Real Life Inspiration: Ed Ricketts

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

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Ricketts, photo taken aged 43 in 1939.

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

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

Yeah, Ed Ricketts was a fucking cool guy.

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

Essentially Ed Ricketts = Star Wars.

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

If you didn’t, hold on tight.

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

So he did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve really inspired me Ed.

Thank You.

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

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

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

horizons

“His mind had no horizons.”

A Case of Narcissism: in Defense of a Reborn Ego

I had to write this tonight because I am feeling really, really smart.

Like, I’m getting good at life.

But beyond stating the obvious, something lighthearted has been a long time coming – to myself and my writing. Yeah, that winter of 2014 took a long time to thaw – but, thank the 6 god, spring is here motherfuckers (Samuel L. Jackson voice).

If there was such thing as an apology letter – please understand that I write my exes Poems – then this is the antithesis of it. But I am not here to flex my ego; although, it’s not an entirely bad idea; you see, like any hyper self-aware and intelligent man with a hint of integrity, by my late twenties, my ego had become my arch nemesis – a foe whom I avowed to avenge my misery on.

And let me tell you, there is nothing like a major break up, followed by self-administered entheogenic therapy, to kill the ego. I mean, I murdered that motherfucker (Lawrence Black voice).

In the wake of my ego, I became obsessed with my own humility, which, ironically, is actually a terrible case of narcissism in itself – albeit a more unconscious one. But in my desire to become uber-humble, I became infinitely small. Dreams, ideas, feelings – everything – was atrophied. In hindsight, I cannot believe what I had become – and in honesty, it wasn’t the winter of 2014 that froze my soul like Winterfell, it was the winter of 2009.

But today, I am a long way from Seattle, and for the first time: glad.

Defeats are the one thing we will become anything in order to escape. And I did, I became the picture of defeat; in my effort to hide, I hid in plain sight from myself.

But this is life. I smile on it now. 

I smile because my ego has finally emerged from my shadow. From the dark night of the soul, to the aftermath and through the entire Jungian alchemical process, I have been through the Heroes Journey.

Welcome home Lawrence Black.

In my twenties I was a lot of things I wasn’t. But I see now that I also wasn’t a lot of the things I was. Yes, I have been reading lots of Zen literature (I recommend D.T. Suzuki to the uninitiated – Watts is for space cowboys).

I have also been reading the Upanishads, “Which contain some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism.” – to save you a google search.

And – like everything else in my life has and always will – these texts have come to me at exactly the right time.  Yes: this Western boy’s mind is starting to tilt heavily on an Eastern axis.

However, I am not writing this to espouse my evolved views, but – holy fuck – let me tell you, there is no better way to shake off the weight of Christian guilt in the collective unconscious than to read some shit written way before that shit was even a fucking thing (Sam Jackson voice).

I am constantly reminded today that a man’s beliefs are only his theories. Well, I got theories too bitch! (Law Black voice).

But returning to the Upanishads, they have shown me an entirely new way of thinking, of being, and of living a “spiritual life”, which is to say: a life in which one feels themselves worthy of having their own theories.

As Steve Jobs – a spiritual guy himself – said:

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.

And, as I recently quoted, I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.

But those words from a movie – they really didn’t resonate with me the first time I watched The Departed – they really didn’t mean anything until I came to understand that Steve Jobs’ words held so much more weight than their logical and aesthetic appeal. It is only now that I see just how trapped I was by other people’s thinking – my own included.

But now, I get it. Yup, this could be us.

But it is so much more than just coming full circle after gaining compassion for myself, having seen life more objectively for the first time.

No, it is more than that: it is the Ego which took me here. Full circle.

Yes, I have vilified and called my ego 24601 for a long time; I have trashed the ego as wonderfully as the Gurus taught me to.

But, let me tell you, I was wrong. Whoops. Sorry life. Sorry Lawrence that I fucked up the last four years of your life (Save for Shannon, who is the greatest woman I have ever dated  – love you Bunny).

But yeah: I was oh so wrong – but it’s all good. It was my path. Love your fate, as I always say. And I am not mad at all now that I see what a salty motherfucker I was (Kenny Fucking Powers’ voice).

And like the Upanishads, this re-emergence of the ego (As spoofed excellently by Kenny Fucking Powers.) has arrived at the right time in my life.

And to thank, I have Brahman and Atman, as well as Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Marie Louise Von Franz’s writing on the function and value of the ego.

One sometimes feels that the unconscious is leading the way in accordance with a secret design… this creatively active aspect of the psychic nucleus can come into play only when the ego gets rid of all purposive and wishful aims and tries to get to a deeper, more basic form of existence. The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth. – M.L.V.F.

These three things – the concept of the Self as taught by the Upanishads, Ayn Rand’s heroic picture of the ego in Anthem, and Jung protege Marie Louise Von Franz’s understandings on the role of ego in individuation – have given me an far greater, more absolute understanding of my ego, and myself, than I have ever possessed (Well, excepting before I knew what my ego was and I again then had a healthy one). But this is now.

I was a fragile creature playing strong from 25 through 30, living in a glass castle, naked and afraid, but no longer – and I am not sorry that the emperor has finally seen his reflection; I just wish someone would have told me what a terrified little asshole I was. 

I know, I didn’t listen.

But hey, I just gotta laugh at it now.

And to really flex my ego like a human being with my DNA at this point in space and time should: I really feel whole; I feel complete. I will even go so far as to say that I have reached what Jung called individuation.

To quote C.G. Jung:

To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is.

Yes. All that dying I did down in the rabbit hole I spent the last five years of my life in (Save for some of the rare moments when I was actually happy, thanks in large part to B.S.W) paid off.

I made it. I know who I am.

Note to Jung fans: like the synchronicity with the Kenny Powers’ soundbites in that song? (See prev link dickhead).

P.S. As Jung wrote: “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” And now that my ego has joined the living again – joined to a healthy and cleansed soul – I have eyes. And I see the beautiful young girl who adores me, and I see my success this month, and I see myself happy – every single day. 

Lawrence, SKW, friends, family: I am sorry.

But, it could’t have been any different.

In conclusion: I am no longer just an asshole – now I am a reborn one. In my defense, it is so much better to be an asshole than to be miserable.

To thine own self be true.

With Love,

Me

p.p.s., I recall a dialogue between therapist number one and I (Back in the pre-Seattle days, when I picked therapists based on their looks), in which I said to her that I believed myself to be ‘slightly narcissistic’, to which she replied, “Yes Lawrence, all highly successful people are.” 

Maybe, maybe not, but I would rather be a happy narcissist than a fucking dickhead.

What I Was

Preface: This has been an incredibly pivotal season of life for me, and I have been going through a time of radical self-realization. Tonight I took my blanket and candles to the shore for the supermoon blood lunar eclipse, and I wrote the following in reflection (Mainly) on the later part of my twenties. As I have certainly published TMI before, revealing my past flaws – flaws which others around me likely already saw clearly – is not something I am afraid of.

What I was:

Neurotic
Stuck in my head
Compulsive
Emotional
Depressed
Self-pitying
Unsuccessful
Irresponsible
Anxious
Uncertain
Socially undiscerning
Judgemental
Insecure
Feeling driven
Mentally passive
Unhealthy
Overly effeminate / feminine dominate
Unhealthy
Obsessed with the past
Too emotionly empathetic and vulnerable
Easily influenced
Scared of life
Insecure with women
Spiritually uncertain
Nervous / afraid
Unsure of myself
Hard on myself
On edge / jumpy
Approval seeking
Stuck in my story
Trapped in a bad feeling
Ignorant to how life works
Weak willed
Unaware of my potential
Unhappy with life, uncomfortable w life
Easily manipulated
Responsible for other people’s feelings
A victim
Bitter
Sorry for myself
Worried
Reliant on others, dependent
Unexcited about life
Closed minded
Unmotivated
Unhappy
Small minded
Ungrateful
Did not define happiness
At the mercy of my feelings
Resentful of exes
Unable to understand extrinsic motivators / others
Distrustful of the universe
A passive partipant in life
Addicted to the past
Disconnected to others
Uncomfortable with silence
Felt responsible to lead conversations
Down about life
Poor self-image / externally defined
Defined by my past / confined to who I was
Irresponsible
Defined by experiences (past perspectives)
Resentful of my childhood
Uncompassionate to myself
My own worst enemy
Unwilling to take responsibility
Blameful of others
Easily influenced by ideas and concepts i.e., “I’m a writer”
Unforgivng of myself
Concerned with people’s judgements but not healthy approval
Unable to let go
Uncomfortable with discomfort
Afraid of confrontation, discomfort
Resigned, ignorant to the power of will, unable to “change” / stuck in my experience
A passenger in life
Stuck in my perspective, did not take responsibility for it
Not at home in the world
Desiring for a “home” but unwilling to take responsibility for it
Afraid to confront my emotions
Concerned w having all the answers to unimportant questions
Unaware of my biases and assumptions
Not aware that my experience was nothing more than my perspective, my processing computer
Unwilling to let people down
Afraid of bad things happening
Poverty mindset
Overly sensitive
Unable to interpret people
A product of family society
Ignorant to the oaktree in the acorn
Quick to fall in love
Full of sorrowful, pity laden, excuses
Poor boundaries, wanted to be loved by everyone, friends w everyone
Wanted every girl to like me
Too open too soon
Unwiling / afraid to examine the past, the deeper reasons behind my decisions
Unprepared, backwards – rather than forward thinking
Selfish in the wrong ways, not sensitive of others
Ill prepared, poor at prepearing
Impulsive
Did not view myself as lovable
Did not understand why people liked or did not like me
A follower of the wrong minds
Unwilling to say no to people
Note: need to go back through life story I wrote and learn, resee things
Was not objective of things, life, decisions, limited to my own head
Victim rather than hero mindset
Could not contain my feelings to myself
Indecisive
Unable to see past present feelings, to a larger narrative
Did not define my own disposition
Egocentric instead of reality centered
Way too impartial due to emotions, did not fault ex girlfriends
Unable to set a plan and stick to it, afraid to pen in my dreams
Needed people to believe in me in order to believe in myself
Unaware of my flaws
Felt I needed the girl of my dreams to dream
Unaware of the limits of my dominating paradigms ex: “The purpose of love is to dream…”
Note: the purpose of love is to share happiness
Unable to move on, to adopt a healthy outlook
Unable to discern other people’s values,
Not concerned enough with them
I lived inconsistent w my own (values) – as a result, I had mixed/poor priorities
Emotionally masochistic
Nothing, including my happiness and wellbeing (nor the happiness of those I loved) was sacred
Did not understand what people wanted for – or from – me
Did not have healthy / confident / worthy expectations of myself
Conformed to the desires of others without taking my own into account
Not at peace with myself and with life
I created struggles in order to justify my story, the pain of my past
Did not define or understand what I needed in the day to week to week living of life
Did not give myself healthy credit for the things I did right, or even just for trying
Did not love or even like myself
Made promises I could not fulfill or did not plan to
Did not apologize when I should have, forgave when I should have not
I looked for the bad and I missed the good
Did not have the compassion to understand who I am
Said the wrong things and sometimes left the right things unsaid
Thought in absolutes, did not understand the perfection of balance, tension between opposites
Let other people’s emotions effect me too much, was not grounded in my own calm masculine energy
Drifted through life, was conquered by my weaknesses, rather than finding victory in my strengths
Attracted the wrong kind of attention to myself
Did not have healthy, mature boundaries
Did not understand people are a product of the times, as was I
Did not understand what I was so desperate to escape from
Did not think about the consequences of my actions
Did not know any better
Did my best

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake, The Marraige of Heaven and Hell, (From which Aldous Huxley took the title for his book, ‘The Doors of Perception’, detailing his experience with Mescaline).

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Mindsight: Going Back to The Start

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

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

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

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

That last sentence is heartwrenching, isn’t it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awaken. Please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books and boats.

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