Living the Dream with Anthony “Dream” Johnson

Anthony “Dream” Johnson photographed by Jack Donovan. 2021. 

This interview was originally published as part of the CHEST magazine project in 2021. 

The man behind the 21 Convention and 21 Studios has a dream. He wants to make men (and women) great again.

Anthony “Dream” Johnson, now 33, has been running conferences to help men improve their lives since he was seventeen years old.

In 2007, Johnson was just another guy trying to learn how to talk to girls, and he made a name for himself on message boards in the pick-up artist community by posting photos and “field reports” for other young men. A lot of the PUAs used code names back then, and Anthony’s code name was “Dream.” 

At the time, the big name pick-up-artists were promoting a lot of expensive DVDs and events that were financially out of reach for most younger men, so Anthony decided to organize an “under 21” PUA convention.

He says he had no idea what he was doing, and booked the conference room with an MTV credit card marketed to college kids. The card had a $500 limit and the room was $1000. Johnson managed to attract a couple of big names on the PUA circuit to speak, and enough guys showed up with cash that he was able to cover expenses and walk with $100 profit.

It was supposed to be a one-off event, but it had a fresh energy and momentum and attendees immediately asked when the next one would be, and “The Dream” eventually responded, “same time next year.”

Anthony and the conference came of age together, and the “under 21” convention became the 21 Convention, incorporating the old name with a broader mission to help improve the lives of men in the 21st Century. The 21 Convention attracted bigger and bigger names, and Johnson has organized and hosted 21 events in Sweden, Australia, the UK, and Poland in addition to the yearly conferences in his home state of Florida.

While other content creators in the game tried to tightly control access to their videos, Anthony was inspired by the Ted Talk model, and made the professionally filmed speeches from his conferences available for free via YouTube, giving him the ability to reach millions of men around the world.

I first met Anthony when I spoke at the 21 Convention in 2017, which is also where I met the co-founder of CHEST, Tanner Guzy. I had never heard of 21 before I was invited to speak there, and had no idea what to expect. But when I arrived, I was immediately impressed by the professional production and organization of the event. In addition to the speeches, there were workshops and group outings and dinners and private after parties, and it was obvious that the Convention was also a powerful networking opportunity for men.

Since then, I’ve spoken at 21 several more times, and I even flew out just to “hang out” last year. I remember being in a hotel room when Anthony — who is a big Trump fan — broke out his first round of red “Make Women Great Again” hets. And I was at dinner with him and his longtime friend and adviser, “Socrates,” and a few others at an Indian restaurant in Warsaw when Anthony — in keeping with his mischievous nature — announced that he was going to start calling himself “President” of the Manosphere.

I’ll be speaking again at the 21 Convention this year, which has grown from an event geared toward young pick-up artists to include fitness experts and religious men and fathers and men who are interested in learning more about building strong marriages and families. Johnson loves a little controversy, also started a “22 Convention,” aimed at women, featuring mostly male speakers, which he drolly promotes as the “mansplaining event of the year.” He holds the 21 Convention, the 22 Convention, and the 21 Convention’s “Patriarchy Edition” all at the same time and in the same venue. This year’s lineup includes fitness and philosophy personality Elliot Hulse, NLP Practitioner and coach Richard Grannon, Pastor Jesse Lee Peterson, Ian Smith, “Bulldog Mindset” coach John Sonmez, Dr. Robert Glover, Psychologist Shawn T. Smith, artist Arthur Kwon Lee, coach Greg Adams, Pastor Michael Foster, writer Janice Fiamengo, and lawyer Melissa L. Isaak, and more.

To learn more about the 21 Convention or buy tickets, click here.

Last month, Anthony traveled out to visit Utah, and while he was here, we sat down in my office to talk about men and politics and life and little manosphere inside baseball, and I grabbed some quick portraits for CHEST. Then we reconnected a few weeks later over Zoom to record some quotes and get the facts straight for this interview.


Given all of the controversy that Anthony courts with events like the 22 Convention — which landed him in a heated row with Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan — it is easy to lose sight of the fact that he built the 21 Convention and 21 Studios to help men become better versions of themselves. Anthony believes that this is good not only for men as individuals but also crucial to America’s survival and a free and healthy society. 

I asked him for examples of men whose lives have been changed and improved through the content he facilitates, and he recalled stories familiar to us both — like men who lost 100 pounds or found a great woman. I have met some of Anthony’s younger volunteers and seen positive physical and psychological changes in them over the years as they matured, with the guidance of so many great mentors, into formidable young men in their own rights. 

But while we were talking, Anthony remembered two examples that I think showed the scope of his influence. 

Anthony remembers showing up early one morning at the 2017 conference, barely awake, and a young attendee ran toward him in the hotel hallway shouting, “Dream! Dream!” The guy told Anthony that after listening to some of the speakers and with the guidance of some of the men there, he had gone out the night before, met a woman, and lost his virginity. Anthony said that the guy was in his early twenties and that talking to women had been something he had obviously struggled with. 

“He was so excited. It was like a scene from that 80s movie Porkys or something. For a guy like that — that is such a big deal. Obviously, he didn’t learn some magic in the previous 48 hours, but we created an environment that gave him the confidence he needed at the time.”

On the far other side of the spectrum, Johnson says his longtime collaborator, Socrates — an accomplished bachelor and professional architect who has watched his evolution from his first days in the PUA scene — credits Anthony with creating an environment that made him want to settle down and have a family. Once a PUA himself, Socrates is now in a rewarding long-term relationship with a woman and became the proud father of a young girl in his late 40s.


While the desperate Twitter script that angry women and their pocket cucks have learned by rote requires masculinity advocates like Johnson and the speakers at his conferences to be “incels,” anyone who’s spent time with Anthony or the majority of these men know that is “fake news.” The accusation says a lot more about the narcissism and hypocrisy of feminists and their pets than it does about the men themselves. 

Many of the speakers actually bring dates, girlfriends, or wives with them to the conferences, and over the years, I’ve watched a few of them walk girls out of the hotel at one or two in the morning, as the girls laugh and wave goodbye. A lot of women are intrigued and excited by these men. 

The “Dream” essentially started out in the business of getting laid — documenting his cold approaches for other PUAs at Florida events and bars and nightclubs. While, like most young men in the scene, he started just looking for sex, Anthony says he has always wanted to start a family at some point.

In his early twenties, Anthony met a nurse who was also a massage therapist. When they started dating, she compared notes with a friend and realized Anthony had been with her, too, a few nights prior. (At the time, Anthony was one of the only guys in town with a stripper pole in his apartment, so it was easy to figure out.) They continued dating, and a couple of years into the relationship, Anthony decided to marry her. He had learned a lot from men’s rights activists and was aware of how men are frequently treated in family and divorce courts, so he wisely avoided making the marriage legal. However, he wasn’t prepared for how the marriage itself played out.

After Anthony and his wife had been together for a total of four and a half years, he discovered that she had not only been cheating on him but had even been prostituting herself for extra cash the entire time the two were together. 

Anthony was shocked at the time — and embarrassed — but it makes some sense in retrospect. Anthony was a well-known pick-up artist, renting a place with a stripper pole in the living room, and he had already fucked her friend. As the marriage was ending, she confessed to him that she assumed he would cheat on her “from day one,” so she cheated on him first so that she could never truly feel cheated on. It is twisted but somewhat understandable logic in a sexual marketplace where, as Camille Paglia once wrote, there is “no law in the arena.”

So Anthony “Dream” Johnson, in his first attempt to start a family, ended up marrying a crazy hooker. I’m sure some of his critics experienced a touch of schadenfreude. Johnson later talked about the experience frankly in a 21 Convention speech titled, “Marrying Medusa: How to Survive a Female Psychopath.”

After an expected period of bitterness, Johnson returned to his life of sexual adventuring and discovered that while he’d been married, the bar scene had moved online to apps like Tinder and Bumble. Johnson mastered these forms quickly and spent several years banging “the hottest girls he could find.” He said that every year his exploits got “a little wilder,” and he kept pushing the envelope to see how fast he could hook up with a hot girl or if he could fuck a “sugar baby” (a sexually attractive young woman who works older men for money and gifts) for free. 

“I felt like Batman,” he said, because he was “turning the tables” on all of these women who were scamming other men. 


However, because his long-term goal has always been to build a family, Anthony told me that a few months ago, he decided to stop having sex with women until he finds a woman he wants to marry and have children with. 

Anthony “Dream” Johnson, pick-up artist extraordinaire, became voluntarily celibate. 

He says there were a lot of factors involved. To begin, he realized that he was putting himself in increasingly dangerous situations and that, sooner or later, he was going to end up dealing with an unwanted pregnancy or an STD that you can’t get rid of with a quick trip to the doctor. He realized that his life as a public figure would make him a target for some kind of #metoo entrapment or shakedown. 

Johnson was also deeply affected by the birth of his sisters’ children.

“Just holding a baby that’s in your own bloodline — or close enough — that was a major gut-check for me.” 

He said, “It made me re-examine some of the bolder statements from speakers like Elliot Hulse,” who told him that “the next woman you fuck needs to be your wife.” 

When you’re a dude on Tinder banging hot chicks and raw-dogging them and giving them Plan B — or anything even approaching that — this just goes in one ear and out the other.”

Most of the men who had given him advice about marriage and family were religious, and Anthony has always been an atheist. His challenge was the challenge that many non-believers face. He had to find his own reasons. 

“I think that’s what happens to a lot of young Americans today. They develop, in my view, a completely rational skepticism [about] a supernatural being controlling everything in the world. And then the minute you remove that faith in a higher power, all of these other elements fall apart.”

However, while holding his nephews, he found himself thinking…

“…when I have kids, they’re going to be this baby’s cousins. If I choose the wrong mother […] I know what I am going to be stuck with personally because I’ve seen guys in the manosphere go through this — family court, alimony, child support, crazy abusive women who lie to psychologists, lie to attorneys, lie to judges — it’s a fucking nightmare for these guys, and I’ve seen it firsthand and I know their kids sometimes. I see how toxic it is in real life and I see the bullet I dodged with my ex-wife, the ‘hooker-nurse.’ If I fuck this up it isn’t only going to be bad for me for eighteen years — minimum — it’s going to be bad for this kid for the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years…until that woman dies. And that kid will have to suffer from that choice of mine — to bust a nut in this chick, literally, for their entire life.”

It’s heavy stuff. Anthony said that he realized that if he wanted to build a strong, healthy family, the life he was living would jeopardize that. He realized that all of the precautionary measures he could take — whether condoms or Plan B or whatever — were all still risky. He decided the only sure way to protect his future and the future of the children he wants was to become abstinent. He also wondered whether, having had sex with over 130 women already, he might eventually lose the ability to pair bond at all. 

So, for Johnson, there is no concern about God or sin. It eventually came down to rational long-term thinking based on his own goals and values. 

Until he finds a woman he wants to be the mother of his children, Anthony plans to remain celibate. 


Reason is an important part of Anthony’s worldview. He considers himself an Objectivist and is very passionate about the philosophy. 

While we were driving out to see The Great Salt Lake, I asked him about it. I told him I thought that a lot of people would be surprised to know that the President of the Manosphere’s philosophy is based on the work of a woman — Ayn Rand. 

This gave him a chuckle, but he explained that his personal theory was that Ayn Rand, as a woman, wanted to understand reason and get closer to it. So she stepped outside of herself and tried to figure out how the most rational and objective person would think and behave. 

And, notably, she made the characters that embody her rational philosophy…men. 


I asked Anthony how he thinks the men’s movement and his work organizing conferences fits into the bigger picture of what is going on in the world today. 

He said that while many of us realize that we’re living in what he called “an Alex Jones world” of medical and state tyranny, where ideas like vaccination passports, “green zone” detention camps, bans on interstate travel, and all kinds of other restrictions on speech and freedom are being openly advocated and in some instances, actually implemented — even if some sort of “1776” style revolution were to happen and be successful — he wonders what would change in the end, unless there is a massive cultural change to go with it. 

“The culture is so emasculated and so weak and so pussified, and the problems are so much bigger than politics, it wouldn’t really solve anything long-term.” 

“We need a revolution in masculinity and in femininity. Men need to act like men, and women need to act like women. We need a return to common sense, like our Founding Fathers talked about, but a return to common sense masculinity and common sense femininity and common sense family values…where men are not fucked over in divorce court, where men are not losing 86% of custody battles […] children suffer from this. Men suffer from this. Men commit suicide at crazy rates. We need a revolution in masculinity, and from that, we can move culture. And the men’s movement is the only group of people talking about doing that.”

“Political conservatism is ‘Boomer conservatism’ — they are doing jack shit. They give a little bit of lip service to family values, and it is doing nothing. The Christians have all been cucked. Their patriarchal religion has all been cucked. Even Mormons have feminists. The only thing left is the Amish, who are ‘pure.” The problems we’re facing are ‘fall of Rome’-level serious, and I don’t see a solution other than a revolution in culture, which starts with masculinity and femininity. And that’s where my work, I think, impacts things in a major way. […] It’s not my ideas driving this. It’s my organizational ability to find guys like you and Tanner and Elliot and bring them together in a way that has real power to it. Our Founding Fathers had conventions, and look where that fucking went.”

Anthony and I agree that feminism is one of the most significant cultural shifts in human organization that the world has ever seen — and the fallout from that abrupt change has been and continues to be catastrophic. 

“Masculinity and femininity are the oldest forces in our species. They precede civilization, they precede fire, maybe they precede even language. […] These forces are fucking huge. It’s not just sex — which is the meeting of femininity and masculinity in terms of breeding and continuing the species. It comes down to ‘what is it to be masculine and what is it to be feminine and what are the consequences of disobeying nature. And those consequences [in this case] are the fall of your country.”

I’ve known Anthony for several years, and while he is absolutely a provocateur who loves to troll people and push their buttons, I believe that he is completely sincere. He’s not just out to make a buck — there are easier ways to do that. 

For fifteen years, Anthony “Dream” Johnson has been working to improve the lives of men and improve their situation in the world. He’s a man who is trying to do something he believes is good and necessary and right. He’s a “Florida Man” who believes in freedom and the founding principles of the United States, and he is on a mission to make men (and women) great again.

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It Would Be Cooler If We All Stood Together Against Tyranny

Over the past few years, I’ve talked to a lot of guys privately about race. I think it’s a 20th Century discussion, especially in America, that’s being continued by people who benefit from it.

I’ve been around for awhile and traveled in a lot of different circles. I’ve been around all sides and I’ve heard what everyone has to say.

I voted for John Kerry in San Francisco with a Mexican guy who is the most important person in my life. And I’ve spoken to the far right about violence in a beer hall in Germany.

Over the past few months, legislators and governors ran out of toilet paper, panicked, and wiped their asses with the constitution and all of our so-called “rights.” They want you to forget about that. As soon as possible.

Based on the numbers and the rationale they used to close down businesses, put people out of work, and confine them to their homes — given the amount of people who just gathered together in major hotspots — in a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people should die. But they won’t. Because…mistakes were made. Or maybe they weren’t. 

I think the police brutality that occurred was disgusting and I’m glad that the man responsible is in jail. I hope he is severely punished for it and they make an example of him. That’s justice. If you give men power, a percentage of them will always abuse it. You can’t change that with hashtags and blank screens. That will go on until the end of time. 

I’ve hung out with actual racists. All of the stars of that world. And I have a lot of guys who are starting to go down that road reach out to me. I block the ones that are already far gone, but I’ve tried to tell a bunch of them personally that where they are going is a dead end and a distraction from bigger threats to liberty. I’ve already heard everything they desperately want to tell me a thousand times, and I try to get them to look at the bigger picture.

People virtue signaling to all of their liberal friends are making meaningless gestures. There’s no danger in it. Just, “Look at me, I’m a good person too,” for all of their friends who believe the same things to see. The actual impact is zero. And most of it is motivated by fear. They don’t want to become targets of what is happening right now.

I’ve been pulling guys aside for two years, saying, “man, look beyond race.” Guys who would have gone hard in that direction. These riots are making that a hard sell. Because they aren’t about justice. They’re about chaos and destruction for the sake of chaos and destruction. While many Americans kneeled and posted socially safe, easily applauded gestures, many are also sitting around saying, “I told you so.” 

I don’t want to have a civil war with blacks. I don’t hate blacks. I hate tyranny. The media and the people playing games want us to hate each other. That’s the story they want to sell. And it’s the story the government wants. Because before this all happened, America was getting real close to Civil War. Not against blacks, but against  the totalitarian and corrupt state that pushed a lie and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. Black, white, brown — everyone.  

It would be cooler if we all stood together against THAT. 

Does anyone remember the Occupy movement?

Months of violent, destructive protests against the “1%” that in the end, accomplished absolutely nothing. While America has been locked down and middle class businesses are being burned and looted, the 1% has been buying up the economy, becoming more powerful, and creating more distance between people who have unimaginable wealth and people who have very little. 

If you want to rise up out of poverty, there has to be a middle class left for you to rise up into. These riots aren’t helping blacks or whites, many of whom are poorer now than they were 6 months ago.

These riots are helping the 1%, who sit in gated mansions behind armed security guards. They’re not worried. They’re not scared. They’re popping organic popcorn and enjoying the show. 

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The Script

When I first heard the phrase “social distancing,” I laughed. 

Man, that was a meeting!

A bunch of people sat in a room and brainstormed that. Maybe they sent it to an ad agency or focus-grouped it. Nothing would surprise me, and frankly, that seems like it would be the most logical thing to do. 

“How are we going to sell people on the idea that they should stay away from everyone…

Stop shaking hands…Stop hanging out with their friends and loved ones? Stop trying to get laid…? And at the same time, convince them that they are SAVING THE WORLD?” 

I’m not sure who came up with it, but it was a brilliant manipulation. Hat-tip to the Machiavellian creeps who cooked it up. 

“Social distancing” is a euphemistic confection that evokes both “social justice” and “social responsibility.” Perhaps it is going too far to call “social distancing” a Trojan horse for socialism…or maybe that’s exactly what it is. To explain the machinations of bloated bureaucracies, I generally tend to prefer desperation, delusion, self-interest and incompetence over conspiracy — but I could be wrong. 

When the states issued orders mandating a soft house arrest and the closure of countless businesses, it was called “Shelter In Place” and “Safer at Home” and, weirdly, a “Pause.” I guess you could also call a prison sentence a “pause,” though it wasn’t quite that, so I’ll avoid the gratuitous hyperbole and say it was a little more like parole. On parole, you’re allowed to go to the grocery store and go to work, but there are limits and rules and the promise of freedom is dangled if you follow them. This is, certainly, what the various “phases” of reopening have been and will be like. Businesses and citizens on parole. 

The states closed all operations not deemed “essential.” This sent homebound people flocking in comical makeshift headdresses to grocery stores and liquor stores and weed shops and Home Depots and Wal-Marts, which were deemed “essential.” Some people kept working at manufacturing plants and people bought tons of exercise equipment — good for them! — from busy mail order businesses, while many others lost their jobs or were forced to work from home, hunched over laptops in their pajamas. 

This became something of a joke. There’s a guy driving a truck around my neighborhood with a decal that says “#ESSENTIALAF.” (That’s Essential As Fuck, if you’re not keeping up with the new lingo.)

On the sensible heels of “social distancing,” hordes of giggly media prostitutes tongued out a new litany of Orwellian control phrases that were enthusiastically repeated by virtue signaling rubes and all of the business owners desperate for a share of their stimulus dollars and unemployment checks.

Car commercials promised new deals “…in these uncertain and unprecedented times…”

All sorts of nauseating feel-good phrases were popularized to comfort citizens as they were being relieved of their freedoms — like “we’re all in this together,” with the implied paranthetical (whether you like it or not). Perky people — who obviously didn’t have anything at all — insisted that “we got this!” 

Many of these novel phrases are coping mechanisms, but by far the most insidious is “The New Normal.” So vague and flexible. It soon seemed as though at least a third of the population would accept any new intrusion, regulation or confinement as long as their influencers contentedly repeated that it was “the new normal.” 

The lockdown has convinced me that if Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci went on Dr. Oz and told people to eat their own feces — and called this a new SCIENTIFIC, peer-reviewed BREAKTHROUGH in “nutrient recycling” — millions of Americans would post videos of themselves trying it for the first time, and Rachel Ray would be showing us how to make “up-cycled” artisan shit sandwiches.

The words we use tell a story about the way we perceive our world. New phrases are designed to shift thinking and realign reality. Words are power. The Bible said “In the beginning there was the word,” and Nietzsche said that masters were the givers of names. When you repeat their magic words over and over, you help them create their “new normal.” 

I’ve been writing about masculinity for many years, and I watched feminists popularize radical anti-masculinity sentiments by engineering catch phrases like this. “Reimagining masculinity” sounds positive and inventive, but the reimagining always means “convince men to behave more like women.” The phrase “masculinity is a mask” really means that all masculine men are inauthentic, hiding behind a mask because they are “afraid” and “fragile.” “Toxic masculinity” was popularized to create a “new normal” that rendered all masculinity — and men who didn’t hate being men — “toxic.” In the 1970s or 80s, they called it “testosterone poisoning.” Same concept, “up-cycled.” Like a shit sandwich. 

If you want to maintain control of your own mind, be wary of whose words you repeat. These little catch phrases are scripts. If you don’t want to be an actor in someone else’s play, don’t read their script. Refuse to say, “social distancing,” and “we got this,” and “we’re in this together.” Refuse to participate in the process of manufacturing consent — in creating “the new normal.” 

Let their eager slaves be known by their language. 

However, if you don’t use their language, understand that it will make them uncomfortable. It will make you an outsider in their Empire of Nothing. Barbarians are people who use a vulgar alien tongue that offends the sensibilities of those who have acclimated to the “new normal.” 

And if you refuse to accept the new normal, it will make you one of the new barbarians

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Bad Little Kids

The notion that we are all bad little children who have to earn our way back into the yard betrays a desire to see the state as a benevolent parent — and not a collection of fallible, corruptible humans…the majority of whom are very likely narcissists and sociopaths.  Spoiled, entitled, and tolerated, the same people who have been shouting “resist,”  now run to hide behind the state mother’s skirts when things get serious and scream “obey.” Their micro-aggressions no longer matter when death hangs in the air.  This is the character of the perpetual adolescent, who seeks in the state allowance and privilege. 

The recent troubles have seen a rustling beneath the skirts and a complete return to the womb, where, comforted by snacks and reruns and doomed yoga routines, they wait for permission to be reborn. 

The adult sovereign stance is to recognize the state as a necessary evil, that should never be trusted to run unchecked or unquestioned. The state is basically an outsourcing operation that we pay to take care of certain things so that we don’t have to. It is the greatest mob — a big protection racket. And like the mob, it’s a little sleazy and it will probably double cross you. 

The current system is far from perfect. Kings can be problematic, but in this situation, a king would have been better. Kings have to think about legacy and the long game. Politicians are like corporate managers. They’re focused on the end of the quarter and their upcoming reviews. The game being played right now is about who gets blamed in November, and for what. A million dead seniors and people who were already sick, or skyrocketing unemployment, the destruction of the middle class, poverty, and crime, and a major threat to the long-term health of the nation. I know what choice a good king would have made. 

That is what is happening right now. Fallible, corruptible humans trying to avoid taking responsibility for a difficult situation that they (probably) didn’t create, but having to manage a lot of difficult decisions that have cost lives, closed businesses, and either destroyed or set back the futures of millions. They’ll all try to blame it on their opponents, and most of the decisions being made right now are about who can manipulate the situation to look like more of a hero and less of a villain in November. 

Anyone who thinks these people — ANY of them, in ANY party — are looking out for what is “best for us” is truly a baby.


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Shoulder Day

See the end of this post for sets and reps.

Guys have been asking me for my shoulder workout for a long time, but I’m not a trainer. So I teamed up with my friend and pro Trainer Ethan Buck to put together a shoulder workout similar to what I would do. We ran through a handful of exercises and variations, and this video is packed with tips and helpful information.

Ethan spent years touring with a punk rock band, and then after living the rock and roll lifestyle across Europe and the US, realized he needed to get in shape. He lost a ton of weight, became a trainer and after training clients in a gym for a few years, he went out on his own. His take on things is realistic and anti-fad and he has a wealth of knowledge and I often hit him up for advice.

To find out more about Ethan:

Instagram @iron_will_pt

Mentioned: Elbow sleeves and wrist wraps from Norse Fitness

Filmed at O’Malley’s in Troutdale (Portland metro)


Here’s a sample workout of mine that I sent Ethan to plan this video.

1ST EXERCISE – Overhead Press

I vary this throughout the year. If I am cutting and not worried about how much I am putting up, I will do 4×8 Seated OHP on a Smith Press 1st. Otherwise, I usually do an OHP pyramid.

Bar x8

  • 95 x8
  • 135 x 8
  • 185 x 5
  • 205 x 3

(If I am trying to go higher, I will do 185×3, 205×1-3, then 1 or2 at a higher weight)

2ND EXERCISE – Seated DP Shoulder Press (to the side) 4×8

3RD EXERCISE Lateral Raises, seated or standing 4×8-12 (depending on weight and form)

4TH EXERCISE (REAR DELT) Cable-adapted sled pull (from a low angle) 4×8

5TH EXERCISE Cable Face Pulls 4×8

6TH EXERCISE Rear Delt Fly (machine) 4×8

7TH EXERCISE Trap Bar Shrug with 5 second hold on reps 4×8

(I normally do about 5 out of 7 of these.)

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Stay Solar

A reading of this essay is available as a bonus episode of Start The World.


Last year, I started promoting a slogan that seems to be catching on, and in response to a lot of questions about what it means to “stay solar,” I’ve decided to sketch out what I mean by it. I presented some of this material in a speech titled “Manly Idealism,” given at the 21 Convention in October 2019, and I expect that speech to be available online in a few months, first through 21 University, and then “free to the world.” 

Throughout human history, and certainly in Indo-European cultures, men have revered some force in the sky, associated with day and the light. The sky fathers and all-fathers reigned from above, and men looked upward to these primal patriarchs for guidance on how to live more righteously — how to take the higher path. As it is explained in Plato’s Republic, this highest force and greatest good isn’t quite the sun, but the sun is perhaps the best way to understand it — the sun is “the child of the good.” 

“Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honor yet higher.”

— Plato. The Republic

In true, complete darkness, there is no truth or beauty whatsoever. True darkness is the void, and all things — all forms — are unintelligible. As Socrates makes clear, unlike the other sense organs, the eye requires light to see anything at all.

My formulation of what it means to stay or to be solar is a synthesis of mythic and scientific understandings of the sun and the nature of the cosmos. To our ancient ancestors, the sun made its way across the sky and disappeared at night, giving a sense to some that it was forced to “endure” the darkness and the night, only to emerge triumphant each morning. Today we know that the earth actually revolves around the sun, though the sun has its own very long orbit around the galaxy. Science tells us more than the ancients knew about gravity and space and the fiery nature of the sun, but to my mind, this information only enhances and adds depth to the analogies and metaphors about the sun and its influence over us. 

While the solar mindset is present and even articulated in many religions, I don’t believe it favors any particular one or conflicts with most of them. In fact, while the specific doctrines and elements of many religions may contain anti-solar elements that are servile and submissive or based in the dark jealousy of ressentiment, I believe that the qualities I am associating with the sun and solarity are consistent with the way most men envision a benevolent god or sovereign.

“…the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself, much less to others); the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest. That is his religion…”

— Thomas Carlyle. On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History.

Many have asked me if “Stay Solar” is some kind of Stoic mantra. 

What “staying solar” has in common with Stoicism is emotional control, and as “life is conflict,” maintaining emotional control is a challenge that ends only after death. 

A lot of men talk about Stoicism without having read the Stoics. In the popular mind, Stoicism sometimes appears to mean “THIS IS SPARTA!!” or “suck it up” or “can’t hurt me” and lends itself to a lot of tryhard tough-guy posturing. This would probably confuse a sensitive, thoughtful fellow like Marcus Aurelius, who, as far as I can gather, was not very much like Leonidas at all. 

My beef with Stoicism is that it seems a bit too focused on acceptance, a bit too detached from outcomes…a bit too, “this is fine…” 

The sun is hot and violent, made of fire and storm — but it retains its shape, its path, its gravity and the system of order that spins around it. 


Know your purpose. Stay centered and on task. Aim, whenever possible, to be an unmoved mover — to be a cause rather than an effect or the affected. Do not allow yourself to be pulled into petty disputes or frivolous pursuits. Remember who you are and what you are doing, and what your responsibilities are — and for all of it, why. Know your reasons and motivations — cultivate self-awareness.

One could call this “discipline,” but something about the word discipline sounds like a cracking whip to my ear — though it comes from the same root as “disciple” and implies the acceptance of teaching or an external order. 

Perhaps it is more productive and life-affirming to think about maintaining a clarity of identity and purpose, and evaluating patterns of thought and action in terms of whether or not they facilitate or contribute to that purpose. 

The sun is massive, stays on its own course and has a gravity of its own. The root of the word gravity means “weight” or “heavy.” The Romans considered gravitas a virtue, particularly in leaders. Speaking with gravity means conveying that weight by showing that you take yourself seriously, and that you are firm and will be “difficult to move” if you believe that your cause is righteous. 

This does not mean that you will never compromise or change your mind over time— that would be foolish and unwise — but it does convey a certain integrity and trustworthiness. People who change their beliefs depending on who they are talking to eventually reveal themselves to be untrustworthy, because their marks eventually compare notes. 


As things shoot and move and float around them, objects with mass and weight and gravity are creators of orders and systems. Each sun is a creator of cosmos, of order, in the midst of the greatest chaos, the expansive disorienting void of outer space. 

Man seeks order and in the absence of order, creates his own provisional order. He does this with his environment, with the people around him, and his own psyche. Consciousness itself is cosmo-generative.

The creation of order is the primary characteristic of solarity. 

Do not confuse defiant creation with defiance for the sake of defiance. Defiant creation defies disorder to create order or rejects stagnant orthodoxy to improve an existing order. Defiance for its own sake merely perpetuates chaos. 


Be a calm source of illumination that reveals truth, whether it is ugly or beautiful. Seek out the truth of things and share it with those who are interested or ready to hear it — but don’t become another street corner prophet shouting at strangers. 

Solarity is a paternal concept, so telling people the truth doesn’t always mean telling people what they want to hear. Sometimes it means telling them an uncomfortable truth that they need to hear — without malice or anger.

Do not confuse the revelation of truth with petty, trashy and malicious gossip. The prevailing Zeitgeist is salacious and gossip-driven. Anyone can be embarrassed and stripped of dignity. Few would want to be photographed on the toilet, though nothing is inherently wrong or shameful about going to the bathroom. What is the cumulative, overall truth of a person? What have they accomplished? How have they helped and inspired others? How do they treat the people around them?

Reveal the simple truth, like the sun at noon. 

Human life is more beautiful and interesting with an interplay of light and shadow, and there is value in mystery, but do not rely on shadow to obscure and deceive. Beware of people who romanticize the dark and want to remain in the shadows. What truth are they hiding? 

Be the light, and let the shadow reveal its absence.


Without the sun, the Earth would be a frozen rock shooting through space. 

Take a moment to think about how life-giving that makes the sun. Every forest and field and jungle and blade of grass on Earth reaches toward it and depends on it. No animals, much less men, would be able to survive on earth without it. 

The sun can be blinding, and you can die from overexposure to its light. It is not benign, but it is for the most part benevolent — if we anthropomorphize a bit. 

Are you a source of life-giving warmth in the lives of the people around you, or a collapsed sun— a black hole that draws them in and crushes them. Do the people in your orbit and the people you come in contact with every day feel improved by your presence? Do you make the people around you better or worse?

People love to complain, but it doesn’t help them. Be a source of inspiration, not commiseration.

The sun has warmth and energy to spare. What it gives doesn’t deplete it in any meaningful way. 

Don’t operate in a “zero-sum” frame. Most of us are mobile, and we aren’t fighting over some closed, tiny market of friends, potential partners, or potential clients. Adopting an abundance mentality makes you appear more confident and less desperate — and ideally you will also become more confident and less desperate. 

Let the low-energy vermin fight over every scrap in the alley, and turn your mind to greater concerns. 


Any one of the virtues I’ve described above has been exalted by any number of religions, philosophies and motivational books. None of them are new. Each can be expanded upon and developed substantially. 

Men have idealized and modeled themselves after sky fathers and solar entities for thousands of years. The sun is a powerful symbol — in fact I can’t think of a symbol more figuratively or physically powerful. The sun is unifying and universal. We can all look upward to see and contemplate the same sun. We can look inward and cultivate our own solarity. There’s nothing arcane about the sun and nothing could be less “occult” — less hidden or secret. 

The slogan “stay solar” seems to have resonated with a lot of men, even men who years ago would have considered themselves drawn to darker or more oppositional ideologies. I believe that’s because it’s the right message, and it is the message men need right now. We live in an age of unhinged hysteria, where people feel compelled to react to or comment on a relentless barrage of trending outrages and curated “news” about strangers. All the old rules are in flux and no one seems to know what the new rules are yet. 

So, when you are surrounded by all of this confusion and anger, be like the sun. Remember who you are and who you want to be. You’re the man, so be the man. Be the order. Be the light. In the midst of chaos and darkness, stay solar. 

It’s a little like that line from Kipling’s “If.” 

“If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” 

Cultivating solarity is a response to darkness and confusion and anger and anxiety. It is a response to cynical nihilism, but it requires no retreat into childish naiveté or delusion. It’s optimistic, but not foolish. It’s a positive response to negativity. And it’s a personal response, because it starts with you. 

I do not claim to be the perfect embodiment of any of the virtues or ideas I have espoused above. I’m going to put the best of myself forward, but I believe that the world loves nothing more than to see the inevitable deflation of men who puff out their chests too far, claiming to be something that they are not. The gods have always punished hubris, and I value humility in myself and the men whom I admire. As I have written in the past, “this is for me, too.” Writers who connect with men authentically write the things they themselves want to read or need to hear. These are virtues I’m working on myself, not just preaching to others. 

Men can all do better, and we can all try a little harder to be and to stay solar. 

The “Solar Vision” Symbol

You’ll find this symbol on my work and throughout this web site. It represents my own synthesis of the overseeing eye and a sun wheel. 

This particular design is modeled after a Bronze Age sun wheel pendant originally found in Zürich, dated to the 2nd Millennium B.C. It was probably a Celtic symbol, as the Celts moved though the area around that time, so it likely would have been associated with the Celtic god Taranis, who was a god of thunder and lightning, not unlike Zeus or warrior gods like Thor or Indra. Lightning is often seen as a solar weapon, or as demonstrating the power of the god who rules the sky. Taranis was also depicted holding a wheel. The sun wheel, sun cross, or Sonnenkreuz symbolizes not only the sun, but motion and momentum, turning and action — referencing the spoked wheel and the terrible glory of the battle chariot. The sun itself is often represented by another deity, sometimes male (Helios), sometimes female (Sól/Sunna). However, the primary patriarch is sometimes believed to be “the eye in the sky.” 

I created this hybrid symbol for my book, A More Complete Beast, to represent the concept of “solar vision,” which has evolved in my mind to represent and include the concepts discussed above. 

The solar father as creative visionary who orders the world…

Usage and attribution 

I created this exact symbol, as far as I am aware, though there are certainly many other eyes in wheels and suns and similar symbols. 

My ideas are meant to be spread, so if you want to get this tattooed on your body or use it in a piece of your own artwork, I encourage this and grant my permission. 

If you post it online, please include a link to this page or my site or one of my social media accounts, along with a note of attribution. 

Please do not reproduce this symbol on merchandise to be sold for profit (or “non-profit”) without written permission from me, personally. 

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Socrates and the Shining Father

Dyḗus ph₂tḗr (or Dyeus pəter) ** is the god of the day-lit sky, reconstructed through comparative mythology and linguistics, and theorized to be the progenitor of the Indo-European sky gods and allfathers. The name Dyeus — from which many of the romance languages derive their word for “god,” such as the Latin “deus,” the Spanish “dios” and the French “dieu” — comes from a Proto-Indo-European root that means “to shine.” The name ph₂tḗr or pəter became the Latin “pater” and the Germanic “*fadēr,” and eventually the English word father. 

The exact character and practice of the historical worship of the Dyeus pəter among the Proto-Indo-Europeans will always be a matter of speculation and academic debate (since they left no written records). There’s no point in trying to “imitate” the Proto-Indo-Europeans in the 21st Century or in saying we “know” exactly what they believed. What is useful is the broad theme, the connection, the repeated idea, the prevailing archetype of the patriarch in the sky and the light of his cosmic order. 

This is a few steps beyond the 19th Century nerdgasm of connecting oneself to the “true” Aryans, which now more often than not attracts the low-energy ressentiment of men who desperately want to believe that a questionable connection to some ancient charioteering conquerors makes them somehow better than “others.” I’m going to skip past all of that. In fact, what I like about the Indo-European frame is that it is directly or indirectly connected to a much wider range of men and is conceptually accessible and relevant to all men. 

For some time, I’ve been promoting a “solar” mindset. 

I recently came across Plato’s “Analogy of the Sun,” which precedes his more famous “Allegory of the Cave” in The Republic. In Book VI, (507b–509c), after admitting that he could not explain the essence of goodness (or greatness), Socrates uses the sun as an analogy for “the child” of goodness. 

Socrates argues that of all the senses, the only one which requires a third factor beyond stimulus and the organ to function is sight. We can touch and hear in darkness, but to see something right in front of our eyes, we still need light. 

The sun creates light, and we can see the sun, but the sun is not light itself. Socrates explains that light and truth are like the sun, but not the sun. The sun is one step removed from something greater, some primary cause. 

“Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honor yet higher.”

— Plato. The Republic

Socrates continues…

You would say, would you not, that the sun is not only the author of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and growth, though he himself is not generation?


In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.”

— Plato. The Republic

As mentioned earlier, Dyeus Pəter is the god of the day-lit sky, but not exactly the sun. Maybe he was more like Zeus or Odin or he may possibly have been more abstract like Uranus. 

What is interesting to me is the idea of a paternal actor or force that makes growth and generation and light and knowledge and higher all reason possible. 

Gods and heroes are ideals for men to imitate. 

We may never know the thing beyond the sun — the cause of knowledge and being and forms — but why would we not strive to imitate this theory of goodness as explained by Socrates in Plato’s “Analogy of the Sun?”

Be not generation, but the cause that makes generation and nourishment and growth possible. 

Be not knowledge, but a force of revelation.

** There are a variety of spellings in the source material. Dyḗus ph₂tḗr is the one used on Wikipedia. For the rest of this piece, I’ll use a simplified Dyeus pəter, as the h₂ is more or less a schwa — the sound of the letter “a” in the word “about.” As an English speaker, when I see a “ph” I want to make an “f” sound as in “phone” and I’ve made that mistake in speaking about Dyeus Pəter in the past out of habit. 

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New Podcast with Ian Strimbeck from Runenation LLC

Starting a new season (calling it “Gen 2”) of my Start The World podcast today. (read more on that below) The first show I am dropping is with is Ian Strimbeck. Ian runs Runenation LLC, and his slogan is “Problem Solving and Confidence Building Through Education” 

He teaches handgun, Carbine, Unarmed Combat, Edged Weapons and mindset. In this episode, we focused on mindset and talked about getting your head right, putting external evaluations and expectations in perspective, thoughts on stoicism, breathing, meditation and more.

Mentioned :

Podcast Link

Podcast Site

YouTube Link

Plans for 2020

New Book

This year I’m working on a new book that I’m really excited about and that’s my number one priority — I hope to have it out by Fall 2020.


People have been asking me to restart my old podcast for years. I have access to a much bigger and more positive network of masculine thinkers now, and the technology is a lot better. I have a new (evolved) perspective myself, and I am looking forward to talking to other men who are committed to making men better and talking about masculine philosophy.

My 2020 Goal is to put out 20-40 podcasts.

I was going to say 20, but I’ve already recorded 3 more (Josh Tyler from Savage Gentlemen, Tanner Guzy from Masculine Style, and LMT Ken Curry from Solid Man) and I have 2 booked for the future with many more in the works.

Brutal Company

I’m closing down Brutal Company this month because shipping packages was becoming a distraction from more important work. I should be writing and producing content and training, not shipping shirts. I may release new shirts or rashguards on a limited basis in the future.

So if you want to continue to support my work in another way, I’ve created this option below.

Support My Work on SubscribeStar

Many readers have expressed an interest in supporting the new podcast (and my work in general). If you’d like to be among them, I’ve created a simple $4.99 subscription on SubscribeStar.

As I get a feel for what I can do there, I will share content there that I many not have shared or that I would have shared on Instagram, etc. I may share older essays you can’t find online or links to old podcasts that are no longer available. If there is interest, I may create a second tier that offers more — possibly even live video interactions and groups.

Let me know what interests you.

I considered using Patreon, but while it has more options and features, it is well known to be a pro-censorship, pro-hysteria/outrage culture platform. (Some big names dropped them because of this). My content is predominantly positive and aimed at helping men think about life and improve their own lives — but we live in a culture that responds to Twitter tantrums, and Patreon doesn’t seem like a platform I want to use or invest in.

Sign Up For My Mailing List

Many people subscribe to this site via WordPress, but I also keep a mailing list that I use to keep people up to date. I don’t send out emails often – usually only when I have a new product or service to offer, or some big news I don’t want my readers to miss.

This list is also on MailChimp and it is backed up, but MailChimp is also a pro-censorship company, so I may migrate it to another option eventually.

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With some help from friends, this summer I designed and built this structure dedicated to Wōdanaz, the Proto-Germanic name of the god Odin or Óðinn who appears in the Old Norse Eddas and Sagas. 

The name Óðinn is derived from the word Óðr, which has a variety of meanings having to do with the mind or soul, but also madness and possession, as well as inspiration and poetry. 

Óðr is a descendant of the Proto-Germanic word wōdaz, meaning “excited, energized, spirited, frenzied, obsessed” as well as “angry” or “furious.” Proto-Germanic is largely theoretical and unattested, as few written records of it exist, but runic inscriptions of the word Wodan have been found on various continental objects. 

Stepped back even further into reconstructed languages, the word becomes *weh₂t- in Proto-Indo-European. *Weh₂t- is likewise thought to have meant “excited, inspired, possessed” or “raging.” Proto-Indo-European is believed to be a root language spoken in the Pontic-Caspian steppe of Eastern Europe about 5,000 years ago. The language branched out to the East and West, and its descendants include most of the languages spoken in the West today, as well as Iranian languages, Sanskrit, Hindustani, and many more. Notably, a descendent of the word *weh₂t- is the Latin vātēs, which indicates a seer, oracle, prophet or poet. 

Broadly speaking, from both the etymology of his theonyms and the surviving lore concerning Odin, he represents an aspect of masculine divinity that deals with “inspired” activity. 

Creativity is always a little bit crazy. We can choose to consciously develop ideas after we have them, but inspiration itself “comes to us” from the subconscious. It bubbles up from darkness. Wōdaz is that magic moment of inspiration where we lose ourselves and slip out of time and something “overcomes” us. It is a state of transcendence. 

In more practical and everyday terms, I believe there is an overlap between the concepts of wōdaz and what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called a “flow state.” A flow state is a peak experience when we are so focused on performing a challenging (but not overwhelming) task that we lose track of time and there is a “merging of action and awareness.” 

I have experienced what I would consider flow states while writing, working on computer-related tasks, designing, painting, lifting, exercising and sparring. For more information on flow states, I would recommend the book by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi [pronounced: Me high, Cheeks send me high].  

The best and most comprehensive overview I have ever read on Wōdanaz is a book of the same name written by Stephen Flowers, if you can get your hands on a copy. I ordered mine directly through his Facebook page

I have come to see Wōdanaz or Odin, the “Allfather,” as a late and particularly Germanic manifestation of an older conception of paternal divinity — the original “sky father” — who academics have conceptualized as Dyēus Phter. 

The late Germanic idea of Odin is often portrayed rather darkly, as a malevolent trickster, and Odin has become attractive as a somewhat Luciferian figure to young black metal enthusiasts who want to rebel against Christianity and Christian morality. In many cases this “darkness” itself is probably in part an effect of the Christian demonization of pre-Christian European paganism. Odin was often portrayed in a devilish or “satanic” role in European folklore, and in the late 20th Century many youthful Satanists matured into Odinists as they moved away from reaction in search of a more positive paradigm. For as long as I can remember, there has been a direct pathway from Satanism to heathenry, Asatru and Odinism. As they say, “it’s a thing.” 

However, in all of this dark imagery, some of the more Olympian aspects of the lore concerning Odin seem to get lost. This god who is always tricking giants and appearing to men in a foreboding way was also shown on a high seat overlooking the world, and overseeing a great golden hall of heroes. As in the myth concerning his acquisition of the mead of poetry from the giants — which has become one of my favorite stories about him — he is both a serpent and an eagle. He delves into darkness with a noble purpose, and emerges as a noble creature, carrying the golden mead of inspiration to share with gods and men. This transformation into an eagle is an echo of something we also see in Zeus. 

Based on his comparison of the surviving myths from various Indo-European cultures, Georges Dumézil theorized that the sovereign function of society and divinity was separated into a formal, judicial aspect and a wild, unpredictable “supernatural” aspect. In modern men’s psychology, these aspects are assigned to “king” and “magician” archetypes. These two types are not dissimilar in character to the productive exchange between the Apollonian and Dionysian as described by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy and mentioned in my last book, A More Complete Beast. In the work of Dumézil, these two functions of divine, paternal leadership were normally separated into two opposing but complementary gods. What is particularly interesting about Odin is that he is both Apollonian and Dionysian. However, it is that wild, unpredictable and mysterious side of Odin that is highlighted in modern culture, but also in the surviving lore and even his name itself. 

What Odin illustrates for me is the principle that it is the work of the paternal figure — the work of man — to venture into darkness and chaos to bring forth wisdom, inspiration and beauty. He slips between worlds — on his eight-legged horse, whose name, Sleipnir, means “the slipper” — and brings something back. The defining story of Odin is his sacrifice of himself to discover the mystery of the runes. He hangs in darkness for 9 nights, until he takes up the runes and falls down screaming. For those who aren’t familiar, the runes are not only writing, but each symbol is also associated with some concept or larger meaning. One can employ the runes to explore these primal concepts and meditate on them, if one is so inclined. 

This structure is named the Wōdanastallaz — the stall of Wōdanaz. Neopagans sometimes call altars “stalls.” We stepped the name back into Proto-Germanic, which is part of the culture of Waldgang, my Germanic pagan sacred space in the Pacific Northwest. 

I envisioned the Wōdanastallaz as a place to encounter and explore darkness and mystery, following the Odinic example. Several small rituals have already taken place inside the building at various stages of completion. During group events, ritual ash is prepared in this building, and participants are invited inside to be ceremonially anointed.

Inspired by German Expressionism, the black structure of its external face is covered with a chaotic intersection of runes from both the Younger Futhark and the Elder Futhark. The floor is dirt, so that there is no barrier blocking a connection to the earth. There are no windows, and at night it can be made completely dark inside. The foundation was ritually blooded, and red runic inscriptions were made all over the structure before it was painted black.  

The focus point in the stallaz is a steel sun wheel with an eye in the center that I use to symbolize “solar vision” and the visionary eye of Odin, the Allfather. Another “solar vision” symbol can be found on the entrance awning, above the word Wōdanaz, spelled in runes. Various art objects, remains of sacrifices, and gifts of tribute can be found throughout the internal space. More will be added as time goes on and the space continues to evolve.

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Vulnerability Is a Synonym for Weakness

Whenever a man brags that he is “not afraid to be vulnerable,” I picture that scene in The Hobbit where Bilbo notices the dragon Smaug’s missing scale. 

That’s what a vulnerability is. 

“Here it is. This is how you get to my soft tissue. This is how you could ruin me, if you wanted to.” 

I’m vulnerable. We are all “vulnerable.” We are monkeys made of meat. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Acknowledging that you are fallible and “vulnerable” is simply recognizing reality. 

The life-loving and strong-willed response to recognizing a weakness is either to accept it and build strength in other areas, or to attempt to protect it or eliminate it. To don armor and raise ramparts. This is what one does if one wants to assert his interests in the world. 

Another survival strategy is to roll over and display that vulnerability openly. But this is not a position of strength. This is how you communicate helplessness and show that you are not a threat. It is submissive, surrendering behavior that begs for mercy and relies on the kindness of others. 

We find this endearing in creatures whom we want to help. My dog rolls over on his back because he is at home in his “safe space” and he knows that I would never hurt him, because I’ve built that trust with him. 

But then, every farmer has had to kill an animal that trusted him, so it’s never quite a sure thing. 

Men have always been the protectors of women and small children, so they naturally want to help them. When you offer your help to someone who needs it, and they graciously accept your assistance, it feels good. Men find some measure of vulnerability endearing in women, so women experience a more positive feedback loop when it comes to displaying vulnerability. 

When someone encourages a man to “be more vulnerable,” or to talk about his fears and weaknesses openly, it makes sense tactically for him to be suspicious of their motives. Those who appear to be friends often turn out to be…farmers. 

When cultish therapy groups or feminists tell men they “need” to be more vulnerable, men should ask “for me, or for you?”

As I watch various men’s improvement groups evolve, I see a lot of all-embracing affirmation language creep in from the social frames of women’s groups. Weakness is strength, obesity is healthy, ugliness is beautiful, losers are winners. “Every conceivable negative is a positive if it makes me feel good in the moment.” How magical it must be to live in a world of lies where all of your faults are re-framed as talents. I can certainly see the allure…

It is not insane to want to be identified by your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Refusing to carelessly share your problems with anyone who will listen is not the same as refusing to acknowledge that you have problems. 

Stating your problems aloud is merely catharsis. Fixating on them is poisonous. Talking about problems without discussing an action plan for overcoming them may actually prevent progress. 

A more productive approach to acknowledging a problem or a weakness is to think of yourself as an employee who is trying to increase his value in the eyes of his employer. 

If you want to advance and take on a leadership role, you don’t just go to your boss with problems. You say, “I see a problem here and here’s a plan I came up with that I think might help solve it.” 

Imagine a leader who announces to the public that, say, the economy is about to collapse, and then shrugs his shoulders and turns his palms up. He wouldn’t stay a leader long. 

Be your own leader. Take responsibility for your own life. 

If you don’t want to be your own leader, I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone willing to tell you what to do. 

Establishing any kind of relationship means opening yourself up. You give or share something, the other entity reciprocates, and if that works out, you move to the next level. 

This is how you build trust, and sooner or later you’re going to have to trust someone more than you’d trust any stranger on the street. 

But even if you trust someone, it’s better — at the very least it is better for you — if you open yourself up in the context of solving a problem, or coming up with a plan for handling or mitigating your own weaknesses. Otherwise you’re just whining (at best) or giving someone easy ammunition (at worst). And you should never be proud of your weaknesses and shortcomings. To take pride in weakness devalues pride itself. 

So, by all means, if you want to build a relationship or solve a problem, be “vulnerable” and expose a weakness. 

Build trust with someone. 

But watch out for farmers. 

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Ride In Power

The holiday season is the season of The Wild Hunt, an ancient European folklore motif that continues to manifest in the collective consciousness through the enduring story of Santa Claus — that bearded magic man from the North who rides through the air on Christmas eve, barely two days after Winter Solstice.

The theme of The Wild Hunt, or Die Wilde Jagd, was first identified by Jacob Grimm, who theorized that the recurring stories of some dread hunt or huntsman found throughout Germanic folklore were the persistent echoes of pre-Christian pagan beliefs.  

The hunters have been variously identified as dead warriors or simply the dead, and the hunt has been led by everyone from Cain to King Arthur, but Grimm believed it was Odin who originally led the hunt.

In the American West, the Wild Hunt recurred in cowboy legends that were immortalized in the song “Riders in the Sky.”

Visions of The Wild Hunt were often believed to be harbingers of doom and war, but Grimm thought that this was probably due the Christian demonization of indigenous European beliefs. 

These divinities present themselves in a twofold aspect. Either as visible to human eyes, visiting the land at some holy tide, bringing welfare and blessing, accepting gifts and offerings of the people that stream to meet them. Or floating unseen through the air, perceptible in cloudy shapes, in the roar and howl of the winds, carrying on loar, hunting or the game of ninepins, the chief employments of ancient heroes : an array which, less tied down to a definite time, explains more the natural phenomenon. I suppose the two exhibitions to be equally old, and in the myth of the wild host they constantly play into one another. The fancies about the Milky Way have shewn us how ways and waggons of the gods run in the sky as well as on the earth. With the coming of Christianity the fable could not but undergo a change. For the solemn march of gods, there now appeared a pack of horrid spectres, dashed with dark and devilish ingredients. Very likely the heathen themselves had believed that spirits of departed heroes took part in the divine procession ; the christians put into the host the unchristened dead, the drunkard, the suicide, who come before us in frightful forms of mutilation.

Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (Volume 3).

In researching this for a recent ritual at Waldgang, I was struck by the fact that in both the hunt and the lore regarding Valhalla, the valorous dead are actively engaged in joyous strife. Warriors hoped that if they were slain in battle, they would be chosen and find themselves among the other Einherjar. It was believed that in Valhalla, they would battle each other all day, and then be healed so that they could feast all night and then fight again the next day. 

This is a stark difference from those who yearn for an afterlife of rest and relaxation, of simple “happiness,” of passive communion with the divine, or even for an extinguishing end to cycles of death and rebirth. 

These noble, adventurous men dreamt of a “heaven” that promised endless adventure and lively struggle. They dreamt of man’s primal and primary occupation at the perimeter between order and chaos. They dreamt of hunting and fighting — forever and ever.

This spirit is captured by my favorite poem about the Wild Hunt, written by painter Arthur Fitger in the late Nineteenth Century. In it, Odin tells the reader to call him in the storm and the night to avoid the stifling grave and join in the wild hunting life for all eternity. 

Ruf’ mich in Sturm und Nacht
Empor, dich zu geleiten
Auf wilder Lebensjagd
Durch alle Ewigkeiten.

What we hope for in death also says something about what we want from life. 

Some dream of a heaven that promises a freedom from exertion, conflict and challenge. The reward they seek for a lifetime of struggle and suffering is an eternity of relaxation and recreation — or “oneness” with divinity. They have oriented themselves to “struggle to blank,” and they want to “rest in peace.” 

Perhaps some men feel most alive at a party or on vacation. Poolside with a margarita in hand. And while I’ll admit that sounds very nice, especially as I sit here watching the snow creep down from higher elevations, those aren’t the moments that define a man’s life. When I look back at the moments I am proud of, they are moments of creation or competition — moments of struggle and overcoming. Instants of inspiration and flow. 

It makes sense that ambitious and adventurous men who thrive on challenge and strife would dream not of eternal rest, but of an eternal ride. Of an endless adventure, engaged forever in the hunt or the fight. I have known many men like this, and in the absence of some immanent trial, they self-destruct. They don’t know what to do with themselves. Men of action need a purpose, an objective, some goal toward which they can direct their virile exuberance. 

Regarding the dead, I’ve heard men say, “rest in power.” 

Why wish them the torment of rest at all? Why not wish them a never-ending ride? 

Why not wish them, in death, the joy that they sought in life?

Why not say, “RIDE IN POWER?”

The act of riding is the most dynamic expression of the masculine principle. To ride is to seize some wild, chaotic thing and rein it in, to control it and impose your own will upon it with the loose snap of confidence and authority.

Imagine the audacious moment of the primal ride, when man first leapt on a horse and found he was able to give it direction and command that mass of muscle and breakneck speed. Imagine this moment repeated thousands of years later when men sat in the first automobiles fueled by fire, and again when they shot themselves into the sky, and again when they exploded themselves into space with the power of the sun.

This is the magic of the ride — that holy shit moment of daring and total engagement and total investment. It’s there in the hunt and the chase, it’s there in the battle, it’s there in the scrambling fight. This is the aggressive magic of men who train wolves and conquer women.

And, if I may quibble with Conan (from a wise distance), perhaps this is, truly, what is best in a man’s life. The ride.

This atavistic apparition, this dream of the wild dead hunting and fighting their way through the afterlife is a reminder to the living of what living is.

You can rest in peace if you want to, but there is more. Men become what they are when they venture out into uncertainty and assert themselves. That is how we have always been initiated — by learning to master and command chaos, in the world outside, in others, and in ourselves.

To initiate and continue this eternal becoming, to keep the wheel spinning, we must continue to seek out new challenges, new quests and quarries, and commit to that hunt. Commit to that fight.


Durch alle Ewigkeiten

“Wilde Jagd” – by Arthur Fitger

Wilde JagdWild Hunt
Es pfeift im Hagedorn,
Laut ächzt es in den Föhren,
Da läßt sein schmetternd Horn
Der wilde Jäger hören.

Hoch droben durch die Schlucht
Der sturmzerriss’nen Wolke
Jauchzt er in wilder Flucht
Vorbei mit seinem Volke.

Er schwingt den Eschenschaft
In erzgewalt’gen Händen,
Und Lebensüberkraft
Flammt in des Auges Bränden.

“Der du verschmäht die Rast
Des Himmels und des Grabes,
Der du begehrt die Last
Des ew’gen Wanderstabes,

Ruf’ mich in Sturm und Nacht
Empor, dich zu geleiten
Auf wilder Lebensjagd
Durch alle Ewigkeiten.

Die Seel’ erstickt in mir,
Denk’ ich der Gruft, der engen,
Und to bend möcht’ ich schier
Des Todes Fesseln sprengen.

Endlose Lebenslust,
Nein! du sollst nicht verrauchen,
Nicht elend in den Wust
Des Staubes untertauchen.

Wenn über meiner Gruft
Die Frühling
swinde pfeifen,
Wenn wirbelnd in der Luft
Die falben Blätter schweifen;

Dann bannt auch mich nicht mehr
Der dumpfe Totenhügel,
Dann jag’ auch ich daher
Auf freiem Sturmesflügel.”

It whistles in the hawthorn
Loudly it creaks in the pines
There his chilling horn
The wild hunter let hear

High above through the canyon
The storm-torn cloud
Exult he in wild escape
Over with his folk

He swings the ash tree shaft
In ore like/powered hands
And strength that goes beyond life’spower
In his eyes burning fires

“Thou who refuses to rest
In heaven or grave
Thou who crave the burden
Of the eternal wanderstick

Call upon me in storm and night
Up to give you retinue
On the wild hunt of our life
Through all eternity

The soul is suffocating in me
When I think of the so tight grave
And in fury I want
To burst the fetters of death

Endless lust of life
NO! You shall not vanish like smoke in the wind
Not miserable into the heap
Of dust drowning

When over my crypt
The winds of spring whistle
When twirling in the air
Pale leaves fly

Then I wont be captivated
By the dull hill of the death
Then I hunt around
On the free wings of the storm.
  Arthur Fitger . 1840 – 1909Translation: V. from Wölfe Nordland
Night sky over Waldgang. Jack Donovan. 2019.
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It was late, and I was out for a post-shift drink with a bunch of waiters in San Francisco. They had all been toiling under the tyrannical toque of some French despot. It was the 90s, before the tantruming chef became a staple of reality television, but I’d already worked for a satanic chocolatier who’d harangued every food critic in town, so I knew the routine. 

Hearing the tales of the evening’s melodramas grated on me, because I was currently working in the corporate world and interacting with polite and approachable CEOs and CFOs. No one gets away with talking to people the way that chefs do — or did, back then. Drill sergeants and dictators were probably more personable.

That night, this particular prima donna of grub plating had been cruel to someone close to me. I’d had a few and I was on a rant. 

“Who does he think he is? What is he really anyway? He’s just a fucking cook!” 

A clever waiter responded, “Everybody’s just a fucking something.” 

I’m sure I probably glared at him and continued. But that stuck with me. 

He was right. Everyone is “just a fucking something.” 

Everyone is reducible. No matter what someone has accomplished in their lives, it’s easy to recategorize them in some banal way to humble or insult them. 

I’m just some fucking blogger. A “self-published” author. Thousands of hours of careful thought and hard work can be handily dismissed by any of the slurs that occasionally pepper my inbox. 

It works for everyone. Professional athletes are just trained seals, and Navy SEALs are just fucking pawns. World class powerlifters are just glorified beasts of burden. Notre Dame is, after all, just a fucking building. Da Vinci was just a dreaming doodler. Nietzsche was crazy. George Washington was, after all, just some fucking guy who put his breeches on one leg at a time just like everyone else. 

And this French fellow who had worked his whole life to become an internationally respected chef and was at that moment a major player in the San Francisco culinary scene was…just some fucking cook

I was reminded of all this while reading through Meditations recently. 

“How base and putrid, every common matter is! Water, dust, and from the mixture of these bones, and all that loathsome stuff that our bodies do consist of: so subject to be infected, and corrupted. And again those other things that are so much prized and admired, as marble stones, what are they, but as it were the kernels of the earth? gold and silver, what are they, but as the more gross fæces of the earth? Thy most royal apparel, for matter, it is but as it were the hair of a silly sheep, and for colour, the very blood of a shell-fish; of this nature are all other things. Thy life itself, is some such thing too; a mere exhalation of blood: and it also, apt to be changed into some other common thing.”

— Marcus Aurelius. Meditations (Book 9, 34.)

Marcus fucking Aurelius. What a spoiled self-important brat! 

“Look at me, I write my precious little journal in Greek instead of Latin because I’m a fussy intellectual philhellene.”

It’s so easy. 

Taking a step back, this reductiveness could be useful in keeping one grounded and to help avoid being swayed too easily by the influence of fame and titles and men’s high estimations of themselves. 

Maintaining a disciplined humility and a careful distance from the seduction of power and titles is probably a very good idea when you are the Emperor of Rome. You don’t want to go full Caligula. 

To meditate, as Marcus Aurelius did, on the baseness of all things, is a useful thought experiment. It could be a tool for putting problems in perspective, and for remembering the humanity of men who have been elevated to a godlike status. Remembering that all great men were merely men can actually make them more inspiring. It renders their achievements more accessible. 

While it is true that everything is reducible, and sometimes this reduction may be useful, this leveling of all things can also get out of hand. Reduction can be untruthful. 

Gold may be the shit of the earth, as Marcus Aurelius suggested, but truthfully I’d rather be covered in gold than shit. Wouldn’t you?

Returning to that chef… truth is that I was mad about the chef’s behavior and I was lashing out. While I would contend that the achievements of chefs are somewhat overvalued simply because fine dining is associated with wealth, status and luxury, I have some level of respect for any man who has mastered a craft and risen to the top of his profession. He may have been a dick, but he actually wasn’t “just some fucking cook,” even to me. That was an intellectually dishonest remark. 

As I have gotten older, I’ve developed a habit of acknowledging the talents, accomplishments and expertise of men with whom I disagree, or who have wronged me personally. Some have found it surprising. It would be easy to completely dismiss a man based on a flaw of character that I exposed or of which our friendship was simply another casualty. But it wouldn’t be truthful, and I don’t think speaking that way demonstrates wisdom. 

I’ve had close friends lie to me, or panic and lie to others while throwing me under the bus. I’ve caught men who I trusted playing games and angles behind my back. After discovering this, I’ll have nothing to do with them personally, and if asked, I’ll tell you why we’re no longer friends. However, I refuse to dismiss their positive qualities and insist that they are given credit where it is due. I’ve even occasionally sent them business. I don’t want them in my circle of trust, but it would be petty and vindictive of me to obsess about whether or not they make a few bucks doing what they actually do well. I’m proud of this habit, and I encourage it in others. 

Either you want to maintain an ordered, hierarchical reality where you value achievement, or you don’t. 

There is a prevailing bitchiness in the Zeitgeist, motivated by ressentiment, that wants to dismantle the statuary of greatness as a comfort to mediocrity, weakness and sloth. You can feed into that by finding a way to reduce everything (and everyone) to some lowest common denominator. You can gossip and snipe and trade in clever insults. 

Or you can defiantly choose to acknowledge and honor strength and achievement and a measuring stick of good, better, best — even when it’s inconvenient. Even when you’re mad. Even when you’re not the best, or maybe not even good. 

Because if you refuse to acknowledge an ideal — there is no “good.” No “better” or “best.” Nothing to reach for. No direction. No orientation. Only fleeting comfort and sensation. Randomness and chaos. 

Only the voluptuous horror of multi-dimensional nothingness

I think I’ll stop there for now. 

That sounds like a good title for a future essay. 

The noble type of man regards himself as a determiner of values; he does not require to be approved of; he passes the judgment: “What is injurious to me is injurious in itself;” he knows that it is he himself only who confers honour on things; he is a creator of values.

Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil

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Desperate Living

I talked to Jim Goad recently, and we joked a bit about some of the characters on America’s political fringe, as we’re both well acquainted with “both” sides. 

If you’ve never read Goad, you should. He’s a phenomenally witty writer possessed by a compulsion to mock hypocrisy wherever he sees it. It’s a sketchy racket but you never run out of material.

After we ended the call, I thought about the absurdity of it all, and texted him back to say that John Waters ought to make a film about the desperate goofballs and weirdos who populate both the far left and far right. Their comic antics are taken far too seriously by the normal people. 

As an unlikely character myself, if I step back from the worlds I’ve traveled in — from NYC nightclubs filled with gender-bending “performance artists” in giant sneakers huffing nitrous oxide to secret meetings of geriatric white nationalists held in Chinese restaurants — man there is a lot of wacky material you just couldn’t make up. Maybe someday I’ll write an autobiography. 

The movie idea stuck with me, so I came up with a pitch.


The story revolves around the ongoing conflicts between two camps of desperate ne’er-do-wells, both intent on changing the world through extreme political activism. 

Left Camp

(They’re both named Sam, so you can’t assume their genders. Their birth names were Jennifer and Peter.)

SAM 1 – A white, morbidly obese purple-haired lesbian feminist who occasionally sidelines as a body-positive burlesque dancer.  She runs  her own XXX webcam business  to support her pizza problem. She’s addicted to prescription painkillers, “almost” commits suicide frequently, and is officially living on disability. 

SAM 2 – A skinny white asexual vegan punk rocker who is always between bands but really concerned about “the scene.” He has a trust fund, which allows him to do a lot of cocaine and keep his dreadlocks well-maintained. He’s bipolar, naturally, and sees several therapists. A perpetual student and campus organizer, he’s never worked a day in his life, but is a staunch union activist and imagines himself a heroic defender of the working class. 

Right Camp – 

Steve – There is only one character in the Right camp, because this guy has no friends at all. He works at a series of menial and retail jobs, and is extremely polite. He is middlingly chunky, perceptibly chinless, and has extremely tiny, delicate fingers.

At night (and on his lunch breaks on his phone) he spends his time denouncing people who he perceives to be “degenerates” — which includes almost everyone. He has a giant white board in his trailer park “war room” to keep track of his constantly changing pseudonyms and handles.

Throughout the film, he cycles through a series of extreme religious and political positions. He begins as a simple Southern Evangelical race realist, but abandons Christianity because it is “too Semitic” and becomes a staunch Odinist. After several violent encounters with former meth addicts who found Odin in prison, he studies Orthodox Christianity and starts posting “Orthodoxy or Death” online and papering the town with posters. He attempts to join an Orthodox church, but is disgusted to find that they still accept blacks. He resigns himself to an inventive combination of 14/88 esoteric Hitlerism and the private practice “Opus Dei” Catholicism. His practice consists mostly of posting memes about the true Catholic Church, the Jews, and the death of the West. 


The running gag of the movie is the constant conflict between the right camp and the left camp, as the characters on the left camp doxx the right camp’s trailer park address and harass his employers via phone. He gets fired from Target, then Best Buy, then ends up at Walmart until the Left Camp shows up to steal boxes of Whip Its from the kitchenwares department, and Steve catches them and reports them to Loss Prevention. As they are escorted out of the store, they scream “Nazi” and “Fascist” hysterically.

Sam1 and Sam2 are quickly released and never charged, but vow to fight the fascist corporate pigs at Walmart. They set up another campaign to get Steve fired. This works, and Steve is forced to seek employment at a Chinese-owned convenience store because they are the only people who will hire him.

His online tirades shift to address the growing “Chinese threat” to the “American Way of Life,” and the film abruptly ends when the store is robbed and he is shot point-blank by a white Odinist who has relapsed and gone on a meth-fueled crime spree.

After his death is reported on the local news, Sam1 and Sam2 picket the Chinese-owned convenience store for hiring a “known racist.”

– cut. roll credits –

I think this project has real potential. 

If you make it, you should hire me as a consultant. I’m also up for a cameo — ideally in a difficult-to-film double role where I play both a Rob Halford-style leather dude and a militant Neo-Nazi who face off in a savage no-holds-barred underground amateur wrestling match.

I think this would make a lot of people happy.

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 A reader asked a me a good question the other day. Certain types of creative people draw from their personal struggles to create, and the realness in their work comes from a bare and palpable honesty about pain and weakness and heartache. There would probably only be 5-10 decent country songs if some guys hadn’t cried tears into their beers and then written songs about it. 

I have always written in the first person — I have no idea how to write fiction — so everything I write is at least partially autobiographical. I occasionally make truthful observations and give decent advice because I’d lived some life and wrestled with some problems myself. 

The question was, “how do you balance stoicism with creativity?” 

First of all, I don’t strictly consider myself a stoic. 

When I was hanging around a lot of self-described misanthropes, many seemed to be playing a game of inverse virtue signaling — “whoever hates humanity the most, wins.” It was hollow and forced and “too cool for school.” This goth pantomime didn’t communicate superiority, it revealed a lot of disillusioned idealists and souls with festering wounds.

I get the same sense from self-proclaimed stoics – if not necessarily from their foundational texts. There seems to be a running contest to see who can appear to be the least “affected.” It strikes me sometimes as being a little fake, inhuman, and lacking balance. 

So rather than stoicism proper, we’re talking about something more like emotional restraint, dignity, and the pragmatic filtering of thoughts and words to produce the best — not merely the most immediate — outcome. 

Perhaps the answer about creating with your pain has to do with the timeline. 

Early social media encouraged a real-time purging of every black mood and angry moment.  This kind of catharsis was usually a net-negative, both for the person doing the purging and for everyone reading it. It was also addicting to broadcast every sad or angry thought or feeling. A lot of people still do it. It always looks like a desperate cry for attention and no one respects someone for doing this — though if they are attractive, many will offer a shoulder to cry on. 

Instead of putting it out there in real time, process your pain and talk about it after you’ve overcome it. We often don’t understand what we are going through very well until after we’ve been through it anyway. When it’s all in the rearview mirror, you can present your suffering with insight instead of emotional panic. Or, maybe the real insight will be that you realize that you were just being a complete fucking idiot, and that no one needs to know about that. 

As I mentioned in one of the comments to that post about friendship…

“Misery loves company, but no one looks up to misery. Misery is something to look down at.”

If you enjoyed this article on creativity and you want to become a better writer, check out this article by Ed Latimore:

How To Write Better And Be A Better Writer

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On Friendship

Elliot Hulse wrote something the other day about not showing your weakness — every questioning feeling, thought, insecurity or fear — to a woman.

He’s right, and I’d like to add that this extends to friendship. A man isn’t really your friend until he knows you and knows your life and what makes you tick. He’s probably truly a friend if he’s seen you stumble a little, and stuck around to help you up. 

If a friend thou hast | whom thou fully wilt trust,
And good from him wouldst get,
Thy thoughts with his mingle, | and gifts shalt thou make,
And fare to find him oft. 

— Hávamál 44

You are not every thought that you have. YOU are the EGO that filters your thoughts and decides which thoughts matter. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty much an open book, but there are limits to how much sharing is productive. No man needs to get your brain’s unfiltered livestream. It can ruin a friendship, and as someone once told me rightly when I was making that mistake, if you give every thought a voice, it can ruin you and another man’s opinion of you. 

Men can’t afford to be careless, and in the past, they were more guarded.

It’s tactically smarter, and it’s philosophically, psychologically and spiritually better for them.

Boomer feminists have been bitterly attacking the “John Wayne” ideals of their “emotionally distant” dads who fought in WWII since the late 1960s. They lure men in with a “get out of manhood free” card. The one thing they have to offer is something only the worst men want — the freedom to be weak. To luxuriate in weakness and confusion and emotional chaos. But we are men, and men create order, light — cosmos

Nietzsche had a quote about friendship that is worth considering here. 

Thou wouldst wear no raiment before thy friend? It is in honour of thy friend that thou showest thyself to him as thou art? But he wisheth thee to the devil on that account! He who maketh no secret of himself shocketh: so much reason have ye to fear nakedness! Aye, if ye were Gods, ye could then be ashamed of clothing! Thou canst not adorn thyself fine enough for thy friend; for thou shalt be unto him an arrow and a longing for the Superman.

— Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Misery loves company, but no one looks up to misery. Misery is something to look down at.



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Whose Man Are You?

It started out as a joke. An insult. 

“Whose man is this?” 

“Who is responsible for this mess of a man?” 

I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard as I laughed that night in a very long time. The same joke in endless variation, all night long, with all kinds of confused and archaic grammar. 

“Whose man are you?

“Whose mans are we?” 

“Whose phones are we?”

Good jokes are funny because there is truth in them.

I was hanging out with a handful of friends at Waldgang, meditating on the nature of Lord Ingwaz, or Freyr, or *Fraujaz, depending on which name you like best. He’s associated with nature and fertility, and the tendency with *Fraujaz is to focus on agricultural and seasonal cycles. However, Freyr — whose name means “lord” — is also associated with lordship and leadership in this world. My mind eventually turned to the concepts of lordship and leadership and fealty and “belonging.” 

“Whose man are you?,” is a crisis of modernity. Everyone wants to belong and to fit in somewhere — to find an anchor and a place and an identity. Men seek out groups of men to help them locate themselves in the universe, because that is the way we have always survived. It is in our nature to do so. 

The Way of Men is the Way of the Gang.

We feel more comfortable and less vulnerable and more at home in the world if we have some kind of close-knit group — some sense of brotherhood. 

Where there is a need, there is a market, and opportunists looking to exploit it. 

If the monkey wants a banana badly enough, it’s easy to make him dance. 

Brotherhood is a banana that every man wants. 

Sometimes it develops organically. This is probably the best and most truthful kind of brotherhood. Friendships develop over time and are tested by life, and you demand more of each other and make each other better and hold each other accountable, and eventually there is a loyalty there that you’re not willing to compromise. Those men become part of who you are. This is an informal honor group. 

Often, brotherhood is created artificially by institutions — the military, fraternal orders, gangs, clubs and so forth. A social technology has been developed, and if you observe how this is done and have the audacity to use that technology, you can indoctrinate and test and initiate men who are looking for belonging into a formal brotherhood — a formal honor group.

Formal brotherhoods are often fealties disguised as brotherhoods. Most people want to be told what to do. It’s not even fair to stigmatize that, because it is a human norm. 

Even the most self-aware followers are attached to the romance of self-determination. One of the best ways to manipulate people is to convince them that your idea was actually their idea. Pretenses of democracy and collectivism are flattering, ego-affirming fictions.

“Whose man are you?”

“We are our own men. We belong to each other.”

“Nah. That charismatic guy out in front, the leader, the one who you are copying and who you want to impress so desperately — you’re HIS men.”

That is probably a hard pill to swallow.

But there is something more honest about fealty than there is about most organizations that call themselves “brotherhoods.” 

Some guy messaged me recently, telling me I should join this group he was affiliated with. It was probably a criminal organization, though it was never named. He was really excited about it.

The new guys trying to get into those organizations always tell me that, “it’s not like you think it is.” Of course, no one ever tells the new guys how it really is until…after they sign on. 

I certainly didn’t want to get in between him and whoever had him on the line. So I told him it wasn’t my thing. 

What I wanted to tell him was that he was probably going to go to prison saying “brotherhood” while his new “brother” smiled knowingly, fingering a fresh roll of hundred dollar bills. 

But as I said, most men want to be given a purpose and told what to do. Is it wrong to give them what they want? 

This is one of the deeper ethical questions of lordship.

Most lords have always been middle managers. They held authority under someone else’s authority. 

I was listening to Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership recently, and he made the point that a good leader has to find a way to “believe in the mission” so that he can convince his men to believe in the mission and get the job done effectively. To do that, Willink looked for the wisdom and benevolence in a given leader’s master plan. 

Most people want to believe that they are good and decent people. Most leaders want to be wise and benevolent leaders. Some genuinely try to do the right thing and are willing to take the heat when they don’t — which is basically what Jocko’s book preaches. 

Some leaders know they are sending men to their doom, and convince themselves — perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly — that they are doing it for the greater good. 

Sometimes they know they are doing it to save their own asses or serve their own immediate interests. 

Sometimes they just don’t give a shit. 

There’s nothing wrong with fealty groups.

It’s an un-American concept, but American men are still men and historically this is pretty normal male behavior. 

“Whose man are you?”

“I’m HIS man!”

It’s tidy and not necessarily something to be ashamed of. Men used to ride into battle under the banners of lords and kings. It was glorious! Given the amount of loyalty and emotional investment people give to corporate sports franchises or political parties … I’m not sure how an explicit cult of personality is any worse or more laughable. 

Everyone wants to be an “alpha,” but “alpha” is a position, and a group full of “alphas” is a group with too many chiefs and not enough Indians.  Someone is almost always in charge, and when they claim they aren’t, they are usually playing a much more elaborate and disingenuous game. 

My advice here is simply, “know thyself.” 

And read the fine print. Make sure you know who you are giving your allegiance to, and why. There are benevolent leaders and exploitative leaders and leaders who are just passing through. Most are probably a combination of all of the above. 

If you’re going to offer fealty to someone or a group of people, he/they also owe you something in return. Is that lord going to protect your farm and your family in exchange for your allegiance? Is he offering something of value beyond a good feeling and a pat on the back?

It’s a reciprocal relationship.  If it’s not, you’re a voluntary slave, and you should probably move on. 


maður er manns gaman” (Hávamál) and Homō hominī lupus (Latin Proverb) are both true.

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