Introduction to LEVELS

Life is a game called Levels.

The game has to be fun

The game has to be exciting

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

The game is a game of strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

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The above came to me yesterday, near the end of a two hour float-tank session, where I began to recite the above over and over, until I had it memorized.

In short, it was a deepening of my life philosophy – LEVELS – which I am come here to write further on.

The idea of LEVELS came to me a few years ago, and I subsequently got a tattoo of the word LEVELS on the inner side of my right wrist.

The idea originally being simply that there are LEVELS to life. Perhaps this was unconsciously seeded by Meek Mill’s song, LEVELS. And it may also have been influenced by the Avicii song, LEVELS.

The way the collective unconscious works, it seems to me that LEVELS has come out of the time in which I live.

So I am here, to contribute to that, as a writer and thinker, with an introduction to LEVELS, the game of life.

Life as a Game, Exploring Philosophical Implications

In Shakespeare’s age, all the world was a stage. In the age of Elon Musk, life is a game.

Which, if life is a game or we choose to view life as a game – a simulation of sorts – then what are the implications? What does it change?

Well, that’s up to us.

We can simply (As I have before) accept the Simulation Hypothesis as likely or true, which may give us a bit of hope that we exist outside of reality and will perhaps continue existing afterwards. This is a particularly novel and useful idea for those non-religious thinkers, who do not believe in a heaven or hell, but nonetheless, by way of human nature, would like to think death is not the end.

Whatever you believe, I implore you to focus on this life, rather than some imagined, uncertain existence after the death of your present living consciousness; for this life is, to our knowledge, all we have. But also, if it were a simulation, it might be a test – will you get to the next LEVEL, or will you be reincarnated back into this one, for further training.

One thing about reincarnation that I appreciate is that the idea is ancient, meaning that very enlightened thinkers from multiple cultures, who pondered existence for lifetimes, have come to the belief in both reincarnation and life as a kind of maya or illusion.

My goal with LEVELS is not to provide a philosophy in place of or a substitute for religion, but a framework to actualize myself (in this life); however, my philosophy for life, of course, exists within my larger framework for existence, which, naturally, ought be laid out here.

Personally, I believe there are three existential possibilities for reality.

  1. Possibility 1: Base Reality: We are living in base-reality and just so happen to exist on the cusp of the singularity, superhuman AI, immortality, and interplanetary colonization – what a time to be alive.
  2. Possibility 2: The Great Filter: The singularity has already been reached, and to protect the living Universe, the AI has put us inside a simulated reality as a kind of Great Filter, so that people don’t use AI in the real universe to create deathstars and destroy planets, etc. In this possibility, life is a kind of character test, to determine if it is safe to graduate our souls into the world of “gods”, where we have access to technology that is completely omnipotent. This possibility explains the Fermi Paradox.
  3. Possibility 3: Soul Evolution: We exist outside of this reality and are suspended in spaceships, being sent to distant planets, and life is a training program, in which, while we travel lightyears across the galaxy, we “evolve” our consciousness through numberless incarnations until we are spiritually mature enough to understand life in a manner where we are capable of building and taking care of our own worlds – after all, God might have created us because she was lonely, and we too might want to create life, but if just anyone did, there would be myriad levels of heaven and hell, and it simply wouldn’t be ethical to subject millions of future consciousnesses to the whims of shitty gods.

Two and three are similar but different, and naturally, these three possibilities can be expanded into other possibilities, but for me, these are the three options that make the most sense to the core of my being.

Some people might believe life is a video game, but as I have long said: if life is a game, the rich are the players – after all, it would be a very shitty game for some and a very pleasant game for others. If your child got sick and had no healthcare and so died, what kind of game is that? A very fucked up one, in which “The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor” – to borrow from Victor Hugo. In a pure, entertainment-based video game philosophy of reality, we are reduced to programs on a prison planet – necessary cattle to serve the needs of an uber-sentient elite.

Personally, I simply cannot believe in such dystopian possibilities; in the words of Elon Musk, “I’d rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right.”

That said, none of my three possibilities for the nature of existence include “We are living in the future, playing a video game” – so why do I choose to use the term “game”?

Well, you have to understand Levels to know the answer. Also, the objective of a game is to win.

So, revisiting my three options, allow me to explain each as a kind of “game” we are playing.

The Game Possibility 1: Base Reality

If we are living in base-reality, something Elon Musk believes to be a “billions-to-one” possibility (Based on the probable mathematical size of time), then what would be the objective? Well, survival is a likely one. I think we can all agree the most foundational goal of life is not happiness but “not to die”. Now, happiness is a fine goal but happiness certainly includes some measure of health or what we might term “wellbeing”. If you are in excruciating pain and discomfort (physical or mental), your wellbeing is limited and thus your chances of experiencing happiness are greatly diminished. Being that in this “base reality” we are living on the cusp of a technological singularity, in which superhuman AI will arise, we also have the chance at immortality. While this may not be the goal for the average person, it certainly is for more and more who understand the implications of the future (Kurzweil, Silicon Valley billionaires). It’s a safe bet that people like Larry Page, Sergei Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg are investing in technologies to postpone or avoid death altogether, whether it be via brain-mapping to upload their consciousness into the cloud or via intelligent nanotechnology to constantly rebuild their organs, brain included – because the brain does decay. As-is, we can pretty much depend on the inevitable cognitive diminishment that comes with age – and many of us have or will watch our parents die, and if they live long enough we are likely to witness them experience some form of neurodegenerative disease, such as alzheimer’s or dementia. So, in this life, if we are to look at it as a game, then either we develop the rules of the game to maximize happiness and wellbeing and or we try and live long-enough to reach the point where technology allows us to stave off death. Both valid, natural objectives. And there are, of course, countless other potential ways to view the game based on our own values – some want fame, some want money, some want simpler things – but we’ll return to these potential objectives.

The Game Possibility 2: The Great Filter 

In option 2, which I call The Great Filter, AI is protecting the universe from us by placing us in this simulated world and only allowing certain souls or consciousnesses into the real world, where omnipotent technology is accessible to everyone. In this possibility, we have a true heaven available us – potentially – after all, if the singularity has already occurred, which I believe is mathematically likely, then death is not a thing, and we can instantly arrange intelligent particles into whatever form we want (Total control over physical reality). As someone once said: ‘Our grandparents would look at us with our smartphones like we are wizards – we will look upon our grandchildren and their technology like they are gods’. In this scenario, we are being observed by the AI in this world to determine if it is safe to allow us into the next. One thing Elon Musk said once, is that “It’s likely we are being observed by extraterrestrials, but are too dumb to realize it.” Now, were I those ET or AI, I’d too want to protect the living universe by being very particular on who I let in. Otherwise, we would have deathstars and darth-vader wannabes ruining it for everyone else. In this version of the game, it would seem there were an ethical rather than moral objective – to prove your character. Karma is a very ancient idea, after all. So you would want to clear your karma so to speak. In short, you would want to be at your core, a good person. A pure soul. A Jesus or a Buddha or some other enlightened, awakened, divine person. From the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered.” In this potential, living forever is not the goal of the game (Because even living forever in this world wouldn’t help you ascend to the next if you were not worthy).

The Game Possibility 3: Soul Evolution

In possibility 3, we are suspended in spaceships traveling across the galaxies, undergoing training reincarnations until we are ready to go to a destination planet and be woken-up. This is similar to the above possibility, but we are traveling through hyperspace on the way to our destinations, while we evolve. Of course, the universe being infinite, we could just keep traveling as long as we need. In this possible version of the game, the incarnations are designed to educate and evolve our souls. Perhaps this explains why some people are seen as “old-souls”. Looking at it from a game perspective, the objective would be to assimilate the soul-lessons we have been incarnated to learn. They are likely ethical but also spiritual lessons. In short, we have to figure out what those lessons are and we have to evolve mentally and spiritually to progress. Wealth and living forever might be missing the point on the soul-level – and each of our incarnation objectives is likely to be personalized for us based on our progression in past “lives”. Superintelligent AI that is billions of times smarter than us could of course generate these with absolute perfection.

Now, you might be philosophically inclined to one of the three above possibilities over the others – or you might think they are all hogwash and that the god of the bible is the only truth and that as such, he has the right to send gays and non-believers to his “hell.” That’s your choice, you are free to play that game too – it’s been played for millennia – but I think that, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “We need new myths.”

The above are three options that resonate with me as actual possibilities, having contemplated the manner in my own way and developed myths or stories around what I see as possibilities that explain the nature of life and death – and the suffering we all undergo.

For me, I am playing the game of life as if all three are true – and I don’t see it as hedging my bets so much as being pragmatic, based upon my beliefs about the potential purposes of life.

But for the most part, I am playing the game based on the first possibility – because it makes the most sense to me to try and stay alive – call it my innate instincts: even a fly or a spider is evolved to avoid being killed. Healthy living things prefer to live. And as a human, we prefer to be happy; we prefer to actualize: to achieve our goals and fulfill our Wills.

So let’s return to the model of LEVELS as a way of doing this:

Life is a game called Levels.

The game has to be fun

The game has to be exciting

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

The game is a game of strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

Let’s break it down.

Life is a game called Levels.

Reality is entirely subjective for each of us. As Joseph Campbell wrote, “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

Choice has a lot of power. Perspective is a lens, and it’s one we can choose to shape by way of our beliefs.

Whether any of the three possibilities I laid out is true or not, I choose to view life as a game, and I believe there are levels to the game.

The game has to be fun

Since, as I posit, You design the game, I want to have fun while I am playing it. Joseph Campbell called this “Following your bliss”; for I am not speaking of a hedonistic or even an epicurean type of fun; I do not mean pleasure: I mean bliss, delight; fun. As my dad used to say, “If you can’t have fun, what can you have” – and while I’ve never before posed this as a question, it begs an answer: without fun, life is drudgery. It should be said that my definition of fun has evolved from pleasure toward fulfillment. I no longer think drinking is fun or even worthwhile. I want to take my family places. I want to write my books. I want to succeed at achieving my goals. Also, there do exist very fun things in the world at every level. Reading can be fun. So can driving a Porsche GT3 or sailing on a Wally yacht. I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “If you want to know a man, see how he spends his free time”; although, when I say the game has to be fun, I do not speak purely of diversions or leisure. I speak of a level of consciousness, an awareness. A delighting in the act of being alive. There’s nothing and no one to stop you from living on that level in whatever you do. You can have fun at the DMV with the right mindset.

The game has to be exciting

I’ve lived my life both dreading the days – and looking forward to them: the difference was excitement. And I do not mean anticipation, as in a pure looking forward to tasks and events – when I speak of the game having to be exciting, I mean that we each have to choose to make it exciting – to be excited. Two different people can live the same life and one can resent it and one can be excited about it. Like life being fun, whether life is exciting depends on the consciousness you bring to what you do – how you do it – but it’s also what you choose to do. If you loathe the work you do, I’m not telling you to get excited about it, I’m telling you to find a way to get excited about getting past it. At the end of the day, since I am in charge of my life, I want to be excited about the life I am living. This simple decision has massive implications – it means I must make life exciting and I must design exciting possibilities into my future. In the words of Elon Musk, “Life needs to be more than just solving every day problems. You need to wake up and be excited about the future.”

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

This is kind of a continuation on the above but it’s also a reminder – an emphasis. In the words of the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: “Motivation is like bathing. You’ve got to do it every single day.” The quality of your life depends on the quality of your consciousness, of your focus. You can’t just set moonshot goals and get excited for a night. You need to live the journey. You have to stay focused, keeping your eye on the prize. You have to stay (be) excited to play the game everyday. Without this replenishment of self-motivation, you’ll fizz out and you’ll return to a baseline of a previous level. All great motivational people talk about visualization – about believing you already have it. This is an attitude. And people with shit attitudes don’t do things. They don’t have the gas in the tank. They aren’t self-charging. Since, as I put it, You design the game (The Levels), this means you have to design the game of your life to be exciting. You need exciting goals. Return to your twelve-year old self, do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Have what you want to have. And stay focused to do the work to play the LEVELS you’ve designed. That’s exciting – continually.

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

Without knowing the LEVELS, without designing them, personally for you, based on where you are and where you want to be, what game are you even playing in life? Likely a very non-game called survival – and that’s not exciting at all. It’s soul-crushing. So you have to know the LEVELS. You have to develop them – and you have to have a strategy for each level: one that maximizes the probability of desired outcomes. This is how you play LEVELS. Levels is based on desire. If you have no desire, you’re already maxed out on your levels. You’re already where you want to be. But most all of us have desire. Will is a human thing. As Schopenhauer wrote, “Man can want what he wills but he cannot will as he wants”. So we have to get in touch with the innate desires that belong to us and we have to map them out, like a game. I wrote about how Elon Musk did this here: Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment. This was his LEVELS. His strategies were designed to get him to the next LEVEL. Because if you don’t have the resources or powers for what you want on this LEVEL, that just means you have to build the attainment of those resources and powers into the LEVELS of the game. The more clearly you define the LEVELS, the better you get to know the game, the more actively you play it, and the better you get it at. For the heart of LEVELS is that it’s a game of strategy.

The game is a game of strategy.

As my brother in law said, “it’s [LEVELS is] goals”- yes, but it’s a playable framework for goals wherein the bottom line is that, in life, you have to know what game you’re playing – or else you’ll just be playing a very non-game called ‘survival’, which is not LEVELS. Survival has no strategy for Leveling-Up. Levels places you on a starting point called ‘now’ but it defines now as a LEVEL with its own objectives that define the LEVEL – just like a game where each level has particular obstacles, objectives, player skills, and abilities (powers), which have to be strategically used to get to the next level. Only, unlike a typical game where all the players play the same game, in LEVELS, we are all playing different games. If you oversimplify it by saying that we are actually all playing the same game and it’s called “life” than you don’t understand LEVELS. Life is just the XBOX LEVELS is played on, which we can call ‘reality’ or ‘existence’; however, within reality we are each playing a different game, though many play similar LEVELS that are really not much more than survival – the non-game version of LEVELS. But Kendrick Lamar and Warren Buffet are playing their own LEVELS – which correspond to their Will or desire. And since their talents support their Wills, they have maximized probability of likely outcomes – and so have played LEVELS very well. But if you reduce LEVELS to wealth or fame – you’re not seeing the forest through the trees. As a former mentor of mine who was wealthy once said, “Money is just a way of keeping score.” So, if you want money, what game are you going to play? The least effective game is called the lottery and it is widely played by people in poverty who have no other strategy to maximize the outcome of probability for what they see as winning the game. But if money is a way of keeping score (According to those whose LEVELS are designed and measured thusly), then those winning their LEVELS are those who have effective strategies for attaining money. Now if you have no strategy, you are very unlikely to achieve probability. As Elon Musk once said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” Without it being possible, there is no probability. With it being possible, probability exists. Knowing your potential and playing the right game, whether it’s finance, writing, or tennis, helps you maximize probability. In the words of Jordan Peterson, “If you commit to something that means that you don’t do a bunch of other things. So that’s the sacrifice of all those other things if you commit to it. You set your sights on it if you really commit to it, and you get the sacrifice right, so to speak, then the probability that that thing will be successful vastly increases.” He is saying that our probability of success depends on us choosing the right game to sacrifice our time to. LEVELS is a game of strategy. Innate talent goes only so far but ability to maximize talent (potential) goes further; however, only when talent is actualized through hard work. I have long said, life is a game of potentials but it is won by wills. This is reflected is the quote that “There are people with less talent than you succeeding at the thing you want to do.” This is because the universe only gives a shit about physics. If you never pick up the phone, you won’t sell a damn thing. So maybe you’re a great salesperson, but Joe Schmoe makes 40 calls a day and drives a new BMW. Which is not to say that it’s a numbers game – it’s not strictly – it’s a probability game. Meaning, if it was a numbers game I could ask out enough supermodels and get dates – but since I lack the other factors of probability, which result in dating supermodels (Confidence, high-level-success, reknown/fame, lifestyle), probability remains unlikely regardless of numbers. So as far as our strategies go for each LEVEL, we have to establish all the factors of probability and actualize those. As a writer, you can be great, but if you don’t write books, you will never be a novelist. So it is, some people write lots of books and become novelists while those with more potential who do not write do not become novelists. So it’s neither a numbers game nor strictly a game or skill, but a game of probability – the likelihood of something occurring, which is a combination of numbers (action) and skill – and of course, skill increasing with action. Actions speak louder than words because actions increase likelihood and result in success. No actions, no success. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and the early bird gets the worm – and every other true saying is as true in LEVELS as it is in life but LEVELS is a framework for applying those truths to your strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

LEVELS are built around reality and desires, and the gap between the two. It’s up to you to design the game so that you succeed in actualizing your desires into reality. You have to make your life a game based on what you want. You have to design the levels based on where you are. And you have to play the game you have designed. Believe it or not, you’re already playing the game you designed – you just designed it unconsciously, circumstantially, passively, and without imagination. Imagination is the key to designing the game of your life. As David Geffen said, “We are each a figment of our own imaginations. Some of us just have better imaginations than others.” Or in the words of Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” Also from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, and “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” So, when you design the game, when you start at the level you are on now and define the level you want to reach before you die or the highest level, and all the levels in-between, you are relying 100% on your imagination. If you have no imagination, life must suck for you. Return to your inner child and cast off the weathered pessimist. It’s time to redesign the game, to play the LEVELS.

I’ll return to LEVELS with more in time. Subscribe here to stay updated on my writings.

Go With The Flow: Trust It

Growing up, my dad often told me to, “Go with the flow.”

As with other things he said to me growing up, this only came to have meaning to me after he was gone (…the people we love have a way of gilding us like that, even after they are gone from our lives…).

My father’s advice of ‘Go with the flow’ is majorly resonating me at this dawn of this new year; you could say it’s dawning on me now. Exactly when it is supposed to; for this is the flow. Things happen for us in their proper course and time.

While this notion of going with the flow may strike some as new-agey, it really is an ancient idea that goes back at least to the Tao Te Ching, or ‘The Way’, wherein we are taught that:

The most submissive thing in the world can ride roughshod over the hardest thing in the world – that which is without substance entering that which has no crevices.

This is why I know the benefit of resorting to no action. The teaching that uses no words, the benefit of resorting to no action, these are beyond the understanding of all but a very few in the world.

Lao Tzu

This non-action is known as the principle of wu-wei, or non-doing.

From the wu-wei Wikipedia we read:

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, thus engaging in effortless and spontaneous movement.

The Stoic philosophers, who were pantheistic and believed that the “divine spark” was in everything, held a similar view, in that nature ruled the world and that whatever happened was natural.

The Stoic Roman Emperor-General Marcus Aurelius, wrote in his Meditations:

Every instrument, tool, vessel, if it does that for which it has been made, is well, and yet he who made it is not there. But in the things which are held together by nature there is within and there abides in them the power which made them; wherefore, the more it is fit to reverence this power, and to think, that, if thou dost live and act according to its will, everything in thee is in conformity to intelligence. And thus also in the universe the things which belong to it are in conformity to intelligence.

In short, he’s telling us that there is an intelligence guiding things that we should revere, acting accordingly to its will.

Go with the flow.

And to the Stoic, anything else would be madness.

This is why they are stoic; nothing is disturbing their soul, which was seen as an “inner-citadel”.

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics were wise, in knowing what they could and could not control (Stoicism became the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), but they were neither fools nor new-age pollyannas. As Marcus Aurelius writes to himself:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

Go with the flow.

These words, of course, possess their own meaning for you.

For me, at the core of my personal mythology and center to my very being, there exists this deep and abiding “sense of destiny“. As if it is all going, and has always been going, according to some plan.

This plan does not mean I live in some ivory tower, free from pain. It means that the pain is part of the plan. As a programmer and sci-fi-minded person, I would say that my experiences have “programmed me” – perfectly.

The other option would be to believe that my experiences have been at random and that I wasn’t destined to write this, to be who I am at this moment in order to.

As Einstein said:

There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.

Or, as Jung put it:

Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.

Going with the flow is my eyes.

I lose my cellphone in my house before writing this: I’m not supposed to have it then. I walk around, stumble on an old journal in a box, and open it to a passage my soul needed to read tonight.

Whatever happens is supposed to happen. Maybe this is predetermined, my karma, I don’t know. I just know there is a flow to life – a plot if you will.

When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.

— Schopenhauer

And the river of plot runs both ways: forwards and backwards.

As Jung writes in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

When I was working on the stone tablets, I became aware of the fateful links between me and my ancestors. I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished.

So there is no resenting past, future, or present – this is not to say abandon yourself completely to wu-wei, but if you do, you are meant to.

Just as if you suffer some inner or outer situation willfully, and continue to, you are choosing to.

However, our pain usually ends up making sense – giving us meaning. It’s nonetheless difficult to endure, but I say aleap into trusting all of it. The pain too.

Leap into the wholeness of the flow. Release your assumptions about how things are supposed to be (Ego is the part of us that wants things to be or not to be a certain way).

Synchronistically, I’m listening to Van Morrison on shuffle via Alexa as I write this – he has a huge catalogue btw – and the song on now, he is singing:

On thing I’ve learned after all these years, you’re gong to save yourself a lot of tears….

You’ve got to roll with the punches. Man you’ve got to try and go with the flow.

We must. We really have no other choice when we think about it.

And I’m far from advocating passivity. I’m advocating receptivity.

This is a feminine principle. The Tao is feminine. Our western religions and ideas are very masculine. Our history is. But as we enter a new age, our thinking and our feeling can shift to a different state. One of allowing rather than controlling.

Jung writes in The Archetypes of The Collective Unconscious:

Emptiness is a great feminine secret. It is something absolutely alien to man; the chasm, the unplumbed depths, the yin.

The chasm; this is what Joe Campbell was telling us, same message:

A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.

We have to jump into the flow. You see, the chasm is not bottomless, waiting to spit us out: it’s waiting for us. We need only follow our bliss to find it.

Campbell again:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

And where there is bliss, there is flow. Where your flow is, there is your bliss. To borrow ‘flow’ from ‘go with the flow’ and apply it to the ‘flow-state’, we have a double meaning with a whole new level of depth.

My flow is in writing, reading, nature, exercising, dancing, singing, self-care, these are all flow spaces for me.

And while I wish I could exclusively apply myself to flow-activities, I’m not there yet. I still have obligations, spaces where I am having to push myself. But that’s flow too. It’s the yang to the yin. And we have to also direct the flow (of ENERGY).

We can’t just float lazily down the river of life. We are the authors of our stories. We have to swim against the tides too.

From Hamlet:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

We must oppose our troubles. Life takes will. Life takes work. But often we are suffering from troubles that are really our own children, in that we have borne them in our minds – yet, were we to go with the flow and focus our energies on the true causes and effects of our lives, we might find a lot more power available to us.

Flow is focus. It’s focusing on the things that matter and accepting the things that don’t.

While none of us are Gods yet in a truly omnipotent sense, our Wills are nonetheless capable of directing flow now.

In the 1903 Self-help classic, As A Man Thinketh, James Allen tells us:

You will be what you will to be;
Let failure find its false content
In that poor word, ‘environment,’
But spirit scorns it and is free.

It masters time, it conquers space;
It cows that boastful trickster, Chance,
And bids the tyrant Circumstance
Uncrown and fill a servant’s place.

The human Will, that force unseen,
The offspring of a deathless Soul,
Can hew a way to any goal,
Though walls of granite intervens.

Be not inpatient in delay,
But wait as one who understands,
When spirit rises and commands,
The gods are ready to obey.

So, I implore you to “wait as one who understands” flow.

And when your spirit is ready to rise and command, things will begin to happen.

I think the problem is that we often want certainty. This is masculine thinking.

We need a balance of certainty AND trust in the uncertain. What we are talking about when we talk of leaping into the chasm or going with the flow, is entering the LIMINAL space. This is the threshold, the gap between what is and what WILL be.

In every rite of passage and throughout magic, witchcraft, alchemy, and shamanism, the liminal space is an important aspect of the transformation. Vital because it requires a trust in the unknown. I think of the liminal space as the necessary unknown. If you have taken a entheogen, you have been in the liminal space. You’ve leapt.

But a mushroom trip won’t make our dreams come true. We need a deeper, longer dive into the unknown.

This is a new year. It is the unknown. We are at the dawn of our desires, goals, and hopes for the year.

To reach them, we must go into the unknown, we must go with the flow.

It will carry us there.

If we can only trust It. This is the leap.

All we need do is trust ourselves, the universe, life.

Isn’t that what 2019 should be about? Flowing.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the heartbeat of the universe.

— Joseph Campbell

Dear Society

There is a pain to growing up, a hurt inherent to not knowing how to ease the woes that accompany a given life.

Woes arising from the truths we dare not face; our identity naturally in opposition to anything that threatens our core underlying beliefs about who we are.

These core beliefs are typically unconscious, childlike assumptions about life, formed at in early age in order to allow us to understand our families, thus becoming our blueprint for navigating the world at large.

This is why childhood patterns of anguish persist throughout adult life. Our guiding stories – paticularly in regards to relationships, and generally from a gender correlative view – in turn become our very limited and incorrect assumptions. It’s as if our parents are the unconscious, assumptive benchmark by which we judge everyone else – for better or for worse.

And from an evolutionary and anthropological standpoint this no doubt equipped us with a set of intutive assumptions about our kin, by which we could cohesively assimilate into primitive, tribal, or village cultures – essentially the world that humans knew for tens of thousands of years before the relatively recent development of modern, high-density societies.

Only, today, instead of a few hundred, interrelated realities intersecting, we’ve got tens of thousands in a given city, all with their own homegrown beliefs about how people are supposed to be. And if you grew up in an average middle class family, with relatively neurotypical parents who instilled fairly vanilla values into you, this might not be so terrible, for you are apt to follow a fairly typical life path, and assimilate healthily into a world that needs more accountants, realtors, or whatever you end up doing; however, if you grew up like I did, which is to say the typical childhood of a writer, painter, or whatever oddity life has made you, well then, your woes are apt to be much grander – at least in your own eyes – for life is a little more difficult for those whose values do not center primarily around fitting in. The artist has world views that often oppose reality entirely, or values which fall into direct opposition to society’s priorities. Read enough ‘great’ writers, and you will see this truth time and time again, both in their characters and in the lives of the writers themselves.

This is why the artist is such a tortured soul. It’s his values that torture him; he is a misanthrope – a castaway from his own people – he worships different Gods, which is to say he cares naught for the trappings of society, and if he does, then he secretely detests what he lacks the courage to renounce.

Story of my twenties; so rife were the last five years with torment; I lived as one does who lacks ample courage to be completely true to himself; in a word, I was miserable.

I spent the last five years trying to escape my woes, afraid to face what I could not, opting instead to cling to my innocence, as if my idealism were the Jedi force by which the world would magically conform to my view of it (This is a fantastic recipe for self-pity, by the way).

Ironically, our futile attempts to deny or escape the truths we find ugliest only strengthen their presence in our lives, proving the adage that, what we resists persists.

I’ve quoted it a dozen times, and I again lay the words out like a blanket on the grass:

Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate. – C.G. Jung

The unconscious, repressed truths we feel incabable of accepting posess us, directing our fate back to them in a grotesque paradox. But it’s through the same inescapable and utterly painful truths that we become whole, mature, actualized adults.

For me this has culminated in a coexistence between my ideals and reality.

To quote Jung’s protege, Marie Louis Von Franz:

If we can stay with the tension of
opposites long enough —sustain it,
be true to it—we can sometimes
become vessels within which the
divine opposites come together and
give birth to a new reality.

Which, after years of the unuterable. and inescapable truths I fought to deny kicking the absolute shit out of me, I am finally managing to do; for, my beliefs are in almost all aspects directly oppositional to reality. If I did not posess the learning I do, I surely would have found the chasm between my soul and reality too great, and would likely have killed myself. But, having the balm of art, philosophy, shamanism, and psychology, I have tended my wounds and in the process kept my head.

My soul intact, my heart whole – my spirit resilient – I am ready to dive into the gulf, to live between the hard facts of life and the comforts of my beliefs, refusing to again sacrifice one for the other at the expense of myself.

Wonderfully, at this same time, I am reconnecting to my childhood dreams in a very realistic, almost magical way. I do not want to say too much – for I desire to go about my plans quietly – but it is as if I am becoming who I was meant to be, who I dreamed of becoming. The priviledge of a lifetime, as Joseph Campbell said about being who you are.

The depth I have as a man and as a writer has been hard won, but it would be completely false for me to say my life hasn’t been guided by something greater than myself. And if I had let the world shape my values I simply wouldn’t be who I am, which is an individual – in the most rugged and impractical sense.

Have your life society. Get fucked. Swipe right all day. Keep up with the Joneses Kardashians.

I am going to keep on following my intuition, my heart, my G-d, my dreams, my passions, and my purpose.

And that is the difference between you and I.

Dear Society

Reached a truce at truth
Let go after thirty years of youth
“Innocence lost”
Feared the cost
Clung to notions,
In oceans of debauch

Feared for naught
Never taught
Bitter truths
As a youth,
Thought my family was the bad of the lot
Hah

Passages: Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell

Prologue: Introducing Passages

I have begun sharing select literary passages on Facebook as of late, where, despite my small list of friends, I have received a substantial amount of positive feedback in the form of likes, shares, and comments. Prompted by this experiment, and spurred by my desire to champion good literature, I will be publishing a series of entries entitled Passages, where I will share my favorite prose and wisdom within a given book.

I’m excited about this. As a writer, I’ll get to transcribe the passages I enjoy most, endearing their texture and syntax evermore deeply to me; and as a reader, this practice will foster more thoughtful, perceptive reading – something I am duly more conscientious of, having just read Mortimer J. Adler’s and Charles Van Doren’s classic literacy manual: How to Read a Book.

As I embark on this journey of transcribing these beautiful bits of books, I offer a caveat and a disclaimer: Passages are not CliffsNotes, nor it is not my wish to contribute to the pseudo-intellectual culture promulgated by the internet and television; that which gives the viewer a false sense of knowing, without any background, context, or experience, the same stacking of facts that allows people to quote so-and-so without ever actually having read blah-blah-blah.

I am not one who espouses highbrow elitism; however, I believe the world would be a better place if people read more books, for few things have profited my soul as time spent between pages.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy these selected passages.

Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell

Passages excepted from the 1988 Harper and Row Edition

The inner, transformational world of myth

“The seat of the soul is there, where the outer and inner worlds meet. That is the wonder-land (sic) of myth. From the outer world the senses carry images to the mind, which do not become myth, however, until there transformed by fusion with accordant insights, awakened as imagination from the inner world of the body.”

– p. 31


The borderless omnipresence of the holy land

“The holy land is no special place. It is every place that has ever been recognized and mythologized by any people as home.”

– p. 44


The transcendent, larger than life power of story

” …as noticed in the Chhāndogya Upanishad: “Just as those who do not know the spot might pass, time and time again, over a hidden treasure of gold without discovering it, so do all creatures of this world pass daily into that Brahmā world [in deep sleep], without discovering it, distracted as they are by false ideas.” The distinguishing first function of a properly read mythology is to release the mind from its naive fixation upon such false ideas, which are of material things as things-in-themselves [vs. metaphor]. Hence, the figurations of myth are metaphorical (as dreams normally are not) in two senses simultaneously, as bearing (1) psychological, but at the same time (2) metaphysical, connotations. By way of this dual focus the psychologically significant features of any social order, environment, or supposed history can be transformed through myth into transparencies revelatory of transcendence.”

– p. 56 | note: I find Campbell’s normally eloquent and succinct writing a bit obtuse here but if you can discern what he is saying – there is a lot to take away from this passage on happiness and the transcendent, larger than life power of story. To quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez from One Hundred Years of Solitude (a book I could not get into): “It’s not so much what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” In other words, the story we tell ourselves matters more than the plot of our lives, for the story shapes the plot.


The metaphorical, transcendent nature of G-d

“…the term and concept “God” is itself but a metaphor of the unknowing mind, connotative, not only beyond itself, but beyond thought.”

– p. 57


Cross-cultural archetypes in myth and identification with the sacred

“The first task of any systematic comparison of the myths and religions of mankind should therefore be (it seemed to me) to identify these universals (or, as C.G. Jung termed them, archetypes of the unconscious) and as far as possible to interpret them; and the second task then should be to recognize and interpret the various locally and historically conditioned transformations of the metaphorical images through which these universals have been rendered. Since the archetypes are not limited in their distributions by cultural or even linguistic boundaries, they cannot be defined as culturally determined. However, the local metaphors by which they have been everywhere connoted, the local ways of experiencing and applying their force, are indeed socially conditioned and defined. Bastian termed such local figurations ” ethnic ideas,” völkergedanken, and Mircea Eliade has termed them “heirophanies” (from hieros-, “powerful, supernatural, holy, sacred,” plus phainein, “to reveal, show, make known.”).

“The very dialectic of the sacred,” Eliade declares, “tends to repeat a series of archetypes, so that a heirophany realized at a certain historical moment is structurally equivalent to a heirophany a thousand years earlier or later.”

The Elementary idea is grounded in the psyche; the Ethnic Idea through which it is rendered, in local geography, history, and society. A heirophany occurs when through some detail, whether of a local landscape, artifact, social custom, historical memory, or individual biography, a psychological archetype or elementary idea is reflected. The object so informed becomes thereby sacralized, or mythologized. Correspondingly, a religious experience will be realized when there is felt an immediate sense of identification with the revelation. The sense of a mere relationship is not the same. In popular cult the experience of relationship is frequently all that is intended. Thereby a sense of social solidarity may be rendered. Through identification, however, a transformation of character is effected.”

– p. 100


Schopenhauer on the synchronicity that shapes a life

“Schopenhauer, in his bold and really magnificent “Transcendent Speculation upon an Apparent Intention in The Fate of the Individual” (1850), takes up the idea, remarking that in the later years of a lifetime, looking back over the course of one’s days and noticing how encounters and events that appeared at the time to be accidental became the crucial structuring features of an unintended lifestory through which the potentialities of one’s character were fostered to fulfillment, one may find it difficult to resist the notion of the course of one’s biography as compatible to that of a clearly constructed novel, wondering who the author of the surprising plot can have been; considering further, that as the shaping of one’s own life was largely an effect of personalities accidentally encountered, so, too, one must have oneself worked effects upon others.

It is one great dream dream dreamed by a single being, but in such a way that all the characters dream too. Hence, everything links and accords with everything else.

– pp. 110-111


The restrictive, mechanistic, religious view of the sacred

“From the standpoint of an exclusively mechanistic view of human experience and action, any such attribution to nature of, “a presence… far more deeply interfused” as that of Wordsworth’s poetic lines of meditation written above Tintern Abbey, or of Schopenhauer’s “Will in Nature,” must be qualified in the derogatory sense as feelings; the so called pathetic fallacy: a sentimental projection of the imagination like Don Quixote’s morbid fantasy of a magician’s work in a windmill. Anthropologists, in the same vein, describe as “animism” the attribution in tribal mythologies, not only of consciousness, but also of a discreet indwelling spirit, to every material form of reality, whether it be animal, plant, stone, star, moon, sun, or cyclone. While in the vocabulary of Judeo-Christian theology, diabolism is the word for such beliefs.

For already in the Old Testament, as in post-Gallilean sciences, there is in nature itself no divinity. There is no god in all of earth but in Israel (II Kings 5:15), and the gods of the gentiles are devils. The texts of Christian missionaries to this same point in justification of their labors are legion, Satan himself being there recognized as even literally present in the idols, sacraments, sorceries, and miracles of every worship but the mission’s own.”

– p. 114


The priest vs. the artist and the artist as innovator

“Carl Jung somewhere has written that the function of religion is to protect us from an experience of God.

The priest’s practical maxims and metaphorical rites moderate transcendent light to secular conditions, intending harmony and enrichment, not disquietude and dissolution. In contrast, the mystic deliberately offers himself to the blast and may go to pieces.

Like the priest, the artist is a master of metaphorical language. The priest, however, is vocationally committed to a vocabulary already coined, of which he is the representative. He is a performing artist executing scripts already perfectly wrought, and his art is in the execution. Creative artists, in contrast, are creative only in so far as they are innovative. And of their innovations, two degrees are readily distinguished. One, the more immediately obvious, has to do with technical innovations; the other with innovative insights.”

– p. 121


The pornographic nature of art intended to foster desire

“Art that excites desire Joyce calls pornographic. All advertising art is in this sense pornographic, since it is intended that the viewer should desire to possess in some manner the object represented.”

– p. 123


The “proper” artist as revolutionary prophet, and mirror for the social mask

“For nature, as we know, is at once without and within us. Art is the mirror at the interface. So too is ritual; so also myth. These, too, ” bring out the grand lines of nature,” and in doing so, reestablish us in our own deep truth, which is at one with that of all being.

So that the artist, functioning in this “proper” way, is the true seer and prophet of his century, the justifier of life and as such, of course, a revolutionary far more fundamental in his penetration of the social mask of the day than any idealist fanatic spilling blood over the pavement in the name simply of another unnatural mask.”

– p. 132


The sublime nature of art that cleanses

“The word ” catharsis” (Greek katharsis; from kathairein, “to cleanse”) which in Aristotle’s usage denotes the effect of tragedy as “effecting through pity and terror a katharsis of these emotions,” was a term which referred in the Greek religious vocabulary to a spiritual transformation brought about by participation in a rite. The mind, “cleansed” of attachments may merely secular aims, desires, and fears, is released to a spiritual rapture. Plato writes of katharsis, for example, as a “defeat of the sensation of pleasure.” The ultimate effect, that is to say, is not to be of beauty (which when seen pleases), but of the sublime (outreaching human comprehension).”

– p. 134


The degradation of art, myth, and religion, and the artist as deliverer

“The question finally at issue, however, is not of individual psychology, alienation, and resentment, but of the irreducible conflict of metaphysics vis-à-vis morals within the jurisdiction, not only of art, but of myth, religion, and social action as well. For during the course of the nineteenth century, the separation of those two opposed orders of human experience, concern, and fulfillment became in the west exaggerated to such a degree by the radical materialism of the increasingly industrialized megalopolitan centers of mass intelligence and democratization, that anything like the functional grounding of a social order in a mythology (so that individuals of whatever social class, participating in the metaphorical festivals, should become joined with all in a profoundly shared experience of the ground and sense of their lives) simple disappeared into irrelevance. And with that, the proper artist lost his function. Today’s pitiful contracts to invent monuments commemorating local-historical events and personages are hardly compatible to the earlier challenges of art, to break through the walls of a culture to eternity. Thus, the only true service of a proper artist today will have to be to individuals: returning them to forgotten archetypes, les grandes lignes de la nature, which have been lost to view behind a cloud contending Jeremy Benthamoid philosophies of the greatest [economic] good to the greatest number.

– p. 144