The Life of Jack London as a Case Study in the Power and Perils of Thumos — Conclusion

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 5, 2013 · 35 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

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This article concludes a series that studied the life of Jack London, and especially his display of the Ancient Greek concept of thumos.

We hope you enjoyed our ten-part series on the life and thumos of Jack London. I know we enjoyed researching and writing it. I’ve never found another man’s story so fascinating and compelling. I’ve learned a lot about Jack and still want to learn more! I’d love to someday make a pilgrimage out to London’s former home in Glen Ellen, California (which is now a state park). That a man’s thumos can continue to burn and touch people well beyond the grave is truly a testament to the power of this force of soul.

Pondering the life of Jack London brings up many deep and interesting questions. Is a man with such high-pitched thumos almost destined to burn out (it’s hard to imagine Jack as a 70-year-old man, isn’t it)? Is it better to burn out than fade out? Is burning out selfish (Jack after all left behind a widow and two daughters)? If you’re going to burn out, would it better to do so in a more glorious way than poisoning your body (an unofficial motto of the Navy SEALs is to “live fast, die hard, and leave a good-looking corpse”)? Is ignorance really bliss or is it possible to attain vast knowledge and still retain your ideals? Would you rather experience all London did and die at 40, or double your lifespan but live a much more staid and mediocre life?

Every man will have different answers to these questions. I can only tell you of several of the takeaways I’ve personally gotten from tracing the ups and downs of Jack London’s life and the arc of his thumos.

Do more and be more. When reading London’s biographies and books, something deep within me, a hunger for something more, is greatly stirred – I just want to get out and explore! Jack described this stirring in himself as a voice at the back of his consciousness –“a curiosity, desire to know, an unrest and a seeking for things wonderful that I seemed somehow to have glimpsed or guessed.” By harkening to this call, Jack had some pretty amazing adventures and was able to commit with superhuman discipline to self-education and honing his craft as a writer. But even he himself said the voice came in a whisper to him, and I think oftentimes we have a hard time hearing it – and answering it — in our own lives. I know I do. Responsibilities pile up, fear gets in the way, we rationalize away our dreams and desires as silly or impossible to fulfill, and content ourselves with the ordinary.

“Such has been for me the best education in the world, and I look for it more and more. Man must have better men to measure himself against, else his advance will be nil, or if at all, one-sided and whimsical.” – Jack London

I know I’ll never be one-tenth as cool as Jack London – he was a one-of-a-kind character even in his own time – and his life honestly makes me feel pretty boring and inadequate! But in the best possible way. Measuring yourself against someone great doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily ever reach their level, but it can inspire you do better in your own place in the world – to make the most of whatever situation you are in. Jack London inspires me to read more, to work harder, and to figure out how I – a dad with plenty of obligations — can add more adventure to my own life.

Keep challenging yourself. London found that reaching the heights of success felt empty; his real joy came in the midst of his adventures and the godlike act of creating. His life really demonstrated to me how the journey and struggle is far more satisfying than the destination. Yeah, sounds like a bumper sticker, I know, but it’s truth. The recognition, fame, and money you get from reaching a high achievement does not bring lasting fulfillment. The reward is really in the striving – in the satisfaction that comes with stretching your mental and physical abilities to their limit, in having experiences that expand your soul, and in sensing yourself transform into a better man. Once you finish one challenge, you have to find a new one – even if it’s of a much different variety than the last.

Keep pushing. Like many success stories, London’s hardly moved in a straight line. He’d be stuck working in a factory, and then have a seemingly life-changing adventure, and then be back working at a factory, and then off on another adventure, only to return to the assembly-line once again. He received tons of rejections before magazines and publishers accepted his writing. But he always saw these setbacks as temporary. Instead of being discouraged, he kept looking for new opportunities and constantly worked to improve himself until he finally took off once and for all.

Take time to recharge. Another thing I gleaned from Jack is a greater understanding of the fact that while the white horse of thumos can certainly lead to greatness and success, if driven too hard and for too long, you risk weakening it and letting the dark horse of your appetites take control. I’m a huge proponent of working like hell to reach your goals and find success, and I’m happy when I’m hustling. But I have a really hard time knocking off and taking time to recharge – there’s no clear quitting time or hours at this kind of job and I could keep at it 24/7 if I wanted. Boy, did Jack and Charmian’s last conversation hit too close to home for me. Jack showed me that such a full-speed-ahead approach may work in the short-term, but you’ve got to pace yourself if you want to stick with something for the long haul. It’s all about the 20-Mile March!  

Hold onto your ideals. As Jack got older, he lost faith in the ideals that had fired his youth and animated his spirit. He felt that he knew too much, and by the end of his life he had become hollow and jaded. I do think that the more educated you become, the harder it gets not to fall victim to a deeply cynical outlook about people and life. Cynicism is like a cancer that starts small and then spreads to devour every bit of awe and sparkle and magic threaded throughout our existence. But I do think it’s possible to hold onto your ideals without burying your head in the sand. And not simply possible, but necessary. Every man needs a purpose – a set of beliefs rooted in his very core that he can full-throatily, wholeheartedly endorse – without apology, or wink, wink irony, or an endless list of caveats.

Heeding the seasons of thumos. One of the most interesting things to come out of studying Jack London’s life was reflecting on the way the “lifecycle” of thumos really mirrors that of the development of the brain.

A few months ago we did a two-part series on the importance of not wasting your twenties. We first talked about the unique powers and opportunities of the twentysomething brain, which include a propensity for deep passion, a keen curiosity about others and the world, and fearlessness in the face of risk (remind you of anything?). We explored the way these propensities mellow as your brain finishes developing and “setting up” in your mid-twenties, but explained that while your intensity dims, you become better able to plan, make decisions, process probability, set goals, and handle uncertainty. As you move into your thirties, the passionate part of your brain mellows while its executive functions strengthen.

That series has come to mind frequently as I’ve studied thumos and Jack London’s life, and it seems to me that the development of the brain and the nature of thumos are connected. The latter may not solely be a philosophical, metaphysical concept, but a neurological one as well. Just as your brain has seasons, your thumos does too, and it’s important to understand and take advantage of those seasons in their proper time. What we said about the brain is that it develops in such a way that the twenties are the ideal time for launching your passions, while the subsequent decades are best for then building what you launched. Or another way of looking at it is to say that the elements of drive, fight, and emotion of thumos are pitched highest in your youth, while its elements of decision-making, judgment, and steadfastness emerge more strongly as you age. The different elements of thumos come to the forefront at different times in your life, and they emerge precisely when you need them most.

The ancient Greeks recognized these different seasons of  a man’s thumos. They associated thumos most strongly with youth, but felt it operated throughout a man’s life. A perfect example of the different seasons of thumos can be seen in comparing Achilles in the Iliad and Odysseus in the Odyssey. Achilles was a young man, probably no older than 18 or 19, and was filled with fierce thumic anger and drive. He sought glory and honor above all else. And he got it. He just had to die in the prime of his life to obtain it.

Odysseus, on the other hand, was older. He had a family and kingdom back at home waiting for him. He didn’t care as much about glory as he did about getting back to his beloved Ithaca alive. Odysseus still had thumos; it just didn’t burn as white-hot as Achilles’, and he used it in a different way. It was with his thumic cunning and wiles that he was able to make wise decisions, outwit his foes, and return home to live a long and peaceful life.

If you were to ask me whom I identified with more 10 years ago, I would have told you Achilles. I was fiercely driven to reach my goals and become a success. But now that I’m 30, and have a family and a mortgage, I find myself relating to the man of many wiles more and more. My passion and drive for success have dimmed, while my desire to be a wise steward over what I have already gained has grown.

First a man becomes a warrior; then, if he survives the battle, he becomes a king. First thumos drives one to conquer, then it aids him in managing and growing what he has attained. Thumos is needed in each season, but in different ways.

I don’t think Jack London understood this. Or if he did understand it, he didn’t accept it. He kept flogging the drive component of this thumos that had pushed him to success in his twenties, well into his thirties, but to increasingly diminished returns. And he neglected to harness and train the wise decision-making and judgment elements of his thumos, letting what he had already gained slip away. His thumos was operating out of season – failing to harvest in the fall and planting fruitless seeds in the winter. He had thrived as the warrior, but could not transition into being the king.

Be a man. Manliness can be tough to define. But boy, we sure know it when we see it. It’s something easier to feel than to articulate. Despite his flaws, Jack London’s manliness leapt off every page he wrote, and that others wrote about him, with palpable force. Simply learning about him makes me want to be more of a man. Would we all be so privileged as to receive the kind of succinct tribute an old sourdough offered to London upon his death:

“I loved the man because—because he was a man; By the Turtles of Tasman, He was a man!”

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Farewell, Jack. Thanks for everything.

We’d like to end this series with our favorite piece of Jack’s writing, the one that perhaps best sums up the feeling of thumos that blazed through his life.

The selection comes from London’s fictional novel, The Iron Heel, published in 1908. The narrator, Avis Everhard, describes her husband Ernest, and shares his favorite poem, one which speaks to the infinite power and potential of man and the desire to live life to the fullest:

But he had pride. How could he have been an eagle and not have pride? His contention was that it was finer for a finite mortal speck of life to feel Godlike, than for a god to feel godlike; and so it was that he exalted what he deemed his mortality. He was fond of quoting a fragment from a certain poem. He had never seen the whole poem, and he had tried vainly to learn its authorship. I here give the fragment, not alone because he loved it, but because it epitomized the paradox that he was in the spirit of him, and his conception of his spirit. For how can a man, with thrilling, and burning, and exaltation, recite the following and still be mere mortal earth, a bit of fugitive force, an evanescent form? Here it is:

Joy upon joy and gain upon gain
Are the destined rights of my birth,
And I shout the praise of my endless days
To the echoing edge of the earth.
Though I suffer all deaths that a man can die
To the uttermost end of time,
I have deep-drained this, my cup of bliss,
In every age and clime—

The froth of Pride, the tang of Power,
The sweet of Womanhood!
I drain the lees upon my knees,
For oh, the draught is good;
I drink to Life, I drink to Death,
And smack my lips with song,
For when I die, another ‘I’ shall pass the cup along.

The man you drove from Eden’s grove
Was I, my Lord, was I,
And I shall be there when the earth and the air
Are rent from sea to sky;
For it is my world, my gorgeous world,
The world of my dearest woes,
From the first faint cry of the newborn
To the rack of the woman’s throes.

Packed with the pulse of an unborn race,
Torn with a world’s desire,
The surging flood of my wild young blood
Would quench the judgment fire.
I am Man, Man, Man, from the tingling flesh
To the dust of my earthly goal,
From the nestling gloom of the pregnant womb
To the sheen of my naked soul.
Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh
The whole world leaps to my will,
And the unslaked thirst of an Eden cursed
Shall harrow the earth for its fill.
Almighty God, when I drain life’s glass
Of all its rainbow gleams,
The hapless plight of eternal night
Shall be none too long for my dreams.

The man you drove from Eden’s grove
Was I, my Lord, was I,
And I shall be there when the earth and the air
Are rent from sea to sky;
For it is my world, my gorgeous world,
The world of my dear delight,
From the brightest gleam of the Arctic stream
To the dusk of my own love-night.

What did you take from learning about the life of Jack London? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Read the Entire Jack London Series:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Boyhood
Part 3: Oyster Pirate
Part 4: Pacific Voyage
Part 5: On the Road
Part 6: Back to School
Part 7: Into the Klondike
Part 8: Success at Last
Part 9: The Long Sickness
Part 10: Ashes
Part 11: Conclusion

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Discipulus April 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Enjoyed this series immensely. An ideal man arguably would choose to live a shorter, more action packed life. The larger picture of humanity would demonstrate that the singular life of one man is inconsequential. Yet a exemplary life of one man provides motivation and influence to the larger population. Influence is simply manly, especially after death.

2 John April 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Thank you, this was a highly entertaining and interesting series. I lived in Santa Rosa for while and his estate/house is just East of the city. It’s easy to see why a person could become so enamored with a place, it’s truly lovely, I’d highly recommend a visit.

3 Tyler April 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Really liked this series. I was a fan of Jack London’s work before reading these articles and it makes me want to re read and explore more of his work from a more empathetic perspective.

Ultimately as it relates to Thumos I think your conclusion about the ability to gain and use that fire and energy in our youth, and then transition the fire into reasoning and good judgment more than risk taking is critical for life success and happiness, as well as living as a real man.

I also think that in our time physical/social adventure in the way Jack London lived it is less possible and available to most men. However, the availability of information and the ability to learn and expand our minds through mental knowledge and adventure is greater than it has ever been in human history. We should still live and have physical adventures, but the modern man earns his bread with his mind and in my opinion we should take away from this series an increased emphasis on self education and passion to pursue our own passions and goals. I also think we can do this successfully without harming our families the way Jack did.

4 Neil April 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Brett and Kate,

Thank you for this series. The series coincided with my spring break and I read White Fang, The Mexican, Call of the Wild and Sea Wolf while working through your series.

Here is my favorite quote from London:

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, And it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”

5 Kammes April 6, 2013 at 1:52 am

Thanks for the series. I would love to read more biographies in a similar series. Tracing a man’s actions and written thoughts through his life while looking through the lens of Plato’s tripartite mind philosophy was a great and interesting idea.

I never read or heard anything about London’s personal life that stuck with me prior to your series – except about the mystery regarding how he died. I am glad to have read all you guys shared and am motivated- like most people seem to be – to delve into richer life experiences and make more of an adventure out of it.

I think there is a transition between knighthood and kingliness that drives a person to exercise their strength and ideals in a more thoughtful and effective way. I think this phase is typified by a strong thumos coupled with battle scars from previous struggles with various mental, physical, spiritual gauntlets in life. If you had to call this phase something, try “mercenary” or “soldier of fortune” -anything that brings to mind adventuring with a more clearly defined purpose and some experience behind it.

6 Michael Bering Smith April 6, 2013 at 2:08 am

Brett and Kate,

Thank you for this series. I read almost all the posts last night — real page turner. My favorite quote, “he forbade himself any deviation from the course that would lead him to his goal. He systematized his life. Such colossal energy, and yet… He lived by rule.” His ruthless determination to create was channeled through boundaries and structured methods.

Reminds me of Steve Job’s “vision without obstruction” and Edison’s “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” London was a master creative, but tremendously efficient. No matter how inspired the idea, fortitude in execution was the engine moving his life’s work. London inspires me as a man to pursue my life’s loves with reckless, focused abandon.

Except with more of an eye for my wife and daughter.

Thanks again. Ordering my copy of Call of the Wild now.

7 Constantine April 6, 2013 at 2:59 am

This is one of the most inspiring series I have ever read .
Thank you …
Also, a personal observation, many of the readers here will undoubtedly point out that adventure no longer exists of the sort Jack London went through in our modern societies , we don’t have a Klondike to visit in search of gold dust, and most of the world is now “civilized” .
For me however, this is not the meaning of adventure. Adventure is testing your self , and pitting your body , your mind and your soul against its own limits and against the indomitable will of nature. As such no man can be complete if he doesn’t challenge his body along with his mind .

Again, thanks for an inspiring series :)

8 Taylor April 6, 2013 at 7:13 am

I truly enjoyed this series; it was entertaining, enlightening, and definitely fired up my thumos. I think one aspect I personally can improve on, using the chariot metaphor, is having my charioteer (Reason) loosen up on the reins a bit so my thumos can be freer to run. As a person inclined toward logic and reason, and in my efforts to control the dark horse, I feel that I been too controlling over myself and stifle all passions, good or bad, rather than harnessing that energy. It’s not something I realized before being introduced to thumos here and reading this series, so I greatly appreciate this new way to look at life.

9 Shane April 6, 2013 at 7:33 am

Such a great series. More important to me than the biography, were the TAKEAWAYS you have listed above. These are so important to my success, so important to my sanity. Thank you.

10 Christian April 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

Hands down best blog series I’ve ever read.

11 Max April 6, 2013 at 9:46 am

GREAT series! Martin Eden has always been one of my favorite novels, but this has inspired me to get my hands on more good stuff by and about Jack. A fine display of London-esque focus and hard work yourself by cranking out this kind of volume with quality writing.

12 Mark April 6, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thank you for such a great series. I’ve never had much interest in Jack London or his work prior to this, but I was surprised to discover that he held many of the same values that I do. Isn’t that always the case: we’re resistant to the things that are truly what we need the most? I am left inspired.

13 Bob April 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm

This was an excellent and truly inspiring series. I agree with everything that’s been said above. While the world is a different place than in Jack London’s time, there are new adventures and challenges that men can pursue and achieve just in the course of daily living. London’s motivation and goals are still valid today, and very worthy aspirations. I suspect that some men–because of their values and priorities–are doing it without even realizing it.

14 Waitsel April 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm

You guys did an excellent job with this series: well-written, interesting, thought-provoking and informative. My take on Jack London is that, while he was a very interesting and exciting person, he was very self-centered. I believe that the greatness of a man or woman can be measured by their self-sacrifice. I see no self-sacrifice in the life of Jack London. He lived selfishly and he died selfishly. I’m not talking about generosity: obviously he was a generous person, taking care of his family, being hospitable, etc. What I don’t see in him is his living his life for something or someone greater than himself. When you live only for self, you end as he did: burned out, disillusioned, lost. Self cannot satisfy or be satisfied. You cannot read (or write) enough books, eat enough food, have enough sex, make enough money, go on enough adventures to satisfy Self. It is an insatiable master. You have to live for someone or something other than Self to find true satisfaction in life. Self-sacrifice is the way to do that. Christ is the ultimate example of self-sacrifice, but there are others. Mother Theresa lived her life for the lost children of the world. We have past presidents – Washington, for example – who spent themselves for this country. I don’t see that quality in recent presidents. There are those who have given themselves for a cause that would benefit others – e.g., George Mueller (orphans) and William Wilberforce (slaves). What did London ever give himself for? Just the chase. He lived his life in pursuit of the illusive object of self-fulfillment and he died unfulfilled. So, while he was extremely interesting and dynamic, I do not see him as a role model. Rather, I see him as one more person who threw his life away on the altar of Self – he just did it in a big, big way.

If you want a role model that rivals Jack London in thumos, look at Ernest Shackleton. He spent himself in order to save his men when their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the frozen ice of Antarctica. And, contrary to every expedition to Antarctica that had previously gone awry, he did not lose a single man. Now there was a man’s man and one to be imitated! You can read about him at http://www.moviesbydecade.com/2000/Shackletons_Endurance.html

Thanks again!

15 Ash April 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Ditto everyone! Wonderful series, even if Jack makes us all look dull by comparison.

16 Sonny April 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Thanks Brett and Kate for the research and time you guys put into this series, it was a fantastic read. Having read “Call of the Wild” ages ago, I knew of Jack London but had never delved into his story like this. Certainly an inspiring and cautionary tale. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I had no idea his ranch was so close to where I live, but now that I know, I will definitely be making the trip to Glen Ellen next weekend.

17 Richard Williams April 7, 2013 at 7:32 am

I enjoyed the series and London is, without a doubt, a fascinating study. There is much we can learn from him. However, I think the take away is “in all things moderation.” Yes, a zest for life and adventure is a good thing. But if we all “burned out” the experience and wisdom of old age would be lost to history. Whether you “burn out” or “rust out” – you’re still “out.” There is something quite manly about a 70 year old man who, though possessing his share of scars, managed to live a full, rich life and live long enough to reflect back on f complete and long life. Personally, I prefer that model.

18 Mato Tope April 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

Brett and Kate, congratulations on producng this fascinating series on Thumos and the life of Jack London.
What stood out for me was London’s craving for the truth. The simple test he applied to everything being; “What is the truth?” and “Is it just?”
I attended a talk on Plato’s Apology yesterday which focused on the trial of Socrates. It appears he only got into so much trouble with the authorities of Athens because he too had an insatiable lust for the truth. He made many powerful enemies simply by undermining their supposed intellect and wisdom.
These two very diferent personalities (London and Socrates) show that the power of truthful living is far-reaching. Long after both men have died their words and actions live on because we all recognise and admire men of high ideals and faith. And there is no nobler life than one lived in constant pursuit of the truth.

19 Jeremy April 7, 2013 at 11:05 am

Fantastic series. Best researched and well thought out piece of writing I have ever read on the internet.

Some comments/thoughts:

1. Taking time to recharge – this has been a recurring theme for me in my life career. Every time I complete something that required maximum effort/focus, I found that I was exhausted afterwards and required months and in some cases years to fully recharge. Recognizing this cycle allows you to extend your life as well as more judiciously choose your endeavors as you realize you will only get so many chances to fully engage (see Steve Jobs’ biography for a great treatise on this topic).

And perhaps it is the case we all have a finite amount of thumos, and once it is spent we become susceptible to disease and death. Certainly the stories of both Jobs and London would provide evidence of this.

2. Group vs individual – one of the dynamics I have become interested in lately is that of the needs/wants of the individual vs the needs/wants of the group in human society. In your series, not only did this play out in Jack’s own psyche with his divergent views of the survival of the fittest as well as socialism (which I completely understand and generally agree with), but one could draw a conclusion that this struggle between the individual and the group is represented by the struggle between the dark horse and the white horse within each man. In the allegory you describe, the dark horse is the horse that serves the individual (food, shelter, safety, sex, pleasure), and the white horse is the horse that serves the group (fight for glory, willing to die for a cause, seeking to be part of something greater than oneself, etc). Most species on earth are purely individualistic, but only a handful are eusocial where behavior that benefits the group is also rewarded as well as behavior that benefits the individual. Check out the writings of E.O. Wilson for more on those topics.

I would be interested in your thoughts on these ideas.

Again, excellent series. Thanks for all of your work in putting this together.

20 Shajeel April 8, 2013 at 6:36 am

I am amazed at how much reading this series has affected me mentally and emotionally – given me that burning passion to live – yet that melancholy over the point of living. It is astounding how his thumos touches others well beyond the grave, a point that you have repeatedly made in this series.

21 Rahul April 9, 2013 at 4:46 am

Hi Brett/Kate,

Just wanted to say this series was superbly written and very exciting to read. Now I am inspired to order some of Jack London’s books.

22 Job April 10, 2013 at 8:52 am

This was truly an exceptional series. I have been deeply inspired by his story and haunted by the philosophical questions that remain… I will be thinking about this one

23 Jeff April 10, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Great series!

You touched upon Achilles, but I would like to remind everybody that Achilles had a choice between a long, boring life and the short life of a hero. Achilles, in The Iliad, wasn’t the wisest man, only the greatest soldier. Nestor was held in high regard even through he was much older than everybody else.

As I read this series, I was reminded of the novel The Agony and the Ecstasy (a biography of Michelangelo Buonarroti). He was also driven by his thumos, but his charioteer was stronger than either horse.

24 pu April 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I haven’t read the whole series from stem to stern but will pick away at as time permits. I have to agree with Waitsel in his assessment of London and with his comparison to Ernest Shackleton. King Leonidas is still my favorite however. I had an uneasy feeling reading about London. In spite of his writing accomplishments (those that can do. Those that can’t teach/write/act). I couldn’t help feeling that London was, in spite of everything else, a poseur.

25 Steve Hansen April 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

This series was my introduction to man (in the truest sense) who I knew very little of beyond enjoying his works of fiction. His own life stirs up even more within me than his works. I especially loved part three. It left me glowing with a renewed passion for exploring. I had to share it with some friends.
Thank you for such a thorough and insightful look at one of the most incredible characters in American history.

26 James April 13, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I find it strange that people thought he was a man. Look at his last night on Earth. He was a little boy trying desperately to play the part of a man. He played it well at times but ultimately it was all just an act for something less than noble. He certainly was accomplished for a little boy. I’ll give him that.

27 bierluvre April 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

I found this website after I had been catching up on alot of London’s short stories here: http://london.sonoma.edu/Writings/

As a not old/not so young person it’s refreshing to know that we’re still interested.

28 Thom April 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

This was a great series and very well written. With all his knowledge, I wonder what he would have thought about some of the contemporary thinkers in the 21st century who sometimes contest Nietzsche’s works? Either way, he was definitely an inspiring man. Thanks for the series!

29 Sean April 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

When fertile ideas are cross-pollinated, as you have successfully accomplished with this series on Thumos & London, they bear interesting and new fruit. Congratulations on rising above 99% of blog content through such a “godlike act of creating.” I’d just like to point out, that this is why great thinkers, such as Thomas Jefferson, kept open multiple books on various subject matters for concurrent reading – a virile mind is constantly digging for heretofore unearthed connections.

30 Paul Rozek April 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

That was the best blog series I have ever read. Thank you for taking the time to research this and present it to us when you thought it right to do so. This has inspired me to continue my quest to be a Man, a better Man. It has also taught me lessons about the perils and triumphs of thumos. Thank you.

31 Christopher May 3, 2013 at 11:17 am

Excellent piece, Brett! Nice poem to end with.

Jack London has been a favorite and an inspiration to me ever since I read White Fang and Call of the Wild. Jack is dead. Long live Jack!

32 Shaun June 5, 2013 at 10:13 am

Wow, what a series! Now that was worth reading. And even more to your credit, from where I sit, that was worth writing!

Good work. Rarely have I been able to identify so closely with someone. People think I am crazy and often roll their eyes at me when, little do they know, I feel I am holding myself back! It is good to see someone let their Thumos run wild. I am more of an endurance man and have a longer but no less wild race in mind. I will let my Thumos chomp at the bit, while moving onward and upward.

33 Gabe July 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm

This was all new to me… I am only now realizing the importance of this new idea of Thumos in my life, and I have recently been putting myself into positions that would allow me to grow as a man. I read this series over the course of two days, and I have to say that it was very powerful to read. I will definitely be coming back to this one in the future for a re-read…

34 brian January 9, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Thanks for an engaging and well-written piece. Jack London is one admirable fellow. From a “work-beast” at the pickle factory to the highest paid author of his time. Wow! Too bad he got consumed by intoxicants toward the end, but I’m grateful for the wealth of stories he left behind.

35 Eric January 28, 2014 at 5:08 am

I love the series, but think a little is missing . I have noticed from the reports on TBI(on football players, veterans and members of my own family) a lot of parallels to Jack’s life, primarily depression, lack of impulse control and a tendency to chemically self medicate. Early fights with people a lot bigger than you included a period of being out for 17 hours(sound suspiciously like more of a coma than concussion) could not have been healthy. I think its a damn shame he died too early. There was a lot Jack could have lived for if only he was able to heal his demons.

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