Mourning Muscles

🦊 #66 — Self-Growth, Alan Watts, and the Tragedy of Cats

Hey friends,

I got some wonderful news this week: I submitted one of my short stories — The Boat of Stillness — for a flash fiction event, and it was selected! Alongside the other winners, I’ll be doing a live reading of it at my local bookstore. I’m really excited about it! The venue is a bookstore I frequent fairly often, so it’s kind of surreal to know I’ll be doing a story reading in front of an audience there. If you’d like to watch the event, there’s going to be a Zoom livestream — you can learn more and register on the event page.

It’s an amazing feeling to have my story be recognized in this way. It’s given me even more confidence to keep going with these fables. I’ve been brainstorming ways to expand the scope of this newsletter to share more stories — stay tuned for more on that soon!

Mourning Muscles

After diving into the practice of listening to our inner signals in last edition’s essay, I’ve been thinking more about the process of self-growth. In particular, I’m noticing how often we get in our own way, and impede our own progress.

One of the biggest causes of our self-sabotage is that we hold a strong attachment to a specific idea of ourselves. We do so because it is familiar. It’s comfortable. The fear of our unknown potential is heightened by the fear of losing our well-known self.

But there is no easy path to discovery in this realm. Inevitably, there must be some kind of energy (pain, usually) invested to catalyze our growth. The concept of Ego death comes to mind here: “In death and rebirth mythology, ego death is a phase of self-surrender and transition. When we start to tear away at ourselves to lose the parts that no longer serve us, we feel a kind of sorrow.

As we grow, we mourn the death of our former selves.

I think this phenomenon applies to many aspects of our lives beyond identity and Ego — relationships, career paths, where we live, lifestyles, habits, fashion… We are quick to take up new habits, diets, and healthy lifestyles… but struggle to maintain them. I suspect a big cause of this is that we never made space for them to arrive into our lives. Before we can take on this new piece of us, we have to let something go.

A key component of self-growth is developing comfort with the shedding, the loss of self that is necessary to move forward.

I have begun to mentally label this practice as exercising our “mourning muscles”. We have to keep them strong through regular re-evaluation of ourselves, and consistent release of the old to welcome the new. In turn, those muscles get stronger, and the process of release becomes easier.

We have to get good at letting go, before we can grow.

Perhaps by loosening our grip on our present selves, we can open our arms to our future.

Alan Watts

Much of my philosophical thinking is inspired by Alan Watts. His works are profound, insightful and timeless. Most of all, I love that he took a playful approach to life, and to his work. His way of being reminds us not to take things too seriously.

For a long while, I’ve wanted to compile and share some of his best works. It’s an overwhelming task to include everything, and so I kept delaying it. At the same time, I’ve repeatedly wanted to share something, anything, with friends to serve as a starting point to explore Alan Watts.

I finally gave this effort a tiny start. I’ve published a short note compiling a few of my favorite resources on Watts. It’s by no means comprehensive — it’s the bare minimum. But you gotta start somewhere, right?

Read the Note

Quick Links

The complicated reality of doing what you love“I lost my hobby and gained a revenue stream.” On the tricky balance of creating work you’re passionate about, but losing hobbies you cherish in the process.

Re-read your favorite childhood books“Children’s books take us back to a time when ‘new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before the imagination was trimmed and neatened.’” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read The Little Prince. I’ve also been reading a lot of new children’s books — they’re lovely stories, and their wonderful art inspires my own illustrations.

Why Steven Spielberg’s Animated Adaptation Of ‘Cats’ Never Made It Past Development — When I first found these sketches for a hand-drawn animated Cats film, which sadly never got made, I was left wondering: How did Cats (the live-action film) get made, yet this film concept was canned? This article weaves the long and windy web of why it was canceled, if you’re curious.

It is an absolute tragedy this film was never made. It looks incredible! Behold its mesmerizing and mysterious vibes. Lose yourself in the detailed characters. Just looking at these images, one can sense the characters’ personality, imagine the sound of their voices, and hear the musical score…

We were robbed, friends. I have no words to adequately describe this injustice, so I’ll just say this:


Until next time,


🌎 | 🐦 @daretorant

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