely with anxiety, May himself stating that, “The constructive way of dealing with anxiety in this sense consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a ‘teacher,’ to borrow Kirkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.”

Further, from May, “..conscious anxiety is more painful but it is available also to use in the service of integration of the self.”

And:

“But attempts to evade anxiety are not only doomed to failure. In running from anxiety you lose your most precious opportunities for the emergence of yourself, and for your education as a human being.”

In a sense, May presents anxiety as an invaluable ally rather than the inescapable foe it is for many, if not most. 

Pause and read that again. 

The paradigm of anxiety as teacher is nothing short of a game changer. That’s why I’m writing this. 

I’m all about flipping the script in my head. But it’s not enough to merely understand – as with any valuable paradigm – it must be lived (e.g., optimism); i,e., in order to view anxiety as a teacher, I need to be able to let it guide me. 

To do this, I have come up with an intuitive concept for integrating anxiety into my directing consciousness, which is the true purpose of my writing tonight. Allow me to arrive there. 

Heretofore, my relationship with anxiety has been a largely unconscious one. 

I suspect that, like most people, anxiety has pressed down upon me like a weight, or, rather, it has risen up from my unconscious mind, my conscious mind treating it like an unwelcome guest, an interloper to my happiness, much in the same way I might view fatigue or irritability – an annoyance at best and crippling at worst. 

I’ve spent days in bed, countless nights up – entire seasons of my life hiding from myself – the world – all in the name of running from anxiety. Let’s not forget the self-destruction that naturally arises from turning away from life so neurotically. 

As Rollo May writes on the consequences of a life without growth, in Man’s Search For Himself (1953):

“The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.”

Of course, in order to grow toward something – in order to turn away from the destructive despair of stagnation – we must turn towards the obstacles and face the anxiety naturally present in such growth. 

This is the exact awareness I am coming to: the fact that my anxiety is exactly what I need to feel – and that I’ll find the courage to grow in facing it, directly, head on. 

My previous theory on anxiety was essentially that the amygdala – the fear center of the brain – was largely responsible for it, and that part of the brain [the amygdala] being so primitive, so archaic, so reptilian, meant that the anxiety was merely an unfortunate feeling I, as a human, was destined to endure; although, I decided that I could – through sheer power of will – avoid the destructive activities, and – I could – with enough healthy sex and top shelf cannabis – counter the anxiety. 

Not an entirely unhappy or unlivable life – nor likely a unique strategy among my generation – but by no means an entirely secure, calm, grounded, and growth-oriented way to live, which is precisely what I want at thirty-two. 

I want to fall asleep with the softest of pillows, which is a clean conscience – and I want to awake with the same peace, renewed from the past day’s toil and excited about the day ahead, and in order to do that, I need to be free from what has prevented that: anxiety: fear. These are antithetical to the freedom I seek. 

Freedom, as May suggests in the following passage, from an essay of the same title, requires objective consciousness of oneself:

Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. Freedom is the other side of consciousness of self; if we were not able to be aware of ourselves, we would be pushed along by instinct or the automatic march of history, like bees or mastodons. But by our power to be conscious of ourselves, we can call to mind how we acted yesterday or last month, and by learning from these actions we can influence, even if ever so little, how we act today. And we can picture in imagination some situation tomorrow – say a dinner date, or an appointment for a job, or a Board of Directors meeting – and by turning over in fantasy different alternatives for acting, we can pick the one which will do best for us.

Consciousness of self gives us the power to stand outside the rigid chain of stimulus and response, to pause, and by this pause to throw some weight on either side, to cast some decision about what the response will be.

That consciousness of self and freedom go together is shown in the fact that the less self-awareness a person has, the more he is unfree. That is to say, the more he is controlled by inhibitions, repressions, childhood conditionings which he has consciously “forgotten” but which still drive him unconsciously, the more he is pushed by forces over which he has no control. When persons first come for psychotherapeutic help, for example, they generally complain that they are “driven” in any number of ways; they have sudden anxieties or fears or are blocked in studying or working without any appropriate reason, They are unfree – that is, bound and pushed by unconscious patterns.

As the person gains more consciousness of self, his range of choices and his freedom proportionately increase. Freedom is cumulative; one choice made with an element of freedom makes greater freedom possible for the next choice. Each exercise of freedom enlarges the circumference of the circle of one’s self.

Further, in the same essay:

Freedom does not come automatically; it is achieved. And it is not gained at a single bound; it must be achieved each day. As Goethe forcefully expresses the ultimate lesson learned by Faust:

“Yes! to this thought I hold with firm persistence;
The last result of wisdom stamps it true:
He only earns his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers them anew.”

And it is this daily conquering my freedom and existence that requires me to face my anxieties with courage rather than avoidance.

On courage and freedom, May writes:

“Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.”

“Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”

Of course, I already know what it is to conform – at least, to as great of an extent as I ever will; what I am concerned with today is being my own man, my own person. 

In the words of Rollo May:

“One of the few blessings of living in an age of anxiety is that we are forced to become aware of ourselves.”

To become aware of myself – to become myself – I have to meet my anxiety rather than run from it. Acting upon rather than against it; welcoming it rather than dreading it. 

I have to bring my anxieties directly to my prefrontal cortex, from the unconscious to the conscious acting part of myself, where I make decisions and where I can choose who I am and what my values are [footnote 1].

To do this, I’m making a list tomorrow of all my anxieties. From this list I’ll be creating goals designed to specially address them. 

This is the third revolution of my model for goal planning and prioritiztion. The first was attempting to set goals based on my values, which I began doing at twenty-four. The second model for my goal planning and prioritization was interesting and valuable, but perhaps not entirely well-suited for an artist, who probably experiences more anxiety than anyone (save the neurotic), on acccount of their being so poor suited for any life but their own. 

I’ve come to learn recently that anxiety is perhaps the most valuable aspect of our intuitive voice, telling us exactly what we are uncomfortable with and where we need to act. The problem with anxiety is when we let it control us. I’m reminded of the sage quote, the mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. Perhaps so too is anxiety. The challenge is for us to distinguish the rational anxiety from the irrational. Be rational and logical in your anxiety. Healthy anxiety is rational. But anxiety is a part of life. What I’m attempting to do is to work with mine to my advantage. Heaven knows its crushed me for long enough. 

Because in the end, anxiety drives us all regardless – it’s just a matter of whether that force [anxiety] is constructive or destructive: the choice is ours, only, most of us never learn that, but – if we did – if we knew the true value in learning from and facing anxiety, I think many of us would live differently. 

The obstacle is the way – I finally understand it: I have to turn toward my anxieties – my fears. And they won’t go away until – and unless – I slay them: these are my dragons. 

And Joseph Campbell’s words have never rang truer:

The treasure you seek lies in the cave you fear to enter. 

##

p.s. Having written this – having read this – I am so happy because I know I am going to face life, face fear, in a whole new way. And I’m ready for it. I made it here for this.

p.p.s I finally understand a John Mayer lyric from The Heart of Life, which I have always loved:

“Fear is a friend whose misunderstood.”

p.p.p.s Another thing I really appreciate about Rollo May (Aside from his insights into anxiety and his contributions to existential psychology.) are his humanist views. 

From a 1978 interview with Paychology Today, originally published on cassette:

One final question Dr May. Lets prognosticate if we may about the future. As we approach the end of the 20th century, what do you see happening. Will anxiety continue to escalate, will there be greater and greater numbers of people who face anxiety daily or will we learn to deal with our anxiety and manage it more constructively?

Well I think the latter. Certainly I think we’re in for hard times for a while yet, but then I think we must have some kind of new renaissance, some kind of new birth of a society that will have equality for women and a society that will have equality for races of whatever colour. Now the new renaissance will not be based upon the myths and symbols of the renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries but rather it will be based upon new symbols, the symbol of one world, the symbol of planetism, the symbol of interrelationship of the various countries in the world. This has to be understood politically. And I think we are being pushed towards this by the historical developments that are a great problem to us like Oil. We’re all going to be short of energy products in the next 15 or 20 years and we’ll just have to reorganise our world as a greater community a more constructive community that we have in the past. Now I look forward to that, and I look forward to the anxiety being used constructively as it will need to be if we’re to be reborn or even if it was to survive. Otherwise I think I think we are in for an even greater new and general holocaust.

Footnote 1:

“A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat.” – Rollo May

This is directly from the Rollo May wiki, which I suggest you read. 

And two more from there, because, fuck it – they’re great:

“The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have.”

“Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can be, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”

Note: many of these quotes do not have sources. That’s because this is my personal blog and I’m a straight up intellectual gangster. For a source, try google… I’m sure you’ve searched for worse things in your life. 

If you enjoyed this, Subscribe to my new entries here. You may also follow me on Facebook or insta @lawrencevblack. 

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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. 

Catching Up with Wolf Waldo

I’ve had Black Sabbath’s Going Through Changes in my head lately, and, besides being a beautiful song, it really encapsulates my feelings lately, having recently been through so many big changes myself. 

It was John Mayer who said something in a radio interview once about how, ‘a human being only goes through true quantum change, once, maybe twice, in a lifetime’. 

And I used to agree with that – particularly after I had undergone what was probably my second quantum change, at 29

I should note here that the interesting thing about the quantum changes I have undergone, is that they weren’t necessarily precipitated by major life-events so much as they were the major life-event – not the thing that changed me but the change itself. 

Of course, I had – many times – gone through what most would consider major life-changing events: a breakup after nearly five years, another breakup to the same girl three years later after nearly a year back together, the total loss of my business and financial security – multiple times – and, in love again, another excruciatingly tough breakup after 3 years. This is not to mention minor breakups (Two with whom I co-habituated with for more than a year each). Point being, I had been through my shit – some of it very tragic, and all of it quite disastrous; however, none of these things really brought about quantum change on my part. In those tragic instances when I had been the major tragic character, it’s not like I just suddenly became the hero in my story, rising from the ashes like a Phoenix. No, life takes time. 

The prima materia, the shit, this accrues in events, as described above, but the real transformation takes time – a lot of reflection, a lot of shadow work, and a lot of just doing the soul’s alchemy – the stuff that requires you to “Figure out what you have done and why you have done it, or else you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever” – to borrow the words of James Baldwin. 

But the quantum changes I am referring to, these have been the major liberating, transformational shifts in my life, and they have been almost sudden. Of course, as in the parable of the Chinese Bamboo Tree, the growth appears rapid at the surface, when, in fact, it has been germinating underground for years. 

Overnight success? Never. I’ve still got miles to go (I’ll probably have had this blog close to a decade when my first novel is published).

But in this recent winter’s solstice, I came much further and closer to the ultimate reality of my being than I could have ever imagined, and a lot of germenation came to fruition: there was the wake of my father’s death, there was the rediscovery of a box of childhood awards and notes from teachers, there was a heartwarming holiday with family and Kitty, there was a cactus-tea experience – replete with the arrival of what I am deeming “animal consciousness” or “wolf-consciousness” – and there was the discovery of quite possibly the most empowering and valuable paradigm I have encountered in my adult years: Sociomoter Theory

For a basic primer on the theory, Wikipedia and this video are great starters – enough for me in fact to have basically examined myself in light of the model, and to have really awakened to much about myself, mainly much about how my not caring what people thought of me was, in fact, a veil for low self-esteem – self-esteem that I would have much better nurtured had I given more consideration for others and taken a more inclusive view toward society as a whole. In short, I thought being a misanthrope (Not at all to be confused with introvert, which I still am) was cool, when, instead, it made me little more than a selfish, self-pitying asshole. Not to crucify myself too much, but I can be honest here. 

The truth is and will always be, that I look upon the past honestly: as having not known any better. This allows me a genuine compassion for myself, and this compassion enables me to grow, to evolve, and to admit when there is a better way. 

Without that compassionate, self-forgiving perspective  (Note: I define forgiveness as simply accepting the past could not have been any different) I could never have even the humility to become a better person. Because before I had acquired that [humility via genuine compassion], I spent a lot of time defending who I was and what I had done, even when they were clearly not right. 

I’m not meaning to preach, but, rather, simply to expound on something I am both very excited about and very grateful for. It’s fucking awesome. 

It’s also heartbreaking. But that’s life, and I’ve lived long enough to have broken my own heart a few times, and likely a few others too. 

Ultimately, I am just learning the things my father, my grandfathers, and all the men and women before me didn’t know. 

As I told Kitty recently, If you don’t give your kids a leg up in the world, they are born two generations behind. 

So here’s to taking quantum leaps, to trusting the Universe. 

Here’s to being a part of evolution, and here’s to my new alter-ago: Wolf Waldo Black. 

And I Am

I feel like journaling at the moment -something I sometimes do here but have done a bit more prolifically via pen and paper – however, like a young Leonard Cohen taking pictures of himself – aware of his (And their potential significance one day) – I think I might rather write here instead. After all, like Leonard Cohen – a man who also was once a young promising artist – I too will die. 

And death is life’s greatest gift: for what do we have to lose.

I recognize we live in a world of fairly unwavering thought. Even our bright minds in universities are merely cogs in a machine, albeit intelligent cogs. Nonetheless, people do not think for themselves. If they did there is no fucking way they would suffer the mental anguish they live through on a daily basis. Stress alone is it’s own weakness, its own form of insanity; for there is no such thing as stress, merely the belief we don’t have the resources to handle a given situation. And what a fucking waste of my humanity: to live lacking belief in myself. But this is what I was born to; this is what most of us were born to. 

But there are levels. And I know because I have been through so many of them. 

I have grown immensely: perspective, understanding, maturity, love, independence, humility, compassion – all the things that have made my heart stronger and more buoyant. 

And my philosophies are blossoming.

I am 100% free from the weight of religion, which, in the words of Pablo Neruda, is a collective neurosis. 

What I seek is to be free. And I feel I am. This is no doubt due in part to my deep and abiding agnosticism. But it’s not freedom from the collective neurosis of religion alone that elevates me to the level of emotional freedom I feel today. It’s freedom from much of the collective neurosis that comprises life. These automatic, ingrained reactions to life. 

Stoicism gave me much of my resilience, and I am a Stoic, but the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are not my bible. No book is. But I do stand on the shoulders of giants, carrying forward the intellectual presents from my spiritual grandfathers. 

These persons have had a great influence on my philosophy, character, and disposition:

  • Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca
  • Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton
  • Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalists 
  • Ayn Rand
  • John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts
  • Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas
  • Carl Jung, Marie Louis Von-Franz
  • Joseph Campbell 
  • Abraham Maslow
  • Victor Frankl
  • Kazimierz Dabrowski
  • John Gardner

Note: I had made a list of these persons in another draft, and there I wrote that, “If I hadn’t discovered these thinkers, I would be a scared little man.” How apt. 

This list is by no means complete, nor is it in any specific order; although, I would say, Jung, Campbell, Emerson, and Aurelius hold key positions in my mental cabinet – but each person on the above list has contributed immensely to my education, my philosophy. 

It’s important to note here an idea posited by Emerson in his 1837 speech The American Scholar. 

Emerson states:

“Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.”

The point here being that intellectualism ought not be devoted to the mere worship of ideas, but to their very creation. 

Having lived much of my young life a product of other people’s thinking, I connected deeply to the words of Steve Jobs in his 2005 Stanford commencement address:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I know what it is to have my own inner voice drowned out; I know what it is to live a servant to the ideas of society. Having blossomed mentally – in large part due to the aforementioned thinkers – into something worthy of being called an individual, I can say that I am never going back. 

The lyrics from Childish Gambino’s Not Going Back echo in my head:

Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz
I refuse to go back to not likin’ who I was

Because I do like who I am. 

I am on MY side. 

And I’ll soon have a buzz bigger than insects in Texas. 

And I am

Sunday Night Thoughts

Time: the great cannabalizer and finisher of all things. 

I say this neither stoically nor nihilisitically, but merely to note that there is no more powerful force in life. 

I never imagined being a man, being mature, and reaching this age in my life – this epoch in time, between possibility and life. 

I know who I am, I know what I want, and, in the game of life, I seek to be the hero. 

My heroes live in the pages of books, and my story in my own. 

I want to write and in writing become the hero I am destined to be: the writer, the man, the romantic – all that I am.

And all I need is time, this most precious of assets; for I intend to use mine as wisely as I can. 

I have, thankfully, gained an immense amount of perspective on my life this past year. 

With the passing of my dad I have grabbed hold of my mortality, owning up to the fact I too will go the way of all flesh. 

This is no light fact; it is indeed nothing short of realizing life’s true value. 

Life is not something to simply be endured, something that must merely come to pass. Yes, I recongnize life entails suffering. But there’s something purposeful to life, if you can awake to it. 

It’s that thing that makes you tick. And no, this is not a motivational thing; I desire only to communicate the importance of living a life with meaning. Because, when you do that, when you have a meaningful life, you start to connect the dots, and – for lack of a better phrase – everything becomes spiritual; meaning, synchronicity, and growth become constant, and inner-voice comes through clearly and resolutely. 

Why were you born? Seriously, fucking ask yourself. You know. You know why. You know what your dream is. 

But maybe you’re afraid. Afraid of life. Afraid to admit to yourself the things you truly want. Afraid to even try. 

I know I was. 

 

Get Thee Up

“I wake up every morning and check if I am in a state of grace,” a 31 year-old Leonard Cohen told an interviewer in 1965.

Every morning of your life, you choose whether your soul is in a state of grace or not. Now, whether or not this is a conscious choice is up to you.

For me, the grace of my soul requires no more than that I choose to live consciously: choosing to be happy – choosing to be excited about MY life – choosing to affirm the gratitude I have for the opportunities that are mine to seize TODAY.

In the words of a young Leonard Cohen: “There are dreams of glory whispering through the wires of my spine.”

I want this everyday. 

This is called “a can’t lose attitude”. 

Put simply: your wellbeing is your choice; you can have it everyday.

Happiness isn’t the result of a good life but the cause of one.

And while we live in a world of thermometers – people who reflect their environment – YOU CAN be a thermostat – controlling your own; for we are either kings or pawns in this life (Alexander Dumas).

As the ancient proverb reminds us: “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”

Remember this; wrap your mind around it; marinate on it.

As I have reinterpreted it: happiness isn’t the result of a good life but the cause of one.

And whether I know all this stuff already or not – and no matter how much I have written it – I will never stop reminding myself of the core tenets that comprise the bedrock of my life and my wellbeing.

Choice.

Choice.

Choice.

If you don’t choose your beliefs about yourself – if you aren’t consciously choosing your beliefs about your relationship to today – they will exist independently of your own power.

And trust me, if you are relying on anything outside of yourself for your wellbeing, you are playing a risky game.

Last time I checked, this world was not exactly in a state of grace. And while that’s unfortunate, it is not in my power nor in my duty to control (Footnote 1/1). 

What I know is that I can choose to live in a state of grace REGARDLESS of what happens or has happened in my life; for I rely on that impenetrable thing Emerson referred to as “self-reliance”.

And while it requires a bit more courage, life is far better lived from the saddle than in the carriage.

So giddyup and exercise your will, for that is what you are here to do.

Giddyup Etymology:

From get up or get ye/thee up.


Footnote 1: There is absolutley nothing wrong with knowing in your heart of hearts that you are a bit better than this savage world you were born into: for it’s a Trump America and the inmates are officially running the asylum.

Ranting on Those Bastard Collective Neurosis: Religion and Spirituality

I’m not going to lie: I have spent fifteen minutes attempting to open this entry. 

Here goes nothing world, Lawrence Black now contributes his metaphysical phislosophies to the pithy sum of all religious and spiritual thought. Godspeed, Sir Black. 

That, unfortunately, was the best I could do. It is difficult to write about your spirituality: in a sense, it is akin to explaining your very philosophy of life – like who can do that; I view both spirituality and religion to be a kind of neurotic thing best kept to oneself. 

It was Pablo Neruda who described religion as a “collective neurosis”, which I just loved, because, to me, religion is essentially a complex like any on this list. Perhaps even the most complex of all complexes; I mean, we aren’t just talking mere narccicism or incestual fantasy – to cite two common complexes – no, we are talking imaginary being in the sky who sees you masturbate.

Now, just calm the fuck down Murica – we know you love your Jesus and your Trump – I’m just saying, in my opinion, that religion shit is fucked up. 

How – I don’t know – try this: try and imagine you care about things like equality, reason, free will, and science. And if you don’t, well, then religion is perfect for you. 

Not that I don’t find moral, intellectual, and literary value in various world religions – I have a good two feet of bookcase occupied by them – they just aren’t valid philosophies of life for me; in short, the collective neurosis of religion is not my cuppa. This, however, does not mean I don’t think man has a soul, or that there isn’t more that just the physical universe;  I have, after all, smoked me some fucking DMT. 

#thatshitkray

Point being, there is definitely a spiritual aspect to my life – and by spiritual, I refer to pantheism, synchronicity, psychedelics, intuition, the unconscious, love, dreams, the imagination, mythology, and the bigger workings of my sense of destiny, which guides me; however, I try to stay as far from spirituality as possible, and by spirituality I mean that other collective neurosis that we call “New age”. 

You’ve know them: those annoying suburban-troglodytes who seem to live by the mantra of “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil”; unless of course, the topic is GMOs or The Ego, which they, of course, themselves, do not have – on account of, you know, being so spiritual and shit. I am satirizing, but I really seriously hate these fuckers. Okay maybe not really, but I don’t like that spirituality has, in a sense, become just another religion, full of it’s own dogma, only, it’s not Jesus and God but consciousness and the divine.

Now, I realize that the entire point of spirituality is having your own experience; however, I see a lot of “spiritual people” having what seemingly amounts to the same experience. Hell, go to any Whole Foods and you’ll see many of those spiritual types practically have the same lives. 

I’m ranting; but, for me, what it boils down to, is that religion and spirituality ultimately provide limiting paradigms for my model of consciousness; for that is the only point of these things: models for life. Sure, Jesus is one – if you want to worship your Dad’s favorite son who died nailed to a cross because you are a born in sin piece of shit who wants to live in guilt before you burn forever or go to heaven, who knows. 

I’m entertaining myself, still ranting, but I have written this far because I want and deserve my own model, where I can live from my spirit and my soul without saying all is one, or even believing in an afterlife. 

I forgot who said it, but the quote goes something like, there ought to be as many religions as there are people. 

And I agree. Because if my God doesn’t exist, he should. 

What, you didn’t really think I was actually going to tell you what I believe, did you? Maybe in a part 2. 

Postscript:

I recognize I made a bit of a semantic argument about spirituality, without outlaying any actual ontological views, which is fine; however, I am really hoping after my next slumber, I awake inspired to map out something akin to my own spirituality – even if only as a record for myself as thirty-one years old. After all, my spiritually has evolved for as long as it has existed, and it will continue to for as long as I do. Just remember: the moment someone else has all the answers, you are the sucker. And I, for one, would rather risk manufacturing my own illusions, than to blindly follow another’s. 

Bucking The Lazy Cowboy, or How The Little Prince Usurped Peter Pan

Life would seem so easy, as if we could just say: “I want to wake up early and write everyday”, and it would happen. 

Only, there’s a fly in the ointment: we don’t always do the things we want to do; sure, we wish them to happen but things don’t happen according to wishes – things happen according to actions. That’s how life works. Call it the difference between intention and action, wish and fulfillment. 

This is why I am writing tonight: because of that difference; because there is a difference; because I am not going to wake up tomorrow and write fiction – as I wish to. 

Why? You tell me. 

Why don’t you work out? Why don’t you eat right!? You know what to do. You want to look and feel better but you eat pizza and chicken sandwiches for dinner. 

I am speaking to myself but I think it’s a fair analogy: I do what I feel rather than what I should. 

Only, I am tired of not having what I want. Tired of not feeling better. Tired of not being happier. Tired of not being Lawrence Black: builder of self, mover of mountains. 

I admit, I brood. I get into modes of self-pity. These things happen; however, I am trying to be more than my moods; I am trying to transcend them so that I may bring my dreams to life, and I need to overcome my nature in order to do that. Because me, left to my own innate nature, I am kind of a lazy cowboy; contented with the basic essentials: whiskey, women, food, fire, sleep.

Fun for a weekend, but it’s not a life to just get by / it’s not a life without progression. Because there is one kind of life I know to be amazing: and that is the life you are excited to wake up and live; the life you are thinking about when you go to bed at night because you can’t wait to wake up in the morning and live it. 

I know this feeling: I have felt it before. 


Part 2: The Little Prince Usurps Peter Pan

And this is where I fell asleep. We were watching The Little Prince on Netflix and I was tired, and the muse had run out of gas on this topic. Fortunately, however, I awoke five minutes ago – after a few hours of deep slumber – with an idea clear as day; I realized that it was no longer serving me to live without care for my responsibilities. Allow me to elaborate. 

For a long time, Peter Pan was my spirit animal. Well, in a more archetypal manner but nonetheless Peter Pan was a strong muse for this Puer. Ask my exes if this sounds familiar. 

And I love Peter Pan but I can no longer afford to let him take the wheel. I have responsibilities, and as Wretch 32 sings:

The weight of responsability’s grown on me. 

And it really has. 

I lost my Dad to cancer not many weeks ago. Now I am the man of the family. And this isn’t just some abstract idea or feeling; I am thinking about my mom’s future. Furthermore, Sarah relies on me as a provider and as a romantic lover: she believes in my dreams and she wants to live them with me. This is why we moved to the mountains: so I could write and so we could rejoice in one another’s solitude and companionship. But I can’t afford to rest on my laurels simply because I know I am destined for greatness. That is classic Peter Pan syndrome. 

Peter Pan never grows up. He refuses to. In fact, the world is introduced to Peter Pan through the work of J.M. Barrie, who titles his play: Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. 

Here is Wikipedia on Peter Pan’s personality:

Peter is an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He claims greatness, even when such claims are questionable (such as congratulating himself when Wendy re-attaches his shadow). In the play and book, Peter symbolises the selfishness of childhood, and is portrayed as being forgetful and self-centred.

Peter has a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude, and is fearlessly cocky when it comes to putting himself in danger. Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die on Marooners’ Rock, he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder. With this blithe attitude, he says, “To die will be an awfully big adventure”. In the play, the unseen and unnamed narrator ponders what might have been if Peter had stayed with Wendy, so that his cry might have become, “To live would be an awfully big adventure!”, “but he can never quite get the hang of it”.

I am painfully aware of the relevance here for my life; however, I didn’t realize how much of a shadow archetype Peter Pan has been for me, meaning how unhealthy this “spirit” has been in my life. 

Contrast Peter Pan’s laissez-faire, self-serving existence in Neverland with that of The Little Prince, who lives on the tiny asteroid planet B-612, which he maintains and cares for (Weeding the volcanos and trimming the ever growing trees), before eventually falling in love with a rose, with whom he has to deal with her vanity. Although she apologizes for her vanity and they reconcile, the petit Prince nonetheless vows to go explore the universe. 

Whereas Peter Pan never wants to leave Neverland except to recruit children from the Darling household. In fact, even when Wendy falls for him and wants a kiss, Peter simply sees her as a surrogate mom. And when, in the end of the story, Peter has a chance to be with Wendy, he declines – opting instead to stay with his Lost Boys in Neverland. In short, Peter Pan is a self-absorbed boy who refuses to grow up. 

Meanwhile, our Little Prince leaves his love (The rose) and his planet, B-612, to go learn about the universe. He is just a boy but he is intrepid and brave. And despite being a boy he sees the foolishness of the adults on each of the asteroids he visits. From Wikipedia:

The prince has since visited six other asteroids, each of which was inhabited by a single, irrational, narrow-minded adult, each meant to critique an element of society. They include: a king with no subjects; a vain man, who believes himself the most admirable person on his otherwise uninhabited planet; a drunkard who drinks to forget the shame of being a drunkard; a businessman who is blind to the beauty of the stars and instead endlessly counts them in order to “own” them all (critiquing materialism); a lamplighter who wastes his life blindly follows orders and extinguishing and relighting a lamp once a minute; and an elderly geographer. Like the others, the geographer is closed-minded, providing a caricurature of specialization in the modern world.

Our Little Prince is learning about the world. And unlike Peter Pan, he forms real, meaningful relationships with the people he encounters: loving the rose, taming the fox, and teaching the narrator about life. 

While Peter Pan teaches us to remain adolescents and hold onto our childhood, The Little Prince teaches us about growing up and letting go. And this is what life requires: maturity. 

The truth is, it is not serving me or my dreams any longer to be Peter Pan. There was a time when the Peter Pan spirit kept me going, when it made me daring and brave, enabling me to walk away from my own Wendys so that I might follow that inner voice telling me that I wasn’t home yet. But now I am, and this lazy cowboy is ready to become a little prince. No more living in Neverland. I’ve got a universe to explore. 

So what’s the meaning of all this inner alchemy? What is the outcome of these paradigm shifts?

Well, I’ve got responsibilities to tend to. Work, writing, health, love. 

And I can no longer afford to ignore them, I can no longer remain a boy. 

And so it is, I will invoke the bravery of The Little Prince, and I will face life with faith in myself and trust in my journey, much like Peter Pan gave me faith in myself as a boy; only, I need different heroes as a man: heroes capable of inspiring me to take action rather than simply dream. 

Note: here are a couple good follow ups for anyone interested in the Puer (the eternal boy) and The Little Prince:

Two Psychoanalytical Readings of The Little Prince:

https://icu.repo.nii.ac.jp/index.php?action=repository_action_common_download&item_id=4032&item_no=1&attribute_id=22&file_no=1&page_id=13&block_id=17

The Problem of The Puer Aeternus, Marie Loius Von Franz:

https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/micmac108/puer-aeternus

Ode to Imagination 

It’s funny: I have learned a lot from life. And my life is good. Damn good. Just finished watching a movie I quite liked. Stayed up all night. Stoned. 

My third eye, however, is open. I am clear. Isn’t that a Scientology thing. Going clear. Anyhow, I can see the future with a deep level of clarity. And that’s what I think separates the people who do things, the originals, from the mediocre mass of clones: the imagination. 

Once, while rolling on mescaline in the back of this girl’s car, I turned to her (My pseudo girlfriend at the time) and said, imagination is everything.  

The following day I went on google and found the following:


Surely, I had come across the quote before but I felt the realization profound nonetheless. 

Having found a bunch of other great quotes on imagination, I figured I would leave them here, as a kind of ode – a token of my gratitude for my own. Lord knows how far it has taken me, but I’ve still a way to go. 

Postscript

I once knew a girl who hated realtors: today she is one and a fledging real housewife. And I, hippie-headed and a mile up in he mountains, am writing stories to change the trajectory of my life – to finish what I started, what I began dreaming years ago. 

Point being: the quality of your imagination determines the quality of your life. So dream big and never settle for less than what you can be.