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

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.

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