Clues #30: The wisdom that arises from suffering. Bertrand Russell on how to grow old. A conversation with Bowen Dwelle on meaning & purpose.
Welcome to clues #30, where I explore and summarize information, wisdom, and tools that help you discover the clues to a healthier, balanced, and more fulfilling life.
The wisdom that arises from suffering
“When I was 17 years old, I shouted out into an empty room, into a blank canvas that I would defeat the forces of evil. And for the next 10 years of my life, I suffered the consequences with autoimmunity, illness, and psychosis.
As I got older, I realized there were no real winners and there were no real losers in psychological warfare. But there were victims and there were students. It wasn’t David versus Goliath, it was a pendulum swaying from the dark to the light, and the more intensely that the light shined the darker the shadow it cast.
It was never really a battle for me to win. It was an eternal dance. And like a dance, the more rigid I became, the harder it got. The more I cursed my clumsy footsteps, the more I struggled. So I got older, and I learned to relax. And I learned to soften, and that dance got easier.
It is this eternal dance that separates human beings from angels, from demons, from Gods. And I must not forget… WE must not forget that we are human beings.” — Ren
Music can be therapy. And so can theater. Sometimes, an artist comes along that blurs the lines between styles and these symbols of expression, giving us the gift of original art. And with the original art comes an important message delivered by an original messenger.
If you’ve ever suffered from a battle with your inner critic, take the next 10 minutes to listen to Ren’s art and take in the message he so uniquely and poetically delivers. The fight with your mind is not a battle to be won. It is a dance to flow with. It’s a softening to the darkness and an allowing of the light.
How to grow old and lose the illusion of the self
“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.” — Bertrand Russell
Bertrand provides a path to self-annihilation through the willful expansion of knowledge and other perspectives.
Our current cultural climate is the willful narrowing of our perspectives. We’ve quickly lost the eagerness to openness and it’s perpetuated by sources of information that monetize you by making you angry and divided.
Is it that the media suddenly became aware of racism that we’ve intentionally ignored, and decided to shine a light on it?
Or has the media juiced up the narrative by 300% - 600% because “If it bleeds, it leads?”
If they have juiced up the narrative, that doesn’t imply that racism doesn’t exist. Obviously, it does. But it begs the question of how much of our growing cultural divide is driven by the exponential narrowing of the narratives we’ve been exposed to.
What is your sense?
My sense is: “A lot!”
Such a rapid narrowing of our cultural perspectives leads to the opposite of what Bertrand called “the universal life.” And that leads to a resurgence in various forms of social, intellectual, and spiritual segregation, driving us further apart from the Truth that we are all waves in the same ocean.
If you want peace of mind and a closer connection to all of life, and especially each other, make the choice to widen your aperture. Avoid sources of information that intend on limited your perspectives. Talk to others and gain their viewpoint, expand your interests and your search for knowledge and wisdom, and entertain the questions that others choose to ignore. If you do, you’ll painlessly lose your individual being and become a part of everything, as we once were when stars burst and spread their mineral-rich guts across the universe to form the foundations of what we call life.
Discussion with Bowen Dwelle on meaning & purpose
I met Bowen Dwelle, the author of Decide Nothing, through my writing on Substack. It coincided with a period where I was wavering through bouts of insecurity and pseudo-confidence regarding my willingness to be raw and authentic through my writing.
Reading Bowen’s writing changed that for me. He sets the tone in terms of what it means to be real. As his Substack bio states:
“I was a teenage boozehound until age 48 (and part of me wishes I still was). Now I'm a writer focusing on identity, addiction, intuition, depression, sobriety, masculinity, sport, and more.”
The first sentence tells you what you should know about Bowen — he is unafraid, clever, and no longer willing to hide behind the bullshit Instagram-like narratives we typically dress ourselves up in. So when he suggested that he and I riff on the broad question of meaning and purpose, I happily obliged.
Latest updates to Clues.Life
Clues.Life is my attempt at building a universal map that connects all topics related to mental health, personal transformation, and the art of living. I launched it less than two months ago so it’s just a baby, however, I post a few updates to it each week and I use this section of my newsletter to share those updates. If you’d like to support my work on Clues.Life you can donate here.
Added the polyvagal theory and the ecological systems theory to the Models of the Mind course. It’s still a work-in-progress but I’m getting closer to the finish line. Eventually, I’ll get around to creating audio/video so that you don’t have to read a wall of text for each lesson in the course.
I updated the page on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to include data from an interesting new study that showed that the benefits of TMS follow a decay curve, not a straight line. In other words, most of the benefit from TMS is experienced by the patient within the first two weeks of treatment. You can check it out here. It’s an interesting treatment for folks that experience treatment-resistant depression.
I added a short essay about how I put my mental illness in remission and another short essay regarding our current cultural obsession with pronouns.
Thanks again for your support!
I love that you included Ren here along with our interview—and I'll enjoy this opportunity to revisit our conversation.
For anyone who's curious to read some of what I've written on the subject of purpose, one place to start is
The False Grail → https://bowendwelle.substack.com/p/the-false-grail
— although Less Warrior, More Clown is a fun read as well → https://bowendwelle.substack.com/p/less-warrior-more-clown
...and of course my memoir-in-progress https://bowendwelle.substack.com/s/memoir as well as many other essays https://bowendwelle.substack.com/t/essays
Overlay the 2008 and 2012 rises with presidential campaigns explains a lot of the media incentives.
By 2012 the post-9/11 traumatized psyches suffering from financial crisis fallout were more broken and pliable to clickbait outrage.