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My Way or the Highway

You been following the events of the past week? Mizzou? Paris? Obama saying “ISIS is contained”?  How about toddlers using iPads or childhood obesity rates?  Does this surprise me?   NO.  Does it startle me?    NO.  Am I paying attention to world and national events?   YES.

Am I going to write about it?

Not directly.

 

Doin' laundry

Doin’ laundry

Aye God, I reckon I was a handful two decades ago.  Stubborn, bull headed, irascible, unmoving, overbearing – you name it;  I musta been an asshole to live with.  I did my damnedest to impose my collective will on everybody I encountered.

This summer at the Secret Hideout,  My Bro summed it up very eloquently.   He said “I am not going to do anything any more that doesn’t make me happy.” Simple enough sentence but I have thought back on it many times over during the ensuing weeks.

After mulling it,  seems to me like I have been doing the same same for more than a few years now and just could not distill it into such a simple mission statement.

 

 

Let’s look at 2015 (so far) so maybe I can explain it a bit better.  I am proud of these things, they made me happy:

  • I lived successfully 5 months off grid at the Secret Hideout surviving the best a Central Texas Spring and Summer could throw at me.
  • I spent an average of $60 per month on groceries.  The first 90 days was lest than $100.
  • I not only survived, I actually adapted and upgraded my living conditions during that period.
  • I returned to work on my schedule; when I wanted to.

So why did this make me happy and how does it tie in with the world events listed in the first paragraph?

Independence, thats’ what. 

I set out to be a Nomad years back and the trip has just stretched out farther and farther with each subsequent year.   Somewhere along all those roads traveled and places visited,  I figured out the more I could be my own man and the less I had to rely on somebody or something else, the stronger and more fulfilled I became.  Brutally simple, huh? At some point during this nomadic odyssey I also figured out imposing my collective will anywhere within my sphere of influence was not satisfying.

So now I talk and I write and I show.   I hear from some of y’all from time to time that some little this or that you picked up from the blog has been helpful.  Fair enough!  I would be doin’ it any way most likely.  Whole lot better than me rompin’ and stompin’ and making everyone’s life a miserable hell.

I am a Hunter S. Thompson fan all the way back to my adolescence.   Take what he has to say into consideration.

In April of 1958, a 22 year-old Hunter S. Thompson wrote a letter on the meaning of life when asked by a friend for advice. What makes his response all the more profound is the fact that at the time, the world had no idea that he would become one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Therefore his beliefs about purpose were hypothetical—they were statements of faith. But if it’s true that our beliefs really do become our reality, then there’s no better example of a life fully realized than the one of Hunter S. Thompson. Let his perspective inspire you:

… April 22, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City

Dear Hume,

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,
your friend,
Hunter

My true and most trusted friend Joel reminded me this past week when he sensed my Chicken Little coming to the fore that the world is not ending.

Exactly.

Changing, yes. TEOTWAWKI? No.

About Joel from day’s past……

“You will see his comments here fairly often.  I am honored that he takes time to read this blog.  If I venture off on a political bent, I can almost guarantee a comment from Joel since we tend to lock horns when it comes to politics.  I treasure friendships such as this and more so with each passing year.  More treasured than a big house or a fancy car; that. “

P.S. For those of you who respected Ol’ Remus when he was producing his weekly Woodpile Report, the sabbatical is over.  Remus is back in the building.

End Note: Black Sky by Dave Alvin from the Ashgrove cd.

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13 comments to My Way or the Highway

  • Joel

    Thank you, my friend.

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  • ken

    Andy, it seems you been reading my mail. I have arrived at the point that I see no way one can do more than hunker down and protect one’s own value system. Speak out and get declared non pc, keep shut and get declared non-American. Dunno which way to jump. Answered a post on an RV forum and was immediately declared a cowboy that would kill all the innocents around just because I don’t necessarily read the paper signs declaring some retail establishment a “gun free zone”. The state has issued “right to carry” permits, if one tests and qualifies. The fed gov’t supports the constitution and the amendments thereto. No paper sign is about to supersede that.
    My daughter commented last evening that our freezers and pantry are out of storage space. The chickens are laying well, and all is well within our close circle.
    I guess we will see the results of the mizzou protests one day, but so far it is just a bunch of gibberish from some simple minds that seem to be fixated on something called white supremicy. Never knew such a thing existed. You are what you work your ass off to be. Never have been “given” squat. Worked hard all my life. Will continue to do so.

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    • Andy

      Not white supremacy Ken – white privilege. Either we are guilty of it or we have it; something. I am not really sure.

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  • Don M

    One big problem is that every single thing is now political. Everything. Liberals do it, and so do conservatives. Maybe everyone else too. Everyone is angry at “the other side”. And agitators are everywhere. Agitation and political anger. Most of it is meaningless nonsense that has no traction unless you let it.

    If you have never read it, take a look at “How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World”, by Harry Browne. Heck, you’re basically living it now, Andy. There is a chapter on being free from politics and its soul-sucking effects. Ironically Browne later ran for president! But as a Libertarian, probably seeing it as a good way of spreading a message. Anyway, I think you’d like the book.

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  • Stephanie

    Andy,
    I remember being a young lady heading off to college with dreams of becoming what my parents told me would make me a happy….only to find out, years later, that was not the case. I have a daughter heading to college next year….she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up and asked me for advise. My answer to her, “whatever makes you happy”. Such an easy answer for me and very little help for her, LOL. My other words of wisdom for her were “you either go along and see what comes your way or you make it happen, kind of the proactive vs. reactive way of life. Your choice.”
    I think you might have it figured it out. I believe age, wisdom not to do that again, experience and a good dose of duct tape and WD-40 help us realize that simplicity has its merits. The world will continue on without us so if we get a small measure of contentment in our lives, I think we ‘win’.
    I remember a very unpleasant exchange I had with an ex-sister-in-law years back. She was all up in arms about a TV show that went against her religious beliefs. I finally told her to shut the damn TV off. Problem solved.
    Stephanie

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    • Andy

      Stephanie,

      If I make it long enough that a rocking chair is the fastest thing I can handle, I hope I can look back on my life with few regrets.

      Thanks for your wise comments. Once the kids get that age we have done about all we can as far as raising them.

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      • Stephanie

        Ahhh, regrets. Self imposed and useless servitude. Kind of like guilt, very self serving.
        Rock that rocking chair like it has no governor. I live in oil country and there is a certain truck that comes through town every day and he hits the jake brakes as soon as he sees the sign that tells him not to. Makes me smile. Small pleasures in life, lol.
        Enjoy your blog and love your music taste. Here’s an oldie.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53XyCbIJGKY

        Stephanie

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        • Andy

          Good choice of music. The Summer of Love- 1967. I was 12.

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        • Andy

          Ahh, I remember you now Stephanie. You turned me on to that hot Joan Osborne track!

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          • Stephanie

            Yep, that’s me.

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  • Stephanie

    I was 4 at McGuire AFB. Listened to this on the stereo/speakers my dad brought/smuggled back from Japan.
    A little something different for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_GchifNRh0
    Stephanie

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