Turning Into the Wind


Saturday, May 9, 2020. I made it. Through my last night shift, that is. Whew. However lousy the day shift position may turn out to be, it can’t be as physically and psychologically disrupting as this one has been. I’m so happy to be free of it – on to the next adventure, come what may.

I heard back from T.S. “Your message brought me much pleasure; it makes me realize again that our thought waves are parallel ones.” Since I’m posting this entry on the blog I’ll leave out the rest of the email, not that it’s unfit for public consumption but that I’ve not requested permission to make it public. But a so-called fair use excerpt is generally acceptable thing. And it turns out he’s in the midst of publishing another book, due out in October, The Figure of Modernity: On the Irregularity of an Epoch, a sample from which he was gracious enough to send to me. It continues his study, as far as I can tell so far, of the right-sizing and synergizing of our worldly and contemplative or spiritual aspirations; of being mindful of the risks and revelations, so to say, inherent within the dynamic and paying special heed to hubris and the inevitable emptiness of ambition. Ancient and authentically pedagogical mythological themes, as T.S. would agree, I’m sure. His special contribution as a political scientist, or what might be termed a political spiritualist, is of course the open minded and open hearted application of this, of our political spiritualism, found as it is within and without us, the so-called Divine hand. If I have any of this wrong or right, “I look forward to,” in the words of T.S., “continuing our dialogue.”

And so today presents two very welcome forms of relief; of personal if not entirely cultural orientation amidst the days and weeks and months of fraught disorientation. The night shift is over and my dialogue with T.S. continues. We require so very little.


April 16, 2012. I met with Ari as planned. Our meeting lasted about half an hour and it played out not unsurprisingly. Ari briefly explained the current zcob commitments with new businesses and the deli build-out. He explained the path-to-partnership and emailed me a copy of the flow chart. I asked what he thought of the “zingerman’s slaughter & butchery” and he said something like it was a good presentation. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t really expect him to – I know he’s sort of a tough conversation by way of what Gauri has written and by what Ari himself has written. He admits in his latest essay “managing yourself” that he struggled for some time to figure out why everybody always wanted to talk to Paul Saginaw instead of him. The answer, which he says finally came to him almost overnight, has to do with how at peace you are with yourself – how well you treat yourself versus getting bogged down in what he calls “negative self-talk.” Apparently Ari, like many of us, wasn’t treating himself with the kind of respect and support that he was attempting to provide to those folks that he was supposed to be leading and it was counterproductive. It lead to conversations that folks felt less than good about. I’ll leave it to you to read his essay – I think it’s a corker even in its first draft.

This applies to my conversation with Ari because I expected that while he’s been working on this part of himself for some time, it was foolish and unfair to assume that he’d vanquished every aspect of that difficult part of himself – it’s got to be a work in progress because that’s what it’s always been with me. In the end, it wasn’t the uplifting flood of encouragement and support that maybe I’d hoped for. It was more like Ari, as he said, “thinking out loud” about the slaughter and butchery and what the dynamics were. He expressed indirectly, his interest in me pursuing it as an hh business versus a zcob business. We talked very briefly about the finances – he said that was the easy part though I perceive it as the most difficult because it’s not my strength and I don’t have experience obtaining financial stakeholders. When I mentioned the $1-2M start-up cost, he quickly indicated that zcob didn’t have that amount to work with. I joked (and he laughed) about this venture being another low-margin biz like any food business – that nobody was going to get “rich” off this idea was obvious. In the end, he didn’t say “no.” But he obviously wasn’t particularly jazzed by the concept as a zcob biz. He seemed more interested in me doing the work because it was something I was interested in. When I found myself just sort of sitting there hanging out with Ari instead of discussing the S&B, I ended the conversation by saying “Okay, I think we’re done. It feels like we’re done.” His demeanor kind of indicated he’d have been happy enough to just hang out, but maybe he was relieved, not because he was miserable talking to me (he said he obviously preferred having these conversations with somebody he likes), he just isn’t interested in committing to my idea in any way. I wrote this email to him later that day:

ari, thanks for this morning and the path-to-partnership stuff. those are very cool flow charts and now i can see where i fit in that process with the CSO conversation being the next step. meanwhile, as you’ve made me realize, there’s nothing stopping me from moving forward and seeing how far i get on my own.

i need other stakeholders regardless of zcob involvement so there’s no pressure there. it’s a funny thing trying to insert my vision into zcob’s vision – i’m learning a lot already: i saw your eyes get big and felt the energy when you talked about charlie and the candy manufactory – that’s what it’s all about, we both know that. also, i’ve become aware that I’m not the team player that i once thought i was – collaboration is not one of my strengths. i work well with others only when they agree with me – har! but it’s too early to tell. i’ll just focus on making sure MY eyes get big as i go forward. thanks for being receptive and perceptive – your help is essential as always. keith.

He replied,

“hi keith. thanks for the nice note. glad we met up. thanks for getting me laughing about the collaboration thing – i’m familiar with that problem as i have it but i’ve worked hard over the years to adjust my way of working! if i can do it you can too i’m sure! have a great day and we’ll talk soon i’m sure! ari”

I’m sure then, that we understand each other and when I get around to talking to Paul, it will just add good information to the work I have to do now. Being okay with this didn’t come easy – I really struggled for a day or two – my frustration level was high and I couldn’t figure out why zcob was starting to bug me. I was reaching that same state of anxiety, disappointment and lack of purpose by working at zmo and trying to obtain a full-time position elsewhere in the company as I’d ended up dealing with at every other company I’d ever worked for. Except this time, it wasn’t adding up: zcob wasn’t treating me poorly, nor were they indifferent to the so-called “drums of my destiny.” Just a few days earlier, I got an email from Toni M, one of the co-managing partners at zmo, suggesting that, since I was looking for “something bigger and full time within zcob,” I apply for a new assistant manager job that had been posted at the deli. I in fact had already looked at that job and discarded the prospect – I’m really confident now that the deli isn’t the place for me – it’s too much a culture of inexperienced youth – that’s the nature of most of the folks they need to hire and as I told Toni, it takes a certain type of person to be able to properly manage them. Also, I feel I’ve moved beyond the retail management thing – I’ve done it before and couple with the kids I’d likely be managing, it just isn’t a good fit.

Most importantly though, I’ve got the slaughter & butchery to put my efforts into. It will be the Humble Hogs Slaughter & Butchery. I’ll begin tackling all those things that I was afraid of until I talked to Ari and worked some things out for myself. It really was fear that was holding me back. I used my old trick of opening up Jack Canfield’s book at random and I read about how our fears are mostly created by us – they don’t necessarily relate to facts, and even if they do (which is a rare case) that just means that you’re engaged in risk which is inherent in reaching for something that matters. Canfield even borrowed indirectly from Campbell’s ideas and those of the Bhagavad Ghita when he suggested “high intention but low attachment” meaning that you invest yourself into your ideas and dreams – your work – and then you let it go. You are not in complete control of the outcome (Ari would agree here I think). You try and make it happen all the while remaining open to how the world will accept (or not) accept it what it is you’re trying to do. Canfield suggests the mind-set of “this or something better” to allow room for whatever good things may come your way as a result of your work. If you close yourself off to the potential that your work creates “in the world of action” (to borrow from Campbell myself) then I agree that you increase your risk of failing to achieve peace or bliss or anything close to your goal.

After reading Canfield, contemplating my conversation with Ari and my email response to Toni, I felt restored and in fact experienced a compelling vision: I saw my life as an aircraft carrier turning into the wind. It felt like me engaging a worthy challenge again versus just sailing on down the river with the current (to mix metaphors). Turning into the wind is what the carriers do when they’re about to launch their planes – it makes take off easier. That’s what I feel like now and I feel that hh is a part of that – I’m turning into the wind of life so that hh and my vision has a better chance of success – we might rise and soar. We might crash too. But it feels like a fight worth fighting and work that’s worth doing, whatever comes of it. Why depend on zcob? That’s probably what Ari was struggling with but was kind enough to not hit me over the head with. I’ve already demonstrated that hh is a force to be reckoned with when I engage my talents, so it’s time again that I discard the life that I’ve planned (whether it’s the one I keep digging out of my sorry past, or the one I keep looking to others to provide) and live the life that is waiting for me. It’s working, I just have to surrender to it. The unconventional life. One of the things that make it unconventional is the lack of a direct model to follow. That’s what my guides are for, but they don’t live your life for you – you have to create the bliss or the mess – the bliss or the fiasco – as the original piece of work that it is. Right now I have the time, the vision and as much opportunity and support as I’ll ever have and as much or more than many folks who’ve accomplished far greater things than I’m trying to do. Back to the hogs….

Tuesday, April 17, 2012. It’s the day after my big revelation and I do feel a sense of relief combined with the energy of a new beginning. This past year has really been a hard lesson in what it takes to know yourself and follow your heart. A year ago this past weekend, we had arrived in this dumpy little house with the Jeep in tow behind the F150 and two long days of driving up from Friendswood behind us. We had jumped off the cliff and we were building our wings on the way down. We built them, but not well enough to fly; we landed hard. On top of that disappointment, at least for me, was that nothing here in A2 was the same – I no longer felt at home. I’d expected this sense of displacement – you can’t go back – but that doesn’t make it any easier to assimilate. My attitude towards the city has changed – I don’t feel that it’s any more my home than any other city anymore; it’s abiding nature, its special-ness has vanished for me. I now often feel as out of place here as everywhere else I’ve tried to make my home in the world. But I’m learning to live with being out of place. And, since I’ve damn near always felt that way, it’s about time I just accepted it – surrendered to the continual sense (and reality) of movement….

I don’t know how I’m going to get this next phase of hh off the ground, but I guess now that the idea is live, it’s just a series of steps, just like any other project. I have a flair for cooking, but I’ve learned that that isn’t what I want to do to earn money (what little there is to earn in that field). The restaurant-owner fantasy is so common among us folks who are into food. So I tried it, didn’t like it and lived to tell the tale. Now that I’m back from my diversion, my fiasco, I can discard that inessential stuff. I cook for myself mostly, and those that are very close to me, that’s where my work is with food. I’m not interested in trying to impress strangers with my talents and, in the end, I don’t think any creative person is interested in what other people really think about their work. At first, I think you need to be concerned with the getting of attention; of getting recognized for what you do. The point isn’t to create in a vacuum – I’m not Campbell’s guy with a pipe and a dog and the weeds growing around the gate; I want to connect. But soon after you get your feet under you so to say; after you get that amount of validation that you need from the outside world – they say “yes, you’re good at what you do, we like it” – you have to refocus on your master plan. You can’t get swept away with where the people who aren’t fully invested in what you’re trying to do may want you to go. Remaining true to your heart is difficult when you start getting feedback, positive or negative, from the “universe.” Both forms of feedback can really throw you off course. For me, I’ve got this biophycomythological “call” regarding humane handling and slaughter and it’s still with me. It relates to pigs and even writing this out again seems strange and odd – how can this by my calling? It doesn’t seem to “connect” to the rest of my life – in what fucking sense have pasture-raised pigs and humane slaughter been anything to do with me up until now? But, a zeal is a zeal, and I have to surrender to it, let it work its magic, let it play out. I know, through all my studies and self-work that a call is a call and to deny it is to risk disintegration. I simply have to engage it – to pursue the next thing that I need to do. My personal legend is what it is and I need to trust the process. The outcome – the treasure, the pay-off, isn’t what it’s about; that could change completely along the way and if my goal changes along the way then so be it. Sometimes it’s just the getting started that is the point of the call I think. You can be so baffled by yourself, by your call and how it fits into your life as you’ve seen it, that you just have to act “as if” you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It’s almost pure intuition in the beginning. Like the food cart. That felt like a call when I heard about it. So I pursued it. I achieved it. I accomplished that vision. But it turned out to be tangent to the plot. I couldn’t have known that without getting off my ass and going through the process. Hell, I still haven’t figured myself out and that’s why it might take more than a few tries to dial things in biophycomythologically. Do I have doubts that an HH Slaughter & Butchery is my personal legend? Hell yes. But it feels right in my heart. In my guts. It’s just something that I have to pursue and whatever comes of it, I have to believe as Canfield suggests, that it will turn out as good or even better than what I envision. Thinking of it as this or something better helps. Yes, it could be another fucking fiasco. But I have to believe that if I keep trying to express what’s in my heart, then I will know myself and that’s really what I’m trying to accomplish: to know myself and my place in the world, to not be in biophycomythological schism.

I can always go back and work at zcob. How I got myself into the idea that I needed to work full-time on some impossible ladder-climbing trajectory through zcob, like there even is any ladder-climbing trajectory, is just me falling into my old, old habits. I lose my centering in the principle of eternity because I’m anxious for the outcome of my deeds, it’s that simple. These concepts are three-thousand years old or so and still being referenced because there’s something to them. I agree with Campbell that there is some psychological expression of intrinsic humanity that is expressed in our myths, our stories. We’re working our way through our life, collectively through the millennia and learning from the collective experience. We leave the myths behind as guides and you’re free to get more and more disconnected from all these lessons of life and to lose your spirituality, like I’ve been in danger of doing, or you can do some research and some self-work and some fucking reading and find those mythic images or ideas that appeal to your heart and as Campbell suggests, “let them work on you.”[1] But you have to choose – you have to do the work involved or you just keep stopping short. And your time passes. And if you never fully engage in life, then it’s just a missed opportunity and you just add to the collective schism in the universe versus the enlightenment, versus taking your place in the net of gems.

I’m getting pretty cosmic here and I wonder why, and then I don’t wonder why. I wake, I cook, write, walk, audiophile, phycomythologize and think entrepreneurially. That’s what I do. That’s not so much how I choose to spend my time as how I have to spend my time, to be properly alive. I work for others only to obtain enough money to keep being able to engage my vocations and to move closer to making my own life a self-sustaining financial system for a full-time engagement in those vocations. Someday, I won’t have to sell any of my time to anyone else to have the time and space to do what I want. Until then, I learn from the selling of that time – I try to use it to help figure myself out. If you believe Campbell when he says that your bliss “can guide you to that transcendent mystery, because bliss is the welling up of the energy of the transcendent wisdom within you”[2] and within everything, then you’re a fool not to surrender to it. I’ve been a fool and maybe I’ll be foolish again. But I’m getting better at recognizing when the bliss cuts off and in finding it again. The only time this doesn’t make sense is when I compare what I intuitively know with my plan, whatever it may be at the time. I have to discard my plan and continue to get better at living the life that is waiting for me, in all its aspects, not just my job or business or relationships – the whole fucking thing together.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012. I find myself battling with my fears and struggling to answer this call to adventure, but at the same time I’m getting positive feedback regarding this slaughter & butchery (from now on s&b so I can save some typing):

  • Last night, while watching the wings lose another playoff game, I talked with Paul K. who enjoys hanging out with a beer and talking about biz and he seemed super jazzed about me committing to a slaughter facility – he actually pounded the table and said “yes!” when I said zcob wasn’t very interested but that I’m going to do it anyway.
  • HH appeared in one of zcob’s promos again – they send an email out to those on their mailing list. Yesterday Angie and I noticed that hh appears in the roadhouse website promoting ari’s rh breakfast & books event where he’s going to discuss gtgl2. The ad reads Start your morning with “espresso shots of intelligence.” – Keith Ewing, Humble Hogs.
  • Finally, I got an email from my dad containing an interesting video of a bear collaring expedition that appeared on a Canadian television show. It’s not pig-related, but my dad’s note said “for all you animal lovers, enjoy!” It’s an acknowledgment of what I’m interested in and coming from my dad it means something; we’ve not communicated much at all over the last maybe ten years.

This stuff happened all on the same day, and that tends to add weight and import to omens whether it should or not. It also lines up with the reaction that Lisa R. at zmo had when she saw my s&b “viz-ness” plan on the tasting table last week before Ari took it with him – she said then that it was “very exciting” and she’s mentioned it again since. She feels it’s a great opportunity for her to raise animals on her land – she’s not been impressed with the slaughter facilities she’s visited. All this just mirrors the perceived need out there from small-scale farmers in whatever area of the country – all the stuff in the food & water watch article I always reference. I figure if you believe in such “magical thinking” (as Ari calls it) enough to believe in the power of omens, then there’s nothing any more illogical or unscientific about lending importance to their increasing occurrence. It’s like getting a phone call, a letter in the mail, an email, a knock on the door and a kick in the ass all at once. If life were a movie, then it would be at this point that the “adventure” begins. I guess it’s just the “separation” part of Campbell’s hero’s journey that is hanging me up. I can’t deny that I feel a response in my heart to this s&b “call.” So why do I feel an urge to turn away from it? Is it just the natural tendency we have to resist change?

Campbell I’m sure could recite many examples in the myths of the hero not refusing (because that’s a different “predicament”) but at least resisting the call to adventure. There’s some delay and internal struggle before finally the hero surrenders to it. I’m experiencing an internal struggle now. It’s probably as simple as Campbell’s “You must be willing to discard the life that you’ve planned in order to live the life that is waiting for you.”[3] My fucked up, biophycomythological death-related hh out-of-business bullshit phase must be over and why it’s developed any appeal to me to remain such a non-being is beyond me. I guess I can get used to anything and shooting too low is often the result of getting used to a compromised life. One thing I can say is that I don’t trust myself – I still don’t trust my heart – I’m afraid to. I’m afraid of being betrayed by myself, of being betrayed by my heart, because I’ve failed before. I’ve made such cataclysmic mistakes and so many misjudgments that I’ve lost confidence in myself even after all this biophycomythological work. Yes, I’ve gotten it wrong before. Many times. I am, after all, the hero with a thousand fiascos.

But why would I retreat now? The world seems to be calling. The pigs are calling. Is it the money? It’s never been the money with me. Is it my comfort zone? Yes. I’m sort of comfortable just working part-time at zmo, listening to my jams, walking, cooking, and writing. Getting a call to adventure feels like I’m not in complete control of my destiny and it reminds me that I’ve fallen victim to such “calls” before and they turned out to be fiascos. The food cart being the last and greatest example. So I tell myself I had it wrong; that I misjudged my heart; that that wasn’t my hero journey – I misinterpreted the call – I fucked up and didn’t really listen to my heart. My flopped vision-of-greatness proves it. I write this shit out and know it’s not true, not all of it at least. Yes, I tried and failed. But the calls in my life have been as legitimate as they could be at the time. I worked with the information I had at the time and did my very best, as Canfield would remind me. In the end, I had something about it wrong. Life’s not a movie, so I don’t know the script – therein lies the unknown and the uncertainty. What else do I fucking need to happen to give myself permission to go “all in” for the s&b adventure? Money? Try to get some – it’s not like this is the biggest fucking problem on earth, at least for some people. But, the truth is I’m no good at that part – I don’t want to do that part. Still, if I want the larger reward – the entrepreneurial part of my life, then I’ve got to do some things that are out of my comfort zone, I need to grow more, I need to engage more and open up again. Yes, I got stung and I’ve been licking my wounds but the world is still listening to hh and it seems the world is even more interested in it than I am sometimes. Maybe that’s part of what it’s like to live out your personal myth? Not being in control of it 100% might just be part of it and I’ll read some jc and I bet I find something I missed about this in his writing. Ari’s too.

I want to be sure that I’m not getting myself involved in somebody else’s dream, somebody else’s myth, that I’m not getting carried away, like I did with H&S, with folks wanting me to do something because they think I’d be good at it and that it would benefit them but in fact is not my myth. It’s always the question of “what is my myth?” I’ve been burned by trying to please people; by ignoring my heart in favor of going with the flow. You make exponential progress in life and life gets exponentially “easier” to live when you engage your master passions and follow you personal legend but that’s not to be confused with allowing yourself to get carried along in somebody else’s vision. If there’s a path, then it’s someone else’s path. This is what concerns me. I want to wait and figure it out first – to make sure it’s not someone else’s path that I’m on versus just finally connecting with what I ought to be doing. I don’t want to just be doing the job that everybody needs done but is unwilling to do. Like when I allowed myself to get sucked into health & safety work. Being everybody’s bitch is not something I’m going to do ever again for any amount of money. It has been an almost fatal flaw in my nature to convince myself to pursue vocations that others think I’m suited for (due to my skill in an area) versus what I in fact want to do. Yes, there’s the earnestness and passion versus talent problem where you ignore what you’re obviously good at, preferring instead to waste your time being bad at something that you tell yourself you love to do. As I think I’ve addressed before in this book, I’m calling that a hobby versus a vocation. Something that you pursue in spite of your lack of talent is just a hobby and they have their places in life. A diversion from your vocation, dabbling in an interest, can refresh your commitment to your vocation I think, so that’s why you need to pursue such urges. You need to scratch those itches to make sure you’re still following your guides and haven’t missed an omen or two along the way.

I am very concerned about the money for the s&b, both start-up money and then financial sustainability. I’m not intimidated by any of the technical shit. It’s the fucking money. This is the primary source of my fear. There’s the general fear of failure of course. There’s some fear of success, but I’m used to ignoring that. There’s fear of engaging the outside world again and hanging my ass out there for everyone to ridicule, scorn, applaud, resist, challenge and otherwise judge. There’s the fear of “wasting time” of which I feel that I have less and less of. There’s the fear of letting others down. There’s the fear of losing control – others may come in and “take” or otherwise appropriate any or all the aspects of my business. If that starts to happen, I should try to be objective and analyze whether others may in fact be better suited to the developments in hh than I am – it wouldn’t be the first time that a biz idea gets started by one guy but taken up the field by another. I shouldn’t think hh is “mine and mine alone.” High intention but low attachment and that applies even to the name “Humble Hogs.” In the end, it’s all, (like Ari says) at least somewhat out of control – we have the power to influence the direction of our lives. That’s hearing the call, listening to the call, answering the call, separating from your current existence, crossing the threshold, going through the trials and initiation, returning with the boon and struggling to integrate it into the world of action in which you live. All the while maybe trying to approach enlightenment.

[1] Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 97

[2] Ibid., xxiv.

[3] Joseph Campbell, by way of Finding Joe….