Tag Archives: Life

TIMELESS ADVICE FROM HUNTER S. THOMPSON

AA1AIn 1958, a then 22-year-old Hunter S. Thompson wrote a letter to a friend who’d asked him for advice. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal – 57 years ago letters were how people communicated. What stands out is that Thompson wrote this letter way before anyone knew who he was. In my opinion, this letter is a pure statement of faith, written by someone who’d become one of the most influential writers of our time, solely for the purpose of helping his friend. I know the letter wasn’t written to me, but I read it like it was and I’d like to share it with 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!

AA2For 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)

AA13And 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.

AA8We 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?

AA3The 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.

AA17I’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. 

AA7But 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.

AA5As 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).

AA10In 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.

AA9So 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.

AA11If 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.

AA1There 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 S. Thompson

EXECUTIONER WANTED: CARE TO APPLY?

Help Wanted – Executioner for part time work.

ExecutionerAs/when required. Must be discreet and obedient to judicial orders. Able to carry out assignments without passing personal judgment; impartial to client age, race, sex, nationality, religion, or pleas of clemency. Persons subject to fits of compassion, mercy, or second guessing need not apply.

 

Can you do it?

60% of you can. 40% of you can’t. Surveys indicate that a majority of adults support capital punishment… under the right circumstances. So if you support it… you should be able to do it.

PicktonIt’s not too difficult to categorize who should die for high crimes. Child rapist-murderers head the list. So do serial killers like Vancouver’s Willie Pickton who butchered 50 women and fed them to his pigs.

Then there’s the drug gang-bangers and, of course, the mass-weapon terrorists. Most people will do-in some scumbag who knocks off his wife for insurance and takes up with a slut. And screw the cop-killer, too.

But what about the drunk driver who runs down someone for the third time? Or the druggie who gets excessive in the corner-store holdup? Or the wife who flips and knifes her husband and his secret gay lover?

Electric chairIs there merit to ‘the punishment must fit the crime’? What about ‘an-eye-for-an-eye’? Where do you draw the line on who sits on Old Sparky and who sits on ice? What happens if the condemned turns out to be innocent? Can you remotely take the chance? Does it deter others? Is it downright cruel and unusual – an act no civilized society can condone – regardless of the severity of the crime?

Well, hang-on and read the job description. These aren’t your concerns, so park it and ask the missing question.

How am I supposed to do it?

Let’s take a look at your options.

Lethal InjectionThese days, your best instrument is lethal injection. You’ll operate in a sanitary environment easing your patient with a sedative before clinically administering an intravenous flow of phenobarbital to put them to sleep. It’s neat, tidy, and you’ll have little clean-up once you’re done.

Depending on where you’re required, you might still activate an electric chair. Watch The Green Mile first so you won’t be too surprised when something smokes and cooks off.

The gas chamber is still elective and a firing squad – fast. Hanging is a swingin’ method, tried & true, but has some nasty side effects.

Years ago, you’d have a whack of acceptable devices. Crushing by elephants was handy as was using horses to tear limbs apart. Drawing and quartering worked fine, as did burning at the stake, boiling and burying alive, flaying, garroting, stoning, smothering, keelhauling, and impaling. Remember Vlad? Sick sonofabitch he was.

guillitineLet’s not forget the guillotine – messy but meaningful. Ling Chi, or ‘Death By 1000 Cuts’, took a while. Google ‘Cave of Roses’. That’ll creep the bejeezus outa you. Starving and dehydration were simple. The Pendulum was quite a feature and included the benefit of sheer terror. Consider beheading by double-bladed axe and disemboweling as well.

Leave crucifixion alone. It’s been done and has gained quite a sympathetic following.

 

There’s been a variety of creative tutors, but there’s one frikin’ guy who was really a master.

Vasili BlokhinHe’s Vasili Blokhin, a Major-General in Stalin’s army. He possibly notched-up a hundred thousand. In one month alone Old Vasili personally executed 7,000 Polish soldiers, setting an ambitious quota of 300 per night. To keep up the pace he used a single shot to the base of the neck from a .25 Walther pistol, being handed fresh magazines by an eager apprentice. Vasili eventually drank himself to death. Some say it was suicide by vodka. Don’t matter; he made it to the Guinness Book of Records.

So… are you up for the job?

Got what it takes?

Decide soon. All applications must be in by midnight.

 

ELEVEN THINGS YOU CAN’T DO WHEN YOU’RE DEAD

Recently a 60 year old acquaintance of mine suffered a brain aneurysm.

CasketJeff lingered on life support for a few days while his family made very difficult decisions, including preparing for his organs to be donated once the inevitable came and the plug would be pulled.

No one saw this coming; not family, not friends, not co-workers – and especially not Jeff. I didn’t know him well, but he struck me as a decidedly happy type who really enjoyed life. Jeff was certainly well loved by his friends and his grieving family.

Grim reaperA few weeks have gone by and I’ve been thinking about if it were me who had that aneurysm. What would I regret if the Reaper showed up tomorrow? What can I do now, that I can’t when I’m dead.

In no particular order, here’s eleven things.

1. Take a day off work.

Can you imagine anyone wishing they’d spent more time at work.

Family photo2. Get a family photo done.

Give your loved ones something to treasure.

3. Re-connect with old friends.

Think of whom you’ve lost touch with. Pick up the phone. Email. Facebook ‘em. Do it now… before it’s too late.

Dog walk4. Take the dog for a walk.

Make it a long one. If you don’t have a dog, go borrow one. Rent one if you have to. Dogs are cool and the more you talk to them, the better they like it, and the better you get to know yourself.

5. Send a love letter.

Doesn’t matter to whom. Just let those real feelings out while you can. This is one thing you’ll never regret.

6. Try something new.

HippieA new eatery. Take an artistic course. Bungee-jump. Talk to a hippie. Go geocaching. Give ten bucks to some random, homeless guy. Quit your job, pack up, and head south. Do something new. Don’t stay in that deepening rut.

7. Watch kids play.

Make it a long watch. If you don’t have kids, go borrow some. Rent them if you have to. Lots of ‘em. Better yet, let the dog play with the kids. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – like the sound of children laughing.

8. Go on a picnic.

PicnicTake your spouse. Or your lover. Preferably not both. Maybe your mom and your dad. Daughter or son. Pack cold chicken and potato salad. Cold pinot gris and that red checkered blanket. Go. To hell with the rain. Just go.

9. Volunteer.

Help out a cause. Join a service club or a clean-up group. Help out the seniors or raise money for Guides. Canvas for the heart & stroke foundation, cancer society, MS, or MD. Give something back.

10. Write that book.

Write BookAdmit it. Everybody’s got a book inside them. Start it. Or finish it. Start another. There has never, ever been a better time to be a writer. For God’s sakes, I’m living proof. If I can get one published there is absolutely no frikkin’ reason why you can’t.

11. Sign up as an organ donor.

It takes ten minutes. Let everyone in your circle know and encourage them to do the same.

Jeff was an organ donor.

This is the one thing that Jeff could do after he died.

Organ donor

And because of Jeff’s generosity, four other people are alive today.

So enjoy life. Decide to be happy.

And sign-up today.

You never know when the Reaper will show up.