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Dear Copthorne Macdonald,

After reading your book Getting a Life in entirety, and letting all of its lessons ruminate conjunctively in my brain for a little over a week now, I think I can finally speak analytically, and with confidence about my experience reading your book. First of all, it was an experience in every sense of the word. After having read your book, chapter by chapter, week by week, it is undeniable that I've become a different person: worldly, engaged, more understanding, and insightful seem to be a few qualities that are stronger in my day to day life. My transformation did not happen all at once as I read the last word and closed the back cover of Getting a Life. It happened over the course of about nine weeks, as I read about two chapters per week. After picking up your book to read each week, I couldn't help but feel as if some bigger cosmos was toiling with my fate. Your words seemed to be uncannily chosen to counsel and clarify confusions I faced at that specific point in time. I realize now that what I perceived as an amazing coincidence was really just my interpretation of your words, so applicable in so many situations, and me relating them to my own life and experience.

I am not overly enthusiastic about every single word printed in Getting a Life, but I hardly find myself downright disagreeing with it. Your words can be argued in every direction. I have to admit that your advice is wonderfully fitting for all kinds of lives and people. It is open to interpretation on so many levels. I feel if anyone were to embark upon reading your book with nothing but an utterly open mind (not a critical or skeptical one), they would find that the content is relatable, pertinent, and appropriate for many scenarios, certain ones befitting some more than others. When I read your book there were phrases and sentences that stuck out to me. I assume that the same thing happens to each reader, different chapters resonate more strong than others depending on the unique life that sits reading. I think it is these touching tidbits, unique for each reader, which I remember. Here are those points of mine, ones that jumped out at me as I read them and left me thinking, "How does he know? This relates perfectly to...".

1. Chapter 2: Being a Learner
: This chapter struck a deep chord. At the beginning of this third semester of my college education, a question crept up in my mind, which had remarkably never showed itself before. Not in all my years of high school had I asked: "Are you learning everything you want to know?" I realized that there were skill sets and knowledge that I had always wanted to learn, but never pursued because I was led to believe their priority was far below what I was learning in mainstream schooling. The kind of education I was lacking, the kind involving apprenticeship or travel, was always thought of as an addendum to my education that I might "one day pursue in my spare time." It quickly dawned on me that I was not sure what I meant by "spare time," and when exactly I was waiting for it to consume my life. It was time to become my own teacher, and this revelation has changed the way I live my life day-to-day.

2. "There are people who get very upset by uncertainty…these people prematurely undertake a course of action just to ease their uncomfortable feelings." This quote from the chapter entitled "Doing it Now," is the equivalent for me of what some people pay hundreds and thousands of dollars in therapy for: an exact description of the personal quality that is causing them their strife.

I am controlling. There I said it; I am a control freak. It is an incredibly stressful way to live life. I often lie to my conscious mind in order to keep calm. I try and convince myself that things are still in my control, even when they are undeniably not. I'll "undertake a course of action," that eases, assuages, or simply distracts me from the unnerving notion of helplessness. I'm on the lookout these days for this unhealthy habit forming where I refuse to address whatever uncomfortable situation is at hand. Just like the first step out of the 12 steps for a recovering alcoholic, my first step was admitting to be a control freak. Now I am working on facing the uncontrollable, and not allaying or appeasing it with distractions or irrelevant busyness.

Chapter 6-Confident Knowing
: Listen to your intuition. In our society, or the one that I am immersed in day-to-day, I feel that one's intuition is manipulated from the get-go. As you get older, you become more and more detached from recognizing that voice that isn't in our head, but in our "gut." This chapter was a mind-quieter for me. I finished reading and my brain, constantly "buzzing," as you so accurately described, was far less noisy than usual. The voices that normally occupy it, ones of other people and institutions filling it with their thoughts and opinions, was not quite as loud. Something I had read had quieted the extraneous stimuli flickering through my consciousness. I had become just a little bit closer to hearing that voice from below (my gut instinct, that is). I try to quiet my mind with those voices and opinions I too often confuse with my own. I am trying to get back in touch with this intuition that is so often stifled by expectations, regulations, and outside influences. It is easier said than done, but you certainly have to be diligent about trying, which is what I aim to do now.

Chapter 13-Transcending Loneliness: I think nothing spoke to me more than this chapter. When you said, "To an extent greater than we might like to admit, loneliness drives the human race, and determines our behavior." I stopped and thought for a long time. I think that to a point our moment-to-moment engagement with the world, being active and engaging our brains with constant activity, is our tendency to want to stave off one thing only-feeling alone.

To clarify: I don't think that everyone on the planet needs to have a partner or another person to console his or her loneliness. Everyone has a different shape puzzle piece to fill the void that leaves them lonely; it may be a hobby, an activity, an adventure, a purpose, and in some cases it is another person. Looking at loneliness through this wide lens, I think that this can explain a lot of the incentives behind decision-making, which can help you properly analyze how you will react to certain events and situations. Looking back on my decisions I can analyze which ones have left me feeling "full," satisfied, or content, which helps me pinpoint the source (or shape) of my loneliness.

These are only a few of the concepts and topics you address in your book, which I found struck a familiar chord within me. Your book is one that I'd like to go back and read someday, many years from now. I think it will be the same, slightly unnerving experience where, as I read, I can't help but admit how eerily relevant it is to my life at that point in time, too.

The question in class has often come up where we ask ourselves what would make a "good life," were we are hypothetically lying on our deathbed, many years from now, and looking back on the life we have lived.  Would we consider it "good"?  Your book, Getting a Life, has helped me attain a lifestyle that I feel more at home in, more fulfilled by.  I think, when you're on your deathbed, a life of personal satisfaction is all you can wish for, which is all that I strive for from this day out.

Thank you and best wishes,


April 14, 2010

Dear Kelsey,

Thank you so much for taking the time to get your thoughts together in such an effective way, and to share them with me. As you know doubt know, you are an excellent writer. And I find your ability to examine your mind and "know thyself" to be exceptional, not just for a person of your age, but of any age.

I liked very much your comments about trying to separate your own deeply personal intuitive knowing from the cacophony of voices trying to influence us. I'm glad that your reading of Chapter 6 helped you move closer to that gut level knowing. But as you say, in our culture "it is easier said than done." In my comments to the class the other day I touched on what I have found to be the most effective way of quieting those other voices in our planning, remembering, thinking intellect and opening up to the quiet, subtle, feeling-expressed intuitive knowings. The quiet mind is a habit that can be developed through practice. It takes repetitive effort just as learning to play a musical instrument does, and like that kind of practice, it is often frustrating at first. If you feel like exploring in this direction I have two suggestions. There is a guided mindfulness meditation online that is basically the beginning meditation that one finds in all branches of Buddhism, and these days also in many secular settings. The URL is The second is a technique that came out of biofeedback research called Open Focus. That URL is

Thank you again, Kelsey, for all your supportive comments. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the thought of writing to book authors. Consequently, we don't get nearly as much feedback from readers as most people assume we do. I very much appreciate yours.

All the best,