old man socks

Old Man Socks & the Wisdom of ‘Becoming Nobody’

“You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody.  Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody.  For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything.  The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed – and the natural state of the mind is pure love.”  Ram Dass

I recently turned 40.

No, I’m not wearing “old man socks” yet but I certainly understand the trait of being that brings about this tragedy of fashion; which I believe can be summed up quite bluntly in two words:

“Who cares!?”

This carefree trait is one of contentment and it illustrates the process of (and value inherent in) becoming nobody – where “the natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed.”

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Have you ever worn old man socks?  These socks are soft, form-fitting and made to be worn comfortably for long periods of time.  The fact that dress socks don’t “look right” with tennis shoes and plaid shorts is barely an afterthought in relation to the priorities of comfort and practicality.

Most of you likely understand the value of comfort, such as the little pleasures found in wearing a t-shirt and an old pear of jeans or staying in your flannel pajamas and slippers all day.

Before I digress entirely away from my point (there actually is a point here), a certain attitude or life perspective that goes beyond material pleasure can be found underneath these old man socks.

“One’s own self is well-hidden from one’s own self; of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be dug up.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Of course, age or gender certainly does not preclude one’s appreciation of old man socks and the wisdom of becoming nobody.

The realization that the hyper-intentional pursuit of trying to be somebody other than one self is a misguided (and entirely too common) pursuit influenced by the ever-presence and dominance of social conventions and media noise.

From childhood, social messages implicitly and explicitly tell us how to behave, what image to portray, what products will supposedly provide the perception of such an image, what to study in college, what career to pursue (usually based upon money and social status) and how to define “retirement” and how to obtain it in the quickest fashion.

Amidst this noise, and along the path to become somebody, the true self becomes covered or hidden.

“Health is the greatest possession.  Contentment is the greatest treasure.  Confidence is the greatest friend.  Non-being is the greatest joy.” ~ Lau Tzu

I expect many readers of PTB can add their depth of thought to this subject (and I hope many will do so in comments following this post), but here are my thoughts and observations attributable to the values found underneath old man socks – the wisdom of becoming nobody:

•    Contentment:  Being comfortable in your own skin (and socks) and being content with your present monetary, material and social wealth (or lack thereof) actually makes you “rich” – not the attainment of “more.”  As Epicurus said, “If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.”
•    Giving / Unintended Success:  The dedication to a cause greater than oneself, with little or no selfish motives, is the greatest enabler of success.  In other words, not caring about success will sooner provide a higher quality of success than a hyper-intentional desire to quickly create it.
•    Self-awareness:  The simple awareness of who you are, where you are going and why you are going there is essential in separating (and uncovering) your self from social conventions.  As Lau Tzu said, “If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
•    The Power of Nothingness:  Continuing upon the Taoist theme, there is power in “nothingness” and assuming the “low position:” The rivers flow to the ocean because it is in the lowest position; the high inclines toward the low; a ship floats because the hull is hollow; simplicity is stronger than complexity; less is more; creation follows destruction; something comes from nothing; and somebody comes from nobody.

We get so much in the habit of wearing disguises before others that we finally appear disguised before ourselves.” ~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Returning to the primary theme, woven into the lighthearted fabric of old man socks, one can see the value of becoming nobody.

Which of these is more of a tragedy – wearing a “disguise” in the pursuit of becoming somebody or something other than one self or wearing old man socks and being content with becoming nobody?

The former is an empty victory – a tragedy of self.  The latter is a tragedy of fashion; however, it is a victory of self – it embodies the wisdom of becoming nobody.

What are your thoughts?  Have you discovered the wisdom of becoming nobody?

Kent Thune is a Guest Blogger for PickTheBrain. He is the author of the Financial Philosopher.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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