Happy Thanksgiving, my natural-shouldered brethren. There’s so much to be thankful for, so let’s jump right in. For starters, as a follow-up to our spate of posts on the great RL, you can stop calling him “Uncle Ralphie” (never understood that one) and start calling him Sir Ralph. That’s right, after a lifetime of drawing upon aristocratic Anglophilia, Ralph Lauren has become an honorary knight of the British Empire! Pause for a moment and consider this metaphorically: The man who has spoken throughout his life of being a dreamer, and weaving dreams for all of us to revel in, has manifested a dream into reality. Talk about fake it till you make it. That ought to encourage you all to think big.
And if you’re ready to think really, really big, then be thankful for the miracle that we’re all here, all part of the divine will, cosmic consciousness, or the unified field that physics is uncovering.
Below you’ll find a new Level Up essay by me from the back page of the new issue of Veni, the women’s fashion and Hollywood talent magazine I edit. It includes some ancient wisdom on how to navigate life’s dark periods.
Speaking of which, I’d like to give a special shout-out to one of your buttondowned brothers who’s in a very bad place. He first reached out to me in February after I put up the “I’m Here For You, Brother” post. As you know, the holiday season is the toughest time for people who are depressed, and last night, on the eve of Thanksgiving, a reader I’ll call MMB — for Man with Many Brothers — emailed me in a desperate state, rock bottom, ready to jump off a bridge when what is really needed is a leap of faith which, to draw on other ancient words, begins with a single step. So chime in and let MMB know he’s in your prayers this Thanksgiving, and that he’s not nearly as alone as he feels.
My best to you all. I’m thankful for the opportunity to inform, entertain, and occasionally inspire you. — CC
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The Last Judgment
Possibly the greatest bit of ancient wisdom might just convince you to pause next time you make a snap judgment about yourself
By Christian Chensvold
Veni Magazine, Fall/Winter 2018
Screenwriters are clever people. They have the advantage of knowing how their story is going to end, and so they play with us as they take us along for the ride. Characters say things that are the opposite of what is actually true — what is called verbal irony — but we in the audience take these utterances on face value, unaware of the meaning that is really intended. The real meaning is only apprehended upon subsequent viewings (or readings, for members of the cast), and that is what makes a screenplay rich and multilayered.
Now if only we could examine our own lives as closely, taking a step back and rewinding and looking objectively. In doing so we would see that we’re constantly uttering verbal ironies, making false assumptions, and thinking one thing when the opposite is true. Here’s one of the most poignant examples, and one of the most practical and timeless pieces of wisdom ever to come from the mind of the ancient philosophers.
Let’s say you’re working hard trying to do the thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. You get some encouragement, but you get a lot of rejection as well, which you know is par for the course. But on one particular day, when you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, you find out that a sure-thing you were counting on has gone to someone else. “Great,” you say to yourself despondently. “Another things in my life falling apart. First my relationship, now this. How am I ever going to make a living? Why don’t they recognize my talent? Maybe I’m just no good.” And down into a tailspin you go, a dark black mood of depression and an anxious night of tossing and turning.
The next day you’re even worse, ready to give up and about to call your parents and say you’re leaving the big city and coming back home. Then you get a text that a job you thought was a longshot is all yours — the biggest break of your career! You mood leaps from lower-than-a-snake to cloud nine. Now if only you could look back and see the irony in all those things you said just 24 hours before about having no talent.
It comes down to this: as we go through life we constantly base our emotional response not to events and objects as they really are, but into the opinions that we form about them. It happens so instantly and instinctively that we’re not even aware we do it. Every bit of news — typically the bad news — is viewed not objectively as a simple fact of life, but is imbued with all sorts of symbolic importance about the state of our lives and our value as a person. The event itself was neither good nor bad, it simply was. But we assigned it a good or bad value, and then let our emotions react to that judgment, not the actual event.
This insight has been with us for centuries. Shakespeare has Hamlet say, “Nothing’s good or bad but thinking makes it so.” The idea comes down to us from the ancient world, and the Roman philosopher and emperor Marcus Aurelius said it as wisely and succinctly as can be: “If any external thing causes you distress, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgment about it. And this you have the power to eliminate now.”
If you can grasp this concept, and really catch yourself and feel when you’re responding emotionally to a subjective judgment you’ve made that may or may not be accurate, you’ll find that life becomes much less of a tortuous drama. And instead it will feel like an even, balanced rhythm of ups and downs — all of which you’re more than capable of managing — with everything coming out pretty darn well in the end.