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Integrity, Risk, and Tiddlywinks
Recommendations while reading...
Recommended listening: The Tiddlywinks Playlist. Recommended drink: The “Sol Espresso.” Double espresso mixed with shilajit, maca powder, and pine pollen. Recommended aroma: holy wood.
Go ahead. Start again…
I should not be journaling here. I already wrote my last journal entry. It was tender and sweet. I cannot start journaling again after saying goodbye like that. I am a man of my word. I do what I say I am going to do.
I put myself in a double bind here. I am called to journal again publically and aspire to live where I only do what I am called to do. The spirit of integrity. I also said I was done with public journaling. I expressed that with certainty. I want people to trust me, and how will people trust me if I do not maintain fidelity to my word? The letter of integrity.
The spirit and the letter. I want these two to get right with one another. That would be beautiful. If I continue journalling, I am out of integrity. If I stop journalling, I am out of integrity. Whatever I choose, I am out of integrity. My choice now is what integrity I break. The spirit or the letter? How do I choose?
Some via negativa thinking could reveal a choice. Here are some premises that I believe to be true...
There are no more books that can help me choose.
There are no more wisdom teachers who can help me either.
There are no “parents upstairs.”
I probably have to make a bet.
I can hedge my bet and write a “liminal” entry without pressure to press send and delete after writing. I deleted hundreds of entries like this since my “last” entry. No. There is no more hedging here. Make this bet with conviction. Stop guarding premises. Stop being afraid of making a mistake. Stop focusing on losing at life. Take a risk and focus on winning it. God will slap reality in me if I misstep.
Start again and be slap-ready.
Ta eis heauton
He slapped me. I cannot believe he slapped me.
We were super drunk in London when the slap arrived, hanging out with some relaxed Europeans. There were two cute French girls with leaky eros sitting with us. Dude, you do not slap a man in front of two cute French girls with leaky eros.
The slap had no reason - a total non sequitur based on what was happening before. I was so slap-shocked I did not know what to do. The slapper laughed it off, but everyone thought it was weird. I left the table fuming and started flirting with some Italian girls to distract myself from the fumes.
I saw the slapper in the morning and had to say something. We were staying in a former jailhouse turned into a hostel. When he got down from the top bunk, I got in front of him, pointed my finger at his nose, and said, “If you ever slap me like that again, I am going to break your fucking nose.” He quipped with an “okay,” and that was that.
We did not hang out for the rest of the day. We made peace the next day and continued our epic backpacking trip across Europe. That was almost ten years ago. The slap still remains a mystery, and that is the essence of our friendship: a mystery.
His name is not Marcus. I will not share his real name today.
In October, Marcus texted me, "Peter, I am coming to Toronto in a couple of weeks. Make some room in your schedule."
He needed to release some stress from his studies. He is a mature student, finishing up his last year of University on the other side of the country. It was perfect timing because I had been in hermit mode for a while and needed someone to bring me back to the world.
He arrived on a Thursday with a critical essay to submit by midnight the next day. He did not even start writing it. I was shaking my head when he told me this. I know he hates writing essays, so I started giving him advice on how to structure them. He started joking that I should write it. His joking turned half-serious, so I told him, "Dude, I am not writing your essay. A) That is unethical, B) I took the weekend off to relax and not write a boring ass essay."
I missed my crazy friend. It was good seeing him. The evening soon arrived, and Camille joined us. We ordered sushi and had some drinks. Not just any drinks: Irish Car Bombs. Oh, Irish Car Bombs, you incredibly stupid concoction. Marcus introduced me to this drink years ago. You drop an Irish cream and whiskey shot into a Guinness and chug it like a moron. We had three Irish Car Bombs each. Man, I love Irish Car Bombs! They give such a strange buzz.
The three of us were having a great time, listening to Swedish post-punk, and chatting the night away. I went to see what board games we had and found Tiddlywinks. The game consists of a plastic tray labeled with points, small plastic discs called "winks," and a larger plastic disc called a "squidger." The idea is to press the squidger down on the edge of a wink, shooting it up into the air and in the tray. The person with the most points wins.
We started playing for toonies, the goofy name for Canadian two-dollar coins. I was rinsing Marcus, winning every game, and collecting all his toonies. Where did I get these Tiddlywink skills from? Am I a reincarnated Tiddlywink God or something? I felt like such a champ, giving winks to my wife between games while impressing her with my Twiddlywink prowess.
Marcus had no toonies left. He still wanted to play, so we considered what else we could bet. He brought up his essay again, "If you lose, you write my essay." What a ridiculous bet to offer. I wanted to call his bluff, so I countered with something he would back down from, "If you lose, you buy me a plane ticket to Ireland." He is on a student budget and had no toonies left, so I knew he would say no. He said yes without hesitation. Great. Now our competition has drifted to the realm of making ridiculous bets.
I was not going to write this man's essay, but I paused my reasonableness for a moment. Ireland has such a special place in my heart. Dublin was the first city we visited during our epic backpacking trip, and Camille and I eloped in a magical place called Gougane Barra. Ireland is so amazing. I miss it. It has been calling me to come back for a while now. If I took this bet, I was likely going to win. Marcus sucks at Tiddlywinks.
He started egging me on. Dude, you do not egg a man on with Tiddlywinks in front of his wife. I started egging him back. The intensity was increasing; Camille could not watch, and she left the room. It was only good-hearted drunken male fun. It was not like any slapping was happening.
I was too drunk to determine what was wise to do, but I did notice an aliveness bubbling up when my reasonableness paused.
2022 was a reflective year for me. The "Covid moment" ended in March. Mask mandates dropped in Ontario, and people started being social IRL again. In-person gatherings, parties, conferences. I got invited to many of these things, but I declined. Everyone seemed ready to be back in the world. I wanted to turtle in and look within.
The year of reflection kicked off in May. Something felt off. I felt off. The aliveness that was once here left me. I was bothered by this. I was bothered by many things. So I did what I always do when I am bothered: journal. These journals were too raw to share with anyone, so I deleted each after writing them. Better to retire from public journaling altogether.
My journaling style combines philosophical inquiry, psychotherapeutic integration, and spiritual experience. I do not only get insights; I get "spiritual sight." I was journalling hard in the summer, sometimes for a whole day. Insights after insights were occurring. I often do "parts work" when I journal. This is the Internal Family Systems phrase for getting your "subpersonalities" in the right relationship with one another. I was probably processing too intensely because some trippy stuff started happening.
I popped into a different realm for a few days during the summer. There was no sense of time or space; everything was now. The past was accessible, and so was the future, or "futures." There were so many to choose from. Is this the multiverse people talk about? There is a certain crackle in the air with so many options. I had my sight only on the heavenly ones, which was probably why everything was cloudy white.
Things settled, and I returned after some supernal adventures. My sense of time is different after experiencing this. My sense of everything is different now. Reality is weird. I will put my rationalist hat on: "reality is normal," my models just cannot keep up.
I feel free now. A free man with options. What will I choose?
I chose to have another Irish Car Bomb.
This would buy me some time to reason this through. I did not want to accept the bet because I was afraid to lose. Nor did I wish to decline and let him win the egging-on contest. The Car Bomb did not help with my reasoning. The strange buzz got stranger.
There was a sudden crackle in the air. I saw all these reality tunnels in front of me. I looked at the tunnels that came with declining the bet. They were lame, grey, and less alive. I looked at the tunnels that came with taking the bet. There was an unknowingness, a potency, an aliveness. I knew why my crazy friend really came to see me. He came to inspire me to take a risk. I did not want to focus on losing at life anymore. I wanted to risk focus on winning it.
Things started to appear cloudy and white. The crackle got brighter, the Swedish post-punk sounded better, and Ireland got closer. I called Camille back. I wanted her to witness this and take a photo. I like to take pictures when I shake someone's hand on something important. We looked each other in the eyes, agreed to the terms, and shook hands. We looked at Camille, and she snapped a photo.
We were on. Marcus got in this wild catlike pose, with his butt in the air, like he was ready to pounce. His focus seemed otherworldly. I got intimidated, and unhelpful questions came to mind…
Is Marcus a secret Tiddlywink shark?
Did the Tiddlywink God leave my body and enter his?
Am I really going to write his essay?!
I shook myself and put to mind images of being in an Irish pub holding a glass of Guinness. The Guinness hits differently there. I was back in the game. It was close, and Camille was at the edge of her seat. Marcus was up by 5 points, and I had the last wink. All I had to do was not miss. I missed.
I tried to see if any reality tunnels were open so I could portal back and have a redo. Nothing. I started proposing other bets. My Stoic book collection? My newfound esoteric knowledge of the multiverse? The Stoa?! He was not biting. He ended up offering something reasonable enough. He would buy me a plane ticket if I got an A on his essay. A creamy, dense Guinness head hitting my lips flashed before me. I said okay, we shook hands, and Camille snapped a photo. I went to bed feeling off, like I had put myself in a double bind.
I woke up at 6 AM with car bomb-induced grogginess. I recalled the events the night before. Did I really agree to write Marcus' essay? I think that is unethical, and I do not want to spend my day writing a boring ass essay. I said I was going to do it. I am a man of my word. I do what I say I am going to do.
I tried reasoning to myself while in bed: If I follow through with the bet, I will be out of integrity. If I do not follow through with the bet, I will be out of integrity. Whatever I choose, I am out of integrity. What integrity do I break? I had no time to do any fancy via negativa thinking. If this essay was going to get done before tonight's due date, I had to start soon. I had to choose.
I chose to do it. A goodie two-shoe part in me started wagging its finger. I pushed it aside. I had an essay to write. I had to cite at least six academic papers. The topic was obscure, like "the mating habits of Chilean helmeted bullfrogs." I also wanted to have fun tonight, so I committed to finishing it by 8 PM.
I was overconfident when I was advising Marcus on essay writing. I hate writing these things too. I immediately started to feel frustrated. These academic papers seem like an intellectual pyramid scheme. Writing was more painful than reading, and I was not writing in my voice. I was not writing the way I write here. I was writing to get an A, and I felt inauthentic. I felt compromised.
I felt compromised on multiple levels. The double bind. The inauthenticity. The system. I could feel the box people put themselves in to succeed. I felt how dispiriting this is. People write essays in an impersonal style about a topic they do not care about. I recalled all my unpleasant experiences when I was in school. I felt resentful toward it. I felt resentful toward Marcus for making me go through with this bet. I sensed it all. I was bounded up.
I was not being Stoic. I was being too precious. We are all in a double bind, living in systems that compromise our authenticity. Systems that make us choose between breaking one form of integrity over another. I cannot be some "puer aeternus" - an eternal boy who is pure and untouched by the world's evils, cleverly pretending to be outside the system. No. Better to dance with the systems that bind us.
I refastened my resolve, put my head down, and began again. I started to enjoy what I was researching. Chilean helmeted bullfrogs are kinky motherfuckers. I was halfway finished around 5 PM and ran out of things to write. Worried I would not finish, I switched to zero fucks mode, poured a handsome amount of Irish whiskey, and permitted myself to write in a channeled way. I got poetic, used galaxy brain terms that were inappropriate for the topic, and had fun with my words. I finished a minute before 8 PM.
I felt great. I did what I said I was going to do. It was time to get drunk with my friend. We visited our favorite dirty bars in Toronto: Wide Open, Sneaky Dee's, and Ronnie's Local. We said this was the last night we would be drinking like this. We say that every time we hang out with each other. It was a great time. We hopped from bar to bar, from insight to insight, chatting up all these beautiful characters. My hermit days were over. I was back in the world.
Ronnie’s was our last stop. Ronnie’s is always our last stop. Marcus went to the washroom, and I pulled out my pocket notebook. We carry around pocket notebooks to record our insights during our adventures. I suddenly became angry at Stoicism and wrote down the following: Stoicism is making losing comfortable.
I do not want to spend any more time focusing on losing. Losing does not need to be comfortable. It should not be comfortable. I want to focus on winning, becoming wise, and manifesting a beautiful life for those I live for. I want to risk making a bet on what makes us come alive.
He came back from the washroom. I tapped on the words I wrote down. He looked at them, then looked at me and smiled.
When driving Marcus to the airport, I asked, "Why did you slap me in Europe?" He had no idea. It was still a mystery, but there must be a reason. My friend is an alchemic character, a secret shaman who moves through the world on a different logic than others. There is a reason, but I do not need to know it. Becoming less foolish over the last few years has made me realize I do not need to know many things. I dropped him off at the airport. We hugged and shared gratitude for the mystery that is our friendship.
What happened with the essay? I am not going to reveal what reality tunnel we are in. Maybe Marcus never sent what I wrote. Perhaps he had already written his essay and played a secret shamanic game on me. Or he may have submitted what I wrote. Here is what happens in the tunnel we are currently in...
I got a voice note from Marcus. His essay got marked, and he started reading his teacher's comments. It was the best essay she had ever read. She said it was impeccably researched, and the writing was evocative. She especially liked the creative use of the word thumos. He got an A+. That felt really good to hear.
I started these journals with the following premise: I do not know how to live my life well. I still do not know how to live my life well. The difference now is I do not need to know. Some things are better left a mystery. I will be writing more here. In Ireland as well. The Guinness hits differently there.
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