The Village Voice has kicked off the New Year with a new weekly advice column from New York City’s premiere King of Partying. The Ask Andrew W.K. column appears in the print edition of the paper, as well as Village Voice online. The column aims to give readers an opportunity to delve into the accumulated life-experience, party-knowledge and cosmic-consciousness of W.K., who will endeavor to set you safely down the right left-hand path to a solution, a purpose, and (of course) a party. As Village Voice editor Brian McManus declares, “He is the Pope, Ann Landers, and Dear Abby at a raging kegger, helping talk the highest guy in the room off the chewed-up ledge of life.”
Every week, New York City’s own party messiah takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution in his new weekly advice column in The Village Voice. Read the latest edition of Ask Andrew W.K. below or by clicking HERE.
A full archive of Ask Andrew W.K. can be found HERE.
Need his help? Just send him an email at: AskAWK@villagevoice.com
Since I was very young, I’ve always wanted to be a successful musician. I have practiced and played in many bands and done everything I can to get my music out there, but the dream of making it big just seems to get further away and more impossible. I feel like I should just give up, but I love music so much and want to succeed at it. How can I get there? How can I be a really successful musician?
Striving For Success
Dear Striving For Success,
This is an excellent question and I’m going to answer it as simply and as directly as I can, with the hopes that it makes the point as clear and as helpful as possible.
The traditional modern concept of success — being the measurement of monetary income as the primary indicator of effort and mastery in a certain field — is essentially a scam, a con, and a lie. To equate success with an amount of money earned, or an amount of fame achieved, is at best an unfortunate miscomprehension of the very nature of success. At worst, it’s a malicious distortion.
To truly succeed at something is to devote oneself to what one loves, and to allow that devotion to bring out the best and most admirable qualities one has inside of them, so that in the end, one ultimately succeeds at the only effort that really matters: Becoming a better person than you were.
How can anyone believe in religion? It’s so ignorant and obviously fake. I’ve always backed science since I was a little kid, and now I’m proud to say that I’m studying to be a molecular biologist in college. The thing is, I’m surrounded by a lot of religious idiots at this school, and whenever I try to explain to them how believing in a man in heaven who rose from the dead and all that superstitious BS is literally causing the murder of millions of people, they argue back and tell me that “science is evil and is playing God,” and that I should develop my “faith” before I blow up the world.
What is the best way to finally get through to these ignorant people and explain to them simply and finally that they’re wrong? If they would just give in and accept the scientific future, they would see that they don’t need religion to enjoy life.
Thanks for your feedback,
Dear Enlightened Scientist,
Science versus religion.
I’ve always found this to be one of the most unnecessary arguments in contemporary society. Why does it have to be one or the other? I may not be the most mature or educated person, but when I see highly esteemed academics twice my age arguing about this on and on, it puzzles and concerns me. Arguing whether science or religion is better seems about as futile as arguing about whether day or night is better. Both have their qualities and shortcomings; neither can (nor should) be expected to replace the other. They are two sides of the same coin, and they both emerged out of — and are aspects of — a fundamental reality.
Both science and religion came out of mankind’s desire to know. Both are striving for truth. Science wants to understand truth. Religion wants to experience it. Science wants to get at truth from the outside in. Religion gets at it from the inside out. Science gives us the how, religion gives us the why. Science gives us the means to an end, religion gives us the meaning of that end. Science wants to bring comprehension to the universe. Religion wants to bring tangibility to the intangible.
Dear Andrew W.K.,
I’m afraid of death. Not just my own death, but the death of my loved ones, too. I’ve never really lost anyone very close to me and I just can’t imagine what I will do about it.
Lately, my fear of losing someone close has been taking over more and more of my thoughts. I keep imagining my parents dying in a car crash, or getting that late night phone call that one of my best friends is suddenly dead and gone. I feel really anxious and the more I try to stop thinking about it and put it out of my mind, the worse it gets and the more I obsess about it. What should I do?
Dear Dreading Death,
We realize that everyone, including you and I, will die. However, as certain as we are of this inevitable death, we are equally uncertain of exactly what death entails, or exactly what occurs to someone when it happens.
The only way to entirely avoid the unknowable experience of dying is to never have been born, and that’s obviously not an option for you or I or anyone else alive right now. And the only way to entirely avoid having to experience others dying is to die before they do. And ending one’s own life simply to avoid having to deal with another’s death is hardly a reasonable solution to the problem. Really, there is no exact solution at all. Instead, we can only develop different ways to think about death and try to learn to face it with dignity and as much understanding as possible.
Dear Andrew W.K.,
I work at a used car dealership where I’m forced to rip people off. It’s killing my spirit a little bit every day. I wish I could be making the world a better place, but instead, I’m spending sixty hours a week selling snake oil and gypsy tears to poor unsuspecting people. How do I dig myself out of this situation and reverse all of the bad karma?
The job pays well, and while I know the money isn’t everything, it covers the bills and supports my family. Should I quit this job and take a lower paying job? Should I keep the job and just be glad I’m getting by? I’m not sure how to turn the situation around, but this isn’t who I am.
Killing My Karma
Dear Killing My Karma,
The word “karma” gets thrown around a lot. It seems it’s usually used to describe a sort of cosmic kind of good or bad luck, a punishment or reward that awaits us based on what we’ve done in the past. In this way, we can think of it more simply as cause and effect: what we reap, we shall sow. But one very important aspect of karma is that it doesn’t only work towards an impending future benefit or curse. You also have karma that you’ve already developed in the past that you’re experiencing right now — karma that has lead to this very moment and to the particular situation you’re contemplating.
I urge you to consider that you’ve actually been building up good karma for many years, and that this good karma is now revealing itself to you in an urgent form of undeniable instinct. It’s an inner voice presenting you with a new type of clarity — an overwhelming sense of moral integrity, a pressure — which is making it virtually impossible for you to go on living against the principals which you know in your heart to be right. Everything good you’ve ever done has developed over the years into an internal ethical compass — a conscience — which is returning your goodness with an increased sense of what leads to further goodness. The payoff for good karma isn’t necessarily some sort of external material gain, but rather an internal and ever increasing inner wealth of understanding and strengthening of character. That’s the real payoff: getting to learn how to live a good life as yourself. You didn’t do good things in the past just to develop some sort of blind good luck that rewards you with pennies from heaven. You earned the ability to cultivate true happiness based on your real efforts to understand what you know in your heart to be good and true.
I’m a depressed person. I get sad and unmotivated and basically just feel like being away from everyone, including myself. It’s weird because most of the time I don’t really have a good reason for feeling so bad, I just feel it anyway. Do you have any advice on what to do with bad feelings like this? People don’t understand me. I try to tell them, but they think it’s just me being too sensitive, or I should just snap out of it. You always seem so happy and I really look up to you for that. But do you ever get depressed? How do you stay so positive?
Downer In The Dumps
Dear Downer In The Dumps,
For nearly all of my life, I have struggled with severe depression. Sometimes it’s been a lingering feeling in the back of my head that something isn’t right, and that something is me. Other times it has been a full-blown physically incapacitating despair. It’s hard for me to even describe it, let alone imagine going through it again, although I imagine I will, as I have dozens of times before.
The times when my depression was really bad is difficult to put into words. People that haven’t been depressed asked me if it was like being in a really bad mood, or feeling really, really sad. It’s not like that at all. It’s not a mood or an emotion. Depression is like being exposed to a truth about reality that is so full of sorrow and misery that it shuts down the very part of you that exists as a human being. It’s like being told that everything good about life was a lie and that the biggest lie of all is you. But you’re not just thinking about these awful truths, you are the awful truth — and you become that feeling.
All my friends and acquaintances claim to “hate people.” Why is this a trend? Why is it considered cool to “hate people”?
I Think People Are Alright
Dear I Think People Are Alright,
I was just thinking about this the other day. I was feeling angry toward a group of people who were needlessly attacking another group in the media. It got me pondering the idea of a person who hates another person because of that other person’s hatreds. For example, if a person came along and said, “I hate tall people!” and then another person stepped up and said, “Well, I hate short people!” and finally a third person came along and said, “You should both be ashamed of yourselves for hating people! I hate people like you!” — well, with that one statement, however righteous it may seem at first, the third speaker has now become the exact kind of person he claims to hate — the kind that hates other kinds of people. By hating the kind of people who hate other kinds of people, he automatically becomes the very thing he hates, and in turn, hates himself.
The lesson here is that we must be very careful with our emotions, especially that tyrant of all negative and lower feelings: hatred. In our efforts to eliminate what we see as bad in the world, it takes extreme discipline and self-awareness not to lose our way in the midst of the battle, and end up contributing even more bad to the bad we’re so intent on wiping out. As we’re aware, war can never really achieve peace, no matter how badly we want peace, or how badly we want to believe that by fighting, we can eliminate fighting. It’s common sense, but we usually go to great lengths to convince ourselves that this time it’s different, or that in this case violence really is the only answer. But it never works. Hating hate does not end hate. It just helps it grow.
I recently moved in with a friend who I’ve known for almost a decade. Turns out he uses a lot of homophobic slurs and insults. He also says racist stuff and badmouths pretty much every minority group you can think of. I had never seen this side of him until we became roommates, and now I’m really disturbed. I pointed out how offensive this was, and his response was, “They’re just words,” and that I should lighten up. What do I do?
Your friend’s answer of “They’re just words” is similar to punching someone in the face and then saying, “They’re just hands.” Words are powerful and can be used to hurt or comfort, just like hands can be used to hit or hug. Next time he uses derogatory language, you could just call him an “ignorant racist dumbass piece of shit,” and if he gets upset, remind him that “they’re just words.”
Words are not “just words.” Words are power. Words are living symbols of expression. Words can cause you to feel angry, even violently hurt. They’re supposed to. Even if we realize that words are “just words” — sounds made by our mouths and larynx — those sounds convey ideas, and those ideas convey meanings, and meanings convey a very real power. The world is made up of words. We think with words, we communicate with words, and we translate our experience into language so we can understand and express it. Words are meant to be powerful. We made them that way for a reason, so that they can give meaning to our life. That’s why there’s an undeniably physical quality to hearing words that are meant to be hurtful, insulting, and cruel. You feel them; you don’t just hear them.
Dear Andrew W.K.,
I have a lovely girlfriend who makes significantly more money than I do, and I find this situation aggravating and stressful. She and I live together, and the kitchen is now “my domain.”
I know that love conquers all, but how do I be “the man” when I consistently find myself relying on her?
“The man” isn’t as valuable as “a man.” And “a man” realizes that in order to eventually be a great man, he must be a good person first.
In order to be a good person, he must respect his partner as a distinct equal person, and not just an abstract identity, such as “my girlfriend,” “my woman,” or “my wife.”
A truly good man must first think of others as people of equal value and greatness, capable of just as much greatness as himself.
In recognizing someone else’s capacity for greatness, he also realizes she may even become greater than him. Perhaps in ways that he didn’t expect. Perhaps in ways that defy social standards. Perhaps in ways that force him to look closely at himself and feel self-conscious and insecure. But rather than fear these feelings, a great man embraces them, for he realizes they’re opportunities to improve the quality of his own soul and loosen the strangling grip of his own ego.
I kind of can’t believe I’m really writing these words, but I seriously think my ex-boyfriend put a curse on me using some sort of black magic. We were together for only about a year, and he was always deep into witchcraft and spells and related books on the subject. Early on in our dating history, he had told me that if I ever broke his heart, he would put a curse on me and make my life a living hell. I didn’t take it too seriously at the time and kind of forgot he ever mentioned it, but I broke up with him last week (for a whole bunch of good reasons), and the last thing he said to me was to “Get ready for hell,” because he was putting a curse on me that was so powerful and evil I would regret ever being born, etc. This kind of psycho stuff is actually one of the many reasons that I left him. But now I have noticed a lot of stuff going wrong since that breakup night. Some of it’s small, like a glass plate randomly breaking in my hands and cutting me, or my new car breaking down for no apparent reason. And some of it is big: I just lost a huge job opportunity without explanation, and my cat got mysteriously sick two days ago and is staying overnight in the vet’s office with an unknown stomach illness. Now I’m actually starting to wonder if this guy really did curse me and what I should do to protect myself. I never took this stuff seriously before, but I’m genuinely scared and can’t stop thinking about it. Am I being an idiot?
Cursed By Ex
Dear Cursed By Ex,
The only way someone can put a curse on you is for you to believe that someone can put a curse on you. The human mind is an extraordinarily powerful instrument, capable of all sorts of miraculous feats and achievements, but out of its many capabilities, one thing a person’s mind cannot do is infiltrate another person’s mind against that person’s will. Your mind is your own, and no type of curse or spell or suggestion can impact your inner self unless you allow it to do so and believe in its validity.
With all that you shared with this man, it seems quite clear that he would have the necessary intimate understanding of your personality to manipulate you and your feelings. Part of being in a romantic relationship with someone is letting them into your heart, and with that, under your skin. This is always the risk we take when choosing to follow love and passion where it leads us — and it’s almost always a risk worth taking. But we must remember that when we open ourselves to others, we become more susceptible to their influence. This influence can, of course, be good and inspiring and wonderful, but it can also be cruel and abusive and exhausting. It sounds like you were already experiencing undesirable results from dating this guy, and you wisely broke it off. What you must do now is regain your sense of self and allow your heart and mind time to remove his intimate closeness from your immediate thoughts. His spell over you is no more of a curse or a power than the familiarity that develops once you’ve grown close to and intimate with someone or something.
Last month I came out as transgender, beginning my transition to female. My mom has repeatedly tried to get me to move back home and see a therapist to “fix” me. My oldest sister called me a “sexual deviant” and forbid me to talk to my nieces and nephew, all of whom I was very close to. It’s now been a month since this has happened. My question is, how can I reach out to my mom and my sister to help them understand better?
Rejected Trans Woman
Dear Rejected Trans Woman,
First and foremost, I commend you for moving forward with an incredibly intense yet deeply important choice: the choice to be yourself. Choosing to be true to one’s self — despite physical, emotional, and social challenges that may come with the journey — is an integral part of realizing not just one’s own potential, but of realizing the true nature of our collective human spirit. This spirit is what makes us who we are, and by following that spirit as it manifests outwardly, and inwardly, you are benefitting us all. This is what defines and furthers our shared journey of discovery and individuality.
You are you, and as you progress on this adventure, you are striving to release more of that “you-ness” from deep within and out into the world. And this “you-ness” is truth, truth as expressed through your life as a unique person. It’s your song, your melody.
Your answer to last week’s question really helped me. I could relate to both you and the person who wrote in. I’ve actually gone to a program to conquer my addiction to painkillers, but I always got stuck on the “higher power” stuff. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get myself to give in to the “spiritual experience” they were talking about. I’m a business student by day and a musician by night, and I’ve always paid my own way and taken care of myself, including taking responsibilities for my own troubles. Now I’m having the same old trouble with pills again, and in my efforts to quit, I’m again being encouraged to turn myself over to this “higher power” concept. That seems like a cop-out. I want to get cleaned up, but how can I be true to myself when I really don’t believe in this higher-power spiritual stuff?
High Versus Higher Power
Dear High Versus Higher Power,
Thank you for asking about this. And thank you for reading last week’s advice column and sharing your thoughts. I’m really glad you could relate to it.
I strongly believe everyone should think for themselves. And I totally agree with you that no one should be required to believe in anything in order to stop doing something. So I only offer the following idea as a humble suggestion.
When it comes to the idea of a “higher power,” what about thinking of it this way:
You’re a musician, and you clearly love and believe in music. What if music is your higher power?
I’m sure you’ll agree that music is overwhelming and undeniably powerful, and I’m sure you’ll also agree that music can make you feel deeply, truly good. In addition, we’re aware that music gives us a genuine and reliable physical high — the euphoric rush of gleeful excitement when a perfect melody rushes through us — the butterflies in the stomach and goosebumps we get when a music moment hits us just right — those are real physical sensations. There are times when the sound of music can truly change not just our thoughts and moods, but the actual feeling in our body. Music is a force that changes what it feels like to exist. Music makes life feel better.
I’ve been dealing with some major and substance abuse problems for a long time, and without going into too much detail, I’ve finally given up and decided to enter a recovery program and go straight edge. The only thing is, it’s really hard for me to imagine my life without drugs and partying. It’s something I’ve done every day for so long and has become my whole life. Leaving that behind is the scariest part of all this. You are an expert on partying. Can I be straight edge and still party hard?
Fear of Not Partying
Dear Fear of Not Partying,
I don’t claim to have the answers to anything — and I’m certainly not a qualified expert on addiction or recovery — but I definitely commend you on your decision to make a new version of your life because it sounds like you really want to. And I appreciate you writing to me about this particular idea of change and partying. When you want to change your life more badly than you don’t want to change your life, you will change your life. And that counts as partying.
I think there’s a common misconception that true partying must always involve drugs and alcohol. In reality, the only thing that true partying must involve is partying. How each of us decides to party within that partying is up to the individual, but true partying doesn’t necessarily require drugs anymore than it necessarily requires skydiving — to each their own. As long as it doesn’t blatantly hinder someone else’s ability to party, all forms of partying are permitted. Alcohol and drugs can be amazing, and when used in a dynamic way, they can offer us genuine life changing insights and experiences. Drugs are not necessary requirements for all, and for some, they may be completely detrimental to reaching true party perfection.
This week Andrew has traded the slush-covered streets of New York City for the Wifi-free high seas, so here’s a context-free sampling of his more memorable lines from his advice columns in the Voice. W.K. will return next week.
Click the date next to each quote to read the full column.
• “Let’s appreciate how one of the absolute best things in the whole world is accomplished by simply melting cheese on chips.” (12/17/14)
• “We must decide to follow our dream no matter how hard it feels. We must commit!” (7/23/14)
• “So, as Emily Dickinson so perfectly put it, ‘The heart wants what the heart wants.'” (11/26/14)
• “He might just not realize how much of a jerk he’s being.” (7/30/14)
• “We can only learn so much about our minds, because we are using our minds to do so.” (10/29/14)
• “People don’t stop partying because they get old, they get old because they stop partying.” (10/22/14)
• “Few inventions have had a more beneficial and simultaneously dehumanizing impact on daily life than motor vehicles.” (8/20/14)
• “The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world.” (8/6/14)
• “Work so hard on what you love that you don’t even notice the assholes anymore. We won’t let anyone stop our party.” (4/30/14)
• “The same people who say pizza is bad because it’s not ‘natural’ could also say electric guitar is bad because it didn’t naturally fall from the sky in one piece.” (9/24/14)
I’m writing because I can’t seem to get past this feeling of being too overwhelmed to do anything with my life. I’m lucky because I have a lot of opportunities to realize my dreams, and I know the things I really want to do in life, but when I start to actually think about what it will take to make them a reality, I get completely exhausted and overloaded from just thinking about all the work required. It makes me feel lazy and then I get discouraged. It’s like a vicious cycle. You seem to do so much in your life. I get drained just thinking about your schedule. How do you pull it off? How do you not feel overwhelmed?
Too Much Work
Dear Too Much Work,
I feel overwhelmed the whole time. I’m constantly in a state of being overwhelmed—so much that I’ve basically just maxed out on that feeling. It barely even registers anymore. At the same time, when I think back, I realize that all the best and most incredible times in my life were also the most intense and overwhelming. It’s just a feeling that’s always there, so I don’t even notice it anymore—kind of like breathing—you only really freak out once you stop doing it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel completely pushed to my limit. It’s how life feels to me, and I imagine a lot of other people too, including you. Maybe the fact that you feel that way isn’t the problem. Maybe the only problem is thinking it’s a problem.
The trick is simple: you don’t really have to pay too much attention to those feelings—like being overwhelmed or tired or afraid. You don’t have to take those sensations too seriously. Just don’t respond to them anymore. Be too busy partying and trying to not waste your life to bother slowing down just because you feel crazy or worn out. In fact, that’s how you can tell you’re really living each day for all it’s worth—feeling like if you were to die tomorrow, could you honestly say you went out giving all you had toward this chance to live? That’s definitely what I want to shoot for as much of the time as possible. And I don’t care if it’s completely draining or if people think it’s unrealistic. It just seems like the only appropriate way to approach life, at least to me.
Today is National Hugging Day. Would you please hug me?
I am hugging you. Right now. Despite what some people might believe, it is possible to actually hug someone just using your mind. I’m giving you a mental hug right at this very moment. And as you read each of these words, you’ll feel my presence wrapping and cuddling around you. I’m conjuring up every ounce of joy, compassion, care, affection, respect, tenderness, and unconditional love that I have, and bundling you up inside of it. Can you feel it?
This type of hug can be even better than a physical arm-based hug. This mental hug enrobes your soul with pure comfort and soothing care from within. This psychic hug encases your inner self with a glowing warmth. This kind of hug can reach you when my physical arms can’t, and it can stay with you for a long time — longer than even the strongest arms could keep squeezing. This is a hug that you feel from the inside out. This is a hug that you can wear like a second interior skin — it shelters your very essence and defends you from harm.
While you’ve touched on some more serious issues—there’s one issue that’s been on my mind for some time. Sometimes when I’m partying, I feel the need to headbang. I must do it! The release I get from headbanging brings me a lot of joy, but there’s one major problem… I always end up getting a sore neck afterwards! Am I headbanging wrong or am I just partying too hard?
Dear The Wolf,
You’re not headbanging incorrectly or partying too hard—instead, you’re probably not headbanging or partying hard enough.
You see, headbanging is an art-form, and just like painting or ballet, it requires dedication, practice, and above all, a level of enthusiasm and passion that emerges from the soul and travels through the body. That passion enables you to rise to the heights required for mastery of the art. Headbanging also requires a large amount of letting-go and a willingness to turn one’s self over to the exhilaration of just letting your body move you, instead of you always moving your body.
I’ve never really shoplifted before, but yesterday I accidentally stole a t-shirt from a big retail chain. Basically, I was paying for a bunch of clothing at the checkout, and noticed the cashier didn’t ring up a t-shirt at the bottom of my basket. She rang up everything else and put the stuff in a shopping bag on top of the unpaid-for t-shirt. I sort of noticed what had happened, but instead of saying anything I just walked out and went home. Now I have this t-shirt that I feel like I accidentally stole, but I also feel like it was kind of the store’s fault for not noticing it. It’s a huge chain store, so it’s not like this one shirt is going to hurt them too much. Is it fine to just keep it? I feel weird about it.
Dear Accidental Shoplifter,
I used to shoplift all the time. In fact, I went out of my way to try and steal, cheat, and scam people as much as I could — strangers or friends, no one was safe from my insatiable capacity for trickery. This was during my teenage years, and a lot of my motivation was purely sinister. I liked to do bad things specifically because they were wrong and hurtful.
Then one day I was mugged at knife point. I was 19 years old and had been living in New York for about a year. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and I was getting off the subway at 3rd Avenue to go to work at the Kim’s Video on St Mark’s Place. As I was walking up the stairs out of the station, a guy pushed me against the wall and put a steak knife in my face. He said, “I’m no joking, man! I’m not joking!”, and proceeded to ask me for my cash and watch and subway tokens. I gave him what he wanted without resistance.
I really want to make some big changes in my life and I want to use my New Year’s resolution this year to get my life on track in a major way. I’ve been feeling a lot of negativity with people trying to hold me back, and really want to make a huge improvement for personal success in 2015. I’ve had a hard time living up to promises I’ve made myself in the past, but this year I’m going for it. Do you have any advice on how to make my resolutions stick?
Big Life Changer
Dear Big Life Changer,
Making a bunch of drastic life changes all at once can be overwhelming. It creates a lot of pressure under which we can quickly collapse, and give up trying to improve our situations. Rather than trying to take on so much at once, I’d like to offer one very simple and manageable idea that might help with the feeling of day to day life overall.
I once had the very unpleasant experience of accidentally overhearing some friends and acquaintances bad-mouthing me behind my back at school. It was a classic situation in which they thought I had left the building when I was actually just out of sight in another room. As you can imagine, it was a pretty devastating experience. They complained to each other about the way I talked, they said I was annoying, they said I was clueless, and they even managed to throw in a few jabs at how I looked.
You are my inspiration and all I wanted for Christmas this year was you and your party attitude all wrapped up and put under the tree. But you weren’t there! Are you Santa Claus?
Be My Gift
Dear Be My Gift,
All I really am is a symbolic expression of the good moods and attitudes that most of us want to have. That’s how Andrew W.K. started — as a way to get cheered up. It was a way to focus on being the type of person my team thought would be the nicest, and strongest, and most fun. It started as a way to focus on all the best parts of life, and a way to stay close to those joyful feelings.
This is very similar to Santa Claus. Santa Claus was actually what I wanted to be when I grew up. He’s always been my personal inspiration, my idol, and my role model. When I tried to imagine a really cool person, it was always based on Santa. His entire existence was centered around creating joy. He didn’t just spread joy or give joy, he actually was joy. Santa Claus is the physical and spiritual manifestation of goodness — it’s bound up in his personality and is an inseparable part of his very nature. I always figured if I had to be like someone, why not try to be like that? But maybe I could party with people all year long — and instead of making toys, I would make parties.
I could really use your help answering this question…
What’s better: nachos or tacos?
Your Party Disciple
Dear Your Party Disciple,
To answer your question, BOTH ARE BETTER. Both nachos and tacos are better. For starters, both nachos and tacos are better than being dead. Both nachos and tacos are better than no food at all. And both nachos and tacos are better than each other, because as soon as you get tired of eating nachos, you can always just switch to eating tacos, and your appetite is rekindled.
Besides, one of the greatest things about life is that we don’t always have to pick favorites. We don’t always have to declare one thing we love is definitively better than another. We can love two things, or three things, or millions of things at once and in different ways. We can have tons and tons of favorite things. We can enjoy an almost infinite amount of pleasures and consider the whole experience a favorite thing in itself. Mexican food can be one of your favorite things. Food in general can be one of your favorite things.
About a year ago, I discovered that my self righteous, astrological, new age spiritual pseudo-artistic progressive, fake, socialist, feminist girlfriend cheated on me. Actually, she had been cheating on me with a bunch of random dudes for many months. In fact, it seems that I was the last to know, and all her idiotic health and wellness politically correct piece-of-sh*t friends had been aware of this the whole time and didn’t bother to tell me, which just made me look like an even bigger idiot. Obviously, I broke up with her immediately and tried to explain to her what an awful person she is. She was oblivious to this fact then and still is now. What really angers me is that she is constantly being praised and awarded for being such an “important and sophisticated and artistic” person. For some insane reason, she is successful in crappy independent art and film circles and is considered an “important artistic voice for women”; I guess some sort of feminist role model. The thing is, it’s all complete bullsh*t. She is a horrible and talentless person who doesn’t even live up to the standards she sets for everyone else. She’s basically always been a loser whose career is based on her overcompensating for not having anything genuine in her soul, and I’m constantly trying to get people to call her on it. I just hate all these morons and their stupid art movements and political causes and holier-than-thou feminist messages. My question is, how can I convince all these idiots to stop worshipping this woman who doesn’t deserve their praise and wake up to their own hypocrisy?
My Ex Is Evil
Dear My Ex Is Evil,
There’s a lot going on here. Your anger and resentments come through loud and clear. But your hurt feelings speak even louder. What you went through is humiliating and you have every right to feel upset. But based on the fact that you wrote in about this, it seems that maybe what you’re really looking for is a way to let go of it, or more than that, to use these bad feelings as a means to feel another way — a bigger way. It’s time to move on, but even more so, it’s time to expand.
In situations where we’ve been hurt by someone, our natural instinct is to lash out at everything we associate with that person. It’s very tempting to generalize and assume that everyone who share’s your ex-girlfriend’s interests also has the same underlying character flaws. But deep down, we realize this is simply not the case. Movements, schools of thought, belief systems and ideologies are all made up of individuals. And while they may share ideas, they’re still each made up of unique people with their own strengths and weaknesses and individuality.
I dig your music and what you stand for, but I’m kind of getting sick of all the hippy-dippy love stuff lately. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I just think your whole message has kinda gotten corny. Maybe I’m out of line, but I don’t see how all this cheesey lovey-dovey stuff makes sense in the real world. You’re naive. Sometimes love just doesn’t work. Sometimes people need to experience a bunch of bad shit in order to wake them up and see the truth. You have to admit that sometimes violence is the only way to make real change and get people’s attention. Love isn’t always the answer, man.
Sorry for the harsh newsflash. But hopefully this helps you.
Dear No Peace,
Deep lasting internal change occurs when a spark is lit through a display of humanity — when someone who you expected to hit you hugs you instead — that causes real growth — that instills the realization that we really can love one another, despite our justified anger. No matter how tired we are, no matter how many reasons we have to hate and harm each other, we can still choose love. But we often don’t. Why?
Why are we so quick to doubt love? Why are so many of us calling love unrealistic, not powerful enough, lame and even “corny?” Why do we work so hard to talk ourselves out of being loving people and instead list endless reasons why love just won’t work?
For many years, I’ve been trying to find the courage follow my dreams. I gave myself until the end of this year to finally make a move, but as my self-imposed deadline gets closer, I’m feeling more and more anxiety. The idea of changing my life literally hurts sometimes, even though I really do want to follow my passion. Without going into too much detail, I’ve basically always had the same dream. And in my heart, I know what I want to do, but I’ve always had too many doubts to move forward. I end up talking myself out of following through and instead just play it safe for another year. How do I stop holding myself back? How do I follow my heart when I keep talking myself out of it? How do I do what I love when it seems too terrifying to try?
Thanks for your help!
Stuck In Stability
Dear Stuck In Stability,
The mind and the heart often seem to battle over controlling the life of their owner. The mind usually wins because it’s extremely loud and convincing. The heart’s nature is to be more gentle and passive — it doesn’t like to fight. In contrast, the mind’s tendency is to be domineering and relentless, and it has a more up front position in our psyche — it takes advantage of this proximity to maintain a tyrannical dictatorship over our behavior and choices. Meanwhile, the heart pulses with a subtle yet consistent yearning, never fully allowing us to tune out its mystical aspirations.
The mind tells us to be rational, calculating, conservative, and continuously lists all the reasons we shouldn’t listen to out heart’s more deeply held desires. The heart is persistent as well, but it keeps whispering to us from deep within our soul, whereas our mind shouts right into our brain and dominates the conversation.
I’m hoping you can help me. I’m a passionate atheist and one of my best friends is too. I’ve known him since we were 6 years old and I love like him a brother. Just last week, he got married. He hired a non-denominational minister to conduct his ceremony. Everything was going fine until the minister said, “We are gathered here today, in the presence of God, to unite these two people in matrimony.” I tensed up as soon as I heard the word “god” and basically spent the rest of the ceremony fuming over the fact that this minister snuck the god thing into my friend’s special day. The whole thing was tarnished. I never really mentioned how upset I was to my friend or anyone else, but I can’t stop thinking about it and feeling like I should’ve spoken up. I really hate religion and that religious people always need to force their dogma into everyone’s lives. Just because they think everything’s being controlled by some bearded sky-daddy doesn’t mean they need to insert their faith into otherwise beautiful parts of my life. I’m the kind of person who stands up for atheism. I’ve made a commitment to fight against religion whenever I can. I’m most upset that my friend allowed this minister to say the word “god” during such an important moment in his life and then didn’t say anything back or even seem to care. My question is: Should I mention this to my friend, or do I just let it go?
Dear Anonymous Atheist,
Thank you for asking about this. You definitely shouldn’t feel bad for caring. The fact that you’re thinking a lot about this situation shows you have a thoughtful and strong character. It’s natural for us to encounter moments which challenge us. Having the capacity to question our most deeply held opinions is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Especially when we have the composure to resist our immediate emotional reactions and let our common sense lead us toward a more dignified type of contemplation.
Keeping an open mind and an open heart requires an incredible amount of determined effort. The act of questioning and the search for truth demands the utmost courage and discipline. And it’s not a discipline built around staunch and unwavering adherence to one’s beliefs, but an unwavering commitment to the quest for honesty, integrity, and discovery, even at the expense of one’s own beliefs. This is to ensure that new insights and opportunities for enlightened growth aren’t dismissed simply because they conflict with previously held opinions.
I’ve always been a quiet and reserved person, but I’ve been feeling pressure to be more talkative and social. Do you ever feel pressure to be a certain way? I see people who are so easy going with social interaction, but I really enjoy spending time alone. Do I need more friends to be good at partying? How do I become the life of the party?
Thanks very much,
In A Shell
Dear In A Shell,
Sometimes people who seem the most socially comfortable are actually just as shy as you. Sometimes people who are using exaggerated and overly-congenial behaviors are behaving that way to make their own type of shell or protective barrier, because of their own fear of seeming shy or too reserved, just like you are.
We all want to be liked. We all want to feel good about ourselves in the presence of others. This is a natural part of the human-spirit — our desire for camaraderie and connection. But how we deal with that desire for connection — and how we go about making it — can lead to self-doubt, a sense that something is wrong with us, and a lot of unnecessarily distorted personality traits.
Would you please do us all a favor and eat shit and die?
I Hate You
Dear I Hate You,
One of the most intriguing and particularly intimate cases of polarity in the phenomenon of eating shit is shit itself. Excrement, feces, diarrhea, and all various forms of human waste — including urine and vomit — are simultaneously repellant, yet an intimate part of our own bodies. It’s truly astounding when one considers how going to the bathroom is really among the most crucial and fundamental aspects of living. Defecating is secondary only to eating, and is essentially eating in reverse — intrinsically connected to the experience of growing and surviving.
If we think about it, shit itself is quite literally one of the worst “most important things” in the world. If we picture being tied down and forced to have a substance smeared all over our face and forced into our eyes, nose, and mouth, is it really possible to imagine that substance being something worse than shit? At first, we might think something like vomit could be worse, but after careful and honest introspective thought, if we had to choose, most of us would prefer being forced to put a stranger’s vomit in our mouths, as opposed to their fresh feces. Blood, urine, semen, and dead rotting bodies are also awful to imagine eating, but they still don’t quite equal the repulsive power of imagining a steaming soupy bagful of strong diarrhea being splashed onto your open-mouthed face.
Believe it or not, I really don’t like Halloween. Out of all my friends and family, I’m the only one who dreads this time of year and doesn’t get excited about dressing up or going out and doing “spooky” stuff. I’ve always been this way. I just don’t believe in this sort of stuff — like ghosts, goblins, haunted houses, and all that supernatural nonsense. I believe in rational thought and science, and to be honest, it creeps me out to see so many millions of people allow themselves to get into such an obviously shallow frame of mind every year during this “holiday.” How can I participate in Halloween without bringing everyone else down, while at the same time not compromising my belief that all this is moronic?
Dear Halloween Hater,
You don’t need to enjoy dressing up for Halloween, and you certainly don’t need to believe in stuff you don’t want to. But maybe you can celebrate Halloween in a different way: For you, maybe Halloween can be the time of the year where you allow yourself to not believe in your beliefs. Even if just for one day, see what it feels like to doubt that which you think is undoubtable. Embrace the horrifying spirit of the unknown, the untested, and the unproven. Allow yourself to be skeptical of everything, even the idea of skepticism.
On Halloween, allow yourself to live in a world — for one day — where certain things cannot be explained, wrapped up, or proven. Allow yourself to exist between the known and the unknown, the rational and the irrational, the heavens and the earth, the earth and hell, the human and monstrous, the demonic and angelic, the tangible and ghostly, the good and the evil. Just because you don’t believe in something — “supernatural nonsense” — doesn’t mean it isn’t real, or maybe even beyond the very concept of “real”. This is the spirit of Halloween, and it’s a science all its own.
It’s my birthday and I feel depressed. I never used to be one of those people that hated telling people their age, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m getting old. How do I keep the party going even though I’m old?Yours truly,
Dear Aging Rager,
Your fear of not being able to party as you get older isn’t uncommon, but it’s unwarranted. If anything, the more experience you have at partying, the better you get at partying. The more you understand about what brings you happiness, the more skills you can acquire to bring that happiness about. Living longer makes you better at life.
This is why our elders are so appealing. We realize they’ve accumulated extremely deep stores of knowledge and wisdom precisely because they aren’t 18 years old. We stand in awe as we ponder what insights and secrets they’ve extracted from the volumes of life they’ve endured. Similarly, the more time we spend learning who we are in this world, the better we get at being ourselves — this is how one becomes a master — this is the great gift of aging.
I’m shitting my pants about this Ebola virus. Just hearing the word “Ebola” makes me literally sick to my stomach. I’m sick of hearing about this disease and I’m sick of feeling terrified about it. Every morning I wake up for work, I scramble to watch the news and read the latest horror stories, and then I spend the rest of the day irritable and panicked about this growing epi