Was It Worth It?

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Boy, that guy really screwed up.

Can anyone name the person in this famous photograph? Or the year? Or the cause he was dying for (it wasn’t Vietnam, which was my first guess).

100 years from now will people even remember this photograph?

I don’t know who he is. I’m not going to google it.

There’s been plenty of times one could take the easy way out. Dying like this is easy. Within 45 seconds he passed out from the pain of burning. Within two or three minutes he was dead from asphyxiation or his organs burning and the skin peeling away from his bones. Big deal.

Every day we’re on this planet we’re persecuted. It’s hard to live. Our body fights us. Our families. Our governments. Our bosses. The economy. Our customers. The ones who no longer love us who now hate us. The IRS. Our kids. Even our lovers because we can’t always provide for everyone’s needs.

So set yourself on fire in other ways.

The hard thing is to:

A)     Physically stay in shape. And I don’t mean rippling with muscles. But doing what it takes to keep the quality of your life as high as possible as long as possible. Exercise. Eat well. Sleep a lot.

B)      Emotionally stay in shape. When you’re in that moment of anger with a girlfriend or spouse or father or whoever, that’s when you have to thank god you have an opportunity now to grow, to move beyond the pain. Feel the pain in your body. Think of someone you are angry at rigjt now. Right now where do you feel the pain in your body? Are you angry in your head, your stomach, your heart? Feel it. Let it sit there. Breathe and feel the air going right to where you feel the pain. You might have to live with it for awhile. But eventually the pain dies down.  Breathe deeply again. When you’re emotionally upset you have to do two things:

  1. Dis-engage from whatever it is causing you to be upset.
  2. Feel where the pain is. Study it. Breathe into it. Eventually when something itches, if you’re just aware of it, it stops to itch.
  3. Find people who love you or you love. Picture them. Feel love. That has a physical effect throughout your body.
  4. [See, the Crappy People FAQ]

C)      Mentally stay in shape. It’s hard to stretch mental muscles. I tell my kids the best way to be creative is to take two things you’re interested in and combine them. If you’re interested in writing fiction and also starting internet businesses then set up a new paradigm of publishing companies. Or write a novel about a guy who starts internet businesses. And its ok if you change interests tomorrow. Every day find some part of yourself that needs to be reinvented and do it. Write down ten new business ideas a day. Or ten people you’d like to meet and how you can get yourself to meet them. Or ten things you’d like to improve about yourself. Write ideas until your brain hurts.  Don’t stay the same ever day. Creativity also has a physical effect. Enthusiasm that fills you up. I get enthusiastic over this blog. I love it and coming up with ideas for it.

D)     Spiritually stay in shape. Every form of exercise involves some pain. Forget everything you’ve learned about spirituality and god. We’re all afraid of the word “spritual”. All of that was written and created by someone else. Why don’t you stand up, now get on your knees, now bow. Bow to everything in the universe that’s better than you. Say thanks. Bow again. Some singularity, black hole blew up 15 billion years ago so you could exist for a microsecond of time. That’s pretty cool. Thanks black hole.

Who am I to tell you to do this? Nobody. Don’t do it. Don’t change your life. Don’t reinvent or stay in shape or be creative or get emotionally healthy. Be like the guy in the photo. He’s never going to change again. He’s going to be a photo forever. And his cause and everything he ever believed in is going to be remain exactly the same forever.

Some guy wrote me an angry letter the other day. I googled his name. He was all over different message boards being angry. He’s on fire forever. And he will be maybe until he dies. That’s his choice.

At the end of your life nothing is worth it. You’re the only one who will know what your last thought is. Everything beforehand is training to make sure your last thought is not an angry one, a hateful one, a non-useful one, or one that will only leave hate for your heirs. The way you do this is by setting your soul on fire every day. Burn yourself to the ground. And every day rise like the Phoenix. As for me, I’m going to watch an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, work on a novel, and avoid the heat outside. I don’t like it when it gets too hot.

P.S.  I want to start a “Dear James” section of the blog sort of like “Dear Abby”. Send me your questions (a paragraph or so that you aren’t afraid to have printed on the blog. The questions can be anonymous. ) I’ll pick the best ones I think I can answer. And I’ll answer them on this blog.

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  • Sim

    Great post!

  • http://www.insideredge.co Florence Lowe

    That’s a pretty dramatic way to make a point, but it is a good point.

  • Samantha Eygendaal
    • Samantha Eygendaal

      Above link is in case anyone cares to know about the image of the man burning himself in the street.

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        Thanks for the link Samantha and Andrey. I read briefly through it. Two initial comments: 
        A) it looks very few, if any, reforms were implemented because of his sad and horrible action. 

        B) I’d hate to think of the youth who, through, the decades, were equally impassioned about a political philosophy who were then inspired to take similar actions but didn’t have a pulitzer-prize winning photographer a few feet away to document the action. 

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          In fact, I just read at the bottom of the link you provided: 

          “After Thích Quảng Đức, self-immolations were carried out by five further members of the Vietnamese Buddhist clergy up until late October 1963 as the Buddhist protests in Vietnam escalated.[42] ]

          The Americans in Saigon often found the self-immolations to be surreal and made puns about “bonze fires” and “hot cross bonzes”, as an escape mechanism from the bewilderment.[45] In one instance, the young son of an American officer based at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He was seriously burned before the fire was extinguished and later could only offer the explanation that “I wanted to see what it was like.”[45] Thích Quảng Đức’s actions were fatally copied in the United States in protests against the Vietnam War. Norman Morrison, a 31-year-old Quaker pacifist, poured kerosene over himself and set himself alight below the third-floor window ofSecretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the Pentagon on 2 November 1965. Alice Herz, an 82-year-old woman, also burned herself that year in Detroit, Michigan.[46] Roger Allen LaPorte self-immolated outside the United Nations building in New York City on 9 November 1965. Florence Beaumont burned herself to death outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles on 15 October 1967. George Winne, Jr., a student, self-immolated on 10 May 1970 on the campus of the University of California, San Diegoand died the following day.”Very sad. None of this in any way shaped Vietnamese policy anywhere. 

          • Anonymous

            You missed the most recent on here in the US. Did you even hear about it? If not, why not?

            http://freekeene.com/2011/06/16/thomas-james-ball-self-immolated-in-protest-of-the-justice-system/

            In contrast, everyone and their cat in the middle east—but I guarantee you that no one in the US—knows who Mohamed Bouazizi was. He was the man whose self-immolation in Tunisia touched off the Arab Spring protests that continue to this day. I’m surprised you overlooked this example, James.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_Bouazizi

            No one reacts to or, let alone knows about, these protests here in the West. I think that says a lot about how dead we are inside.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            People have bruoght up the tunisia one. but i find it interesting everyone is resorting to google to figure out the names of these people. Nobody was affected enough to actually know what their names were without resorting to the internet. 

          • Anonymous

            Well, that was my point, James. No one knows.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            Suicide no good.

          • Anonymous

            :-)

          • Avenist

            Retroactive birth control would be nice.

          • Avenist

            As sad as those deaths were, they were done willingly by their own hands.

            What absolutely disgusts me is the 262 million people murdered by governments, not including war deaths, in the twentieth century. If war deaths and deaths from banning DDT (100 million) are added, the total is about 400 million.

            http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM
             
            http://junksciencearchive.com/malaria_clock.html

            Even more disgusting than that horrific number of murdered humans is that people still worship government and consider it absolutely necessary for civilized society.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            Agree compeltely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/blagosklonov Andrey Blagosklonov

    About the photo  –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thich_Quang_Duc

  • http://www.facebook.com/blagosklonov Andrey Blagosklonov

    Abouth the photo – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thich_Quang_Duc

  • http://twitter.com/ChartingStock ChartingStock

    The picture was Vietnam related:  “Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)”

    Source: https://sites.google.com/site/chinhdangvu/vietnam/history-of-vietnam/vietnam-war/a-look-back-at-the-vietnam-war-on-the-35th-anniversary-of-the-fall-of-saigon

  • http://twitter.com/fzeng96 Feng Z

    this is just a form of religious fanaticism, the fuckers flew into the twin towers, the norway shooter, every religion has it. at the heart of it is human stupidity and violence. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Great point Feng. Its the exact same violence. On the surface this guy is portrayed as a hero but when you see all the people who followed in his footsteps its nothing but horror and pain. And for nothing. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BMFL2RPI7VTR3GQLZJC5YNJN4M Leo Goose

    Well, more recently, a street vendor in Tunisia set himself aflame and sparked a revolution that toppled a pretty miserable dictator, setting the model for what happened in Egypt and potentially Libya.  So, depending on your view, it might not always be as futile as you suggest.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      My opinion: it was a futile. Those revolutions would’ve started anyway. And we’re a long way from seeing whats “better” or “worse” in those countries. Do Revolutions automatically make things better for the people in those countries? American slaves would’ve been freed in 1833 (by British law) if there was no American Revolution, for instance. So its all a matter of perspective. Whereas, improving yourself can have direct and visible results.

      • jonovos

        …And one more thing to consider, the coming industrial revolution in USA would have made human slavery utterly obsolete, and utterly uneconomical. Progress would have freed these unfortunate souls. Now, as for the “rest of us all” in modern times, who are increasingly rapidly being replaced by automation in corporate down-sizing office settings, … well that’s another story. On the whole I stand in agreement with your position above, James.

      • http://www.IdeaAgeConsulting.com Gogo @ Denver Consulting

        Lol. Must you insist on being so controversial? Great critical thinking/questioning.

      • Juan Mehris

         James, I agree with your thesis but your assertion that slavery would’ve been abolished if the American Revolution hadn’t happened is absurd, especially as a line of reasoning supporting your point.  Britain would have been far less likely to implement the same law if it owned the Southern States practicing slavery.

  • http://twitter.com/JayAltschuler Jay Altschuler

    A “dear james” feature is a great idea.

    I don’t know if this is true, but you seem to be very turned off by anything that involves doing something for a greater good that is beyond you or yours.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’re like related to me with that name.

      I do think the way to serve the greatest good for the masses is to do the greatest good for yourself. Not in a materialistic way but in more important, more eternal ways.

      • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

        The resemblance is uncanny.

      • http://profiles.google.com/akselsoft Andrew MacNeill

        Do good by yourself and others will follow. If everyone looked out for themselves, and NOT by affecting others in a negative way, the world would be a better place. Because they would realize they aren’t gaining anything by hurting or forcing others. 

        It’s not “helping others” that makes the world better – it’s recognizing that you can help others by helping yourself. 

        Helping yourself might be by building homes for homeless but don’t kid yourself that you’re doing it for others – you’re doing it for you and that should be its reward. 

        Granted, now I’m off to pay taxes…that doesn’t make me better for helping others – it makes me bitter.

        • Zb

          This is an interesting topic. I’ve had debates (me being a proponent) over the concept of being a moral person for the sake of not only benefiting yourself, but also helping humanity. People will use the typical argument that taking drugs, having sex w/ random people, stealing from a rich person or company, etc does not affect anyone but themselves. I tend to believe that injuring yourself psychologically, ethically, or physically has indirect cascading effects on others, and more often than not comes back to bite you (i.e. produces bad karma).

          • http://profiles.google.com/akselsoft Andrew MacNeill

            Your examples: People will use the typical argument that taking drugs, having sex w/ random people, stealing from a rich person or company, etc does not affect anyone but themselves.

            Those aren’t valid arguments. As you said, of course, it affects someone ( for example, the random people).

            How does it help humanity if you do something and die doing it? Because of all the people that followed you? Wouldn’t it be better to be doing the right thing and others follow suit because they agreed with it? 
            (the more I follow this line, the more I sound like those silly Liberty Mutual ads)

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/derekdodds Derek Dodds

    This post was worth the wait. ‎”Every day find some part of yourself that needs to be reinvented and do it.” I love that James, I am going to do it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-Haugen/668927570 Todd Haugen

    The easy path today is always the hard path tomorrow and the hard path is the disciplined path of self-love you prescribe above.  I would add another aspect to this ritual of health, that of socially staying in shape which is building tolerance and acceptance of people different than you.  A dedication to true diversity of the human race.  If not for that then we all hate each other, http://laststopthissideoftheriverstyx.blogspot.com/2011/08/why-i-hate-you.html

  • motormind

    James

    I like your blog but this just put me off. Here, self-help has extended to self-absorption.

    There certainly are causes worth risking life and limb for; but not everyone has the courage or commitment to do so, especially since the beneficiaries are others.

    Do you believe people who make personal sacrifices to help others or make the world a better place are idiots?

    Feng shui crap vendor.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      the man had great influence. what would you say to the people who copycatted his actions but for less important reasons.

      • Anonymous

        James
        Though your blog makes fine points and wise ones I believe the poster you just responded to was warning to you of a drift away from humility. 

        You often defend yourself against your haters and with the power of the electron (formerly the pen) you wield much power your adversaries most often do not have.

        What I believe is the true test of a person is not how they react when things are going bad but when how they react when things are going very well. Usually at the height of one’s success are the seeds of their own downfall are sown.

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Not sure what u r referring to

      • motormind

         Yes the reason has to be important. From what I gather his was

    • http://twitter.com/fzeng96 Feng Z

      there are lots of things a person can do and sacrifice in order to benefit others, but burning yourself as a way to protest is absolutely fucking crazy and stupid. did he even save one single life? did one life got better because of his stupid act? what about his mother father and loved ones? how much pain has he inflicted on them? i am sure all the suicidal fanatics think they were sacrificing for the greater good, but without realizing that their mind is just as stupid and narrow as the one they were fighting against.

    • http://twitter.com/fzeng96 Feng Z

      there are lots of things a person can do and sacrifice in order to benefit others, but burning yourself as a way to protest is absolutely fucking crazy and stupid. did he even save one single life? did one life got better because of his stupid act? what about his mother father and loved ones? how much pain has he inflicted on them? i am sure all the suicidal fanatics think they were sacrificing for the greater good, but without realizing that their mind is just as stupid and narrow as the one they were fighting against.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RR4GTQOUTL6MJIRF6HGPPWVJVE Robert

    (16) For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! (17) So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. -Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      great quote

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RR4GTQOUTL6MJIRF6HGPPWVJVE Robert

        King Solomon is the wisest person to ever live. Ecclessiastes is a book of the bible that God inspired him to write. I am a Christian James, and I enjoy your blog because you are able to peel back the veneer on lots of worldly “truths”. Where we diverge is that when you pull back the veneer for me I see Jesus Christ, but when you pull back the veneer for you, you see lots of different things. Thanks for writing a great blog.

  • Denisedba

    I had the mental image of that infamous self-immolation LIFE photo “imblazened” in my psyche! Yep, I had to goo-goo it:
    A number of Buddhist monks (including the most famous case of Thích Quảng Đức) immolated themselves in protest of the discriminatory treatment endured by Buddhists under the Roman Catholic administration of President Ngô Đình Diệm in South Vietnam — even though violence against oneself is prohibited by most interpretations of Buddhist doctrine. The twenty-third chapter of the Lotus Sutra recounts the life story of the Bodhisattva Medicine King, which served as the main inspiration for the monks and nuns who self-immolated to protest the Vietnam War. In the Sutra, the Medicine King demonstrates his insight into the selfless nature of his body by ritualistically setting his body aflame, spreading the “light of the Dharma” for twelve hundred years. Thich Nhat Hanh adds: “The bodhisattva shined his light about him so that everyone could see as he could see, giving them the opportunity to see the deathless nature of the ultimate.”[6]

    “Light a Candle. . . but self-immolation?” Not aa good fashion statement!

  • alexfreeburg

    It’s hard for me to know what’s in the heart of a diehard buddhist monk. But I think it’s a cheap way to die too. The fire of his moral certainty, whether literal or figurative, would scorch any attempt by another person to connect with him, to reason with him, or even really to know him. 

    However, I think that the single minded focus, self-regard and strident belief that propels someone to such an extreme act is the same sauce that in another context causes an entrepreneur to work through the night on a project that only makes sense to him. 

    Or is his absolute commitment different somehow by virtue of its ideology? 

  • Caromusa

    It’s so beautiful what you said about the last thought. You literally made me cry.
    Best post ever!!!!!!!!!

  • Denisedba

    We have to remember that the horrific use of Dow Chemical naplm warfare had been instituted during the Viet Nam war. . .the image taken on June 8, 1972 of one little 9 year old girl’s terrifying image of being nearly incerated changed the mindset against the Viet Nam War. Kim Phuc survived the painful recovery of physical burns, and speaks out against the mental, economic, and spiritual torture of war as a spokesperson for UNESCO. . .and now lives in Canada with her own little girls and husband.

    The image of the buddist monk (Thích Quảng Đức) & the image of Kim Phuc had instigated the international anti~war PEACE movement. . .propaganda? At what cost?

  • firstbase613

    Where does one send his Dear James letter to? Thanks

  • firstbase613

    Where does one send his Dear James letter to? Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/bclund Brian Lund

    James, your posts always start with the distinct possibillity that they will vear off the tracks and end up in a twisted mess. I thought this one was going that way but as usual you pulled back from the edge and created another great post. Shame on me for thinking you would do otherwise.

  • http://twitter.com/bclund Brian Lund

    James, your posts always start with the distinct possibillity that they will vear off the tracks and end up in a twisted mess. I thought this one was going that way but as usual you pulled back from the edge and created another great post. Shame on me for thinking you would do otherwise.

    • pjc

      Nice comment Brian. That’s what makes James so much fun. He was a very distinct perspective, and thus comes up with such odd ways to frame an argument. But he (almost always) keeps track of what kind of message will have resonate widely.

      It’s possible James writes truly twisted stuff sometimes, but his wife blocks him from posting those.

  • Jay

    “….100 years from now will people even remember this photograph?

    I don’t know who he is………”

    James, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here.  You are full of crap. 100 years from now people will remember that photograph and who that monk was, but they’re not going to remember you.

    You admit in your post that you know zero about the picture except that it is some guy
    burning himself.  And you say he’s taking the “easy way out”.  LOL

    All you are doing in a nutshell if plucking some image out of context from that moment
    in reality and making a subjective judgement. And then basically projecting all your
    emotions , primarily fear, on to the event.

    “…Be like the guy in the photo. He’s never going to change again. He’s
    going to be a photo forever. And his cause and everything he ever
    believed in is going to be remain exactly the same forever….”

    The guy is not the same as the photo. Everything changes. That is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. What he did was throw a rock into the pond and the pond is still rippling today , evidence your post.

    “Everything he believed in”  You have no idea what he believed in.

    Then after you are done with your judgement based on no facts, you start your Dear Abby infomercial.

    “As for me, I’m going to watch an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, work on
    a novel, and avoid the heat outside. I don’t like it when it gets too
    hot…..”

    Yes , stay in your comfort zone.

    • http://twitter.com/fzeng96 Feng Z

      i am sure Buddha also taught his students to burn themselves to make peace.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    I’m guessing the guy in the photo probably wasn’t doing his daily practice. 
    _____
    In situations much different then ours, for example, sleeping with the
    ever present fear of bombs, rape, and/or slaughter, or witnessing
    atrocities day in and day out, generation after generation, in my
    despair, I may believe that setting myself on fire was all I had left to do. 

    It’s so sad what he did. I am sure it profoundly effected many people but I don’t think his actions were worth it.

    So many things/actions aren’t worth it.

  • Anonymous

    i started reading this blog a few months ago because i found some of the posts about the tech industry and since then i have read every new post. mostly i have been entertained and interested but honestly a few of your posts put me off a lot.

    first it was the glorification of steve jobs, a real asshole who happened to design an mp3 player, as someone to admire.

    now you’re misunderstanding the nature of antiauthoritarian protest because self-improvement is “harder,”  whatever that means.

    to take your post at face value, “Dying like this is easy.” is bullshit. give someone a choice: set themselves on fire or start going to the gym, 100% of them are going to choose the gym. dying by suicidally setting yourself on fire is just about the least “easy” thing most people could possibly imagine.

    secondly, he certainly accomplished his goal. hundreds of millions of people have seen his photo, and many of those learned why he did it.

    third, he didn’t bomb a supermarket or ineffectually hold up a sign at a busy intersection or any of the other half-measures most people consider as “protest.” he made the ultimate statement through noble self-sacrifice and that is why his protest was so powerful that just the image of it has become part of human history for decades.

    and finally, to write all that off to encourage people to “stay in shape” – really? who gives a shit? how does it help the world to “stay in shape”? a lot of people have more important things to do than “stay in shape” – like working 2 jobs to feed their kids, or creating great art, or just living honest, moral lives. i value helping others a lot more than managing to lift weights twice a week or do yoga or whatever activity people do for their own self-centered benefit.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I think it’s never good for someone to kill themselves and set themselves on fire.I’m not saying that the opposite choice is “getting in shape ” . Please reread.

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        I think it’s important to not glorify a suicide (that’s what it is) that ultimately didnt accomplish its goals . I really believe the only change worth fighting for comes from within first. Thats where real leadership and inapiration worth emulating is created. Not suicide. No suicide is noble.

        • Mat

          Your statement “No suicide is noble” is wrong. Jumping in front of a bullet to save someone else is noble, dying from smoke inhalation while saving people from a burning building is noble. This is not the same as those things. You can debate about whether this was noble or not, but you can’t just say that the debate is pointless because no suicide is noble.

          • http://profiles.google.com/akselsoft Andrew MacNeill

            That’s not suicide. No one jumps in front of a bullet thinking I’m going to die, they think I don’t want this person to die. They aren’t attempting to kill themselves – they are attempting to save others. There’s a difference.

            Otherwise, one could say, someone who swerved to miss an animal on the road and died, committed suicide. Which is obviously not the case.

  • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

    Wow. I have never seen that photo. I’ve never seen any photo of someone who’d lit themself on fire. 

    I might have been better off if I hadn’t. For as often as I make light of my grandfather committing suicide that way, that photo was startling. I wouldn’t have expected myself to have such a visceral reaction, honestly. 

    At least the guy in the photo died for a cause, regardless of whether his death had any impact on that cause. My grandfather did it because it seemed like more fun than sobriety. 

    I love the Dear James idea. It will be like your psychic craigslist adventure, except more honest. 

  • http://what-are-my-options.blogspot.com/ the99th

    In my darker moments I’ve contemplated suicide expressly by this method, it carries a certain dignity relative to other methods of suicide. 

    Still, life is better and you’re absolutely on. 

    The mother of my daughter and I recently decided to stop trying to live together and she’s been seeing a psychologist, I used this as a metaphor for her self-loathing tendencies. Meanwhile I’ve been trying dating but find it a gauntlet of slight rejection, and I refuse to let that stop me. Probability always wins in the end. 

  • Anonymous

    You remind me a little of the lead character in the movie “Limitless,” which I just saw.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chapuchi Guillermo Schiappucci

     I don’t know his name, nor the year, but he wanted to protest the unfair treatment of Buddhist in Vietnam. I mean, that’s one of the most iconic photographs in history, how the hell are you on the internet and have never seen that?
    You have to at least respect the man for having enormous balls. Even if the incidental cause was religion, all he wanted was to be respected equally as a human being, no matter your beliefs. No matter your religion or non-religion, you have to respect that.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I do and I don’t. I think he inspired lots of copycats and ended up achieving the opposite of what he set out to achieve. So i respect what he is attempting but i think his methods were absolutely wrong. 

  • Bill Walker

    I agree with your comments… I guess the only thing to say about the monk is that at least he only burned himself. We US taxpayers pay for every dictatorship around the world to burn children every day; that makes us a lot worse.

    Now that the US has lost its credit rating, wonder if we’ll unsubscribe from the War-Of-The-Month club?

  • Bill Walker

    I agree with your comments… I guess the only thing to say about the monk is that at least he only burned himself. We US taxpayers pay for every dictatorship around the world to burn children every day; that makes us a lot worse.

    Now that the US has lost its credit rating, wonder if we’ll unsubscribe from the War-Of-The-Month club?

  • http://twitter.com/SteveDave99876 Steve Dave

    You’ve found exercise later in life and have to tell the world.  The best thing my dad ever did for me was to imbue me with a discipline for exercise from a young age.

  • Steven L Goff
    • http://profiles.google.com/akselsoft Andrew MacNeill

      And yet, sadly what did it accomplish? China still censors other revolutions around the world.

  • Mat

    In June of 1963, Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức
    burned himself to death at a busy intersection in Saigon. The
    self-immolation was done in response to the persecution of Buddhists by
    South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem administration. The Catholic regime had
    cracked down on practicing Buddhists by banning the flying of the
    traditional Buddhist flag; prohibiting Buddhists from exercising the
    same religious freedoms as Catholics; and the continued detainment of
    Buddhist monks and nuns  — a moment referred to as The Buddhist Crisis.

    That’s what spirituality gets you, dead people.

  • http://roundelwoods.blogspot.com/ Andrew Ramponi

    I shudder to imagine what went through the guys mind and body as he made the decision to die.   
    Life is so immensely complex who can honestly pick back the trail of consequences that link events over time and say something was for nothing?

    That said I am inclined to believe that no one single act or person changes the world; the figure heads we might look to as having been of great consequence to societal change were acting as sails in the wind, catching the mood of the time at a level often deeper than we – and perhaps they – realised. And then, plus ca change…

    Love is a burning thingAnd it makes a fiery ringbound by wild desireI fell in to a ring of fire…

    Dear James, Who do you think has changed the world?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s a great question. I don’t think anyone has changed the world. I bet we’re more or less in the same position we would’ve been no matter what. I wish technology had gotten kickstarted a little earlier but there’s nobody to blame for that. And if you look at all major inventions they always seem to have been invented by more than one person at the same time and nobody ever heard of the other. 

  • Anonymous

    Gandhi believed that through Satyagraha, or non-violent resistance, an opponent gradually became weaned from improper action by the unveiling of truth through the infliction of suffering, not on the opponent, but on oneself.  Much like this monk, he directed the violence toward himself in an attempt to achieve his goals. 

    Interestingly, at the end of his life Gandhi considered himself a failure.  His philosophy of non-violent resistance ushered in the partition of Pakistan from India and the largest mass migration in human history.  More than a million of his fellow citizens were murdered in the resulting riots and his country remains, some seventy years later, one of the poorest on earth. 

    Gandhi formed many of his ideas while living as a young man in repressive South Africa.  Nelson Mandela once said, “I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle.” 

    And they won. 

    Yet we are constantly told that the highest, most noble form of protest is Gandhian non-violent resistance.  Why?  Could it be that those who control the message, those in charge, would prefer that their opponents use self immolation.  Might they want their enemy to turn their weapons on themselves and commit suicide?

    A few months ago I read the obituary for Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the First Lady of South Vietnam in 1963 when this photo was taken.  She was known as the Dragon Lady.  When she was asked by a foreign correspondent to comment on the Buddhist protest she laughed and called it a barbecue.  She said, “Let them burn and we shall clap our hands,” then went on to offer more fuel and matches.

    • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

      Interesting.

      I think the question you pose leads right back to the necessity of people taking personal control of themselves in the four categories: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000228699838 Michael Morse

      no poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country….he won it by making other bastards die for theirs. – George S. Patton 

      Dragon Lady was just following Pattons’ advice.

  • C Pennybrown

    I don’t understand how anyone could be sending angry emails to you.  I really don’t get it.

    Reading your blog I get a feeling of sweetness and light.  My usual reaction is to smile.

    And even your “darker” posts seem to make me feel better.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      C, thank you. Its amazing the spectrum of responses I get when I just try to be honest about what’s on my mind and what I’m doing to try and improve. I readily admit my problems and yet people want to still rub them all in further. Some people write me and say, “I will never read your blog again!” and my only response is “that’s fine” although I usually don’t respond. 

  • Red October

    You bloggers are so competitive! Penelope Trunk just launched her “mailbag” (http://mailbag.penelopetrunk.com/), which is also based on a “Dear Abby” concept. Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen you two together in the same place …could it be that you’re….? Nah.

    • Red October

      Oops, link above should have been http://mailbag.penelopetrunk.com/

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ha, we have been together in the same place at the same time over a very enjoyable dinner. But, i didnt know she was doing a mailbag. Independent. 

  • Anonymous

    Good Post. Forgiveness and Gratefulness are huge, powerful forces in your life. Most people think it shows weakness to practice them, but they’re actually a source of strength. Very misunderstood concepts I’ve only (age 43) just begun to understand. Thanks for the blog, James. Your energy and wisdom come through the internet like nobody else.  You’ve got a particular genius I don’t know how to describe.

    Are you a Rod Serling fan? Best TV writer ever. Really mastered the medium.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Funny, just last week downloaded the entire first season of The Twilight Zone. My kids surprisingly liked the one they saw. 

  • Webcarpenter

    This Vietnamese Buddist monk accomplished what he set out to do. This act was not in vain. This man was not forgotten  Here we are, 48 years later, talking about it amongst multitudes of people via the internet. If this act affected at least one person in a rightious way, then his goal was satisfied. Who are we to judge another person’s actions.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Sadly, his act also affected people in negative ways: buddhists were persecuted more. Vietnam lasted another decade. There were dozens of copycat immolations (a safe word for “suicide”). An act like this is certainly brave, but probably not the best thing he could’ve done for himself or the people he was trying to help. Instead, much sadness was generated. 

      • fatelephant

        Buddhist believe in re-birth. The cost is not very high.

  • zzen321

    This is one of those vivid moments that will survive from Vietnam War more than 100 years from now. 
    As is this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TrangBang.jpgAnd this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nguyen.jpg
    Were there any effect?
    “After the self-immolation, the U.S. put more pressure on Diệm to re-open negotiations on the faltering agreement. … The Joint Communique and concessions to the Buddhists were signed on 16 June.”

    I agree with your point. But the man was ready to die for his convictions. I find his conviction and determination admirable.

  • Jake

    These are all great advice – furthering/maintaining physical, mental, and especially spiritual health. But in the end, we all die and so does everyone who ever meant anything to us. So, what is the meaning of life? Furthering humanity’s progress by contributing in our own small ways? Maybe. Our lives have become more comfortable in many ways thanks to the efforts of previous generations. Spending more time with those we love? It never seems enough. Maybe it’s trying to make our lives (and the lives of those around us) as comfortable and enriching as possible while we are here? Dying is like an exam that you know you will receive an F on no matter what you did to prepare for it, so why not enjoy the time before the exam?

    Given this, suicide to make a point, whether the point was taken or not by others, doesn’t seem too bad. While I would strongly prefer (at the moment) to live the good life than to commit suicide for any reason, I can easily see how others might be motivated to do otherwise.

    One thing that has always intrigued me are the accounts of those before us who have progressed spiritually to a point where they describe an end game of sorts. A state of consciousness that requires some hard work (meditation) to achieve, that supposedly provides some answers. To me, it seems worthwhile to live just to try and get closer to that state.

  • Chris Kurn

    One of my more recent mental exercises is envisioning the reversal of science and religion, and what possible outcomes may be.  So..

    Dear James:

    How many people would quit smoking cigarettes if their religious leaders decided that it was a sin?

  • Dirk Beszia

    in buddhism this act is called an ’empty gesture’. write about that james. not everything has to have some self help or ‘getting better, stronger, faster’ slant. as mario savio once said…”There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

  • Anonymous

    Every time I see that picture, I am filled with sadness. I can’t imagine the strength of despair that would lead to such an act. Fire hurts so very badly and yet he sits there.

    As for the rest of the post, it fills me with hope.

    Thank you, James.

  • Anonymous

    Every time I see that picture, I am filled with sadness. I can’t imagine the strength of despair that would lead to such an act. Fire hurts so very badly and yet he sits there.

    As for the rest of the post, it fills me with hope.

    Thank you, James.

  • Kevin M

    I’ve only seen the picture because it was cover “art” for a Rage Against the Machine CD. At first I thought it was a fake.

  • Priceat

    I was a professional athlete and my career was cut short because of a foolish play on the part of one of my teammates. I lived with that anger for over a year until a close friend of mine gave me a ring with the inscription “This too shall pass.” This prophetic insight from King Solomon helped me transcend the pain and actually use the anger for a constructive purpose. Every time I feel the nagging doubt of failure leaching off my enthusiasm, I remember what has happened, where I am and what I have done.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WPBKK3AA6KKPVOFIIKW3Z7G6OE kamal

    This post was shared by my colleague. Although the theme of the post resonates a little with Indian mythology which questions “if anything is real or its just a hallucination you are living in”. However I think the post was a little disappointing in picking up the example. By now lot of people have commented on and told you who the monk in this picture is. When I connect the two (the picture and what you are saying), it almost seems to mean to live life like a worthless individual without any passion, any cause to vouch for. Anything that upsets you, should be disconnected and hence you should avoid anything that upsets you.

    Would you say the samething for Steve Jobs too. From your replies to some comments, it looks like looking back everything is preordained and would have eventually happened irrespective of whether any one tried to make an effort or not.

    P.S. I don’t have much in common with Vietnam and such cause.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      A couple of points: 
      A) clearly the guy is very brave
      B) unfortunately it inspired a lot of copycats who killed themselves (very sad) and accomplished nothing
      C) its unclear what he accomplished. the regime upped the persecution of buddhists. 
      D) I think all suicide is bad (I don’t use the safer word “immolation”) and leads to further deaths. Death only inspires death. 

  • Gonzojh
  • http://twitter.com/Darcy_Palmer Darcy Palmer

    How bizarre, I was googling woman self imolation and this pic came up in the google image search, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thich_Quang_Duc  , either that or you’ve been peeking in my internet browser history again?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      A more important question might be why were you googling “woman self immolation”?