Favorites, Religion, The Great Adventure

Purpose: Meet the Gods

Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones,
for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable,
and hard to go by, say the wise.

Katha Upanishad 1.3.14

As June 21 draws near I confront my motivations for the journey ahead. This is Part II of a three part series on why I’m going on the Adventure. See Part I here.

Why the Gods?

Here’s the world I live in. We are on our own; we make our own Fate; the world is good or bad as we create it.

But it’s a haunted world.

Around us are the sources of wonder. Things so grand and vast that we remember how small we are. We remember that the quest for dominion is a doomed sortie, a fight against a superior force, Eternity. In quiet moments we reflect on this, and voices whisper to us the greatness of the living universe where we struggle.

Myth tells us these voices are the sound of the gods.

The gods did not make this world, and not one of them rules it. They are its executors, its functionaries, more to the point its soul and its face.

I am not convinced that’s wrong.

Can awareness be transferred, recycled, disembodied, left in the rain? If so, it can dwell in world around us.

The Value

The language of religion is one of humanity’s best technologies.

Classical philosophers saw fit to retain and use the language of myth + religion. They encouraged people to treat it as metaphor. This is because the language of myth, even when explicitly stated to be nonliteral, speaks to the core of the human spirit. It’s exactly why I just used “spirit” and not “the core of the human mentality.”

Meeting the gods isn’t about proving whether they’re real, though the quest may give me some insight into that.

The reason I want to meet the gods is because they represent what’s highest and best in us. To pursue them necessarily spurs the pursuit of our own divine nature.

I want to meet them because they inspire.

And most of all, I want to meet the gods because that’s the stuff of myth, and wherever the journey takes me that’s how I want to live.

The Form

Is prayer the right way to do this? Possibly. But prayer seems a lot like talking to yourself in the dark.

The object of the Great Adventure is to meet them in person. Knock-on-Mount-Olympus-style meet them. Oh Zeus isn’t here? No worry, I’ll grab a seat meet them.

Impossible?

Whatever sounds impossible is fertile ground for adventure. I’m putting the ideal over the acceptable. When Gilgamesh set out to find a cure for death, he failed—but what he achieved is epic.

If there are gods to meet then the mere act of living mythically, of following the quest to its final end, is the way to attract their attention.

If there are gods to hear us, I wish to be heard.

More: I wish to listen.

If you enjoy reading Rogue Priest, believe in my journey, or just love seeing a spirited adventurer on the road, please consider making a donation to the cause. Your gift will help fund professional-quality equipment for the Great Adventure. It’ll keep me safe and help every step of the way.

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Favorites

Unfortunate Search Strings

And now for something much more serious. More serious, yes, than comparative levels of penetration of progressive values in marginalized philosophies. Whew.

Today it’s time to answer questions from Google!

Yay!

Every day scores of people find their way to Rogue Priest with unfortunate search strings. I’m sure some of them eventually get their answers elsewhere, like all the World of Warcraft players looking for strategy advice (sorry!). But I feel a little guilty that Google dropped them here and they didn’t get what they needed.

So, in a lower-effort version of answering viewer mail, I’m answering viewer search strings. If you’re one of the poor souls who searched for these, (a) welcome to the site (b) glad you stuck around and (c) here are your answers at long last.

rogue preist+drew jacobs

It’s Jacob, singular, like the prophet.

Also your syntax is wrong. Also, everything else.

ex girlfriend is horrible to me

Are you still sleeping with her? If so, stop. Horribleness will probably decline when you make a clean break. If you’re not sleeping together, start. Clearly she wants you.

how to sell world domination summit ticket

You can’t. The deadline is past. Sad.

priest are arrogant

Not all priest!

thailand business attire

Reggae-themed clothing is a hit in any setting there. You think I’m kidding, but you’ll see.

i ensure the night

Most excellent search string so far. This is actually really poetic. Or it seemed like it at first. But if you think about it, the night is going to come every evening no matter what—there’s really nothing short of Ragnarok that can change that. So this is kind of like ensuring teenagers will be horny. Can you monetize it?

how can i break my ankle myself?

Get off my blog.

not good enough, copying people, feeling like a burden, unsatisfied, ugly 

Wow.

This one worried me at first. Somebody feels that low? Then I realized the person searching for this isn’t thinking of themselves. They’re listing symptoms they see in someone else and trying to figure out what mental issue it is. So someone does feel that low, but they aren’t coming directly to me for help.

Tell your friend to get a waitress pad.

pagan vs catholic

The Catholics won.

genocide hypothesis causes

foot stress fractures caused by vibram 5 fingers

I’m sorry.

we need more heroes guys

YEAH!

how weight acceptance is making us overweight

It isn’t. It’s helping people address a solvable health problem (shame and stress), while educating them about the true effects of dieting (usually weight gain). I used the think the same thing though. I recommend this blog if you care.

“fat acceptance” portions

Interesting hypothesis.

can you pull an all nighter to fix jet lag

Works every time.

can i reduce my shoe size by building up my arches?

Signs point to yes.

sitting in a chair while you sleep

…is awesome.

can someone be a hero and not help others

I’m tempted to say no. I’m curious what Rogue Priest readers think though. Assuming “others” can be abstract things like helping the environment, I can’t imagine heroic action that doesn’t help others. Otherwise what would it be? A mental exercise? Being a hero for accepting who you are?

Any thoughts?

L Days cover_front only_half size

My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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Atheism, Favorites, Religion, Spotlight

Better Atheism

Yesterday was a troll-caliber kerfuffle. I stated that Pagans, as a movement, do a better job of championing cultural pluralism and religious tolerance than atheists as a movement do. That shouldn’t be surprising since Pagans have a multi-decade head start on fighting for acceptance and have a direct interest in both of those issues.

But, insisting I was wrong, one commenter offered:

The core of the new atheist ‘movement’ …is that there should be no privileged respect for religion, any more than there is for a political viewpoint or a scientific hypothesis. Religion can and should be criticised as robustly as possible… religion should be treated with boxing gloves, not kid gloves.

The use of extremely disrespectful language by new atheists is in this vein often a consciousness-raising exercise, to contrast with the unwarranted reverence with which religious attitudes and authorities are often treated. It’s the same disrespectful language with which (on a blog, at least) you might treat someone who held any other kind of laughable belief—for example, Rupert Sheldrake or Glenn Beck. [Drew’s note: not on this blog. I’d call such language puerile regardless of target.]

…If you see this as so wrong that you can declare it to be so by assertion, then you are not hoping that the ‘new’ atheism will reform—you are hoping it will go away.

This atheist proves my point. They basically make the case that atheists have a really good reason to be intolerant; that’s the opposite of being a tolerant movement.

Luckily there are also reasonable and conscientious atheists who believe quite the opposite.

Atheist activist and Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy fellow Chris Stedman writes:

I am an atheist who wishes to promote critical thinking, compassion, and pluralism… I am far more concerned about whether someone is pluralistic in their worldview—if they oppose totalitarianism and believe people of different religious and nonreligious identities should be free to live as they choose and cooperate around shared values—than I am about whether someone believes in God or not.

To be sure, seeing an end to anti-atheist attitudes is a priority of mine. But it is a goal that is facilitated by relationship-building between atheists and the religious and by supporting meaningful communities for the nonreligious…

So let’s call it like it is. If your “top priority” is working to eliminate religion, you are not simply an atheist activist—you are an anti-religious activist.

I maintain significant disagreement with many religious beliefs, but I do not wish to be associated with narrow-minded, dehumanizing generalizations about religious people. I am disappointed that such positions represent atheist activism not only to the majority of our society, but to many of my fellow atheist activists as well.

(You can also dive into Chris’ blog NonProphet Status and look forward to his book Faitheist coming out in mid 2012.)

This is where I wish I could say, “So, it turns out most atheists are like Chris, and I’m sorry for misrepresenting you guys.” But I can’t, because Chris’ position is far from a majority view in the tapestry of contemporary atheism. If intolerance were rare among atheists, Chris wouldn’t have to explain why it’s wrong, and my affronted atheist commenter wouldn’t excuse “extremely disrespectful language” as a legitimate tactic at the core of the movement.

I write this knowing that there’s a huge demographic of very respectful, tolerant, ethical atheists and non-believers. Some of you are reading this right now. If you dislike what I said—if you think the atheist movement should be depicted as championing tolerance as strongly as any other movement—good. There are things you can do.

Confront intolerant atheists about their views. Tell anti-religious activists to get their hate language out of your peanut butter, and when you read atheist blogs or attend atheist conferences, speak out against crude or belittling language.

If you stand up against intolerance among atheists, you’ll make a better atheist movement. And you’ll make my criticism obsolete.

Comments are closed to avoid a repeat of yesterday.

My writing is how I support myself as I travel. If you appreciate Rogue Priest, believe in my philosophy, or just love seeing a spirited adventurer on the road, please consider making a donation to the cause. Your gift will help fund professional-quality equipment for the Great Adventure. It’ll keep me safe and help every step of the way.

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Business, Favorites, Writing

New Policy: No More Affiliate Links

Rogue Priest is the first real blog I ever started. Considering that it’s gone pretty well. Swimmingly in fact, and I owe that to all you awesome readers, adventurers, and encouragers who keep coming back for more.

But it hasn’t been without its learning curve.

Like any smart blogger, I read about how to do a blog “right”—how to be profesh and really engage your audience. It was helpful. I know how to lay out an article with pictures, headlines and boldface to really grab your attention.

See What I Did There?

But there’s a downside to that same “profesh” blogging approach, and that’s the emphasis on marketing.

I’ve used this space to promote paid products including books, courses and membership sites. There are three things to note about these products:

  • I usually got a kickback
  • I usually said up front that I was getting a kickback
  • All the products are things I personally endorse, and swear by in my own work

There’s nothing wrong with this kind of affiliate marketing. An author likes a product, the author has a chance to make some money endorsing the product, and the author is transparent about the whole thing: okay. That’s the way capitalism should work; that’s capitalism at its moral best.

But an author can do more than “just” be ethical.

An author can also inspire, build, set things in motion—or fail.

My goal is build the greatest living philosophy I can discover. A philosophy of adventure, transformation and selfless action. If I treat that as a brand, as designer-label ad space, I’m putting my career ahead of the philosophy.

By using affiliate marketing links I introduced a conflict of interest with my core goal. As soon as I’m earning a commission there has to be a question of motives—is this link really good for my readers, or do I just want a pay check? That kind of doubt doesn’t build fellowship.

So here is my new policy.

I will not place affiliate links in any Rogue Priest posts.

Not for anyone—no matter how good the product is, or how relevant it may be to my readers.

I feel no remorse about my past affiliate links: those products are awesome. If you joined Location Rebel, I’m glad you took such a big step for yourself and I hope you’re making money with it like I am. If you bought one of the ebooks, I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did. I stand by all the products I’ve promoted, but I don’t want marketing to distract from my purpose.

Corollaries:

  • I’m still a professional author and still intend to sell my own work.
  • I may still promote products I think you’ll like. But I will turn down the chance to make money doing so.
  • I understand why other bloggers choose to use affiliate marketing, and wish them only the best.

This policy introduces a new level of risk for me. Five weeks from starting the Great Adventure, I scramble to afford quality gear and make final preparations. Relinquishing an income stream is not strictly in my best interest.

So what’s my plan?

My plan is to make money not as a salesman, but as the philosopher you want to support. I have a new book about the Heroic Life on its way, and this one will be available for Kindle. I’m still working on a premium subscription for dispatches from the road, and continue to accept donations toward the Great Adventure.

In other words, I want to provide you the very best and most intimate access to the Adventure that I can offer, in the belief that it’s something worthy of your support.

Will that work? The Heroic Life says live for your ideals. Here’s me trying it.

If you enjoy reading Rogue Priest, believe in my journey, or just love seeing a spirited adventurer on the road, please consider making a donation to the cause. Your gift will help fund professional-quality equipment for the Great Adventure. It’ll keep me safe and help every step of the way.

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Favorites, The Heroic Life

The Ghost and the Sea

At the end of my adventures you’ll know where to find me. An old man with white chest-hairs, a hat and a cigar. Living in some place I walked through when I was younger: some seaside village that doesn’t know who I am.

I’ll spend my days the same, one after another. Drinking in the morning and swimming in the sea. I’ll walk into town for coffee, reading my old fashioned paper book. I don’t even like paper compared to digital, but I’ll read it, because the sensation brings back memories and anyway it bothers the kids.

An Argentine steak, or else skip lunch and just walk among the village. I’ll know people by name and they will know me by sight: the old foreigner, a little crazy but all foreigners are, he seems safe enough.

When they talk to me I’ll ask uncomfortable questions. Do you believe you have a purpose in life? The question is awkward because I know their answer before they do. I’ve asked it a thousand thousand times, in other villages and in much worse places. It makes it more awkward but also easier to answer. They can see in my eyes that no answer will bother me and anyway I already know; so they’ll unburden themselves and feel a little better. The old man isn’t so bad.

I’ll stand on the docks and never fish, sit at the fountain and never chat, except to talk to young women. I ask them about their hopes. I tell them: never believe a word from your dad or your boyfriend. They smile. Leave me alone, grandpa.

But it’s the evenings, the evenings where I come alive. My house is small. It’s on the beach. You can hear drum and bass music. There are no pets and no clutter and a sign that invites passers-by in for a drink. Passers-by won’t do it, but it’s okay because the internet tells travelers that I’m here for them.

When a backpacker arrives I’ll pay a neighbor with a car to go pick them up. My email says a friend of mine will pick him up. The neighbor doesn’t say much at all. The drive is short and quiet. When he arrives the backpacker will see me pay for the car.

Oh, he’ll say, you didn’t have to do that. Please, let me get it.

And I’ll stare at him till he worries he offended me and then I’ll smile.

No, I’ll say. I know why you offered, but you have no money. I used to have no money. You only offered because you felt you had to, and I know how relieved you feel when I say no.

If you’re going to travel, I’ll say (because the poor backpacker won’t have an answer), learn how to spend your manners. Spend them more carefully than you spend your money. Because money can be replaced but a lost opportunity never can, and the whole world wants to help you, you know.

I’ll lead him into to the house, or her if it’s a she, and I’ll try my hand at cooking. The only time I still bother is when I have company, because it’s only fun to chop things if you can talk while you do it. And we eat and the surf comes in, and I offer rum and beer. I’m always happy to share rum and beer.

And this is how I’ll spend my days: showing kindness to young brave people, loners and couples and teams of them, however they happen to roll into my village. I’ll hold back my stories, because this isn’t about me. It never can be. Let them have the sun. But after a cigar, when we start to feel the chill and people check the time, if any of them stay to keep talking so late—then I’ll tell them a long story. I’ll say what it was like to meet the gods.

If I live a long time this is how I’ll age, and I’ll never get sick of it. But I won’t live so long. I’ll never see my house by the sea, never unburden the villagers or talk to the girls. The backpackers will find somewhere else to stay, and they’ll never hear what it was like to meet the gods.

I’ll die a young man. A smiling ghost will sit by the sea. At the end of my adventures you’ll know where to find me.

Please tweet or share this post.

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Favorites, Heroism

Heroism is Emergent

Let’s go back to the beginning.

When I started Rogue Priest, I never spoke about the Heroic Life as a way to become a hero: I spoke about it as the best life one can choose to live, period. Whether that comes with saving people or not is beside the point.

To me, Heroic refers to the Heroic Age, to Heroic Ethics and Heroic Myth: that is, a worldview built around high ideals and the unabashed personal pursuit of those ideals.

But it’s hard to talk about capital-H-Heroic without people asking your opinion on those who wear that title as a badge: the heroes of legend, history, and yesterday’s news who save real lives at great personal risk.

Thus Rogue Priest has spent the last few months talking extensively about heroism as such, about standing up for others even when you’re scared. A glorious topic, but one not terribly central to living a heroic life.

Wait, what?

To be a hero is, as I’ve often said, not something you can guarantee. But more than that, it’s not something ever fully achieved. One of the defining factors of a person standing up for others is that they do not feel heroic afterward. I never would have believed this until I experienced it myself.

That makes attaining the title “hero” more than just a matter of garnering popular accolade. You will never be satisfied that you are a hero. No normally functioning person would be.

Even if you set “becoming a hero” as a goal for yourself, it’s an impossible goal. You can come eternally closer and closer, nothing more; so there better be something in the journey itself that calls to you, ‘cuz that’s all you got.

To quote faith design jargonthis is an experience approach: living a certain lifestyle is its own reward, whether you achieve the goal of heroism or not. C. Luke Mula, who coined the term, recognized this about the Heroic Life from the beginning. I’ve fought him on it, and to an extent, I still believe that the Heroic Life as such is one of the best ways to approach actual hero-ness. It’s just that, as he rightly points out, that goal is never the point.

To move to the language of psychology, Dr. Zeno Franco and Dr. Phil Zimbardo speak of the “heroic imagination”: the capacity of an individual to visualize themselves doing the right thing even at personal risk. This capacity can be drawn from myth, movies, comic books—or in the case of the Heroic Life, from hands-on practice. But whereas Zeno and Zimbardo value the heroic imagination primarily for its ability to get people to act heroically, the Heroic Life values it for a different reason. It’s a damn satisfying way to live.

Ultimately, the Heroic Life must be about more than a search for approval. To spend your life hoping to earn a title is rather like spending it getting to Heaven. These are rewards no one can promise you, that may not even exist. To quest to be called “hero” is very comic book. To quest because you love the road is, well, human.

I now view heroism as an emergent quality. An essential characteristic you can approach, but never quite grab onto. A process, not a point.

This new understanding colors my way of looking at the Great Adventure. I said two days ago that part of my goal must be to learn about heroism. Increasingly I wonder whether that is even relevant to my journey. Should I be traveling in search of heroes and the meaning of heroism, or is that all rather contrived?

Let me know what you think. And please take a moment to Facebook share or tweet this post.

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Favorites, The Heroic Life, Travel

Travel is the Root of Heroism

I’m getting ready to present my vision of how the Heroic Life can become a movement, rather than one man’s pursuit. To set the stage for that, last week I put into concrete terms exactly what the Heroic Life is. The post caused a bit of controversy because I featured travel as a central part of it.

Today I’m delving into that more deeply. Why does the Heroic Life need travel?

Many Paths

There are many ways people become heroes. Most people who act heroically do so without ever planning it. One day they just find themselves in a situation where someone needs to step up and act—and they do.

This means that there can never be just “one right way” to act heroically. And, as I’ve said many times, no one can declare themselves a hero. It is a title that is given by others, not one you bestow upon yourself. I’m no hero and I may never be.

However, one can aspire to be as ready as possible to act heroically when needed. And that is the project of the Heroic Life.

Much of what I’ve been doing over the past year is identifying habits and practices that prepare one to act heroically. 

I believe that travel is one such habit.

The Value of Travel

People can become heroes without ever traveling, but if you want to train for heroism, travel is a good bet. One of my first articles on Rogue Priest was how travel changes the mind. In it, I noted that all of the great religious founders in history traveled widely over the course of their lives. Travel is inherently tied to personal development, and cultivates many of the traits we expect to see in a hero.

For example:

  • Travel teaches you to step outside of your comfort zone, continuously
  • You learn what it means to be an outsider, which is one of the biggest fears you will have to face if you stand up for someone else
  • You need to be constantly aware of your surroundings
  • You learn how to trust your instincts
  • You expand your view of the world and learn more about humanity

There are ways to learn these things without traveling. For instance, someone who lives in one city their whole life may constantly find ways to step outside of their comfort zone.

But, then again, they may not.

Travel forces you to do this. Perhaps not high-ticket, tour-and-hotels style travel, but if you immerse yourself in a new culture you will be unavoidably confronted with your own personal limits. You’ll either confront and expand them or you’ll run home.

That, to me, is why travel is such a good spiritual practice—perhaps the perfect spiritual practice—for someone aspiring to act heroically.

The Practical Side

I realize that many people have no interest in traveling, and others feel they’re unable to. In that sense, the path I’m designing here is not for everyone—it isn’t meant to be. I can’t say who is and is not a hero, and I know there are many other noble ways of living besides this one.

What I can do however is work to assemble a way of life that will really speak to those committed to living heroically. A way of life that will help them develop themselves into the most flexible, adaptable, selfless people possible. This will help them take successful action to stand up for others when the time is right.

The entire mythos of heroism is bound up in journeying, and I don’t think that’s an accident. I think crossing the world effects a profound change on an individual—a change that cannot be easily replicated any other way.

At the same time, many readers felt travel wasn’t necessary at all. Several people asked whether I only emphasize travel because it’s something that I personally strive for.

So the question I have for you is this. With this context—that I want to identify hero-developing habits—where does travel fit in? Does traveling change how people view the world? And is there any way to get that same perspective without leaving home? Share your comments and tell me what you think.

If this post made you think, please tweet or Facebook share it with the buttons below.

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