Musing on Life Through Jack London’s ‘The Star Rover’: “The one man” and “The one woman”

I’m a fan of Jack London. He is, like Steinbeck, one of those California writers who hold a special place in my heart. I see myself like them, and their philosophies speak to me. And while Jack London is best known for adventure stories like Call of The Wild, The White Fang, and Sea Wolf, I am more of a Martin Eden kind of person, but there’s another, less well-known Jack London story that really left an impression on me. It’s called The Star Rover.

The Star Rover is a first-person tale of a man named Darrel Standing who is in San Quentin State Prison for murder. While imprisoned, awaiting his execution, he is subject to a specially cruel punishment: the straight jacket (The book was published in the UK as ‘The Jacket’). To survive the torture, our main character enters a kind of trance in which he astral travels through past lives. While the book returns again and again to the prison, it’s chapters are more like a series of episodic short stories – tales of these past lives. But of all the chapters, one stands out like a light beam.

Chapter 21, which I have reproduced below, made such an impact on me – both as some of the most beautiful prose fiction I have ever read, and as a paradigm for life, a model for viewing things. And if you’ll join me on a wonderful little journey, you can experience it below.

Note: if you would like to read the entire book, while printings are rare, you can access it in free online in your desired format at Project Gutenberg; however, as I have stated, the episodic format of the chapters makes each chapter a story into itself. Particularly Chapter 21.

After, I will discuss the weight and significance of what he is saying here, for this is heavy, heady stuff: something I think no one can read without benefitting their heart and soul. Part folktale, part mythology, it is an imagining of human history, evolution, the creation of gods – all seen through the eyes of “the one man” – and his love for “the one woman” throughout all of human history:

CHAPTER XXI


Pascal somewhere says: "In viewing the march of human evolution, the philosophic mind should look upon humanity as one man, and not as a conglomeration of individuals."

I sit here in Murderers' Row in Folsom, the drowsy hum of flies in my ears as I ponder that thought of Pascal. It is true. Just as the human embryo, in its brief ten lunar months, with bewildering swiftness, in myriad forms and semblances a myriad times multiplied, rehearses the entire history of organic life from vegetable to man; just as the human boy, in his brief years of boyhood, rehearses the history of primitive man in acts of cruelty and savagery, from wantonness of inflicting pain on lesser creatures to tribal consciousness expressed by the desire to run in gangs; just so, I, Darrell Standing, have rehearsed and relived all that primitive man was, and did, and became until he became even you and me and the rest of our kind in a twentieth century civilization.

Truly do we carry in us, each human of us alive on the planet to-day, the incorruptible history of life from life's beginning.  This history is written in our tissues and our bones, in our functions and our organs, in our brain cells and in our spirits, and in all sorts of physical and psychic atavistic urgencies and compulsions. Once we were fish-like, you and I, my reader, and crawled up out of the sea to pioneer in the great, dry-land adventure in the thick of which we are now.  The marks of the sea are still on us, as the marks of the serpent are still on us, ere the serpent became serpent and we became we, when pre-serpent and pre-we were one. Once we flew in the air, and once we dwelt arboreally and were afraid of the dark. The vestiges remain, graven on you and me, and graven on our seed to come after us to the end of our time on earth.

What Pascal glimpsed with the vision of a seer, I have lived.  I have seen myself that one man contemplated by Pascal's philosophic eye. Oh, I have a tale, most true, most wonderful, most real to me, although I doubt that I have wit to tell it, and that you, my reader, have wit to perceive it when told.  I say that I have seen myself that one man hinted at by Pascal.  I have lain in the long trances of the jacket and glimpsed myself a thousand living men living the thousand lives that are themselves the history of the human man climbing upward through the ages.

Ah, what royal memories are mine, as I flutter through the aeons of the long ago.  In single jacket trances I have lived the many lives involved in the thousand-years-long Odysseys of the early drifts of men. Heavens, before I was of the flaxen-haired Aesir, who dwelt in Asgard, and before I was of the red-haired Vanir, who dwelt in Vanaheim, long before those times I have memories (living memories) of earlier drifts, when, like thistledown before the breeze, we drifted south before the face of the descending polar ice-cap.

I have died of frost and famine, fight and flood.  I have picked berries on the bleak backbone of the world, and I have dug roots to eat from the fat-soiled fens and meadows. I have scratched the reindeer's semblance and the semblance of the hairy mammoth on ivory tusks gotten of the chase and on the rock walls of cave shelters when the winter storms moaned outside. I have cracked marrow-bones on the sites of kingly cities that had perished centuries before my time or that were destined to be builded centuries after my passing. And I have left the bones of my transient carcasses in pond bottoms, and glacial gravels, and asphaltum lakes.

I have lived through the ages known to-day among the scientists as the Paleolithic, the Neolithic, and the Bronze. I remember when with our domesticated wolves we herded our reindeer to pasture on the north shore of the Mediterranean where now are France and Italy and Spain. This was before the ice-sheet melted backward toward the pole. Many processions of the equinoxes have I lived through and died in, my reader . . . only that I remember and that you do not.

I have been a Son of the Plough, a Son of the Fish, a Son of the Tree. All religions from the beginnings of man's religious time abide in me.

And when the Dominie, in the chapel, here in Folsom of a Sunday, worships God in his own good modern way, I know that in him, the Dominie, still abide the worships of the Plough, the Fish, the Tree--ay, and also all worships of Astarte and the Night.

I have been an Aryan master in old Egypt, when my soldiers scrawled obscenities on the carven tombs of kings dead and gone and forgotten aforetime. And I, the Aryan master in old Egypt, have myself builded my two burial places--the one a false and mighty pyramid to which a generation of slaves could attest; the other humble, meagre, secret, rock-hewn in a desert valley by slaves who died immediately their work was done. . . . And I wonder me here in Folsom, while democracy dreams its enchantments o'er the twentieth century world, whether there, in the rock-hewn crypt of that secret, desert valley, the bones still abide that once were mine and that stiffened my animated body when I was an Aryan master high-stomached to command.

And on the great drift, southward and eastward under the burning sun that perished all descendants of the houses of Asgard and Vanaheim, I have been a king in Ceylon, a builder of Aryan monuments under Aryan kings in old Java and old Sumatra. And I have died a hundred deaths on the great South Sea drift ere ever the rebirth of me came to plant monuments, that only Aryans plant, on volcanic tropic islands that I, Darrell Standing, cannot name, being too little versed to-day in that far sea geography.

If only I were articulate to paint in the frail medium of words what I see and know and possess incorporated in my consciousness of the mighty driftage of the races in the times before our present written history began!  Yes, we had our history even then. Our old men, our priests, our wise ones, told our history into tales and wrote those tales in the stars so that our seed after us should not forget. From the sky came the life-giving rain and the sunlight. And we studied the sky, learned from the stars to calculate time and apportion the seasons; and we named the stars after our heroes and our foods and our devices for getting food; and after our wanderings, and drifts, and adventures; and after our functions and our furies of impulse and desire.

And, alas! we thought the heavens unchanging on which we wrote all our humble yearnings and all the humble things we did or dreamed of doing. When I was a Son of the Bull, I remember me a lifetime I spent at star-gazing. And, later and earlier, there were other lives in which I sang with the priests and bards the taboo-songs of the stars wherein we believed was written our imperishable record. And here, at the end of it all, I pore over books of astronomy from the prison library, such as they allow condemned men to read, and learn that even the heavens are passing fluxes, vexed with star-driftage as the earth is by the drifts of men.

Equipped with this modern knowledge, I have, returning through the little death from my earlier lives, been able to compare the heavens then and now. And the stars do change. I have seen pole stars and pole stars and dynasties of pole stars. The pole star to-day is in Ursa Minor. Yet, in those far days I have seen the pole star in Draco, in Hercules, in Vega,in Cygnus, and in Cepheus.  No; not even the stars abide, and yet the memory and the knowledge of them abides in me, in the spirit of me that is memory and that is eternal. Only spirit abides. All else, being mere matter, passes, and must pass.

Oh, I do see myself to-day that one man who appeared in the elder world, blonde, ferocious, a killer and a lover, a meat-eater and a root-digger, a gypsy and a robber, who, club in hand, through millenniums of years wandered the world around seeking meat to devour and sheltered nests for his younglings and sucklings.

I am that man, the sum of him, the all of him, the hairless biped who struggled upward from the slime and created love and law out of the anarchy of fecund life that screamed and squalled in the jungle.  I am all that that man was and did become. I see myself, through the painful generations, snaring and killing the game and the fish, clearing the first fields from the forest, making rude tools of stone and bone, building houses of wood, thatching the roofs with leaves and straw, domesticating the wild grasses and meadow-roots, fathering them to become the progenitors of rice and millet and wheat and barley and all manner of succulent edibles, learning to scratch the soil, to sow, to reap, to store, beating out the fibres of plants to spin into thread and to weave into cloth, devising systems of irrigation, working in metals, making markets and trade-routes, building boats, and founding navigation--ay, and organizing village life, welding villages to villages till they became tribes, welding tribes together till they became nations, ever seeking the laws of things, ever making the laws of humans so that humans might live together in amity and by united effort beat down and destroy
all manner of creeping, crawling, squalling things that might else
destroy them.

I was that man in all his births and endeavours. I am that man to-day, waiting my due death by the law that I helped to devise many a thousand years ago, and by which I have died many times before this, many times. And as I contemplate this vast past history of me, I find several great and splendid influences, and, chiefest of these, the love of woman, man's love for the woman of his kind. I see myself, the one man, the lover, always the lover. Yes, also was I the great fighter, but somehow it seems to me as I sit here and evenly balance it all, that I was, more than aught else, the great lover. It was because I loved greatly that I was the great fighter.

Sometimes I think that the story of man is the story of the love of woman. This memory of all my past that I write now is the memory of my love of woman. Ever, in the ten thousand lives and guises, I loved her. I love her now. My sleep is fraught with her; my waking fancies, no matter whence they start, lead me always to her. There is no escaping her, that eternal, splendid, ever-resplendent figure of woman.

Oh, make no mistake. I am no callow, ardent youth. I am an elderly man, broken in health and body, and soon to die.  I am a scientist and a philosopher.  I, as all the generations of philosophers before me, know woman for what she is--her weaknesses, and meannesses, and immodesties, and ignobilities, her earth-bound feet, and her eyes that have never seen the stars. But--and the everlasting, irrefragable fact remains: Her feet are beautiful, her eyes are beautiful, her arms and breasts are paradise, her charm is potent beyond all charm that has ever dazzled men; and, as the pole willy-nilly draws the needle, just so, willy-nilly, does she draw men.

Woman has made me laugh at death and distance, scorn fatigue and sleep. I have slain men, many men, for love of woman, or in warm blood have baptized our nuptials or washed away the stain of her favour to another. I have gone down to death and dishonour, my betrayal of my comrades and of the stars black upon me, for woman's sake--for my sake, rather, I desired her so. And I have lain in the barley, sick with yearning for her, just to see her pass and glut my eyes with the swaying wonder of her and of her hair, black with the night, or brown or flaxen, or all golden-dusty with the sun.

For woman _is_ beautiful . . . to man. She is sweet to his tongue, and fragrance in his nostrils. She is fire in his blood, and a thunder of trumpets; her voice is beyond all music in his ears; and she can shake his soul that else stands steadfast in the draughty presence of the Titans of the Light and of the Dark. And beyond his star-gazing, in his far-imagined heavens, Valkyrie or houri, man has fain made place for her, for he could see no heaven without her.  And the sword, in battle, singing, sings not so sweet a song as the woman sings to man merely by her laugh in the moonlight, or her love-sob in the dark, or by her swaying on her way under the sun while he lies dizzy with longing in the grass.

I have died of love. I have died for love, as you shall see. In a little while they will take me out, me, Darrell Standing, and make me die. And that death shall be for love. Oh, not lightly was I stirred when I slew Professor Haskell in the laboratory at the University of California. He was a man. I was a man. And there was a woman beautiful. Do you understand? She was a woman and I was a man and a lover, and all the heredity of love was mine up from the black and squalling jungle ere love was love and man was man.

Oh, ay, it is nothing new. Often, often, in that long past have I given life and honour, place and power for love.  Man is different from woman. She is close to the immediate and knows only the need of instant things. We know honour above her honour, and pride beyond her wildest guess of pride. Our eyes are far-visioned for star-gazing, while her eyes see no farther than the solid earth beneath her feet, the lover's breast upon her breast, the infant lusty in the hollow of her arm.  And yet, such is our alchemy compounded of the ages, woman works magic in our dreams and in our veins, so that more than dreams and far visions and the blood of life itself is woman to us, who, as lovers truly say, is more than all the world.  Yet is this just, else would man not be man, the fighter and the conqueror, treading his red way on the face of all other and lesser life--for, had man not been the lover, the royal lover, he could never have become the kingly fighter.  We fight best, and die best, and live best, for what we love.

I am that one man. I see myself the many selves that have gone into the constituting of me.  And ever I see the woman, the many women, who have made me and undone me, who have loved me and whom I have loved.

I remember, oh, long ago when human kind was very young, that I made me a snare and a pit with a pointed stake upthrust in the middle thereof, for the taking of Sabre-Tooth. Sabre-Tooth, long-fanged and long-haired, was the chiefest peril to us of the squatting place, who crouched through the nights over our fires and by day increased the growing shell-bank beneath us by the clams we dug and devoured from the salt mud-flats beside us.

And when the roar and the squall of Sabre-Tooth roused us where we squatted by our dying embers, and I was wild with far vision of the proof of the pit and the stake, it was the woman, arms about me, leg-twining, who fought with me and restrained me not to go out through the dark to my desire. She was part-clad, for warmth only, in skins of animals, mangy and fire-burnt, that I had slain; she was swart and dirty with camp smoke, unwashed since the spring rains, with nails gnarled and broken, and hands that were calloused like footpads and were more like claws than like hands; but her eyes were blue as the summer sky is, as the deep sea is, and there was that in her eyes, and in her clasped arms about me, and in her heart beating against mine, that withheld me . . . though through the dark until dawn, while Sabre-Tooth squalled his wrath and his agony, I could hear my comrades snickering and sniggling to their women in that I had not the faith in my emprise and invention to venture through the night to the pit and the stake I had devised for the undoing of Sabre-Tooth. But my woman, my savage mate held me, savage that I was, and her eyes drew me, and her arms chained me, and her twining legs and heart beating to mine seduced me from my far dream of things, my man's achievement, the goal beyond goals, the taking and the slaying of Sabre-Tooth on the stake in the pit.

Once I wan Ushu, the archer.  I remember it well.  For I was lost from my own people, through the great forest, till I emerged on the flat lands and grass lands, and was taken in by a strange people, kin in that their skin was white, their hair yellow, their speech not too remote from mine. And she was Igar, and I drew her as I sang in the twilight, for she was destined a race-mother, and she was broad-built and full-dugged, and she could not but draw to the man heavy-muscled, deep-chested, who sang of his prowess in man-slaying and in meat-getting, and so, promised food and protection to her in her weakness whilst she mothered the seed that was to hunt the meat and live after her.

And these people knew not the wisdom of my people, in that they snared and pitted their meat and in battle used clubs and stone throwing-sticks and were unaware of the virtues of arrows swift-flying, notched on the end to fit the thong of deer-sinew, well-twisted, that sprang into straightness when released to the spring of the ask-stick bent in the middle.

And while I sang, the stranger men laughed in the twilight. And only she, Igar, believed and had faith in me. I took her alone to the hunting, where the deer sought the water-hole. And my bow twanged and sang in the covert, and the deer fell fast-stricken, and the warm meat was sweet to us, and she was mine there by the water-hole.

And because of Igar I remained with the strange men. And I taught them the making of bows from the red and sweet-smelling wood like unto cedar. And I taught them to keep both eyes open, and to aim with the left eye, and to make blunt shafts for small game, and pronged shafts of bone for the fish in the clear water, and to flake arrow-heads from obsidian for the deer and the wild horse, the elk and old Sabre-Tooth. But the flaking of stone they laughed at, till I shot an elk through and through, the flaked stone standing out and beyond, the feathered shaft sunk in its vitals, the whole tribe applauding.

I was Ushu, the archer, and Igar was my woman and mate.  We laughed under the sun in the morning, when our man-child and woman-child, yellowed like honey-bees, sprawled and rolled in the mustard, and at night she lay close in my arms, and loved me, and urged me, because of my skill at the seasoning of woods and the flaking of arrow-heads, that I should stay close by the camp and let the other men bring to me the meat from the perils of hunting.  And I listened, and grew fat and short-breathed, and in the long nights, unsleeping, worried that the men of the stranger tribe brought me meat for my wisdom and honour, but laughed at my fatness and undesire for the hunting and fighting.

And in my old age, when our sons were man-grown and our daughters were mothers, when up from the southland the dark men, flat-browed,
kinky-headed, surged like waves of the sea upon us and we fled back before them to the hill-slopes, Igar, like my mates far before and long after, leg-twining, arm-clasping, unseeing far visions, strove to hold me aloof from the battle.

And I tore myself from her, fat and short-breathed, while she wept that no longer I loved her, and I went out to the night-fighting and dawn-fighting, where, to the singing of bowstrings and the shrilling of arrows, feathered, sharp-pointed, we showed them, the kinky-heads, the skill of the killing and taught them the wit and the willing of slaughter.

And as I died them at the end of the fighting, there were death songs and singing about me, and the songs seemed to sing as these the words I have written when I was Ushu, the archer, and Igar, my mate-woman,leg-twining, arm-clasping, would have held me back from the battle.

Once, and heaven alone knows when, save that it was in the long ago when man was young, we lived beside great swamps, where the hills drew down close to the wide, sluggish river, and where our women gathered berries and roots, and there were herds of deer, of wild horses, of antelope, and of elk, that we men slew with arrows or trapped in the pits or hill-pockets.  From the river we caught fish in nets twisted by the women of the bark of young trees.

I was a man, eager and curious as the antelope when we lured it by waving grass clumps where we lay hidden in the thick of the grass.  The wild rice grew in the swamp, rising sheer from the water on the edges of the channels. Each morning the blackbirds awoke us with their chatter as they left their roosts to fly to the swamp.  And through the long twilight the air was filled with their noise as they went back to their roosts. It was the time that the rice ripened. And there were ducks also, and ducks and blackbirds feasted to fatness on the ripe rice half unhusked by the sun.

Being a man, ever restless, ever questing, wondering always what lay beyond the hills and beyond the swamps and in the mud at the river's bottom, I watched the wild ducks and blackbirds and pondered till my pondering gave me vision and I saw. And this is what I saw, the reasoning of it:

Meat was good to eat. In the end, tracing it back, or at the first, rather, all meat came from grass. The meat of the duck and of the blackbird came from the seed of the swamp rice.  To kill a duck with an arrow scarce paid for the labour of stalking and the long hours in hiding. The blackbirds were too small for arrow-killing save by the boys who were learning and preparing for the taking of larger game.  And yet, in rice season, blackbirds and ducks were succulently fat. Their fatness came from the rice. Why should I and mine not be fat from the rice in the same way?

And I thought it out in camp, silent, morose, while the children squabbled about me unnoticed, and while Arunga, my mate-woman, vainly scolded me and urged me to go hunting for more meat for the many of us.

Arunga was the woman I had stolen from the hill-tribes.  She and I had been a dozen moons in learning common speech after I captured her. Ah, that day when I leaped upon her, down from the over-hanging tree-branch as she padded the runway! Fairly upon her shoulders with the weight of my body I smote her, my fingers wide-spreading to clutch her. She squalled like a cat there in the runway.  She fought me and bit me. The nails of her hands were like the claws of a tree-cat as they tore at me. But I held her and mastered her, and for two days beat her and forced her to travel with me down out of the canyons of the Hill-Men to the grass lands where the river flowed through the rice-swamps and the ducks and the blackbirds fed fat.

I saw my vision when the rice was ripe. I put Arunga in the bow of the fire-hollowed log that was most rudely a canoe.  I bade her paddle. In the stern I spread a deerskin she had tanned. With two stout sticks I bent the stalks over the deerskin and threshed out the grain that else the blackbirds would have eaten. And when I had worked out the way of it, I gave the two stout sticks to Arunga, and sat in the bow paddling and directing.

In the past we had eaten the raw rice in passing and not been pleased with it.  But now we parched it over our fire so that the grains puffed and exploded in whiteness and all the tribe came running to taste.

After that we became known among men as the Rice-Eaters and as the Sons of the Rice.  And long, long after, when we were driven by the Sons of the River from the swamps into the uplands, we took the seed of the rice with us and planted it. We learned to select the largest grains for the seed, so that all the rice we thereafter ate was larger-grained and puffier in the parching and the boiling.

But Arunga. I have said she squalled and scratched like a cat when I stole her. Yet I remember the time when her own kin of the Hill-Men caught me and carried me away into the hills.  They were her father, his brother, and her two own blood-brothers. But she was mine, who had lived with me.  And at night, where I lay bound like a wild pig for the slaying, and they slept weary by the fire, she crept upon them and brained them with the war-club that with my hands I had fashioned. And she wept over me, and loosed me, and fled with me, back to the wide sluggish river where the blackbirds and wild ducks fed in the rice swamps--for this was before the time of the coming of the Sons of the River.

For she was Arunga, the one woman, the eternal woman.  She has lived in all times and places. She will always live. She is immortal.  Once, in a far land, her name was Ruth. Also has her name been Iseult, and Helen, Pocahontas, and Unga. And no stranger man, from stranger tribes, but has found her and will find her in the tribes of all the earth.

I remember so many women who have gone into the becoming of the one woman. There was the time that Har, my brother, and I, sleeping and pursuing in turn, ever hounding the wild stallion through the daytime and night, and in a wide circle that met where the sleeping one lay, drove the stallion unresting through hunger and thirst to the meekness of weakness, so that in the end he could but stand and tremble while we bound him with ropes twisted of deer-hide.  On our legs alone, without hardship, aided merely by wit--the plan was mine--my brother and I walked that fleet-footed creature into possession.

And when all was ready for me to get on his back--for that had been my vision from the first--Selpa, my woman, put her arms about me, and raised her voice and persisted that Har, and not I, should ride, for Har had neither wife nor young ones and could die without hurt.  Also, in the end she wept, so that I was raped of my vision, and it was Har, naked and clinging, that bestrode the stallion when he vaulted away.

It was sunset, and a time of great wailing, when they carried Har in from the far rocks where they found him. His head was quite broken, and like honey from a fallen bee-tree his brains dripped on the ground. His mother strewed wood-ashes on her head and blackened her face. His father cut off half the fingers of one hand in token of sorrow. And all the women, especially the young and unwedded, screamed evil names at me; and the elders shook their wise heads and muttered and mumbled that not their fathers nor their fathers' fathers had betrayed such a madness. Horse meat was good to eat; young colts were tender to old teeth; and only a fool would come to close grapples with any wild horse save when an arrow had pierced it, or when it struggled on the stake in the midst of the pit.

And Selpa scolded me to sleep, and in the morning woke me with her chatter, ever declaiming against my madness, ever pronouncing her claim upon me and the claims of our children, till in the end I grew weary, and forsook my far vision, and said never again would I dream of bestriding the wild horse to fly swift as its feet and the wind across the sands and the grass lands.

And through the years the tale of my madness never ceased from being told over the camp-fire.  Yet was the very telling the source of my vengeance; for the dream did not die, and the young ones, listening to the laugh and the sneer, redreamed it, so that in the end it was Othar, my eldest-born, himself a sheer stripling, that walked down a wild stallion, leapt on its back, and flew before all of us with the speed of the wind.  Thereafter, that they might keep up with him, all men were trapping and breaking wild horses.  Many horses were broken, and some men, but I lived at the last to the day when, at the changing of camp-sites in the pursuit of the meat in its seasons, our very babes, in baskets of willow-withes, were slung side and side on the backs of our horses that carried our camp trappage and dunnage.

I, a young man, had seen my vision, dreamed my dream; Selpa, the woman, had held me from that far desire; but Othar, the seed of us to live after, glimpsed my vision and won to it, so that our tribe became wealthy in the gains of the chase.

There was a woman--on the great drift down out of Europe, a weary drift of many generations, when we brought into India the shorthorn cattle and the planting of barley. But this woman was long before we reached India. We were still in the mid-most of that centuries-long drift, and no shrewdness of geography can now place for me that ancient valley.

The woman was Nuhila.  The valley was narrow, not long, and the swift slope of its floor and the steep walls of its rim were terraced for the growing of rice and of millet--the first rice and millet we Sons of the Mountain had known. They were a meek people in that valley.  They had become soft with the farming of fat land made fatter by water.  Theirs was the first irrigation we had seen, although we had little time to mark their ditches and channels by which all the hill waters flowed to the fields they had builded.  We had little time to mark, for we Sons of the Mountain, who were few, were in flight before the Sons of the Snub-Nose, who were many. We called them the Noseless, and they called themselves the Sons of the Eagle. But they were many, and we fled before them with our shorthorn cattle, our goats, and our barleyseed, our women and children.

While the Snub-Noses slew our youths at the rear, we slew at our fore thefolk of the valley who opposed us and were weak. The village was mud-built and grass-thatched; the encircling wall was of mud, but quite tall. And when we had slain the people who had built the wall, and sheltered within it our herds and our women and children, we stood on the wall and shouted insult to the Snub-Noses. For we had found the mud granaries filled with rice and millet. Our cattle could eat the thatches.  And the time of the rains was at hand, so that we should not want for water.

It was a long siege. Near to the beginning, we gathered together the women, and elders, and children we had not slain, and forced them out through the wall they had builded. But the Snub-Noses slew them to the last one, so that there was more food in the village for us, more food in the valley for the Snub-Noses.

It was a weary long siege. Sickness smote us, and we died of the plague that arose from our buried ones. We emptied the mud-granaries of their rice and millet. Our goats and shorthorns ate the thatch of the houses, and we, ere the end, ate the goats and the shorthorns.

Where there had been five men of us on the wall, there came a time when there was one; where there had been half a thousand babes and younglings of ours, there were none. It was Nuhila, my woman, who cut off her hair and twisted it that I might have a strong string for my bow.  The other women did likewise, and when the wall was attacked, stood shoulder to shoulder with us, in the midst of our spears and arrows raining down potsherds and cobblestones on the heads of the Snub-Noses.

Even the patient Snub-Noses we well-nigh out-patienced. Came a time when of ten men of us, but one was alive on the wall, and of our women remained very few, and the Snub-Noses held parley. They told us we were a strong breed, and that our women were men-mothers, and that if we would let them have our women they would leave us alone in the valley to possess for ourselves and that we could get women from the valleys to the south.

And Nuhila said no. And the other women said no. And we sneered at the Snub-Noses and asked if they were weary of fighting. And we were as dead men then, as we sneered at our enemies, and there was little fight left in us we were so weak. One more attack on the wall would end us. We knew it. Our women knew it. And Nuhila said that we could end it first and outwit the Snub-Noses. And all our women agreed. And while the Snub-Noses prepared for the attack that would be final, there, on the wall, we slew our women. Nuhila loved me, and leaned to meet the thrust of my sword, there on the wall. And we men, in the love of tribehood and tribesmen, slew one another till remained only Horda and I alive in the red of the slaughter. And Horda was my elder, and I leaned to his thrust. But not at once did I die. I was the last of the Sons of the Mountain, for I saw Horda, himself fall on his blade and pass quickly. And dying with the shouts of the oncoming Snub-Noses growing dim in my ears, I was glad that the Snub-Noses would have no sons of us to bring up by our women.

I do not know when this time was when I was a Son of the Mountain and when we died in the narrow valley where we had slain the Sons of the Rice and the Millet. I do not know, save that it was centuries before the wide-spreading drift of all us Sons of the Mountain fetched into India, and that it was long before ever I was an Aryan master in Old Egypt building my two burial places and defacing the tombs of kings before me.

I should like to tell more of those far days, but time in the present is short. Soon I shall pass. Yet am I sorry that I cannot tell more of those early drifts, when there was crushage of peoples, or descending ice-sheets, or migrations of meat.

Also, I should like to tell of Mystery. For always were we curious to solve the secrets of life, death, and decay. Unlike the other animals, man was for ever gazing at the stars. Many gods he created in his own image and in the images of his fancy. In those old times I have worshipped the sun and the dark. I have worshipped the husked grain as the parent of life. I have worshipped Sar, the Corn Goddess.  And I have worshipped sea gods, and river gods, and fish gods.

Yes, and I remember Ishtar ere she was stolen from us by the Babylonians, and Ea, too, was ours, supreme in the Under World, who enabled Ishtar to conquer death. Mitra, likewise, was a good old Aryan god, ere he was filched from us or we discarded him. And I remember, on a time, long after the drift when we brought the barley into India, that I came down into India, a horse-trader, with many servants and a long caravan at my back, and that at that time they were worshipping Bodhisatwa.

Truly, the worships of the Mystery wandered as did men, and between filchings and borrowings the gods had as vagabond a time of it as did we. As the Sumerians took the loan of Shamashnapishtin from us, so did the Sons of Shem take him from the Sumerians and call him Noah.

Why, I smile me to-day, Darrell Standing, in Murderers' Row, in that I was found guilty and awarded death by twelve jurymen staunch and true. Twelve has ever been a magic number of the Mystery. Nor did it originate with the twelve tribes of Israel. Star-gazers before them had placed the twelve signs of the Zodiac in the sky. And I remember me, when I was of the Assir, and of the Vanir, that Odin sat in judgment over men in the court of the twelve gods, and that their names were Thor, Baldur, Niord, Frey, Tyr, Bregi, Heimdal, Hoder, Vidar, Ull, Forseti, and Loki.

Even our Valkyries were stolen from us and made into angels, and the wings of the Valkyries' horses became attached to the shoulders of the angels. And our Helheim of that day of ice and frost has become the hell of to-day, which is so hot an abode that the blood boils in one's veins, while with us, in our Helheim, the place was so cold as to freeze the marrow inside the bones. And the very sky, that we dreamed enduring, eternal, has drifted and veered, so that we find to-day the scorpion in the place where of old we knew the goat, and the archer in the place of the crab.

Worships and worships! Ever the pursuit of the Mystery! I remember the lame god of the Greeks, the master-smith. But their vulcan was the Germanic Wieland, the master-smith captured and hamstrung lame of a leg by Nidung, the kind of the Nids. But before that he was our master-smith, our forger and hammerer, whom we named Il-marinen. And him we begat of our fancy, giving him the bearded sun-god for father, and nursing him by the stars of the bear. For, he, Vulcan, or Wieland, or Il-marinen, was born under the pine tree, from the hair of the wolf, and was called also the bear-father ere ever the Germans and Greeks purloined and worshipped him. In that day we called ourselves the Sons of the Bear and the Sons of the Wolf, and the bear and the wolf were our totems. That was before our drift south on which we joined with the Sons of the Tree-Grove and taught them our totems and tales.

Yes, and who was Kashyapa, who was Pururavas, but our lame master-smith, our iron-worker, carried by us in our drifts and re-named and worshipped by the south-dwellers and the east-dwellers, the Sons of the Pole and of the Fire Drill and Fire Socket.

But the tale is too long, though I should like to tell of the three-leaved Herb of Life by which Sigmund made Sinfioti alive again. For this is the very soma-plant of India, the holy grail of King Arthur, the--but enough! enough!

And yet, as I calmly consider it all, I conclude that the greatest thing in life, in all lives, to me and to all men, has been woman, is woman, and will be woman so long as the stars drift in the sky and the heavens flux eternal change. Greater than our toil and endeavour, the play of invention and fancy, battle and star-gazing and mystery--greatest of all has been woman.

Even though she has sung false music to me, and kept my feet solid on the ground, and drawn my star-roving eyes ever back to gaze upon her, she, the conserver of life, the earth-mother, has given me my great days and nights and fulness of years. Even mystery have I imaged in the form of her, and in my star-charting have I placed her figure in the sky.

All my toils and devices led to her; all my far visions saw her at the end. When I made the fire-drill and fire-socket, it was for her.  It was for her, although I did not know it, that I put the stake in the pit for old Sabre-Tooth, tamed the horse, slew the mammoth, and herded my reindeer south in advance of the ice-sheet. For her I harvested the wild rice, tamed the barley, the wheat, and the corn.

For her, and the seed to come after whose image she bore, I have died in tree-tops and stood long sieges in cave-mouths and on mud-walls.  For her I put the twelve signs in the sky. It was she I worshipped when I bowed before the ten stones of jade and adored them as the moons of gestation.

Always has woman crouched close to earth like a partridge hen mothering her young; always has my wantonness of roving led me out on the shining ways; and always have my star-paths returned me to her, the figure everlasting, the woman, the one woman, for whose arms I had such need that clasped in them I have forgotten the stars.

For her I accomplished Odysseys, scaled mountains, crossed deserts; for her I led the hunt and was forward in battle; and for her and to her I sang my songs of the things I had done. All ecstasies of life and rhapsodies of delight have been mine because of her. And here, at the end, I can say that I have known no sweeter, deeper madness of being than to drown in the fragrant glory and forgetfulness of her hair.

One word more. I remember me Dorothy, just the other day, when I still lectured on agronomy to farmer-boy students. She was eleven years old. Her father was dean of the college. She was a woman-child, and a woman, and she conceived that she loved me. And I smiled to myself, for my heart was untouched and lay elsewhere.

Yet was the smile tender, for in the child's eyes I saw the woman eternal, the woman of all times and appearances. In her eyes I saw the eyes of my mate of the jungle and tree-top, of the cave and the squatting-place. In her eyes I saw the eyes of Igar when I was Ushu the archer, the eyes of Arunga when I was the rice-harvester, the eyes of Selpa when I dreamed of bestriding the stallion, the eyes of Nuhila who leaned to the thrust of my sword. Yes, there was that in her eyes that made them the eyes of Lei-Lei whom I left with a laugh on my lips, the eyes of the Lady Om for forty years my beggar-mate on highway and byway, the eyes of Philippa for whom I was slain on the grass in old France, the eyes of my mother when I was the lad Jesse at the Mountain Meadows in the circle of our forty great wagons.

She was a woman-child, but she was daughter of all women, as her mother before her, and she was the mother of all women to come after her. She was Sar, the corn-goddess.  She was Isthar who conquered death. She was Sheba and Cleopatra; she was Esther and Herodias.  She was Mary the Madonna, and Mary the Magdalene, and Mary the sister of Martha, also she was Martha. And she was Brunnhilde and Guinevere, Iseult and Juliet, Heloise and Nicolette. Yes, and she was Eve, she was Lilith, she was Astarte. She was eleven years old, and she was all women that had been, all women to be.

I sit in my cell now, while the flies hum in the drowsy summer afternoon, and I know that my time is short.  Soon they will apparel me in the shirt without a collar. . . . But hush, my heart. The spirit is immortal. After the dark I shall live again, and there will be women. The future holds the little women for me in the lives I am yet to live.  And though the stars drift, and the heavens lie, ever remains woman, resplendent, eternal, the one woman, as I, under all my masquerades and misadventures, am the one man, her mate.

A lot to be said. I’ve never read anything like it. It’s metaphysical, it’s philosophical, it’s spiritual, it’s romantic. This singular chapter is, in sum, some of the finest writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. And it feels true; sure, it’s got the flaws and marks of being written over a hundred years ago, but it sticks to your ribs because it feels true. If you’ve lived and loved and lost – and been cruel – you know how the one man feels.

And yes, his language is very gendered – but, as a non-binary person, I see it in terms of birth-sex rather than gender, which is a misconstruing of modern gender understandings, but I know that the one man and the one woman throughout all of human history have gone into me.

Fitting I am revisiting this, as I recently took a DNA test out of curiosity for my own roots. It’s amazing.

Not only do we all come out of Africa, we all share a single common male and a single common female ancestor.

The One Man

The One Woman

Every living human has DNA from a common male ancestor that lived 275,000 years ago. That’s somewhere between six-thousand and nine-thousand generations ago or more, depending on your math (Generations are calculated using an average age of parenthood, say, 20-40 years.). A lot of men, and a lot of women, have lived and died before you. And we’re all just really distant relatives. Each living person with common ancestors far back enough.

I’ve never thought of them. I’ve never thought of my ancestors beyond what I could discover in my own pre-DNA genealogy research, which left me stumped beyond anything past 4 generations ago.

According to my dad, my grandfather claimed we were from Bohemia. I’m actually British and Irish, German and French. My ancestors trace back to 18th century Scandinavia. What a thing.

But returning to our shared common ancestry, it really brings home the one man and the one woman, particularly if you are inclined to take a spiritual leap wherein all living life is One yet our consciousness makes us experience it subjectively.

And perhaps it’s the combination of revisiting this, so powerful a text, and delving into my own DNA (Looks like I’m actually 4th cousins with a best friend from my youth), but something has sunk into my bones – a consciousness. An awareness that I am – that you are – the one man, the one woman; that through our shared DNA, we are related to every one in history. From Hitler to Jesus. Now, we may not trace back to every one directly, but past them, in the far past, we connect. And so it is, we are born in sin. Not as sinners of the bible in the eyes of the church, but as humans, responsible for more than just ourselves: for our whole species.

There was a time the Wolf was persecuted (It still is), but there was a time when people sought to eradicate the Wolf. Farmers and landowners, and “hunters” poisoned and shot, and brutally trapped wolves en masse. The animal was seen as a nuisance, a pest, a danger, a beast. Why? Well, wolves attacked lifestock and hunters saw them as competition. So they wanted all wolves dead. There was, besides, hardly any way to separate wolves between degrees of perceived danger; for, it was the nature of the species that man persecuted. But even more than that, it was man’s folly, his lack of understanding, and in many ways, a projection of his own savagery.

WolfMatters.org has a wonderful page on why the wolf was persecuted, which I am quoting the below content from because it’s highly relevant:

“Why do some people hate wolves? Why is there an anti-wolf movement?  These are just a couple of the questions that we get asked when it comes to wolf intolerance and persecution. While we don’t have all the answers, we have seen some dialogues, articles, regular conversations, etc that point to many different reasons why people may have intolerance and even a downright hatred of wolves:

1. Fear – Many people are intimidated by wolves and other carnivores and, if you’ve never bothered to research or educate yourself about wolves, their size, strength, speed, and large canine teeth may be enough to instill fear. All large carnivores have the ability to do great harm in regards to their strength and teeth, however the truth is that they almost never do towards humans. In fact, wolves are the ones who fear humans. However fear often breed hatred and misconceptions

2. Misconceptions/Myth/Folklore – There are dozens of  fairy tales and stories that feature the “big, bad, wolf”. We say “cry wolf” “wolf at the door” wolf your food” and “thrown to the wolves”. Modern literature is also full of vampires and were-wolves, designed to scare people and sadly, film-makers are still making movies like “The Gray”, a film in which gray wolves pursue and eat humans. Throughout history, wolves have been characterized to represented the dark, the evil, the untrustworthy, the dangerous and unpredictable. These misconception and false portrayals continue to perpetuate fear and wolf hate groups are the first to chime in about the “accuracy” of it all.

3. Hate Culture/Disconnect – Wolf hate culture is based on myths and lies perpetuated over and over again by uneducated and uninformed individuals who continue to believe that wolves are evil and, often times, these communities/individuals will base their hatred on the many other reasons we have listed here: folklore and misconceptions, fear, viewing wolves as ruthless killers of livestock, ungulates, pets and even humans! Again, science is ignored. There is also an interesting article that states that a lot of wolf hate culture (especially in the USA) is deeply rooted in politics and government influences. From Earth Island Journal (http://earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/cry_wolf/): “For the last few years, a new version of an old war against the American gray wolf has raged in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Almost two decades ago, spurred by environmental activists with a vision of restoring a historic wolf population that had been extirpated, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) captured 66 wolves in Canada and released them into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, where they flourished. To naturalists, wolf reintroduction seemed morally right, a chance to remedy a previous generation’s crime of wolf extermination. But to many in the region, the resurgence of wolves became a source of rage. Wolves killed livestock, infuriating ranchers. Many hunters saw the wolves as competitors for deer and elk. Yet the fury against wolves went deeper than what the animals actually did. For decades, the Rocky Mountain states have been the center of an extreme right-wing culture that celebrates the image of man as “warrior,” recognizes only local and state governance as legitimate, and advocates resistance – even armed resistance – against the federal government. To members of this culture, wolf reintroduction became a galvanizing symbol of perceived assaults on their personal freedom. Resistance was imperative. But whereas attacking the federal government could lead to prison, killing wolves was a political goal within reach – something the individual warrior could do. So advocating for the killing of wolves became a proxy battle, an organizing tool to reach out to all those angry about environmental regulations, gun laws, and public land policies. Since the early 2000s, and with increasing virulence since 2009, anti-wolf activists have promoted the image of wolves as demons – disease-ridden, dangerous, and foreign. Mainstream hunters, ranchers, loggers, and politicians from both political parties have signed onto the anti-wolf stance. With the public debate dominated by wolf paranoia – and fearful of wider losses across the West – conservation groups were pushed into a legal compromise that ultimately failed. The result is an impending slaughter.” Sadly, this wolf hating attitude has slowly trickled into Alberta as well as evident by many comments left on the Alberta Outdoorsman Forum site (some we have compiled below). 

4. Competition – Many hunters see wolves as competitors for deer and elk and believe that wolves “decimate” herds of elks. deer, moose and cause imbalance. It’s the same story/excuse all over North America to kill wolves and to develop an ill-conceived hatred towards wolves. ‘The impact [the wolves are] having on our wild game herds is devastating.’ – a quote typical of an anti-wolf campaign trying to convince citizens that wolves have, or are about the destroy the region’s ungulate herds. Science has shown us over and over again that this is simply not true. This science is often ignored by the anti-wolf community. From the NRDC website (https://www.nrdc.org/experts/matt-skoglund/honesty-wolf-hunter-about-wolves-and-elk) – “The elk population in the Northern Rockies is strong — stronger than it was a quarter century ago — but elk use the landscape differently with wolves present — they use it in a more natural, ecologically friendly way. And that means hunters have to hunt elk differently.  They need to cover more ground and move around the landscape more.  In essence, they need to hunt. Pettit admitted that, too:Wolves, he said, surely have changed the way deer and elk act in the wilds, and that’s changing the ways hunters must hunt. Sure, hunters need to hunt differently nowadays, but the elk are still here, they’re here in great numbers, and hunters can still find them.”

5. Killing of Livestock – The battle between wolves and farmers/ranchers dates far back. Farming, combined with the decimation of the wolf’s natural prey, forced wolves to get closer to human settlements and to feed upon the occasional livestock. Soon, wolves were accused of unbridled depredation on livestock. This led to government formation of bounties. Poisoning campaigns soon followed. And in some areas, such as Montana, wolves were purposely infected with mange and released back into the wild as a “wolf control” method. In a sense, killing wolves became a lucrative business and, to this day, wolves are still persecuted for livestock depredation even if they are not killing livestock. In Alberta, wolves can be killed simply for setting foot on livestock land.  “Wolf may be hunted (but not trapped) without a licence during all seasons, as follows:
– on privately owned land by the owner or occupant of the land, or by a resident with permission from the owner or occupant
– on public land by a person authorized to keep livestock on that land, or by a resident who has written permission from that authorized person.
The above authorities to hunt wolves extend to lands within 8 km (5 mi.) of the land described above, provided the authorized person or resident has right of access.” – Alberta Big Game Regulations. 

6. Religious Convictions – Taken from an excerpt from the writings of Roger Abrantes, “Religious convictions support our hatred of the wolf. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26-29). European farmers and American settlers were devout Christians and they didn’t need a clearer incentive to declare war on all that crept upon the Earth. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-29)—and the wolf became the ultimate target and symbol of their mission.”

Now, doesn’t “Fear, Misconceptions/Myth/Folklore, Hate Culture/Disconnect, Competition, and Religious Convictions” sound a lot like the same old human story. The one we’ve been living throughout all of modern history, and perhaps before that too – as lovingly and romantically as we want to look upon the tribe, the village.

It’s modern tribalism in the first place that makes people disparage others so hatefully. So ignorantly.

We’ve got to get to a different place: where we coexist as one giant, beautiful, fucked-up family. And if we can get there, in the collective consciousness, in the next 100 years, I think there’d be a lot less fucked-up families. A lot less “others”. Perhaps one day, no “others”. That would be a grand evolution of consciousness.

But I’m afraid there’s a barrier. It’s called responsibility. It’s the finger pointing, it’s the judging, it’s a lot of shit called ego – lacking humility – but namely, it’s an aversion to accepting responsibility. We can’t even accept responsibility for ourselves. I’m just now, at thirty-three, sobering up to the reality of some of my cruelties.

It was a lot of fear. Fear makes monsters of men – in themselves. And then we fight the monsters in our lives – on the outside, as fate. Yet, it’s us, we are our own worst enemies. The Count of Monte Cristo archetype betrays himself in real life, yet thinks he is The Count, thought he was the avenging angel, rather than an asshole: his own demon.

In real life, he has to forgive himself.

I love quoting this passage from James Baldin’s beautiful novel, Another Country:

“We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie about them — to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever.”

But we lie about our crimes, by denying them, by laying blame on another, and the human mind is such that it is more of a projection screen than a lens: we come up with the evidence to support our beliefs and think it reality.

Dostoevsky wrote it in The Brothers Karamazov:

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence, isn’t it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill — he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offence, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness.”

This is the tale of The Count of Monte Cristo, The Great Gatsby, Vanilla Sky – nearly all my influencing personal mythologies. The only external personal mythologies beyond these, which do not tell of this self-deceit and ensuing resentment are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which a man becomes a child again, Happy Accidents, in which a man from the future time travels to find love, and Cloud Atlas, in which the noblest characters are decent, despite their failings.

I have not been entirely decent in my life. I would say I’m a decent person, but this has not always been true though I thought it was. I thought more than that: I thought I was the worst kind of hero: the victim.

For the victim is always, through their tragedies and self-pity, some kind of martyr, which is sometimes the noblest hero one can be. We have a big one in our culture called Jesus. The myths reinforce it.

It’s not the truth however; the truth is that all the gods and all the devils are within us. But we don’t like the devils, our fears, our judgements, so we reject them and push them outward, onto others. Carl Jung called this the shadow. If you wanna do yourself a favor, learn about it. Start with quotes. I’d recommend reading Jung, but it’s not exactly delicious reading. Try Debbie Ford’s ‘The Dark Side of The Light Chasers’.

If every human did shadow work – the work of the heart warrior – and if every human could integrate the tracing of their DNA back to a shared common ancestor, I think we’d make a lot of progress in human consciousness. Personally and collectively. Because, the thing about the collective consciousness is that it all has to originate in the personal consciousness, in the individual. It is only from there that we can understand what Jung said, when he wrote that “None of us stands outside of humanity’s black collective shadow.”

We each carry the world within us. Unfortunately, that world was passed down from a lot of trauma, and it contains all the crimes of human history. We have let man persecute man as man persecuted the wolf. If we collectively understood ourselves to be a family, we wouldn’t send our children off to wars: they wouldn’t go.

We’ve even had a civil war, as have many nations: brother fighting brother. It’s going on all over the world now. And it’s insane. Imagine if we watched the ant colonies do that. Of course, we may be inclined to look to the warring wolfpacks of Yellowstone, fighting for territory and mating rights, and think this is the nature of life or “the nature of the beast”, as some might say, but you’d think if wolves were driving cars and talking on cell phones and taking DNA tests, that they’d evolve past it – and maybe we will.

But it’s not going to happen with the same level of consciousness.

As Einstein said, “You cannot solve problems with the same thinking used to create them.”

We need to understand that thinking that created them. But we also can’t look to old books for the answers, though sometimes they help connect the dots. But, this life we have, we need to use it to grow. And before we can collectively take responsibility, it needs to happen individually. That’s not going to happen staring at the news, or buying the current generation of cool shit. It’s not going to happen by having the church forgive our sins.

It’s going to happen doing the work. The work of bringing the shadow to the light; for light sanitizes. And it’s going to happen by taking personal AND collective responsibility. This is maturity.

As Nathaniel Branden, philosophical heir to Ayn Rand and author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, posits in his book ‘Taking Responsibility‘:

“Only a culture of personal responsibility can sustain and preserve a civilized society.”

Further:

“When men and women do not attain psychological adulthood, the danger is that unconsciously they expect others to assume responsibility for their existence, especially for their emotional life. They may be perfectly willing to earn their own living; that is not the focus here. But they wait for others to make them happy. They imagine that the right person can provide them with feelings of self-worth, can spare them the necessity of independence, can help them avoid the fact of their ultimate aloneness. And as we have already said, they typically feel hurt, resentful, and depressed when others fail to live up to their expectations. Many men and woman carry into adulthood so much unfinished business from childhood and so many unresolved conflicts that they enter into the arena of intimate relationships with terrible handicaps. Blind to their own incapacities, they count on love to perform a miracle. When the miracle does not happen, they blame love. Or they blame their partner…. ‘They tend not to trust the authenticity of anyone’s caring or loving. They never feel that they are enough’.”

This personal responsibility stuff, this shadow stuff, it’s tied very deeply into self-love.

We’ve made love a very conditional thing in our society – as if it were some finite resource to covet rather than an abundant thing to freely share. Now, I’m not saying we need a “free-love” thing. I don’t want to return to the sixties – or any time in the past – I want humanity to go forward. But to do that, we need to witness some change in the collective consciousness. When we realize that what others do is not about us, when we realize our own bullshit, when we stop worshipping a commercially propped-up model of beauty and see humans like dolphins, as all beautiful and worthy, regardless of individual characteristics, which are largely a birth lottery – when we stop blindly accepting the outside of a person as the inside – when we understand the inside rather than judge it – we’ll be living in a very nice world.

Just moving my own perception more toward these realities has changed my world dramatically for the better. Sure, I sometimes tell people I love them and they don’t reply, but that’s not about me. And when I make it about me, I only reveal the scared, insecure boy who doesn’t think he’s worthy of his own love – as if he needs the love of another to set the example for his self-love and not the other way around.

If I could continue Chapter 21 of The Star Rover, in the vein of Jack London, in the present day life of the one man, it would go like this.

And I was Lawrence. Writer. Lover of Sarah and the dogs, Felix and Sophie. And she, the one woman, wrapped her leg about me at night, but I did not savor the love as I had when we lived on the plains – covered in mustard and ash – no mirror but each other’s smile. No, I, Lawrence, only feared for my own small existence, the outward approval of others who judge, and that all perfectly obey and conform to my selfish, childlike expectations. Failing which, I blamed them. And then she, the one woman, left; for I, the one man, had no longer been her protector, her liberator, but her persecutor. And then I persecuted and abused myself, all alone.

I was not a friend to myself, but I slowly learned. When I had spent a long winter alone in my cabin, I finally learned, when I drank myself into detox, when I no longer imbibed the barley or smoked the green plant, and sobered up, for good, I learned. And I for the first time saw my past lives not for their glories and triumphs but for their failings, for my own cruelties throughout history. All at the hands of my cowardice and my fear. And I saw nature of all humanity laid bare, on my shoulders. And I took it up, upon myself, to proudly carry within me as the past. And then I was able to live again, for the first time, not as Lawrence, but as spirit of the one man and the one woman, fed by their love throughout history, in all their forms, and with all their names. And I thought too of their self-rejection, and their fears, and their myriad abuses and judgements of each other and themselves. And I understood. And blame had given way to responsibility, to truth, to forgiveness. And my heart was light again; for I carried the heart of a child in the breast of a man, as one who had overcome himself and so won the prize he had most sought: freedom from himself, from the tyranny of his own mind, his own judgements, his own fears. And in that, I endeavored to write my stories down, so that my mistakes could help others forgive themselves, and forgive me too: the one man.

I remember a homeless person once told me, that “‘Humanity‘ ought not serve as an excuse for ourselves, but rather as something to aspire to.” And I’m finally beginning to see what that means.

As Jack London wrote, as Darrel Standing, paraphrasing Pascal, “In viewing the march of human evolution, the philosophic mind should look upon humanity as one man, and not as a conglomeration of individuals.”

My Teddy, Myself

I don’t have many childhood memories but I remember the book, and the bear.

The book was small, with rounded cardboard pages.

I must have read it a million times, though the ending made me so sad.

And today I can think of nothing else. I tried searching on google for it, as I have many times before, but I never find it.

I’m thinking of recreating it.

I have to have it. And the bear.

Oh the bear.

What a sad ending he had: in the book and in my life.

I remember coming across a meme awhile back that got me thinking of the bear and the book. For they were twine, with each other as well as with me.

The Meme

Of course, I am still emotionally attached. Or else I wouldn’t be sitting in the bath, writing this on my phone.

Back to the book: we’ll get to the fate of the bear at the end.

The book had thick cardboard pages, each with real life photographs of the teddy bear, documenting his journey as he begins to messily bake cookies – only bake isn’t the right word, for he never makes it that far.

While he makes the dough, he keeps tasting it, adding more honey, more chocolate chips. But it’s not quite right, so he keeps tasting it.

Then, at the end, the baking sheet is empty and so too his mixing bowl. He had tasted all the dough there was. And he was sad. And I was sad.

I owned him; I loved him. I had the bear from the book. He was my best friend.

And for a child as lonely as I was, he was a loyal friend. I talked to him. He slept with me. I cuddled him, held him tightly, no doubt releasing oxytocin in my poor little body; for my childhood was not a happy one.

And I don’t know what happened to the book.

But I know what happened to the bear.

I was 12 or 13, maybe 14. He had been my best, my only friend, for years.

And we had moved, so many times – often in the middle of the night. There was an extended stay in a mouse-infested Travelodge. My mom set traps that safely caught the mice, and we released them. But then we had moved to a place I loved.

It was, to this day, practically the only place I remember of my early years. Not that it wasn’t without its striking tragedies, but my memoirs will one day give you an account of those. This was the less intense tragedy, but no less traumatizing. For it was the end of that place, and the end of my teddy bear and I.

My mom and I had found the place together. I loved it right away. It was big, multiple stories, there was a fireplace. A few years later, when we lived in a shabby apartment but a few blocks away, I would go there to be picked up by friends, still pretending I lived there.

I remember one day my dad got a satellite installed on the roof, to trade stocks.

Maybe it was my childhood intuition, but I came to him one day crying.

I told him that I didn’t wan’t to have to move, that I wanted to stay in this place and that I loved this place. He seemed secure in his response, told me, “come here.”

I followed him up the stairs and he removed a fireproof briefcase safe from his closet. He used the analog combination dial to open it, and inside he showed me a bunch of pure silver coins, which meant nothing to me, but he told me they were worth something and that we were fine.

It wasn’t long after we were evicted.

I was so upset. Upset is not even the word. I don’t even remember where we moved after, maybe Lamont, maybe Diamond, maybe Grand, I could give you a hometown tour of all the places we lived.

I just remember having to pack, and I took my teddy bear to the dumpster, where I stomped on him, yelled at him, and threw him inside.

And it’s one of my biggest regrets.

Not long after this incident, I began smoking pot, drinking. And looking back, that moment, when I threw him away, that was the end of my childhood.

And twenty years later, I’m only now starting to recover it, myself.

To my teddy, whom I loved dearer than anything in my childhood – who was always there for me – I am so sorry I abandoned you, and subsequently myself.

I think I’ll drive to K-Mart tonight and find you again, reincarnated in another.

On the way back home.

The Keys to The Kingdom: My Two Most Valuable Pieces of Life Advice

The older you get, the more you find yourself doubling down on what works.

And hopefully, if you’ve taken the difficult paths in life, you’ve discovered some truths of great value.

There’s a parable in the Thomas Gospel that I read this morning –

Sidenote: Before I continue, allow me to say that I love the Gospel of Thomas. As a decidedly anti-religious thinker who is opposed to all dogma and most institutional traditions, I don’t hold the bible up as much more than a great source of inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. That said, the Gospel of Thomas is not part of the bible; being a non-canonical text it would have been considered heresy: just the kind of thing I love, and, if you read it, you’ll see why. 

So this specific saying, attributed to Jesus, that awakened Buddha, is as follows:

And He said, "The Kingdom is like a wise fisherman who cast
his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish.
Among them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish. He threw
all the small fish back into the sea and chose the large fish
without difficulty. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

In my own interpretation, the large fish represents what was called in Cloud Atlas, “The true-true”. The big truth. These two pieces of knowledge I am writing to share are my big truths – the large fish. And, having found them, I live by them, they sustain me, allowing me to throw back all the little truths. You could say these truths are my keys to the kingdom. They go beyond intelligence and open invisible doors, by virtue of their practical wisdom.

Terry Crews, in Timothy Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors, makes a poignant remark as to wisdom:

“There is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. Many are fooled into thinking they are the same thing, but they are not. I’ve seen intelligent serial killers, but I’ve never seen a wise one. Intelligent humans beings have been given this trumped-up position in society where, just because they are intelligent, they are listened to, and I have found this extremely dangerous.”

That said, these two pieces of knowledge are wisdom – my big fish. The true-true.

1. The Navy Seals’ Big Four of Mental Toughness

At some point, the Navy Seal’s – arguably the world’s most elite special forces – had a problem. Only about 25% of trainees were passing BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School).

So the powers that be brought in the country’s best minds – top university researchers – to figure out how to improve the pass-rate.

After a lot of time and money – presumably millions of dollars – the researchers came up with four techniques, which when used in conjunction, made a statistically significant difference in the pass rate.

These four techniques would come to be known as “The Big Four of Mental Toughness”.

I first wrote about them five years ago, but truth be told, I didn’t put them into serious conscious practice until this year.

In short, they are as follows:

1. Arousal Control (Breath)

Arousal Control is centered around a specific diaphragmatic breathing technique: 4-4-4. Four seconds inhale, four seconds hold, four seconds exhale.

The research backs it up. It makes a large physiological and psychological difference. In my own learning, I discovered that most people breath shallowly, letting their upper-chest rise and fall – however, until about age six, children naturally breath properly – their stomachs expanding on the inhale.

The problem with incorrect breathing is that it puts your body in a fight or flight mode. This, of course, is not good for your health or wellbeing.

YouTube offers a lot of great videos on proper breathing, and once you learn – and begin to practice – it not only becomes natural again, but it becomes one of the best tools in your toolkit. Suddenly, you are aware of when you’re not in a centered, calm place, and you consciously go beyond diaphragmatic breath, into the 4-4-4 technique. It’s the same feeling, the same benefits as yoga and meditation – on demand.

2. Self-Talk

There is no separating consciousness from reality, short of some of the classic psychedelics (LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline) – but even then, those are not sustainable modes of consciousness. Life is something each of us has to experience in our own heads. Now, we may not be aware of it but we tend to have fairly disempowering inner-voices. Perhaps it is due to the saying that, “The way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice,” and we are each a product of generations of largely unconscious programming. Frankly, it’s not fun. Thankfully, we have self-talk available to us. Self-talk is the power to take your life back from the automatic, default mode of consciousness that so many of us have often destructively sought to escape. Self-talk is the power to move from the unconscious into the conscious. It’s the power to control your experience. I’d argue that’s the sum total of The Big Four [controlling your reality], but self-talk is a major part of it. In short, you want to empower yourself, you want to talk to yourself the same way you would a child. You want to emotionally support and optimistically encourage yourself. The conversation you have in your head is THE most important one in your life. What self-fulfilling prophecies are you creating with your self-talk? What reality are you choosing?

3. Mental Rehearsal 

This is one of my favorites among The Big Four, but I love them all. I just happen to have a fetish for the imagination. As Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” It’s true. Visualization is the top thing among human performance experts for a reason. It’s what all high performers, all olympians, all champions, all winners practice. Mental rehearsal is the act of imagining your tasks along with their desired outcomes, in as great of detail and depth as possible. For the Seals, this means no mission-critical task is completed without first envisioning it. The brain knows no difference. Unfortunately, most of our imaginations are either out of practice or neurotic – in that we use them to worry. And what a foolish, maladaptive thing. We have, each of us, at our disposal, the most incredible form of magic available to us. Again, like self-talk, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The watered down new-age version of mental rehearsal is “The Secret” or “The Law of Attraction”, and how many times have you heard these wonderfully compelling stories – Jim Carrey writing himself a 10 million dollar check when he was broke. This was mental-rehearsal. And when we can can believe it truly, magic happens; for all true magic deals with manipulation and control of the Will. If you look back on your own life, at your greatest successes, you believed in them – you mentally rehearsed them. I think this is one of the biggest differences between the successes and the failures in life. As 50 Cent once said, “I believe you can almost will things to happen.” Believe it when you see it and see it when you believe it, but you have to see it first. No one’s success comes as a true surprise to them. If you think it does, buy another lottery ticket.

4. Goal Setting

This one almost seems anticlimactic compared to the others, but it’s not at all.

When most of us think of goal-setting, we think of getting motivated about life for a night, writing down our dreams, then watching them flatline over the next six months to a year. When the Navy Seals think of goal-setting, they think of surviving their training till lunch time and the exact steps required to do so. Like the other three items in The Big Four, Goal Setting goes along with each item – and is only truly effective when practiced along with the others. I’ve found in my own goal setting practice that by focusing on what’s in front of me, I am able to progress toward what’s ahead. Every day, I have a list. I cross items off and I review it at night and write the next day’s list, and in the morning, I go over it almost first thing. Without goal-setting my mental rehearsal would be impotent and my self-talk would be purposeless. Further, my breathwork wouldn’t be nearly as peacefilled and centered without knowing exactly where I am and where I am going.

Go deeper into The Big Four of Mental Toughness, here.

2. Dopamine Restriction

This one might be even more valuable to me than The Big Four.

Without practicing what I term “Dopamine Restriction”, my life would be completely out of my own control – as was the case for too many years.

In short, dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation AND reward.

Everything pleasurable releases dopamine. Some things are quite powerful dopamine agonists… Nicotine. Alcohol. Cannabis.

The problem isn’t so much pleasure as its consequences.

It causes us to seek more pleasure, and in turn to feel less.

In one study, researchers gave heavy, longterm cannabis users methylphenidate (Ritalin) in order to measure their dopamine response. The control group, consisting of non-users of cannabis, was also given the same Ritalin dose.

The heavy cannabis users had such blunted dopamine receptors that the Ritalin – basically methamphetamine – hardly even registered a response in their brains. The researchers were so surprised that their first instinct was to check if the Ritalin they had administered was expired – it was not.

What this and other research has shown, is that the ability to illicit natural dopamine responses is greatly diminished in heavy cannabis users. It’s no different for any source of dopamine. The more we behave like lab-rats, pushing the levers in our brains to feel pleasure, the less pleasure we are able to feel – and the more we crave it.

But it goes deeper, is more tragic. Dopamine isn’t just pleasure (reward) but motivation.

So, if you’re like me, and smoked a half-ounce of potent cannabis a week, forget about even feeling alive. At that point, your brain is starved for dopamine, which, in my experience, leads to all sorts of additional pleasure seeking behaviors. For me this meant cigarettes (“But I smoke organic cigarettes,” I told myself), alcohol, masturbation – just to feel okay, not even good.

You may be thinking, that’s all good and well but I don’t smoke anything and I hardly drink. 

Okay, well, do you check the news? Reddit? Instagram? These things are no different.

One day, we’ll look back on our cell-phones like cigarettes. Not because they give us cancer, but because we are addicted to them – and in turn receive our dopamine from them.

In my philosophy of dopamine restriction, based on my own life experience, it’s not a moral issue. It’s a matter of sapping the life out of ourselves – the very pleasure and motivation that makes life worth living. With such potent readily available sources of dopamine at our fingertips, we are hitting the lever like rats in an experiment all day long. The true consequence of which isn’t so much the dampening of pleasure or the weakening of motivation, but the loss of drive – of natural drive for the HEALTHY things that we are supposed to get our dopamine from. We’re lobotomizing our human technology for fulfillment – we’re hacking our natural hardwiring in a way that’s absolutely maladaptive.

My evidence for this is the difference between then and now, between when I was desperate to feel “normal” and constantly pressing those levers with nicotine, THC, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, porn, news, reddit… I was fucking myself royally.

I’ve since quit every single thing on that list. And guess what, now that I’m not addicted to “pleasure” I’m pursing fulfillment again. My sleep is deep, dream-filled and divine. I wake rested. I feel balanced. I walk. I eat healthy. I drink water. I work out. And possibly the biggest benefit is that I have ninja-like focus. I engage in Deep Work for hours every single day. I write fiction every single morning. I write poetry every single evening. I read again. No more spending hours on YouTube. I’m simply no longer distracted. I am focused and productive. Also, I don’t have any more depression. It’s a lifestyle that’s completely pragmatic and healthy – well-adapted, you might say.

In short, my philosophy for dopamine restriction is based on avoiding all “false sources” of pleasure. This means I avoid anything that isn’t fulfilling, healthy, and empowering – despite how pleasurable it is.

The ascetics have known this wisdom for millennia. You could say it’s raised my consciousness to a much higher level. It’s the single best piece of understanding I’ve ever integrated into my life. Knowing the above, I simply can never return to the old un-jedi-like ways. I’d be fucking myself – sabotaging every bit of happiness and wellbeing I have. And, to drive the point home – I feel better than I have in years, probably better than I’ve ever felt.

3. Bonus: The Gut Brain Axis

Google ‘gut brain axis’ and you’ll come across a wealth of information.

In short, scientists are calling the gut brain axis the missing link in depression. This might be because 90% of the body’s serotonin and 50% of the body’s dopamine are produced in the gut.

It travels straight through the central nervous system to your brain.

Now, there’s a miracle here. It’s called probiotics.

Gut health is mental health – is wellbeing.

If you’re not actively investing in your gut microbiome, today is the day you’re going to start. You simply have too much to lose by failing to and too much to gain by starting.

I encourage you to do your own research – and then some – but based on mine, I recommend the following:

Avoid alcohol. This kills all the good bacteria in your gut and it takes weeks to recover (provided you go weeks without drinking). Also, avoid big corporate mouthwashes, which will inevitably make their way in trace amounts into your gut, killing all the good bacteria there.

Eat probiotics. Every single kind. I take probiotic pills. I take prebiotic pills. I eat yogurt. I drink Kevita probiotic drinks (I avoid traditional kombucha due to trace amounts of alcohol). I eat a handful of different yogurts – with multiple probiotic strains. I take a greens powder with a half-dozen probiotic strains. I eat expensive, all natural pickles and sauerkraut (Bubbies brand). I eat high-quality kimchi. I drink Kefir.

Eat a diverse range of foods. There are foods known as prebiotics. They help probiotics. Eat a wide range of natural foods. You want a diverse gut microbiome. And you want to eat natural, organic foods. Shitty pickles and processed foods and fast food, and all that garbage is going to negatively impact your gut microbiome.

In short, my diet is centered around my gut health. I also take various supplements and enjoy things that help me look better, such as organic chicken bone broth and grass-fed collagen protein. Also, buy grassfed milk and grassfed butter. It’s much easier on the cows stomachs than grains – they live better lives: just like you when you eat the right foods.

That said, that’s my true-true. The keys to my kingdom at thirty-three. My most valuable pieces of life-advice, and I feel blessed to know them and to finally live my truths – god knows it took a long time to find them.

Recap

To recap everything: study and practice The Big Four (Breath control, self-talk, mental-rehearsal, goal setting). Restrict and eliminate all unhealthy, unfulfilling, purposeless, disempowering sources of dopamine. Curate a healthy gut microbiome. Integrate these into your life and I think your likelihood of success, happiness, fulfillment, and wellbeing all go way up. They certainly have for me.

… And Things Do Happen

…I never saw myself the way other people saw me…
No matter how little I had, I always felt I was worthy…

Until they didn’t – and left,
And I felt worthless, alone

A cycle of getting recycled,
Repeated, 3-Peated

… Did it to myself,
Wanted to be loved for my worst qualities…

… and as the dust settles in hindsight,
How clear things become after the years…

Maturity, after all,
Being a more accurate perspective

That’s all – rivers and rapids…
We are often innacurate

… Blind for long journeys
Because we just don’t beleive…

…The world isn’t how we assume;
Different versions of the same program run on different OS’s…

… Your OS is superior in some ways,
Cripplingly behind in others

… But our updates always come in their time… don’t they…
As experience and distance grant – fate

… Oh how it helps,
Immensely; soul redeemingly

… Because when you learn how the game works,
You actually wannna play it – you actually can: well too…

… for, what else is there to do /
Feeling sorry for yourself gets old, hikikomori, puer…

… Butthurt because the world doesn’t see you like you see you…
Well… that’s actually your very problem…

… You need the eyes of the world…
Not the other way around…

… So you learn to grow up, late… like a lot…
Learn that dad shit

The stuff you’ll teach the kids,
The stuff you preserve like fire…

The positivity,
The optimism, the strength….

The confidence,
The acceptance

… Your power,
… Your weakspots

…no regrets… no grudges
… no time for either…

… And finally, the pursuit of your goddamn motherfucking potential,
(Yes, it really was always there)… you crazy, brave, long suffering bastard…

… Not giving a shit about the mundance
Working hard, otherworldly… always, all ways

Experiencing delight…
Having fun plans

A willingness to adjust to your dreams…
And to follow them like you’re brand new at 33…

… You’re finding the truth,
And it’s setting you free…

We need our anxieties…
Our pains faced make us see….

This is the journey,
… And things do happen…

For humans… like Wolves,
Also rise and fall

A Wild Dream

I had a wild dream,
I was on a bus, careening out of control, down a hill
I was, unknown to them, there to help,
An IDF special forces soldier sat beside me
And finally, we arrived in a valley
Children ran out, gnome-like, after us, as we filled into the grassy lowlands –
They smeared my hand with a blue paste, containing a psychedelic –
We were all being drugged
I wiped the paste off, warned the rest,
Then reinforcements came,
There was a hostage situation –
I grabbed the gun and shot the man
Then the leaders came,
I was a hero, yet they wanted me to accept their terms
To surrender
I asked for paper and pen,
Wrote down terms contrary to these global ends
And instead of accepting – I denied
And they wanted me dead…
I ran, I escaped
Jumped through wooden shutters
And I hung on a cliff, clung
There, a soldier came, with the high ground,
I grabbed him, throwing him over me, into the abyss
Climbing up, I ran to the back of a truck,
Driven by some unknown Krishna,
From whom I grabbed a shotgun,
Aimed toward the stage, and fired
They looked as I flew past,
Screaming out,
“Liberty and justice for all!”

And I woke up…
Amazed, knowing,
That god, consciousness, energy sees everything and into everything, sees all things,
And into their heart, bears witness to their inner character,
Where humans think they are alone.

Jules, Grendel, and Bubba

In every adult there lurks a child —
an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention and education, that is part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole.

~ Carl G. Jung

The dragons were handed down:
Demons men before me didn’t slay

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” –
Not quite, Rousseau

As I happen to know, vice is handed down,
Addictions run in families like rivers

And when the tide is high,
They overrun the banks and wash away all that is

And these pathologies, these addictions, these deficiencies, go deeper than chemicals,
They are attachment patterns

Love is taught,
By example

Imprinted upon us,
And sometimes we are left with a depression

Rather than an impression,
So life is like a game of chirades

Where we walk around oblivious to our own disfunctions [sic],
But find them in others instead

When Jung said, “there is no coming to consciousness without pain,”
He knew, you only get wet in the rain

And when you’ve suffered long enough,
You’ll come in

Bitter and cold and shaking,
But you’ll come in

And if you follow the keepers of the light,
You’ll find the keys hidden by the pharisees

And if you look within, vis a vis these keys,
You’ll have come into contact with a few creatures of permanent validity:

Shadow / the dark side:
A hairyman; iron john; grendel; edward scissorhands

Anima or animus (soul) / the bridge:
Inward self of opposite gender

And at the inmost…

Inner child / the light side:
Pure light; innocence; vulnerability

Each of these energies has many gifts,
Which you must utilize and interact with, but I say one above the others…

Yes, you need shadow and anima to be whole,
Between light and dark, masculine and feminine…

But without inner child integration into your psyche,
You can not have inner peace

And I’m no PHD;
Poet, but take it from me:

Inner child has the eyes to see,
Inner insight

Path to the light,
Ways to engage shadow healthily

Playfulness,
Anima needs – and ‘needs’ is the word

For inner child knows your needs,
But inner child also knows your wants…

We’re getting into some good magic here,
But there’s a catch

Inner child has long been neglected,
Ignored –

Which is not to say shadow and anima are without their wounds

They are very wounded,
But inner child must be freed, cared for, loved, adorned – firstly

Inner child knows the wounds of the shadow
And of anima too

But they know not the pain of the innmost,
Wounded, vulnerable, neglected inner child

Because if you’re going to be whole, if this life is to be worthwhile,
You need to spend more time with inner child than never or every once in awhile

Inner child needs safe space to play,
And a narrative myth formed by Self to make life a game

Self we have not touched on,
For this is the outer and I deal in the inner

But I say Self is the sum,
As balanced or imbalanced – between shadow, anima, and inner child – as we are

Do you see how useless words like ego are?
When we can touch, talk to, and listen to the wounded parts of what we are?

We are an animal: shadow
We are repressed expression, sexuality: anima
We are a divine being: inner child

And none of us are without these individual pieces of our selves,
None of us are free from mortal coil

Only we never have a map,
Are never taught the multiplicity of our being

And this is mostly Jung,
But it’s also everything I know

For I’m learning to dialogue with and integrate these parts of myself into me
Wolf Waldo Black, Lawrence Black:

My Anima is Jules
(After Julian Casablancas, also: pun on jewels)

My Shadow is Grendel,
(The beast in Beowolf)

My Inner Child is Bubba
(A child nickname from my Mom)

So this is me:
Jules, Grendel, and Bubba

We’re quite the trinity,
Holy you might say

When we work together,
Neglecting not another

Communicating through Self,
Me, running queries to each of these human softwares through the command-line of self-inquiry

Interacting with each,
Allowing each part to express safely through me

Because when I only listen to self,
I break my heart again, hurt them

And for Jules, Grendel, and Bubba – for me,
I’m sorry, but I can’t do that (robot voice)

As a postscript:

Quit looking for your “higher self” – if something or someone is ‘higher’ or ‘above and beyond’ your inner child, your priorities are fucked; look within or be without. The light has always been within you, rather it is you that have been without [yourself].

Okay, Okay

family loves me, friends love me,
everything is okay
have a house, bills are paid,
everything is okay
work and food on plate,
everything is okay
have a mission, a vision, a purpose,
everything is okay
am young l.cohen, young p.roth, young j.steinbeck – have exes,
books in progress,
everything is okay,
got poetry, renter’s insurance
everything is okay,
no court case, no warrants,
everything is okay,
am alive and well, take many vitamins, probiotics,
everything is okay,
warm clothes, soft bed,
everything is okay,
home again, in my head,
everything is okay.

And everything is going to be okay, okay.

A Dream, A Map

It was Freud, Jung’s mentor, who called dreams ‘The royal road to the unconscious.”

Jung himself believed that dreams were how we came to discover the unconscious myths guiding our lives.

I recently had such a dream, so clear, so well constructed, that it was a revelation.

Perhaps it came because, having quit Cannabis, my REM sleep is once again in its full depth. I do not know, but I am grateful. It was, perhaps, one of the more important dreams of my life.

I shall regale you with it now.

The dream began in a large hall (For dining), filled with people seated around a dozen or so round tables. I was a waiter (A job I did in my twenties).

I approached the first table and knew each person was going to tell me two things:

1. A song they wanted to hear, which I was to put on for them

and

2. A beverage of their choosing.

The first person told me his song and drink, and soon the others at the table did. I struggled to get the artist and song titles, and I hastily wrote the drink orders down.

I then told them I would be back shortly and walked across the hall to where the drinks and the music controls were.

As I made my way across the hall, people were looking at me the way hungry, impatient people look at their waiter. I assured the most direct and obvious glances that I would be there to take their order in the way waiters do:

I’ll be right with you.”

As I made it to the music controls, where I was to play the first patron’s song request, I realized I had only written down the artist. It was the Beatles or Pink Floyd. I then became acutely aware of the eyes on me, and one person yelled to me to, ‘Play something great!’

Optimistically, I choose a random Beatles or Pink Floyd song, to realize I had selected one with a long, intense, non-musical intro (Those who listen to Pink Floyd can imagine)…

Something like, this.

This created an awkward situation, but I had drink orders to fill so I went to the large plastic bucket filled with ice and pop. Unlike the song titles, which I had fumbled, I had the written the proper drink orders down. Only, to my chagrin, we did not have the drinks they wanted.

I knew I would have to do what every waiter and service provider loathes to do, which is to inform your patron that you do not have what they want. It was, imaginably, very stressful. And I had a whole room full of people waiting for me to take their order, to play their song.

To say I was overwhelmed would be understating it: I wanted to pull my hair out. Things were falling apart. The room was a mess of unfulfilled wants. And I was a failure.

Now, suddenly, I looked up and the tables were gone – except one.

The dream had split into a second half.

There was only one table in the room now.

I felt calm. And instead of walking over to them to take their drink orders, I approached the drink bucket and took inventory of what I had.

And being so close to my one table of calm patrons, I simply yelled out the available drinks. As in, “I’ve got Sprite, grape soda, Diet Coke.”

I did not bother asking them what song they wanted to hear.

And hearing my inventory, what was available, what was offered, they yelled back which they would like. And I simply reached into the ice-filled bucket and grabbed their selections, and then I gently lobbed each drink to its recipient in an underhanded toss, which was caught with ease.

And the dream ended. I awoke. With as clear a grasp on the two halves of the dream as I have just told you.

Only, what it all meant wasn’t immediately clear – but I knew there was significance in what I had dreamt. Something deep.

So I began to analyze the two halves, for I knew there was meaning in the contrast between the first half, where I was so overwhelmed, and the second half, where I was at ease, aware of my own cleverness even.

It wasn’t long, turning the two halves over in my mind, until it clicked.

The dream was a metaphor for my work – the only place in my life I find myself overwhelmed, overworked, and in deeper shit than I can handle.

But it was clear. There were two ways to go about it.

I could cater to the myriad wants of the masses, promising them whatever they wished.

Or I could offer them what I had, keeping it simple and easy.

It is the difference between being a programmer (miserable), and building products, selling value, which can be quite easy (Once you write the book or produce the value).

The first half of the dream represented the soon to be old-way of doing things, which has never served me, has only worn me thin.

The second half of the dream represented the way I ought to be doing things. The soon to be new way of running my life and my business.

“This is what I have”. I produce things of value that people desire. And I sell the value – not the desire.

It was a map. A solution to my deepest problems, laid out in metaphor so brilliant that no other form of self-instruction could be so eye opening, so revealing.

No-Nut Level: God Mode Activated

This has been a fruitful season of my life. Full of growth:

  • I’ve learned to be truly alone and emotionally independent.
  • I’ve overcome fear, worry, self-doubt
  • I’ve come to agree full-stop with John Mayer, that “Drinking is a fucking con.”
  • I’ve finally quit my on-again, off-again relationship with organic American Spirits (‘But they’re organic!’).
  • I’ve gone from an ounce of Cannabis a week to nada.

And now, I’m going one step further. No-nut level. 

In the mainstream, you may have heard of it as “no-fap” (‘Fap’ being the sound produced when a man masturbates, as in, ‘fap, fap, fap’).

But there are levels to it.

I’m playing on ‘hard mode’ or ‘monk mode’, meaning: no climax, no ejaculation….

I’m actually on ‘god mode’, meaning nofap + meditation + exercise.

Now, I’m not writing this to brag, or to tell the world about my most personal proclivities, but, rather, I’m writing this – I’m doing this – because I believe it is an impactful decision.

Chastity is nothing new. The tradition of living a chaste life goes back to the ancient mystics, philosophers, sages, and adepts (Ascended masters, monks, yogis..).

Let me firstly say here that I have no moral judgements toward sex, self-pleasure, porn, or even sex-work. I am as liberal as any writer or poet before me.

This is not about morality or purity; for, there are those who choose to participate in no-fap or abstinence for those reasons, but I am not one of them.

My reasons for this experiment have nothing to do with any sort of moral high-ground, which for me, does not exist. Sex among willing adult participants, and all forms of harmless self-pleasure, are, to me, inherently natural. I honor the animalistic. I love having a ‘dirty’ mind. I’m a very sexual being. And I’m in no way making any sort of lifelong vow – trust me, I have plenty of plans for the future of my sex life… Grand, noble, exciting….

But, for now, I find myself alone in the mountains.

As an older guy up here said to me not too long ago: “The mountains AREN’T a great place to be single, but they ARE a great place to be alone.”

And I wholeheartedly agree. Frankly, I’m a non-binary liberal freak. I belong in SF or Oakland more than in this red-blooded Trump-loving county; I didn’t come here for the people. I came to live on the edge of the woods.

There’s a dirt-road behind my house. I write and work from home. I often have my groceries delivered. There are weeks I don’t really interact with a soul beyond visiting my 78 year-old neighbor, whose German Shepherd, ‘Einstein’, I often borrow for long walks among the pines.

I am living my Walden Pond life. This is the Chapter of The Forest. These are my years in the woods, as Joseph Campbell himself lived for five years alone, mentally nourished on nothing but books.

My focus is on writing my books, building my life, and producing the means to support the lifestyle I will live. And there is nothing more important than these missions, these tasks before me. My desires run deep. I hear them whisper their promises to me in the beat of my pulse.

Reflecting on my circumstances, it would seem as if I almost have no choice – but in the world of Tinder, there is always a choice. But as far as priorities go, it’s a good time to establish something:

I invested 10 years in relationships. And maybe it’s my own damn fault, for being full of faults, for the drunk nights, the terrible things I said – but I don’t even have a friend out of these relationships, save, perhaps, for Sarah – bless that noble witch and her golden heart. And maybe it’s just modern love. I’ll no doubt wrestle and reconcile these questions in my memoirs; I certainly hold no one responsible other than myself. I choose who I choose, and I was naive and put them on pedestals, and I devalued myself of my own accord. I thought my value would come from them. Let me tell you, such an approach is a fast-track to the depths of your own insecurities – you will fall on your face.

But the truth will set you free. And people are mirrors. They can only reflect back what is already there.

Also, I don’t think it will kill me to give dating, relationships, and sex a long, contemplative break. I’m sour on love besides. In short: appearances. Your stature in life will be viewed as tantamount to your character (Because people appraise themselves no less shallowly). People simply care more about stupid shit, appearances, and what those around them think, more than they can admit – even to themselves. We are, in the end, pack animals, nothing but a troupe of monkeys, willing to do almost anything for acceptance from our perceived in-groups, from ourselves. Call it survival. That’s what it is. If you don’t believe me, ask a bum how his love life is. We’re a long way from fairy tales. And the hero, the one who gets the girl, is never quite a loser.

My advice: pay more attention to what is between a person’s ears than what you think is in their heart. That matters to me more at this point than what’s between their legs. I am, of course, speaking to the few like myself, for whom love has been an eye opening game, yet remain the true romantics, but I digress…

Musings on love aside, I didn’t embark on this no-nut journey because I am sick of love, sex, or even the fantastic variety of VR porn now available, which turns even an iPhone screen into a POV window into a new world.

I’m doing this because I think there is something to it.

I am not one for god: I believe in the Will. That which affects this shared field of energy called reality.

And I know that drugs, addictions, anything that drains our dopamine, saps our Wills.

And the worst kind of addictions will break a person’s Will entirely.

But when we strengthen the Will, when we exercise self-discipline, we balance out our dopamine levels, and instead of blowing our wad, so to speak, we have motivation and discipline to do things. And that’s what this is about, I want more motivation and discipline to do the things I want to do.

I quit smoking weed cold-turkey and read four books in two days – in the same time I would have been baked AF before.

When you quit treating your mind like an amusement park, life gets better.

This is about self-mastery, release from suffering. Freedom from desire. And the empowerment of channeling my most raw, potent energy into my Will.

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.” ― Aristotle

Now, what I loathe to get into is the science behind it – namely, because I am doing this on my own intuition, and, because that shit is boring.

But, to be lazy, here are a few images that tell part of the story:

If you’re personally interested in practicing some form of nofap or semen retention, I recommend you just go to youtube and educate yourself, and read through the comments for the anecdotal evidence. Because, truth is, there aren’t a ton of studies showing the benefits. As one commenter said, “Illuminati want to keep us down.”

If you will allow me to put on my tinfoil hat for a moment. Just imagine that the system wants wage slaves. So, they push alcohol, weed, porn, all these things that are going to reduce your personal power, your kundalini, the energy in your chakras. And these habits, this lifestyle of common mediocrity, is going to make you dependent upon the system.

The empire doesn’t want Jedis.

And, it’s lonely at the top because it’s a narrow road to get there. Few believe they even have the self-control. I personally just happen to know I have an indomitable Will. I can kind of do anything. And with the lifestyle changes I am making, their impact on my psyche, energy, and neurochemistry is going to show itself in my achievements, in my wellbeing. I already have a dope diet. I’m already lean. Now I’ll be lean and mean.

And there have been countless examples of men throughout history who have made the choice to play life on no-nut level.

Steve Jobs was said to practice semen retention, after he returned from India and had learned of tantric practices.

As one of his ex girlfriends explained:

“Our birth control method up to that point was Steve’s coitus interruptus, also called the pull-out method, which for him was about his conserving his energy for work,’ she wrote. He explained that he didn’t want to climax so he could build ‘power and wealth by conserving one’s vital energies.”

A long time ago, I first read a book called ‘Think and Grow Rich’. In it, there is a cryptic chapter entitled, ‘The Power of Sex Transmutation’. The author writes:

Sex desire is the most powerful of human desires. When driven by this desire, men develop keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times. So strong and impelling is the desire for sexual contact that men freely run the risk of life and reputation to indulge it. When harnessed, and redirected along other lines, this motivating force maintains all of its attributes of keenness of imagination, courage, etc., which may be used as powerful creative forces in literature, art, or in any other profession or calling, including, of course, the accumulation of riches.

Point is, there have been many intelligent people who have believed in the power of conserving the vital life force. Two that come to mind are Nikkola Tesla and Michaelangelo. Also Plato. Heavyweights.

We get one life. So often I feel like we cheat ourselves in search of temporary pleasures, and in doing so, we hobble our chances at greatness. We’re rewarding ourselves with bullshit, fake activities.

So, look, what is the harm in what I am doing? What is the harm in abstaining here? Obviously, I don’t think there is any. I think the benefits are clear, and potentially massive.

And, thankfully, I’m not letting some non-existent girlfriend of mine suffer, but even so, I could easily please a partner without breaking my own resolve here.

If you have a chance in life to master yourself, take it. It’s almost something that once achieved stays with you.

And I know I can’t just read books and write. I’m not a machine for a singular action. I have to keep augmenting my habits with other healthy activities. Walks, hikes, pushups, pullups, workouts, meditation, yoga, breath work, goal-setting, self-talk, mental rehearsal (envisioning), and on.

In the words of, ‘Mystic Mac’, Connor McGregor, I want to be a “freight-train”, ‘straight to the top’.

If this gives me an edge, which I have no doubt it is already doing, then I’m happy to give up something so insignificant in the big picture of things.

Not to say sex is insignificant, in-fact, I think it’s probably the temple doorway, so to speak, and the union of two souls is the promise of Eden, but I’ve got shit to do. And I’m not going to waste my chi, my lifeforce on fleeting thoughts (pun intended).

And, to close on a lighter note, here are some nofap memes:

And if you need some more motivation, check out reddit.com/nofap

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” ― Thucydides

Godspeed my fellow fapstronauts.

Switching Psychedelics: From Cannabis to Reading

Terrence McKenna remarked that he once quit Cannabis and “..took up reading in the evenings.”

I am making this same switch, having realized that the worst effect of Cannabis – beyond its dampening of the dopamine receptors – is that I don’t read when I am high. Not that I haven’t enjoyed reading ‘Don Quixote‘ and many other books while stoned, but I don’t think Cannabis is in any way a performance enhancing drug for the consummate reader.

And, frankly, I’d rather be a bibliophile than a stoner, which isn’t to say being a stoner hasn’t been rewarding – Cannabis has certainly helped me blaze a trail to my inner-self, and it has most definitely served as both a medicine and a form of harm-reduction from other, more bullshit intoxicants (See: alcohol). But I would much rather read than get high.

As an experiment, I abstained from Cannabis yesterday, and, last night, instead of my usual Saturday every night Cannabis festival, I read two books. And the joy of laying on the couch, eating mandarin oranges, and getting lost in great fiction easily eclipsed any Cannabis high. After all, books are my original love – what saved me growing up. And I remembered the anecdote from Terrence McKenna, about how he quit Cannabis and the only thing he noticed was that he read more.

Now, I have been on the fence about my Cannabis use for some time, having come to be a heavy user (An ounce a week). And it is not that I don’t love Mary Jane. It’s been a life saver to me – a life giver, but there came to be a couple things that bothered me about my usage. The latest and last straw was this reading revelation.

But the other big wake up was reading some of the studies that have been done on heavy Cannabis usage in relation to dopamine (Google ‘Cannabis dopamine studies’ to read for yourself).

In one of the studies, researchers wanted to measure the dopamine responses of heavy Cannabis users against non-users. To measure this, they administered methylphenidate (Ritalin) to both groups. Now, typically, any type of amphetamine is going to send dopamine levels through the roof – only, for the heavy cannabis users, the researchers saw very little dopamine response. They were so surprised that they checked to make sure the Ritalin wasn’t expired. And it wasn’t – what was happening, was that the dopamine pathways in the heavy Cannabis user’s brains were simply deadened from their Cannabis usage (Cannabis acts directly on dopamine, this is what causes the “high”).

It reminds me of a friend of mine who once remarked to me that without weed, he couldn’t even enjoy food or sex. In essence, it had hijacked his brain’s reward system. But dopamine is bigger than reward – it’s also motivation (To get the reward). And when you have this very low level nirvana or samadhi happening every time you get high, well, that kind of becomes the focus in life. And eventually, your brain just wants that – and nothing else really matters. Trust me. I know.

And ironically, when I learned all of this about Cannabis and dopamine, I had planned to write some long post about how I was quitting Cannabis to regain the full function of my motivation and reward pathways – only, I liked smoking too much. So I kept on: knowing that I was blunting my brain’s natural wiring and killing my own pleasure and motivation. Hey, I could still write on it, and even program on it. It was only having made the connection with Cannabis cock-blocking my reading that I drew the line. Reading is simply too pleasurable, too fulfilling, too much of a part of me to do anything that hinders it.

Cannabis is a psychedelic. Now, psychedelics have been a cornerstone of my development (Namely Mescaline), and I have definitely used Cannabis in a psychedelic fashion – but I mostly just used it to maintain. Because when you smoke a quarter pound a month, you need to maintain. And I wish it were something I could just pick up on a blue moon and put down, as I do with the classic psychedelics (Mescaline, DMT, LSD, Psilocybin), but from my experience, it’s just too damn easy for me to smoke all day, every day. And it’s not like I sit here rubbing potato chip grease on my shirt, buried in filth – no, I can keep the house clean, get my work done, hike on it, do yoga on it – hell, Cannabis has been the muse for a lot of stuff I have written here.

But I have to read. So I’m not smoking any more. Further, I think I’ll probably see an increase in the output of my fiction (thank fuck!). Not to mention the recovery of my dopamine receptors and an increase in my quality of my REM sleep.

Look, I have a distillate vape very near to me I would love to hit right now. My sleep is fucked up (Thanks Mary Jane), but I can’t stand the idea of self-medicating so heavily, particularly at the cost of such a deep passion of mine (Reading). And, not only as an individual, but as a writer: I have to read. It’s a passion that’s part of my job, my existence.

And I have been really passionate about Cannabis, but there are seasons in life for things. I also know that should I really need the medicine that Cannabis provides, it will be there for me. Trust me, when I’m dying, I’m going to be smoking .5g dabs of rosin. You bet your motherfuckin’ ass. But Cannabis as a lifestyle isn’t serving my passions (Reading, and I suspect writing).

One other thing that comes to mind is a clip I watched where Elon Musk talked about working 100 hour weeks. Now, I don’t want to burn out (Been there, got burned out, ate a cocktail of shitty head shop pseudo-psychedelics, lost my shit and smashed my laptop). No, I don’t want to overwork – I will not – but I also want to accomplish things. I’m not only a writer, I’m a tech entrepreneur. And, ya know, having been unsuccessful, I can’t help but think that has negatively impacted my relationships. I don’t want to project too much here, but anyone who has ever been left by a partner when they are down and out, so to speak, knows what I am talking about.

I want to build the foundation where my material failures don’t doom my relationships (Biting my tongue on other opinions here). But habits are the foundation for any success in life. Not that you can’t be a stoner and be great at anything, and even successful at it, but the rules of life are different for everyone. We have to stay in our lane in life.

Success and health really come down to the ability to adapt, grow, and learn. And what I suspect is going to happen in the coming days and weeks, is that I’m going to discover a lot more endurance and productivity for the things I need want to do. So, where I once burned out, I think I’ll find more gas in the tank (Dopamine in the brain).

And I’m so glad I discovered this. Because one thing I know is that you have to replace bad habits with good habits. This is why this is so monumental for me.

I haven’t even considered the money I will save, but suffice to say, it will be a nice chunk of change every month. The first thing I am going to do, is buy Volume II of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, of which I just finished the first volume of (PF Collier, 1910).

All in all, I am relieved. To have found the proper thing (books) to fill the void in me. How beautiful. To trade my adult addiction (canna) for my childhood addiction (reading). What a total fucking upgraaade.

And on a personal note, I gotta say: when people discount you and basically write you off, and you are on your own, in what could be perceived by them as a low point for you, it REALLY F’N motivates you to upgrade yourself in ways that are going to radically transform YOUR life – for you. There is a reason success is the best revenge. And it’s not because people believe in you. It’s because they don’t. I’m like Connor McGregor, in that doubt – and particularly the kind I’m talking about – is a great motivator for me. It’s not enough on its own to move me, but it’s certainly icing on the cake for the results to come. As it should be. My reality is mine; I’ve always believed in myself, even despite my brooding and John Adams-esque bouts of insecurity (Oh where is my Abagail, my Portia Adams). This is just the next logical step, and I’m cheering for myself every goddamn minute.

On a final note, the word ‘psychedelic’ means mind-manifesting. By this etymological definition, I think books are absolutely psychedelic, and probably one of the best. So, I’m only trading one psychedelic for another – one that I believe is far more potent.