Just yesterday I left my financial advisors office with a sense of dread. We discussed my retirement in earnest and it is not that far away. I am safely on course for an early retirement. The thought of insecurity or not being able to retire was not the cause of my dread. The cause was something far more ominous. Here I am approaching fifty like a bullet and I realize, and have realized for a long time, those things I held most dear are all but gone. Intelligence was number one, creativity number two, spirituality number three…I worked every day in my twenties to be better at each and every one of them. Because of my term in the military to raise money for college, I did not graduate until I was 30. I was in no hurry to end those college years, I loved to study. When I did end up finishing I spoke to one of my professors of the greatest opportunity I had in graduating…”Now I can study what I want!”
Years have passed since that time, nearly 18, and I did not study and I did not grow. I withered. I worked to make money; I saved for trips I promised myself but never took because suddenly, there wasn’t enough money. I told myself explicitly, “When I have X dollars in the bank I’m going to buy a catamaran and sail around the world.” But X dollars came and went and I continued to work. I got a dog and suddenly that was the reason I did not grow; I had responsibilities. Then I got married and that became the reason. The truth is…something died in my late 30s. I can almost pinpoint the moment it died.
I quit my job when I was 35 and took my savings with me to Hawaii to visit a friend. She had inherited a lot of money and I stayed in her guest house for a while. I intended never to return to corporate life. It had crushed me already, I was recognizing it. I had even gotten a tattoo of a temptress on my shoulder, she represented corporate life and the damage of greed. My friend in Hawaii lived the life of a sprite, flitting from one creative idea to another. I only stayed with her one month and had to escape. Despite her creative and sprite-like ways, she had zero direction. She was not growing either, just existing one day to the next. It was the opposite of my corporate life, not better or worse in any way. It was as directionless and crushing as my life was. So I returned after one short month with a resolve to return to the cubes and swallow my “pride.”
Just over a decade later and staring at my retirement I wonder where all the drive for intellectual curiosity went. I am a programmer and love development…but where is Nietzsche? Where is Kierkegaard? What happened to my love of Calculus? It all disappeared and now I desperately want it back. But I’ve gone through this before, I’ve been dancing this tango for a long time. I’m going to read more, I’m going to write more, I’m going to get out of my square box thinking. But it never happens and every time I try to break away…I get more depressed at the thought that I never will break away. I wondered and still wonder, “Were those creative years only in my youth?” “Is there no trail back to that wonderful beach?” “Do I resign that fact and be happy with my golf game?” I hate golf by the way, but I’m thinking of taking it up anyway…all my friends golf.
I have been reading articles on HE for a while and the other day while journaling I thought of a concept…perhaps I cannot find the trail back to intellectual curiosity because I don’t have the right tools. So what would those tools be? Well…the most important, I think, would be accountability. I have only my dog with whom to share my woes on my lost self. What if I wrote and asked the HE community to help. What ideas would you have? What if I made a commitment to read and take every suggestion seriously, no matter how far fetched? Some ideas I am restricted from, for instance, LSD use and micro-dosing. As much as I would be willing to do this…I do not have means for such things. I am a 48 year old corporate cube troglodyte…I’m the only one I know who even smokes. What if I promised to take the community on the ride with me? What is happening? What have I tried and what is working? What did not work? Is HE only for the young?
In the end, if the experiment fails, that too would be a tell.
So…what ideas for the troglodyte?
“Were those creative years only in my youth?”
You’ve done it once, you can do it again. The fact that you call yourself a corporate troglodyte means that you are in progress. It all pertains to you. I can shoot all of the wisdomy cliches circulated here, but in the end only you can answer your question.
I love that someone responded. I was worried no one would. However, I promised myself I would be honest and candid and your response can be summed up in “you know you lack and in that regard you are wise. Knowing yourself is the key, and you have that key. The answer lies within you.”
All too truistic to be actually useful. Thanks though…how do I say your response is respected but useless. I guess I just say it. This sounds shitty…I don’t mean it to be. I’m trying to be 100% honest.
Honesty. That’s one example the material world is devoid of. It’s natural. We are just letters on a screen. Face to face perhaps, is a different story.
Great read Greg. I myself have just come out of a long battle with depression add to that a lot of mania thrown in.. good and bad. I was a functioning alcoholic and used it as a means to self-medicate but have since kicked the habit along with smoking (being new to the forum as of yesterday I am looking forward to sharing my technique for kicking the habit of smoking for good).
Now I am in the midst of setting up a life plan, again something I wish to share with others in the near future upon completion. I do not feel at all it is too late to find that passion inside you what ever it may be, it is certainly not to late to grow. How can one be too old to live the rest of their life happy?
“perhaps I cannot find the trail back to intellectual curiosity because I don’t have the right tools. So what would those tools be?” Well for me it is finding a way to make doing nothing more painful than doing something.. anything. We as humans naturally migrate toward taking the least painful route to get to our destination and for some that destination is to remain motionless.
“What if I promised to take the community on the ride with me?” I’m game if you are, not only from a looker-on-erer point of view but also to make the commitment to share what works and does not work for me on the same journey. A tag team so to speak. I wonder just how many people you could rally to jump on this train with you rather than just looking from afar.
“Doing nothing more painful than doing something.” That is interesting. How do you succeed in that endeavor? I’ve spent so many years just punching the corporate clock, how does one actually change and reinvigorate? It is one thing to read the blog of a 20 something talking about the spirituality of lsd. It is another to speak to veterans who have been crushed by alcoholism and (sometimes worse) ennui. I too have had alcoholism in my life in various devastating ways (not me, but very close people). It does have a tendency to crush a spirit even after it is gone. I hope this dialogue continues….we’ll see where it goes.
I have not yet mastered this myself but getting better at it each day through reconditioning of the mind, so bare with me. Let’s use your situation as an example. “find the trail back to intellectual curiosity” In the beginning you do not want to focus on all the wonderful things that can happen if you do find your intellectual curiosity (that comes later). People for the most part have a tendency to shift all their energy and thoughts on how wonderful life would be if x happens but this does not kick start us to move from the sofa. Yes we are motivated for a short period of time, wake the next morning only to find ourselves struggling to make breakfast let alone shoot for the stars. Instead you are going to place your entire focus (for now) on all the awful terrible things that will happen if you do not find your curiosity again.
Ok so lets get really emotional here and dig as deep as you can possibly go. I don’t want to see no half-arse effort here… really crank into the pit of your stomach and break loose. Use your ego to help you here.
Pain – what will happen if don’t take action to find my intellectual curiosity
*sitting here years from now wasting away with no purpose
*no new input on conversations
*have no clue on the new findings of electromagnetic fields or even the person who was able to prove it
*The younger people on this forum will not have any reason read or respond to your posts because there is nothing new and exciting you have to offer
*You will be no closer to getting out of the rut you are in
*Your awareness will remain stagnant
*What example are you setting for the younger people on this forum if life at your age sucks?
*You will be forced to play golf (which you do not like) as opposed to placing your energy on going out on a limb and trying something you may not think you like but DO! But hey you won’t know right?
*The only company at night will be your dog because woman won’t find you interesting for long as you have limited past stories to tell and nothing new to place on the table on each date
And the list goes on and on.. but you get my drift.
Now we look at all the pleasurable things that can happen if you took just one single step into the unknown. I do not think I need to list those as they are pretty much the opposite of the painful list. So in conclusion look at this painful list often as a means to motivate you into getting off your butt and doing something right now. Stand up flap your arms up in the air like a bird and say I CAN fly.
Hope this helps. Cheers :)
Thanks Eclectic Adventure for the pain list…I’ve made similar, but it helps to read someone else’s view. Just one little clarification in case I was misleading. My life doesn’t suck, it is quite grand. However, the component I loved during college and my army days seems to have disappeared. It was such a fundamental part of me that that I’m surprised it slipped furtively out the back door when I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just having a hard time luring it back in.
No I do not think your life sucks at all lol.. oh dear I hope others did not think I thought this either. Eeeek! I do not know you personally so I was trying to gather very little I did know from your post and use it as an example for you :) Have you ever watch the TV series ‘Through the Wormhole’ narrated by Morgan Freeman. This should spark your curiosity. Also going out in nature I find helps me. I get what you mean though as we get older our curiosity does seem to fade. I am 41 and there were times where I did not think I would ever get it back. I basically just pushed myself in every direction each day until I find something that sticks and gets the ball rolling again. I even went and sat with the elderly and did some craft classes. But yeah anything you can think of out of the norm and your comfort zone really helps.
Greg, what a powerful post. One, you are an awesome writer. I know this because I rarely read posts that long, and I read yours. Two, it’s clear you have passion inside somewhere, I can hear it in your tone, it just flows from your writing. If I were you I would go to a good library and walk around. Explore the stacks. Something may jump out at you. Be open, go down rows you wouldn’t have thought to before. Hold some new-to-you books in your hands.
Bravo Michael. I went to the library, and I realized stepping through the doors that the last time I’d been in a library was to donate a ton of books I no longer wanted to cart from residence to residence. I wandered around for about an hour, gravitated towards books on technology, Russian history and the pure literatures (Gogol, Goethe, Tolstoy, Faulkner et cetera). Decided to resist and was all about to give up when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a book titled, “Carpe Diem.” It is a book on learning Latin. I quickly snatched it up, glanced it over and headed for the checkout. I’ve always wanted to learn Latin…at some point I forgot that. I learned Russian, Polish and German…why some dead language like Latin? Still, I felt a bit of a fire picking up that book and read the first 30 pages immediately upon my arrival home. On the way home at every stoplight I glanced through it.
Bravo Michael…this is a good beginning. Often we make things too complex, your suggestion to “go to the library” was simple and brilliant. I’m just starting this journey, but day one looks pretty good.
Greg, I am so glad to hear that. Your enthusiasm is rubbing off on me… I’ve just now scheduled a trip to a library myself for next week. You are clearly a person of action. I hope you will write more and share with the public. It seems you have a lot of interesting things to say that are waiting to be said. Thank you again for your post — it really got me thinking about this…how to tend the fire inside.
My story is somewhat different. You referred to “the creative years only in my youth” and I’m in that phase. I’m in university with a thirst for knowledge with copies of Nietzche’s writing next to my bed and essays by Camus bookmarked in my browser. Instead of following the “norm” of drinking and subscribing to the twerking and selfie crazes, I have opted for a much gentler, a more intro- and retrospective, a higher existence.
Ah! The naivety of the youth! I’m sure you can remember the idealistic days of your youth, where the notion to discover was the only notion in your mind. In my mind, that need for discovery and the desire to learn- that’s what I call thirst. If you’ve ever been on a hike and run out of water, or perhaps in the military they deprived you of water simply to “harden you up”, you will know what thirst is. The thirst for knowledge is just that: thirst. An old man needs water just as much as the young one and will still do as much as he can to quench that thirst.
So what am I actually getting at? Well if you’ve gotten this far, you’ve indulged me for far too long and, as such, i feel as if my response should come to a head. You speak about returning to that “wonderful beach” and despair at the notion of a retirement filled with golf-playing. But if you truly had a THIRST for knowledge, well maybe you wouldn’t have the time to write up this question.
Soooo…. My advice for the troglodyte? Get up off your arse, stop suckling at the teat of self-pity (not sure where that metaphor came from, lol :p) and get your thirst back. Maybe you need some tough love. Or maybe you just need to write an article, read a post and forget about “tools”. The only “tool” you need to find the trail back to intellectual is the thirst: and either you gotsdit, or you ain’t.
Thanks Nikolaiii, you hit the nail on the head. I feel as if I’m forcing the ‘thirst’ where in my army and college days I was constantly in a state of ‘thirst.’ I’m finding this forum is already helping. I’m heading to the library today after my cello lesson.
We put Nicolaiii. Now I have the song.. ‘wake up wake up you sleepy head, get up get up get outta bed’ in my head. But seriously that’s it!!! Just go out into the world, get crazy. It’s all about the comfort zone. Just take that first step Greg :)
How many people would love to have your experience career-wise? I’m in my mid-twenties and studying, not rushing, but at the same time looking forward like you were. I don’t know if the story was supposed to be depressive about succeeding, creating a family and retiring early in life. Why do I think that way? Something from the top of my head when you mentioned your love for calculus is a movie called Stand and Deliver. I watched it recently for my pedagogy exams and it was better than the academic attempt for intellectual curiosity or stimulus to study. It wasn’t money that can keep me going and motivated, it was something actually valuable and a real life example.
Thanks Marlon. I should rewatch that movie and others like it. This is good motivation; I loved Stand & Deliver because it showed the reward of hard intellectual work. It reminds me of Tyutchev and his description of creative and intellectual ecstasy. To paraphrase greatly…no joy in the world matches that of creative/intellectual achievement.
First, I will have to agree with @michaelrossi on the quality of your writing. I can tell you have spent some good time journaling and are skilled with getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper.
In regards to your present situation, I could offer my two cents, just like any one else, but I don’t think it would be too helpful at this point. I’d rather gain more knowledge of your present self and feelings. I believe this would be more constructive in providing support to you along your journey.
You mention honesty which is most powerful when dealing with issues of self. I would love for you to share some thoughts on the following:
If you could dream any dream, what would it be?
What is your 3 most positive attributes?
What are you 2 most negative attributes?
We are riding the elevator from the basement to the 200th floor, describe your childhood before we reach the top.
How much have you traveled?
That would be a good start. I really appreciate you sharing your message with us, I truly do. I’ve had similar feelings and experiences and I hope to gain from this community with you. Please keep sharing and I’m here for support all the way.
Thanks for responding Jake, I’d love to answer those questions.
If you could dream any dream, what would it be? I have a dream/memory that is not mine, I never lived it and it never happened to me…but I somehow know it to be true. I’m standing on a railway platform amidst a pine forest in the middle of the night. The air is crisp and bitter. I hear behind me a noise and turn to see a young woman walk through a cone of light to meet me. We are alone, she embraces me and tearfully kisses me goodbye. The train arrives moments later, I pick up my duffel bag and leave for war. I never returned. My dream, in this life or the next, is to find her.
What is your 3 most positive attributes? I am responsible, reliable and honest.
What is your 2 most negative attributes? I lack will power and I lack direction.
Describe your childhood (briefly). The elevator is moving very fast. Alcoholism & abuse….I was required to be too responsible too early.
How much have you traveled? Lived in Berlin for three years. Lublin Poland for one year. Did the backpack around Europe for a few months, slept in train stations a lot because I didn’t have much money. Saw the Berlin Wall fall, was in Yugoslavia when the war started (had to hightail it outta there!). Couple months in China. Numerous trips to Mexico. Costa Rica a couple times. Iceland a couple times (my favorite place of all). Stateside…I’ve lived in CA, TX, NC, MA, RI, FL and MN.
1. Where do you live, I’ll give you some LSD if you’re near me :)
2. Don’t hold on to the past! Don’t place the past in the future! You are human, you are ever changing. The most disastrous thing people can do to themselves is try to be someone THEY WERE. Not who they are now. You are a new person, a different person. You have grown and changed, and not in a bad way or in any way negative at all, but it will feel like that if you grip on to your past.
We are mortal: you will age, and you will die. We all fear it, we all act as if it is not true, that maybe we can escape it, somehow, someway.
Read who you are now. You are obviously in discomfort in the present moment – you’re obviously wishing for something new, something else. That something else may be things you used to enjoy in the past, but they are not THE past. As long as you long for the actual events and feelings of the past you will never find relief from your wants.
3. Despite the fact we age, you’re a child. You will always be a child. We are all children. The transition to adulthood is simply the addition of a veil upon our perspective. We filter out more. Stop filtering out things! I just made a video about this yesterday…
Thanks JonH! You are clearly a philosophical purist, which I find refreshing. Cubicle life has little room for pure ideologies. I have to clarify one point though, and it seems my writing was not clear in this matter as I’m a bit of a hack, I’m not unhappy. I’m quite happy, but I desire this intellectual curiosity to return. I was voracious in my college and army days for knowledge. I read Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” four times…back to back! Work and life got in the way of that, and suddenly money was the drive. The child in me is what I precisely want to get back. Your perception that the transition to adulthood is a veil on our perspective is fantastic. You need to expound on this more and make it into a larger written piece. “Adulthood is a veil on our perspective” is the perfect title. Write it, more people respond to writing than videos because quite simply…videos seem lazy. I think many people feel this way. You have a great message here, craft it, hone it, write it. Tell me when you do.
Great Philosophical Advice. I am a fan and will watch your posts.
I live in MN. : )
I’m in minnesota until Wednesday… But unfortunately other things are likely to consume my time until then. I’m guessing you’re in the twin cities? Anyway, doesn’t matter. I won’t have time! I’m going back to California after that.
I enjoy videos because there isn’t fluff. You have to captivate attention much quicker. I think this may be a generational thing. I love books, but I find often that a 300 page book, could easily be condensed down to 100 pages, without loss of content, and actually an amplification of meaning and fullness.
But perhaps… I’ve been witnessing the veil myself since I turned 16, so its been 8 years of observing it. I feel I could easily write a large portion about it.
I’m glad you’re happy.
I then must ask though, if you’re happy, why do you wish for change? I have to assume, that you believe then, that the happiness from building intellectual knowledge is better than ‘happiness’ that you have now. That it has more meaning.
This may be true, and if it is, all you need to do is pick up the book. What will help you greatly is a change of scenery while reading. If the house doesn’t do well – the library. If the library is no good – the park.
The reasoning behind this is common place. They say don’t study in your dorm, because you’re relaxed there. The real reasoning of this is lifting of the veil. Doing a new activity in an old place (or an old activity in a new place) requires the brain to stop filtering things again – thus dropping you into a bit more importance of ‘the now’. Imagine riding your bike through your house – you will remember that day for some time, or reading the newspaper on a walk with coffee, in your robe – – down the street.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and put a topic to discussion that so many of us are facing.
I have been struggling with essential questions, though maybe of a slightly different nature, for years. I came across meditation (the basic breathing meditation) and it has not only repetitively calmed my mind whenever times were rough, but above all, I have the feeling that it has altered my consciousness and perception of things. It teaches you acceptance and ultimately kindness to yourself, which again helps you to get “back on track” of who you are. The way you describe the attributes that you used to have in your “younger years”, it sounds to me as if this was the real you, not covered by corporate life and day-to-day sorrows with makes you not seeing the metaphorical forest for the trees.
Meditation and just being mindful, helped me seeing my true essence, separate between conditioned circumstances and purposefully chosen ones and lovingly accept who I am today, no matter what my “ego” or my surrounding is telling me. And this letting go is like being in flow with who you really are, this might be the moment when you can then tap back into your intellectual curiosity…
And by the way, can´t hurt to just going through a library or hopping from one Youtube-Video or The Economist-Article to the to help you stir up your curiosity once again. Maybe it is with intellectual curiosity as it is often with a partner: If you are not in a partnership, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unable to love, it simply means that you haven’t met the right person yet. (But you are already “out there” looking and this is a great step to get closer to the answer of your question).
PS: compliments on your writing, I have enjoyed reading your words seemingly flowing so easily.
I totally agree on the meditation. “it sounds to me as if this was the real you, not covered by corporate life and day-to-day sorrows with makes you not seeing the metaphorical forest for the trees.” This is brilliant Sofia, mind if I place this on my wall at home and quote you? :)
Thanks SofiaB, You and some others have hit on meditation. I’m not one much for that, I’m pretty much your standard Viking descendant and would prefer to bull-headed push through bad feelings and such nasty things. A quiet moment to reflect…aw, that sounds much like something a poof would do. So…being the poof that I am, I’ve picked up some guided meditations, have read a bit on silent and breathing meditations and am starting a daily practice. I can say that right now, my biggest thought when meditating is “jeesh, my knees are starting to hurt.” But there are some moments of clarity, as fleeting as they may be, that lead me to sense there may be something grand to this. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll keep doing this and see where it leads.
My apologies to anyone following this post if I came across.. I can’t even find the right word at the moment. Everything in the pain list I mentioned was just an out there example to drive Greg into motion as we can use our ‘ego’ for good. I believe there needs to be a balance between the ego and spirituality.