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Hunter S. Thompson Helps You Find Your Purpose

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Hunter S. Thompson (Getty Images)
Hunter S. Thompson in home near Aspen, Colorado in 1990. (Paul Harris/Liaison)

 

 

Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide in 2005. The pioneer of gonzo journalism—in which the reporter openly becomes part of the story—left behind books including Hell’s Angels, The Rum Diary, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. He was loosely portrayed on the big screen by both Bill Murray (1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam) and Johnny Depp (1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). He inspired the character Uncle Duke in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury. And he famously proclaimed: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

But back in 1958, he was just a young man who enjoyed writing letters.

Charles Chu has delved into one of them, a lengthy missive to “Hume.” Hume had requested a bit of advice, and Thompson responded in a profound way. Nearly 60 years later, it’s a piece of writing that still rings true. Here are some of the highlights, with Thompson’s unique capitalization intact.

[Referencing Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet about the decision to “take arms against a sea of troubles”] “… whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives.”

“As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.”

“In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.”

“Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.”

“ … no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life.” (Thompson goes on to note: “But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.”)

To read the entire epic letter, click here.