Resurrecting Imagination

When I was a kid I used to fantasize about what it would be like to be my future self. I used to conduct ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ style interviews with myself. I was always a successful writer or stand-up. Always self-deprecating but charming and respected. In these scenarios I was in that quintessential stage of personal or professional bliss where I could speak about my life or career with a sense of authority minus the irony or condescension. I had an active and healthy imagination. As a child I remember that my cousins and I, or neighborhood kids and I would always create elaborate war games, or hide and seek games. We built forts and explored in the woods. We rode bikes and climbed trees. We built community and entire worlds that only existed between us. Our own micro universes with language and culture. Even when I was alone I remember building cities with Legos or blocks, and being really anal-retentive when it came to scale. The bus cannot be smaller than the sports car! When it came to my Hot Wheels, there was no room for absurdity. It was really, really fun. I’m biased, obviously, but I feel that we were lucky to grow up in the early to mid 90s. Unbeknownst to myself and the people burned into those memories we were taking advantage of one of life’s truest and most fleeting stages of development: Being a kid; enjoying childhood.

Even into my early teens I used to spend a great deal of time in my own head. Hashing out ideas and theories. Practicing debates. Most of my daydreaming was spent creating scenes or scenarios in which I was explaining or debating my stance on issues. I would spend days and weeks fine tuning my arguments; exploring the other side of my own positions. I read a lot and listened to music. I tried as hard as I could to consume content that had meaning. I’m pretty sure that I have always been the type of person that avoided consuming content just for the sake of consumption. I need to feel a connection with what I read or listen to, or watch on TV. I would spend hours deconstructing the world around me, all in my head. The inner confines of my mind was a pleasant place to be. This was before bills. This was before responsibilities. This was a fun time where I could go to work for a few hours a day and pump all of my money into gas for the car and CDs, and shit food with friends. The freedom that I find myself writing about so much was alive and flourishing in these times. What I wouldn’t give to go back to that sense of being, even if it’s temporary, and balanced with the hear and now.

I catch myself, more often than I’d like to admit, looking back on that time as if it is something that cannot still thrive within me. I remember when the change happened. I can remember when all that wonder and excitement and creativity stopped and the anxiety and depression started to take over. There was a definite Coup d’etat. Looking back, I can see the evidence of a rebel movement amassing strength. It’s disingenuous for me to sit here and act bewildered and dumbfounded. I sat back and allowed the take over. It was all in good faith, really. I, like many of you, did what I thought I was supposed to do. Ultimately, I committed the most egregious act of self-sabotage. I snuffed out my sense of self. The sense of wonder and curiosity that I cherished so much in childhood didn’t transition into early adulthood. It wasn’t there aiding in the construction of the person I was to become in the ‘real-world.’ I can feel the effects of this now.

As I sit in this coffee shop trying my hardest to put words on this page in a way that makes sense and holds meaning I’m having my own little epiphany. I had no idea that this post was going to follow this trajectory. I started writing with the concept ‘death of imagination.’ I’m discovering a whole new psychological angle to my current mindset and how this ‘death of imagination’ has shaped my adult life. Maybe I’ll dive into that later. For now, I want to focus on the positive gem I’m pulling from all this. That it is never too late to infuse your mental space with imagination, creativity, silliness, and wanderlust. Life can be challenging. Shit happens. Economies collapse. People we love die. Relationships come and go. Working for living can consume us. We can too easily forget how much living like a child can reignite our sense of purpose and remind us who we are, or more importantly, who we can be. A child’s brain sees no barriers to success. In my late teens, to be a smart-ass I used to tell people I wanted to be a Fire Truck when I grew up. This project is allowing me to explore the restrictions that I have constructed that have prevented me from being the loudest and shiniest Fire Truck around. The older I get the more I yearn for a lifestyle built around fun, and enjoyment, and meaning. I miss being a kid. Living as an ‘adult’ hasn’t really paid off (figuratively or literally). It’s time to try something different. I’m going to spend more time revisiting my child brain. Who knows, I may even relearn how to enjoy the inside of my own skull again.

Dispatching Introductions

It’s been a week and a half since I published my first blog post. I have yet to receive invites from the cultural and intellectual giants of our time. All of whom are no doubt clamoring for an opportunity to share their table with me for coffee and conversation. No pop-up salons sipping aged whiskey with the New Rich. The likes of Sam Harris and his peers have not reached out to thank me for my contributions to the advancement of human thought. As of this writing, there is no plan in place for me to help Oprah give away sacks of cash and puppies to a live studio audience (Google “Dane Cook Oprah”). The internet can be slow to shine a light on its gems.

Despite my playful ode to ego above, I do have a genuine desire to use this platform to:

1) obtain knowledge

2) grow and mine wisdom from those who are kind enough to respond with data

3) to explore the world of words. Doing my best to contribute something to the realm of ideas, personal growth, shedding of misconceptions, and overcoming self-imposed limitations on success and progress.

Yeah, I know. Even that sounds lofty regardless of how humble I’m attempting to describe my intentions.

I bring all this up because I don’t want to create anything that isn’t honest. I do not wish to produce anything that has terms and conditions attached to the fine print. I’ve found as I’m lying awake at night pondering what to write about next that I experience a great deal of anxiety surrounding how to explore an idea or topic in a public space. Am I ready for Chuck to read this? What happens if what I write has an effect on some other part of my life? Am I prepared to engage in this or that? Do I have a right to participate in this or that? Those who know me best can attest to how well fortified and guarded the walls to my thoughts and feelings can be (Sorry M, I’m trying. Thanks for being patient).

In order for me to engage in this project with honesty I must be prepared to put myself in a position of discomfort. If I’m going to spend a signification amount of time on a piece, I cannot allow myself to hit ‘publish’ if there is any part of it that was softened, edited, or restricted because I was scared or uncomfortable to put the words on the page. My fears and anxieties are mine, and thus mine to battle. Some will more than likely show up here, in this space. Some will not. Those little devils that stay hidden in the shadows are merely steroid shots to the ass of self-imposed limitations on success and progress.

I want to hit publish. Hitting publish for me is freedom. It is knowing that I have created a thing for which I have no reservation. No fears. I crave freedom. I want nothing more than fear to be a catalysis for success and triumph, not an obstacle or limiting circumstance. I am here to manage fear.

All of this is my way of finalizing the thought process for this project in my head. In order for me to achieve what I want I will need to challenge fear and discomfort. In order to challenge fear and discomfort I will need to dig deep within myself to find the courage to not simply know, but to accept that in order to achieve goals and to exist with integrity and honesty, action cannot succumb to fear and discomfort. I am no longer satisfied sidelining what I want to do. I wrote this post specifically so I couldn’t keep writing it. There is no turning back without an admittance of cowardice I do not wish to carry on my shoulders. I shall close with a beautiful quote that has always stuck with me from Anton LaVey: ” The roses in the garden east of Eden will have thorns. Whatever the blossom, whatever the harvest, the future belongs to us.” Breath. It’s going to be OK. I’m going to hit publish now.

On Laziness

In the 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss defines laziness as enduring a non-ideal existence, and letting circumstance or others decide life for you. It may appear broad, even vague, but I think most of you will come to the same conclusion that I did when reading this passage, “shit, that’s me.” We often look at laziness as the opposite of production. More insidious still, the avoidance of being/appearing busy. A simple example would be sitting on the couch watching Netflix instead of teaching our cat Spanish, or cleaning the bathroom. Rarely do we see laziness for what it is: not taking responsibility for the decisions we make in life. Laziness, up to now, has been my life’s work.

I referenced this in my first post (For All Intents and Purposes) and it will be a running theme for the foreseeable future of this blog. In this piece I have chosen to highlight an instance where my status quo line of thinking and reasoning  (for which I will spend a great deal of time deconstructing and modifying to yield a life of meaning and enjoyment)  coupled with the slightest modification turned out to be one of the most important and positive decisions that I have made in the past several years.

Eight months ago I was doing everything I thought I should be doing. For the first time in years I had separated myself from living with roommates. This decision was not entirely mine. I mention this because it is imperative for me to point out the instances where it may appear that I acted in my own self interest when in actuality my decisions were made entirely due to laziness as defined above. I found myself at a crossroads. I was staying with my mom and deciding on what the next step was going to be. Was I going to buy a house? Was I going to try and find another roommate? I did what I had always done: I took the easiest path that presented itself and convinced myself that it was the most rational and logical thing to do. I moved into the house that my previous roommate and his girlfriend vacated as they began their life together.

Sure, it made a lot of sense. It was the 2nd most adult thing I could think of doing next to buying a home. What does a person who plans on living alone do? They rent an expensive house that is too big for them and convince themselves that the cost was part of growing-up. Plus it was less than a mile from work and you know, Huck needed a big yard and stuff. Ultimately I was trying to plug myself into a lifestyle that wasn’t for me. More to the point, I was further pushing myself away from a lifestyle of joy and meaning. I was doing everything I could to use up resources, time, energy, and capital so that I couldn’t focus on the things that really mattered: What makes me happy? How can I live a life of meaning?

These weren’t conscious decisions I was making. I truly thought that I was failing at what I was supposed to do. That somehow I was missing some tenet of the American Dream. The thought of living a life that was designed and implemented entirely by me was unthinkable. My way of looking at the world and my place in it was flawed. There was no way that I could be successful. I wasn’t being honest with myself or the nature of my overall dissatisfaction.

One night I received an email from my landlord. They were thinking of selling the house I was in. My first thought was, “Okay. Great. This will give me the chance to get out of this situation and hopefully make a better move going forward.” Then, in classic Dylan fashion, I promptly pounced on the first residential opportunity that presented itself. In many respects it was exactly what I had always done (path of least resistance). Yet, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was actually making the first decision that would be part of a new model of thinking. This living arrangement was much more aligned with how I had begun to envision my ideal living situation. It was much smaller, satisfied my immediate needs, and the cost of living was drastically reduced, which would immediately help me to live a more engaged life. This seemingly simple move opened the doors for me to begin analyzing and thinking about other aspects of my life that I was not satisfied with. I was beginning to rewire the way in which I thought about how I wanted to live my life. I was slowly circling in towards my center; to finding my starting point; the point where all the different puzzle pieces were coming together to reveal their picture.

All of this leads up to what I believe to be the most valuable lesson I have learned this year: Set and setting. Timothy Leary describes set and setting in his book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead this way, “… set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical — the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real…” Set and setting are said to be two of the most important factors for one to consider before participating in a psychedelic experience. If you’re going to leave reality, having a firm foundation to springboard from is a really smart way of curbing a potentially dangerous and unrewarding experience. For me, set and setting is the fountain from which all forward progress flows. My trip, my expulsion from reality as I knew it, began with a single decision based on a new way of thinking. For years I was building a life on a broken foundation.  A well constructed set and setting is crucial for me to live a balanced and disciplined life. It allows me to safely explore a whole new realm of reality, one that wasn’t  available to me previously. I am painfully aware of my predisposition towards self destruction. For whatever reason, my default setting is laziness. When set and setting are calibrated correctly, I am able to process thoughts and emotions and execute plans and decisions with precision and clarity. I am able to dispense with laziness. I’m beginning to fill my chest with tools to reverse these tendencies and move forward with a renewed sense of delight and excitement for what is to come. I spend my free time cultivating and nurturing my set and setting so that when the next trip occurs, I’m ready to make the most of it. I’m watering my mental garden. For the first time in my life I’m pulling weeds. Pruning bushes. I’m giving fruit space to grow. Meaning and purpose is on the horizon. I can see it, and and I like what I see.

For All Intents and Purposes

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. More accurately, I’ve always wanted writing to be the underpinning through which my inner voice worked tirelessly to make sense of our shared reality. I hold great reverence for those whom language is the chosen weapon. I’m attracted to the misfits and outlaws of our society. The drunks and addicts. The aloof. The mystics. Those who use charisma and intrigue as currency. The men and women who have not simply rejected the chains of conformity but have instead chosen to burn the bridges connecting them from the rest with a zeal and vigor akin to religious fervor. These folks are the true hero’s of the human narrative. They are not good capitalists. They are not good puritans or standard bearers of Victorian ethics. They are people for whom the shared experience, and honesty, and personal freedom are virtues. Anything less is treasonous – an affront to the muse of collective consciousness.

It has taken me a lifetime to get a sense of what all this means. What the root of this fascination means and what I’m supposed to do with that information. It’s not just the writers, but the comedians and podcasters too. All of these people are teaching me that there is more to life than what we have been lead to believe is possible. That this life that I’m living is mine to control.

I have spent a lifetime avoiding responsibility. I have taken the easy route. I have avoided experience. I have taken refuge in comfort and the path of least resistance. I have been living a life that hasn’t yielded psychological, or physical, or philosophical meaning. I have not held up my end of the bargain. For too long I have sat on the sidelines and idolized those who do the work, often for the wrong reasons. It’s not the demons that make the artist appealing. Its their ability to be honest with who they are and to use that honesty as a club to beat their way through a culture and society designed to destroy them.

This project is my attempt to break free. It is here where I intended to bring my demons to light and expose their chicanery. In this space I will work diligently to explore ideas and concepts with intellectual curiosity and honesty. This is my first real attempt to add to the narrative of human experience and grow and find meaning. I’ve always avoided sharing my thoughts and opinions and feelings assuming that it  was too narcissistic to do so; That I couldn’t possible ask or expect folks to lend me their time to explore and engage in the metaphysical and practical alike. What I have come to realize is that this lack of openness was based in fear.  What my idols have been patiently telling me, and what I’m just now beginning to see is that fear should not and cannot be an impassible obstacle. Instead fear and discomfort are tools to become the best version of the self.

My intent is that this space serves as a springboard for which I can learn to cultivate the inner voice and learn to live in a way that is more align with my values and the spirit of my mentors. It is about growth and shedding preconceived notions. It is about testing convictions and exploring big ideas and learning from peers and fellow travelers.  I am excited to start working.

I thank you for your time, and happy Thanksgiving.