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Moles tunneling through our own lives, continued

Another bout of thinking aloud …


Yesterday I had to be “not me” for a while. It left an uncomfortable, ICK, feeling.

Nothing dramatic. I had to socialize with a small group of people I barely know or don’t know at all, and I felt compelled to turn on my handy-dandy “not me” persona. This isn’t a deception. It’s just some aspect of me, comprising maybe 5 percent of my personality, that must jump to the forefront in social situations. Friendly and full of both attentiveness and stories, maybe a little eccentric though not crossing any lines, alert and on the ball. The “not me” applies the needed dab of social grease.

But I don’t like that person very much. Being her wipes me out. Afterward, it embarrasses me to be in her skin. I socialize, I get the ICK.

The ICK I feel after being my social “not me” is a pale shadow of what a freedomista mole might feel as s/he goes about the dirty work of infiltration. But it’s still that sensation that reminds you when you’re not being your truest self.


The ICK brings me back to the post on this very day last month, the one about being moles in our own lives and seeking authenticity somewhere within the realm of reality.

To what extent can we be our best freedomista selves without being sellouts or convicts or hypocrites or poor broke suckers or just general assh*les? And to what extent can we really even know what’s our best course?


The living-within-reality-perameters issue has no one solution. This is something everybody’s heard me drumming on for 20+ years, and I’m guessing the core audience of this blog is here largely because of this conviction: Your best life may be radically different than anybody else’s. Not just radically different from some suburban norm, but different than any other freedomista’s.

Forgive me for repeating, but there is room in this world for freedomista cave dwellers and freedomista penthouse residents. There’s room in it for hard-partying urbanites and sedate but hardworking rural folk. Or vice versa. Room in it for people with rec rooms like Burt Gummer’s and for people who personally don’t want guns but cheer your right to do so. For the religious and the irreverent. The pro-choice and pro-life. The pot-inhaling retired hippie and the buzz-cut ex-military guy. The grizzled survivalist and the millennial couple who think being more than five miles from a Whole Foods is too great a sacrifice.


On our way to being what we ought to be, many forces stop us. Law. Custom. Family. Fear. Laziness. Indecisiveness. Schooling. Lack of money. Bad health. Bad choices. Unrealistic expectations.

But the one force I wish would not try so hard to interfere is our fellow travelers on the road to freedom. Oh, lord. The people who insist that you must do this or that if you want real freedom are everywhere. You must own guns if you really believe in self-defense. You must be a Christian to be a patriot. You must be an athiest to be free because otherwise you’re just a brainwashed patsy. You must move offshore if you want to be free. Trade in precious metals. Move to Haven A, B, C, or D. Get involved in multi-level marketing schemes. Join a militia. Give to some legal fund. Follow some particular school of economics. Move into the Rocky Mountains. Buy into a (crooked) land development. Whatever.

It’s great that so much information and so many options are out there. It’s great that so many people aim to be helpful. The problem is all those “musts” and the degree of influence those pedlars of absolutism have.

Some freedom seekers get wise to much of that nonsense right away when we start growing into our lives. But in seeking freedom, nearly all of us start from some position of unfreedom and much inexperience. It’s easy to be persuaded off our own path. Or to take a path that sounds like ours, only to run into … the ICK factor. Because something we set about to do left us not being and doing what we ought.

Other freedom seekers are more naive and more loyal and end up falling for some real dangers (cults and financial scams), then it’s harder for them to extricate themselves.

However it happens, if we heed the “musts” instead of our guts and our brains, we usually end up in some uncomfortable moment discovering that we have been “not me.” Which feels not good. And now we either have to backtrack or trudge on from here. The ICK factor, gross though it can feel, is the soul’s equivalent of a check-engine light.

It would just be really, really nice if, instead of trying to drag others in their chosen direction, the “musters” would say, deep in their heart of hearts, “To each his own,” and go forward with respect.

Nobody has to give active support to another freedomista whose choices are incompatible or even despicable in our eyes. But down at the bottom of our souls we need to be able to say, “It’s her life to live as she wishes. As long as she respects my right to do the same, then we’re good.”

That latter, of course, is the big IF. How many today respect the rights of others to live as they wish? Even among people who posture as or long to be seen as supporters of freedom?

But that’s the political question and heaven forbid I fear it’s easier than the question of finding our best and freest self amid all the influences of enemies, realities, and friends. Why are there so many people, right here in the freedom movement, who set up these little one-way cattle chutes and demand everyone enter?

Why should we have to struggle against our so-called friends, as well as our legions of opponents?



The other well-known problem of freedom seeking (or life in general), of course, is that reality has a bitchy sense of humor. You could head down your truest path — with the best life, the best work, realistic goals, love and happiness, and a shining knowledge of your purpose in life — and an 18-wheeler intersects your existence. Or (much more ordinarily), you could reach a goal and discover it doesn’t satisfy you. Or you love what you’re doing but suddenly your spouse, who’s gone through recent changes, doesn’t want it any more.

I’m thinking of Commentariat member Ellendra, a young woman with a gift for growing things. She saved up and just when she got money to buy her homesteading land — chronic illness. She was in a wheelchair for a while, if I recall correctly. Only years later is she able to begin to return to her dream.

Or the farmers who imagine they’re engaged in innocent trade, only to have federal vultures swooping down on them, bringing jail and financial ruin.

Or the thousands and millions of everymen and women busted, bamboozled, shot, divorced, betrayed, uprooted, bankrupted, drafted, or otherwise catapulted out of their life’s course.

There are so many ways for that Reality B*tch to do us in.

We can minimize the risk in a lot of ways: being careful who we trust; looking before leaping; being financially and psychologically prepared; using plain, ordinary uncommon sense; practicing privacy; avoiding making certain sorts of enemies; being born the child of a millionaire who bails us out of every trouble. But we are at those whims.

Life is chaos. We just hope we get to stay in a nice quiet little eddy of it while we live out our plans.


A good thing, though, is how the smaller whorls of chaos can be so enriching — and so good at helping us find directions we’d not otherwise have taken. A friend says, “Hey, help me deliver this car across the country,” and somewhere in the middle of nowhere a lightning bolt of belonging strikes and you know this is where you were meant to be, even though you’ve never heard of the place before. You’re not looking for love, but you find it anyway. You sit in the smoky dark of a peyote ceremony and meet your spirit guide, who reveals secrets you never knew. You move to a new neighborhood and meet a person who introduces you to powerful ideas or a different way of life. I’ll bet half of you here have stories like these: Big, positive life changes from choices that seemed inconsequential or merely random and whimsical.

Bottom line: We can never find some mythical “authentic self” because the potential to become that person and live that person’s Great Life begins to be snuffed out by the time our first diaper is changed. We can only start with whatever imperfect, confused, conflicted, broke, hampered, imprisoned, doubt-filled, brilliant, hopeful, depressed, scared, ambitious, inert, made-up-of-spare-social-and-intellectual parts self we have and go forward.

And then, as all those ordinary and extraordinary difficulties, distractions, acts of destruction, ditzy spells or downward spirals beset us, we pick ourselves up from wherever we land, re-evaluate, and go on as best we’re able. And thus grow until we die.

Keeping with our “mole” theme, freedom seeking (and life!) is more like tunneling blind than like walking a path. If it’s a path, it’s one we have to chop with a machete through a dense jungle of confusing and sometimes contradictory signs, impulses, opportunities, and obstacles.

And that mostly unglamorous process is what it means to lead an authentic life — and to be free. And that’s also why it matters to be free, because time and again in our lives, ever adjusting here or there, we must make our own choices. Not the ones some arrogant, ignorant law spewer insists upon. Not the ones our parents directed us toward. Not the ones our friends or our boss or some tacticool expert on social media thinks we should make. But the ones we can make ourselves, with free-flowing information but no BS pressure, within the framework of our given reality.

There’s an apropos quote from Dwight Eisenhower that somebody posted here a few months ago. I’ll go find it.

Ah. Here it is:

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

And I think that’s about it. Plans rarely hold up under reality. The real value lies in the process of being conscious about our goals, our actions, potential consequences, and reactions, observing our situation, and thinking steps ahead.

It’s true not only for battle or business, but for life. To plan is to go forward consciously, then to adjust for reality. Pretty soon, you may have adjusted beyond all recognition. (Or not; some people have the rare gift of lifelong clarity.) But by that method we’ve become (to whatever extent possible) “The master of my fate … the captain of my soul.”

In the end, our life may have been large or small, triumphant or tragic, exciting or dull, or maybe just the standard human life lived at a pitch of 7 out of 10. Our achievements may be monumental or they may meaningful only to us and those close to us. We may not have any achievements, other than making our way through life. We may have incredible achievements that no one recognizes. But great or non-great, we’ve used our freedom to mold our existence.

Freedom is not to sit in your mother’s basement that’s lined with books on TEOTWAWKI where you spend 16 hours a day arguing with your imaginary friends about whether 1911s are superior to Glocks (although, “It’s your life …” if that’s what you choose and Mom is willing to endure you).

It’s acting consciously and moving forward while honoring your own and others’ liberty. Where you end up is between you and that nasty-humored b*tch.


There, I’ve solved the mystery of life for you. You are free to disagree.


  1. Owl
    Owl March 22, 2019 5:23 am

    “There is a road, no simple highway
    Between the dawn and the dark of night.
    And if you go, no one may follow.
    That path is for your steps alone.”

    -‘Ripple’ – Robert Hunter

  2. Brandon Aal
    Brandon Aal March 22, 2019 5:32 am

    Thank you, Claire, for this long-form writing. I appreciate the depth and value you impart compared to than the shorter updates. This post hearkens to some fundamental Hardyvillian values of self-ownership. Hardyville was impactful enough in my life that I plan to read it to my children someday.

    Congratulations on breaking free of internet-addiction, however mild or severe your addiction may have been.

    Best regards,
    Brandon Aal

  3. Michael Stone
    Michael Stone March 22, 2019 7:07 am

    Well said, Claire!
    I’ve no idea how I, an old, ex-limey, ended up living in Tucson, AZ.
    It’s not where I thought I’d be, but I love it.

    I think I would have said the same thing about living in Atlanta, GA, all those years, too…

  4. brew
    brew March 22, 2019 8:24 am

    Well said Claire….

    ” We all think we have all the bases covered until we realize we needed a shortstop.” – OzarksTom

    Ya, just when I think I have things on track, life hits one up the middle and scores one on me… But we just got to keep trying.

    Since relocating I’ve run into a lot of the ICK factor when I have to associate with those I left behind… I didn’t realize how fake and/or toxic a lot of my real life friends were until I stopped being around them for awhile…

    Maybe I subconsciously sensed that and that’s what helped prompt me to make the move I did…

  5. david
    david March 22, 2019 9:39 am

    Funny that I should read Pres. Eishenhower’s statement at this time, and yet have never seen it before. I’m having to make a new plan for my life even as I type, and it’s been taking me 5 years to sort things out enough to even begin. But I have a goal in mind as of this very morning, and have already sorted out the first few steps. After years of thinking I desperately needed ‘professional help’ with this project, I think I’ve got it resolved and it’s something I can do myself. I just needed to make the plan.

    Will it go awry? To some degree, of course. I’ve yet to plan anything that worked exactly as planned. Sometimes the effort reaches critical mass and completes itself in a moment. Other times I need to dig out ‘Plan B’, or settle for a Pareto ‘win’ (80%). A few times as I was working my plan, I changed my mind. But I’d not have made an alternate decision without the effort on the plan for the first goal happening.

    So, I love Ike’s advice, and will never forget it now. Thanks, Claire.

  6. MP
    MP March 22, 2019 12:20 pm

    The two places in my life that I have seen the most schisming of groups that should be largely in harmony are the two places where the inhabitants most consider themselves to know The Truth–and both of which, IMO, are right about that belief, in broad strokes at least. These are the Christian church and the libertarian community.

    Although, increasingly, I see that same sense of self-righteous assurance on the left, and increasingly with the same tendency to separate over increasingly minor differences. I don’t put them in the same group that is generally right, however. NPI.

    I suspect it is some inherent flaw in human nature that makes us do that. That and a bit of, “There’s nothing worse than a reformed whore.” (Or reformed smoker, depending on who you listen to.)

    Nonetheless, you’ve hit an important nail right on the head. Christ gave the answer to the church through the author of Romans in chapter 14 and other places, but well summed up by Augustine: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The more common churchy term for charity today is grace. While the church is commanded (and so often fails) to treat one-another this way, the libertarian community, all freedomistas in general, definitely would benefit by learning the benefits of grace toward one another as well.

  7. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge March 22, 2019 12:50 pm

    Good post, Claire! I periodically re-read some of your stuff such as “Political Burnout’s Guide” and “The Freedom Outlaw’s Handbook”. This puppy’s a keeper too! And yes, I too have had my fill of self-appointed “experts”!

    Val E. Forge says, “There is nothing that inept authority hates more virulently and punishes more mercilessly than an amateur practicing without a license showing them up by using methods other than their own. Its why big city police chiefs hate concealed carry permits, why teachers’ unions hate homeschooling, and married women hate the world’s oldest profession.”

  8. Noah Body
    Noah Body March 22, 2019 1:02 pm

    Excellent post. About the “musters” – there must be some kind of human flaw there. I have seen the same theme in many cultures and causes. “You’re not a REAL _____________ because _______________.”

    The first blank can be any cause, “ism”, or affiliation. The second blank can vary with the details, but it always boils down to “Because you’re not like me.”

    I’ve even seen it in the ham radio community, where the older hams resent the newer ones because the new ones didn’t have to learn Morse Code, and thus are not real hams.

    What can you do, except try not to let the b@stards wear you down.

  9. larryarnold
    larryarnold March 22, 2019 1:26 pm

    Ike was never more true than this week for me. Monday I was looking at smooth cruisin’, now I’m on Plan G. (Had an interview with a local Personality. I arrived to find he has checked himself into our local alcohol facility for 30 days. And so forth.)

    But it looks like Plan G will stick.

  10. david
    david March 22, 2019 4:25 pm

    “There’s nothing worse than a reformed whore.”
    I will tell you from experience that statement is off base. The two ladies I knew (at different times) were great to be with and nicely lady-like, just more fun than most ladies. Lots more fun. They were also not into trying to ‘improve’ me.

  11. John Wilder
    John Wilder March 22, 2019 7:07 pm

    100% on topic. It reminds me of the scene from Life of Brian where the Judean People’s Front would rather deal with the Romans than the People’s Front of Judea. (shakes head)

  12. R R Schoettker
    R R Schoettker March 23, 2019 8:14 am

    “The ICK I feel after being my social “not me” is a pale shadow of what a freedomista mole might feel as s/he goes about the dirty work of infiltration. But it’s still that sensation that reminds you when you’re not being your truest self.”

    I think the saddest and most disheartening realization that has been brought home to me after a long life is that the vast majority of the human race have no such thing as a “true self” but that they are merely social chameleons whose external adaptations to blend and fit in to the herd are not just a mask but are their only reality. The more I see and experience of life the more apparent it becomes that for the herd this ‘social persona ‘, this ‘mask’, is all there is, without any substantive “individual” behind it at all. They embrace the social identity so totally and emphatically because there is no personal conscience to direct individual choices. I have tried to explain this to myself by the separation between “sentience” or self-awareness and the more significant characteristic of “sapience”, or the making of distinctions, and thus choices based on ethics and philosophy. Only the possessors of the later through their practice and acceptance of this responsibility can ever attain its corollary, freedom. For the herd, it is not only unwanted but beyond their capacities.

  13. larryarnold
    larryarnold March 23, 2019 10:06 am

    Well, color me optimistic. I get to interview a couple of people a week in our local small town, and many of them seem pretty solidly grounded.

    IMHO part of that is because I live in a small, but self-sufficient town that attracts such. And I suspect such people aren’t as visible as they could be because when they’re comfortable in their skin, there’s no need to be loud about it.

    Personally, I’ve intentionally “stepped out of my skin” many times, usually on stage playing someone else. To me, it’s interesting, getting to know an alter ego and playing with it.

    OTOH I understand Claire’s experience. Social events, particularly fund-raisers where I’m supposed to have a good time but be empathetic to the cause du jour (which may not be high in my priority queue) can feel really phony.

    Locally there’s a group of women who have formed a club. Instead of staging elaborate events, they just kick a grand each into a pot and give it away to one of the aforementioned good causes. Sounds more real to me.

  14. Comrade X
    Comrade X March 24, 2019 10:02 am

    There so much to comment about here.

    1st taking time off and coming at us with a vengeance (in a good way) seems to be paying good dividends young lady.

    I love to plan; to me it is war gaming EVERYTHING!! but just like in the game of chess sometimes you think you can see all that is possible but to find out you just didn’t look far enough, change is a truth of life IMHO, knowingly or not.

    That ICK feeling can be avoided in a way by agreeing with them (those that have some reason at least) to the point of their realization of their limits of understanding however stupid has no realization and I try me best to avoid them.

    That thing with must, methinks must can be good but it needs to be in the single like I must do good and not bad, etc There some musts that I try to appreciate, respect others, etc.But when the SHTF methinks must will have much to do with surviving.

  15. deLaune
    deLaune March 25, 2019 4:01 am

    RR Schoettker:
    “…’sapience’, or the making of distinctions…”
    Another word for this is “discrimination.” Everywhere we turn, we see the message that discrimination is the world’s greatest evil. Shouldn’t surprise us that there isn’t much of it going on.

    My “persona” is keeping my mouth shut. When I do speak, I can get away with almost anything. “He’s an engineer, we have to cut him some slack.”

    I suspect that most lifetime STEM workers are on the “autism” spectrum.

  16. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal March 25, 2019 5:18 pm

    I understand the ICK, but on the other hand, I’ve had some fun times by engaging in things I thought weren’t “me” but approaching it like a spy. A couple of times I even thought of myself as an alien observing these bizarre humans and trying to blend in unnoticed so they wouldn’t realize I wasn’t one of them. It was occasionally incredibly interesting and enjoyable. Like the very artsy photography show where there were all these girls dressed as faeries and such. Nice! Other times, not so much. And maybe that was partly because my “disguise” didn’t work as well those times. There are some things I simply can’t participate in even if I don’t denounce them.

    Life is what it is. There have been a lot of times I’ve had t tell people “You do what you feel you must, I won’t try to stop you, I just can’t be a part of it” and get out of their way. Sometimes nothing bad happened to them, other times disaster followed. But it wasn’t my fault (nor credit) either way. I’m not responsible for other people’s choices, even when some want me to be. And this is a hard thing for me to remind myself.

    I try to live each day so that I can live with myself tomorrow. And the next day. I’ve made enough horrible mistakes– and done enough wrong– that I don’t need to make things worse by adding more of them. But if I do… well… I’m surviving so far.

  17. MP
    MP March 26, 2019 6:06 pm

    David, thanks for your comment. While the proverb, “there’s nothing worse than…” is meant to be a gross generalization and absolutely not true in every case, you made me think about the rather harsh statement that it really is. I have zero experience with prostitutes, reformed or otherwise, but my comment does disparage them in a way I didn’t intend and I won’t be using that going forward.

    In point of fact, I do have experience with reformed smokers, and most of them aren’t more critical of smoking than non-smokers, though some are. Ironically, the two people I have know who were the worst about condemning smokers were never-smokers…

  18. david
    david March 28, 2019 8:27 am

    MP – no worries, my friend. It wasn’t my intention to ‘correct’ anyone. I just find that while stereotypes and generalizations usually have some root in reality, they are exaggerations that get applied to everyone who fits the category. As such, they are sort of like reverse ‘PC’ speech, and interfere with genuine discourse. I would have of course explained that at the time, but I hadn’t thought about it until you replied to my comment. Thanks for the thought starter.

    I am a former smoker myself. 40 years, at times 3 packs a day and for a while also a pack of ‘little cigars’ daily. Now I find myself highly intolerant of smoking. Not smokers per se, but the act of smoking. So I usually keep my mouth shut and don’t make any kind of comments. I just can’t stand the smell of ‘ashtray’ on my clothing or body, or the smell of a lit cigarette – which makes me choke up like following a dump truck down a dirt road in August. The only comment I make these days is to let people know that heavy smokers can often be identified on sight by their ashen pallor. (Check it out if it’s a new thought to you.) Not always, but often.

    IMO, the ‘nothing worse’ kind of folks are simply those who think everybody cares what they think. Not those who use the phrase, but those whose behavior the phrase describes. So I avoid those reformed smokers as avidly as I avoid chain smokers. I may not have smoked in two decades, but those critical people would soon find something else about me to criticize, just because they like to do that. Trying to resist shooting off my mouth helps me to be less judgemental in addition. As a result relative strangers often tell me their life’s story, as if they smell ‘non-judgemental’ on me.

    And thanks for the ‘respect’ in addressing me as David. However, I’m “david”. It’s ‘lower case david’ because it use it to remind me that I’m really unimportant in the huge drama of Life on Earth. As a result, I am closer to ‘contentment’ than I used to be. It really does help me to realize that most folks don’t consider me as important as I’d like to think, and nowhere near as wonderful as my dogs think I am. I capitalize their names, but not my own except for legal documents.

  19. Murkan Mike
    Murkan Mike March 28, 2019 5:50 pm

    I had to go to the urban dictionary to look up ICK, i thought it was yet another acronym known to everybody in the world but me. I thought it had something to do with cancer or a mental disorder. But now that i know what it means (maybe), the post begins to make more sense.

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