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

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. 

The Redeemer

I feel anxious for the future tonight, as if I ought to be working on a story or my business; yet, it’s late Saturday night and I’ll be working tomorrow – besides, Kitty and I stopped by the dispensary earlier and we are laying in bed watching Radical Something videos (“One Soul”). To add to this, our youngest Jack Russel, Felix, is laying across me. 

In short, I’m chilling hard; however, the muse being restless, I am called here – to the place where I come to commune with my soul and program my consciousness. 

It’s a rarity, in fact, that I ever open this app with an idea or specific thought; mostly, the muse just calls and I answer: ready to receive. 

Perhaps the muse is my anima: after all, Jung viewed the anima as one of the sources of creative ability (Thanks Wikipedia); although, it should be said, when it comes to depth psychology, I am much more versed in the shadow, which I confronted post Bunny, post Mousie. 

Why I’ve given my long-term girlfriends animal monikers, I know not. I suppose it is something of a projection of zoomorphic traits upon them, something in the face and the personality that allows me to transcend the limitations of my love for otherwise mortal humans; for more than once I have found something worth really loving. I am quite a lucky duck. 

Ironically, I just remembered, Bunny would call me that [duck]. And I was [a lucky duck] – always have been – I just didn’t always know it. 

Life’s like that though: we waste much of it lost in comparison, wishing on another star, aware of neither the power of wishes nor the toxicity of comparison, the great thief of joy.

I just want to be here now. 

That reminds me of something said on Johnathan Nolan’s Westworld to that effect, something along the lines of: ‘You all want to escape and come here and I just want to be here, right now, where I am.’

Because that’s really the finest art of life: being comfortable with the now. 

As I posted to Facebook a few days ago:

I am:
Calm
Comfortable
Capable
Confident 
-with –
Change
Challenge
Choice

The seven C’s in life. 

Isn’t that happiness? That calm, comfortable, capable, confident feeling of ease, which all healthy  adults are capable of experiencing. 

Life happens entirely internally, doesn’t it; it’s all inside, and that’s ultimately what counts, and particularly to the Stoic, who knows that only her own thoughts are under her control, all else being as free and wild as the seven seas. 

I’ve had the great benefit of losing love – some of it I longed for years for after, while some, I didn’t began to long for till years after. 

But we have only now. And that’s really the key to life: abiding to the now, living in something like a state of grace – I just didn’t imagine it would take 30 years for that state to be an abiding presence in my life; but, of course, it’s nothing religious or magical, just rational: the product of years and mistakes and the long goodbyes paid to bunny, mousie. 

Imagine if we knew our relationships would end, surely we would appreciate them more; although, I am not sure I could live that way – this despite the fact that at 31 I am well acquainted with the temorary nature of life. 

I guess I’ve just always tried to live a fairy tale, a never-ending story. 

I suppose, however, my desire for forever belongs to my anima and does not accurately reflect the nature of reality, which is everchanging and impermanent. 

But, letting my self come through, I recognize that impermanence is precisely what the full-depth of gratitude requires; however, like everything in life, it is in the tension of opposites that we achieve perfection: yin and yang, masculine and feminine, puer and senex, balance and excess, confidence and humility, light and dark, forever and now – in all, and in all I try to achieve balance, asking myself what forms, archetypes, or energies are being expressed, and how each may exist within myself beside the other, within the whole. 

Because this is what I am: a whole man, comfortable in my light and my dark – and these are not sides: yes, they begin as such; however, once integrated (Accepted) into your being, they become parts in the machine – a machine controlled by something higher and more powerful than its parts – but not altogether independent from them – not a ghost in the machine but a higher purpose, something between Fredrich Nietzsche’s will to power and Victor Frankl’s will to meaning – something between psychology and philosophy, science and spirituality. The over-soul, as Emerson called it. 

From his 1841 essay of the same title:

“Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible. Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtile. It is undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains us. We know that all spiritual being is in man. A wise old proverb says, “God comes to see us without bell”; that is, as there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God. Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man ever got above, but they tower over us, and most in the moment when our interests tempt us to wound them.”

While this may seem esoteric, new-age, or spiritual, to me it is a concrete reality: my life is divine. 

di·vine

adjective

1. of, from, or like God or a god.

“heroes with divine powers”

synonyms: godly, angelic, seraphic, saintly, beatific.

That is to say, according to the divine, and in my view, man is not an archetype for God, but, rather, God is an archetype (model) for man. Frankly, I loathe religion and I am as concerned with life after death as I am with reincarnation or anything else entirely irrelevant to the remaining time I have left before I will vanish entirely from earth and everyone I love on it – myself included. 

Ultimately, I’ve got to live and care for my own soul, my own wellbeing, and I write to connect with the soul (The inner, quiet, still self), to marry the higher and lower elements of myself into something I can love and admire. Because that’s what I really want in life: dignity – the ability to live a human life as well and as meaningfully as it may be lived, meeting joy and sorrow with equal poise, and remaining as calm, comfortable, and as confident as I may ever be in each possible moment. 

It’s not difficult for me to imagine a worse life: I’ve lived one. I’m reminded of something Jung wrote about the shadow being confronted either early in life or showing up later. I am fortunate to have spent my time in the wilderness of life early on. Now I can accept myself wholly. And I am now loved wholly as well. 

As I read somewhere today, ‘maintaining a personality is tiring’.

How true: it is much easier to be whole (versus good), making no apologies nor feeling any guilt for who I am. 

The business of life for me at thirty-one is much more one of being and doing than it is becoming. 

I’m reminded of the expression, life is not an act of discovery but one of creation.

In trying to find a source for that I came across the following, which I love:

“The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek therefore, not to find out Who You Are, but seek to determine Who You Want to Be.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

And in the words of Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz:

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

And this is why I felt anxious about the future earlier: because I know exactly who I want to be, who I am, and I am excited: I am anxious to be Lawrence Black. 

That said, I am going to rest and sleep now; for tomorrow is a chance to grow nearer the life I want, the evolution and progression of the life I have, which I love, because I am me: and I more than a lucky duck – I am a hunter of life, a wolf, and the redeemer of a once lost soul.