Hunter S. Thompson valued professionalism above all other virtues. If you’d met the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas three days into a cocaine binge, and asked him if it might be time to call it quits, he would have shrieked in outrage —not because you were judging his drug habits, but because you were implying he wasn’t fully conscious, aware, centered and intentional in his behavior.
“Do you think this is some kind of amateur cocaine binge?” he probably would’ve howled.
A retraction of every “live your dreams” screed I ever wrote
Confession time! I used to write some of those “Quit your job! Follow your dreams!” articles. You won’t find any of them in my Medium history now, though, because I deleted them all months ago.
Looking back on my smugness now feels like looking back on my goth phase in high school: I’m not exactly ashamed of it, because I can understand the motivation behind it; the need to craft a public identity that would validate my perspective on the world— but it still makes me cringe a little,
Because I wasn’t nearly as cool as I thought I was.
Why is the human mind so eager to explore the darkness? What do we hope to learn there?
I. Paradoxes of the heart
Have you ever watched a movie that was so scary you couldn’t look away?
For as long as I can remember — and probably longer — I’ve been intrigued by monsters. At preschool age, I had what my parents called an “overactive imagination,” and a long series of nightmares from which I woke screaming convinced them to ban me from watching TV shows — even cartoons — involving monsters or horror of any kind.
One cool spring night a few years ago, I drove out to the desert with my two best friends. We passed around a bottle, and made jokes, and played guitar, and finally just lay looking up in silence at the stars. And after a few minutes, a strange feeling came over me.
I’ve had a phobia of heights for as long as I can remember. Not just a nervousness, but a muscle-clenching, gut-freezing full-body paralysis that stopped me as firmly as a brick wall any time I stepped near the edge of a canyon or a twentieth-floor balcony.
And today, I went cliff-diving for the first time in my life. And I loved it.