#5222 – Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Tollifson, and RuPaul Charles

The Nonduality Highlights
#5222 – Monday, May 26th, 2014 – Editor: Dustin LindenSmith

Today’s issue opens with the writer Hunter S. Thompson, by way of a letter of advice he wrote in 1958 to his friend Hume Logan, which has been included in a new book called Letters of Note. That book is based on a website of the same name that contains a lot of fascinating correspondence. I was intrigued by the insights and inquisitiveness expressed by Thompson in this letter at the tender age of 21 years old.

I discovered the piece here on Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street blog:


Early in the letter, Thompson quotes from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy by Shakespeare, and ponders whether or not it is indeed necessary to strive for anything in particular in this life. I felt that he might be obliquely positing that the wisest course in life may well be that which involves making no active choices at all. Indeed, he eschewed the very notion of declaring a specific goal to achieve and then applying oneself directly towards its attainment for its own sake. In Thompson’s estimation, this was a fool’s errand due to the transient and ever-changing nature of our lives, experiences, and personalities.

Thompson muddied the waters in the latter part of that letter with his emphasis on the importance of our free will to make the right choices and decisions. I can’t really fault him for that, however; it’s a commonly-held belief amongst 21-year-olds that they are in complete control of their own destiny.

His own life could reasonably be viewed by some as a collection of very bad choices, particularly in light of the addiction and substance abuse problems he experienced. In a recent written dialogue about nonduality and addiction between Joan Tollifson and Arold Langeveld, Tollifson highlighted how addiction can clearly reveal how erroneous it is to believe that there is an “I” in control of all this in the first place:

One neuroscientist referred to free will as a neurological sensation, perhaps stronger in some people than in others, and on some level necessary for functioning. Our whole society is based on this idea of free will. And if we don’t look too closely, it seems to be true. The thought arises to turn on the TV and there is an unexamined sense that “I” authored that thought, considered the options, and “decided” to turn on the TV. I did it by my own free will. I could have picked up a book instead.

This is how we think. This whole picture is so ubiquitous and deeply engrained that it is rarely questioned or even noticed. We simply take it for granted. Addiction and compulsion are obvious ways in which this belief that we are in control doesn’t hold up.

Arold Langeveld runs Alheel Counseling and Retreats, an addiction treatment facility in the Netherlands that is rooted in nonduality (alheel means “already whole” in Dutch). That full dialogue can be downloaded as a PDF file here:


In what could surely become an ongoing series, I’ve stumbled across another mainstream public figure who was recently interviewed about their meditation and spiritual practices: RuPaul. He was interviewed by Marc Maron on his very popular (and occasionally profane) podcast called WTF:


The interview is wide-ranging and entertaining to listen to. It would appear that RuPaul knew from quite an early age that all the external facets of this thing we call our personality are nothing but an illusion. In fact, he divides the people of the world into two categories: those who are aware that we’re all living in the matrix and that this is all an illusion; and those who believe that the illusion is real.

One of his principal artistic motivations was to highlight how arbitrary and intransient our self-identities are, and he used his music and outlandish costumes to actualize that. He also hews to no specific gender pronoun of his own. From his 1995 autobiography:

You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care! Just as long as you call me.

RuPaul’s family came from rural southern Louisiana, but he was born in 1960 in San Diego. He started his music performance career in the late 1970s at the intersection of disco, punk rock, and New Wave. He has a rich substance abuse history and has led nothing if not a wildly flamboyant and occasionally tumultuous life. These days, he wakes up every day at 4:00 AM to do hatha yoga and to meditate before going in to his office in Hollywood.

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