Lots Of Company.
Destination: A deconstruction of Hunter S. Thompson’s letter to his friend.
I’m sitting here, wrapped in blankets with three computers at my sister’s desk in the Chicago ‘burbs and no way of knowing how to access her WiFi.
Her apartment is freezing, air conditioner pumping at maximum capacity, and while she’s snuggled warmly in her bedroom and Justin on the air mattress — I swear sometimes they’re both the same person, set in all the same ways — I’m awake at dawn’s crack! and, almost as startlingly as if it actually had made a loud sound when the sun’s rays broke the horizon, I know there’s no sleep left in it for me this morning.
Do you know how it is when you set out with intentions for the day, but then something happens — and it might be big or it might be small — that throws you so off-kilter that you know there’s no way for your day to continue in the direction you’d originally planned?
Today, I was going to tell you about Cleveland.
Actually, I was going to sleep in and blow off a blog post all-together in lieu of a big fat crepe breakfast with my family, but you know. Dawn’s crack! and all that.
But before starting in on Cleveland, since I couldn’t access the internet from my laptop, I did something I’ve told myself not to do countless times —
I checked Facebook from my phone.
I mean, what’s more important than a feed full of the latest trending videos and pictures of children I’ve never met at 6:30 a.m. when I’m supposed to be on vacation?
Nothing. Nothing is more important than these things at 6:30 a.m. when I’m supposed to be on vacation.
But instead of cute pictures of kids in car seats or selfies in seat-belts or videos of the latest wedding dance-off, the very first thing that popped up — the very first thing — was a quote my friend Katie shared from a letter Hunter S. Thompson wrote to a friend of his in 1958 when he was just 22-years-old:
“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 … 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.”
And suddenly I couldn’t write about Cleveland.
At least not this morning.
So I DECIDED TO LOOK for the WiFi code by knocking on my sister’s door, and I FOUND A NINTH PATH by accessing the internet from my laptop and writing this post.
Because if I can’t write something utterly profound on my own, the least I can do is share the words of those who can.
I read the whole thing. And then I read it again.
He says to not make goals. He says, “…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.”
Because with each experience we have in this life, we change. And goals we had years ago might no longer fit the people we’ve become. And the goals we set tomorrow eventually won’t fit the people we will become.
Rather than “adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day,” the point is to simply choose a way of life we know we will enjoy. And this — this is pure gold — “The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.”
If Hunter S. Thompson did indeed write this letter, he wrote it nearly a decade before he published anything about the Hell’s Angels. He wrote it 13 years before he published Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
He wrote it, I guess you could say, before he ever wrote at all.
And somehow he managed to follow his own advice. To choose, despite less than stellar circumstances in his youth, a way of life he knew he would enjoy.
And that path led him… well.
It’s safe to say that goals were accomplished.
At the end of the letter, there’s one part that stood out beyond all of the others:
“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.
And then —
“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. It’s a warning, is it not? He makes sure to mention that if you feel settled, stay settled. Let that dog lie. But it’s a warning that, if you have the inherent need for purpose and you don’t find that ninth path, you’ll need to actually deceive yourself into thinking that you had no other choice.
And there he implies, ever so delicately, that you’ll probably regret it.
At least that’s what I see.
My sister just handed me a sticky-sweet cappuccino she made with the espresso maker she somehow weaseled from my dad’s wallet. I love him for the maker and her for the drink. I’m not sure of my goals, but I’m sure of the path that makes me happy today —
And it definitely involves cappuccino and crepes.
P.S. There are only 40 entries so far on my giveaway, which means if you enter, you’re practically GUARANTEED to win one of the two sets of pasta bowls. (That’s how statistics work, isn’t it?) And you NEED pasta bowls so you can eat things like this. I served it on a plate and it was just wrong. All wrong. Also, you should sign up for my email list so you can be among the first to hear my news. It has to do with pasta bowls and choosing my path and maybe even more cappuccino. Who knows? The people who sign up for my email, that’s who.