*Heads up: some well-placed cursing below!*
Revolution in Quilt City, USA.
The finer nuances of current American culture were lost to me at age 16, when I was hanging precariously out the passenger window of a ’96 Monte Carlo traveling at breakneck speed, head full of acid, “Over the Hills and Far Away” blasting through the speakers, and an unlicensed driver at the wheel.
A true rebel without a cause, a kid who only listened to oldies music and only read Hunter S. Thompson books, I was a fucking yuppie—a narrow-minded hypocrite.
For 10 years, I fed this beast inside me copious amounts of pills and booze, always searching for one specific yet unattainable truth. It took me a little over a year locked in a single bedroom apartment with myself and my wretched thoughts to find it.
I have always connected on a deep level with music, as do many. Musician Jim James (of the band My Morning Jacket) revitalized my spirit with this simple message (paraphrased):
“A lot of us gather negative baggage over time that just isn’t true. You do have worth, you deserve whatever dreams you want to chase, whatever they may be. People justify what they are running from through a lot of avenues instead of facing it.”
He reminded me that you don’t have to be a tortured soul in order to create something beautiful. He also pointed out something called “The Broccoli Theory.”
When you are a child, “Ah man, broccoli sucks!” But many adults say “Broccoli is fucking awesome!” You can’t enjoy something until you’re truly ready for it. I believe “The Broccoli Theory” is one of the simple truths of human existence. This theory applies to all things, from art and food to huge life-changing events.
So here I am, on the verge of a personal revolution, and I feel like I’ve run out of inspiration. I’m experiencing waves of hot and cold roaring through my body like eternal hellfire. I thought the buprenorphine the doctor prescribed me was going to help me get off of drugs, not exacerbate the issue. Clearly not all of us are equipped to handle day-to-day life while in a substance-induced sensory overload.
Who’s to say the drug-crazed beatnik can even exist in this modern day and age? Here we go again. I have lifted the veil from my eyes, and for what? No burning bush experience?
I feel utterly hopeless. Why am I going through this for nothing? Only questions and no answers. I decide to look to the last gentleman who gave me truth in massive doses. The good doctor Hunter Thompson.
What would he say? What would he do?
Flipping through YouTube, I see a Charlie Rose Hunter Thompson interview. Why not? I like Charlie Rose. The interview is thorough, seems to be pretty standard so far. Then Rose starts asking about why Thompson became a journalist/author.
“I’ve heard all of this sh*t before.” I say to myself.
Then I hear Hunter say, “Well, I became a writer because that’s all I could do.”
Such a simple statement. Of course, with Hunter there is always more to the story, but that first simple answer reverberated in my mind over and over. Of all the insane brilliance that I had read or heard from Thompson, that short reply hit me like the first drink of whiskey on an empty stomach.
My huge, life-changing personal revelation?
You can’t carbon copy greatness, it must be created from within each individual’s experience. You have to draw inspiration from anywhere you can find it. You can’t even attempt to go about things in the same way as someone else, because the human experience is completely unique for each of us.
Every person and each of their lives are so different from yours and mine that it’s hard to even fathom. That’s what makes the rare times that we do truly connect with a person so breathtaking, whether it be a literary giant, the best songwriter of our generation (Generation Rx), or the person sitting next to you at this very moment.
I have to catch up on everything at once. Review everything I have ever seen. All at once. Hemingway, Faulkner, countless others—literature, music, movies, art. Where do I start? Everywhere. Probably need to lay off the My Morning Jacket videos and jazz cabbage. Well, that’s fine, because as wonderful as some things are, we always have to find more. If we didn’t, we’d be missing out. We have the interweb, with our personal handheld encyclopedia/boob-tube/social media devices at our fingertips everywhere, all the time. So there is no excuse to miss out on current or past, like I have, stubbornly sticking to my guns for so many years.
Don’t miss out on the human experience. Balance is everything. Be kind, loving, and understanding to everyone around you, and never stop exploring. If you do, you might as well curl up and die.
What if Hunter Thompson had given up on writing to merely exist? No gonzo or freak power movement.
Complacency is the devil’s elixir, and I will have none of it. I don’t care how comfortable you feel in your little bubble, or if you feel like you know everything like so many people do. You don’t.
Try everything once, twice, three times—within reason, of course, because you can’t force anything. Doesn’t matter who you are. Teen, 20-something indie hipster, hip-hop guru, country folk, baby boomer, or right wing Nazi bigot, it doesn’t matter. I love all of you.
Now go, find whatever it is, and do what moves you. Try to find something that isn’t engineered by corporate America just because they say you will enjoy it, but is truly created for the sole purpose of making those greedy assholes more money.
There are so many people in this world making beautiful, genuine, and inspiring things. Be one of them. Fill the world and people around you with light and love.
There is no specific “American Dream”—only what you want from life and what truly sets you “free.”
Author: Cory Terrell
Editor: Toby Israel