• Colin Ward

“Look for a way of life. Not goals”

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

Chasing the goal without understanding ourselves and our ever-changing perspective is fruitless “galloping neurosis”.

It is easy to become deaf from a cacophony of self-improvement guides and arbitrary lists of productivity tips. Yet, while this may be my own take, their proliferation speaks to the underlying sense that we are all secretly unsatisfied and attempt to find external validation via work ethic, discipline, and striving toward progress. This letter between two friends sheds wisdom through genuine care and understanding – something click-bait lacks.

A letter by Hunter S. Thompson is certainly reckless and egoist in his infamous style – even more-so, as he wrote it at 22. He dares to quote Hamlet and even recommends existentialist literature for god’s sake! Perhaps that alone is what I find attractive, as I know this blog bleeds a similar vein. This struck a chord with me; maybe it will for you.

“It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty.”

The common uncertain feeling and grasping for validity from our environment is not a unique phenomenon to one particular generation. Spiraling through our emotional windfalls and whims, our only handholds come in our human connections who are also “the sum total of [their] reactions to experience”. So, Thompson asks:

“would it not be foolish to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day?”

Thompson gives his friend permission to remain patient and drift to find a way of life he knows he will enjoy rather than a pre-defined goal. While in this context it is sound support for a friend, the idea clashes culture by refusing to follow the path towards a place in society in favor of one that leads us to be our uncompromising selves.

There is already a tremendous discord of voices to provide guidance toward the opposing understanding or at least coping methods for when it falls short. (I certainly do not wish to chime in as much as digest and, maybe guide towards, an understanding of this letter.) Thompson’s, though, strikes a timbre somewhere between a dog whistle and a megaphone. Though, I do not think these two perspectives are mutually exclusive.

“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.”

For what it’s worth, I also don’t believe that operating within a paradigm oriented around functioning in societal structures and institutions is futile. Doing so, responsibly, can lead to meaningful change with cascading benefits for oneself and others. It is especially difficult when the necessities of life compel us to make choices suddenly, so it is sound advice to know how to live a fulfilling life within constraints. Perhaps, it is best to do both: to mindfully act without fear to pursue a grounding understanding of ourselves and a way of life with which to build our goals.

“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.”

(More work from Hunter S. Thompson)

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