Passages: Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Time and time again I read what I need to read, when I need to read it. I had read Man’s Search For Meaning before; although, as I get older, I find that my own increased experience adds additional dimension to things. Such was the case here. The words of Viktor Frankl, published in 1946, are profoundly significant. I think you will find them of value as well.

As part of my Passages series, I have transcribed my favorite passages below.

Note: Man’s Search For Meaning chronicles Victor Frankl’s time in multiple Nazi concentration camps – as well as the premise of his school of therapy, known as Logotherapy – and while the book clocks in at just over 150 pages, many of the passages I have selected are related more to the psychological value of the book than its historical content. Nonetheless, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the book for yourself. It’s easily one of my favorite books, as evidenced by its inclusion in my Passages series. 


“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and the conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

– p. 44

“‘Listen, Otto, if I don’t get back home to my wife, and if you should see her again, tell her that I talked of her daily, hourly. You remember. Secondly, I have loved her more than anyone. Thirdly, the short time I have been married to her outweighs everything, even all we have gone through here.'”

– p. 55

“Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person a prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him, mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.”

– p. 66

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

– p. 67

“This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through the window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here – I am here – I am life, eternal life.'””

– p. 69

“The Latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see the end of his ‘provisional existence’ was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, in contrast to a man in a normal life. Therefore, the whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in which we know from other areas of life. The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position. His existence has become provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a goal.”

– p. 70

“A man who let himself decline because he could not see any future goal found himself preoccupied with retrospective thoughts. In a different connection, we have already spoken of the tendency there was to look into the past, to help make the present, with all its horrors, less real. But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist. Regarding our ‘provisional existence’ as unreal was in itself an important factor in causing the prisoners to lose their hold on life; everything in a way became pointless. Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.”

– pp. 71-72

“Any attempt at fighting the camp’s psychopathological influence on the prisoner by psychotherapeutic or psychohygeinic methods had to aim at giving him inner strength by pointing out to him a future goal to which he could look forward. Instinctively some of the prisoners attempted to find one on their own. It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future – sub specie aeternitatis. And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to the task.”

– pp. 72-73

“I remember a personal experience. Almost in tears from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn shoes), I limped a few kilometers with our long column of men from the camp to the work site. Very cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of our miserable life. What should there be to eat tonight? If a piece of sausage came as a ration, should I exchange it for a piece of bread? Should I trade my last cigarette, which was left from a bonus I received a fortnight ago, for a bowl of soup? How could I get a piece of wire to replace a fragment which served as one of my shoelaces?

….

I became disgusted with the state of affairs which compelled me, daily and hourly, to think only of such trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method I succeeded in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them if they were already in the past. Both I and my troubles became the subject of an interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by myself. What does Spinoza say in his Ethics? – “Affectus, qui passio est, desinit esse passio simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam.” Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.”

– pp. 73-74

“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.”

– p. 74

“As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygeinic efforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why- an aim – for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.”

– p. 76

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment, Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny.”

– p. 77

“The uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’.

– p. 80

“Let me explain why I have employed the term “logotherapy”” as the name for my theory. Logos is a Greek word which denotes ‘meaning’. Logotherapy.. focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. This is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle.”

– pp. 98-99

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which can satisfy his own will to meaning. There are some authors who contend that meanings and values are “nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations and sublimations.” But as for myself, I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!”

– p. 99

“Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the human being and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being. We should not, then, be hesitant about challenging a man with a potential meaning for him to fulfill. It is only thus that we evoke his will to meaning from its state of latency. I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, ‘homeostasis,’ i,e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the struggling and striving for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

– pp. 104-105

“One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his opportunity to implement it.

As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he  can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by becoming responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.

– pp. 108-109

“The emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in the categorical imperative of logotherapy, which is: “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now!” It seems to me that there is nothing which would stimulate a man’s sense of responsibleness more than this maxim, which invites him to imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed and amended. Such a precept confronts him with life’s finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both life and himself.

Logotherapy tries to makes the patient fully aware of his own responsibleness; therefore, it must leave to him the option for what, to what, or to whom he understands himself to be responsible.”

– pp. 109-110

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become filly aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”

– pp. 111-112

“It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning.

But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering – provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be is psychological, biological or political. To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.”

– p. 113

“Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather activistic. To express this point figuratively we might say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after having first jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities the young person has in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think.

“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

– pp. 121-122

p.s. The exclusive use of the male pronoun is not so much a defect of the book as a sign of the times in which it was written; however, for being a 73 year old book, its wisdom holds up incredibly well. A treasure, no doubt, for any human’s search for meaning.

Alchemical Magic w a Spell for Liberation from Worry, Self-Doubt, and Fear.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
– Shakespeare, Julius Cesar

(Act II, Scene II, Line 32)

I forgot how much I just need to be in the dark, in the late of the night, sitting up, thinking on life: doing magic.

For writing is alchemical: it is a transformative means of reprogramming the self. What I am going to do here is magic.

Because when you study magic – not tricks (stage magic), but the ancient artifice, the craft of magic – you discover that it is a direct means of influencing The Will.

In fact, The ability to influence her own Will through her art is what gives the practitioner of magic her power, for she knows that mastery of the Self’s own Will IS mastery of the All.

You could think of the magician or the witch as someone training their own Jedi mind powers, their Will. And not for the purpose of moving lightsabers or lifting rocks, but to move the mountains standing in their way. It is an inner game. The bodhisattva knows how to play it. The Stoic knew how. So too the Jivanmukta.

Magic is the game of taking control of oneself by mythical means: meaning is the currency of magic. Meaning enables the magician to move from out of control into control: out of chaos, order. Magic is the bridge between the two. It is the integrating of new knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs. Through these powers, the center is found and returned to again and again on different levels.

Magic offers a means of attaining new truths. Magic is a messenger of synchronicity. It is the coyote I played hide and seek with behind the house today, and it is the new thoughts and attitudes reality has birthed within me tonight. And so, I cast spells using these magic symbols called letters to work with the energy of it all.

Long before the advent of modern language, one of the first tools of early humans was the stick. Used to draw things in the sand, it was the caveman’s magic wand, allowing him to communicate not only with others, but perhaps more importantly, with himself (The pen is my magic wand, as the guitar is John Mayer’s).

And history is so large we can imagine it all. So let’s go back in time to first magic wand: the stick. We see a young man, long ago, on the plains. He had an animal friend, a young coyote ancestor. And one day, the coyote was killed. So our friend sits alone that night, by the fire, in pain. And in his dejection, he picks up a stick and starts stretching in the dirt. A figure is soon formed out of an unconscious flow. He has drawn his coyote friend. And in this moment, he has become a symbol using animal. And the symbol does something to him, by means of the logos, the meaning behind it. And suddenly, he feels things about the coyote he did not know he felt. And those feelings change him, they become a part of his spirit. And he has discovered coyote magic. And it is only a lens, but he sees things almost as if from the perspective of the coyote now. And his world has grown bigger than the confines of his old pain. He has found meaning. Deeply personal, deeply powerful, and invaluable.

This is what the artist, the alchemist, the philosopher, and the seer do: they come to conclusions of greater value than their environment, than what they started with. It is an inner art, this artifice of birthing truths. One that allows the practitioner to fashion reality per her own lens. Perception is reality. And the wise one knows this. Their problems are problems of perception, and so, living in the matrix of self, the means of solving perceptual problems are beyond mere cognitive might. Thinking is the cause of their suffering in the first place, so a new level of thought must be reached.

In this way, magic can be thought of as the acts which enable us to transcend ourselves. They are almost shamanic in their nature, and very often are brought about via shamanic states of consciousness.

The magi / shaman / artist / practitioner is a creature imbued with the ability to will things into existence – even their own perceptions. Magic is only the means by which the necessary meaning we must integrate into ourselves is brought about and integrated, according to the purposes of our Will.

This all expressed, let’s practice some magic – now, by virtue of my tools (INTENTION, FLOW, SPELLing) I’ve already been practicing it this entire entry.

But let us go straight to the great work, the magnum opus:

I just no longer want to worry and stress about life. It’s too short. We all die. Memento-fucking-mori – remember that you will die. What now is worth stressing out over; it’s all going back to dust. We may as well be spirits. Only, the gods don’t die, so we are either braver than the gods or we are the gods. Either way is fine by me. The animal dies with grace. And humans are no different than animals, which is to say, we are no different than we were 100,000 years ago. Eat well, sleep well, work hard (hunt). Love. This is all you can do. You’ve spent years worrying, stressing out, the whole world seems to do it. Or we convince ourselves if we had X, Y, and Z, we wouldn’t stress out either. But we don’t have it because we are stressed out. Only we think we are stressed out because we don’t have it. When really, we are just addicted to worry by way of habit and have not even the strength to still ourselves. And why? Where came this lack of strength: weakness and hysteria by example. Mass neurosis. Ignorance. Shallowness. Fear. The world. You must be one who is in this world, but not of it, so much as you know you will not be “here” forever. But what a zoo. And it is. Only, let it be. People forget about death or render its omnipotent power impotent through religion. Be not one of them. Come to the gates now. Understand that in the everlasting book of time you are but a page. And no one cares if you are really happy. They may wish the best for you, but it’s your head game. If you succumb to it, to fear, and stress, and the dark magic of self-abuse and abandonment, they cannot save you. Love cannot save you. You can save you. Only you. But die to fear. Do it now. Let it go. Be as brave as the coyote, as noble as the sheep suffocating in its jaws. Both are no more or less important than you. Consciousness is relative to us all, and the coyote is in his head, the sheep in her’s, and you in yours. All experience hunger. All experience desire. All experience the feelings of having a body. Only, the sheep and coyote do not create their own hells. They live in a more natural reality. One in which life and death are just that, the way of life and death. So, they follow their instincts. And they live but for a minute of beauty – but it does not pass them. They receive and pursue the pleasure that is theirs. The raccoon does not deny himself his raccoon-ness on the basis of guilt or fear. Hell no, he just does it. And so to is your duty to be yourself. But there must be a deprogramming from all past thought patterns. Now is a day. The only one you really ever have. To waste it in worry is sad. Like some poor monkey in the zoo without his kind. He is missing them and he is depressed. Knows no other mode of thinking to free himself from this. Has no magic. Or maybe you’re a little runt of a Wolf, and your brothers beating up on you has made you fearful and passive, and you know no other way of feeling as good as your brothers do, in their dominance. And perhaps your chances of reproducing are lessened by your genetics. Well, life isn’t fair. But you are not wolf, you have a choice: let the stuff that has gotten you down for years of your life keep bringing you down for now and forever, or accept it and accept that society is always going to judge you for some things, and is always going to worship other things. The word sentence, as in a ‘prison sentence’ comes from the Latin ‘sentiere’, which means “to feel”. A sentence is merely an opinion. Live in your own truths. Don’t accept the opinions of others as your reality any longer. Know your own worth. Know your own validity. Know that despite failures and setbacks and mistakes, you are a damn good person who has done their all at the time, every time. Practice self-compassion. Love yourself like you love that lone coyote. Be secure. Let nothing ruffle your feathers. Let no sentence judge you for you, no person’s judgement summarize you. Whatever adversities you will face in life you will transform to your highest purpose and development. But there is nothing to develop into. Nothing to become. You are enough. Your existence has meaning, purpose, passion, desire. But arrive now: be here now. And stop negativity in its tracks. If you are tired in front of the mirror remind yourself you are tired and do not allow you to treason against yourself, because it is all a head game. The female alpha wolf knows who the alpha wolf is because he is the alpha wolf in his head. And there’s no need to fake anything. You are the living one. Full of gifts and kindness, but also a savage strength. And not one of anger but of peace. Simply care for yourself, do your best everyday, and plan for the future based only on what you can control. Worry not for what you can not. Be your best friend. But be more the that. Be at home in the world. Among 7.5 BILLION people alive today, do you really think your worries are that important that you are the center of the world, that your whole experience of reality need be made unpleasant because things aren’t the way you want them to be! Good god man, how you need to remember once and for all. This life is but a short gift. And the only place you’ll ever find it is in the Present. So, accept the world isn’t how you wished it was as a child, and let go of all the very unfeeling and unphilosophic opinions ever passed on to you by a world that values stupid, unimportant shit. You have a lot to be grateful for. See it. Experience it. The only way to transcend thought is in feeling. Feel good. Feel worthy. Feel grateful. Feel relaxed. Feel capable. Feel strong. Feel secure. Feel safe. Feel at ease. Even if the cause for worrying ever came your way, worrying wouldn’t help. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen. It’s a total alignment with failure. And the failure isn’t the result we cannot control but the attitude. The judgement. “Remove the judgement and you have removed the hurt (Marcus Aurelius); “Remove the thought, ‘I am hurt’ and you are no longer hurt.” Yes, Emperor, but we must also genuinely feel we are not hurt. Then we do not hurt. Denial solves nothing. So, you got hurt. So you had to do something difficult. Shall we pour our entire lives away as poor, suffering children who know no better. No, we must learn to be. To be here. Now. Still. Secure. Not there. Then. Restless. Insecure. Those are old ways you will no longer tolerate and perpetuate. The new way is a liberation of your soul in the knowledge of the impermanence of life and in the knowing that for what time you are here, you deserve to feel good. At peace. Secure. Present. Free from worry. Calm. Loved. Stable. Impenetrable. Strong. Worthy. Capable. And free. Liberated from all fear knowing you will pass the gates of death one day. And even then, you will not fear. The self-doubt is gone. Only the Self remains. Now go relax, freed from old patterns of attached fear. Go relax. Don’t think: BE. Try it. You deserve it. Go relax now – and know that you can return to the relaxed freedom of your liberated state at any time by simply remembering that you will die. So live while you are alive. Your days of merely existing are done. Live. Be. Breath. Trust. Calm. Strong. Love. Will. Safe. Secure. Worth it. So worth it.

Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

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Bosom Promise / Transient Coyotes, Home: Unafraid.

I met the coyotes,
Past two days

Today I was out deep –
Knew it was deep when the grade got steep –
Met two in a thicket,
Tall as wolves
Their heads turned (For me!),
And I yelled, “Git, skat! Skidaddle!” LOL…
And I turned back down the mountain,
Away from their territory

But they’ve been with me since, goddamnit they have

As yesterday, when I alone, to the east, and he alone, to the west, passed,
In silent gaze, amazement
Mutual caution, timeless wildness,
He like me, Me like he:
Loners, Transient Coyotes
Both with our reasons

That bosom promise of a den we’ve never seen,
Which calls us to go on, nobly enough – unafraid.

Postscript:

I dream of them, in their den tonight, living as they have for millenia – and I think of them out there, and I think of me here – and there’s something connected – this great metaphor of the wild-masculine and the journey back home, to wholeness, to the den-heart and all that matters. But also, the boldness of going it alone to get there – but also of being here, of knowing that on my way home is also home.

Organized Religion Sucks Major Balls

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Lucias Annaeus Seneca, 4BC – AD65

There are really only a few major religious myths that have survived the ages, and it’s really quite something that these stories have endured for billions of people, but you’ve probably been one of them at one point or another, or are now. And, if you’re relatively tolerant, you can recognize the cultural and personal values these religions provide; however, the older I get and the more I study world history, the more I view religion as a net-negative for humanity and a blight on the personal psyche.

It’s reality control (Heaven and hell). It’s self-worth control (You’re a sinner, homosexuality is a sin, and on and on). I mean, have you spent any time with a baby; do you think that babies are “born in sin”?

Let me say it point blank: religion is absolutely fucking twisted, and it always has been. Nothing has crushed the human animal and taken the sheen and organic beauty off of human culture more than organized religion.

I recently read a story that illustrated this dehumanization so poignantly to me.

In Northern China, in Mongolia, there exists an ethnic minority called the Oroqen people. While there are an estimated 8,000 Oroqen, their religion is dead – gone with the last Oroqen shaman, who died in 2000.

From wikipedia:

Until the early 1950s the main religion of the nomadic Oroqen was shamanism. In the summer of 1952 cadres of the Chinese communist party coerced the leaders of the Oroqen to give up their “superstitions” and abandon any religious practices. These tribal leaders, Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu) and Zhao Li Ben, were also powerful shamans. The special community ritual to “send away the spirits” and beg them not to return was held over three nights in Baiyinna and in Shibazhan.

Absolutely heartbreaking. A real life parable to James Cameron’s Avatar myth and the Na’vi beings. Here, you can try and displace blame on the communist party, but it was always the leaders who gave religion its power, who blessed its crusades.

The shaman has been made extinct almost worldwide and the shamanic post usurped by the priest, the pastor, the rabbi, and other authorized and sanctioned channels. The travesty here, being not only the death of ancient and true ways of life, but the gatekeeping of our pathways to the soul (I touched on this idea back in 2015, here).

But the more I learn, the more I see there are a whole host of truly beautiful, powerful, even magical things that religion has blotted out from human consciousness.

Religion has intently made taboo some of the most precious, naturalistic human knowledge: sexual, spiritual, metaphysical – entheogenic.

They turned our ancestor’s gods into devils and made humanity a sin.

Magic and Witchcraft were painted black and remain stained thousands of years after they were deemed “evil.” Let me tell you, those witches and their flying ointment were doing what the shamans were doing, which is to say, going off into darkness to bring back what we forgot.

But since only the priest can dole out truth, they burned them at the stake, casting them into a literal “hell”. This contributed to the western idea that women were inferior, not only socially but spiritually; many prehistoric and ancient religions were goddess worshipping, but no major religion is today. Many of the goddess deities were painted as evil and associated with demons, playing on very powerful human fears.

Magic was also associated with the demonic and too was cannibalized by organized religion. Rituals and sacred rites that nourished humans for millennia were absolutely forbidden. The viewing of outside beliefs as magic led to a whole lot of “We, as good Christians, have a right to enslave and govern these ‘savages'”. Magic became a curse. Even modern associations with the mere word “occult” do the ancient and timeless traditions of magic a gross disservice.

Theurgy – an entire practice of rituals, often magic in nature, with the intent of uniting oneself with the devine – has been wiped from mainstream human consciousness.

There isn’t a primitive society that didn’t begin with magic, but there are no religions for magic because magic is personal rather than social.

When I say magic, I am referring to rites and rituals rather than illusion or stage magic, as we think of it today. Paleolithic cave paintings were thought to have been a form of magic, designed to influence the hunt (Not much different than today’s Special Forces being trained in “mental rehearsal.”).

Religion borrowed it’s power and its symbols from magic (ex: The Star of David is the hexagram representing the perfect union of masculine and feminine.) but didn’t share it. Almost as if to say, “Only we, The Church, can influence the outcome of things.

I have a deep haunting suspicion that organized religion’s spiritual and psychological control over man was far more disempowering for the human being than we know. This notion is similar to the idea of Obscurantism, in which knowledge is deliberately hidden from those outside the “elite”.

“The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding, but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence.”

– Fredrich Nietzsche

And I think our idea of existence, of ourselves, has been grossly darkened. The mere invention of satan and the demonic has cast a shadow over all humanity that many will live their entire lives under.

Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, who shut down all the cities sexual temples and converted his people to Christianity, believed he himself was a god, a “superhuman avatar”. This gives you a likely idea of the mentality behind the people who pushed religion on their subjects; “I am a god, but you are all cattle.”

Whether my ideas strike people as conjecture or valid – or whatever – I care not; I am here to reclaim to real-estate in my soul that I have been forced to be a mere tenant-farmer of by way of organized religion’s grip on the collective consciousness, and, thusly, the individual’s consciousness.

Organized religion is in the core software of the matrix, like consumerism and vanity are. Only religion isn’t behaviorism, it’s mind control – it’s what controls behavior.

Look at how the religious right votes and what they value (And don’t say “family” lol). They value a divisive, morally toxic system of judgement that, by its own virtue, renders them immune from conscience. I can tell you, Jesus would not be a fan of fox news.

In fact, his namesake religion is very far from his teachings if you place any value in the Thomas Gospel, which contains the secret sayings of the living Jesus. The church places no stock in this historical document, but it’s worth the read to those who view Jesus on the level of Buddha, as an enlightened person.

I’m getting off track and it’s late but I can tell you, my opinions didn’t come from sitting around and being pissed off – they came from a lot of reading and a unique life experience that has given me a chance to shape my voice for what I believe to be absolutely true, with a capital T.

It has been said that the second job of the artist is to crate myth, but the first job is to destroy it.

I believe in the divinity of humanity. I believe in the sacred and powerful nature of the soul, but I do not believe god is up there watching me masturbate to some serious porn.

Most of the ancient cultures were animists or pantheistic – and certainly polytheistic. This idea of one god, separate from us is a tyranny that needs to die within us so we can begin to live.

As it happens in myself, I’m discovering a level of peace and open minded rationality that I never knew before. I’m also starting to practice some self-generative magic rituals that are having a phenomenal impact on my being. It was actually my intent to write about those magic rituals tonight, but I guess before I created myth, I had to do some work in destroying it.

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.

What Other Myth Could I Live

Writer, Businessman, Poet, Lover, Man,
All that I ever was all along,
All that I feared I would never be
Funny how I ever thought I wouldn’t become me
Funny how the wild things, once teeming with wild dreams,
Now whisper their secrets to me –
What other myth could I live.


In my darkest days I slept till three.

What more need I say; I was very depressed.

Today, when I think about that period in my life, I recall Rollo May’s description of depression as: ” …the inability to see or construct a future.”

And I couldn’t. I couldn’t let. go. I couldn’t see myself outside of my first two loves; as Drake sings on Views: If I ever loved ya, I’ll always love ya. And that was terribly toxic for me, because I didn’t love myself. So, I spent a lot of time feeling essentially incomplete: as if I had failed to live up to my dreams, and all that was left was the past, which I ached for.

Thankfuck, time truly does heal all.

I just didn’t know it would take so many years, but it did; however, it wasn’t the past that healed: it was me. It was me letting the false parts of me suffer until I shed them, and it was gaining the crystal clear picture of my identity I have today.

And it took so many years for me to get here, because I had so much unpacking to do; I had so much grief to face. But in that grief, I fell into life and I found that I could be there for myself: even in my darkest hour in the smallest ways. And in learning to be there for myself, I got to discover who I was.

And the funny part is, that beneath all the fear of not becoming who I wanted to be, there was a person who just wanted to peacefully coexist with his dreams. That’s all. No trouble. No drama; I just wanted to make awesome things happen, but I was full of excuses to keep suffering instead.

I can finally see that, now that I am no longer living in the unconscious grip of the myth that things had been unfortunate for me. Today, I no longer feel sorry for myself. And now that I no longer pity myself, I no longer have to live with the pain of what felt like irreconcilable burden of sorrow.

It was my personal hell – my world of mirrors and fears – but I just didn’t know any better growing up. And I say growing up, because I was growing up the past few years, and in particular the past twelve months. Today, I’m still growing, but life has come full circle. I’m whole and growing. I’m upgraded; on a new level. The heroes journey has led me to the wilderness and back.

Today I know what lays within me may also lay before me, and I know who I am can never be taken away from me.

For not even the past is irreconcilable. After all, it is only in reconciling with future and past that we may find peace in our present lives. This is the power of personal mythology. When you change the way you see things, you change, you begin to grow. And when you take command of your story, it really begins.

So, I go: onward. And I’m excited about life, as I have never been, because in the sometimes apropos words of Kanye West: “My life is dope and I do dope shit.”

What other myth than that would you want to live. What other myth could you live than your own.

This is your life, so work with what you’ve got and control what you may, but give your all.

Be brave.

Believe in yourself.

Trust that life will get out of the way and allow your will to be done.

These are only a few of my truths, but they’re all I need. They’re all I need.

The Young Actuals

12924416_1156070307750254_1734732197348032226_nThis is me; having realized that no matter how much of a writer, hippie, or bohemian I am, I am also a guy who enjoys success in business.

After all, you wouldn’t want someone else to judge you through a single lens or label, so why do it to yourself.

You are not this or that. You are whole. And to recognize the parts of you that exist seemingly in direct opposition to one another is the essence of wholeness.

The trick to happiness and inner peace, for me at least, is living in a way that holds the opposing parts together – not neglecting one or the other, but living in a way that honors both the billionaire and the Buddhist in me.

The Young Actuals of this world are those who understand that freedom is not meant to be wasted living a mass produced life in which we are at best imitatable – and at worst: miserable imitations.

For the Young Actual, to fear what others think is suicide; to envy others: insanity; for we believe in our own originality, and in the quiet intuitive knowledge that God was always only ever an archetype for man.

And, tired of living with the results of backwards myths, we have no Gods but our highest selves.

Our religion: the private experience of living a personal myth.

Our existence: a creative rebellion in which art is once again made loyal to man’s interior truths, through which the invidvidual once again hears her own inner voice.

For we are not products of the collective, but the producers, and the stewards of consciousness itself.


Young Actuals ethos inspired by Ayn Rand, Albert Camus, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Acknowledging the Gorge: Accepting and Embracing MY Reality

I don’t typically write in the mornings; however, today is anything but typical, for my life is no longer typical; I have evolved, and I am growing, I am changing, and life has become something other than I thought it was, so I am writing this to declare something:

I am accepting that I live in a world where other people don’t see things like I do.

And I understand this today because I used to think like everyone else [1]; I used to think all this was real: the fear, the anxiety, the lack of control – the doubt, the insecurity.

But I have grown to see things differently, and all that doubting myself is gone.

Today I am embracing that the road to my dreams is not in the ways of man; for society’s ways are no longer my own.

My ways are in my truths alone, and these truths exist independently from the world I live in; for I believe things others do not.

I believe know that if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

This is not, to borrow a phrase from the late David Foster Wallace, a banal platitude.

This is truth. Not for the world but for me.

The world’s reality is simply no longer mine.

And I’m more than good with that, but the gorge between my reality and the collective consciousness of the world I live in must be recognized, it cannot be ignored; the gorge must be acknowledged, accepted, embraced, and lived.


Footnotes

1: Re: “I used to think like everyone else”:

Not only did I pretty much think like everyone else, I also falsely believed that everyone else pretty much thought like me, which kind of made me feel batshit crazy, because I couldn’t understand why people would do the things they would do.

However, I recently came across a comment from someone on the subject of infidelity, which shed some light on the matter for me:

Folks cheat because they are selfish, insecure, jerks who will take any reason to get what they want, and could care less if their self destructive actions hurt anyone else. Then they lie and manipulate so well that they seem like victims. Folks who choose not to cheat do it for one simple reason: they promised themselves and others, and their word actually means something. The thing is, a person with honor will never understand the person who lies and cheats. It’s not in their nature.

Having realized how subjective reality is and how many things go into a person’s character (ex: perspective, beliefs, experiences, biases, etc), I now see that I will never really understand most people, because their ways are contrary to my nature, just as most people will never really understand me.

A Minor Breakup Poem, Magical Optimism, and The Toxicity of Self-Pity

Thought she was my priestess,
But she was a chimera

Her head in my lap,
Eyes on fire,
Masking the truth behind black mascara and desire

Looking up to me always,
Only to let me down again
And in our tempests, I tried my best to swim

But joy perished,
And I returned to the depths within,
Where I discovered our island was an iceberg

And she didn’t have the depth to see,
How her selfishness was slowly sinking me
But now I found bravery to sail back out to sea

And so I go on, once again happy and alone
To pick up the pieces and build a home she’ll never know

And that’s okay with me

I only wish I could have seen it was a dream

But I woke up and remembered,
How no soul can exercise the ghosts within me

So I look to the horizon, past the storms that made me


Onward

This is something I learned through writer Elizabeth Gilbert: the power of onward – of moving ahead – past my own bullshit and beyond my own ignorance via the difficult and highly valuable lessons life has blessed me with. This, of course, is much easier for me to do at thirty, having aligned my perception more closely with the truths of reality, or, rather, having spent my twenties suffering enough at the hands of my own indiscriminate idealism, until I finally started to learn that not everyone deserves to share in what I can only describe as my gift for magical optimism.

And this is something I am still learning. Because I have wasted a lot of my magical optimism on others.

This is, I admit, a difficult concept to describe – as I am only coming to see this in full now – but I am discovering, in hindsight, that I have invested a lot of this magical optimism into relationships, where I put my brightest energies only to have them burn up into a vapor, a misty fog of memories. These are not regrets I am airing out, only lessons. Because moving onward, I have dreams, I have desires in my heart, things I want to build and become. And like all human beings, I have recreated my fate time and time again in different relationships, different people, holding onto the same fallacy laden hopes, destined to repeat the errors of my ways until I have seen them.

But now I am seeing. And it is in this light that I genuinely am not regretful about the trials fate has engendered through me. Of course, as I get older there are tinges of sorrow in moments, things like realizing young love is a memory, but I am wise enough at this age to choose my perspective and remain grateful I’m still relatively young.

I also remind myself that I am a better man now than I was then. And, having finally seen the foolishness of letting my stock rise and fall with relationships, I know today that I am okay, and, with that fickle security blanket called modern love once again gone, I am returning to my magical optimism, never to forget it again.

This is important because the hard truth of reality is that modern love can and often does come and go; however, you should never lose the best parts of yourself with it – even if briefly.

I will personally admit that it is easy to fall back into my own depths in the tail end and wake of a relationship. But a person must, as I am, move onward. Hence the power of the written word: to draw maps on the uncharted territory called the future. And this is what I am doing: I am designing my life, I am writing my Wikipedia page, one aware, intention filled moment at a time. Because I believe I deserve better now than I did then.

Because then – looking back across the sea of time to the shores of my twenties – I see now how I spent long spells of time completely unaware, entirely blind to all that I was or could be. In a word: I wasted a lot of my life in self-pity.

And nothing kills dreams and robs life of it’s magic more than that which we call self-pity. Nothing. Failure is a mere thorn compared to the piercing arrows we sling at ourselves in self-pity.

Self-pity will eat away at your soul, and no amount of soaking in the acid of your own sorrow can heal your wounds. They will only demand greater, more destructive palliatives to ease the pain of feeling bad. And like Ed Ricketts said, For a very long time I didn’t like myself.

My own self-loathing was almost entirely the result of the self-pity I held onto (Coupled with a lack of self-compassion [Footnote 1] and a lack of understanding that what others do is not about you – something I will touch on again).

And as is the case with all time spent in negative feeling, self-pity is a total waste of life.

Self-pity is the default answer for those whose low self-image and lack of confidence compel them to make a martyr of themselves so that they may feel that they are the hero of their own suffering. But I’m such a good person, why me!! – or whatever version of the “I didn’t do anything to deserve this” story they choose to tell themselves.

I may sound callous in making such a statement, but I can only do so because I’ve been there: no, I absolutely did not deserve my first love fucking my best friend and mentor, nor did I deserve people in my first business conducting themselves without integrity at my expense. But this is life. Some people, when it comes to the things they feel they are owed, are savages. It’s just a fact that in the course of a human life you will be the collateral damage of selfish people. Now, whether you let this stop you from going onward is up to you. I will sheepishly but unashamedly admit, I let these things stop me from a successful second love, and a successful second business. Failure was one of the costs of my self-pity.

The problem was, I simply loved people. And I took things very personally. This made me a hell of a fantastic means to other people’s ends. Thankfully, I have begun to learn that not all people are worthy of my unconditional love and my magic optimism. I’ve also started to see that it is not about me. Some people are simply selfish. And they never think they are, because they lack the compassion for others to understand how self-centered and hurtful their actions are.

This is part of the spectrum of human nature, something we think we are experts on, but in fact requires decades to learn – just as it requires decades to understand yourself.

This is why I am writing, because I am learning.

And tonight I have been reflecting on the absolute toxic nature of self-pity, of denying yourself the compassion you deserve. It’s just another fact of life that some of us can give oceans of genuine compassion and empathy to others, yet treat ourselves with nothing but crippling self-pity. This is a grave injustice to ourselves. But nonetheless, few of us ever wake the fuck up and pick ourselves up and move onward. Thankfully for me, my age is a ticking clock. I don’t want to be forty and not have spent my thirties living my dreams. In my twenties, I lived some of mine, but those dreams are mostly vapor today.

Looking onward, I want to honor the crucibles I have passed through by applying the hard-won lessons they have brought me. I don’t want to waste my magic optimism on another over-entitled partner, and nor do I want my past self-pity to again push away a good one. But more than that, I don’t want my life to be about relationships, dreams that can vaporize. I have a legacy to build. And it’s not for me or the children I don’t have, it’s for the world. My mission is bigger than getting laid. My dreams are greater than the unfortunate things I had to face to get here.

And so, once again, I look to the horizon, past the storms that made me.

Onward.


You do not need to be loved,
not at the cost of yourself.
The single relationship truly central and
crucial to life is the relationship
to the self.
It is rewarding to
find someone whom you like,
but it is essential to like yourself.
It is quickening to recognize that
someone is a good and decent
human being,
but it is indispensable to
view yourself as acceptable.
It is a delight to discover people who are
worthy of respect and admiration
and love,
but it is vital to believe
yourself worthy of these things.
For you cannot live in someone else.
You cannot find yourself in
someone else.
You cannot be given a life by
someone else.
Of all the people you
will know in a lifetime, you are the
only one you will never leave or lose.
To the question of your life,
you are the only answer.
To the problems of your life,
you are the only solution.

Jo Coudert
Advice from a Failure

Footnote 1: Self-pity is not self-compassion.

edit / addition, 11/13/15: Wisdom on Self-Pity from Charlie Munger

“Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self-pity are disastrous modes of thoughts. Self-pity gets fairly close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity. … Self-pity will not improve the situation.” – C.M.

“Another thing, of course, is that life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every missed chance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every missed chance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and that your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in constructive fashion. That is a very good idea.” – C.M.

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.

A Delightful Life

Delightful day; what more can I say; I ran, I hiked, I swam, I read, I cooked, I napped – I did everything but make love, which, in itself, is another kind of delightful day, just not the one written for today. But I conspire with fate for days like that too. I’m working on it, which is to say I am working on myself. And I’ll be damned if I’m not becoming a a really decent man. As Socrates wrote, “Make yourself the sort of man you want people to think you are.” I’d like people to think, to know, that I am the man I have always known myself to be but never before was. G-d willing if I shall fall in love a third time, I will be a man worthy of making love to. It sounds silly but nonetheless, I aspire to be so.

There was a time I thought two halves could make a whole. Today and evermore I know better, for I am whole – not alone but on my own – a Man: world unto himself; complete. I’m not looking for someone to make me feel home; the world is my home, my soul no longer restless. Wanderlust has faded into a dream I no longer dream, and I no longer desire to go back in time.

I go forward, I look ahead, my lust for life deepens with my understanding of myself; I know who I am, and it’s greater than the sum of things come and gone. I am everything I am and nothing I am not (or was).

But before anyone accuse me of an excess of esteem of self-idolatry, let me be the first to tell you, I am beyond not proud of the multitude of things I have wrongly done in my life. But I am not ashamed. Shame tends to self-perpetuate; and I’ve learned, as Alice Hubbert believed, that sin is it’s own punishment. As David Foster Wallace wrote: “The parts of me that used to think I was different or better than anyone almost killed me.” No, I am neither egoic or ashamed. I am a man.

He had his foibles, his faults, and even his crimes. That is to say, he was a man. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Yes, I am a man.

But I am trying to be more human than my mistakes, as Ric Elias so beautifully put it. And I am doing a good job at this. Besides, confidence is an aspect of the soul; however, the confidence of the soul arises from wholeness, knowing yourself, virtue and vice alike – unlike the confidence of the ego, which believes it is different or better than anyone else. No, I am not good, I am whole. My heroes are no longer the Edmund Dantes’, the martyrs; my heroes are the Jean Valjeans, the true heroes, those who acheive victory over the enemy within. There is no other adversary that has defeated as many men as man himself. This is the battle each man is conscripted to fight, for victory over the self brings a peace as sweet as the defeat is sour. As the French proverb says, there is no pillow softer than a clean conscience.

And this is my pillow. I rest in the bosom of my soul, as only a man at peace with himself can.

Victory over the self is not the ego death as the guru promises, but a kind of armistice, an agreement which is upheld in the daily care of the soul and communion of the spirit.

There is no resting on ones laurels when the lions come at night. Changing ones thinking is not sufficient in itself; a new way of being, of relating to life, requires surrender, which is half of the battle. This is where right action begins, in surrendering the self to the soul rather than sacrificing the soul to the self. For me this required that I form a new relationship with myself, a relationship with my soul. One in which my soul is not only a conscious part of myself but the dominate aspect of my conciousness.  The mind, when left in charge, places the soul in exile. Security, true security, comes from being able to trust in your inner voice.

That begins slowly, for first it requires being able to hear it. Modern life has silenced man’s communion with the soul by tearing down the channels man used for centuries to understand and acess his higher self. Myth, great literature, religion, ritual, these are all dead and dying arts. The Matrix is simply a life deprived of all these bridges. The job of the shaman is to teach these. I wish to be a doctor of the soul as Jung was. This is my art, my dreams, dreams birthed through the nightmare I made of my life. But the nightmare is over. I’ve graduated. And today, I have true security, unshakable inner peace.

Fuck wit me you know I got it. – Jay Z

While I may not be [“good”], life is. My second cup of tea now cold, I will collect myself from the sandy spot I am on and walk home to read and retire for the night.

I have dreams to live and life awaits me tomorrow. A life in which I am an aspiring doctor of the soul, an artist in the highest sense. A life in which I am whole, a man worthy of making love to. A life I am building to share with the family of my dreams. A delightful life.

Walks home listening to Taylor Swift FTW