GreenlightsAugust 13, 202215 min read
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Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights is an excellent memoir of his action packed life, filled with reflection and wisdom. I really enjoyed it, and found lots of beautiful passages. I’ll list some below.
Process of elimination and identity
“The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not I know who I am, but rather I know who I’m not. Process of elimination.
Too many options can make a tyrant out of any of us, so we should get rid of the excess in our lives that keep us from being more of ourselves. When we decrease the options that don’t feed us, we eventually, almost accidentally, have more options in front of us that do.
Knowing who we are is hard. Eliminate who we’re not first, and we’ll find ourselves where we need to be. ”
“We need finites, borders, gravity, demarcations,
shape, and resistance, to have order.
This order creates responsibility.
The responsibility creates judgment.
The judgment creates choice. In the choice lies the freedom.
To create the weather that gives us the most
favorable wind we must first remove that which causes the most
friction to our core being.
This process of elimination creates order by default,
therefore rendering more to go toward, for instance,
and less to back away from.
We then embrace these affirmations because doing so
brings us pleasure and less pain.
So we cultivate them until they become habits, and
form our constitution,
then they proliferate and become emanations of our
This is where true identity is born.
We fool ourselves in freedom if we think it means
getting rid of the constraints around us.
This is the art of livin—of self-satisfaction—in a
thread of lineage with our
past, looking forward to our future, we need to deal
with our present,
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” - Gore Vidal “Isn’t that the fuckin’ truth. To have style you have to have those in this order. You’ve got to know who you are before you know what you want to say then not give a damn. But knowing who you are is the base that everything else comes from. I’ve got more style now than ever before but I’m still adding to my style. You know who you are when you become independent enough to believe your own thoughts and become responsible for your actions and you not only “believe” what you want but you live what you believe. LIVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE…“LIVE THE QUESTIONS FIRST, THEN WHAT YOU BELIEVE” (slight changes)…THEN YOU HAVE YOUR OWN PERSONAL STYLE”….. MDM. That was fun”
Conservative early, liberal late.
“Conservative early, liberal late. Create structure, so you can have freedom. Create your weather so you can blow in the wind. Map your direction so you can swerve in the lanes. Clean up so you can get dirty. Choreograph, then dance. Learn to read and write before you start making up words. Check if the pool has water in it before you dive in. Learn to sail before you fly. Initiations before inaugurations. Earn your Saturdays. We need discipline, guidelines, context and responsibility early in any new endeavor. Its the time to sacrifice. To learn, to observe, to take heed. If and when we get knowledge of the space, the craft, the people and the plan. Then we can let our freak flag fly and create. Creativity needs borders. Individuality needs resistance. The earth needs gravity. Without them there is no form. No art. Only Chaos.”
We want lovers, friends, recruits, soldiers, and affiliations that support who we are.
People, individuals, believe in themselves, want to survive, and on a Darwinistic level at least, want to have more, of ourselves,
Initially, this is visual choice
The where, who what, when, and to our why.
Upon closer inspection, which is the upfall of the politically correct we learn competence of their values that we most value.
When we do this, the polities of gender, race, and slanderous slang take a back seat to the importance of the values we share.
The more we travel, more we realize how similar our human needs are.
We want to be loved, have a family, community, have something to look forward to.
These basic needs are present in all socioeconomic and cultural civilizations.
I have seen many tribes in the deserts of Northern Africa who, with nine children and no electricity, had more joy love, honor, and laughter
than the majority of the most materially rich people I’ve ever met.
We have the choice to love, befriend, recruit call to arms, associate, and support
who we believe in, and more importantly, who, believe, believes in us.
I think that’s what we all want. To believe in and be believed in.
We all must earn belief in ourselves first, then for each other.
Earn It with you, then earn it with me, then we earn it for we.
Travel and humanity have been my greatest educators.
They have helped me understand the common denominator of mankind
Engage with yourself then engage with the world.
And sometimes we get stamp in our passport just by crossing the street
Less impressed, more involved
The sooner we become less impressed with our life, our accomplishments, our career, our relationships, the prospects in front of us—the sooner we become less impressed and more involved with these things —the sooner we get better at them. We must be more than just happy to be here.
Dirt roads and autobahns
“The road less traveled may not be a dirt road; for
some, it may be the autobahn.
Robert Frost was right, taking the road less traveled
can make all the difference.
But that road isn’t necessarily the road with the least traffic.
It may be the road that we, personally, have traveled less.
The introvert may need to get out of the house,
engage with the world, get public.
The extrovert may need to stay home and read a book.
Sometimes we need to get out there, sometimes we need
to get in there.
Some days our road less traveled is a solitary dirt
On others it’s the subway on the 7 line.”
When you can, ask yourself if you want to before you do.
We have to prepare to have freedom.
We have to do the work to then do the job.
We have to prepare for the job so we can be free to do the work.
“If Only - means you wanted something but did not get it, for some reason either by your own incompetence or by the worlds intervention it did not happen. Sometimes this is just the breaks and we need to bow out gracefully. More often than we care to admit we don’t get what we want because we quit early or we didn’t take the necessary risk to get it. The more boots we put in the backside of our “If Onlys” the more we will get what we want. Don’t walk the “It’s to late”/ “It’s to soon” tightrope until you die.”
“Why we all need a walk-a-bout (Some time alone) - Noise to signal ratio. We are more constantly bombarded by unnatural stimuli than ever before. We need to put ourselves in places of decreased sensory input so we can hear the background signals of our psychological processes. As the noise decreases the signals become clearer. We can hear ourselves again. We can reunite. Time alone simplifies the heart, memory catches up, opinions form. We meet truth again and it teaches us. Landing on stable feet between our reaching out and retreat. Letting us know we are not lonely in our state, just alone. Because our unconscious mind now has room to reveal itself, we see it again. It dreams, perceives, and thinks in pictures which we now can observe. In this solitude we then begin to think in pictures and actualize what we see. Our souls become anonymous again and we realize we are stuck with the one person we can never be rid of, ourselves. The Socratic dialogue can be ugly, painful, lonesome, hard, guilt ridden, and a nightmare viscous enough to need a mouth guard not to naw our fangs into nubs while we sweat cold into feverish panic. We are forced to confront ourselves and this is good. We more than deserve this suffrage, we’ve earned it. An honest mans pillow is his peace of mind and no matter whose in our bed each night we sleep with ourselves. We either forgive or get sick and tired of it herein lies the evolution. Now with no where to run and forced to deal with ourselves, our ugly everyday suppressions break out of the zoo and monkey around. Where we find ourselves in the ring with them deciding “no more or let it slide”. Whatever the verdict, we grow. It’s us and us. Our always our only company. We tend to ourselves and get in good graces once again. Then we return to civilization able to better tend to our tendencies. Why? because we took a walk-a-bout.”
Livin’ the truth
“God, when I cross the truth, give me the awareness to receive it the consciousness to recognize it the presence to personalize it the patience to preserve it and the courage to live it
On free will and being the master of your own destiny
“I’d been questioning my own existence, and searching for meaning in my own life for as long as I could remember, but now, for the first time, I was also questioning the existence of God. An existential crisis? I’d call it an existential challenge, and one I was up for. I didn’t as much cease believing in God as much as I doubled down on self- reliance and the responsibility of my free will. I was done with the excuses that fate allows, I was ready to be the boss of me, the one to blame and acquit, I needed to own that it was my hands on thesteering wheel.
just because it says anonymous doesn’t mean it has no author
educate before you indict
“it’s not about what right or wrong. It is ‘Do you understand?!”
The justice it deserves
To appreciate a place fully, a man must know that he can live there. When all his discomforts disappear and he lets himself be owned by the place. He needs to customize and localize himself to the place he visits, to the degree that he knows he could dwell there forever. Then and only then, is it truly acceptable for him to leave. Wherever you are, give the place the justice it deserves.
Impressions in a mirror
“We’ve all encountered those people who out of the corner of our eye, from across the street, at magic hour appear astoundingly attractive, even god or goddess like: the way they move, the way the light hits them, invokes reverence and all, the impression. And then we got a closer look. Damn it. Let down. Good from afar, but far from good. Some people will never be more attractive than in that first impression, from a distance, in that light, at that time, in that way we saw them, when our hopes became highest and our wish fulfillment was fully let it. They will never look better than in that initial fuzzy edge clingups, impressions. The white shot. Some relationships are better in a white shot. More impressive in the impressions. Like in-laws, best to only see an hour a day, like neighbors, its while we have walls and fences, like that long distance romance that fell apart when you moved in together, like that summer fling that only lasted through August, that friend that became a lover that you now miss as a friend, like ourselves when we are a fraud. They are better from a distance, with less frequency, with less intimacy. Sometimes we need more space, it’s romance, it’s imagination. Distance is the flirt in a wing, it is frivolous, its mysterious, a fantasy, a constant honeymoon because we can’t quite see it, we aren’t quite sure about it, we don’t quite know it. It’s a fuck, it’s detachment, it’s separate, it’s public, it’s carefree, it’s painless, it’s for rent. And we like it that way, because sometimes it is better with the lights dimmed.”
We’ve all encountered those people, who, when we look them in the eye, when they’re right in front of us, in broad daylight, appear astoundingly attractive, even God- or Goddess-like. The way they move, the way the light hits them, invokes reverence and awe. The DEFINITION. And then the closer we look. Wow. We take flight. Good from close, better close-up. Some people get more attractive, have a greater impression on us the more we see them, the closer we look, in that light, at that time, in the way we see them, when our hopes are highest and our wish fulfillment is fully leaded. They will always look better the more clearly we see them. The definition. The CLOSE-UP. Some relationships are better in a close-up. More impressive with more definition. Like the woman whose photograph doesn’t turn you on, but in real life she does. Like our children. Like our spouse. Like a best friend. Like God. Like ourselves when we’re authentic and true. They’re better up close, with more frequency, with more intimacy.
Sometimes we need to be near. It’s love, it’s literal. Closeness is the quiet moments together, the pain shared, the beauty seen, the honesty. It’s authentic. It’s reality. A constant relationship because we can see it, we’re sure about it, we know it. It’s making love. It’s attachment. It’s togetherness. It’s private. It costs us. It hurts. We own it. And we like it that way, because sometimes it’s better with the lights on.”
Life and Architecture
“Life, like architecture, is a verb. If designed well, it works, it’s beautiful, and it needs no directions. It needs maintenance.”
When I’m rich enough to not care about the money. When a child’s life is more important than my own. When my self-worth isn’t reliant on the adulation of others. When I don’t care anymore, to outscore my desires,
This is the measure of a man’s greatness, when a man becomes classic. When mortal rewards are no longer enough to pay his rent, man becomes legend. Fish for yourself. Self-ish.
Define success for yourself
I went to a voodoo shop south of New Orleans the other day. It had vials of “magic” potions stacked in columns with labels defining what they would give you: Fertility, Health, Family, Legal Help, Energy, Forgiveness, Money. Guess which column was sold out? Money. Yep, money is king currency today. Money is success. The more we have, the more successful we are, right? Even our cultural values have been financialized. Humility is not in vogue anymore, it’s too passive. We can get rich quick on an Internet scam, be an expert at nothing but everything if we say we are, get famous for our sex tape, and attain wealth, fame, rank, and power, even respect, without having a shred of competence for anything of value. It happens every day. We all want to succeed. The question we need to ask ourselves is, What is success to us? More money? Okay. A healthy family? A happy marriage? Helping others? To be famous? Spiritually sound? To express ourselves? To create art? To leave the world a better place than we found it? “What is success to me?” Continue to ask yourself that question. How are you prosperous? What is your relevance? Your answer may change over time and that’s fine, but do yourself this favor: Whatever your answer is, don’t choose anything that will jeopardize your soul. Prioritize who you are, who you want to be, and don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character. Don’t depend on drinking the Kool-Aid. It’s popular, tastes sweet today, but it will give you cavities tomorrow. Life is not a popularity contest. Be brave, take the hill, but first, answer the question, “What is my hill?”
Moms and dads teach us things as children. Teachers, mentors, the government, and laws all give us guidelines to navigate life, rules to abide by in the name of accountability and order. I’m not talking about those obligations. I’m talking about the ones we make with ourselves. The YOU versus YOU obligations. Not the societal regulations and expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves, these are faith-based responsibilities that we make on our own, the ones that define our constitution and character. They are secrets with our self, personal protocols, private counsel in the court of our own conscience, and while nobody will give us a medal or throw us a party when we abide by them, no one will apprehend us when we don’t, because no one will know, except us. An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind, and when we lie down on ours at night, no matter who’s in our bed, we all sleep alone. The voluntary obligations are our personal Jiminy Crickets, and there are not enough cops in the entire world to police them — it’s on us.
Created by Apurva Shukla.
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