For Those Who are Lost in Life

The problem I have often found people to have is that they don’t know what their purpose in life should be or what their passion is. They are looking outside of themselves for something to be born in them that they believe is otherwise absent.

I think these people are asking the wrong questions. Each of us is already an individual. If you don’t already know who it is you are, then you haven’t exposed yourself enough to the world. But I think this is rarely the case. What are the things you are already drawn to, naturally? What are your preferences and desires? What qualities attract people to you? In what areas in life do you find yourself already excelling? And then once you can answer these questions, ask yourself, how can I be more of that?

If deep down you feel anxious or dissatisfied with your life, or even a vague melancholy that seems to follow you like a shadow, that you often distract yourself from until quiet moments where you find it there waiting for you, then this means something. It means there is something missing and that in order to be who you are, to express yourself more fully, then you must fill that space.

I suspect that many people, though they aren’t likely to admit it, know exactly who they are. Deep down, they know what it is they are drawn to and what areas in life they excel at naturally. I suspect that fundamentally, it’s not passion that these people lack, because a mind that feels anxious for deeper meaning is one that is already passionate. I suspect that these people are afraid. They lack the confidence to build their lives around who they really are. That requires a degree of boldness and comfort in yourself, to trust that your own self is a sufficient source of skill and meaning.

Don’t think that you should find a mold that suits you. We have only one life to live, so why not customize your life and your path to fit exactly who you are and who you feel compelled to become?

Don’t let an unwillingness to embrace yourself define you and your life. Trust that the answers are already within you and that you have a unique power that your mind is pressuring you to manifest, with all the signs it’s giving you.

 

 

 

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On Rationality

When it comes to our behavior, we have a tendency to rationalize, finding order and justification for our actions. When we maintain a contradictory belief and behavior, often times we naturally change one or the other. We are driven to do so by our cognitive dissonance.

The same is often the case in rational thought alone. We adapt our reasoning to logically follow from certain axioms and assumptions of which need not accurately apply to the world. Believing that there is an inherent openness to all starting points in our reasoning is a deep skepticism. This could lead to a compulsive predilection for denying all claims, asserting that the stronger it is the stronger its unfoundedness must be.

As philosopher Pierre-Daniel Huet wrote, “let any one be convinced that man is an animal so formed by nature, that what appears to him to be true, is false; all you shall propose against this opinion will appear to him to be false or true; if false, he will justly reject it; if true, believing himself to be so made he will still be obliged to reject it as false. Thus it will be easy for him to subvert all reasons that can be objected against his opinion: and we cannot invent one, which will not fall under this general law, that what appears to a man to be of must truth, is most false.”

I do not think this approach would inherently lead to such a regression. I think it is possible for someone to accept assumptions as such and the possibility that one is wrong in whatever subject, be it what you should do in a given situation, politics, or the nature of the universe, and to consider some theories as being still superior to others in their measure of certainty. Yet we must still be skeptical of what it is that is influencing this judgment. Rationality can be preserved at the same time skepticism is maintained; it produces no dissonance.

You have to always acknowledge the assumptions you are making, as a matter of principle, or you are allowing yourself to be blinded. Holding steady to this principle, you will find uncertainty in most everything, and yet much clarity is still be had once the assumptions are accepted. You must have them if you are to have any ideas at all, and to accept them consciously allows for even greater clarity. Clarity is possible in the face of uncertainty. That we should be so certain when we are not even aware of or actively ignoring our assumptions is irrational. To be aware of all assumptions and biases all the time is impossible, but to at the least allow for their existence and search for them is critical if your highest aim is truth.

The Balance between Business and Braininess

I have two main passions in life, which I am pursuing seriously and not just as hobbies: business and academics. I am also quite interested in bettering my artistic skills. I am passionate about ballet, painting, and writing. I am not very ambitious though with art; it’s a private, personal journey. Perhaps one day I’ll pursue them more seriously, but right now I don’t have the time. As for business and academics, the two are very, very different activities. Business is real world, practical, and all about action. Academics is in the clouds, impractical, and all about contemplation. They occupy very different mental spaces, and the more I do each, the stronger my desire for the other becomes.

Business makes me feel strong, capable, and powerful. It makes me feel in control of my life and like I can at once create useful value in the world and freedom for myself. It’s fun, like a game. The object is to steadily increase cashflow andmath-manipulatives maintain the organization of the operation and the happiness of everyone involved. When I go to a new place now, I think about its potential, its economic activity, and the constraints on its improvement. I want to realize my own potential. I want to build an empire. There’s something about building something from scratch that brings me a very deep satisfaction.

 

Academics, on the other hand, makes me feel intrigued, genuine, and existentially fulfilled. The pursuit of intellectual clarity speaks more to my soul; it represents a more fundamental part of myself. Perhaps a better word than academics is intellectualism, because academics implies the involvement in an institution devoted to intellectualism, but an institution is unnecessary for the pursuit of knowledge, and in fact, in many ways, institutions are increasingly stifling for continued intellectual development for more reasons than one. But that is another article.

Without intellectualism, my devotion to business would leave me feeling empty. Without business, a full commitment to intellectualism would leave me feeling cut off from the world, indulging in a kind of narcissism, and would otherwise leave another part of my character unexpressed. And so I am left to attempt to balance the two, which as I said occupy very different states of mind. It is difficult to switch them on and off. If I indulge in my obsession over business, I will spend every moment counting numbers, planning aggressive tactics, and doing everything in my power to make shit happen. I forget about the truth in the world. The world that is sitting there indifferent to my blind participation in society. And when I obsess over ideas, I grow uninterested in petty real world details and I forget about what needs to get done.

Both engagements at once increase and decrease my incentives in the other. They increase it because they are like yin and yang; one makes up for what the other lacks. They decrease it because they are each mentally addicting in the sense that I forget the other state of mind exists when I am preoccupied with the one of them.

This is a conundrum. I fantasize about being in an office full of books and paint and chalkboard scribbles while somehow being available to oversee my businesses. I still don’t know how much this fantasy is actually possible. But for now I see no other possibility for myself other than to try to realize it.

It is fascinating in itself just how different these two careers are and how it could be possible to do both. There are no rules for our paths in life, only judgments, fears, and perceived limitations. It is my personal philosophy, perhaps naive, that if you desperately want two different things, if they are not morally conflicting, then you should find a way to have both. If in them there lies a contradiction, then you should ask yourself if there is a real contradiction there and not just an imagined one, because we only have one life to live and the fact that we can choose exactly how to live it is a beautiful thing. Our path in life should be a creative one, not one fashioned for us by society.

 

 

 

 

 

The Poor, Poor Rich

I have started to notice something while reading public discussions, Facebook comments, and other expressed sentiments, and that is that normal people tend to have a great deal of disdain for rich people. This is probably obvious to most. It’s common to hear people talk about ‘the rich stealing from the poor’, ‘exploitation’, and of course the catch-all Wall Street.

Business, perhaps surprisingly, is often times very fair. Every participant in a business relationship is accepting of their role. Unfairness does make its appearances, but very often it is the case that people take mutually beneficial actions. Profits are to be maximized, and so under that operating premise, labor, for example, tends to get displaced overseas where it is cheaper. Many say that these workers who make very little each day are being exploited, and yet they don’t know much about the conditions these workers live in and what they would otherwise be doing with their time. It is often the case that this new labor is a big step up for them, and the addition of jobs en masse provides a significant boost to their local economies.

Overseas workers are jumping at the opportunity to work for U.S. companies. Perhaps you should ask them whether they feel exploited. Personally, if I had the option of working as a farmer and working at a call center or factory for a U.S. company for relatively more money, it would be very obvious to me what the better option would be, and I would think it rather strange for you to call me exploited because of it.

What is it with this idea that the middle class has about the upper class, that they are mostly over-privileged, greedy, an unworthy of compassion if they are to ever suffer? This attitude speaks little of them and volumes to the person who is clearly resentful.

When Humans of New York posted a series on attendees of the Met Galla, there were popular “woe is me” comments disparaging the personal experiences of the rich, as if they have it made so well that they are unworthy of any further attention. Of course there was a backlash, “it’s Humans of New York, not Poor Humans of New York,” but none the less, the fact that this conversation arose at all was telling.

I always try to keep a distance from the conversations to understand the different perspectives, because I find it interesting that these perspectives exist at all, and I’m curious why they do.

The way that I see it is it’s ridiculous to consider rich people as being all of one type, sharing any qualities at all, other than happening to have much more money than they need to live on alone. They got this money for all different reasons. Some inherited it (within this camp there are plenty of assholes). Many earned it through deliberate and sustained hard work. Some choose to live simple lives despite their wealth, and some loose their minds and buy as much as they possibly can. They are all individuals, and everyone is different; everyone has a different story and a different character.

Somehow, when wealth is achieved, there is a piece of humanity that is lost in the wealthy individual through the eyes of the public. This lost piece of humanity seems to have been driven out of perspectives via nothing other than envy. It’s really rather sad.

Of course there is reason to resent those that flaunt their money and cry over losing a $60k diamond earring while wading in the water on the shore of a south Pacific island (of course I’m talking about Kim Kardashian). That is indeed absurd. But everyone suffers. Humanity isn’t lost to the wealthy internally, and humans are highly adaptable. Problems are always relative to ones own experiences.

Allowing oneself to respect the grievances and complaints of the wealthy, barring ridiculous reality TV fiascos, perhaps requires that one come to terms with the fact that you don’t have as much money as they do.

The thing is, the way to get rich if you aren’t already in this world, if we are to do so in a self-made and dignified manner (i.e. not marrying someone for their wealth or inheriting wealth), is to create value. If you aren’t making as much as your boss, it’s because your work isn’t as valuable to the company as his. Another way to think about it is successful entrepreneurs who turn billionaires tend to solve major problems, with solutions that are so big they continuously effect the lives of millions for generations. Steve Jobs solved the problem of the absence of personal-sized, straightforward to use computers, and because of that he changed the way we interact with the world. His solution was so fundamental that it led him to achieve a net worth of 19 billion.

Famous actors have one of the highest paid jobs in the country. They create a lot of value–people eat up everything they create, say, and endorse. They are famous for a reason. We make them famous, because we watch them, read about them, and talk about them. They affect our thoughts and our lives, and they are duly compensated. They also tend to work 15 hour days shooting films, flying all over the country doing interviews, and whatever else, barely any time at all for a social life. They live large but they pay the price, and part of that price is losing their anonymity, the sincerity of the people they attract, and the compassion of the many that envy their success.

Instead of complaining about the dastardly rich exploiting the poor, maybe look inside yourself, and see that you are free to create your own success, to create value, to solve problems, all the while retaining your right to the entirety of the human experience.

 

 

 

Is Human Behavior Unchangeably Hardwired?

Instincts are so powerful that we lose ourselves in them–they compel us, control us, and drive our desires without the requirement for any modicum of conscious awareness. They make us feel most alive, most “right”; in many ways, they make up the foundations upon which our identities are built, the center to which our personalities are relative.

Instincts are coded in our genes; they originate from past behaviors that guaranteed the preservation of those genes by driving us to survive and procreate.

Behavior in practice has changed over time, insofar as genes have continued to evolve due to sexual selective pressures as well as the effects of changes in our cultures. Cultural evolution is very similar to genetic evolution, with its analogous ‘meme’ behavior, a term coined by Richard Dawkins, representing cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

Research in the fields of genetics, neuropsychology, and paleobiology yields evidence that, despite drastic changes in our environments, cultures, technology, knowledge, and general realities, our deepest, instinctual genes have remained largely unchanged from the emergence of homo sapiens 200,000 years ago. People today still behave in ways that aided our survival during the Stone Age.

You can take the person out of the Stone Age, evolutionary psychologists contend, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.[1]

Sexual selection is the only genetic selection left in the modern world, as selective pressures for survival are no longer relevant in our society. Intelligence, physical attractiveness, and economic advantage still effect our sexual choices, although in the first world it is a growing trend that the more educated people are having fewer children and the least educated are having more, but that is beside the point.

What culture and social conditioning tend to do is not change instincts and emotions, but redirect, suppress, channel, and otherwise control the expression of them.

A good example of this is found in human sexuality. Sex is one of the most deeply ingrained instincts we have, short of our basic instinct to stay alive. But the impact that culture and individual psychology have on sexuality is quite extensive. I am not speaking of sexual orientation, but the ways in which sexuality gets channeled, directed, and expressed.

One theory for sexual ‘deviancy’, or abnormal sexual preferences and fantasies is that instincts, as strong and powerful as they are, must be channeled and compartmentalized to preserve the integrity of one’s social conditioning as well as one’s own ego and personal identity. A team of researchers in Canada recently found that, interestingly, nearly half of people surveyed were found to have at least one type of sexual perversion. [2] Perversion may just be a way instincts get channeled and expressed in a way that can be compartmentalized as a ‘game’, where behavior is reserved for certain roles that are kept at a distance from the participants’ primary identities.

In short, it seems instincts, at the core, are impossible to change.

To continue on the example of sexuality, in the Victorian era, there was widespread sexual repression, which is what likely caused the boom in the “hysteria” diagnosis, which doctors treated with handjobs, leading them to invent the first vibrators to save their hands from fatigue. [3] 

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[Cadence Theatre Company]

 

Japan is seeing an unprecedented decline in sexual activity, coined the “celibacy syndrome”. [4] It is an open question whether sexuality is getting channeled and expressed in other ways, in a Freudian sense within Japanese careers or online in Japan’s ever-growing online and virtual reality communities. And if it is not found elsewhere, it could manifest in the negative sense: as loneliness, despair, and feelings of alienation. However, if that is not the case, it is also possible that, after Japan’s economic and natural disaster history and its increasing urban development and cultural futurism, Japanese people could be seeing a decline in the sexual instinct itself.

Japanese people could be seeing a decline in the sexual instinct itself.

 

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Tokyo

 

What is interesting to note is that we have already seen a drastic change in human behavior. It happened during the development of the first cities. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans engaged in incessant tribal warfare until the development of the first cities, which was necessary for the development of civilizations. Cities allowed for more specialized activities to develop, but they required strangers to get along. People had to learn to extend courtesy and empathy to people that weren’t a part of their inner circle; they had to project their group mentality onto a much larger circle, which required humans to suppress their hostile natures.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Artist’s impression of two tribes at war

 

It seems that humans can change their instincts. It takes a very, very long time, and it requires significant social and circumstantial pressures–significant enough to override the very behaviors that allowed us to stay alive until this point.

This is good news, because human nature is horrible in many ways. We still exhibit tribal mentalities to the extent that war and racism are still very much alive. It is the hope of many of us that future generations will live in a world one day without destructive hatred, inspired by instincts no longer appropriate to the world we live in.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://hbr.org/1998/07/how-hardwired-is-human-behavior

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3484266/Are-pervert-Study-suggests-half-deviant-sexual-acts.html

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex

Interview with a nomad: Dale Walker on alternative living

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Dale Walker and the Dalai Lama. Sept 22, 1984.

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
    A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
    And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
    And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
    And they don’t know how to rest.

Dale Walker is a nomad with a thirst for freedom and the wanderer lifestyle. He’s currently 51 years old. He grew up in a small town in Iowa with three brothers and four sisters. He has an interesting story to tell about his adventurous youth and philosophy of life.

Hi Dale Walker. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for me.

As you have already told me, you ran away from home at the age of 12 and made it 100 miles before getting caught and spending a night in jail. What motivated you to run away from home that day? Did you have problems at home?

No, there were no problems at home. I simply wanted to be a child star and set out for Hollywood. I bought a bus ticket only as far as Omaha, Nebraska so the local ticket agent wouldn’t know my ultimate destination. I planned to buy the ticket to California from Omaha. Fortunately though, I was detained before I got that far.

What was it like spending a night in jail at 12 years old?


The night in jail was supposed to be an object lesson. I was still close enough to home and it was early enough in the day that my parents could have come to get me right away. It was a small town jail with only one cell and there were no other prisoners. They fed me supper, I slept, then my mom picked me up the next morning.

 

So your parents picked you up and what happened next?


There was no punishment. My parents understood that kids will be kids. 
I just went on with my life, taking up a job at a cafe.My life got a lot more complicated later that year though. My sister died in a tragic car accident two days before Christmas. She was only sixteen. The last time I had seen her alive, she had introduced me to marijuana. She told me to quit smoking cigarettes but never stop smoking weed. Then a few days later, she was gone. Makes me sad to write about her even now, forty years later. It affected me quite deeply. I was pretty much on my own after that. My parents had their own grief to deal with and gave me free reign to handle mine. Mom told me later that she thought I blamed God.By the next summer, I’d fought my way into the cool kids clique. They wouldn’t let me hang out until I challenged George Fritz to a fight. He knew how to fight and I didn’t. He kept punching me and I’d fall down but I always got back up. Finally he said, “Please don’t get back up.”

I replied, “I’m getting back up.” That made me one of them.

Then I met Mark Woods. He was older, 20 or so, and had been to Altamont where he’d overdosed on LSD. He lived with his mom and all he had to do was mow the lawn. He subcontracted that chore out to me though and paid me with an album, an issue of High Times, and a joint. That’s when I learned there was a true counterculture. High Times reported on it and the albums, such as CSNY’s Four Way Street and Black Sabbath’s Bloody Sabbath, gave me a feel for it. I’d smoke the joint, read the magazine, and listen to the music.

I took a lot of drugs then, uppers, downers, and LSD. I grew my hair out and became a freak. I made friends with other misfits and we raised hell. We got drunk, stole cars, and broke into buildings. We cruised around on the gravel roads and raided deserted farmsteads for gasoline. During this whole time, I was still working and saving money. Then I got caught.

I was sent to a juvenile detention center for a three week evaluation. I had a few more run ins with the law after that, but I mostly spent this time getting new girlfriends and hanging out with friends. I was a popular guy.

 

I’m very sorry to hear about your sister. You left again at 15 and hitchhiked for 7 years. Where exactly were you hitchhiking and did you ever visit home again during this time?

 

My first trip was back to Florida to see some girls I’d met at Disney. They didn’t like me anymore though and I ended up on the street in Fort Lauderdale. I slept under the Las Olas Street bridge. I got a job at a state park the second day I was there and rented a place. I threw a party almost right away. I wanted to thank all the street people who had helped me that first week. I let a guy move in with me but he was a prostitute and a junkie and I couldn’t abide that so kicked him out.

That’s when I met Roger. He was the first of many true nomads that I would meet in my life. Roger spent ten years living in Century Park in Nashville and had spent the last year living as Jesus on the beach. He had the look. He supported himself picking magic mushrooms and selling them on the beach. I often call this phase of my life “Magic mushrooms with Jesus.”

That was the summer I turned 16. I went back home later that year but no longer fit (if I ever had) and shortly left again. This time for Seattle. Over the next five years, I hitched to 48 states, 9 provinces of Canada, and even to Mexico. I went back home many times and even went to college for a semester. By then though, the road knew my name and kept calling for me.

So after these 7 years, from the age of 22, you began traveling with your own vehicles. Where did you go and why? What was different about this experience, having your own vehicles to travel with?

My first car after all that hitching was a 2-ton dump truck, a 53 Chevy. It had been my best friend’s truck and his mother gave it to me after he was beat to death. Of course, I needed money for gas from then on. I had a little money from odd jobs and drove to Missouri. I met some tree-planters there and became a reforestation technician. Over the course of the next ten seasons, I planted more than a million trees. It was seasonal work and the money didn’t last all year so I also collected scrap metal and also relied on gratitude as I had hitchhiking. I also continued to travel everywhere. Missouri to North Carolina to Oregon to Arizona then back to Missouri. By then, I had a traveling companion, a woman who had hitched almost as much as me. We spent four years together.You mentioned to me that at some point you met the Dalai Lama. When and where did that happen and what did you take away from the experience?

This is a great story. I was hitching to Charlottesville to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson who had always been one of my heroes. I never made it to Monticello and instead, got a ride with someone going to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Tibetan Meditation Center in Charlottesville. This was just a few days before the Dalai Lama was to arrive in DC and the monks gave us invitations to a small reception to be held at the Tibetan Meditation Center in Washington DC. I stayed with my ride and his family. They had a commune in the 
mountains West of Staunton. We tried to see the Dalai Lama at the

Washingtom Cathedral but it was full to capacity when we arrived. The reception we were invited to was the following day and I spent the night camped in Rock Creek Park across from the meditation center.

Everyone was excited when the Dalai Lama arrived. I have a picture of that moment and the look of joy on every face is so profound. I didn’t really know much about him but he in some way recognized me. Just before his arrival, the monks had informed everyone waiting that His Holiness would not be doing the Kata greeting. He did it with me though.

The one thing I remember from his talk is when he said that he was no different from anyone else except that he’d had the benefit of training since he was a child. I fell asleep during his talk. There’s a whole thing about falling asleep in the presence of the Dalai Lama. In retrospect, it was like getting a years worth of inner smile training in a moment.

 

Eventually you met your wife and had two children. How much has your philosophy of life influenced how you raised your children? What did you do for a living while you were settled down?

 

I don’t know if I ever really settled down. I lived on the mountain for ten years on an old homestead where I lived rent free due to having a bad accident with the deputy sheriff. I came around a blind corner on the wrong side of the road and ran into him head on.
Totaling a cop car made me a local and the old home-place was my reward.The mother of my children was a gypsy bellydancer when I met her and we had our children at home. Although we had a midwife there who actually delivered them, I’m the attending physician on their birth certificates. We raised them the natural way. Up on the mountain, they called people like us “wholesome people” because we were into natural
foods and the simple life.We moved off the mountain when they were little though and for many reasons. It was partly because of Y2K. I asked my neighbor if he was stocking up on food just in case. He said, “No, I have guns. My neighbors have food.” That’s when I decided to move us back to the Midwest.I worked in a factory then but before long became a scholar. I’ve earned a couple degrees. It made me smarter but it did not magically make me career oriented. I’ve had some rewarding jobs working with people experiencing homelessness and with people who suffer from mental disabilities. Now I’m just counting the days now until my youngest graduates and I can go back on the road. My kids now? One is a hippie just like me. She is an incredibly talented young woman with so much potential. I’m glad she had me and blessed that I had her. I think we saved each other. My mom left home at 15. I left home at 15. But she didn’t have to. God, that gives me tears to write that. I feel so trapped being housed when I could be free on the road but the blessing of spending this time with her trumps everything. I’m not made for this culture.

My other daughter is a beautiful young woman too. She’s more traditional but in a very non-traditional way. It’s taking her longer to mature than her younger sister but she is doing great. I love both my girls. Let me add that their mother and I separated when my little girl was just ten. The younger one stayed with me and the older lived with her mother. I’ve been a single dad all these years since.

Where do you see yourself going from here?


I’m liquidating and going back on the road. This time by bicycle. My daughter let me spread my wings last year. I traveled as much as in the old days. I made three or four hitchhiking trips, two long bicycle 
tours totaling more than a thousand miles, and several road trips. (I still have a car but not for long.) I put my understandings to the test
on these journeys and have a solid philosophy that works magic. I’m also now an elder of my tribe, I get a lot of respect and am well known.
I would like to ask you one final question. What does freedom mean to you?
To me, freedom is some small measure of awareness that time and space are illusions. There’s only here and now. Freedom is to remember that the whole is integral to the essence of every little part. There’s no here without there nor now without then. John Lennon said it best, “Let it be”.

Thank you for your time and sharing these details, Dale. You have had such an interesting and alternative life, living it exactly your way. I wish you all the best as you continue to wander.