Hunter S. Thompson’s Superb Advice on How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life

Hunter S. Thompson graffiti 2Maria Popova takes a look at the advice of Hunter S. Thompson given in a letter to a friend when he was 20-years-old. From Brain Pickings:

As a hopeless lover of both letters and famous advice, I was delighted to discover a letter 20-year-old Hunter S. Thompson — gonzo journalism godfather, pundit of media politics, dark philosopher — penned to his friend Hume Logan in 1958. Found in Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (public library) — the aptly titled, superb collection based on Shaun Usher’s indispensable website of the same name — the letter is an exquisite addition to luminaries’ reflections on the meaning of life, speaking to what it really means to find your purpose.

Cautious that “all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it” — a caveat other literary legends have stressed with varying degrees of irreverence — Thompson begins with a necessary disclaimer about the very notion of advice-giving:

To give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

And yet he honors his friend’s request, turning to Shakespeare for an anchor of his own advice:

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles…”

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

He acknowledges the obvious question of why not take the path of least resistance and float aimlessly, then counters it:

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you.

Touching on the same notion that William Gibson termed “personal micro-culture,” Austin Kleon captured in asserting that “you are the mashup of what you let into your life,” and Paula Scher articulated so succinctly in speaking of the combinatorial nature of our creativity, Thompson writes…

[continues at at Brain Pickings]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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13 Comments on "Hunter S. Thompson’s Superb Advice on How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life"

  1. Simon Valentine | Jan 29, 2014 at 10:28 am |

    post-eclectic renaissance isn’t about state as much as it is about trade. not cities so much as roads. not kingdom so much as empire. not empire so much as god. not god so much as future. not future so much as being eclectic.


    there are no rainbows to be made in clouds.
    only indistinct races of beings you’ll know, unsurprisingly.
    only conversion will help you math, and you’ll begin to know, whether by parallel, tangent, genus, or error. i’ll be there.

    • Why are there so many songs about rainbows
      And what’s on the other side
      Rainbows are visions
      But only illusions
      And rainbows have nothing to hide

      • Simon Valentine | Jan 29, 2014 at 6:08 pm |

        occlusion, modulus, omni-ob-vi-ous

        a gypsie telling as truth quite serious
        the world as a stage
        the movements all as parades
        ’tis a wonder one wonders when all is quite clear
        creation, acquisition, all so tangled with fear
        the reaper shall come, yet is infinitely near
        oh dear
        death’s visceral headgear
        i can’t wait to meet’m
        bug zappers and clan seers
        fan queers
        killers with bland mirrors
        so now my tongue is quite twisted as a leave the sad peerless peers

      • Rey d'Tutto | Jan 30, 2014 at 12:21 am |

        The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me.

  2. Ethan Hval | Jan 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm |

    “To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

    But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.”

    Thomspon was always a beacon of truth.

  3. Naomi AmiNo | Feb 3, 2014 at 6:53 am |

    I know this is some what off topic but what TIME was this article posted????? I wrote a poem this same day including the mindset of meaning and purpose of life and referencing Shakespeare too! And I personally find it crazy that I just read this a few days after. And must know the time this was posted 😮 Someone? Anyone know of the time???

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