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Dear readers, I must ask you for your help. I must also tell you I passionately hate that I should be in need of help, for I take tremendous pride in my independence. I have never applied for food stamps or any other form of government assistance because I am opposed to any form of subsidy obtained by coercion; whether governmental or criminal, and thus refuse to be a beneficiary of any such subsidy. The reason I am in need of help is because on January 31st, my girlfriend and I will lose our room, and at present, are unable to find a new room which we can afford. I am confident that we will find one however this very unfortunate circumstance has led me to address the more fundamental problem that is troubling me; my poverty. Since I am petitioning for your assistance it would be logical for you to wonder why; and furthermore, why and if there is any reason for you to help me. I shall explain myself thoroughly and succinctly. I am a 26 year old writer and philosopher. I write stories and essays. At present, my literature has not made me a financial profit. It is true that three years earlier I self published a book- a book I am extremely ashamed of and embarrassed by-and a few copies sold, but I did not earn more than a few hundred dollars, and eventually- quite thankfully- I discovered how irrational, inarticulate, and disgusting it was. To pay for rent, food, television, internet access, and an occasional movie (and yes, a few things here or there such as a newspaper, or magazine) I work as a cashier, and sometimes a cashier supervisor, at a grocery store. I get paid $8.80 per hour, and I work anywhere from 32-46 hours a week. (I only work 46 hours on weeks that are expected to be unusually busy, the week of Thanksgiving, Christmas, an oncoming storm, et cetera). I am grateful for my job and the money it pays me. Some people are far worse off than I, either making less money, suffering the hell of unemployment, or some other unfortunate tragedy. That being said I am obviously unsatisfied with more than just the low wage I earn at the grocery store. I would rather devote my time to writing my literature and studying and do so with the comfort of knowing that I can afford everything I need How I ended up as poor as I am is actually a rather unusual and interesting story. By that I mean I did not grow up poor; I am not a high school drop out; my poverty is not the result of struggling to pay an outrageously expensive college tuition. (I attended three colleges and my family paid all of the expenses. I left each college-never earning a bachelors degree- and I left each one for different reasons. I decided never to earn a bachelors degree for yet another reason.) It was an interesting combination of excellent and terrible decisions which brought upon my present circumstances. For example, I once wasted over $40,000 on a psychic who said via the power of her prayers I would have everything I wanted- an absolutely terrible, and extraordinarily humiliating decision!- and due to my decision to think logically I have successfully transformed myself from a depressed, constantly anxious, extremely confused, socialist, marijuana obsessed, aimless, mystical fatalist into a, happy, logical, organized, capitalist, confident optimist. To illustrate this more concretely: I used to have a big beard, a mustache, and dress in tie-dye clothing. Now I have no beard or mustache, and-when I am not working at the grocery store where I must wear the uniform they give me- I wear suits. My fundamental mistake was not quitting college. It was also not that I have been pursuing a profession that only pays those who are lucky, as opposed to those who are talented. There are two mistakes I have made which have caused me more misfortune than all the others. The truth is, I had terrible priorities! What were they? Well, let me preface this by saying: they are not what I believed they were. I believed my priority was reading and writing. Throughout my freshman year of college- at Kean University- since I was essentially anti-social (with the exception of a few people I had pseudo-intellectual conversations with) all I did during my free time was read and write. That, and cultivating a sense of identity as a hippie, were my only priorities. What do I mean by cultivating a sense of identify as a hippie? I mean, I grew infatuated with the hippie image: the “peace and love” mantra, the long hair, the facial hair, the folk and psychedelic music (John Lennon, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix, et cetera). I was infatuated with this image, this style, because I thought it was based on the cultivation and preservation of psychological and cultural peace. I was so disgusted with the Kean University campus that I made it another priority to find a more attractive college. So I applied to and was admitted to Florida Gulf Coast University. Here my priorities drastically changed and I set myself up for psychological hell. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and first year of college, I was vehemently opposed alcohol and drugs. In fact, I had earned the nick-name “Fake Hippie” because I dressed like a hippie, spoke like a hippie, and acted like a hippie, but did not smoke marijuana like a “real hippie”. One day a guy who I considered a friend asked me if I wanted try marijuana. He- and several others- had asked me on other occasions and I always said “no”. On this occasion however, a thought arose: how do I know for certain that marijuana is bad for me? The more fundamental, ideological principle at hand was “how do I know anything for certain?”. I decided to try marijuana once specifically for the purpose of having a credible opinion on whether or not it is harmful and to what degree. I regret to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being “high”. Why? My awareness of the beauty of existence was intensely heightened. I wanted to feel that intense existential love again, so a few days later I smoked marijuana again. This time the experience was the complete opposite. I felt pure paranoia; in fact I felt certain that I was dying. I believed I was dying because existence seemed suddenly too beautiful and wonderful. I believed that it was a level of sentimentality that one could only be capable of feeling upon the knowledge that he is seconds away from dying. I thought I would never smoke marijuana again, however, despite the almost unbearable paranoia and depression I felt, words came to me quicker than they ever had before. I was completely connected to my subconscious. Smoking marijuana, I believed, helped my writing tremendously. Thus, I decided to begin smoking habitually for the purpose of enhancing my writing. The consequence was twofold. My writing was no longer my priority; my psychological dependency (as opposed to a purely physiological addiction) on marijuana became because my priority, and I was destroying my mind, torturing it with extreme paranoia and completely irrational thinking. Smoking marijuana remained a priority for the following three years and it caused me serious intellectual, and psychological damage as I grew more and more oblivious to everything. In fact, oblivion became yet another priority throughout those three years. The state of oblivion, I believed, was the state of complete enlightenment. One of the worst consequences of my oblivion was that at one point I was nearly homeless. Had it not been for the charity of a man- the innkeeper of a hostel- I may have starved to death on the streets of Tampa. What had happened was this: I had planned to visit a friend of mine in Tampa. During the week I spent with her I told her I was horrified by the prospect of returning to New Jersey, where I lived with my mother and stepfather, for we were not getting along well. She told me I could stay with her and her family for awhile, so long as I got a job, saved money and promptly moved into an apartment. Unfortunately, after about a month or so, we had gotten into an argument. She was upset about something- I forget what- and I suggested to her that she not worry about it; that she not let this concern consume her. This suggestion angered her. She believed that I was quite disrespectful for not allowing her to experience her feelings. She then told me, that due to an earlier disagreement we had (She quoted William Wordsworth who had once written that “The World Is Too Much With Us” and I said that the world is not too much with us and that Wordsworth’s pessimism is contemptible) she had been unable to write (like me she was a writer) and that that made her very angry with me. For these two reasons she said that I was no longer welcome to stay with her and her family. She dropped me off at a hostel. Oh, how ashamed I am of the way I handled this situation. At the time, living at the hostel, I believed, was the best thing that possibly could have happened to me. If you will recall, I told you I was infatuated with the hippie image and lifestyle. The ambience of the hostel appealed to that infatuation of mine. It was decorated with pictures of classic rock artists, classic rock was constantly playing in the back ground, there was a small, out door BYOB bar where people sat, it seemed sometimes all day, smoking cigarettes, drinking, and talking, and most of the visitors were European which was quite exciting for me as I hadn’t met many Europeans before. I had enough money saved to live at the hostel for a month. Because I wanted to live at the hostel for an indeterminate amount of time (in fact, I believed ideally I might eventually get a job there and live there until I became a famous poet) I looked for a job almost every day….at first. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one. I got myself two interviews. At the first interview, the hiring manager took one look at me and said “shave, get a hair cut, buy a nice button down shirt, and then come back. Goodbye”. I told him I couldn’t afford a haircut or a button down shirt and he said that was my problem, not his. (Sadly, the truth is I could have afforded at least a hair cut but, you see, sadly indeed, I spent my few remaining dollars on alcohol and marijuana so that I could get high and write poetry) The second interview- which was for a cafe- went well; I got the job. Unfortunately, towards the end of the first day the hiring manager scolded the woman who had hired me for hiring without his permission. He told me that he was very sorry but he wasn’t hiring and that the woman who had hired me didn’t actually have the authority to do so. I could not find another job and I ran out of money. The innkeeper, quite fortunately, was sympathetic to my ambition to become a famous poet, and so he allowed me to stay there for free, under certain conditions. I had to keep looking for a job, and I had to share my poetry with him every night. He told me that my poems comforted him. I shan’t tell you here all the details of my experience at the hostel (perhaps another time and in another context), however what I will say, as to stick to my point about the consequence of my oblivion, was that on my walks through Ybor City, searching for a job, and jotting down obscure poetry lines whilst walking, and walking aimlessly unfortunately due to the intense states of oblivion I fell into, I would stare at the homeless people I passed, thinking, I may soon live and die with these people, as there is nothing on this Earth for me but my exotic poems (that was how I described them to myself ultimately) and my burning desire to do nothing but write, get paid for writing, and get high. Little did I know that the surrealism of an oblivious consciousness was a trap; a trap woven by ignorance. It was only because the innkeeper, and eventually my older brother, sympathized with me, that I did not end up on the streets, starve and die with the homeless. (After a few months I wrote an email to my brother, and he agreed to loan me enough money for a plane ticket back to New Jersey, and a room in a woman’s house in Trenton) Now in retrospect, what should my priorities have been at that time? I should have been studying philosophy and the major ideologies that different people subscribe to so that I could discover for myself what my fundamental principles ought to be. Since I wanted to be a writer, I also, obviously, should have been teaching myself how to write, and discovering for myself what I ought to write, why, and how to get paid for my writing. I also should have learned about current events. I should have learned about the Bush administration, and what the actions of the United States government were more widely, and I should have learned to evaluate their actions morally. Now I did educate myself, but not properly. With very few exceptions, I studied the literature of those who wrote in a state of oblivion. (Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche) I studied these men in great depth. I used to be proud of myself for getting drunk in the bathtub, whilst reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will To Power. I thought I was beautifully intellectual for enhancing my mind whilst numbing it. I was of course, wrong. When did my priorities change? A few months before my twenty fifth birthday; just about two years ago. What changed? I realized that I was quite literally a mess. I was extremely poor. I was confused. I was depressed. I realized I had no conviction about anything other than my ability to eventually make money either writing or pursuing some other form of artistic expression. I suspected that there were two major causes to my being a complete mess. That I had the wrong priorities, and that I was disorganized. So I began writing a list of everything I considered a priority and then I began eliminating those which I considered unnecessary. It is a fair question to ask “necessary according to what standards, or what principle?” but unfortunately at the time I had no concrete standard. Not to say I “guessed”. I was subconsciously attempting to think logically. By that I mean, I asked myself “for what reasons should this or that be a priority?” I decided that my priorities included my relationship with my girlfriend Ashley, getting the news every day, reading and writing every day, and introspecting every day. Since then my priorities have become much more defined. My top priority is thriving, i.e., functioning optimally which requires thinking logically as consistently as possible and constantly improving myself by identifying, pursuing and achieving all of my ideals. This encompasses my relationship with Ashley, my writing and getting paid for it, constantly learning, eating well, exercising, et cetera. My second major mistake is also quite humiliating to confess. I misspent over a hundred thousand dollars. To be fair to myself not all the money I inherited was misspent however most of it was. Four years ago my father passed away and I inherited slightly over $100,000. At first I was perfectly frugal. That was because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with that money and I knew how to make it last for a long time. My plan was to move from New Jersey, to Oceanside, California, live in a cheap room, read as much as I could, and write, self publish and sell a book. That was exactly what I did. Ashley and I moved into a room in somebody else’s condo. It only cost $625 a month. I was a light eater so groceries didn’t cost me much at all. I dined out at restaurants often, but never fancy, expensive ones. I did buy myself a television, but not a large, expensive one. I bought myself a cheap, tiny camcorder and a new laptop as well. Other than those things, I only spent money on books and movies and almost all of my time on reading and writing. To understand why I ultimately misspent so much money you have to understand my ideological and psychological confusion. My severe ideological confusion caused me to be depressed. My depression was accompanied by a sense of purposelessness and no awareness of my ideals. I had no idea what my guiding principles should be because I had no idea how to determine what is true and virtuous and what is false and evil. Throughout most of the time I spent in California, I was a polytheist. I believed every man was a God and every woman was a Goddess. I believed each God or Goddess’ purpose was to create, but what was it each of us should create and why? I knew humans possess free will but I found the luxury of freedom to be quite troublesome. If I am free to do whatever I want, how can I know what I ought to do with my freedom? I had no idea. After four months in California, for the purpose of evading my depression, Ashley and I moved back to New Jersey. (It is a shame we left California because it is such a beautiful state. I was always profoundly inspired by its geography) The reason I want to emphasize the fact that I evaded my depression is because of the following: considering the amount of money I had at the time (I had spent very, very little of it) I could have afforded an excellent psychologist, if only I had been honest with myself about the fact that I was indeed depressed and that the roots of my depression were indeed beyond my comprehension and that it needed to be addressed. Our return to New Jersey didn’t make me any happier. In fact my depression and my confusion only intensified. Then one day a strange thing happened to me. I thought I had a vision of Jesus Christ and another of Satan. My thinking in those days was so arbitrary that my fantasies were likewise, quite arbitrary. I took these two fantastical visions to be some kind of sign from God; that “He” was trying to tell me that “He” existed and that “He” wanted to cure my severe depression and confusion. I began reading into the Bible more deeply but it offered me no solace; only stories I was beginning to believe were true. I believed that I needed guidance. I should have searched for a psychologist however the notion of admitting to myself that I was suffering from severe psychological illness brought me such shame that I refused. Instead I went to visit a psychic. I decided to visit a psychic because I was profoundly curious: could my mind be read? More fundamentally I wondered, “can the future be accurately predicted?” If the future can be predicted, could I acquire that skill? The psychic’s name was “Miss Pat”. I was skeptical of her tarot cards and told her so. I told her I was miserable and she said she could help; that she could pray for my happiness with special crystals, blessed by a mysterious church. I believed her. I believed her for the following reason: thoughts exist. Since thoughts exist, they must emit some form of energy. What the nature of that energy is, I could not say. But the fact that thoughts emit energy is extremely obvious. If you need proof, note the fact that this letter I have been writing to you didn’t appear out of nowhere; it is the product of my organized thoughts. So, I thought, since thoughts emit energy, and prayers are thoughts- deeply concentrated thoughts about a burning desire- if prayers are passionate enough, constant enough, and clear enough, they can be answered by God. Miss Pat gave me a set of candles, each a different color; white for purity, red for love, green for wealth, yellow for happiness, et cetera. She also gave me bath salts. She instructed me to speak to God via the candle flames, and pray, and to pour the bath salts into a bathtub and soak in it for at least fifteen minutes each night. She then said, for five hundred dollars she would go to her church and pray for me. Again, I regret to inform you: I believed her. I returned to her several times; in fact, for several months. I would vent about my depression, and my loneliness, and she would say that it takes time, and that she would continue praying for me. I began visiting her consistently, twice a week, and she would tell me the same thing, except it would suddenly get more and more expensive for her to pray for me. Instead of $500 for a week of her prayers, it grew to a thousand dollars, then to five thousand dollars, then ten thousand dollars. She told me the reason it was getting more expensive was because the candles she prayed beside were rare, and very expensive. At this point, if I were you, I would think “this guy is a hopeless idiot!”; I was, however today I am not. What was going through my mind, each time I would drive to the bank, and withdraw $5,000 or $10,000 from my account? I thought various things. I thought, if I was wrong, and her prayers didn’t do anything for me, then I had given money away as charity. And what did it matter who I received my charity? I thought to myself, “I’m so fortunate, I have more money than some people do… I don’t have to get a job, where as there are people working really, really hard, who hate their jobs, who don’t even earn enough money to save up for something; giving money to somebody else is virtuous because it is giving and giving is virtuous since it is unfair that some people have more than others. And anyway, I didn’t even earn this money. I inherited it.” This continued for four months; then I finally told her “if you ever contact me again, I will call the police”. She never did contact me again. I finally stood up to her because I had given her nearly half of my inheritance, and it occurred to me that the notion of paying somebody to pray for you is absolutely insane. My confusion about metaphysical and moral truth continued to intensify. One of the only things that gave me any sense of spiritual pleasure was a CD I owned; it was a recording of a “Dire Straits” concert. I was infatuated with guitarist Mark Knopfler and when I would listen to his guitar solos they would inspire within me, these deep and very pleasurable feelings of wonder; a very vague, abstract yet passionate wonder about the nature of human life and the universe, accompanied with a sense of numbing oblivion. It was that feeling I had always been infatuated with and confused for exultation and intuitive metaphysical-existential knowledge. Unfortunately, I would listen to this music and feel this feeling while I was driving, and because I was disconnected from everything but the feeling Mark Knopfler’s guitar solos inspired within me, I tended to drive quite poorly and speed. Within the period of one month I managed to get five traffic tickets. Two for speeding, one for tailgating (a false accusation! One thing I never did while driving was drive too close to another car. I liked my space, even when I was spaced out!), one for not having re-registered my vehicle (the fact that a driver ever has to re-register, let alone “register” his or her vehicle is immoral. First of all, the government has no moral right -as opposed to a legal one- to regulate commerce as the only moral function of government is to advance freedom, i.e., protect the individual’s self determination. I didn’t know this at the time of course; and not that it would have mattered.) Due to the other four traffic tickets, my license was suspended but unfortunately, I had never opened the letter indicating that this was so. I found out that my driver’s license was suspended because a cop- in the town I lived in- told me so, after pulling me over, not more than a mile from where I was living at the time. So I then had five traffic tickets. (This situation is still a problem today. While two of the fines have been paid, I have to pay over a thousand dollars on accumulated interest because it took two and a half years to pay my fines. Two more fines have to be paid, along with whatever interest has accumulated) Throughout this period of time, despite my subconscious preoccupation with my self destruction (I say subconscious because I was, quite honestly, deeply confused about everything and so could not say that I consciously sought to destroy my life) I was none the less quite productive- I was often reading and writing and eventually I decided, after nearly five years of writing I had finally written enough to self publish. For the last eight months I have wanted to write a harsh but necessary review of my first book specifically because I completely disavow it. I shan’t overload you with a full review but there are some things I must explain to you as to make it quite clear why paying for the publication of this book was indeed a waste of money. I wrote in my preface, the following: “I do not believe any philosopher has taken up Nietzsche’s great challenge- to create a philosophy, which surpasses absolutism to a point of an ever expanding universe of unlimited possibility…a kind of way to reject any logic or idea which stunts one’s creativity…”. There are several problems with this premise. First of all, reality exists as an objective absolute. To think in terms of surpassing absolutism is to think, essentially, that the human mind is incapable of possessing knowledge, and that every assertion is a lie, but that I can’t prove it and thus maybe it’s not, i.e., complete uncertainty might be inevitable but maybe humans are capable of knowledge. To make such an assertion is to evade the fact that the individual perceives, and can identify, and integrate what he or she perceives, i.e., to completely evade the existence of reason and essentially lie to one’s self that one can evade reason and yet somehow be capable of some kind of pseudo knowledge. To be more succinct, the ideological basis of Lovers, Other Stories, And Words was the evasion of reason as such. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates sensory data) was substituted with the belief in “unlimited possibility”. Is it possible that a thing, say my pen, is in fact not my pen? I might use a different word, but I am still referring that thing, with ink, that I use to write. The belief in unlimited possibility is a false, illogical belief. And while we are discussing the prospect, note the consequence of a belief in unlimited possibility. It is possible that I could become a tyrant and commit mass genocide. It is possible that I could pretend it is moral, and convince my fellow comrades to agree that it is moral. “Unlimited possibility” is not plausible metaphysically or morally. But I didn’t know that. Most of the stories I wrote in this book were written so spontaneously, subjectively, and obscurely that they are not worth mentioning. Regarding those stories which were concrete and comprehendible: they mainly dealt with the issues of drug use, and monogamy. Drug use is ultimately portrayed as destructive, and monogamy is ultimately portrayed as good. To this extent those stories can claim at least some moral redemption, but in each case the characters I created are deeply troubled. For example, even though Jim, from the story “Devon Renald” is theoretically very passionate about sobriety, monogamy and self respect, he gets drunk, smokes marijuana, and is infatuated with a woman whose priorities contradict his. In the story “Despite The Things They Often Say” a young man forgives a woman who cheats on him the night she tells him. He should not have forgiven her but he blames himself for her infidelity and relinquishes his anger very easily because she seduces him. This reveals that he is weak and caters only to the sexual attention his slutty, nihilistic girlfriend gives him. There are many problems with this book, but I have explained to you the general problems. Nonetheless, when I finally received a copy of it, and read it through, I thought it was brilliant, and that it would make me a millionaire. It cost me about $1,000 or $2,000 to self publish. That included 500 copies of the book. I had the money to promote the book and I used that money. Now at this point I could have gotten a part time job, even if only one day a week, so that I was earning an income but I was determined to promote this book online, elsewhere, and make myself a millionaire doing so. I built a website (it was free) and then spent several thousand dollars advertising that website on Facebook. Those ads were a waste of money because they didn’t work. But I had a better plan. My book publishing company iUniverse offered, for a fee of $4,000: a seat under a tent at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I believed, with complete conviction, that this “festival of books” would make me famous; that all it required to make my book popular was the opportunity to look people in the eyes and take a moment to tell them about my book. I was quite wrong. I invested everything I had in this trip. It cost $1,000 to ride a train to Los Angeles, another $1,000 to stay there for the week, and another $1,000 to travel back to New Jersey. I also spent a lot of money on promotional material. Ashley and I were not left with much money to eat at this point but we managed. I had one goal while in Los Angeles: make this book popular! I failed tremendously. Despite my failure I worked very hard. I tried several things. I wrote a new short story, along with a self interview, and combined them into a little booklet. I made many photocopies, and then distributed it at the book festival. I went to Venice Beach with two suitcases full of copies of the book, sat on the boardwalk and tried to sell the book there. I thought that even though none of this had managed to spark anyone’s interest, my opportunity to meet a lot of people, and speak briefly with them at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books would make me tremendously successful. I thought all I had to do was explain to them that this book was about a new and better way of thinking; a revolutionary way of connecting concepts and gaining better insight into the nature of our thoughts. I added that the stories were extremely erotic and offered an uplifting view of romantic relationships. Unfortunately I was lying and didn’t know I was lying. My seat at the Los Angles Times Festive of Books was a complete waste of money. The reason being that my publishing company didn’t take me seriously. I had tried in the many months prior to this event, to speak with the woman in charge of showcasing my book, and explain to her its cultural importance and that since they make money if I make money, it would be in both of our interests to promote the book as effectively as possible. I sat with representatives of the self publishing company under a tent, for thirty minutes, beside many copies of my book, big posters with my name and the title of the book, copies of the booklet I made, and flyers for a showcase I was going to have at the hotel I was staying at. The wrong title was written on the posters promoting my book. It read “Lovers, Other Stories and Poems” but the actual title was “Lovers, Other Stories, and Words”. This was extremely humiliating as people came to grab an autographed copy of my book only to see that my publishing company didn’t even take me seriously enough to write the correct title of my book on the posters. It made me look like an idiot (which I was anyway) and it made iUniverse look like a bunch of idiots as well. A day or two after the book festival, I rented a private lounge from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. at the hotel we stayed at, so I could showcase and advertise the book all evening and chat with interested readers. To promote this event, on the days prior to it, I handed out flyers wherever we went to anyone who would take one. I bought huge poster boards and hand-wrote upon them, my favorite passages from the book, and leaned them against the wall, presenting them as if they were paintings. Only five people showed up. One was a young poet. A young couple interested in philosophy came. Someone I used to consider a friend- who lived in nearby Riverside- came, and my girlfriend came. She spent the entire day with me there. I was, as you would probably guess, extremely disappointed. It is an interesting thing to reflect on since in hindsight it was of course a terrible book that should never have been written, and certainly should never have been published, let alone self published. It was a disastrous waste of money. Now that being said, people sell junk all the time, and do so quite successfully. (For example, J.K. Rowling’s completely irrational Harry Potter and president Barack Obama’s boring, racist and insulting memoir Dreams From My Father_) While the content I was selling was terrible, and thus a major mistake -a major waste of money- I had nonetheless put a great deal of effort into selling something I made myself, and with almost no help (Ashley was the only one who helped, and she helped me tremendously; she offered me both moral support, and joined me in each attempt to promote the book). That is something to be proud of: to come up with an idea, produce it, and do everything in your power (and within reason) to sell it and do so because you love your product, because your product projects your ideals (or in my case, what I thought my ideals were). Despite the fact that my content was terrible, it was the first time in my life I was ever proud of something I was doing: trying to sell my work and devoting myself to it. Unfortunately, not a single person I met during my week in Los Angeles, (nor anyone we met on the train rides to and from) took any genuine interest in the book. What happened next was absolutely terrible. At that time Ashley and I were living in a small room in someone’s house. One man owned the house, and another man lived in it and rented the rooms out to other people. Well, it turned out that the man who was renting the room to us had hid from us the fact that his landlord was actually selling the house that month. Ashley and I had to find somewhere else to live as soon as possible. Unfortunately I was almost completely broke, and I didn’t have a job as I had spent all my time trying to sell the book, with the illogical conviction that it would become a best seller very quickly. I immediately got a job at a grocery store I used to work at before I had inherited the $100,000 from my father. With quite literally all of the money that remained in my bank account, Ashley and I got a tiny room in a disgusting, poorly kept rooming house. We lived there for six months, then found a master bedroom in somebody’s house that we could afford. That lasted only seven months. The man who owned the house- a very generous man- decided to sell it. We then spent six months in the very disgusting basement of a very disgusting condo. What happened next is quite interesting but I must preface it my emphasizing something very important about investing in one’s self, and I must also emphasize that by this point in my life I was a fundamentally transformed young man. First, on investing in one’s self: to invest in one’s self is to put all of your resources- intellectual, spiritual, and financial, into the rational pursuit of your ideals. An ideal is a condition or circumstance which enables one to thrive. There are thus, many different kinds of ideals. For example, if traveling somewhere would make you extremely happy, and you have the means to do so, and it won’t cause you any harm, if traveling there is a logically held priority, than you ought to pursue that ideal. If you hold your freedom (I mean freedom in the political sense, i.e., right to self determination) as a priority, then, you ought to take whatever moral means you can strive towards the preservation and advancement of that freedom. If you have founded a company or have invented a product or made a discovery, and you want to get paid for it, than you ought to do whatever you can, again within reason, to make as much money as you can for it. You might fail and run out of resources, but failing to achieve an ideal is worth much more than never trying. To try but fail is an investment in one’s self. Many of the greatest business man in history have gone bankrupt several times before finally making a profit for themselves. Henry Ford is one such example. To evade your ideals is to cheapen your life and surrender your self esteem to pessimism and live either as a selfless servant to others, or suffer the rottenness of apathy. Now regarding my fundamental transformation: as I told you earlier in this letter, I discovered, just prior to my twenty-fifth birthday that I was a mess, that my priorities were poor, and that I was disorganized. I then told you what my new priority was. I said: “My top priority is thriving, i.e., functioning optimally which requires thinking logically as consistently as possible and constantly improving myself by identifying, pursuing and achieving all of my ideals.” This, to some of you, may come across as extremely abstract, ambiguous, and theoretical so for the sake of making it more concrete for you, I shall offer you some context. My heroine; my greatest source of inspiration, is the genius novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. Although she is my heroine I am not a follower of her ideology: Objectivism. I am an Optimist. An Objectivist agrees with every principle Ayn Rand upheld. I do not, as I have discovered a few contradictions in Ayn Rand’s literature. By identifying myself as an Optimist, I mean that I believe, absolutely, in the rational pursuit of ideals- for Optimism, as defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary is: “the doctrine, esp. as set forth by Leibniz, that this world is the best of all possible worlds; the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe”. It is essential to add, that speaking morally, and assertively, indeed, good must ultimately prevail over evil, and that is only possible if one believes in the rational pursuit of ideals. The fact that I do not agree with Ayn Rand on every single point does not mean I think less of her. While Aristotle gave philosophy a foundation (that consciousness perceives reality but is not reality as such, the law of non-contradiction, causality, etc) Ayn Rand succinctly organized philosophy as a field of science; into definite branches (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics), each with a fundamental principle (existence exists and thus reality is an objective absolute, we know reality is an objective absolute via our reason, one exists only for one’s own rational self interest, the ideal political system is capitalism, the ideal form of art is to project what could and ought to be). Ayn Rand eloquently applied her principles to events that occurred throughout her lifetime, and via her novels she gave humanity its first glimpse of ideal people (Howard Roark and John Galt) and the ideal society (Galt’s Gulch). Ayn Rand’s philosophical contradictions are very technical but essential to address. She did not consider psychology or economics branches of philosophy however they are. By her own definition- and it is the correct one- philosophy is the field of science that studies existence. Both the study of the navigation of one’s mind and the study of production are fundamentally existential, i.e, they concern how one, as an individual person ought to live/treat one’s life. Strangely Ayn Rand misused the term “philosophy” in certain instances. While Ayn Rand defines “philosophy” as the field of science that studies existence, she confused the term “philosophy” with “ideology” when she said things like “my philosophy, objectivism” or “his philosophy”, or “their philosophy”; she uses the term “philosophy” in such contexts which explicitly refer to a belief system (or belief systems), which is contradictory to the definition “field of science that studies existence” since, if philosophy is a science, one cannot claim to have a version of it. (For more on this I refer you to my essay “A Brief on the Definition of Philosophy for the Purpose of Advancing Freedom and Thriving”) Ayn Rand also misdefines a few other terms. Ayn Rand defines “value” as that which one acts to gain or keep, but this contradicts the more general use of the term value which is a thing’s place within a particular hierarchy. She defines “ virtue” as an action one takes in order to gain or keep a value but the virtues she proposes, such as independence and rationality, are ideals, not virtues, if one refers to the dictionary (satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable), popular usage of the term (the best possible) or application of her own theory of concept formation which is “uniting two or more things according to a specific characteristic by a specific definition.” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; p.10) With all of this mind (I mean my statement on investing in one’s self, and the summary of my ideology) I shall now reveal to you how I came across $29,000, used it to invest in myself, and sadly failed to make a financial gain. You will then understand how I ended up living under such unfortunate circumstances and that unlike the last time I inherited money, I did not, this time, misspend it. I profited spiritually just not financially. In fact, my spiritual gain was tremendous! The $100,000 I originally inherited from my father upon his death came from his life insurance policy. It turned out that he had also left money for me in his will- $17,000- but it had taken some years for that money to get sent to me. I found this out via an email from my older brother one evening while Ashley and I were living in that disgusting condominium I told you about. I used this money to invest in myself. I did not quit my job at the grocery store. At the time I was writing very brief philosophical essays, posting them on a blog site, as well as on youtube, hoping to build an audience for myself and eventually get popular enough for some publisher to offer me a book deal, knowing there would be a market for my essays. The first thing I decided to do was take Ashley and I on a vacation. Allow me to explain why. Ashley and I had endured a year and a half of extreme, and very miserable poverty and we did nothing but work and study. We both agreed that it would be very good for our psychological health to travel somewhere beautiful for a week and just read, write, and enjoy being somewhere beautiful. We did just that. We traveled to Naples, Florida. We stayed at the “Waldorf Astoria Naples” hotel. It was neither the most nor the least expensive hotel in the area. I must tell you, it was the most amazing week of my entire life! I got to spend almost the entire week reading and writing, while siting at a table, on a spacious balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It was an achieved ideal as I had fantasized about an experience similar to that for years. While Ashley and I stayed in Naples we ate very well. I bought us some books and I bought Ashley a shirt or two. There are many things I could tell you about that idyllic week however I shall save them for other discussions. What I will tell you is that of all the places I have ever traveled to, Naples is my favorite, and if I had the means today, to live anywhere in the universe, I would live in Naples, Florida, and devote myself to two things: writing, and doing research with Ashley on beach front property in the Caribbean. (Ideally I would live on a mountain in the Caribbean with a path down to my own private beach, but it will take time to find that property and I would like, for that time, to have a home in Naples) Naples is my favorite town because it is beautiful, clean, there are many thriving businesses. The people in Naples obviously take pride in their community. Even the garbage trucks there looked relatively clean. There was a street in Naples filled with beach front mansions. This was the closest I had ever been to my vision of my personal ideals. (To live in a luxurious home on the beach). I could look at a sample of my ideal home, or what was very close to my ideal home, not just in a picture, but in person. I couldn’t touch it, but I could look at. That was one of the best experiences of my life. I did spend a lot of money on this trip but it was absolutely worth it! In full I spent about $4,000. (Taxis, air fare, one week at a beautiful hotel, a week of full and healthy meals, and a little bit of shopping ((the books and clothes that I mentioned))). I had wanted to rent a car but decided not to since I believed and hoped it wouldn’t be the only time we ever traveled to Naples and that we would thus have an opportunity to drive around the area some other time; that and it would have made the trip much more expensive. I also bought myself a new lap top. I did this to give myself a real sense of “a new start”. I didn’t want to type on the same lap top I typed on as an idiotic, contemptible man. I wanted to detach myself, psychologically, from my old self as much as possible, as you can probably understand. The lap top cost nine hundred dollars. Throughout the year and a half of extreme poverty Ashley and I endured we never had our own television. I bought us one, (not an expensive, big screen television. It is in fact a relatively small one) along with a dvd player (not a fancy one), and I bought “The West Wing” series on dvd since we had been watching it on the internet and had become fans. Since the condominium we were living in was disgusting- (we didn’t even have our own bathroom. The tub that we showered in had thick mold in it that we couldn’t remove, no matter how hard we tried. The room we lived in was extremely dusty, etc.) we found ourselves another room in another person’s condominium. (The one we live in at present, but will have to leave as of January 31st.) We paid $750 a month for it. The room isn’t ideal, but it is very clean and we have our own bathroom. I spent hundreds of dollars on books for Ashley and I. I did this because I wanted to learn as much as possible about Ayn Rand, and everything else that interested me (such as Aristotle, space colonization, George Washington, Ludwig van Mises, more on grammar, to name a few examples) and I wanted Ashley to learn as much as possible about everything that interested her. Also, to be a writer, and more specifically, a philosopher, you have to learn as much about philosophy, and other ideologies as you can. If you are not studying at a university, you damn well better be teaching yourself; and doing so effectively! I spent $1,000 on new clothes for Ashley and I. ($500 for me, and $500 for her). Remember, I told you I wanted to psychologically detach myself from my old self as much as possible. Remember also, what I told you about my old self. At one point, I dressed like a hippie. And even when I got over my hippie phase I dressed very casually. I wanted to present myself in as professional, serious, and formal a manner as I could. So I bought myself a suit, a tie, and several other dress shirts. Whenever I wasn’t working at the grocery store, I wore a jacket, a dress shirt, and dress pants. I took Ashley and I out to eat very often, but certainly not every meal and certainly not every day. We never dined out more than three times a week, and we never dined at expensive, fancy restaurants. I did this because it is one of my favorite things to do. I love dining out because I love that people cook and take pride in what they cook and take pride in the ambience of their restaurants. Ashley and I never overstocked on groceries, and we were never gluttonous. By that I mean, I never bought, in a given week, three types of ice cream, two types of syrup, two kinds of cheese, two bottles of fruit juice, et cetera. I have, however, always gone by the principle “buy the best I can afford” so when I bought fruit juice for example, I would buy the $8 organic fruit juice, not the one that was on sale; when I bought eggs, I would buy the cage-free, organic, veggie fed eggs for $4 instead of the cheap, non organic eggs. I bought Haagen-Dazs ice cream because it was the best tasting, not Turkey Hill ice cream, because it was cheap, et cetera. Within a few months I had roughly $6,000 remaining. One of the most interesting things about life is that we have free will. An interesting thing about a human’s free will is that while we can make certain choices for ourselves, we are subjected, to a degree, to the choices of others, and subjected, completely to the laws of nature. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. This is the only extent to which there is such a thing as being lucky or being unlucky. On the one hand there are acts of violence, disastrous storms, earthquakes and tsunamis, bad genes, et cetera. On the other hand, there is love, and there are acts of virtue, sometimes even the kindness of a complete stranger, winning the lottery, good genes, being born to wealthy parents, et cetera. It was unfortunate that I have been unable to get paid for my literature. It is, always was, and always will be fortunate that it is possible that I can, possibly, one day, become a best selling writer. It was unfortunate that I have made as many mistakes as I have but it is fortunate that I identified them and learned from them. It was extremely fortunate that my great grandfather had invested in my grandfather’s company, and in my name, and that I received a $12,000 check as result of that investment. I now had $16,000 in my bank account. This meant I could invest yet even more in myself, and in Ashley. I did. It is an extraordinarily unique circumstance to be in the possession of $16,000, which you inherited, and yet only earn $8.50 an hour at your job. What makes it unique is that you feel the comfort of not having to worry about how you are going to pay rent, and eat, but you didn’t earn that money, and you can’t quit your low paying job. (You can if you want to, but not if you want to be logical; not if your only goal is to get paid for your writing.) At this point what I wanted more than anything was to quit my job at the grocery store and move with Ashley to a small, cheap apartment in Naples, Florida. We considered this. We considered moving to La Jolla, CA , or to Naples, or Miami, FL (Ashley had discovered a school in Miami, that at the time, interested her) We decided, however, not to move. The reason we reached this decision was because we weren’t confident enough in the economy. We could have moved, and found a cheap apartment anywhere, but there was no guarantee we would find ourselves new jobs and as I have learned several times: money, no matter how much money you have, can only last so long without any income. Instead, I bought Ashley a new lap top. She had been using my old laptop, and…I must condemn myself on this point. It is one thing I am very ashamed of. I should have bought Ashley a new lap top when I bought myself a new one, because I had the money, and because I wanted her to enjoy the pleasure of having one that had never been used before; the pleasure of feeling that her lap top was completely hers, always had been hers, and for so long as she chose, would always be hers. I also bought her a kindle. I bought Ashley and I each $500 worth of more new clothes because neither of us had actually had much clothes. I had one suit jacket, (the black one my mother had given me a few years earlier broke- ) one pair of black dress pants, one pair of grey dress pants, and eight dress shirts. Now, you might argue that “that’s enough” but it is up to each individual, within the context of his or her means, to determine what he buys, how much he buys, et cetera. As I said earlier, one’s moral principle is “rational self interest”. The idea of more clothes for Ashley and I made me happy. It was unwise for us to leave New Jersey, which is what we would have taken over new clothes, and neither of us were free to work our ideal jobs. It was a logical decision. It gave us the opportunity to express ourselves; to indulge in our personal fashion tastes; to be, more so than we could previously, ourselves. I bought the original “Star Trek” series on dvd because I could think of no other television program/movie that I wanted to see more. I shall, in another piece of writing, express how valuable “Star Trek” is but I shall say here, that it was money logically spent. I have always been fascinated with the prospect of space exploration and the political, biological, psychological and economic implications of it. What it depicts is close to humanity’s ideal future (there are philosophical flaws with “Star Trek” however, again, I shall address those another time) and any person who can come across such a depiction, and has the financial means to own a copy of it for him or herself, ought to, as to have something concrete and aspirational to look at. (For that reason I bought a few other movies however, quite literally, only a handful) I bought myself a mini-dvd player so that I could study movies more intimately, while at my desk, without interrupting Ashley, whose desk is close to mine, in our room. (the dvd player in my laptop doesn’t work) Now, I want to reiterate that I am not arbitrarily listing things I spent my money on. I am demonstrating how I invested in myself, and in Ashley, and how, unfortunately, it resulted in our living paycheck to paycheck, with barely enough money to find ourselves a new room to live in. I bought Ashley and I more books, we continued to dine out often, I bought a one year subscription to Glenn Beck’s new news network (then called “GBTV), I bought myself a domain name: seanoconnoressays.com, I donated money to Dr. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign (which I now deeply regret), I donated money to Mark Violi’s production of a play entitled “Roebling” (about the Roebling bridge), and then I finally decided to start paying my old traffic tickets. My traffic tickets cost me more than I had expected. It cost me nearly $2,000 just to pay bail for two tickets (there were warrants out for my arrest because I had failed to attend court appearances), the actual fines and then get my license reinstated (because of three years of accumulated interest) just for it to be re-suspended, because I had still failed to pay for my other two traffic tickets. I decided it would be best if I found a lawyer who could help me address this problem efficiently and that I would wait until I got paid for my writing to do that. I decided to wait because it is a time consuming project and I have very little time these days: all of which is devoted to working at the grocery store for food and rent, and my writing. One day, while we were watching “The Glenn Beck Program” Glenn Beck spoke about a political activism event he, and “Freedomworks” were putting together called “Free Pac”. The event was going to be held in Dallas, Texas. I thought that attending this event would lead to my “lucky break” (as the saying goes). I shall explain. Not all of my writing is political, but some of it is. I value my freedom very, very much. If I had to, I would fight for it. (I hope I never have to do that). Here in New Jersey, where Ashley and I live, very few people seriously value their freedom. Our Republican governor, Chris Christie has no moral right to refer to himself as “fiscally conservative” and a supporter of freedom. He opposes gay marriage (he has no moral right to prevent anyone from marrying anyone) and while he takes great pride in challenging the teacher’s union, he is obsessed with public education (public, as in government run, as in, financed via forced taxation, as in, financed via theft,) and is thus teaching children that theft is okay so long as the majority of society want what is to be stolen from all of society. I realize that this a global problem, and that states like California are far worse off than New Jersey, however, the point is, Ashley and I are surrounded by people we profoundly disagree with politically, and an opportunity to meet other capitalists, just to see their faces in person, and speak with them, and enjoy the pleasure of being surrounded by those virtuous people…it would be amazing! To have the opportunity to meet people who share my political views (even if not completely, and even if they do not agree with other aspects of my ideology) meant an opportunity to promote my writing to people who would be more inclined to take interest in it than those who disagree vehemently and completely with my political views would be. Tickets to the event only cost $25. We were going. Quite like the trip Ashley and I took to Los Angeles to promote Lovers, Other Stories and Words, I invested heavily in this opportunity. Also, quite like the trip to Los Angeles, I did not achieve what I set out to achieve. This was my opportunity to shake hands, exude my confidence, my charm, and suggest to people that they take a look at the political blogs I was writing at the time. If I could get one person interested enough to take a look, and if that one person was impressed, that one person could tell a lot of other people, and it could land me an opportunity to get paid for my writing. I took this opportunity very, very seriously. Unfortunately I made a few major mistakes, but it was not a mistake to go, and it was not a mistake to promote what I had written. By that time I was, I am proud to tell you, an excellent, logical, eloquent, honest writer. My only writing flaw was that I wrote too much too fast which meant I didn’t methodically plot out my points and take my time on anything. Still, I was an excellent daily, extemporaneous writer. (A few months prior I had taken my time to write several lengthier, and much better, more concentrated essays; ones I am very proud of) The biggest mistake I made was that Ashley and I drove to Texas. (Well, she drove, and in return she got a free vacation. She didn’t have to pay for anything) We should have flown. It cost me over $1,000 to get our car fixed up for the long drive to and from Texas. On our last day in Dallas we had driven to a restaurant for lunch. When Ashley turned on the car, set to drive us back to the hotel, it wouldn’t move. We called AAA, and I gave them my mother’s membership number but they said I had to have my own membership number so I paid for one. We used the services of AAA to get the car towed. It cost $1100 to get the car repaired and I had to pay for an extra night at the hotel, and I had to pay for an extra day of food. I bought myself a cheap white suit because I wanted to present myself as uplifting, confident, and unique (most people don’t wear white suits). I bought Ashley clothes because I didn’t like buying something for myself (with money I didn’t earn) and not buying something for her. I bought audio books for Ashley and I to listen to while she drove so that we could enhance our minds. To save money we only made one stop before getting to Dallas. (We stopped in Tennessee) Hotel rooms (stops and Dallas together) cost less than $2,000 (I forget exactly how much) and I was quite liberal with dining expenses because, after all, Ashley drove me all the way to Texas, and was going to drive me back, just as a show of support for my writing. I was going to treat her to the best meals I could. That’s not to say we ate at expensive, fancy restaurants, but I wasn’t frugal. It just so happened that there was a store that sold custom made business cards, and it was only a few blocks away from the hotel we stayed at so I paid for 500 business cards. This way, when I shook peoples’ hands, and suggested my website to them, I could also give them, as a reminder, my business card. The event didn’t play out as I had expected it to. I imagined that everybody there would be a political activist, and that everybody (I say everybody, but I mean it figuratively, I mean….most of the people there) would want to meet as many like-minded individuals as they could and would exchange information with each other, et cetera. By that I mean, I thought the people there would be a lot more serious about their activism. Quite to the contrary. Most of the people there came in large groups and spoke amongst themselves before the event’s speakers began. One of the speakers took questions from the audience. This I believed, would be my big opportunity. All I had to do was come up with the most profound question, ask it eloquently, with charm, almost as if I were screen testing for a part in a movie, and leave an impression on everybody who heard me; an impression that I was smart, thoughtful, interesting and worth meeting. So I raised my hand and the speaker called on me. Here is the essence of what I asked (I do not recall what I said verbatim): “My girlfriend and I drove here from New Jersey, which is a heavily democratic state, and the town we live in is almost completely democratic. I attended one town hall meeting and raised the issue of taxes, insisting that they had to be lowered, and that we need to stop spending money if for no other reason because the country is broke, it is in over $16 trillion of debt, which effects each of us, no matter where we live. Nobody cared. Everybody there ignored me. So my question is: what can I do when everybody I am surrounded by is opposed to capitalism?” The speaker did give a very decent answer, and indeed, several people did approach me, tell me I asked a good question, told me a little about themselves, and I got the opportunity to give them my business card, tell them about my website, et cetera. In fact, some days later, at a hotel where Ashley and I phone banked for congressional candidate Ted Cruz, I saw Buck Sexton, (a former member of the CIA, and an analyst for The Real News on Glenn Beck’s network The Blaze) I gave him my card as well. Unfortunately, if anyone did visit my website they were not impressed. My website continued to get very few views. I honestly expected that at least one of them would have taken a look at my website, that night, or the next day, found it impressive, sent me an email saying so, and tell his or her friends they ought to read my blog posts. This was extremely, extremely disappointing and I grew severely depressed. So when my car broke down, and I was going to have to pay another thousand dollars, my depression was grew more intense. After seeing how exhausting the drive was from Dallas to Kentucky for Ashley (on our way back to New Jersey) I realized it was immoral of me to have allowed her to go so long without sleep. So the next day I suggested that she call her boss and request an extra day off. Her boss agreed to give Ashley the extra day off so we stopped early in West Virginia, and just enjoyed the evening. It only cost me $100 for a room (in fact it was a suite, with a jacuzzi!). We ate at a decent Mexican restaurant, bought cheap champagne, and watched the Olympics together. Despite my intense depression, it was an extraordinary, romantic, peaceful, relaxing, and spiritual night. Despite how delightful that evening was I did something stupid. By stupid I mean irrational. By irrational I mean, motivated purely by emotional whim. I was so disappointed in my failure that I needed a high…so I bought myself a digital camera. When we returned to New Jersey I decided I was done with politics, done with writing, and would find some other form of artistic expression for myself: photography. But after a week or two of taking pictures, I was bored, so then I bought my self a camcorder and decided I would make short, artistic moving pictures, promote them on youtube, and become successful this way. Plus….I thought: this will be easier than selling literature, it will be subtle; there will be nothing explicitly, blatantly political or philosophical or controversial so people will be more likely to find it interesting; more likely to pay me for it. So I made short little movies for about two months but then, one night, I couldn’t sleep because my mind was filled with so many thoughts. I didn’t have to write, I didn’t have to make movies, but I could create a video blog series, and just talk extemporaneously, every day, about everything that’s on my mind. I named this video blog series “Thrive”. Unfortunately throughout the photography-movie-video blog phase I spent a lot of money on taxis. In fact, it “ran me dry” (as the expression goes). I spent the last of my inherited money on that. As you may recall, I didn’t have a license and sometimes Ashley had to be at her job before I had to be at mine and that meant, either I would have to get a ride from her to my job early (which meant I wouldn’t be able to work on photography, filmmaking, or video blogging) or I would have to take a taxi to get to the job on time. I chose the latter because I did not want a day to go by in which I was not working, for as long as I could, on these projects, both the content and the promotion. After spending a month on “Thrive” I realized I was gaffing too much, and thus making an idiot out of myself in front of the few people who watched the video blog, and that it would be better if I wrote out everything I wanted to say. Yes, t’was back to literature. As I wrote to you a little earlier, sometimes when we invest in ourselves we fail to achieve our ideals. Sometimes we lose a tremendous deal of money. Some people in fact, die, in the pursuit of their ideals, such as some of the men who fought for America’s independence and freedom. Some people realize those who they thought were their friends, are in fact, not their friends. Some people, in the rational pursuit of their ideals, have to cut all ties with their family members. In any event, the measure of success in a person’s pursuit of his or her ideals is neither how much money was earned, nor how much popularity was gained. The measure of a person’s success is in the degree of over all enhancement of his or her life. Is my life today, despite my poverty, and my lack of readers, worse than it was when I was nineteen? Absolutely not! Is my life better now- with almost no money- than it was when I had still had thousands of dollars? Yes! Yes! Yes! Here is why: because with the exception of the five hundred dollars I spent on a digital camera, and a camcorder, I invested all of my other resources- all my time, all my money, all my effort, all my thought, all my soul- in my success as an artist and a philosopher. It is not my fault if others do not enjoy my literature and thus, my poverty is not entirely my fault. The fact is: it is possible that I will be poor for the rest of my life, and like Edgar Allen Poe (a most disturbing, unpleasant writer) my literature may only reach a large audience after my death. I accept that. But it is also possible that you, readers, throughout the course of this letter, have gained a degree of respect for me, and thus deem me worth helping. If, in your judgement, I am worthy of your assistance, would you please give my stories and essays a read, share my literature with your friends, co-workers, and family? If you do, and enough people read and furthermore enjoy my literature, and discuss it, and want to read more, it could very likely land me a book publishing deal which could give me the opportunity to quit my job at the grocery store and devote myself to writing and studying. I am open to other forms of assistance: your donation or sponsorship, a place to live; maybe something you have in mind which I have failed to consider. I would be most grateful. (If you would like to contact me you may at [email protected]) For the purpose of eloquently concluding this letter to you, I want to convey to you what you can gain a great deal by offering me assistance. By gain, I mean, what I hope, in your life, can be enhanced by my literature. This gain, I confess, will not be possible unless you passionately care about humanity’s future. I say that, not in an altruistic sense but rather for your own sake, since the state of the universe and the fate of humanity affects us all. (For example, if a psychotic dictator managed to get a hold of nuclear weapons and detonate them all it would obviously affect every or nearly every living human) I hope you hope that humanity never goes extinct. I hope you love to contemplate what humanity might, could, and ought to achieve, develop and enhance. I do not suggest that you should demand of yourself that you somehow, single handedly save the world. What I am suggesting is that you acknowledge that things are far from ideal. I shall offer you just one example, as to keep this conclusion succinct. The United States federal government is in over $16 trillion of debt. That is a very, very serious cultural and political problem. A country’s debt reveals a lot about it’s culture; a lot about it’s individual citizens. If the majority of citizens of a particular country pursued their ideals and knew the importance of pursuing those ideals, their government would never, ever accumulate $16 trillion of debt! Debt isn’t ideal. When a democratic government is in that much debt it reveals that a lot of its citizens are worse than merely “unproductive”. It reveals that they are wasteful, ungrateful, decadent, lazy, and that their only means of survival is violence; a type of violence that is sanctioned by a political principle of unlimited majority rule, i.e., democracy that is based, not on freedom but rather, whatever the majority wants, even if the majority wants violence and theft. Consider what it is that causes people to be unproductive, wasteful, and violent. It is not arbitrary. It comes from their ideology; their fundamental principles; their priorities; and how they spend their money, their time, their thoughts, their values. I demonstrated that throughout the course of this letter; specifically the first part of it, where I explain my major mistakes, and what I was thinking when I made those mistakes. The root of today’s federal debt and the violent behavior of those most responsible for the constant increase of that debt consists of: irrational principles, poor priorities, and no awareness of their ideals. My literature is all about the rational pursuit of ideals. My stories are visions of ideal circumstances: a genius artist getting paid twenty five million dollars for his pictures of humanity’s ideal future, a restaurant owner being condemned by a former employee for silencing and degrading his employees, a young and happily married couple seducing each other on a spacious balcony under a full moon and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, a young and intelligent twenty seven year old capitalist running for congress. My essays explain why a particular ideal (or ideals) is (or are) in fact ideal, and what is either preventing or helping those particular ideals from being achieved. To name a few examples: apathy is condemned, a proposal for a Capitalist U.S. space exploration and colonization policy is offered and explained, the difference between “ideology” and “philosophy” is explained, Glenn Beck is praised for producing cultural commentary, as well as a news network that is superior to all the other major media corporations but he is condemned for preaching altruism and critiqued for preaching Christianity. Readers, the quality of life in this world will continue to decline if people continue to be apathetic, lazy, wasteful, and violent; if they do not consider the things I write about. History shows exactly how such societies turn out. Perhaps one of the most profound examples (and thus one that is very often cited) is what happened in Germany as Hitler rose to power. We must keep in mind- as many virtuous commentators constantly point out- that Hitler’s rise to power was the product of a democracy. The economy was bad. The country was in tremendous debt. The currency was inflated. People were apathetic, lazy, violent, hateful, envious, and wasteful. A very psychotic, clever, deceptive, determined man took advantage of their ignorance; it led to many, many, many unnecessary tragedies. It is a culture’s literature, education, media, and more broadly it’s market place, that defines its direction. I am offering you literature; a product that can help enhance our present culture; that can make it more pleasant; closer to the ideal; literature that is a pleasure to read. I have one concluding point to make. There are three reasons why I haven’t written a conventional query letter to publishing companies and literary agencies. First of all: the conventional query letter, at least in the context of today’s culture- as I have just illustrated- is altruistic: the goal is to try and guess what a publisher or agent would like to read (if they even bother to read your query letter), not explain to them why the writer’s manuscript is an essential read. Secondly: my literature is controversial and could not be published by conventional publishers. Only the pioneers will find me interesting and worth selling. I believe pioneers in the publishing industry are bored of query letters and are bored with the literary industry’s conventions and lack of intriguing, intellectual content. I envision someone extremely ambitious who is searching for literature to publish that is profoundly different from and better than everything else in the market. Third: even if I sent my literature to a publishing company or literary agent who could offer me a book publishing deal; it isn’t as important as gaining readership. I can reach more readers more quickly by promoting this letter online and elsewhere than by merely sending it to publishers and agents who sometimes don’t even read what they are sent, let alone comprehend its value and meaning. Readers, thank you very, very much for your time. I wish you achieved ideals. Sincerely, Sean O’Connor
Dear Dr. Nathaniel Branden, I don’t know if you will read this however I hope you do because it pays tribute to you; because you deserve to know what your essays mean to me. As you know, the philosophical, psychological and political facts you explain in your essays are extremely relevant to the most fundamental aspects of human life. Because some people evade what is relevant to their well-being, the meaning of your essays and the issues you write about- and furthermore all abstract and intellectual matters- are sometimes regarded as trivial, or relevant only to “intellectuals”. That deeply saddens me. As I explain what your essays mean to me it will be more blatant than ever before that “an intellectual” is not simply a “type of person”. To the contrary, “intellectualizing” -and ultimately reasoning- is indicative of psychological health which should not be an ideal that only a few people strive for. To the contrary, it is a universal ideal! Due to the extraordinarily high caliber of your eloquence and thoroughness, writing to you sir, I must confess, is quite an ambitious and challenging task. To be clearer: it isn’t enough to merely offer you my compliments and tell you just a little bit about myself. I am an especially ambitious and optimistic man so no thought or action of mine is cheap and served quickly. My ideals, you see, reach beyond the Milky Way galaxy, and in fact, that makes me feel great pride. For the purpose of being more concrete, and also, to provide you with a clearer idea of the man who is writing you this epistle, I shall tell you a few of my personal ideals. I want to be one of the richest and longest living men in human history. I want to revolutionize the way people think about philosophy. Mentioning to you that those are some of my many ideals not only serves here as a general description of myself and my aims; it also more precisely establishes the necessary context behind my rationale for writing you. For the sake of identifying all I plan to achieve in my life I keep several lists. One of those lists consists of essay topics. Some of the topics I plan on writing about in the near future include: meaning and value, the freedom of speech, guns, Vivaldi and Bach, the movies “Phenomenon” and “Limitless” and my education. Although I am still configuring the order in which I shall write about these topics I realized several weeks ago, in the midst of configuring, that writing you this epistle takes priority. I label this memorandum an “epistle” because a mere “open letter” does not suffice. I had never thought of using the term “epistle” before however it flashed in my mind. I looked up the precise definition of the the term and learned that an “Epistle” is “a formal, literary letter”, and throughout human history “epistles” have often been the medium for profound spiritual- ideological discussion. The term “open letter” however does not imply the same degree of timeless, literary grandeur as the term “epistle”. Cicero the Roman Philosopher, Paul the Apostle, Hazrat Ali the fourth Caliph of Islam- they wrote epistles. (I confess that I have not read them all) Who writes open letters? Anyone with anything to say. I am not merely “someone” writing “someone else” about “whatever”. I, Sean O’Connor, am writing to you, Dr. Nathaniel Branden and I am discussing philosophy. Dr. Branden, you are indeed one of the most brilliant men alive and I revere your brilliance. In fact, you are my hero. I am grateful that I have both the fortune of being a secondary beneficiary of the knowledge you have discovered and the opportunity to read your genius essays. It is fair to ask “what do you mean by genius?” since today many people evade definitions and use their words loosely and sometimes even arbitrarily to such an extent that discourse often gets muddled. (Addressing issue of definition; clarifying definitions; making them more exact- this is one of my top priorities as a philosopher) I know you agree that this is a necessary philosophical priority because you wrote, in regard to the definition of self esteem, quite profoundly that “if the research was to have value one would need to know what the writers meant by ‘self-esteem’ and if all the writers were working with the same concept. Otherwise, it would be a Tower of Babel, and what merit could their conclusions have?” So by genius I mean 1)an individual who clearly presents an ideal, and proves that it is ideal; 2)a word referring to a clearly presented ideal and the proof that verifies that the ideal is indeed ideal. (A good friend of mine helped me reach this definition) You rationally present, and explain self esteem- which is obviously an ideal- by addressing it from its root- which is volition- and upwards. Since one of my favorite things to do is praise those I admire it is of course logical that I issue you my praise, and that I do so in as direct and thorough a manner as possible. I will also submit to you a few ideas of mine for your judgement- ideas I am quite proud of- and ask you some questions. Before I proceed I must address one thing. On October 25th, 2012, I sent you a message on Facebook and although some of what I wrote in that message is legitimate and will be discussed here, it was nonetheless- I regret to say- extremely rushed, subjective and improper- I was in a state of anxiety about our culture; specifically the constantly worsening political situation. It was so rushed in fact, that I accidentally addressed you as “Mr. Branden”, instead of Dr. Branden. On December 13th, 2012, I wrote to you on Facebook again, to apologize and explain the fact that I was indeed very anxious when I wrote to you the first time and that I wanted to carefully outline and draft a much more formal letter to you. I want to emphatically reiterate my apology because those two earlier messages were cheap. If someone is going to petition for your time he or she better make it time well spent! I am pleased to say that I took a fair amount of time to prepare this epistle. It has been outlined, and the original outline was revised twice. The actual writing has also been drafted, revised, and then perfected. That is my essay writing process. My praise begins with your judgement of Ayn Rand. You raised some extremely important points in your essay “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”. The following sentences of yours perfectly summarize an accurate judgement of Ayn Rand’s principles and sufficiently establishes the ideological context from which I am writing to you: “Ayn Rand might turn over in her grave to hear me say it, but she really did have the right to be wrong sometimes. No need for us to become hysterical about it or to behave like petulant eight-year-olds. Growing up means being able to see our parents realistically. Growing up relative to Ayn Rand means being able to see her realistically — to see the greatness and to see the shortcomings. If we see only the greatness and deny the shortcomings or if we see only the shortcomings and deny the greatness, we remain blind. “She has so much that is truly marvelous to offer us. So much wisdom, insight, and inspiration. So much clarification. Let us say ‘thank you’ for that, acknowledge the errors and mistakes when we see them, and proceed on our own path — realizing that, ultimately, each of us has to make the journey alone, anyway.” Indeed Ayn Rand’s literature is “truly marvelous”. She is in fact, my heroine. However, as you said, indeed, she made errors, many of which you have identified and corrected. It is very comforting that you did, because in the midst of my study on Objectivism, I have found to my disappointment that some Objectivists, even certain prominent ones, merely parrot her sayings without the slightest criticism; without an interest in advancing the field of philosophy. One of Ayn Rand’s most ironic errors, which I was unaware of until reading your essay, is her denunciation of hypnosis. It is ironic because she ascribed so much importance to the subconscious, (comparing it to a computer program; describing it as designed by the premise of one’s ideology; emphasizing the importance of relying on one’s subconscious while writing, etc.) and yet she failed to consider that there could be a psychological technique by which the subconscious can be reached, open to suggestion, and alter a person’s behavior or habits. In regard to this, you wrote: “Ayn Rand knew, or believed she knew, that hypnosis was a fraud with no basis in reality; on the other hand, in 1960 Nathaniel Branden was the closest thing on earth to John Galt. And John Galt could hardly be dabbling in irrationalism. So this produced some very curious conversations between us. She was not yet prepared, as she was later, to announce that I was crazy, corrupt, and depraved. At the same time, she firmly believed that hypnosis was irrational nonsense. I persevered in my studies and learned that the human mind was capable of all kinds of processes beyond what I had previously believed. My efforts to reach Ayn on this subject were generally futile and I soon abandoned the attempt…” (“The Benefits and Hazard of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”; http://mol.redbarn.o...AndHazards.html) I cannot understand why she thought hypnosis was “a fraud with no basis in reality”. You explain this by stating “that she became very quick on the draw in response to anything that even had the superficial appearance of irrationalism, by which I mean, of anything that did not fit her particular understanding of ‘the reasonable [in contradistinction to the purely rational].” What aspect of hypnosis did not fit her understanding of ‘the reasonable’? Could it be because she thought of it in terms of a proposed thought process- in replacement of reasoning- as opposed to a psychological technique? I am particularly glad you made this point because not only is hypnosis as conducted by a psychotherapist an important technique; self hypnosis for the rational individual can also be very useful. I cannot yet say just how effective self hypnosis has been for me since I am not good enough at it yet, however the general practice of thinking ourselves into states of deep relaxation, and making rational suggestions to our subconscious, if only for the purpose of reiterating to ourselves self that despite what we have not yet achieved, we can relax and rest assured that we can achieve what we want to achieve, is a very healthy, self enhancing habit. If I had more time I would make a habit of it. Ayn Rand should have practiced self hypnosis! It could have helped her quit smoking. She should not have smoked as smoking is destructive to the her lungs (and other organs) and thus was not in her rational self interest (unless she was enduring excruciating psychological pain which no psychotherapist could help her alleviate and smoking was somehow her only means of relief). Another error of Ayn Rand’s that you noted is that she did not discuss benevolence “adequately” I agree. I wish, in particular, that she had been emphatic about the importance of benevolence between employers and employees, precisely because she was so emphatic (and virtuously so) about the importance of protecting an employer’s right to determine his or her company’s policies and the wages he or she wants to pay his or her employees. At present in our culture this particular issue (employer-employee relations) is very skewed; irrationally approached. The root of this problem is that many employers will not be benevolent to their employees unless the government forces them to (and likewise, employees often are only benevolent to their employers out of desperation; because they want to keep their job, get special treatment, et cetera) Employers tend to believe it is not in their interest, for example, to pay their employees sufficiently. (I suppose Henry Ford’s wisdom on this particular issue is typically regarded as an anachronism) The owner of the grocery store I work for doesn’t pay me enough to live in my own room somewhere and feed myself. (Thankfully my girlfriend and I make quite literally just enough money together) An employer might ask himself: “why is my employees’ sustenance and even his or her savings my problem?” The answer is: because he should want his employees to provide him with the utmost quality of labor. Sure, the employee can work to the best of his or her ability no matter how much the employer pays, because the employee needs the money and because it is virtuous to work to the best of one’s ability, but so long as the employer underpays and thus undervalues the employee he or she is stunting the ultimate value and efficacy of the employee’s labor since anxiety over financial problems stress and preoccupy the employee’s consciousness. I do not mean that an employer should spoil his or her employees with more money than the employee deserves, but an employer should pay his or her laborers at least enough money to afford a small room in somebody else’s house, condominium, townhouse, apartment, et cetera, and three meals a day. Most laborers unfortunately are not paid that much. Had the importance of benevolence been more accurately and widely discussed in our culture there would likely be less poverty, less resentment between employers and employees, there would be a higher quality of labor and production and less governmental coercion- which is what Ayn Rand was striving for in the first place! I also agree with your point that Objectivism encourages dogmatism. You wrote: “Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. In effect, she declared, ‘It’s all or nothing.’ Now this is a rather curious view, if you think about it. What she was saying, translated into simple English, is: Everything I have to say in the field of philosophy is true, absolutely true, and therefore any departure necessarily leads you into error. Don’t try to mix your irrational fantasies with my immutable truths. This insistence turned Ayn Rand’s philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path.” I find this problematic- in fact absolutely frustrating- because although most of Ayn Rand’s assertions are correct she is indeed guilty of holding several contradictions. I say this is absolutely frustrating because I have shared my discoveries (discoveries which I shall unveil at various points throughout this epistle) with several Objectivists ( I make my essays available on my website seanoconnorliterature.com for free at this time, I promote my essays on Youtube, Facebook, I have also posted passages from those essays on an Objectivist forum and I have written to Dr. Peikoff and am awaiting his response. [i confess my emails to him were rushed but my points were clear]) and at present nobody is willing to explicitly acknowledge my discoveries. Some may simply struggle to understand, but others I suspect, are blinded by dogmatism. You are also correct that Ayn Rand’s moralizing is irrational. You wrote “Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, she says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt”. The basis of my agreement is the the fact that there are three types of immorality. Before I elaborate I want to be clear that there is a difference between contempt- deeming someone a threat to others and/or deserving of severe punishment/misfortune- and condemnation- expression of complete disapproval- and I assert that everything must be either condemned- if it is illogical- or praised- if it is logical. The reason I say this is because, in reference to the three types of immorality -self destructive, insulting, and violent- those who are self destructive but not insulting or violent have at least some remnant of respect for humanity; thus while they must absolutely be condemned they are not yet contemptible. Once a person becomes insulting and/or violent and thus renounces whatever tiny remnant of respect he or she used to have for humanity he or she thus explicitly confesses and demonstrates the fact that he or she is contemptible; this is evident because if somebody has no respect for humanity he or she can have no respect for him or herself and is in essence saying “I’m contemptible so you are as well! We are all contemptible!”. Yes, it is true that insulting and violent people can potentially change their ways but until and unless they do- they are contemptible. As for trying to convince them to indeed change their ways, you reveal how this is a worthwhile endeavor for interested (and ambitious) psychologists and that Ayn Rand evaded this fact. “She knew next to nothing about psychology. What neither of us understood, however, was how disastrous an omission that is in a philosopher in general and a moralist in particular. The most devastating single omission in her system and the one that causes most of the trouble for her followers is the absence of any real appreciation of human psychology and, more specifically, of developmental psychology, of how human beings evolve and become what they are and of how they can change.” Another important fact I have learned about morality is that it is crucial, when making our moral judgements, that we do not merely state that one action or another is “moral” or “immoral”; we have to be more specific and emphatically refer to each action as either life enhancing, self destructive, insulting, or violent. No, I would not go so far as to say we should avoid using the terms “moral” and “immoral” however I do assert that, if, for example, I told a drug addict, who is obviously evasive but not insulting (not insulting to anyone but him or herself), “You are hurting your body. You shouldn’t do that. I wish you wouldn’t as it decreases the value of your life and I know that your life is indeed quite valuable because when you’re not smoking yourself into oblivion you make a lot of sense. It is self destructive. You are wasting your intelligence.”- it is much clearer and will be much more effective than telling him, or her “your apathy is immoral! You’re evil! You’re evasive! You’re irrational!”.... (read more at http://seanoconnorli...haniel-branden/)