“What’s the most sinful thing you can think of?” was the question posed by the theatrical and bearded orator to an audience of children between the ages of 8 and 15, and myself. I’ve only been to one ‘religious’ retreat into the wilderness in my life, and I assure you I did not go to be confined to small room filled with a raucous legion of highly adrenalized youth or to watch a theatrical bearded man shout inspirational quotes at me; no, I went because my friends were going, and what better opportunity to escape the mundane then to camp in the middle of nowhere. Camping is like slapping the privileges of a developed economy in the face and for a few days reliving the primal realities of our ancestors, updated, of course, by North Face gear. Camping is not for the comfort-loving, surely the creators of such products as the Snuggie, memory foam, and reclining chairs frowned upon the activity. None the less, here I was watching this bearded man dancing around the stage as I was zoning out and thinking about how badly I wanted to be in China, or in Jordan, or anywhere but there. My eyes were on him but my brain was elsewhere.
When “What’s the most sinful thing you can think of?” was asked, I suddenly flashed back to reality. I was curious to hear how these little bastards were going to respond to the question. I’m sure if the same question were posed to a room full of males ages 14+, I presume the answers would fall into a small handful of categories. But little kids, they’re unpredictable. You never know how they’re going to take mundane situations and twist them into some incredibly cute and “aw” inducing scenarios.
Alas, one little gremlin shouted, “A CHOCOLATE MOUNTAIN!!!!!!” And it suddenly became the single most precious moment I have experienced in my 27 years of experienced moments. A chocolate mountain, the most sinful thing this little kid could think of. I wish the real world was truly a projection of this little guy’s imagination. If the most sinful thing you could think of was a chocolate mountain we would be living in a very jovial, albeit toothless, society.
I was at work the other day listening to my colleagues discuss shooting guns and how you shouldn’t “give a city kid things that belong in the countryside.” Not a typical conversation I assure you. What struck me though is that, technically, I am from the country. I’m not a city kid at all. Matter of fact, I’m probably more rural American than you reading this right now. I was raised in the country, rode many times in the bed of a pickup truck, bailed hay on a farm, milked cows, and partook in many a banter about the “ivory tower east coasters.” It’s a funny juxtaposition, the city versus the country. I see the value in each. I see the enriching cultural experience that the city brings, and the world of opportunity that it provides. I also love the isolation of the country, the solitude and serenity achieved through rolling green plains, farm fields, and an absence of distraction. I appreciate the ignorance to materialism achieved through living in a blue-collar and isolated society. I didn’t know what H&M was until I moved to Minneapolis at the age of 22. And now, suddenly, what was a wardrobe of Oshkosh B’gosh has now become a wardrobe of very tight fitted H&M clothing. Think Anderson Cooper in a black t-shirt if you’re trying to get some mental imagery. At least that’s what I think I look like.
New York city is honestly a city just like any other city, it just has 10x the number of distractions of any other city. Before I even step outside of my apartment I’m bombarded with marketing, images of sex, alcohol, cologne, designer clothing, and a boatload of other things. What I’m coming to realize is the degree to which we’re influenced by our surroundings. Culture and environment permeate into our conscious and more so our unconscious. We’re deeply affected by the people we live with, the city we’re in, and the social environment that we create for ourselves. The other day I was at Uniqlo thinking to myself, “What the fuck am I doing at Uniqlo?” Being around trendy people all the time, I’ll catch myself spending more time thinking about how to improve my appearance, how to be more trendy, and as a result essentially waste time mulling over things that are honestly an illusion. Looks matter, don’t get me wrong, matter of fact when I started wearing hairspray, cologne, and boots at the age of 23 my life and people’s reactions towards me absolutely and perceptibly flipped. But my concern is devoting too much of my well-being and daily stream of consciousness on looks instead of more gripping realities.
I’ve been reading We, Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love which is written by a Jungian analyst, and attempts to dissect the Western notion of ‘romantic love’ through the story of Tristan and Isolde, deconstructing the story using many of Carl Jung’s theories and frameworks. I feel pretentious, so I’m going to rephrase what I just said in more layperson terminology. This book is blowing my freaking mind. Honestly, I haven’t read a book in a long time that has truly made me think and act in a different way. If Carl Jung was still alive, I would likely try to email him in an attempt to give him my salam. The last time I emailed someone I liked, I got an industrial size box of nachos and Doritos out of it (thanks Axiom foods!). I’ve studied and heard of him through K-12 and in college, but I never really invested a lot of time on him specifically. This book has really opened my eyes to his line of thought, and I find myself clawing at learning more about him. The last time I couldn’t close a book was when I was reading We Learn Nothing by Tim Krieder, and before that The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and before that those Choose Your Own Adventure books – damn I loved those things so much. But I’ve been so moved by Carl that I bought his book last week, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. I’m pining to start reading it. His ideas about the unconscious and the collective unconscious are amazing.
The way Robert Johnson describes the conscious and unconscious is through the imagery of a small island created and adrift in the middle of a vast blue ocean. He writes that the conscious mind is the island, which is essentially born out of years of construction by the unconscious and has become the small platform from which we function. But even bigger than our perception, than our consciousness, exists this massive unconscious. This is a wealth of knowledge, ideas, creativity, and thoughts that envelopes our consciousness. He writes further that the interface or channel of communication between the conscious and unconscious mind is through the medium of symbols. Symbols that manifest themselves in different ways, and beckon us to learn more about ourselves. The perception and heeding of these symbols is persistently suppressed by Western culture, as Western culture has seemingly become spirituality averse. We’re conditioned at an early age to regard anything metaphysical as unreal an unncessary. Carl Jung believed the soul is a real, tangible thing. Something that actually exists and that lives within our unconscious, functioning like an organ. All of this, is quite incredible.
Have I mentioned how much I’m crushing over Russell Brand? As Russell Brand says, spirituality and meditation are made out by the mainstream to be a luxury. But they aren’t a luxury – we all need to live spiritual lives, all of us. And as Muhammad Asad writes in his book, The Road to Mecca, we live in a world where, by all measures, success is defined by the accumulation of material wealth. We came into this world crying and naked. Now, ideally, when you were born was the first and last time that you’ve been naked and crying at the same time – if this has happened to you since then, I’m truly sorry and I hope whatever problems ail you will soon find resolve. But it’s hard to remember that when we die, we will return to our original destiation, exactly where we started, with nothing more than the unconscious within ourselves. Everything that we have and have loved will surely be dead and will not, unfortunately, be coming with us in our journey back ‘home’. My understanding is that H&M does not exist in the afterlife.
Watching and re-watching Russell Brand’s interviews and thoughts on things, I’m drawing a connection between Jung’s theories and Russell Brand’s punditry. Russell Brand talks a lot about yoga and meditation, and how he now has access to “unseen realms of power and creativity,” and to me that sounds like tapping into the same unconscious proposed by Carl Jung. Just imagining this vast ocean of the unconscious within myself is empowering for me. And when I reflect on it in any situation where I’m uncomfortable or uneasy, and I find a real sudden sense of calm. I want to spend a lot more time learning and reflecting on this idea of the unconscious. Suddenly the age old saying, “To know yourself is to know God” is beginning to make some sense to me. What if we inherit the ideas and philosophies of our ancestors through a collective unconscious. What if there are symbols within ourselves that we haven’t learned to recognize, symbols and ideas that could translate into confidence, wisdom, and happiness. Depending on Carl Jung’s background, sense of style, and sense of humor, he may be joining the ranks of my man crushes, of my many bromances.
I’ve written much too much, gotten through two cups of coffee, and right now a pretty girl from across the coffeeshop has looked at me twice so sadly I must depart my blogs sad readership of two people (hi mom, Amy) and introduce myself to a new human being. Farewell & be happy. Oh and buy, We, Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love
Here we are confronted with a paradox that baffles us, yet we should not be surprised to discover that romantic love is connected with spiritual aspiration – even with our religious instinct – for we already know that courtezia, at its very beginning so many centuries ago, was conceived of as a spiritual love, a way of loving that spiritualized a knight and his lady, and raised them above the ordinary and the gross to an experience of another world, an experience of soul and spirit. Romantic love began as a path of spiritual aspiration; unconsciously, we seek that same path in romantic love today. The reality that hides in romantic love is the fact of spiritual aspiration; the truth that the Western man unconsciously and involuntarily seeks in romantic love is the inner truth of his own soul. The Western man, without realizing it, is caught in a question for wholeness and against his wish, is pulled inexorably by a vision of the universal and the eternal. But it is in the image of women, seen through the lens of romantic love, that he invests his quest and his vision.
happy when I’m working on my hobbies. Before reading on, click and listen to this beautifully tragic song off of the Twilight soundtrack (yeah, SO WHAT). I spent this weekend learning a new music production software (Logic Pro, y’dig), made a hot track IN that new music production software, re-registered for vocal lessons in NYC, and started programming a new website (EmoBoost.com, more deets later), in addition to nearly completing the University of Wisconsin MSA Alumni database I’ve been meaning to write for a while.
And a note from James Altucher…
When I was 27 I had yet to do (or even start) anything or any path that eventually led to future successes. I had not started any companies. I later started over 10. I had not written any published books. I later published 10 and have another 5 this year. I had yet to be asked my opinion on anything important. I had yet to date someone I loved. I had yet to have kids. I had yet to travel to many of the countries I’ve since traveled to.
Most importantly, I had yet to massively fail. I did that all through my 30s.
Here are other examples of people who found great success not only after the age of 27, but after the age of 45:
Rodney Dangerfield didn’t succeed in comedy until his 40s. One of the funniest guys ever, he was an aluminum siding salesman. And then he had to start his own comedy club, Dangerfields, in order to actually perform as a comedian. He chose himself to succeed! But not until his 40s.
Ray Kroc was a milkshake salesman into his 50s. Then he stumbled onto a clean restaurant that served a good hamburger run by two brothers with the last name McDonald. He bought McDonalds when he was 52.
Henry Miller wrote his first big novel, Tropic of Cancer, at age 40.
Raymond Chandler, the most successful noir novelist of all time, wrote his first novel at age 52. But he was young compared with Frank McCourt, who won the Pulitzer for his first novel, Angela’s Ashes, written when he was 66. And, of course, Julia Child was a young 50 when she wrote her first cookbook.
One of my favorite writers of all time: Stan Lee, created the entire universe for which he is known for: the Marvel Universe, when he was 44, inventing the characters Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, etc.
If you don’t like to kill people but still need a weapon, consider the Taser, invented by Jack Cover when he was 50. He didn’t sell a single one until he was 60.
If you like restaurant reviews you might have read Zagats. Started by Tim Zagat who quit his job as a lawyer in order to create the book of reviews when he was 51.
Harry Bernstein was a total failure when he wrote his best selling memoir, “The Invisible Wall”. His prior 40 (Forty!) novels had been rejected by publishers. When his memoir came out he was 93 years old. A quote from him: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book, God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”
Peter Roget was a mediocre doctor who was finally forced to retire in his early 70s. But he became obsessed with words that have similar meanings. Was his “purpose” as a medical practitioner or as a guy who could play with words? Do you know him as a doctor or as the author of Roget’s Thesaurus which he wrote when he was 73.
When I was in college I ate Ramen noodles every day. One time in a grocery store a woman tried to tell me they were the worst thing I could eat. Really? Like worse than eating a brick, for instance? That was when I was 19. Now I’m 45. It didn’t hurt me that much that I ate Ramen noodles for an entire year because it was the only thing I could afford. If something costs 25 cents and has a few slivers of peas in it then its ok by me. Meanwhile, the inventor of Ramen noodles didn’t invent it until he was 48 years old. Thank god for him!
(I would have died of starvation if not for the guy who invented this).
Charles Darwin was a little bit “off” by most standards. He liked to just collect plants and butterflies on remote islands in the Pacific. And then he wrote Origin of Species when he was 50.
To top it all off, Henry Ford was a failure at his first Model T car, invented when he was 45, because he didn’t yet have the productivity efficiencies of the assembly line, which he developed when he was 60.
This is not meant to be inspirational. You might never have your “great” thing that you do. I’m not even saying “it’s the journey that one should love”. Because some journeys are very painful. And nobody says you get special marks in death if you wrote a great novel at the age of 50. Or came up with a great chicken, or a way to stuff lots of people into factories.
I’ve stumbled and fallen and got up and survived enough that I’m sick of goals and purposes and journeys. I want to cut out the middleman. The journey. The desperation and despair that thinking of a “purpose” entails. Fuck purpose. It’s ok to be happy without one. You don’t need to pay with lots of unhappiness to buy happiness.
Meanwhile, Harlan Sanders made such a great chicken that even though he had barely made a dime off of it (that would happen 15 years later), at the tender age of 45 the Governor of Kentucky made Sanders an honorary colonel.
Last week i turned 45 years old. So there’s still hope for me.
It is the primary psychological problem of our Western culture. Carl Jung said that if you find the psychic wound in an individual or a people, there you also find their path to consciousness, For it is in the healing of our psychic wounds that we come to know ourselves.