Bye Bye Bland: 6 Ways Smart People Keep The Fire Of Their Lives Burning Bright


1. Catalyze a crisis.

“Exterior emergencies or shocks are indispensable to force individuals out of their natural laziness and set routines, and also to periodically break the collective frameworks that imprison them.” — Teilhard

There is beauty in the breakdown. Cue the classic Fight Club mantra it’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. It’s a cliche and it’s a cliche for a reason. Bad things that happen to us make us special. They give us something that most people don’t have, bad as it is, wrong as it is, the hurt can make you a stronger and more interesting. So take the deep dive and do something that fires off all your adrenaline and moves you from lethargy to a state of emergency.

Pro-tip: Catalyze a crisis, thoughtfully. Don’t just break up with your significant other or quit your job with no plan. Be deliberate. Don’t rush it. Jump out of the plane, but remember a parachute or at least plan to fall in the ocean.

2. Uncover the historical animation present in all things.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” — L.P. Hartley

Look at the Berlin Wall. Look at the Empire State Building. Look at the sequoia in the national park. Look at any great painting of the past. Looking upon these things your eyes only see a superficial glimmer of the rich history that birthed these objects. Change this and you will reinvigorate yourself. Learn about why the Berlin Wall went up, and fell, the arduous task of constructing the Empire State building, the Darwinian journey of the tree, and the historical and artistic vitality that went into the painting a masterpiece. If you do this, it’s like going from a black and white world to a color world. The things around you will be illuminated with a fascinating tattoo of meaning. 

Pro-tip: You can’t just read a Wikipedia article. You need spend weeks studying an object to achieve a worthwhile historical high. The stories of the past are too rich, too complicated to be reduced to a snappy summary.

3. Dance on a cliff with your sexual identity.

“Every limit presupposes something beyond it: hence the natural illumination.” — Vladimir Nabokov

Sexuality is the oxygen of personality. We are what we sexualize. If you hijack your sexual habits you can birth whole new regions of your personality. Love sex? Go cold turkey for a few weeks and break it with tantra. Lukewarm on sex? Fall in a k-hole of erotic stimulation (digital or in real life) in search of finding some new kink inside of you. Broadly, just be open to all the possibilities of what sex can be between consenting adults. Don’t be afraid of what you might discover about yourself. Push off

Pro-tip: Sexual exploration isn’t always directly about pleasure. Exploring your sexuality can sometimes be just as much about restraint and mindfulness as it is about gratification and impulse. You might need a bit of Apollo and a bit of Dionysus, a bit of control and a bit of chaos to generate the best results.

4. Become a religious zealot, or an avid atheist.

“We create the meaning of events. The meaning is and always was artificial. We make it.” — Carl Jung

The mind is incredibly flexible. If you’re religious, read Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and start pretending to be an atheist. If you’re an atheist, read Søren Kierkegaard and Teilhard de Chardin and start pretending you believe in God. In due time, your reading and method acting will cease being an act and become a concrete reality. Be shocked by how confirmation bias informs so much of your existence. Use this new found identity flexibility as means to help you reinvent your next state of reality to whatever you deem right.

Pro-tip: This requires some advanced intellectual gymnastics. To warm up, try reading a few books by people you vehemently disagree with. Then identify 3-4 passages from the book that you see merit in, and write why these are smart ideas. The process will be radically irritating but after you sleep on it for a bit you will start to become conscious of how and why people see things differently than you do, and can start to perform even bigger acts of personal revolution.

5. Fly into the rapturous web of fiction.

“Fiction is a virtual reality device which allows a reader to enjoy pleasant hallucinations like exploring interesting territories, conquering enemies, hobnobbing with powerful people, and winning attractive mates. Fiction, moreover, can tickle people’s fancies without even having to project them into a thrilling vicarious experience.” — Steven Pinker

Humans are storytelling animals. Even when our bodies fall asleep, the brain continues to project a lively series of surreal narratives in our mind’s eye. The power, then, of proactively reading stories has immense potential. Reading a new story is the biological equivalent of installing a new app on your phone — it implants a new tool for in your brain. Swim into fiction and let a new world wash over you.

Pro-tip: Picking up a huge novel can be a daunting task. Ease yourself into the world of stories with audiobooks that you can listen to during your commute or while you fall asleep. (Audible gives you one free audiobook when you signup so testing it out won’t even hurt your bank account. You can also borrow audio books from your local library.)

6. Ecodelic practice: Board a psychedelic spaceship.

“I thought I must have died. This couldn’t happen to somebody, and come back. It’s the most challenging, enlightening, astonishing, terrifying, joyous, strange thing in the world. I don’t mean to scare anyone off but these are bizarre dimensions of extraordinary power and beauty. People should be very careful.” — Terence McKenna

There are chemicals so powerful that the journeys they will take you on will leave you beyond overwhelmed. When used deliberately, psychedelic drugs can flood your reality and break down all of your systems, to the point you will no longer even be able to recollect your name. Go there, and let it all fall apart. Psychedelics offer the most profound dislocation, and consequently one of the most profound rituals for renewal and reinvigoration.

Pro-tip: The point of a psychedelic experience isn’t so much to get lost in all the beautiful visuals or to do drugs as a method of escape. The experience of taking psychedelics is taxing (and joyful) psychological work. It’s more akin to getting on a treacherous hiking trail in the wilderness than it is getting wasted at a nightclub. You have been warned.