"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell
"You know what a free-range chicken is," the farmer asked me with a knowing smile on his lips.
"We keep chickens in the coop through their infancy. During the chicken's adolescence a door is opened which allows her to walk into a tiny open-air courtyard. But here's the thing: They never walk in. The chicken is so accustomed to living inside confinement that the courtyard seems like a scary, unfamiliar place."
Initially this conversation cemented my understanding that the marketplace is a unfeeling entity, prone to deception, which doesn't hesitate to capitalize on consumer goodwill. Recently, sitting beside a coffee table loaded with beer bottles and cocaine, I glimpsed a deeper parallel.
I had met the guy on the rooftop. We were both renting AirBnB's in the building. He was lonely and wanted company. In his apartment he spoke of the women he'd conquered and mentioned his sister was a slut for dating a few actors as she climbed the Bollywood ladder. He compared cocaine quality around the world as he chopped lines on his coffee-table. He asked about my favorite drug.
"Judging by quantity of consumption it would be caffeine," I answered, "but the substance which has given me the best experience is magic mushrooms."
"What does it do?" He asked leaning forward eagerly, a large Kingfisher beer in his grip, powder on his nose.
"It turns off all the filters. You see and experience everything. You're ego begins to diminish as the feeling of connection with everything else grows."
"Oh!.." He exclaimed flopping back in his seat, waving a cigarette, "No thanks. Beer and cocaine for me. I'm an alcohol and cocaine kind of guy."
I was surprised by his reaction, but now I realize what I told him. I told him that a doorway would open in his coop and he would be nudged outside under the open sky, star-lit galaxies stretching to infinity. Like the free-range chicken, he found the idea terrifying.
There is a reason why sitting in front of Netflix with a glass of wine sounds much more appealing than a multi-day meditation retreat. It's no coincidence that millions of people are drinking beer right now watching sports, while only a handful sit in psychedelic ceremony**. We've all been raised in the coop. Our limiting beliefs, fears, insecurities, and shame mixes with society's morality, norms, and materialistic values to create the walls. Our frail grip on identity is the interior decoration. Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and mindless entertainment make us more tolerant of this confine. A spiritual journey leads to the exit.
** This reason, it must be clarified, is not physical safety as research has shown alcohol to be a more physically dangerous drug.
Disclaimer: Psychedelics are unlike recreational drugs. They belong in a separate category. Always do your homework before taking a journey being especially mindful of "set and setting". To learn more about humanities ancient relationship to magic mushrooms, tune into Road Less Traveled Season 4 where we visit the Huautla natives who kept these secret ceremonies alive as they were lost to the western world.
Noa and her friends were trapped on the side of a reservoir in northern India. A dam had been opened and the water was rising quick, cutting them off from their route. They climbed the banks and spotted police officers in the distance, approaching them for help. The cops decided to use the opportunity to search their bags. After extorting them for 100$ for the gram of weed they discovered, they guided them to safety on another route.
I was riding a Bird (electric scooter) yesterday when suddenly I fell into a Santa Monica police sting operation. They were swooping up riders in batches, collecting money from each person for not wearing helmets.
Why do we love firemen? They protect us from external threats. They are on our side.
Why do we have significantly less love for police? They also protect us from external threats. But somewhere along the way they took on the guise of protecting us from ourselves, which almost always entails money. Swooping up scooter riders at 200$ a pop is significantly more lucrative than chasing purse snatchers. Why did it take LAPD 30 years to catch a sloppy serial killer dropping clues like breadcrumbs, but a beer drinking tourist on Venice Beach will quickly find a dark police ATV ready to disrupt their vacation with a 250$ fine? The vehicle weaving between prostate sunbathers is clearly a bigger danger than the 6 pack. But it never was about safety.
This "protecting us from ourselves" routine has been a boon for law enforcement for a long time. During the 13 years of alcohol prohibition they seized on the opportunity to take off-the-books cuts of the money. Legalization of alcohol in 1933 was disastrous to their bottom line. They needed new income streams under the same pretense. Today police unions and prison unions have joined hands to lobby hard against legalization of marijuana. Portugal, which took the bold step of decriminalizing all drugs, has provided a model for the entire world on how to handle the subject. 17 years later we pretend the incredibly successful policy doesn't exist. American law enforcement doesn't have a more humane, effective, or compassionate idea. They have a more profitable one.
Uber, Lyft, Lime, and Bird are also squeezing police department margins. DUIs and traffic violation profits dipping to unexpected lows. New policy is created to fill the coffers back up. Unsurprisingly these are formed under the same sham of protecting a citizen from herself.
This entire enterprise is as disastrous for individual police officers as it is for citizens. Wouldn't they love to be embraced by the public the way firemen are? Loved in the old school sheriff, Andy Griffith kind of way? Of course they would. Deep down those SMPD cops know that most adults understand helmet safety just fine, and are assuming a comfortable level of risk. The same level of risk they would assume by going skydiving, white water rafting, or stepping on the top rung of a ladder. Any one of these police officers would find it ludicrous if a citizen charged them 200$ for cutting an apple with the knife directed towards their hand. It's risky, but is it not their body to risk?
"You need to eat more protein," said Jelena as she squished my arm in her grip.
At the legendary Muscle Planet gym in Belgrade I got a refresher course on pumping iron from a Serbian who's stacked up titles over a bodybuilding career. We met in Cyprus while filming a Road Less Traveled episode in January. I lamented about falling off the gym routine. She invited me to Belgrade for a restart.
Would you also like to lead an adventurous life for as long as possible (in the spirit of Jack Lalain , Georges Hérbert, and Laird Hamilton)? The carbon machinery moving our consciousnesses through the world must endure without a breakdown. Good diet, rest, flexibility, cardio, and weight lifting are all critical components in this endeavor.
The weight part, which I've sadly neglected recently, has undoubtably saved me from injury more than once. I've fallen off Japanese castle walls, Dutch titanium poles, and rugged Welsh cliffs. Indian wrestlers piled me into the dirt, MMA professionals threw me to the mat, and Thai kickboxers tossed me out of the ring. Core and back strength from compound weight exercises are key in maintaining a body that can take some dings and keep chugging.
In Belgrade one of Serbia's fitness icons got me back under the iron.
Article in Serbian covered by Telegraf's Jasmina Stakić
Photos and video by Maja Dobrić
Follow Jelena Jaksic on Instagram
Here are my favorite compound exercises: (Proper form is critical when putting your body under weight. Never compromise form to lift heavier).
Zach Vincent was mugged in Mexico City's central park. It was an assault that left him sputtering, "Look at that bru.. look at that perfect family having a picnic!"
Mexican towns are constructed in the world's imagination by films of hardship and dystopia. A creation which began with grainy westerns, the cowboy riding into a dusty plaza with the aura of violence soon to erupt. Later tales of cartels solidify the image: Mexico is a dangerous place.
As Zach and I walked though Chapultapec park it was clear that the city had other story lines to share. A place where neighborhoods still retain the intimacy lost to most of North America. Mom and pop shops thrive. Food spills out from restaurants to the side walk and then moves through the streets on carts. Colonial architecture mixes with modern design touches, creating fresh energy with roots in history.
Zach was the perfect cameraman for my new project. Talented, hungry, and well traveled; yet had never been to Mexico City. Through his lens I knew we'd get a professional shot tinged with the curiosity and enthusiasm of discovery. In his shots the viewer will see storylines that may never be fully articulated, but that's exactly the point. A good show, just like a good trip, shouldn't tie things up with a bow, but rather leave loose threads to work their way around the imagination.
I've now filming for three projects in CDMX, including two Road Less Traveled episodes. There are stories for a dozen more. Few cities in the world contain such an abundance of narratives, history, and magic. Your visit will surely unlock something unique and unexpected.
A haircut in Sarajevo left me ruminating on the dangers of tribalism and nationalism. Anyone who understands history will find this clear. What can we do individually to combat this trend? Besides political action we can work to change ourselves and have that change radiate out to our friend groups and community.
Some of the ways to break down the mental borders of tribalism are:
How we begin our days and end them has an enormous impact on quality of life. Doing it mindlessly leads to a trap: scrolling social media, light pumping into the eyes and comparison stirring up the brain. Sleep comes later and dreams are anxious. As an experiment sit in your dark room, let your eyes adjust, and then turn on your phone. Notice the amount of light that is now illuminating the space. Next scroll social media for 5 minutes, stop, and take note of your state. Are you full of contentment and peace?
For healthier rest try these elements to a healthy evening routine:
Venice Beach has had one hell of a roller coaster ride, but are the twists and turns about to give way to a dull cruise into blandness? The fate of Helmut's ice cream shop could be a watershed moment for the once proudly weird neighborhood.
In 1905 tabbacco tycoon Abbot Kinney created this beach resort in the style of its Italian namesake, complete with canals and gondolas. A few decades later it was covered with oil rigs. Next it transitioned from a beat generation hub, bodybuilding mecca, to a so called "slum by the sea" both edgy and dangerous. Recently a wave of tech has reimagined the neighborhood as "Silicon Beach", a sunny, gentrified office park.
It's in the hands of new tech residents, the remaining old guard locals, and the stream of tourists to decide what kind of Venice they want to experience: the same options or something different? Hinano or the Habit? Groundworks or Starbucks?
The market is now testing this neighborhood for its interest in homogeneity. Is the next phase of Venice to resemble any given strip mall in the America? Where we spend our dollars will answer this question. Charly Temmel's fate may predict the verdict.
So you had a little travel fling.. right on! Romantic connection is a beautiful, enlivening thing, It's a mind expanding experience (if you are actually taking interest in the contents of each other's brains).
Now you're back home and still flirting over a texting app. An invitation appears: "Come back and see me." You flip open your laptop and start browsing flights.
It's an admirable move. The mark of a romantic soul. However, let's adjust expectations and strategy before buying that ticket. Misadventure may await you. Are you ready for it?
These are ever present possibilities, but don't be dissuaded. Instead, change your perspective and approach:
Revisiting a travel fling is always a toss of the dice, but with the right preparation you can stack the odds in favor of a winning roll. By setting a realistic frame and controling expectations one can have a memorable trip no matter which numbers turn up. And remember the goal is that both people end up feeling empowered from this interaction. Let's all leave a trail of beautiful memories in our wake. Be honest. Be kind. Be your best self.
The "fearful creature" mentioned in the video has pointed out that I did not provide any solutions for what author Johann Hari has called the "ego addiction", an unhealthy attachment to self that is isolating us from each other. Here are my best ideas to scale that back:
* The term "drugs" is used to cover everything from caffeine to aspirin to crack to magic mushrooms. Clearly there is a difference between sipping a cup of coffee and injected heroin into a vein. We need new vocabulary that does not lump all mood altering substances under the same tainted banner.
** The "war on drugs" has been one of the most destructive and evil forces humanity has unleashed on itself, responsible for many more deaths than the drugs it purports to combat. It is fueled by hypocrisy, racism, and greed. To uncover the full perniciousness of these policies I'd recommend the documentaries 13th and America's War on Drugs as well as the book Chasing the Scream.
*** I've heard terrible stories of charlatans taking advantage of the vulnerable. Specifically if you plan to go to South America to experience an Ayahuasca ceremony vet your shaman very carefully.
Last Spring I made a blogpost which featured my pixelated buttocks. The post appeared on a popular hiking Facebook page. While most comments were supportive, a couple men blasted me. They were profoundly offended to see a bottom even blurred. One dude told me I should register as a sex offender.
When did these men consciously decided they found the gluteus muscles (and the skin and fat which surround them) so offensive? Did they sit down one day to figure out which body parts were cool and which shameful? Of course not. They were impressed at a very young age through a variety of mediums.
Now I had my awareness completely on the subject. What was wrong with the backside of the human body? For that matter, what was embarrassing about the frontside? Did we not all have similar features from little innocent babies to sweet old grandparents? I couldn't seem too find fault with this design when putting full reason on it.
However, the disesteem for ourselves runs deep. So deep that I discovered a new pocket of it under the full moon in Goa, India. Once again the matter cleared up when put under the full gaze of awareness and query**.
Have you had a similar experience?
*Book reference in video is Lost Connections by Johann Hari. He speaks about some of these thoughts on this podcast.
**There are some thorns imbedded so deep, however, that noticing them is just the beginning of a long process of pulling them out. The most pernicious, given to us by the same advertisers who have contributed to body shame, is materialism. Extrinsic thinking that acquiring a possession will make us happy. Study after study contradicts this belief, but it's so dominant all but the most enlightened fall under it's bewitchment.
I'm Jonathan Legg
The road has been my greatest teacher.. challenging stagnant beliefs, disarming prejudices, and developing understanding of others. I hope the content on this blog will bring a sliver of that juju to you.