More

Another pour. The glass clinked against the side of the glass as it slowly filled, the only noise other than the keyboard incessantly typing. In an earlier time, the glass would be filled with something more romantic. Scotch. Cheap whiskey. Maybe a red wine, sans the ice. Today it is filled with water – yes, moving the beverage from one container to another does make me feel more sophisticated.

‘Write drunk, edit sober’ was always terrible advice. Especially when your lifestyle was set up in a way which allotted no time for editing. I’m convinced that ‘Write drunk, edit sober’ was created as a barrier to those more concerned with their image than the actual craft – the type that put ‘sometimes I write things’ in their social media bios. Falsely attributing the quote to Hemingway is the the masterstroke. Every loser thinks they can be Hemingway. Every loser thinks Hemingway is nothing more than a manly persona and plenty of alcohol. He leans back in his seat at the local nonchain coffeshop, fingers sore after collecting the last hour’s bounty of 80 words. He checked his Instagram notifications for the fourth time in fifteen minutes. Seventeen more likes – perfect. He knew the prominently displayed semi-obscure but still recognizable book and pack of American Spirit cigarettes would give his post the extra credibility it deserved. Taking another sip of his latte, he toyed with the thought of pouring another shot of the bourbon he always carried in his hip flask. Better not. Unless…

Sobriety has forced me to relearn the most basic of tasks. Talking to people being one of the more difficult. Realizing there was more to a conversation than having a few drinks, opening my mouth, and allowing words to spill out was almost an alien concept. Realizing that, even further, other people have been doing this all along was even more incredulous. I had been living as does the beast, purely instinctual in my actions – I said what I wanted, ingested what I wanted, did what I wanted. Consequences were non-existent to me because consequences did not provide me any immediate gratification. I was confident enough in my abilities as a seasoned degenerate to handle any potential consequences that ‘drink a lot of whiskey and see what happens’ became the default plan for any given night.

Surprising to nobody but myself (maybe), living solely for the present rewards you solely in the present. I suppose I knew this all along, but I was always a skillful liar – and as conventional wisdom tells us, we are much more convincing while lying to ourselves. I’d dress it up, of course; romanticize it by comparing myself to Bukowski or any other renowned figure that was too cool to care. I’d proudly reminisce over the (many) times I (either by drunken experience or by blind luck) just barely came through a potentially disastrous situation unscathed. I’d lost many things along the way – friends, opportunities, women, etc. But who cares? There were always more.

And there were always more.

 

 

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The Mini-Sabbatical

I truly believe that one of the best (and most underutilized) practices a person can engage in is the periodic sabbatical. Not primarily from work, although that is the most obvious method – a sabbatical from whatever is routine can work wonders for your drive and your creative state. It is largely accepted that humans are creatures of habit, and we can all attest to how easy it is for us to fall into the same old routine day in and day out – and how difficult it can be to break free from this groove.

Periodically throughout my life I’ll feel a gnawing impulse to take a step back begin to grow in my core. There’s never really a catalyst for this feeling; it just begins to appear whenever my subconscious feels it has been doing the same thing for too long. Eventually this urge grows enough to pull me ‘off the grid’ for a period of time. It is common among even my closest friends to hear them complain that I ‘disappear’, sometimes for months at a time. Not because I dislike the people close to me (I hope they realize) but because I’ve learned that by removing every familiar input my brain consistently receives, it strays from the usual path and I emerge on the other side different – having grown.

Habit is a powerful force on the human mind. Many who desire self-improvement have heard the standard wisdom: ‘do something you don’t want to do (make your bed, exercise, write) enough times and eventually you’ll do it consistently’. This works beyond physical habits and chores – think a certain way enough times and you’ll begin to think in that manner consistently (e.g., learning and training. When you analyze situations through a certain lens enough times you’ll begin to use that lens for most other situations you encounter). This is all very useful for professional reasons, but it is important to take a break from that every so often to make sure you aren’t using only that lens in your life. Otherwise, your growth will begin to stagnate; rather than consider events from various points of view, you’ll become further entrenched in your main mode of thinking limiting your full potential for creativity and analysis.


Identify your areas of comfort – were do you find yourself spending most of your leisure time when you have nowhere else to go? Do you spend most of your time with the same circle of friends or peers? Are you active in only a select few online communities? Do you stay informed on current events through sources that typically agree with you? Remove yourself from these environments; not permanently, but for a week or two. Find a new way to occupy your time. Learn from alternative sources. Interact with those you disagree with. You will find that your mind is much more innovative when the same habits and viewpoints aren’t continually reinforced.

This may seem unnecessary or even extreme if one is unaccustomed to this, but keep in mind that a mini-sabbatical is far more common than it appears to be. How many people do you know that get their best work done outside of their home/office? Who hasn’t heard of the writer that retreats into solitude while creating their magnum opus? The artist struck by inspiration while in a foreign land? Immersing yourself in unexpected stimulation is quite possibly the cliche’ way to induce creativity – what makes you think your mind is the exception?

Reading List: Feb 2018

I’m often asked by others for book recommendations, so in the effort of answering as many people at once I’ll be making monthly posts of what I intend to read. These posts will essentially list my immediate ‘To-Read’ list while also detailing why I am interested in the book as well as what first introduced the book to my radar. Hopefully going beyond just listing the books I intend to read will give y’all a better indication if I’d recommend it specifically for your tastes. I’ll also leave a short review (in a separate post) of books from this list I complete and my closing thoughts on the work.

  1. ’12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos’, Jordan B. Peterson
    What Interested Me: Dr. Peterson’s work has long been on my mind ever since I was introduced to him. I first learned of his thoughts from his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, where his words immediately resonated with me. Peterson is a very thoughtful, eloquent speaker and his ideas mostly stem from Jungian psychology regarding archetypes while also warning against the dangers of collectivism. It’s rare that I come across a modern academic whose body of work I feel compelled to dive into (I’m usually more interested in classical thinkers) so I have been looking forward to this book’s release for quite some time.How I Discovered the Book: I am an avid listener of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (perfect for long workouts) and Dr. Peterson has been a featured guest on several occasions. His first appearance should be required listening for most humans in my opinion, and his lectures have reached millions worldwide.
  2. ‘The War of Art’, Steven Pressfield

    What Interested Me: This has been one of the most-recommended books to me that I deeply regret not picking up until now. Often described as ‘essential for any creative’, The War of Art is designed to identify and neutralize the subconscious obstacles impeding the creative process. If you are anything like myself, you will set the book down on multiple occasions as you Steven Pressfield is describing yourself to a T. Rarely has a book left me so fired up to create upon its completion, and I was wholly unsurprised to discover many figures I admired kept multiple copies on hand to gift out to others.How I Discovered the Book: I have heard this book namedropped many times in the recent months, but I’m sure listening to Tim Ferriss has to have been near the first. I’m sure may of you have heard of The War of Art already, and if you spend any amount of time listening to various creatives speak on their craft you will undoubtedly hear it recommended at some point.
  3. ‘Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski’, Theodore J. Kaczynski

    What Interested Me: Sure to be the most controversial addition to this list, Ted Kaczynski’s work has been regarded as brilliant by many who have delved into his writings. Kaczynski’s misdeeds aside (and he did terrible, indefensible things – just to get that out of the way), his views on the encroachment of technology and the future of humanity in relation to technology are many times right on the money. I have recently become very concerned with technology’s effects on humanity and our freedoms, which made my interest in Kaczynski’s writings a logical next step. I know some will be averse to his ideas due to his actions, but I wholeheartedly recommend his writing to any that can keep an open mind and have any interest regarding humanity’s relationship with technological advancement.How I Discovered the Book: Surely all of us are aware of Ted Kaczynski and his actions. Of the many books released containing his manifesto Industrial Society and its Future, I found this collection to be more comprehensive by containing many supporting writings as well.
  4. ‘Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order’, Charles Hill
    What Interested Me: It’s rare that I find a book that encompasses so many of my interests at once; Charles Hill did precisely this with Grand Strategies. The book details the relationship between various classical great texts and the art of statecraft, and the influence each has had on the other. This should pique the interest of anybody with a passion for either (or both), which made this a no-brainer for me. It is likely the most difficult read on this list, taking a more academic approach in its style. Very dense, very well-researched, very interesting.How I Discovered the Book: A guilty (and expensive) pleasure of mine is taking walks around the bookstore, looking for books that catch my eye. One of these trips led me to Grand Strategies, which instantly entered my ‘buy stack’. One of those rare instances where once say the ‘book chose me’.

Stagnation

     I was always happy to reconnect with old friends I’d lost touch with over the years, but in the back of my mind I harbored the fear that life shaped us into completely different people then we once were – that our respective experiences changed our outlooks and personas into two people no longer compatible for friendship. This is always a possibility and indeed is a fact of life, but one can’t help but hope the friendship can continue where it left off. This has been a recurring theme in the recent months, and although I’ve encountered it time and time again I still feel the tinges of that fear when running into a familiar face.

     And yet, this has almost never been the case. When running into old friends, it as though no time had passed at all since our last meeting. Rather than being overjoyed by this (that my fear was all for nothing), I find myself disgusted. ‘How have you not changed?!’ I scream inside my head. Throughout the past five years, not a thing has occurred to change your opinions or personality? How were you left behind as time moved forward?

     This was illustrated when, while catching up with a friend, an acquaintance of his who he had not seen in a similar amount of time approached. Their reunion was also a happy one, and while speaking the stranger embraced my friend saying ‘Man, you haven’t changed a bit’. My friend had the biggest grin upon hearing this (for it was given as a compliment) and I realized that it was indeed accurate. He hadn’t changed a bit. Nothing in recent life has affected nor moved him so that he changed in one small way, and he wore that stagnation as a badge of honor. A quality that is anathema to the concepts of life and growth is taken to be a compliment of the highest honor. Your current weekends are identical to your weekends half a decade ago. Your evenings are still spent using substance to fast forward through your life. You have wrapped a blanket of familiar experience around your body and refuse to leave the safety of your cocoon. And worse yet, your are proud of these things.

    I was foolish to fear that my friends have changed. Now I fear that they stay the same.

Death of Decency

It’s uncontroversial to state that we live in what may be the most polarized political environment our country has ever faced. Pair this with our current level of technological advancement that affords every average person a ‘voice’ and you have a recipe for chaos. With this greater tendency for every conversation to become politically charged, there has been a rise in dishonest discussion tactics that is leading to a degradation in our exchange of ideas.

Our current political climate has radicalized many into distinct ‘political tribes’ that have no interest in learning from those who they may not agree with. Therefore, many discussions between these groups have the unsaid goal of ‘winning the argument’, not resolving the disagreement. With this clear objective in mind, it is more common to see individuals attempting to discredit their opponents by painting them in the worst possible light. People will associate their opponents with the absolute worst group or person who also disagrees with their position (Nazis, racists, etc) because their opponent now must distance themselves from said group or risk giving this imagined association validity, thus taking the focus off their position in the disagreement. The people that propose these links don’t truly believe that their opponents are associated with these groups, but do so as a debate tactic because their objective is to win the argument.

Worse yet, modern technology provides a record of everything a person has said over social media sites which is available to the world. Because these ‘receipts’ are available, dishonest debaters will ‘research’ their opponent’s accounts for any unsavory viewpoint that may have been said in the past. They will hone in on three or four words and stretch them to extreme hyperbole to make the opponent out to be a vile, abhorrent human being. It is much easier to force your opponent to defend a statement made five years ago than it is to explain why your position on the issue is better than the opponent’s. Again, this is a tactic used to discredit your opponent because, as stated earlier, the goal is to win not learn.

These tactics are incredibly damaging for two reasons: shutting down the discussion reduces your exposure to alternative viewpoints and removing the necessity of defending your own viewpoints prevents you from fully exploring what you believe and why you believe this particular position. Setting your sole objective as ‘being right’ limits your growth and results in intellectual stagnation. When you view opposing viewpoints as ‘wrong’ opinions that ‘need to be defeated’ you further reinforce your current positions and view anything outside of those positions as ‘enemy’ positions. It is vital that we abandon these dishonest tactics and return to a climate where disagreements can take place civilly and decently. Our future growth depends on it.

Generation Contrarian

It’s no secret that in modern times each successive generation attempts to find its identity by rebelling against the values of the previous generation. Slowly at first, but beginning with Generation X society has become exponentially more liberal and provocative with each wave of youth. This phenomenon has radically increased in every direction, resulting in today’s youth opposing the views of those merely decades older at nearly every turn.

G.K. Chesterton predicted the plight of today’s youth in the following quote – ‘The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us’. The gospel of ‘progress’ is preached at every turn, whether by those demanding diversity in every population, those who believe it’s a woman’s turn to be president, or those who champion a religion that was virtually nonexistent in the West. When pressed on why they hold these views, the answer usually directly references the past (‘these institutions were always predominantly white men / we have only had male presidents / it is our values which are truly wrong’). This doesn’t denote a conclusion reached through rationality but instead by following the maxim ‘change = good‘.

American author Edward Abbey once wrote ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell‘. Those who idolize change above all else form their opinions around whatever is opposite the common belief. This is a trend which eventually results in a valueless society, where people form their opinions by what others believe rather than a sense of rationality or morality. This was foreshadowed by the rise of the Hipster movement, where everything well-liked was uncool. Hipsters feigned depth through contrarianism, operating under the mindset that by rejecting the commonly-held belief (the mainstream) they were more enlightened than others. As these people grew older and became more politically involved, this attitude followed, resulting in the birth of the Progressive Movement (more aptly described as the Change Party).

Those who worship change neglect to acknowledge that our society exists not in spite of the past, but because of it. Changing every aspect of society because one believes that change in and of itself is an improvement will eventually knock our society’s legs out from under it, causing it to crumble. Improvement is a worthy goal, but it should be pursued by building upon our foundations rather than tearing them down.