Everything Has Been Figured Out, Except How To Live


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson


I might not be the most enthusiastic fan of the modern world but I do love this accidental, nonsensical life I’ve been given.

I do, and I love trains and railroads and Redwing boots and cigars and old books and dead poets and Bob Dylan. I do, and I love midnight bonfires and mountain air and wildflower meadows and moonlit deserts and strong whiskey and aimless road trips and little black coffee diners on forgotten highways.
 
That’s where it’s at for me.

There’s too much wild beauty out there beyond the barbed wire theater of civilization to resign yourself fully to all its demands. And I want to inhale it, all of it, even the unfathomable mysteries that lie beyond the narrow limits of human consciousness.

Give it to me.

I must’ve been one of those rail-riding hoboes in my last life, I swear, or a vagabond, or hell, maybe that’s where I’m heading next, I don’t know.

A restless wanderer, some guy with a name like Pistil Pete or T-Bone Slim — a scuffed up boot-wearing conscientious grumbler of the modern malaise who chose to ignore, in the words of Kerouac, “the general demand [to] consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap… imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume.”

What most are amused by, bores me. I find no solace in this arid land of flashing billboards and middle-class sensibilities.

I’d rather read the old books of Hermann Hesse and write mediocre poems under the trees than waste away in front of screens in air-conditioned tombs. To “abandon oneself to the cruel stream of life… to play with the joys of the senses and pay for them with suffering,” as Hesse writes. To get away from the endless bickering and insurance plans of a stringent civilization.

In the words of Huxley, “I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

The hoboes had it figured out early on — those soulful renegades living on the edge of nowhere who chose a more dangerous yet deliberate type of existence, a life of adventure and wandering, taking odd jobs here and there so as to never be tied down to any one place.

George Santayana reminds us that “the world is too much with us, and we are too much with ourselves. We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure haphazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”

With little, the spirit is more. Less security, more wonder. Less asphalt, more soil. Life exists outside the womb of comfort. As Dylan sings, he not busy being born is busy dying.

Ah, yes. I don’t want to live with my future in the past. A renunciation is needed. Yes, there it is, explosions of light, fire fire fire, my veins burst from the throbbing gush of LIFE.

Roaring dreams of escaping the racket and slicing through that old countryside forever chasing the infinite sky, escaping into an unregimented existence, napping under the pines like our ancestors of old, never knowing the day of the week or the time or even the year, just a nameless solitary figure singing the poems of Whitman out there somewhere and chugging jugs of red wine with barefoot gypsy girls in the snoozy shade of sycamores on sunny afternoons. 
 
Hell yes. Tell us something Walt Whitman: 
 
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road.
Healthy, free, the world before me.

The long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose.
Henceforth, I ask not good fortune, I myself am good fortune.
Henceforth, I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.” 

 

Ah yes, just imagine it.

To say the hell with it all and toss the remaining ashes of your life into the ancient winds of fate, saddling up and ridin’ those ole rusty abstract rails across the country in a beat-up boxcar, a disciple of the unknown, just a driftin’ and dreamin’ as that lonesome whistle wails into the moonlit night.
 
“Grow up, I got bills to pay, you know,” groans the people from their cubicles and their heavily mortgaged homes. 
 
I know you do. And you have people to impress and soul-crushing obligations to meet and prisonlike relationships you’re trapped in — I know. You don’t have the time to live. Or the extra money or the freedom to etch out your own little unique existence on this unforgiving earth. I know. The lawn needs mowing. The kids need chauffeuring. The boss has a deadline. The game is on TV.

I know. I know. I know. 
 
But as the great Henry Miller reminded us: “How illustrative, this attitude, of the woeful resignation men and women succumb to! Surely everyone realizes, at some point along the way, that he is capable of living a far better life than the one he has chosen. What stays him, usually, is the fear of the sacrifices involved. (Even to relinquish his chains seems like a sacrifice.)”
 
Pick a weekend and live dangerously. The heart needs it. The heart wants it. The heart yearns for the gamble.

Get away from the noisy costume party of society and hurl yourself into the blood and guts of life. Break some rules that have been imposed on you from the outside. 
 
Say “fuck it” for once. Just one weekend — move into the unknown. Be alive with all the senses heightened. Try it. Go alone. Camp, hike, skydive, read mind-altering books that challenge your cozy beliefs, take a bunch of shrooms next to a waterfall and write a poem or create a painting. 

Do it. Rage Rage Rage against the sterile trap of the modern world. Unplug from the machine and get out there and revitalize that inner wolf that’s been snuffed out by too many dreary days of corporate policy and dull obligations.

Become an aimless wanderer in some part of the country you’ve been dying to see. Set out on foot. Sleep on the earth or in hostiles. Talk to strangers. Forget safety and security and luxury — luxury in the words of a poet, is a way of being ignorant, comfortably.

Forget formalities, too. Formalities are nothing but we adults stroking each other’s egos; an exaggeration of purity as a way to deny our own anuses, our own creatureliness. They are lies… as most things tend to be in our progress-centered, egocentric society.
 
It’s time to shatter the facade of status and BECOME. Uncivilize a bit. Get dirty. Open yourself up to the “whimsicalities of chance.”

Go and see and taste every flavor of this fleeting life, do it. Gulp down the inevitable hardships and fatigue with a grin and try to exist solely on luck and wits for a while. Put a hole in your television and escape into the wild winds of the unfamiliar.

Be not afraid to wake in the primal mist of dawn in some distant unknown region of the land, completely free from the sterile demands of a soul-dead culture.

Once again, in the words of Kerouac:

While looking for the light, 
you may suddenly be devoured
by the darkness
and find the true light.

 
Do it. Try it out. Get out there beyond the ordinary life of respectability and acceptance and go headlong. It just might stir that longtime suppressed divine spark buried in your unconscious. You might finally doff the little mask that you’ve become religiously attached to and change the entire course of your desperately starving life. 
 
“Live simply and wisely. Forget, forgive, renounce, abdicate…To make living itself an art, that is the goal,” as Henry Miller writes. 
 
I want to end this post with a brief passage from a Portuguese poet who so happens to be one of the greatest goddamn writers the world has ever known — Fernando Pessoa:
 
Ah, to depart! By whatever means and to whatever place!
To set out across the waves, across unknown perils, across the sea!

To go Far, to go Wide, toward Abstract Distance, 
Indefinitely, through deep and mysterious nights,
Carried like dust by the winds, by the gales!
To go, go, go once and for all!
All of my blood lusts for wings!
I rush through my imagination in torrents!
I trample myself underfoot, I growl, I hurtle!
My yearnings burst into foam
And my flesh is a wave crashing into cliffs!

Resist Much, Obey Little

Photo by Erik Johannson

What a time to be alive
and oh, how so many of us
squander it away on
lavish nonsense.

What are you going to do about it –
life that is?

What are you going to do with
the fleeting years of your one
and only precious life?

Become them?
Do as they do?
Think as they think?
Give away your destiny
to those who promise
protection?
Piss everything away on
comfort, security,
and routine?

Surrender your essence
to the unheroic status quo
that seems to be sliding
ever so quickly toward
oblivion?

Are you going to remain, like
the majority, a pathetic
victim of an ailing culture,
a culture where the people
gravitate toward a life
of rule instead of a life
of autonomy —
a life of HAVING
rather than
a life of
BEING?

Or

Are you going to start living
on your own terms, making
your own plans instead
of following the commands
of others?

This should be the defining
question of your life.
This is what you should
be asking yourself
every waking
moment.

Old and young. It’s
never too late to
become
YOU.

It’s never too late
to revive the
wild nomad
within.

It’s time for a great
Awakening. A rebirth
of great courage and
curiosity.

The
contemporary
world has
subdued you
long enough.

Depart by whatever means
and to whatever place,
throw your life to the wind,
to the sea, and set fire to
the orderly, repetitive life.

It’s time to break from the ranks
of the sleepwalkers
and pick up that sword that
you’ve been conditioned to
disregard, and charge like a
madman into the heart
of the abyss.

Get out in nature, alone,
where you can hear
the hum of the natural
world around you — the
solemn vibration of the
expanding cosmos.

Get out of your apartment,
out of your house and into it,
step away from your soul-sucking
social obligations
and into LIFE,
into the blood and guts and sheer
wonder and amazement
that the earth offers.

Stop letting the world
drown you in its utter
horseshit.

Take some risks on your
own talents.

Sell your shit,
declutter,
shed the fat,
minimize the attention you
give to “things”
and open yourself up to
the miraculous —
the holy treasures
of the unknown.

Rally up the nerve to escape
from the comfort of whatever
safety net you’ve found solace in
and set off into the uncharted
realms of life
guided
solely by the
murmurs
of the inner
voice.

As the new year unfolds
let us all drink
from the
neglected
well
within
and rise above
our silly
clichés.

Lack of love
breeds fear
and fear
breeds
weakness
and weakness
breeds
dependency
and dependency
breeds
servitude.

This is the modern world –
a prison yard for the
loveless; famished souls
running mad in an
unpoetic society.

We have to reimagine
the world
and recapture
that primordial
spark.

We must create more
and consume less.

Stay out of debt — out of the
clutches of bondage. Resign
from chasing love and
become love. Break away
from the narcotic glow
of screens and get outdoors
and into the soil.

Howl at the midnight
moon, roam the forests
and the deserts, unleash
that primal yelp under
the vast blanket of stars.

Goddamnit, do something,
don’t listen to the administrators
of this dying culture,
take the unplanned road trip,
get your bare feet in the mud,
bathe in the twilight streams,
read old books by candlelight,
grab a rucksack and hitchhike your
over-domesticated ass across the land,
live dangerously, do things that
vibrate your senses, climb that
damn mountain, sleep in that
enchanted meadow,
let your instincts rejoice
for once…

and LIVE LIVE LIVE.

Resist much. Obey little.

Do whatever radical measures
are necessary to help revive
the primordial spirit that’s
been browbeaten by
modern society.

Prove you’re alive.

There’s magic out there
to feast on,
still a little mystery
and wisdom
beyond the concrete walls
of certainties and
conclusions –
go find it.

It’s only when you escape the shell
of protection that you’ll attain
the vast, wider world –
the infinite.

And only then is
when you truly
endure life
beyond the crushing grip
of fear and illusion
and inside the
sacred realm
of truth, beauty,
and LOVE.

Henry Miller On The Pathetic Plight Of The Modern Man, And Saving Children From The Stupidity Of Ourselves

 

In+Wildness+is+the+Preservation+of+the+World


“By his refusal to live to the fullest he brings about the death of God and the utter meaninglessness of the world in which he finds himself.”

~ Henry Miller


Like all great writers, Henry Miller was no stranger to controversy. His early biographical novels were banned for three decades by the British and United States government for its so-called “sexual adventures and challenged models of sexual morality.”

Like all sages, prophets, and truth-tellers who question the prevailing order, he was greatly censored and regarded as obscene and immoral by the rotten busybodies of his time.

Coming up on 60 years since the ban has been lifted on his most important works, Henry Miller remains, unfortunately, little known and widely under-read, especially here in the United States (all the greats are widely under-read here in the United States, but I digress).

One of the most uniquely talented writers the world has known, a writer who had this exceptional talent in coalescing the intellect with the spirit, a type of writer we desperately need today to shake things up, has largely gone unread by the vast majority of the spiritually crippled people in the West.

Unlike most of today’s writers, Miller didn’t cater his work to the rigid demands of publishers. He never confined his wits to the tight politically correct verbiage and concepts of the day, and he sure as hell wasn’t afraid to upset — well, pretty much anyone for that matter, especially middle-class Americans.

“Those who are truly decrepit, living corpses, so to speak, are the middle-aged, middle-class men and women who are stuck in their comfortable grooves and imagine that the status quo will last forever or else are so frightened it won’t that they have retreated into their mental bomb shelters to wait it out.”

Living in both France and the United States, Miller found the American way of life frantic and too hurried, desolate, and just downright sterile. He thought the masses “vulgar”, a “pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspapermen, religious quacks, agitators and such like.”

What Miller despised most was the fact that the vast majority of his fellow compatriots worked trivial jobs to support their menial, unreflective mode of existence — he saw that people weren’t living up to their potential as free human beings.

Some might take this as an elitist attitude, and maybe it pushed the boundaries, but he was genuinely concerned with the pathetic plight of man and he never minced his words in expressing this deep concern.

“Man, as man, has never realized himself. The greater part of him, his potential being, has always been submerged. What is history if not the endless story of his repeated failures?”

Miller noticed that the stupendous machine of so-called “progress” was siphoning the life energy right out of the modern man.

Even Nietzsche across the pond, writing at the end of the 19th century, started to see that we labor at our daily work more “ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life… Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

Echoing Nietzsche’s sentiments, Miller asks the reader, “To what end this frightful, monstrous striving? Is he slaving to make the world a better place? Is it for his progeny that he is concerned or for himself? Whichever way he answers it is a lie. He does not know why he struggles, or for what. He is caught up in a mechanism which is beyond his understanding. He marches on, head down, eyes closed, conditioned so from birth.”

Miller also felt great pity for the young artists and the creative types living in the United States. In his eyes, they were living “amidst spiritual gorillas, living with food and drink maniacs, success-mongers, gadget innovators, publicity hounds. God, if I were a young man today, if I were faced with a world such as we have created, I would blow my brains out.”

But with his cynicism and searing observations came love and an intense compassion for his fellow man. And despite his bleak outlook on the future, he kept a little hope alive for his readers, mainly in the youth.

To awaken and arouse the consciousness of the reader — that was Miller’s intention every time he sat and bled at the typewriter.

His writings were a way to “do something for his fellow man”, to wake them up, to inspire them to crawl out of the clutches of mediocrity. But he soon came to realize that “to rouse the sluggish minds of adults to such a point of awareness” was a damn near impossible task.

Sharing the sentiments of the great Ben Franklin, Miller realized people were pretty much dead at 25 but weren’t buried until 75 — meaning, people surrendered their lives over to the false gods of certainties, dogmas, and security, and were completely unwilling to rethink what they thought they knew.

Man, he writes, “refuses to believe in himself, refuses to assume his full powers, refuses to raise himself to his ordained stature. He elects for Utopia rather than Reality.”

Henry Miller turned sour towards his fellow middle-aged citizens but not the youth. And it was the youth you ultimately read him and became enthusiastic admirers of his work.

One of the great of his many books is a little gem titled, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird”, which is a collection of a few his brilliant little essays and stories on life, art, children, friendship, morality, money, and much more.

In the book he nudges the reader:

“What is the great problem? Is it to develop beings who will be different in spirit from those who begat them? If so, how does one go about undoing the damage of the centuries? Can we raise children who will undo the evil we have done?

Never satisfied with the world and the “gruesome conditions of things”, Miller goes on to ask: is it not possible to protect the children of the earth “against the folly and stupidity of their elders?… In their present state of madness one is inclined to suspect that they would rather the young perished with them than risk the possibility of seeing them grow up into fearless, independent-minded, peace-loving individuals.”

He goes on to point out that there’s no doubt we all want to live in a peaceful world where we’re all united by our common humanity, but we’re our own worst enemy — “we are all the devil’s disciples. We want to change the other fellow, not ourselves; we want our children to be better than us, but do nothing to make ourselves more worthy of our children.”

In the wake of two disastrous world wars and unthinkable tortures, senseless killing, bigotry, packed jails, soulless jobs, dumbed-down education, and rampant uniformity among the masses, Miller wonders why our children should even listen to us, obey us, mimic our ways?

“What a race we are, we adults, forever breaking treaties, forever preying upon the unfortunate, forever dictating to others how to live, and know not how ourselves.”

Who are we to teach our children what is right and what is wrong when we ourselves do not know the answer? Who are we to tell the children the “truth” when we’ve spent our whole lives evading truth or regurgitating someone else’s?

In Miller’s own scathing words, “Parents are always demanding the child’s respect and obedience. They demand it, but they do not know how to command it. How can one obey and respect these crippled slaves who returned from work each evening frustrated, defeated, ashamed of themselves? No wonder they reach for the bottle or sit like mutes before the television screen.”

So what’s Miller’s solution to save the children from the “stupidity of their elders?” How can we turn out fearless, independent-minded young people who are able to sidestep the half-dead, consumer-driven, unfulfilling cubicle way of life that’s so common here in the West?

Leave the damn kids alone.

I know, radical idea right?

In this strange era of parental child worship, an era where we tend to manage, organize, and control every aspect of our child’s life, we need a more hands-off approach. We need to leave our kids alone. These days, children don’t have the will nor the time to run barefoot with joy, let alone think their own thoughts and try to figure out who they are.

Is it any wonder why children lose their sense of wonder so early these days?

“Let us not worry too much,” Miller advises us, “about what our children feed on. Let them feed, forage and fend for themselves as we do, sharing our problems, nurturing our dreams, inspiring our love. Let them remain what they are, a very real part of the ‘one world’ to which we all belong whether we know it or not, admit or not.”

After reading Miller’s words I can’t help but remember the great comedian George Carlin’s hilarious but brutally true bit on today’s parenting:

“Parents are burning these kids out on structure. I think every day all children should have 3 hours of daydreaming. Just daydreaming. You could use a little of it yourself, by the way. Just sit at the window, stare at the clouds. It’s good for ya. If you want to know how you can help your children: leave them the fuck alone!”

Miller doesn’t offer a precise solution but hints to the reader, to the individual, that he or she only has to decide to “make a jump (inwardly)”, to live up to the spirit which is in us and make ourselves one with life.

“If we have not yet succeeded — after how many centuries? — in eliminating from life the elements which plague us, perhaps we need to question life more closely. Perhaps our refusal to face reality is the only ill we suffer from, and all the rest but illusion and delusion.”

As an old sage once said, “The Way is near, but men seek it afar. It is in easy things, but men seek it in difficult things.”


The entire book, Stand Still Like The Hummingbird, is a superb read in its entirety. You can also compliment this read with my latest article, The Comfortable Life is Killing You

The Comfortable Life is Killing You

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Society tames the wolf into a dog.
And man is the most domesticated
animal of all.

~ Nietzsche


Despite existing in an era with the highest living standards in the history of mankind, despite having easy access to most of our material needs, recent polls have revealed that we modern people are miserable, angry, fearful, depressed, and riddled with anxiety. More so than ever before.

Depression rates have been steadily rising in the US since the mid-1930s. Approximately 40 million American adults are said to have an anxiety disorder. Depression and suicide rates, especially among teens, has risen drastically with the rise of social media and smartphones. Over six hundred thousand children 5 and under are on some type of psychiatric drug in the US. And opioid overdoses among American adults are out of control.

The question must be asked: Why? Continue reading