What follows is the speech from my launch party for The Yoga of Strength, which occurred on April 19, 2019. It happened at my house, with many friends and family in attendance. Unfortunately, I had laryngitis and was not able to do all of my speeches, and barely got through this one. So, here you go, my launch party speech! I have recorded it - below the video you can find the text.
“Those of you who have been following my work, non-fiction or otherwise, probably know that I am a big fan of mythology, especially given that the mantle of myth has been taken up, mostly by speculative fiction, in recent years. It is easy to dismiss myths as pretty stories about heroes and gods and monsters, stuff of childhood fancy. But the truth, the lived truth, what I have experienced in this life and want to share with all of you through my writing, is much grander than that. There is a reason that early religions were devoted to mythology, and still are (though the story of Jesus is a bit less flashy than Gorgons and Dragons, aside from the miracles). Art imitates life and life imitates art, and mythology is this truth crystallized into relatable form.
Albert Einstein said, if you want your kids to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales (this is a paraphrase and not the actual quote!). It is one of the great divine paradoxes that more truth can be distilled into the completely magical and fantastic than any other medium (at least, that is how I have experienced it).
Joseph Campbell, a comparative mythologist from the United States, compared the myths of all of the cultures around the world, and discovered a common thread. He called it the Monomyth, or the Hero’s Journey. It is the story of every human being that has walked the Earth, if they want to put everything on the line and bet on the idea that all might not be what it seems. Listening to him, it is quite evident to me that he experienced the truth of what he says, in a very real way. With my writing, I am trying to convey these ideas. With that in mind, I give you this, my latest piece of non-fiction, a Reflection I call Journey.”
What a day. What an achievement. What a life. Finding the words to express all that is in my heart has proven to be quite the challenge. And, like many idealists and dreamers, I am forever attracted to a challenge. So, what to say? Perhaps we can talk about the journey that has led me here, and leave it at that.
Those of you that know me well would scarcely be shocked to know that I consider myself to be somewhat of a seeker. Hell, it might be a label that any of you might have attached to me. I was a restless young man for a very long time. But what was I seeking? Pleasure, certainly, in the early days. Whether it was video games or beer, I sought to fill a void within with the ‘on’ button that they represented. No matter how empty I felt when the adventure was over or when the six (or twelve) pack was finished, I went back to it. I sought to feed my addictions, seeing no better way of living than for the weekend.
Now that I am older, and quite a degree wiser, I know now what it was that I needed. It was a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning, a sense of some sort of greater understanding of my role in the world. What I wanted was to find that kernel of truth within myself and let it blossom out into the cosmos, like a pebble’s touch rippling outward on the ocean. My journey, the big one, the one that has been spoken about in mythology since the days when we first gained a modicum of self-awareness as a species, that is what I want to speak about.
Another less-than-earth-shattering revelation that I might reveal to you is this one: I am a big softie. I love deeply and without reservation, and I wear evidence of that love right there on my sleeve. This has not changed over the years, but it is a vulnerability that has left me with some wounds. I bore the marks that many nerds tend to bear: that is, I felt I had to close off my heart in response to what I saw as an environment without mercy. Those wounds were the impetus for my own answer of the call to adventure.
The world has a tendency to chain us up. Like so many Neos at the beginning of The Matrix, we all seem to find ourselves stuck in a world that seems unreal, for how oppressive it is. A part of us insists: there must be something more. For me, that was the calling that I refused to heed for many years. Instead, I preferred to drown it out with more video games and more beer.
Things did eventually come to a head. No longer able to put off adulthood by staying in the la-la land that is the life of a university student, reality came crashing down upon me. It was a time for adulting, a boring and endless time for paying bills and getting serious and saving up the sheckels in my misery so that I could gild my deathbed. Being a junior lawyer at a big firm did not help matters much.
At least, that was how I saw it. I was blind, of course. Blind to the magic that surrounds us all, every day of the year. I thought that life was a curse.
It is no surprise to me that I nearly quit. I have not stated that in public before, but I nearly gave it all up. I remember going up to my principal’s office at Cox & Palmer during my first year of practice, resignation letter palmed and prepared to give it to him. I was heavily indebted and had no plan – I would simply quit and hope for the best. Anything could be better than the grim day to day that ground me down. But something stayed my hand. By some divine grace, I did not give him the letter.
Instead, I went and had coffee with a friend. I told him all of my troubles, and he told me this: you’re probably depressed. Finally willing to take the anti-depressant drugs I had scorned for so long, I booked an appointment with my family doctor. A few days later I had a prescription.
Although I think I can safely say that I will never take those kinds of drugs again, they gave me a moment to breathe. No longer rolling out of bed into a panic attack, I could think about my life and plan my next steps.
Am I ever glad I did.
I am not going to elaborate on all of the steps of my journey from that moment, but I can safely say that I was finally ready to listen to that voice. The one that was whispering to me that all was not as it seemed. The one that was telling me to trust it. Conscience, intuition, the call of my heart – whatever it was, I said ‘yes’ to it.
And continued to say 'yes' to it. And eventually it did lead me home to myself, right here and now, with all of you. People have dressed up spiritual seeking in an untold number of ways over the years and many have laid claim to ultimate knowledge of how to do it. Headstrong as I was, I steadfastly refused to take anyone at their word about this kind of thing. If it was real, I would experience it for myself. That said, I thought it was bullshit, so I would never experience anything of the sort.
Boy, how wrong was I.
And that is what The Yoga of Strength is about. It is my own journey, told through metaphor – the same journey that has been told and is being told in nearly every story we ever read, watch, or hear. It is the story of understanding what it means to be human. It is the story of feeling alone and realizing that we are not alone and never have been. That we are all immortal. That all of our worries and cares are just ripples on that ocean and our true identity is the ocean itself. It is the story of falling in love with the world and feeling it love you back. We are all Narcissus, the man who fell in love with his own reflection, but not in the way we might think. It is not love of his configuration of skin and bone, but of the spark that burns behind the eyes of each and every person that we meet.
I love you, all of you gathered here tonight. Thank you for coming out and supporting me in this, my moment of triumph. Please, enjoy yourselves. I will be doing a couple of readings later this evening, but for now, drink deep and be merry.
I will leave you with a final quote from The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.