Passages: Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl

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

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

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over 150 pages, many of the passages I have selected are related more to the psychological value of the book than its historical content.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


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

– p. 44

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

– p. 55

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

– p. 66

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

– p. 67

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

– p. 69

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

– p. 70

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

– pp. 71-72

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

– pp. 72-73

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

….

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

– pp. 73-74

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

– p. 74

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

– p. 76

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

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

– p. 77

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

– p. 80

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

– pp. 98-99

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

– p. 99

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

– pp. 104-105

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

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

– pp. 108-109

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

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

– pp. 109-110

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

– pp. 111-112

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

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

– p. 113

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

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

– pp. 121-122

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

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

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

(Act II, Scene II, Line 32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loomings: My Life and Dreams

I come here for pharmakon, the healing act of writing: I need it as I’m rediscovering myself as an adult, seeing my light and dark in their full brilliance. And, really, I just want to trust myself, that I will follow my inner voice.

Fear can make people do funny things. It’s made me forget myself, shy from deepest dreams, and do things I hate – for far. too. long.

This is the beauty of being overwhelmed. This is the beauty of feeling like you don’t want to carry on in this way. This is the call to go into the wild again; for, often, in our quest to stay within our comfort zones, we end up massively, painfully uncomfortable.

Anyone who has worked hard to pay their bills month in and month out, and has woken up miserable one day, and asked themselves, ‘Why the fuck am I doing this?’, knows exactly what I am talking about.

I am reminded of the opening to Moby Dick, in the appropriately titled first chapter, ‘Loomings’:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago–never mind how long precisely –having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

It is a damp, drizzly November in my soul.

And though I ran off “to sea” after high school by joining the Navy, it is surprising I – who loved ships and men and sailing as a child – ended up a fucking pale computer nerd rather than a salt-tanned sailor. But there is still time. I’m just ready to get out of my “comfort zone” – or perhaps it’s just changing. But this is no longer comfortable.

I have made myriad mistakes in life. In-fact, I have gotten very few things right.

Books. Writing. The Ocean. These are my original loves. These are the places where I am my own again. Where I am whole and home.

Frankly, the most challenging thing about these 2.5 years I’ve spent in the mountains has not been the isolation, but the people.

As a non-binary liberal, I’m just not in a place where I am very accepted, much less all that welcome.

Yet here I am. In my house full of books. Alone. And it almost works. But it doesn’t.

Perhaps if I didn’t work. If I were only writing. That would work. Only, I work – a ton – and way too hard, for way too little.

I ended up in the same trade as my father: building websites. And I fucking hate it. Firstly, spending an obscene amount of time hunched over a screen is not natural.

In the words of Mystic Mac (Connor McGregor), “Machines don’t use machines.”

He is speaking about the naturalness of using body weight or free weight exercises, which have made him a “machine”, like a Jaguar, lean and powerful, as opposed to the unnatural nature of using “machines” in the gym, which will never turn one into a true machine. So, “machines don’t use machines.”

And I think about that. How much I would love if the only time I sat at my desk was to write. Rather than the up till now arrangement where I spent long, unrewarding workdays staring at a screen, punching keys. It’s very 1984.

Society is, after all, an incredibly shrewd machine, designed to spit out the lowest paying work for you – and in exchange for all of your time, society gives you the bare basics: a roof, food. We: the grinding gears of capitalism. Ground up and spit out.

It’s called a “rat race” as a takeaway from a laboratory experiment, in which two rats race each other for a piece of cheese. But they have used so much energy, the cheese isn’t even really worth its calories.

Sound familiar?

Life can really be like this. How the fuck do we work for years sometimes with nothing to show for it? Bad decisions. Maybe. But it’s also just the system. You are racing against all the other rats for the same cheese.

And if you are, say, an artist, cheese may not even be your goal. Your art is. So, now you have another problem: time.

Only, the time equation is compounded with another: stress, discontentment; any artist not practicing their craft knows the reality of these feelings.

So, now you’re basically living a life that is very ill-suited to your nature, your temperament, and your talent. It may even be contrary to those things.

It hurts. Trust me.

And so, here we are.

I’ve wanted to just work through it. I’ve wanted to “beat this level,” so to speak.

And I still feel like I have to.

The New York Times has an interesting piece about escaping the office for hands on work, and one of the most interesting lines is this:

Matthew Crawford, a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia and the author of the 2015 book “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction,” sees good sense at work among those who leave office jobs for something more concrete-seeming. The reason? Much white-collar work has become similar to assembly-line work, comprising a series of mindless tasks.

Ding ding! Bingo.

The mindlessness of programming along with the mental bandwidth required simply just aren’t worth it. Then where is left my energy to write? I’m brain dead after. Forget time to read….

As was said of one person in the article above, who left graphic design for stone masonry, as he was being “driven mad by the monotony of moving fonts around on a screen and designing restaurant menus.”

“I was giving myself up all those years to this idea that graphic design was my only choice,” Mr. Kelley said. “I went to college for it. And it really emotionally brought me down.”

Brother, I get it. I suspect many people in desk jobs get it. I don’t want to escape a desk job, I want to escape the “oppressive computermatron.” I want to spend my time writing prose, not code.

I’m reminded of Jack London’s wonderful novel, Martin Eden, in which Martin, trying to become a writer, gets a job at a high volume laundry:

But there was little time in which to marvel.  All Martin’s consciousness was concentrated in the work.  Ceaselessly active, head and hand, an intelligent machine, all that constituted him a man was devoted to furnishing that intelligence.  There was no room in his brain for the universe and its mighty problems.  All the broad and spacious corridors of his mind were closed and hermetically sealed. 

Here, the main character faces the same problem I now have.

But it was only at rare moments that Martin was able to think.  The house of thought was closed, its windows boarded up, and he was its shadowy caretaker.  He was a shadow. 

As his boss tells him:

“Rest.  You don’t know how tired you are.  Why, I’m that tired Sunday I can’t even read the papers.  I was sick once—typhoid.  In the hospital two months an’ a half.  Didn’t do a tap of work all that time.  It was beautiful.”

“It was beautiful,” he repeated dreamily, a minute later.

Oh, how I can relate. My own Yung Lean style breakdown early this year afforded me a similar escape from work.

But Martin Eden gets no escape, so he drinks:

He forgot, and lived again, and, living, he saw, in clear illumination, the beast he was making of himself—not by the drink, but by the work.  The drink was an effect, not a cause.  It followed inevitably upon the work, as the night follows upon the day.  Not by becoming a toil-beast could he win to the heights, was the message the whiskey whispered to him, and he nodded approbation.  The whiskey was wise.  It told secrets on itself.

And finally, he decides to chuck it in:

By God, I think you’re right!  Better a hobo than a beast of toil.  Why, man, you’ll live.  And that’s more than you ever did before.”

And he quits, resolved to go to sea:

At first, Martin had done nothing but rest.  He had slept a great deal, and spent long hours musing and thinking and doing nothing.  He was like one recovering from some terrible bout of hardship.  The first signs of reawakening came when he discovered more than languid interest in the daily paper.  Then he began to read again—light novels, and poetry; and after several days more he was head over heels in his long-neglected Fiske.  His splendid body and health made new vitality, and he possessed all the resiliency and rebound of youth.

Ruth showed her disappointment plainly when he announced that he was going to sea for another voyage as soon as he was well rested.

“Why do you want to do that?” she asked.

“Money,” was the answer.  “I’ll have to lay in a supply for my next attack on the editors.  Money is the sinews of war, in my case—money and patience.”

“But if all you wanted was money, why didn’t you stay in the laundry?”

“Because the laundry was making a beast of me.  Too much work of that sort drives to drink.”

She stared at him with horror in her eyes.

“Do you mean—?” she quavered.

It would have been easy for him to get out of it; but his natural impulse was for frankness, and he remembered his old resolve to be frank, no matter what happened.

“Yes,” he answered.  “Just that.  Several times.”

She shivered and drew away from him.

“No man that I have ever known did that—ever did that.”

“Then they never worked in the laundry at Shelly Hot Springs,” he laughed bitterly.  “Toil is a good thing.  It is necessary for human health, so all the preachers say, and Heaven knows I’ve never been afraid of it.  But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and the laundry up there is one of them.  And that’s why I’m going to sea one more voyage.  It will be my last, I think, for when I come back, I shall break into the magazines.  I am certain of it.”

She was silent, unsympathetic, and he watched her moodily, realizing how impossible it was for her to understand what he had been through.

“Some day I shall write it up—‘The Degradation of Toil’ or the ‘Psychology of Drink in the Working-class,’ or something like that for a title.”

Oh, yes, Jack London, I understand your Martin Eden well. Too well.

So, my desk job, programming, is my laundry, and the degradation of toil has taken its toll on me.

Only, I don’t see myself running off to sea. I moved here, to the mountains, to write. Only, two years supporting us before we broke up, and I worked a lot and wrote little. Now I have been alone four months, and there has been no big magic. Just more toil. More degradation.

But, alas, wherever you go there you are.

I have never lived anywhere two and a half years as an adult. And I don’t just want to run away; although, I miss my family deeply, having come to realize recently that I have not been there for them: the most important people in my life.

So, here I am. And it’s very uncomfortable.

I’m 33 and still figuring out how to make it work.

As part of my personal mythology, I have come to view technology as a kind of enslavement. An uncaring machine focused only on your output. As a futurist, I lean towards neo-Luddite views.

The Luddites arose in response to the rise of machines in factories in the early 19th century. Eccentric weaver Ned Ludd smashed his loom and became a folk hero. Other workers rose up, calling themselves “Luddites.” And soon factory owners were having Luddites shot, and military force finally stopped the movement.

So, a neo-Luddite, is one who is opposed to technology on moral grounds.

As someone who has wasted years of my life writing code, with nothing to show for my work, no freedom, I can’t help but feel pulled toward wanting to smash my own machines (When I had my breakdown, I did, in-fact, smash my laptop).

But the house of cards rose up again, and I am yet hounded via email and text, by my clients 7 days a week.

And I thought I could balance it. Thought I could just work hard, wake early, and write.

After having revisited Martin Eden, I feel like this goal of intellectual work / writing duality and balance is less and less realistic.

I only have so much bandwidth and the toil takes its toll. So, what am I to do?

Well, I’m here tonight, spending my Saturday night on this. This entry is an alchemical effort for me to see what I need to see.

It’s just so difficult to escape our own matrices. I thought I could gain healthy self-esteem by paying my bills. I thought I would gain my own respect and feel solid. But I feel like Bukowski, after ten arduous, soul-crushing years in the post office:

“I have one of two choices—stay in the post office and go crazy . . . or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

I think there is something noble in that.

Of course, I have already starved. And it wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t losing my shit and smashing my laptop.

Of course, there is the question of living. I don’t think I want to go sleep on a park bench. That’s not what my soul needs.

But I need to do something to escape the laundry, the toil and the toll.

If I were less of an introvert, I would have taken up roommates long ago. I have a 3 bedroom and live alone, but I am not much for living with others. Especially having lived with others so much in my 20s.

Taking back the means of production by building a business makes sense, only, my last two business did not succeed – despite how much I believed in them and the countless hours I put into them. So, I returned to building websites. Only, you suddenly become an employee with multiple bosses. Pulled apart in all sorts of directions, with a 24 hour workload that never actually ends. There is no, “Okay boss, we completed the tile job.” No, websites are never done.

I do have a business I want to build, and perhaps this is my last chance to try and regain control of the machine. As one youtuber said, “You have to sacrifice to regain the means of production.”

Starting a business qualifies. Also, writing books. Only, there is no promise of recompense with books. Only a firm sense of destiny. Although, there is neither promise of success with a business.

My plan has been to build this business as a means to “own my time”.

And maybe I just need to go once more into the fray. Frankly, I’m not sure I have it in me. I have been basically building websites now for the last nine years.

And I’ve had my stories ready to write for the last six. And I only nearly have one finished. And there are far bigger, more exciting stories I have to tell.

So, what am I to do? Let it all fall down around me? I have done that. Seems to be a pattern after each of my breakups. I am not interested in repeating the past any further. I get it: I need to be by myself.

I’m just in pain over my work. The stress of it. Clients expecting me to jump on the phone and spend my Saturday working. Total bullshit. And I did it to myself. Because I wanted to pay my goddamn bills.

And really, money is the root of it. I have to work in accordance to my demands. And, as I have already said, I moved here to lower them. Only, it didn’t work. I couldn’t support S and the dogs by myself. But god did I try. She knows how hard I worked.

Only, I struggled. And struggle will end most modern relationships. It’s simply too easy to find someone else. And the world is larger than ever before. If we only had 10% of the current world’s population on earth today, we would still have more people on earth than we did in the 1700s. What I’m saying is: in three-hundred years, the world’s population has exploded tenfold.

So, I think that, existentially, we live in an incredibly challenging time of rapid change. Humans never had these problems. And change is so rapid today, that we cannot even imagine the world five-hundred years from now, or even fifty years from now. I grew up before cell-phones. Soon, the phone will dematerialize into the user, as the UI becomes a part of us. And inequality will only get worse. But the system seems to work. Give them cell-phones, cars, Netflix, legal weed, Amazon / Wal-Mart, and in exchange, they’ll give you most of their waking hours. This is most of us. And if you think you’re special or somehow outside of this, you may have had some advantages…

Where we are born and who our parents are determines much of our trajectory in life. I was born to poor parents and in no way intend to continue that cycle with my own potential children. But a lot of people do, they have kids in lives they don’t like, and they essentially relegate their offspring to similar fates.

If you think I’m being too fatalistic, I recommend you take a good hard look at the world and the different class strata. People are simply born on different levels. Not to say you can’t “rise” – you can, and you can certainly “fall,” but it takes much more work to rise than to fall.

To rise, we need to establish a few things:

1. You will die, so don’t fear taking chances.

2. The means of production must be taken back from the masters (Meaning, you have to start a business or a means to produce something you can sell, rather than selling yourself or your time).

3. Your means must passively cover your expenses in order to free up your time to do what you love.

Imagine how many successes there are because select people were free to do what they loved… look at the bios of your favorite artistic heroes, there is even a classist ceiling there. The point isn’t that life is unfair, but that you need to give yourself the opportunity to succeed.

Look at my situation, I have tried and failed to give myself the opportunity to succeed as a writer. I’m still seeking out the opportunity. As any wage slave knows, you rent yourself out and do not own your own time, meaning, you don’t really own yourself. Hence, you have ‘masters’ (“clients” / “supervisors” ) and are not the master of yourself.

If you love what you are doing, this is not necessarily a problem. But if you loathe what you do, oh boy, you’re in some deep shit. And this is not a good place to be, because our time here is limited. The clock is running.

So, this the perfect time to think long and hard about dying:

Imagine you know you are dying. What do you want to do? Probably sure as shit not what you’re doing. You probably want to be with family, friends, lovers. Now imagine you’re dying and you never changed, never did what you loved. How much do you regret it, now that your time is up? ‘Immensely’ wouldn’t even begin to describe it. And if you could go back and change your life, you would.

But you can. There is yet still time.

So, what are you going to do Lawrence?

Well, once more into the fray.

I’ll put my heart and soul into the two difficult projects I have on my plate now and finish up with them (November)

I’ll beef up my portfolio and sell 2-3 large projects. (Dec-Feb).

I’ll then use a month to build the means of production to reclaim my time (AI based lead gen).

Provided this last step works, I’ll own my time.

From here, I need to decide where I am moving – the mountains are serving their purpose but it has been a self-imposed exile of sorts, and I miss my family.

I had been planning to move to LA, which I think will suit me, but I know it will only suit me provided I spend some time each month in San Diego as well.

This is big stuff but I have to see it in my mind’s eye. The third eye.

Where romantic love was once the impetus of my actions in life, those emotions have since been blunted in the face of knowing that no one can love me more than I love myself. And getting the relationship right with me will pave the way for any future romantic journeys.

My family is really important to me. And right now, I hear Churchill’s words:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

A younger me would cast off the lines and “go to sea”, so to speak, but I owe myself my most dogged determination toward my vision. What I laid out above is not a new plan. It’s my vision, and I think it will work.

It just seems to me that there is something to being closer than you think.

There are going to be obstacles. There are still unknowns that need to be resolved.

There could be a setback or two. But I can’t throw in the towel. My first tattoo was ‘n.g.u.’: never give up. I can’t think that is without significant meaning. If I gave up on my vision, who would I be: I wouldn’t be me.

But I’ll be damned if I pass the time idly and am still a servant to the oppressive computermatron a year from now. I’m too damn old and life’s too damn short.

I just watched ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ again, a movie that is deep to my personal myth, as significant as is ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’.

One of the functions of myth is to teach us to survive, and how to live a life, and what to expect.

To me, the most poignant part of Benjamin Button is this scene:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

And I want to live a life I am proud of.

And if I find that I’m not, I want to have the courage to start all over again.

I know the big goals I have for my fiction. Those will not change. How I get there, however, may.

Mindsight: Going Back to The Start

The imagination is the greatest ability we have – for what may be born of dreams extends far beyond the reaches of the eye, which is limited by our reality – yet the bounds of reality extend far beyond the morrow, all the way into the clouds and past the horizon. Mindsight – our ability to see past today, past practicality, beyond the abyss of fear and the cove of doubt – this is the key that unlocks doors where others see walls. It is through this magic of evolution that we may dream while we are awake, seeing what others do not.

If you think this is the stuff of mere daydreaming, fancies and whatnot, then you, my friend, are seriously shortchanging yourself.

Things do not happen by mere chance: that couple that is going to make love tomorrow on the yacht of their dreams, you think that is mere fortune? No. That, my friends, is the product of a dream, a plan, a goal, and, of course, hard work.

The problem is, most people confine their dreams to their resources rather than letting their dreams detemine them. If your dreams do not guide your reality, as a needle does a thread, your reality will guide your dreams. Unfortunately, most people lose their ability to dream – both through lack of use and the normal setbacks of life. We’ve all given up at some level.

That last sentence is heartwrenching, isn’t it.

You see – dreams need to be curated, protected, and evolved, but the difficulty is that we live in a society that applies immense pressure on us; our values, our goals, and our desires are constantly being dictated to us by our peers, our parents, and ultimately our fraglie and insecure egos.

I hit a point last year when I realized my dreams weren’t even mine.

They belonged to an ex or someone I felt I needed to best, or my wish to gain approval from someone who doesn’t matter. Ayn Rand was right; selfishness is a virtue. Luckilly, I can still afford to be selfish: no wife. No kids. No limits. It sounds absurd but it’s true; if you’re out there and you’re feeling sorry for yourself about being single, you are seeing it all wrong. No, you can write your own ticket.

But most of us, single or taken, struggle with this – with determining what is we really, truly want.

The irony, and the key to unlocking the mystery within us, lies in the past; before society replaced our dreams with things: flat TV’s, great shoes, nice cars, a great place, this is adult shit. Children, on the other hand, know better. We all know better. We’ve just forgotten.

Go back in time. Remember when you were a child. Remember that thing you did that made the hours pass like minutes. The thing that dissolved reality into a mere sidenote. That; the call you stopped answering a long, long time ago still lives within you, and if you pick it back up, it will ring as true today as it did on afterschool afternoons twenty years ago. It’s 1995, and you are on the floor in your room looking at a book, feeling like you just set foot on the moon. Fast forward ten years and you were working in a call center not even realizing what happened to you. Five years later and you just wanted what others had. It’s a sad story, but it’s the story of an adult life. Wrought down by the weight of living, we forgot what we loved. We traded in our dreams for flat screen TVs, twenty inch rims on our leased SUVs.

It is time to reach back in time and take back the light that once kindled your soul.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

Awaken. Please.

I am begging you, as the pain I brought on my soul has long begged of me.

I write this because today I am taking full responsibility for my childhood dreams: I own them once again, and I am no longer owned by the pressure of society, a pressure no child really knows.

When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than books and boats. I read every book in my school library on sailing, even Kon-Tiki. Dove, Spray, Adrift – you name it. I remember one day, while reading a story of sailors eating hard-tack at sea, just wishing I had some old, stale bread in my kitchen. I just wanted to taste it, I wanted to live it. And for a time, I did.

But then life happened. That drug of love, and the desire to be cool, to be admired, the desire to admire myself for the things society upholds as measures of happiness and success took over.

I’ll save you my autobiography, but at thirty I am once again as bitten by those same bugs as I was at eleven.

It’s an incredibly beautiful and healing thing. This, my friends, is as true to myself as I can be.

Books and boats.

P.s. We may know the dreams most suited to us by the ease and comfort in which we can clearly imagine ourselves in them. So, try them on, until, just like Goldilocks, you find the one that feels just right. So chill out; you had it all figured out as a child. You need only remember. Now go get lost in it. Once more. For your own sake. Don’t let yourself down another day more. You read this, and I wrote this, for a reason.

The Substance of The Soul

Edit: I’m beating myself up after publishing this. It’s not that I don’t like the content, which was inspired by a conversation I had tonight with two new friends. The problem is, this is simply not the right form. There is a reason Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables. I must work on my stories. This comparitively is masturbation. Pleasurable, but not fulfilling. Nonetheless, the following freewritten message written post haste is something worth reading. But it is a tiny star compared to the cosmos brewing within me. Time. Time.

I love nights spent in deep conversation, talking about things that matter. Substance. This is something most lives lack an adequate volume of. Instead they are filled with things that burn our time and waste our minds, and for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?

We live in a world of gains at the expense of the things that make us most human: love, relationships, a connection to something deeper; our entire inner lives are but an abyss. I am one who suspects we fear what’s beneath the surface. After all, the vast majority of our encounters with our soul tend to be painful experiences: breakups, loneliness, rebellion, pain, breakdowns. But these too are aspects of the soul, for no soul is purely calm and peaceful. Like the sea, the disturbances of the soul are found on it’s surface, and the calm rests far beneath, at a depth few reach. A human soul, when brought to light, shines brighter than a thousands suns. I see this light in the faces of babies, animals, and those in love. It’s light stifled by the thinking mind, and thus the souls of most adults have long been snuffed out. But the darkness need not be permanent, for this light may be rekindled. Art, music, dance – even great conversation; any form of honest self-expression brings soul to light.

As Voltaire’s Candide teaches us, we must cultivate our gardens. Only, like Candide, we abandon the garden of the soul in pursuit of our fortunes. And in our neverending pursuit of doing and being more we suffer the cost of our pursuits. Costs we never realize until it’s too late. When I have children, I want them to know they have the power to create themselves; to be rather than to become. To actualize the soul rather than the self.

I believe we are all creators. Only we have been taught to consume. Our values have been twisted by a society ruled by power, by a people obsessed with prestige. It’s the businesses of the world that conscript us from birth to make a living instead of making a life.

Nothing is sacred anymore. All that ever was has vanished under the tide of image, pulled by the endless greed of the ego. For in a modern society it is prefferable to be seen as smart rather than to think for onesself. So we let others define happiness and success for us, and we live according to benchmarks that ring true only in the light of day. Look at me, look at how good I am at life, the bourgeous seem to say.

Our egos and our personas are defined not by our souls but by the times we live in. The values of the human soul are timeless. The values of a society live and die with its people.

What are you giving this world? What are you giving the future. Is your life a good model for others? Do you want for your children what you have for yourself? Do you even want for yourself the life you have?

Modern life isn’t conducive to independent thought. The system is designed to create good workers not great thinkers. After all, good workers can buy good TVs, good cars, and all the other bullshit (aka eventual junk) we have been programmed to exchange our lives for.

I can’t change the world alone. But I believe together we can. If each of us lived a life true to the values of our souls, the world would be a beautiful place. This isn’t just about getting to paint, eat organic salads, and make love. This is about being part of a system that has enough money to feed starving children, real humans with real names. A system that places profits over people. A system that ignores the plight of 200,000 Koreans in concentration camps in order to maintain diplomacy with China for capitalist gains.

This system is fucked up. You are a part of it. Are you really going to let yourself be another brick in the wall? Is this all your life is worth?

These are just thoughts written on a Saturday night by a guy in a warm bed. But they are part of a human life, the life I am living. A life I want to use rather than be used. While society may call me a misanthrope, I don’t think it can ignore my voice. This is why I write. This is why my dreams of the self, replete with all the trimmings of a successful life, are secondary to the dreams of my soul – a soul that values inner peace, love, communion, family, truth, beauty, and goodness. A soul like any other.

Under a Blue Moon

Cool on me the eye of heaven shines
In an earthly world where the mortals dine

I can’t question anything,
Anymore or again
I am to be my hero,
My unequaled friend

You know your truth,
Think and speak your voice
Act according to your heart and you’ll never have to make the choice,
Between things and dreams
Unless your heaven is a Rolls Royce

The soul has dreams;
The ego wants
The choice you make leaves the alternative that haunts

What is greater,
To be a consumer or a creator?

Select thine edeavor
And may thee fruits live forever

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

image

Once, while on a certain psychedelic substance (Ambiguous writer is ambiguous), I laid back onto the chaise in my living room and something told me that: I was in the safety of my late twenties. I’m not sure whether it was a prescient notion or an intention; as John Mayer sings: “I am an architect of days that haven’t happened yet.”

Last night I felt something else in my bones: I felt a voice telling me that another love was coming. And in midst of the awe I felt in light of this foretelling, I felt the voice tell me that I had made it through the worst; that I had graduated and grown and that I was going to be okay, I was going to make it.

Then I went to bed and woke up like a thunderbolt at 3:12 am: How quickly a life passes; we are here and we are gone in the blink of an eye, the voice told me. Then suddenly I felt very sleepy again, but I knew I had to get up; I knew I had to ruminate on this, for I knew it was a significant moment in my life, a threshold through which there was no going back to the before.

How quickly a life passes; we are here and we are gone in the blink of an eye.

And yet, we think we can’t do certain things. Bullshit. We must! We have only so many days and just as I woke up thirty, I will wake up sixty. Just as my parents have. And one day, I will be dead; I will die, just as my parent’s parents have.

On a day not unlike any other, I will die. And if I don’t birth them, my dreams will go with me. But alas, while I am here, I have an opportunity to live a life. And this is it. This is life. Today. Tonight. From the cradle to the grave, we live every day of our lives. So what is someday, it’s never. It is now or never. What do you dream of being?

I dream of being a famous writer, famous for the impact I have on the hearts and minds of those who may benefit from the dreams I pursue. And one day – not someday – I will also be a professor. Lit Prof Black.

Lawrence Black, writer. A man of the word, and of his he was. 1985 – ?

So, I must use each day to go toward my goals. To live not like I am dying but to live knowing full well I will be as dead as the cow’s muscle tissue I ate last night between two pieces of toast. Burger meat. An odd metaphor if I’ve ever uttered one, but I am no less mortal than the cow and my death may well mean relatively little more to the world than her’s; my birth certainly wasn’t a great deal to many. And so it is, it’s what happens between birth and death that matters.

And this is where an individual’s personal philosophy comes into play, directing his life. It’s our myths we live, for all the world’s a stage.

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

From Shakespeare’s, As You Like It, Act II Scene VII

Life: it’s ours, in-between our birth and our death. So carpe the fucking shit out of that diem and gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

– Robbert Herrick, 17th century, dead.

Featured image: ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, 1909, by John William Waterhouse, 1849-1927

Poetry: The War is Over

I was stopped short of the start by every worry that ever gripped my heart
Because there’s a kind of squeezing that made me sick,
But there were no days off

Just a weekend’s denial to bury the fear,
I kept it at bay long enough to keep running,
I ran towards the dream:
The dream that one day everything would be okay

But it’s tiring living in the spectrum between fear and assurance,
It’s emotionally taxing to support the war of feelings constantly fought amongst your thoughts
Because it pulls you back on forth on a ride you secretly wish would stop
So you sleep – you lie in darkness,
Anything to shut that part of yourself off

These invisible thieves of joy could never make sense of your feelings,
And you can never find meaning in the nauseous emptiness they leave
Because ancient animal instincts never learned to factor logic into fear and worry
So we’re drowning daily in a flood of chemicals that barely know the difference between run for your life and hurry

So I’m penning a letter to the part of me I used to think was real:

Dear false self,

To all the thoughts that hurt,
To all the feelings that were never a friend –
You never helped me,
You only brought me down in the end

So I’m asking,
Isn’t it time I stopped caring so much about what I think?
Isn’t it time I stopped caring so much about how I feel?

Isn’t it time I let my inner voice do the leading, instead of believing all that my ego wants me to think is real?

Because I’m learning that I’m not what I thought I was,
I’m not what I wanted other people to see;
I’m not what I was, should, or could ever be

I’m simply me

The boy who saw a life of possibility,
The boy who dreamed of being empowered and free
I’m the guy who fell in love, picked my heart back up, and put the song on repeat

It’s time I recognize there are parts of me that would kill me before I could ever manage to manage them
There are parts of me no drug can suppress, and for which even therapy will not put at rest

There are parts of me that will never be free as long as I take them seriously

There are parts of me that given my conscious attention would forever leave me in a state of needing to meditate
These parts have kept me on the run far longer than was ever fun

These parts, forever wanting to get lost,
No matter the pain, never mind the cost

These parts –
These pieces divided
They’ll never be satisfied and they’ll never be decided
They will always measure, always question, and always compare
And following them I’ll forever be waiting on the day when I can finally say I feel alive –
But they’ll never let me arrive

I can’t wait on the day any more

I can’t pretend my life isn’t underway
I can’t keep being creative with the math to say ‘my life’s just begun’

I can no longer dream of the day when my house feels like a home and my thoughts are my soul’s choosing alone
I can no longer wait on the day when my babe will be there for me and I can forgive myself completely

I can no longer be headed home
And this is not a practice run – there’s nothing beyond but the empty unknown

This is it
My running is done and it’s finally up to me,
Not the skin I’m in, nor the eyes through which I see

It’s not my job to set a heart right that will never be ready,
And it’s not my job to calm a mind that will never be steady

So I’m stepping into my soul and no longer vying for control of a body that’s less than I am
I’ve accepted that the deed will never be done and that someday will never come

This is the song of a soul awakening
This is the resignation that I’ll never find an equilibrium between my heart and my brain

This soul is taking the reins – and while it’s not immune – it’s capable of understanding pain (and it doesn’t create it’s own)

I’m no longer a lab rat, chasing equilibrium
My wings are no longer clipped and I’m no longer marooned in a mind that’s waiting on the ship to come in
I’m shedding my skin and answering the call of my pulse

My soul is calling the plays and the fear isn’t as bad as I thought
The war is no longer being fought and tonight I’m finally able to give my all

And I know that never again will my inner voice and my purpose be forlorn by a body so small

This is a song of a soul in control
This is the release of worldly pain
This is the declaration that my inner voice and my purpose are one in the same

The war is over
He is home now
He is free
I’m no longer chasing equilibrium now that my soul is in the driver’s seat

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Poem inspired by the music of John C. Mayer