Today I have a special message on what is a for me a dubiously special day. Exactly one year ago today a traumatic disruption fell into my life like a meteor. Although in retrospect it was a fairly small stone, at the time it was more than enough to shatter my world. I eventually realized that my very existence was on the line, and I was either going to address the faults in my character or go on suffering like Prometheus tied to the rock, getting his liver ripped out by a buzzard every day for eternity. Summoning the act of will to “sort myself out,” to use what is becoming a popular phrase, coincided as if by Providence with the rise of Dr. Jordan Peterson.
Assiduous readers will recall that last Father’s Day I wrote a piece for the National Review on the rise of the Canadian psychology professor; it was entitled “YouTube’s New Father Figure.” Peterson’s book has just been released, and is fast becoming an international best-seller. And in another twist of fate, of the three blurbs used on the back of the book, one of them is from my article:
So that’s part one of this post. Now on to part two.
I hung out with the boys at J. Press yesterday — including my now old pal Dan, my delightful new buddy Robert, and the ever-dapper Sergio. Little bits of the conversation got transformed in my subconscious during the night, and I awoke from a powerful dream. As I slowly got myself up and into the kitchen, I tried to work out its symbolism, given that its surface meaning, like all dreams, seemed random and incoherent. In my dream, a magical world I’d discovered was “just two turns away” from where I live.
Then I suddenly remembered a passage from book I’ve twice read during this past year of highs and lows. The book is called “He: Understanding Masculine Psychology,” by Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson, which explores the legend of Parsifal and the Holy Grail myth. I began to work out that this magical place in my dream was my “Grail castle.” Here’s an excerpt from Johnson:
The most important event of one’s inner life is portrayed in the story of the Grail castle. Every youth blunders his way into the Grail castle sometime around age fifteen or sixteen and has a vision that shapes much of the rest of his life…
Most men can remember a magic half hour sometime in their youth when the whole world glowed and showed a beauty not easily described. Perhaps it is a sunrise, a glorious moment on the playing field, a solitary time during a hike when one turns a corner and the whole splendor of the inner world opens for one. No youth can cope with this opening of the Heavens for him and most set it aside but do not forget it. Others find it so disturbing that they dismiss it and play as if it had never happened. A few are so touched by the vision of meaning that they spend the rest of their lives, like Parsifal, searching fo the Grail castle again. One has only to “go down the road, turn left, cross the drawbridge.” But the very simplicity of the directions effectively hides it from view.
The drawbridge is a hint about the nature of the Grail castle. It doesn’t exist in physical reality. It is an inner reality, a vision, poetry, a mystical experience, and it can not be found in any other place. To search for it outwardly is to exhaust one’s self and to court discouragement.
Parsifal spends many years, most of the legends say twenty, on his knightly adventures. He grows more bitter, more disillusioned… These are the dry years of a man’s middle age. He knows less and less why he is functioning and is apt to give an evasive answer when asked about the meaning of his life.
… The Grail castle is always just down the road and a turn to the left. If anyone is humble enough and of good heart, he can find that interior castle. Parsifal has had the arrogance beaten out of him by twenty years of fruitless searching, and he is now ready for his castle.
So your paradise is probably pretty close to where you are now, you just can’t see it. But if you can make that little turn in your point of view, you might catch a glimpse of where to find happiness.
Now part three, the real point of this post.
With a cup of coffee freshly brewed and the passages in the book found, I realized the date: that it was one year since the worst period of my life, and that my plan for today had been to write a blog post with a special message of support for anyone out there who’s going through a difficult time. If you’re reading this and have been feeling pretty rotten ( especially if you’re in denial of this fact), I’m here to help you work through it, brother. I shared this same message on Ivy’s Facebook group on New Year’s Day, and then later on Twitter. Several guys have reached out to me, but even more I heard from older guys who messaged me to say how much they appreciated the gesture of trying to do a little more good in the world. Many social commentators have said we’re going through a period of masculine crisis, and it’s more important than ever to look out for our fellows.
Over the years I’ve received constant emails asking me details about clothes. Often I haven’t been able to respond at length and have referred the men to the collective wisdom of the Facebook group. But I want you all to know that my inbox is ready and willing for anyone who needs a sounding board for life’s problems. I’ve got a dozen books I can recommend, a couple dozen ideas to try out, and, well, four dozen years on earth saying “I’m a philosopher of life” and finally having it put to the test.
From my New Year’s message:
2017 was the most pivotal year of my life, and I’m now looking at how to better manifest the greatest good I can in the world. I get asked all the time for wardrobe advice, but now maybe it’s time to not just help edit your wardrobe, but help edit you.
I’m looking to reconnect with my desire to help people, which had gotten lost along the way. In college I tutored English as a second language to Asian and African students, later taught swing and ballroom dancing up to 7 days a week, have tried to help every hack golfer I’ve met with my vast knowledge of how NOT to swing a club, and have recently been volunteering with New York Cares teaching chess to kids in Queens.
I know what it feels like to be knocked down by life and face the Herculean task of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off — especially after years of avoidance. We can work together to identify what your issues are, and I have a ton of books, ideas, and ways to change your point of view that may be helpful. With emails and calls we can hopefully get you feeling that life is fresh and new and full of possibilities come the bloom of spring.
And a few quick endorsements:
“Since meeting Christian, we’ve discussed a wide variety of topics and I’ve learned that he has a voracious appetite for knowledge. He discusses physical and mental health issues as easily as pop culture and psychology, and is always looking for new paths to improvement on the physical, mental and emotional planes. Our interactions always lead me to a deeper understanding of life’s challenges and rewards.” — Tony
“Christian’s breadth of knowledge about life and the mind is astounding, and his ability to share what he knows, and the energy he has to throw himself into projects, is both remarkable and contagious.” — Maria
“I’ve known Christian for 30 years. Throughout my young adult life I relied upon his interpersonal skills and straightforward approach to life. He has always helped center my decisions, which has led me to respect and admire his skills as a communicator.” — Joe
In closing, check out Dr. Peterson’s book as well as his YouTube lectures, as they’ll inspire you to be a better man. Try to move your life in the direction of helping others. And if you ever feel down in the dumps and can’t seem to find a way out, my email address is pretty easy to remember: firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace be with you, brother. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD