Many of us live in a world of hope and despair. Hope for the future, despair about the past, the present. Life hacks, productivity hacks, relationship hacks, hack this, hack that, focus on the hope, try to control the despair through meditation, or diet, or exercise, or reading.
The one book that changed my life is one that none of Tim Ferriss’ tech or wealth buddies would recommend: Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Believe me, it’s no Snow Crash (and nothing against Snow Crash).
Tropic of Cancer was the great banned book of the 20th century. Hell, printed on the cover of the first edition was the warning: ‘MUST NOT BE TAKEN INTO GREAT BRITAIN OR THE U.S.A.” Why? Sex and scatological obsessions, yeah. But Miller’s one true subject was internal liberation.
Miller wandered the streets of Paris, broke, but free, mooching and maurading, living in a world “without hope, but no despair.” The problem with hope is that it causes despair, because it forces you to live with one eye (at least) focused on the future. Hope negates today. Hope kills now. Hope stops you from drifting with the tide, freeing yourself from the dead center of things. Hope prevents internal liberation.
Americans consume hope for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, every social, media and consumer mechanism calibrated to ultimately produce dissatisfaction in the hopeful pursuit of happiness. MacBook Pro 2016, the poster child for consumer hope and despair.
Sitting at the dead center of a dead-end job, hoping for something better, despairing for now? Miller: “ I don’t give a fuck any more what’s behind me, or what’s ahead of me. I’m healthy. Incurably healthy. No sorrows, no regrets. No past, no future. The present is enough for me. Day by day. Today!”
Forget the past, forget the future, embrace the now. Both the past and the future destroy the present; holding on to something that was better (or worse), or holding out the hope for something better is just a negation of now. How many of us can really just say now is enough? Seriously, now is all we have and we let hope kill the now.
Perhaps you think you’re throwing your life away because you’re not where you want to be, or you don’t have what you want, or you’re not who you want to be, or you’re not doing what you want to do. Miller: “Above all, never despair. All that happens is good.” All that happens is good because you’re alive. You’re not throwing your life away, you’re living it, you are the living embodiment of the miracle of personality.
“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.” Now that’s success.
No hope, no despair.