Hoist the Black Flag

by | Jun 21, 2023 | CC Favorite Essays, Essays

Have you had enough yet?
Enough of the shell game disguised as politics, the hypocrisy of political correctness gone wild, and the manipulation of the masses by the corrupt agencies of power? How about the many constructs of society that collude to create a powerful forcing function to pound you into conformity – insisting you take a shape you were never made to be?

Up is down, and down is up these days – nothing makes sense and it seems there would be no standards at all were it not for double standards. The state of the world makes me wonder if it’s time to hoist, spit and slit as H. L. Mencken once wrote, “Every normal man must be, at times, tempted to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

Revolution? Yes, it’s most assuredly that time. But, perhaps, not the kind of revolution some might envision.

It’s time for a personal revolution.

What we need collectively, as men, is a gathering of individuals all invested in personal leadership and personal accountability. It’s time for self examination, to take stock and to prioritize. And, we must act swiftly upon what we discover to right our ships and course correct to better destinations – leaving the seas plagued by storms of life.

It’s time to raise the black flag, men.

But how?

What did H. L. Mencken mean when he wrote “hoist the black flag?”

Did he mean that as Thoreau once quipped, “men live lives of quiet desperation” and in the fullest measure of their deepest despair they are tempted during these dark times to lash out with violence and lawlessness? Perhaps.

Mencken may have meant many things with his novel call to arms in joining the pirates of long past to hoist the black flag, but I read this through the lens of a performance life coach. To me, it’s a call to those who have become supremely disenfranchised with their lives to make radical and profoundly meaningful change – and to achieve this at a significant, life-altering level by trading the status quo for the battle rhythm of their individual authenticity in a search for real and lasting purpose.

When we hoist the black flag as pirates once did, we too signal to the world that we have flatly rejected the status quo…we are the captains of our own ship and sail the waters of our own choosing. We are not afraid to be different or buck the conventions of society, and in fact, celebrate that our differences hold the keys to discovering our unique purpose in this life.

Spitting on our hands symbolizes the significant work we are about to undertake, seizing control of our lives and our personal transformation. It is our life’s work that must be fully engaged and no longer put off to a day that may never come. We start now. Nothing could be more important.

Slitting throats signals the willingness to take extreme measures and extraordinary actions that fall outside the norm to achieve our objectives. We will not revert to the mean. Average is a dead end for us. We are individuals, uniquely made, with much to do – and a willingness to do it.

We now see that collapsing to conformity is the “loose canon” of our lives – a thousand pounds of pig iron rolling around, poking holes in our ship.

Conversely, authenticity is the hallmark of our unique making and the key to our way forward. We aim to tie down our cannons and make way on a yet uncharted and untraveled course in this life.

It’s no wonder Mencken chose to cite pirates in his quote about hosting the black flag – they rejected norms, lived on their own terms, followed a code, hunted for treasure, fought back against the establishment, and risked death to live free and unencumbered by the constraints of conformity. To be clear, I know pirates weren’t as noble as all that, but as a metaphor, pirates will do nicely.

Perhaps, we should all free the pirate inside of us, bucking convention and following the call of our souls to the place we inherently know we should travel – that place that holds the promise of everything we never knew we always wanted.

I can’t tell you where that place is; but I can promise you this – it’s not too late to undertake serious self-examination in the search for who you were made to be.

It’s time to name out loud your sacred things – those things for which we could kill or die without doubt or hesitation – and chart your new heading with these markers in mind.

Time is slipping through the hourglass, and nothing less than your new life and legacy awaits. Hoist the black flag, and set sail to a new life of meaning and purpose in the service of your sacred things – there you will find your treasure.

Questions men must answered:

  1. What happened to the most authentic parts of me, and how will I recover them?
  2. What sacred things am I willing to kill or die for without doubt or hesitation?
    • How much of my life is currently dedicated to these things?
  3. Regarding these sacred things, why are they so important?
    • Ask “why” up to five times and follow your answers to a core motive for living.
  4. How much of my time do I spend supporting and protecting my sacred things?
    • How do I really use my time? Wisely?
  5. What needs to change in the way I live and approach life?
  6. When will I start living differently? How?

Raise the black flag! Answer these questions thoughtfully and truthfully, and embark on your course correction to new waters and new life.

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