So, it's the last day of 2016!
I see many of my friends and acquaintances, as well as public figures lamenting what a dreadful year this has been. I would concede that it has certainly been an intense year. Many changes in people's personal lives and certainly in the global political/economic sphere. In my irrational youth I would have chalked this up as an astrological convergence or some kind of destiny/fate for humanity. I probably also would have been lamenting the horror of 2016. That is, I would have had I not had a massive awakening in early 2015 which was well and truly concretised as a radical shift in world view by the time 2016 came around.
I discovered philosophy. And through philosophy I discovered the tools within myself to adequately assess the world around me with logical consistency, with an understanding of principles, and an ability to be guided by those principles into better, healthier choices for my life.
But better choices are not always easy ones.
I had to face my internal reality about some of the relationships in my life. My experience was not being shared honestly with people I claimed to love, and who claimed to love me. And I had to ask myself "why am I withholding?"
To quote one of my favourite musicians (though less so these days because of his political positions, which irk me) Jason Mraz, "When there is love, I can't wait to talk about it." I used to think the it he referred to was the love itself. But how can one talk about love? We don't even know what it is, right?
Well, I learned a new definition of love from my favourite living philosopher, Stefan Molyneux. He says that love is an involuntary response to virtue, experienced by virtuous people. So love is just an attraction, to the goodness in others, when we ourselves are good.
There were people in my life who I couldn't share that understanding with, and worse, who I couldn't share my own feelings with. The word love was there, but we couldn't talk about it. But, in my pursuit of my own virtue, I chose to recognise my failure to be truthful about my experience and start talking, at risk of exposing dangerous truths.
And that's when people started revealing themselves to me - their truest selves.
The best relationships in my life have strengthened beyond description. This has been the best year of my marriage so far, and my close friends are people I am truly intimate with, in ways that would have been terrifying for me in the past.
The worst relationships became apparent for what they were, and I dissolved them.
At age 30, with two children of my own, a wife, and a wildly creative multi-disciplined career, I simply don't have time to invest in relationships that don't have the basic notion of reciprocity down. If there's nothing in it for me, I'm out. My life is not a charity for others. My life is my own.
This year has probably been the year of the MOST social adversity for me. My opinions about Donald Trump, about feminism and Islam, about the government and the welfare state, are not popular ones - at least not in the creative circles I operate in. So I've positioned myself as someone who is quite a contrarian to my contemporaries. The result, however, has been surprising.
Most people who see the world like I do are scared to talk about anti-feminism, pro-freedom, men's rights, anti-Clinton (and so on) ideas openly, because they fear being fired by their leftist liberal bosses, or ostracised by their social circle or family.
I haven't faced such consequences. Why? Because I'm self-employed, so I can't be fired. I could lose clients, sure, but that hasn't happened. I'm really damn good at what I do (which is sing and play guitar and keyboards and entertain people and make them feel good with great music!) and so my philosophy and politics are irrelevant in my workplace - music is a unifier.
Secondly, my social circle is two-fold. There's the music scene, in which I have many people I consider friends, but really we are just professional colleagues who work in an environment where we can drink beer, dance around like idiots, and have a great laugh together. It's work, but it feels like play. Some of these colleagues have taken an interest in my politics and philosophy, and while not all of them are convinced by what I talk about, I know that most all of them respect me as someone who is able to have contrarian values, but still conduct a discussion with respect and with strong rational arguments.
My real social circle is, in fact, very small. I have three people that I socialise with regularly, and they are my Philosobros. They are men who share my interests and values deeply, and we convene regularly to discuss them, as well as make videos and articles for The Rational Right, and have a great laugh together.
But at the core of my life as a social animal, is my family.
I spend much of every day with my sons and I help them grow, and they help me. Anyone with two or more kids would agree that twice the number of children is not twice the challenge - it grows exponentially. But the rewards for facing that challenge with eyes and heart open are indescribably sweet.
My wife's family are an essential part of daily lives too, and they are of such valuable influence in the lives of my boys. Without them, I'm not sure where we'd be.
My father lives on the other side of the world to me (in China) and has a new wife who he loves very much. They are career partners too, and kicking serious goals. I see my Dad once a year if I'm lucky, and yet (thanks to social media) I feel we are closer than ever. I think most of this has stemmed from my own growing self-awareness, which has fostered a greater appreciation of all the wonderful qualities my Dad has, and all of the wonderful gifts he has given me - both through his genes and his parenting. I am probably more like my Dad than ever, and I couldn't be prouder.
My wife is far beyond anything I might have imagined from a partner. She is my best friend, my ally, my challenger to greatness, my harshest critic at times, my creative collaborator, my co-parent, my counsel, and my research assistant. My career allows me a lot of time at home with her and my sons, and for that I am truly grateful.
But there was loss, too.
Marcus Aurelius said: “Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.”
I lost some friends in 2016. I lost some social safety, by exposing my non-mainstream values so publicly. I lost my mother. But I lost all of those things because I lost my illusions, and my willingness to carry on dishonestly. And all that loss cleared the way for something new, in me.
I changed; I became a better, more principled man. A gentler, more patient father. A more generous and compassionate husband. A more reliable and welcoming friend. A person with self-esteem. Someone with boundaries, and a willingness to defend them when necessary.
I love myself, finally. There are still parts of me that I'm working on, but having lived one full calendar year now knowing that my philosophical principles are my guide, I have walked the right track, and tasted its fruits.
I've achieved big things in 2016, major career milestones, including:
- Released my third solo studio album (you can hear it here: https://jamesfoxhiggins.bandcamp.com/album/mothers-lovers).
- Worked on my first songwriting collaboration with a major international artist.
- Finished building my recording studio (with my own hands).
- Engineered and mixed my first primarily TAPE-based album project - coming soon, stay tuned. (This is a pretty nerdy thing to list as a major achievement, but it's been a lifelong dream, so there!)
- Rebooted my public image to incorporate my music, my writing, my philosophy all under one brand. No longer just a MUSICIAN, now a PUBLIC FIGURE - with lots to say!
- I wrote (and am just about finished re-writing and editing) my first novel, something I've always thought I am capable of, but never found the time for. This year I made the time. I am really proud of this book. It's an exciting science fiction adventure, but its also a brave manifesto of my beliefs on many topics: metaphysics, epistemology, politics, ethics, aesthetics, parenting, technology, government... it's all in there. All of my ideas and views have been spun into a world of my creating, delivered by characters who I am now deeply involved with, and may be for years to come! The book will be out next month, and you can be sure I'll be letting you know all about it!
Sure, some big name artists and actors died. But that's life. We are all just candles in the wind, and rather than get scared by other candles snuffing out around you (usually thousands of kilometres away, and people you've never even met!), my advice for 2017 is this.
Spend your time trying to answer the question: HOW BRIGHT CAN I BURN?
Happy New Year, everyone. Let's make 2017 even greater than 2016 was! I know I will.