Back in 1958 a man named Hume Logan wrote to his good friend Hunter Thompson requesting advice on what to do with his life. Given what followed for HST one might have expected the reply to suggest goodly helping of Sex, booze, dope and rock and roll but instead Thompson wrote one of the best letters about how to live your life ever penned. Picking the life you want and then molding your career around who you want to be is an incredibly powerful idea. It took me until I was in my late 40s to figure this out and begin to choose my life first and adapt my career to how I wanted to live and I have been about 7 and 1/2 fuckfulls happy since I did.
April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City
You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.
I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)
And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.
But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?
The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.
So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?
The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.
I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.
Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.
So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”
And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.
If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo— this merely happens to be mine.
If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.
And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
A million thanks to Shane Parrish for this reminder of this great reminder of contentment and desire from the Plutarchs Lives. If oyu arenot reading Shanes Blog, Farnam Street,I highly recommend it be the second thing you read every day after you have checked in at church.
The Romans, sir, are reported to be great warriors and conquerors of many warlike nations; if God permit us to overcome them, how should we use our victory?”
“You ask,” said Pyrrhus, “a thing evident of itself. The Romans once conquered, there is neither Greek nor barbarian city that will resist us, but we shall presently be masters of all Italy, the extent and resources and strength of which any one should rather profess to be ignorant of than yourself.”
Cineas after a little pause, “And having subdued Italy, what shall we do next?”
Pyrrhus not yet discovering his intention, “Sicily,” he replied, “next holds out her arms to receive us, a wealthy and populous island, and easy to be gained; for since Agathocles left it, only faction and anarchy, and the licentious violence of the demagogues prevail.”
“You speak,” said Cineas, “what is perfectly probable, but will the possession of Sicily put an end to the war?”
“God grant us,” answered Pyrrhus, “victory and success in that, and we will use these as forerunners of greater things; who could forbear from Libya and Carthage then within reach, which Agathocles, even when forced to fly from Syracuse, and passing the sea only with a few ships, had all but surprised? These conquests once perfected, will any assert that of the enemies who now pretend to despise us, any one will dare to make further resistance?”
“None,” replied Cineas, “for then it is manifest we may with such mighty forces regain Macedon, and make an absolute conquest of Greece; and when all these are in our power what shall we do then?”
Said Pyrrhus, smiling, “We will live at our ease, my dear friend, and drink all day, and divert ourselves with pleasant conversation.”
When Cineas had led Pyrrhus with his argument to this point: “And what hinders us now, sir, if we have a mind to be merry, and entertain one another, since we have at hand without trouble all those necessary things, to which through much blood and great labour, and infinite hazards and mischief done to ourselves and to others, we design at last to arrive?”
Do it for the children.
That’s is the deadliest phrase in the history of the world. It is usually uttered, nay not uttered but screeched, screamed, vehemently voiced, loudly expressed and just plain yelled by urgent and well-meaning reformers who would have us pass laws and regulations to protect the poor innocent children from the evils of life. At all costs we must enact the changes required by the well-meaning self-righteous folks of limited imagination and intelligence. Do it for the children is usually force fed to the emotionally powerful and intellectually weak shock troops to pass some political or religious measures that the Absolutely Convinced think needs to be in place.
Do it for the kids was one the rallying cries for Lyndon Johnsons Great Society legislation to reduce and eliminate poverty in America though social and entitlement reforms. How has it worked? According to hedge fund manager extraordinaire Stanly Druckenmiller not so good for the kids. He said last year that “So, if you could go back to 1965, the senior poverty rate in this country was 30%, and it’s 9% now. I think everybody can applaud that’s a great achievement. The problem is you go back to 1965, your child poverty rate was 21%, and now it’s 25%. So, all the gains we’ve made in terms of poverty the last 40 years have accrued to the elderly. If you look at the average per capita income in this country, we’re spending 56% of every worker’s dollars on the elderly, and we’re spending 7% on children.” 15 million children live in poverty in the US 55 years after we “did it for the children.”
How about the war on drugs. Nixon started it and every President since has embraced as a way to protect our children form the scourge of drugs? If your definition of protecting our children is locking them in a cage separated from society and the world then it has worked just fucking fine. About 25% of the US prison population is incarcerated as a result of drug charges. We lock up more of our young people than any other country in the world and most of them are in there on drug related charges. Has all this locking up our kids slowed down the supply of drugs? Not even a little bit but it has relieved tax payers of trillions of dollars so far. We did it for the children and the children have paid the price right along with the rest of us.
Gun Control. Keep kids safe from all those nasty guns. Sure seems to be working. There were 472 shootings in Chicago LAST MONTH. 90 of them were fatal. Many,if not most of the shootings, involved young people. Now do any of you precious souls think those guns were legally obtained by responsible citizens? If you please check yourself into the Church’s newly planned clinic for the rehabilitation of dogmatic morons immediately. My old hometown of Baltimore has a nice quiet Labor Day weekend with 22 people including a 4 and a 6 year old, shot over the final weekend of summer. Of course both Chicago and Baltimore have strict gun control laws making sure that only the bad guys have guns putting the entire city, including and especially the children, at greater risk. We don’t have a gun problem folks. We have an illegal gun problem but that doesn’t look good on a poster and would involve admitting we fucked up with the war on drugs we pursued to protect the children so we best not talk about that.
Education reform. Let’s do it for the children. But first we better buildup their self-esteem and make sure the little darling never taste failure. Little fuckers can’t read or write but they feel really good about themselves and have an extraordinarily well formed sense of entitlement so I guess that’s a win. To make sure we have experienced teachers let’s make sure the Teachers Unions are so strong no one can ever be fired no matter how incompetent or burned out they are. To protect the minds of our children’s from learning anything we do not want to them to we should build a bureaucracy that steers the curriculum and make sure no new money actually makes it into a classroom. We all know that original thought is dangerous for children with their poor little undeveloped minds so let’s make sure we implement standardized testing that crushes curiosity and intellectual adventurism.
I could go on ..and on…and …on. Anytime I hear some version of Do it For the Children I know that someone is trying to use pure, raw emotional force to pass some self-serving agenda that is probably really fucking horrible for the children and more than likely , me. Do It for the Children means there is a power grab or wallet emptying maneuver under way and heightened caution is required.
You want to do something for the children? Teach them to love reading and books. Expose them to music and poetry. Help them find their inner sense of wonder and curiosity. Teach them the value of hard work and how to construct a foundation under the castles they build in the sky. Teach them to dream. Teach them to explore. Make them laugh. Crush their electronic devices with a great big fucking hammer (BFH). Teach them to avoid anyone who is absolutely convinced of anything unproven in this life. Teach them Scientific method and probabilities so they might be better at thinking. Make them laugh. Make them study history. Make them earn what they want.
If you don’t want to do anything like this for the children then I implore you- leave the Children the Fuck Alone. We will all, but most of all the children, be much better off if you do,
I never meant to be a grouchy old man but look at me now, over here killing it. No matter how deeply I pledge to get through the day without harumphing or grouching about one damn thing or another, it always happens anyway. I get up in a pretty good mood every day and any wine-ish residuals are quickly washed away in a sea of coffee and nicotine gum . While I would not describe myself as little Sammy Sunshine, I am generally in a good mood. It never takes too long however before some fucking moron just pisses me off.
It should be difficult to be grouchy today. Innovation is moving forward at lightning speed and all kinds of things are happening to make the world a better place to live. I can actually download all the books I need or want as well as do all my banking and shopping right from a little hand held device. I have access to all the baseball I want to watch right on the same little device. My Kindle holds more books that some libraries and has driven the cost of my reading addiction down by multiples. I have a little box I use to back up my files that can hold something like 2 million pictures, tens of thousands of documents and still have room left for a couple of hundred movies. I can send messages to friends on the other side of the world in a nanosecond or two. It is a wonderful time to be alive.
That’s on top of all the other wonderful run of the mill good shit we inherited through the simple act of tumbling though a vagina and into the world. There is the aforementioned wine and sex as well as sunsets, music (although I do struggle to be grateful for this crap my youngest listens to. Shit sounds like two screech owls stuck in an old tin garbage can being rolled down a steep cobblestone street), books, oceans, lakes, ponds, alligators, sunrises (although I avoid those most of the time. They need to be rescheduled for later in the day so lazy people can enjoy them as well), friends, lovers, soft kisses and moonlight. All good stuff that should in and of themselves, make it very difficult to be grouchy.
Thanks to the world of medicine and biotech that life is lasting longer and can be of a higher quality. We are seeing cures for diseases and relief for debilitating symptoms being developed every day. Research continues to prove that wine, caffeine and orgasm can all extend life which is the bedrock of my plan for personal immortality. Today doctors can replace limbs, organs, pretty much whatever needs to be fixed. Except brains. And that’s where the problems usually come from during the course of my average day.
I walk outside and accidentally talk to people or see things like some asshole doing 60 down the residential road in front of my house on a street where people are walking babies in strollers and puppies on leashes. It is a god damn epidemic. It’s a fucking residential street not the backstretch at Daytona. Not only are they cruising at madly excessive speeds, the majority of the geniuses are texting while doing so. We have had one dog killed in front of the house and 4 or five trees knocked down on the street while we have lived here. It is only a matter of time before it’s a kid or some over zealous excercise freak on a bicycle. I love driving fast and can blaze up and down the Turnpike and on the toll road, but speeding in a residential neighborhood is inconsiderate, selfish and it makes me fucking grouchy.
Or I find myself interacting with some helicopter parent who thinks their child is the most precious in the whole wide world and should be given whatever they want while being protected from every possible danger or threat. Poor kids leave the house wrapped up like the bubble boy with a helmet and even then are not allowed to leave the yard. Due to parental demand these kids are graded on a curve when they are graded at all and given trophies just for showing up some of the time. How in the fresh fuck are these kids going to grow to deal with the real world of work and interacting with people and no curve? These are the poor little bastards that will grow up in fear of trigger warnings and desperately needing safe spaces and it makes me grouchy.
I can be in a great mood all day and then drive up to the middle school to pick up the youngest. Watching these kids spill out of the school and immediately disappear into their iPhones and Galaxies makes me lose faith in the universe. Exposing kids to technology at a young age is a fantastic thing but these little slipshods are not using it to learn, discover and explore. They are sending cat videos and Dr. Who quotes, arranging a meet up with their dealer or some other asinine activity. All the stuff we used to have to do face to face they do on their little phones. That includes bullying other kids. In my day to be a bully you had to risk the other kid growing a pair and knocking your nose into next week. The idea that we have sheltered our kids so much that cyber bulling leads to suicide bothers me no end and makes me a little grouchy.
Then there is the school systems we send the little darlings to. Never have so many spent so much to accomplish so little. I have had kids in public school and institutions of higher education for more than 30 years now so I am pretty familiar with the system. I used to work at a firm that underwrote a lot of municipal bonds so I have read hundreds of school budgets in my day. The problem is not money. It is standardized testing. Its low pay and long hours for teachers. It is a bureaucracy that consumes far too much of the cash before it ever gets to the classroom. We spent something like a trillion dollars at all levels of government last year on the education system and got damn little in return. That makes me grouchy.
There is no easy fix but parental involvement is a big one. If we had as many parents at the school board meetings as we do at high school football games the education system would get better faster. Unfortunately most parents do not give a shit and just rely on the bureaucracy to do the job for them. Bureaucracies do not give a shit about getting the job done. They care only about protecting and further entrenching themselves and that makes me grouchy.
Then there is the real, overriding and underlying reason for all of my grouchiness. It is the vast horde of Absolutely Convinced Motherfuckers walking around on the planet. For a variety of religious and political reasons these ass wipes are sure beyond any shade of doubt that they know how I should live my life, spend my money, raise my kids and conduct my affairs. They know to who and under what circumstances I should gift another with my heart or genitals. They and they alone are the arbiters of what goes into my body as well as how and what comes out. They know which books I should read, what music I should listen to, what neighborhood I should live in and what imaginary being in the sky I should pledge my undying and unwavering fealty to. The fact that all the evidence points to them making things worse over the decades rather than better does not phase these folks at all. All is dogma and dogma is all. If it is in the book or the party platform it is the gospel damn truth and I should abide by it by any means required. They are the bane of my existence and the only remaining law that needs to be passed in this great country is the establishment of the length and terms of the Absolutely Convinced hunting season that will allow us to cull the herd and manage the population of these truly dangerous fuckers.
I should not be grouchy. I have a wonderful wife and incredible family. My kids are doing various stage of well at life and their futures are pretty bright. I have a great network of friends all over the world.I have books, I have music. I live in Florida and haven’t seen snow or ice that wasn’t in a cocktail in years now. My Orioles are in pennant contention and Navy Football started off the year with a win. There is a new Carl Hiassen book out tomorrow and offerings from favorites like WEB Griffin and Randy Wayne White on the way soon. The wife and I are off to Captiva in a couple of weeks to celebrate the 6th anniversary of her not killing me in my sleep. Life is good and I should not have to be grouchy.
All I ask of the universe is this. Let me enjoy the world that whatever Deity there is created with all its wonders and pleasures and quit doing stupid shit that makes me grouchy. Close your mouth, open your mind and move beyond dogma and dictates. You don’t know and the sooner you understand and accept that,the less grouchy I will be
Keep your hands out of wallet, your nose out of my business and your kids off my fucking lawn and life will be a dream, Sweetheart.
It is a long fucking season and shit happens.
That’s what makes these spring forecasting exercises so difficult. One big trade and a shitty team is suddenly right in the second half mix. A superstar goes down with an injury and a contender becomes a has been. A manger change and scrubs become superstars. It is a fun intellectual mix but the caveat has to be that something’s going to change during the course of the season. Counting the 17 rounds of playoffs baseball last for 7 month and there will be surprises along the way. Having said that here is my current outlook for the National League.
This is going to be a fight. Think Ali-Frazier, Patton- Rommel, Grant-Lee, end of a short second marriage, Robison-LaMotta , Greek-Persian kind of viscous nasty fight between the two leading teams. Vile words will be hurled across the diamond, blood will be spilled and great baseball will be played. The Mets and the Nationals are two great teams and they will battle all the way to the end. If Fernandez and Stanton stay healthy all year the Marlins will win enough to play spoiler but I cant see them contending this year. The Braves and Phillies are basically cannon fodder.
A three way dog fight but I am going to go ahead and drink the Kool Aid. The Cubs have a young talented roster, great pitching, a Hall of fame lock manager and one of the best GMs in the game. This is the year. The Pirates will outlast the Cardinals in a war of contrition for second place but it will not be an easy task.
Everyone is excited about the Diamondbacks offseason moves and thinks they will win the crown this year. They won’t. San Francisco is just too loaded with pitching and a winning culture. The Dodgers always have a Kershaw of a chance and will keep things tight among the top three. Great division of those of us on the East Coast with insomnia as it beats cooking shows and infomercials for late night entertainment value.
NL Pennant winner- Chicago Cubs
In his epic documentary film maker Ken Burns said “Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time’s constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.” So it is form and the great game of baseball. The game is not viewed through just the wins and losses or the stats I study so intensely. When I think of baseball I think of the one and only game I attended with my father, a come from behind win in that Orioles Magic season of 1983. He died a few short weeks later and that game was one of the last times we spent together outside of the hospital.
When I think of baseball I remember taking my then infant daughter on the bus, taking the 33 to connect to the 3 to the old memorial stadium in the summer of 1984. We went to a bunch of gams that summer and I can still smell the scent of baby hair and milk breath as she sat on my lap all the way across town. I think of games with my son and the bond we formed over the game and the team even when he was being a little teen age asshole. Today we share a love for the game and have taken in nay a game and enjoyed cold beers, good games and each other’s company. It is part of the fabric of my life form that transistor radio all the way through to my smart phone that allows me to watch all the games in the palm of my hand today. It is the magical feeling of that first view of Memorial Stadium at 6 years old to a cold beer at Spring training a few week ago.
It’s a long fucking season and shit happens. Hopefully it happens as predicted here but it will happen and another season of the game will be woven into the fabric of my life.
He would make a fine member of the church
I am just back from a great little Mexican place here in town where as usual I ate far too much. Upon arriving home I popped a bottle…
Life goes better wine, but your wallet may not always agree. The search for a solid inexpensive wine can make your wallets as happy as the rest of you. Screw the experts and drink what you like.
Inspirations for other versions of the Clueless Code are all around us