Awasu » Security
Thursday 24th February 2005 8:20 AM [General]

Somehow, one can't really see Hunter S. Thompson as ever being able to rest in peace but he will certainly be missed.

This popped up in my Awasu today and it's worth posting in full.

Security ... what does this word mean in relation to life as we know it today? For the most part, it means safety and freedom from worry. It is said to be the end that all men strive for; but is security a utopian goal or is it another word for rut?

Let us visualize the secure man; and by this term, I mean a man who has settled for financial arid personal security for his goal in life. In general, he is a man who has pushed ambition and initiative aside and settled down, so to speak, in a boring, but safe and comfortable rut for the rest of his life. His future is but an extension of his present, and he accepts it as such with a complacent shrug of his shoulders. His ideas and ideals are those of society in general and he is accepted as a respectable, but average and prosaic man. But is he a man? has he any self-respect or pride in himself? How could he, when he has risked nothing and gained nothing? What does he think when he sees his youthful dreams of adventure, accomplishment, travel and romance buried under the cloak of conformity? How does he feel when he realizes that be has barely tasted the meal of life; when he sees the prison he has made for himself in pursuit of the almighty dollar? If he thinks this is all well and good, fine, but think of the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time. A man is to be pitied who lacked the courage to accept the challenge of freedom and depart from the cushion of security and see life as it is instead of living it second-band. Life his by-passed this man and he has watched from a secure place, afraid to seek anything better What has he done except to sit and wait for the tomorrow which never comes?

Turn back the pages of history and see the men who have shaped the destiny of the world. Security was never theirs, but they lived rather than existed. Where would the world he if all men had sought security and not taken risks or gambled with their lives on the chance that, if they won, life would be different and richer? It is from the bystanders (who are in the vast majority) that we receive the propaganda that life is not worth living, that life is drudgery, that the ambitions of youth must he laid aside for a life which is but a painful wait for death. These are the ones who squeeze what excitement they can from life out of the imaginations and experiences of others through books and movies. These are the insignificant and forgotten men who preach conformity because it is all they know. These are the men who dream at night of what could have been, but who wake at dawn to take their places at the now- familiar rut and to merely exist through another day. For them, the romance of life is long dead and they are forced to go through the years on a treadmill, cursing their existence, yet afraid to die because of the unknown which faces them after death. They lacked the only true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences.

As an afterthought, it seems hardly proper to write of life without once mentioning happiness; so we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?

I've got a big decision to make over the next few days and it really annoys me when things like this turn up, pushing me into doing something that scares the living crap out of me... 😥

7 Responses to this post

I wonder if Hunter S. Thompson died fulfilled and happy, ready for the great beyond,however, he perceived it.

I will agree with a certain portion of the sentiment. Overcoming challenges widens our perceptions. It may even be said to improve our character and increase our sense of self-worth. But what challenges do we choose to face. Is a thing worthwhile merely because its difficult? Do we base our worth solely on our history of taking on seemingly impossible tasks? Do we stand around comparing our achievements to those of our peers and ancestors to determine if we measure up to some standard of competence?

Thompsons recipe for life, as written here, is shallow. It describes one kind of man in one kind of situation. It suggests that because we remember the men of history who did great things those are the kinds of men we should be. But the great majority of those men built their success on the backs of others who rarely make the books, either through cooperation or subversion. Theres struggle for a reason, or for a cause, for convictions, and theres struggle for the sake of mid-life crisis and ignorant pride.

I do not know the source of Thompsons convictions. But this bit of text makes it sound as if the man who lives his life loving his family and god, working to provide for them, and caring for those in his community has wasted his life if he has not had to over come some great external strife. Hes wasted it if hes not written about in history.

I say we all derive value from different things. I hope Thomspon was fulfilled. But Im offended that he was arrogant enough to trivialize the existance of so many as unimportant.

Live to your own standards. And fight for what you believe is important. Dont fight, just to fight. Thats the true waste.

I know what squeg is getting at, I think, but that's not necessarily what Gonzo was about. Those who achieve great things don't always set out to do that, sometimes they just do what is next. The difference is that they do what is next, they don't wait for someone else to do it.

I was brought up in a very unstable family, that lead me to choose security, whenevr I take the time to think about it. So I am very conservative with money for example, because I see that risk in that area can be very damaging.

But I have been married three times, I have walked away from safe, secure, well-paid jobs to do things that looked interesting. So far that has not been a mistake.

Good luck with the choice, hope its a positive one, on balance, go for it.

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one.

Something is not of value simply because it is difficult, but if it is going to be truly of worth, it has to be earned. Part of the satisfaction I get from playing music at the level that I do is because it was so damn hard and I put in so much work to get there. As I said before, if it was easy to be good at something, then everyone would be doing it and it would certainly be of less worth. And I've still got a long, long way to go 🙁

Where I disagree with you is your question "Do we base our worth solely on our history of taking on seemingly impossible tasks? Do we stand around comparing our achievements to those of our peers and ancestors to determine if we measure up to some standard of competence?" Determination of worth should come from within, not by some external measure. One man's fears and challenges could well be another's walk in the park. But if you can seek out, face up to and overcome things that you find difficult or scary, then that is the achievement, not how they measure up by someone else's standards.

HST talks of a man who has abandoned any notion of pushing himself, testing himself, challenging himself, a man who always takes the safe and easy route. And while someone can live a good and moral life, providing for his family, being a decent person, supporting his community, I would have to agree that if he never chose to do anything other than that which was safe, easy and convenient, then there would be something lacking. Again, not because of some external (i.e. my) measure, but because I would hope that such a person could look at himself and be disappointed because while he had achieved so much, he could have done so much more.

Talking about people who have "shaped the destiny of the world" is a big example but what HST is really talking about is having the courage to the shape the destiny of your own. If you choose to settle down, buy a house, live a conservative life then, by all means, do so but let it be an active decision. If it's because you don't know any other way to live or don't have the courage to break free from societal expectations, then this the tragedy of which he writes.

But we converge with your closing comments. Live to your own standards. And fight for what you believe is important. Dont fight, just to fight. I just happen to think that constantly challenging yourself, to not only do good things but to do more of them and better, to take control of your life and do what is important to you instead of simply taking the path of least resistance, these are all things worth fighting for 🙂

Who would have expected to be discussing philosophy at site devoted to a RSS reader? 🙂

I have to say, the comment about doing "what comes next" resonates a bit with me. But I have a hard time believing that it's an idea Thompson could have fully supported. His words seem very clear to me. To paraphrase, you must strike out on your own, you must not conform, and you must risk "everything," whaever everything might mean, or you are not "a man." It seems to me a very confrontational view.

I get what Taka is saying about challenge bringing reward. But what i see in Thompson's words is that true existance/fullfillment cannot be achieved without besting some form of competition.

Socrates was credited with the famous line, "an unexamined life is not worth living."

That one phrase means much more to me than those several paragraphs by Thompson. Socrates addresses the "why". Wheras for me Thompson only addresses the "what." It seems to me that anyone can fight. But not everyone knows why they fight. How many times have you heard from people who strove to be the best only to realize that once they got there, there was nothing left? Those people were deriving their purpose and fulfillment, much like Thompson, from the struggle, and not from the activity they were pursuing. I suggest that striving to be the best at something is far different from choosing your activities and striving to do them as well as you're able. Striving for continual improvement is not the same as striving to best all competition.

For instance, let me use a trivial example. I very much enjoy riding my bicycle. I like riding it short distances and long. I ride it for the invigoration of excericise. I ride it for the scenery. I ride it for the time it provides for thought. I do not ride it to be faster than anyone else or to go farther than anyone else. A friend of mine started riding and soon had to by a more advanced and lighter bike. He joined biking group and began training hard to keep up with their draft lines so they could constantly push themselves to be faster. He couldn't understand why i didn't want to do the same things. He was riding to be "better" i was riding to "ride". One is not better than the other, but they are vastly different.

There is not such thing as a life without struggle. No matter what Thompson suggests, there are many struggles in each of our lives. They may be financial, they may be familial, they may be physical, or spiritual. There are times when each of our "moral compasses" are put to the test and we're forced to "draw our lines in the sand." I don't think you could delve into the life of any single individual and honestly say that they had avoided all struggle.

That's why I find Thompson's words so jarring. I don't hear words of encouragement to keep up the good fight. I hear words of disdain for life-styles he does not understand. I hear a man with a certain set of priorties saying that another man with another set is inferior and weak. I hear a man that puts some form of personal adventure over familial responsibility.

So back to Socrates. He too believed in confronting your personal demons. He believed in self-improvement, acting to the best of your abilites and standing by your moral/philosophical convictions. But his focus was on understanding; it was on knowing yourself and your motivations. From understanding, actions would follow. I can support that. In fact, I believe that finding that understanding, really reflecting on who we are and what we believe to be far more challenging than "doing" anything.

Maybe Thompson believed similarly. Sadly, i have no association with him outside of the quoted text. (I'll have to do some research to remedy that fact.)

In either case, Taka, I my intention was to direct my criticism at the rather judgemental words of the man cited in your quotation, not to disparage or downplay any difficult decisions in your own life. Whatever your scary decision and whatever its outcome, you have my best wishes.

Thanks for letting me blather on. 🙂

>>> Who would have expected to be discussing philosophy at site devoted to a RSS reader? 🙂

I've always said that the coolest thing about RSS is that it brings me stuff that makes me think. So I'm not surprised at all 🙂

>>> To paraphrase, you must strike out on your own, you must not conform, and you must risk "everything," whaever everything might mean, or you are not "a man." It seems to me a very confrontational view.
>> I get what Taka is saying about challenge bringing reward. But what i see in Thompson's words is that true existance/fullfillment cannot be achieved without besting some form of competition.

Well, he was never known for his subtle approach but I think the underlying idea behind what he wrote was not quite that harsh. More like "you must have the courage to live your life to the fullest". You talk about "besting all competition" but as I pointed out earlier, I think the point is that you compare yourself using your own criteria, not by someone else's. If someone chooses to judge themself by how they stack up against others, that's up to them but I think that's a somewhat shallow way to do things.

>>> How many times have you heard from people who strove to be the best only to realize that once they got there, there was nothing left? Those people were deriving their purpose and fulfillment, much like Thompson, from the struggle, and not from the activity they were pursuing.

I completely agree but that's not what I read from the article. HST is talking about "the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time" i.e. someone who has traded his dreams and ambitions for security and the safe road. He's not talking about competition and pushing yourself for its own sake but instead about the compromises we all make between pursuing what we really want to do and what we *think* is important i.e. security, whether it be financial or otherwise.

>>> For instance, let me use a trivial example. I very much enjoy riding my bicycle.

OK, but what if it was socially unacceptable to ride your bike? If it was frowned upon by family and friends; "riding bikes is for children, you're an adult now, grow up please!" What if there was some financial or other personal risk involved? Would you still ride? I think that's the question that HST is posing. He's talking about the attitude that you take to such things. Are you willing to take on such challenges, perhaps even seek them out, or do you constantly take the safe and easy route and just conform? Yes, there are challenges in everyone's life but are you someone who prefers to avoid them or instead, take them on? I guess it depends on how much bike riding meant to you. HST is talking about someone who, no matter how much something might mean to them, is too afraid to take on the associated risk.

>>> That's why I find Thompson's words so jarring. I don't hear words of encouragement to keep up the good fight. I hear words of disdain for life-styles he does not understand.

Again, a lot of that is just him. Words of encouraging support was never really his style 🙂 But certainly, at least in my experience, the most useful and motivating advice I have received often pissed me off immensely at the time. But they forced me to ask the hard questions, made me realize I didn't like the answers and I therefore had to do something about it. As a very simple example, receiving negative feedback about Awasu , sometimes rude, is never pleasant but I'm often forced to admit that the issues they raise are fair and therefore need to be addressed.

>>> Whatever your scary decision and whatever its outcome, you have my best wishes. Thanks for letting me blather on.

Thanks for the support. It makes for a very pleasant change to talk about something other than XML parsing errors. I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one 🙂

Life is not about outcomes, it's for living!

The uninebriated life is not worth living.

I reckon that Hunter's off his trolley writing this piece, and maybe re-reading it is what drove him to shoot himself. Is this to be the measure of every person, that he or she stand in the refractory light of what has not been done before and do or die?

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