[AKN #69] The book that most impacted my life
LAUGH: Old Demetri Martin stand up, LOVE: Fun and interesting links
69th edition of the newsletter.
I bet you are expecting me to open this newsletter by talking about 69.
And you know what?
You know me really well.
In honor of the 69th edition of the newsletter, I am going to sacrifice my Google search history and do a dive deep into its history.
After extensive research, I came across the following 69 origin story.
As long as there have been humans, there probably has been the practice of a 69. It’s described in the ancient Indian Kama Sutra, for instance, as the Congress of a Crow position.
So the act itself has a long and storied history, but how do we go from Congress of a Crow to 69?
The slang 69 goes back, if you can believe it, to the French Revolution. The term is found in a 1790 French work, The Whore’s Catechisms, attributed the revolutionary figure Théroigne de Méricour, who described a soixante-neuf, or “sixty-nine” in French.
A couple definitions to clear up the above quote for my American readers:
Catechism is a “series of fixed questions, answers, or precepts used for instruction in other situations.”
Used in a sentence: ‘the preventive health catechism “more exercise, less tobacco and alcohol, and better diet”’
The French Revolution was a “revolution in France.”
Used in a sentence: The French Revolution was a thing that happened, you ignoramus.
But to really unpack what we just learned:
69 enters our vernacular around the time of Marie Antoinette thanks to a “how to be the best sex worker” instructional manual written by the following titan of sex work:
The French influence extends even further as it is honored in the naming of variants of the 69.
For example, the Standing 69 is affectionately known as the Eiffel 69, which is of course not to be confused with the Eiffel 65.
There you have it.
Now you are armed with arguably the MOST fun fact to drop at parties the next time you and your friends snicker at the occurrence of the number 69 in the wild.
On to the newsletter!
LIVE: The book that most impacted my life
Every Thanksgiving, we are asked to stop and reflect on what we are grateful for.
While I am grateful to a ton of people in my life, I would like to use this section to speak about my gratitude towards a book.
But this isn’t just any ole book. This is a “quake book.”
This book caught me at the perfect moment and fundamentally altered the trajectory of my life.
That book was…
I was confident that everything was meaningless, God was dead, and the only solution to it all was to laugh at the absurdity.
Or worded differently, I was having my emo phase a little bit later in life.
When you believe everything is meaningless, it becomes exceedingly easy to fall into hedonistic patterns.
If nothing matters, why not live a life of pleasure and excess?
Your life is meaningless.
Work is meaningless.
Relationships are meaningless.
The only thing that matters is maximizing “happiness”.
Eat, drink, and be merry.
This life philosophy is a lot of fun.
Who doesn’t love to get “Sunday Brunch” drunk?
Or “Taco Tuesday” drunk?
Or “well its basically the weekend Thursday” drunk?
However, there was a problem.
You see, no matter how many times I tried, the unfortunate terminus of this entire operating system of existence was a rolling existential crisis.
Living to just be happy always lead me to a place where I found myself asking “why does any of this matter?”
Not a great day to day mindset tbh.
It is in the middle of one of these crises which I encountered Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who was imprisoned at a concentration camp for three years.
His book tells the story of his experiences in the concentration camps and introduces his ideas of how important finding meaning is to your life.
It is impossible for me to summarize how powerful this book is so honestly I would just recommend you reading it.
But in the name of selling you on why you should spend your precious free time on reading this particular book, I will summarize this books’ answer to three age old philosophical questions which have helped me live a better life.
1. What is the purpose of life?
Frankl argues that life is primarily a quest for meaning and the greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.
Nonsensical life coaches give similar answers, but Frankl’s framing had two things which made it click:
He gave direct examples of how meaning gave prisoners of concentration camps the spirit to get through the toughest times.
He tells stories of prisoners with a strong sense of meaning who would find comedy and camaraderie with other prisoners on a day to day basis despite their conditions.
He tells stories of prisoners who lost the will to live and would simply curl up to smoke a cigarette while they waited to die.
The descriptive language and stories stick with me to this day because they came from a source which is a lot more powerful than a 45-year old suburban mom telling me to find my passion.
He spoke about the problems that arise due to a lack of meaning.
I remember feeling like he was speaking directly to me as he articulated how a lack of understanding around “meaning” can lead to a lot of anxiety and questioning the meaning of life altogether. The literal reason I was reading this book in the first place…
Now this is all well and fine that meaning is important, but it follows that we need some type of road map for finding meaning.
2. How does one find meaning in life?
Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning and provided examples of how these sources helped him get through the concentration camps:
Work: Doing something significant
Meaning can be forged in wanting to make a contribution to something in the field which you have dedicated yourself.
For Frankl, expanding on the field of psychology by completing his work on Logotherapy kept him going through Auschwitz.
Love: Caring for another person
Meaning can be forged in your love for another human being.
For Frankl, his love for his wife and the visions of being reunited with her when they got out of the camps kept him hopeful about getting out.
Courage during difficult times
Meaning can be forged in every little moment.
Every moment is an opportunity to ponder why there is meaning in this life and why it is worth it to persevere through the suffering.
For Frankl, he passed time by pondering what was meaningful to him.
He thought about how he couldn’t wait to contribute to the field of psychology as he was forced to carry bodies to mass grave sites.
He thought about being reunited with his wife as he sat huddled for warmth in the winter night.
Through it all, he found meaning in suffering, which is the human condition itself.
3. Ok. Great. But I live a normal existence, I am not inspirational, and I am not really even sure I like what I do for a living. So like maybe I need different advice? What is the meaning of life to me?
This was the line of questioning I found myself going down after reading this book for the first time.
Humans are funny. We get advice and we immediately try to find reasons why this doesn’t apply to us.
We play mental gymnastics so we can rationalize to ourselves why we need to stay the same.
To this, Frankl would suggest we simply stop asking what is the meaning of life and instead imagine we are the ones being asked.
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is being asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
Very plainly, you are responsible for finding meaning in your life.
So if you don’t think the roadmap highlighted above works for you, don’t think you are “off the hook.”
You need to go find something that provides your life with meaning or risk perpetual existential dread.
Get great at something and contribute to advancing the field.
Find someone to spend your life with.
Volunteer your free time to something you find meaning in.
But most importantly, don’t use your lack of clarity to rationalize standing still.
Discover your purpose through action.
Bringing it altogether
Man’s Search for Meaning changed the way I think about life in the following ways:
It is OK to live for a higher purpose than pleasure.
We craft meaning through the things we work on, the people we love, and how we respond to adversity.
I am responsible for finding the meaning in my life. We are not preordained with a sense of purpose or meaning, we create meaning through our actions.
Read the book. I think it is worth it, but it is up to you.
Stakes are pretty low. It’s just like create meaning through action or succumb to nihilism. Whats the worst that could happen?
Email me or comment below with Quake Books of your own.
Always interested in learning about other books which changed people’s lives!
LAUGH: Old Demetri Martin stand up
When I look back at non-present day stand up, I get hit with a huge wave of nostalgia for two reasons:
These were the comedians I grew up with and their silly set ups and punchlines take me back to a simpler time.
It tends to be comedy for the sake of comedy. There is no bigger takeaway message than “this is funny.”
A lot of stand up now devolves into political hot takes, but people like Mitch Hedberg and Demetri Martin just told funny jokes. The purpose was purely entertainment.
I long for the days where comedy was not controlled by serious people.
The days when comedians used to say “isn’t it crazy how when I string this set of words together it makes you laugh?” and the audience laughed without making sure it was OK to laugh first.
Demtri Martin brings me back to when it felt like this was the case.
LOVE: Fun and interesting links
Sometimes you just need a little bit of click bait.
So I am going to give that to you now.
Strict rules governing the world’s ports prevent the unloading of bodies suspected of being infected with coronavirus.
That is how this captain died at sea and ended up in the walk in freezer of his ship for 6 months!
Imagine being the chef on board and you have to get dinner ready every night.
How many times would you have to walk past the dead body next to the frozen peas before it was just normal to you?
From the article:
The legend of Gunther has been around for nearly 20 years. The story goes that a late German countess, named Karlotta Liebenstein, who died in 1992 and had no children but cherished her animals, left her multimillion fortune to her dog, Gunther III. Gunther VI inherited this trust, which has grown to $500 million thanks to property investments and strategic ventures, from his grandfather, Gunther IV. The rumor is the canine comes from a lineage dating back 40 years and six generations.
A great story that makes you click the article.
The payoff is disappointing since it is really an Italian holding group performing a marketing stunt.
But for a little while we all believed there was a dog worth a half a billion and wasn’t that a fun time?
That’s how clickbait works, folks.
I get you to click the article and you either regurgitate the headline as fact or spend 2 minutes figuring out how I told you a half truth.
You don’t have to go home, but you can subscribe here:
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are strictly my own. Who else’s would they be?