Jack London had a life defined by the sea. He was born in San Francisco and lived much of his youth in Oakland, sailing on ships owned by Chinese merchants who smuggled opium into America for sale. The adventurous writer’s adventures on the high seas took him to places where few other Americans dared go –and he wrote about them best-selling books that were translated around the world but only achieved American success after his death,.
Jack London is often considered a success as a writer, but his life was full of failures. The conclusion to the “The Life of Jack London” discusses how he went from being an unknown author to becoming one of the most successful writers in America. Read more in detail here: when was jack london considered a success as a writer.
This article closes a series on Jack London’s biography, with a focus on his use of the Ancient Greek idea of thumos.
We hope you liked our ten-part series on Jack London’s life and works. I’m sure we had a good time researching and writing it. I’ve never found another man’s narrative to be so captivating. I’ve learnt a lot about Jack and I’m still curious! I’d want to visit London’s previous house in Glen Ellen, California, at some point in the future (which is now a state park). The fact that a man’s thumos may continue to burn and affect others long after he has died is a true tribute to the potency of this spiritual energy.
When you think about Jack London’s life, you get a lot of profound and intriguing questions. Is it possible for a guy with such high-pitched thumos to burn out (it’s hard to image Jack as a 70-year-old man, isn’t it)? Is it preferable to fade away or burn out? Is it selfish to burn out (after all, Jack left a widow and two daughters)? Wouldn’t it be preferable to burn out in a more beautiful fashion than by poisoning your body (the Navy SEALs’ unofficial slogan is “live fast, die hard, and leave a good-looking corpse”)? Is ignorance really bliss, or can you gain a great lot of information while maintaining your ideals? Would you rather live a life that included all London has to offer and die at 40, or would you rather live a life that was far more staid and mediocre?
These questions will elicit different responses from each guy. I can only share a few of the insights I’ve gained from following the ups and downs of Jack London’s life and the trajectory of his thumos.
More to do and more to be. When I read biographies and novels about London, something deep within me, a need for more, is sparked – I simply want to go out and explore! “A curiosity, want to know, an agitation, and a quest for things great that I appeared to have seen or surmised,” Jack characterized the stirring in himself as a voice in the back of his mind. Jack had some fairly incredible experiences as a result of listening to this call, and he was able to devote himself to self-education and perfecting his art as a writer with superhuman dedication. But even he admitted that the voice came to him in hushed tones, and I believe that we frequently have difficulty hearing – and responding to – it in our own lives. I’m sure I do. We reason away our aspirations and desires as stupid or impossible to realize, and content ourselves with the ordinary when responsibilities pile up and fear gets in the way.
“For me, this has been the finest education in the world, and I continue to seek it out.” Man must be measured against better men, or else his progress would be nonexistent, or at most, one-sided and fanciful.” – London, Jack
I know I’ll never be a tenth of Jack London’s cool – he was a one-of-a-kind figure even in his own day – and his existence makes me feel very dull and inept! But in the most positive manner imaginable. Measuring yourself against someone exceptional doesn’t guarantee that you’ll ever reach their level, but it may motivate you to perform better in your little corner of the world – to make the most of whatever circumstances you find yourself in. Jack London motivates me to read more, work harder, and find out how I, as a busy father, can incorporate more adventure into my own life.
Continue to push yourself. London discovered that attaining the pinnacles of achievement left him feeling empty; his true delight came from his experiences and the godlike act of creation. His life has shown me that the road and effort are much more rewarding than the final outcome. I know, that sounds like a bumper sticker, but it’s the truth. The notoriety, fame, and money that come with achieving a lofty goal do not provide long-term satisfaction. The joy that comes from pushing your mental and physical talents to their limits, experiencing experiences that grow your spirit, and seeing yourself develop into a better man is the true prize. After completing one challenge, you must seek out a new one, even if it is of a very different kind.
Continue to press forward. London, like many other success stories, hasn’t progressed in a straight line. He’d be trapped working at a factory, then go on a potentially life-changing excursion, then return to the job, then go on another adventure, only to end up back on the assembly line. Before magazines and publishers accepted his work, he faced a slew of rejections. But he always considered these setbacks to be just transitory. Rather than getting disheartened, he continued seeking for new possibilities and working to better himself until he ultimately went off for good.
Take some time to re-energize. Another thing I learned from Jack is that although the white horse of thumos may surely lead to grandeur and success, if ridden too hard or for too long, it can become weakened, allowing the black horse of your appetites to take control. I’m a firm believer in hustling to achieve your objectives and achieve success, and I’m at my happiest when I’m hustling. But I have a hard time unwinding and recharging — there are no set hours or leaving times with this kind of business, and I could work 24/7 if I wanted to. The final exchange between Jack and Charmian was a little too close to home for me. Jack demonstrated to me that although a full-throttle approach may work in the short term, if you want to stay with anything for the long haul, you must pace yourself. The 20-Mile March is the main event!
Keep your values in mind. Jack lost trust in the ideas that had fueled his youth and energized his soul as he grew older. He thought he knew too much, and he was empty and jaded towards the end of his life. I believe that the more educated you are, the more difficult it becomes to avoid developing a very pessimistic attitude about people and life. Cynicism is like a disease that begins tiny and gradually spreads to consume every ounce of astonishment, glitter, and enchantment that runs through our lives. But I believe that holding on to your principles without burying your head in the sand is doable. Not only is it feasible, but it is also required. Every man needs a mission — a set of deeply held views that he can totally accept – without apology, wink, wink irony, or an infinite list of disclaimers.
Observing the thumos seasons. One of the most fascinating aspects of researching Jack London’s biography was contemplating how the “lifecycle” of thumos closely resembles the development of the brain.
We conducted a two-part piece a few months ago on the significance of not squandering your twenties. We started by discussing the twentysomething brain’s unique abilities and possibilities, which include a proclivity for profound enthusiasm, a great curiosity about people and the world, and fearlessness in the face of danger (remind you of anything?). We looked at how these tendencies soften as your brain matures and “sets up” in your mid-twenties, but also how, as your intensity fades, you get better at planning, making choices, processing probability, creating objectives, and dealing with ambiguity. The passionate side of your brain mellows as you enter your thirties, while your executive functions improve.
As I’ve researched thumos and Jack London’s life, that sequence has often returned to mind, and it seems to me that the growth of the brain and the nature of thumos are linked. The latter might be both a philosophical and metaphysical term, as well as a neurological one. Your thumos, like your brain, has seasons, and it’s critical to recognize and take advantage of those seasons at the appropriate times. What we stated about the brain is that it grows in such a manner that the twenties are perfect for beginning your interests, while the decades thereafter are ideal for expanding on what you started. Or, to put it another way, thumos’ aspects of drive, fight, and passion are at their peak in your youth, while its elements of decision-making, judgment, and steadfastness become more prominent as you become older. The many aspects of thumos appear at different periods in your life, and they appear just when you need them the most.
These various seasons of a man’s thumos were acknowledged by the ancient Greeks. They thought thumos was most closely linked with youth, but that it was active throughout a man’s life. The comparison between Achilles in the Iliad and Odysseus in the Odyssey is a superb illustration of the distinct seasons of thumos. Achilles was a young man, perhaps between the ages of 18 and 19, who was filled with thumic rage and zeal. Above everything things, he desired fame and honor. And he was successful. To get it, all he had to do was die in his prime.
Odysseus, on the other hand, was a more senior figure. Back at home, he had a family and a kingdom waiting for him. He didn’t care about glory as much as he cared about returning to Ithaca alive. Odysseus still possessed thumos, but it didn’t burn as brightly as Achilles’ did, and he utilized it differently. He was able to make good judgments, outwit his opponents, and return home to live a long and tranquil life because to his thumic cunning and wiles.
If you had asked me ten years ago who I identified with the most, I would have said Achilles. I was adamant about achieving my objectives and being successful. But now that I’m 30, with a family and a mortgage, I’m finding myself more and more connecting to the guy of many guises. My motivation to succeed has waned, but my desire to be a careful steward of what I’ve already accomplished has risen.
A guy becomes a warrior first, and then a king if he survives the conflict. Thumos motivates one to conquer, then helps him manage and build what he has achieved. Thumos is required throughout the year, although in various ways.
This is something I don’t believe Jack London realized. He didn’t comprehend it, or if he did, he didn’t accept it. He continued hammering the thumos’ drive component, which had propelled him to success in his twenties and far into his thirties, but with diminishing rewards. And he failed to harness and develop his thumos’s sensible decision-making and judgment aspects, allowing what he had already achieved to elude him. His thumos was not harvesting in the autumn and planting useless seeds in the winter because it was functioning out of season. He was a great fighter, but he couldn’t make the transition to king.
Make an effort to be a guy. Manliness is a difficult concept to describe. But wow, when we see it, we know it. It’s something that’s simpler to feel than to express. Despite his weaknesses, Jack London’s manliness radiated from every page he wrote, as well as those written about him. Simply knowing about him inspires me to be a better guy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all got the type of pithy homage that an old sourdough gave to London before he died:
“I adored the guy because—because he was a man; he was a man, by the Turtles of Tasman!”
Goodbye, Jack. Thank you so much for everything.
We’d like to round up this series with one of our favorite pieces of Jack’s writing, the one that best captures the thumos that ran through his life.
The Iron Heel, a fictitious book written by London and published in 1908, is the source of this pick. Avis Everhard, the narrator, introduces her husband Ernest and reads his favorite poem, which refers to man’s limitless power and potential, as well as the desire to live life to the fullest:
He did, however, have pride. He couldn’t have been an eagle without having pride, could he? His argument was that it was preferable for a limited mortal speck of life to feel Godlike than it was for a deity to feel Godlike, and so he elevated what he considered his mortality. He had a habit of reciting a line or two from a poetry. He’d never seen the complete poem before, and he’d tried in vain to figure out who wrote it. I’m included the part here not just because he liked it, but also because it encapsulated the contradiction that he was in the spirit of himself and his vision of himself. How can a man say the following with exciting, scorching, and exaltation and yet be simple mortal earth, a fleeting energy, an evanescent form? It’s as follows:
The predetermined rights of my birth are pleasure after joy and riches after gain, and I cry the praise of my limitless days to the echoing edge of the earth. I have deep-drained this, my cup of happiness, throughout every era and clime, even though I have suffered all the deaths that a man may die till the end of time—
Pride’s froth, power’s taste, and womanhood’s sweetness! I drink to Life, I drink to Death, And smack my lips with song, since when I die, another ‘I’ will pass the cup on.
From the first faint scream of the newborn to the rack of the woman’s spasms, the man you banished from Eden’s forest was I, my Lord, and I will be there when the earth and the air are ripped from sea to sky; for it is my world, my magnificent world, the world of my sweetest sufferings.
The rising flow of my wild youthful blood would extinguish the judgment fire, packed with the pulse of an unborn race, torn by a world’s need. From the tingling body to the dust of my earthly aim, from the darkness of the expectant womb to the brilliance of my naked spirit, I am Man, Man, Man. The entire universe bends to my will, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, and the unquenchable hunger of an Eden cursed Shall harrow the land for its full. The sad affliction of perpetual darkness Shall be none too lengthy for my fantasies, Almighty God, when I empty life’s glass of all its rainbow gleams.
From the brightest gleam of the Arctic stream to the dusk of my own love-night, the man you drove out of Eden’s grove was I, my Lord, 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 get from studying about Jack London’s life? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Read the Jack London Series in Its Entirety:
1st Section: Introduction Part 3: Oyster Pirate Part 2: Boyhood Pacific Voyage (Part 4) Part 5: Back to School Part 6: On the Road Part 7: Klondike Gold Rush Part 8: Finally, Success Part 9: The Long Illness Ashes (Part 10) Conclusion (Part 11)
This blog post is the conclusion of “The Life of Jack London”. It includes a summary of what happened in his life, and how he died. Reference: jack london early life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the summary of the law of life by Jack London?
A: The summary of the law of life by Jack London is that if you fail to prepare, then you are prepared.
How did Jack London influence society?
A: Jack London is best known as a novelist, but he also wrote essays, poetry and short stories. His influential writings include “The Call of the Wild” in 1903 which was an important turning point for him after his marriage to Charmian Castellaine (a Canadian woman) and failure at writing novels that were commercially successful.
What was Jack London philosophy?
A: Jack Londons philosophy is that humans must embrace the struggle of life and self-improvement.
- jack london biography
- when and where was jack london born
- three adjectives to describe jack london’s life
- jack london cause of death
- how old was jack london when he died