What Would Robert Downey Jr. Do? Hug A Cactus

Brian Deines
6 min readJan 23, 2024

Unboxing the time I thought Robert Downey Jr. was the Muse

“What a wonderful smell you’ve discovered”

First of all, navigating modern life as a content consumer feels like the scene inside the trash compactor from Star Wars.

There’s garbage everywhere you turn. The storm troopers outnumber your friends. Monsters lurk in the depths. Almost got one of your buddies. You’re just trying to save the princess.

But instead, here we are — the walls are closing in. We’re screaming into the mic for help from the robots.

How do we navigate this shit?

image courtesy of Disney

One way to cut through the garbage is to practice the ancient art of following the invisible thread. Let’s begin.

Pattern Recognition: The most humane of all pseudo-sciences

Here’s how it works for me. Three times in one day:

  1. Robert Downey Jr.
  2. Robert Downey Jr., an hour into a 13-yr old video on an unrelated topic.
  3. then Robert Downey Jr., on live TV.

That’s a pattern. Yes, that’s a lot of Iron Man. That’s also a bridge to my attention span.

And that’s how the muse announced her arrival, one Sunday in January.

Now what?

Ok Universe, We’re Listening

By the third time, I really have no choice but to say, “Ok Universe, you have my attention.”

I ask, what are you telling me? What should I be hearing? Robert Downey is an unexpected choice. I liked him as Iron Man (aka Jesus of the MCU). So why him, why now?

Figuring that out is the fun part.

So let’s explore this, right now.

Let’s apply our human powers of heightened awareness. Let’s figure out why the Muse arrived dressed as actor Robert Downey Jr?

Why bother? Well. The muse provides insight, magic, that may be useful on our Heroes’ Journey’s. We can’t just commune with the muse for our own amusement. We’re trying to save the princess here!

And ultimately, return with a bounty to share with our tribe.

The Invisible Thread

Imagine this. You’re sitting in your easy chair (the one where your charger is in arms reach, so you can enjoy your unlimited scrolling) just looking for something that doesn’t suck.

This video pops up across the YouTube short. Now, if you’re a remotest fan of RDJ or Iron Man, how do you not find the title, “Robert Downey Jr’s Speech Will Leave You SPEECHLESS” somewhat tantalizing?

Here it is, let’s watch this together.

TLDR — in one 8-minute clip, we’re reminded of RDJ’s recovery from substance abuse, how nice he is in real life, and that he has an artist’s worldview.

He believes in the muse, the intuition, the invisible thread we all feel tugging inside us.

But he also gets tactical — He suggests patience, recommends “playing the wind,” and maintaining a light grip on an inherent, “supreme confidence” that our loosely-defined life’s-destiny will manifest in due time.

In short, we’re in weird territory (I like it out here).

And in retrospect, it’s pleasingly meta to have the muse preaching about the muse. But at the time, remember we didn’t know it was the muse yet. First we have to go shovel the driveway.

RDJ Loves Chuck Missler

Here’s a life-hack boys: yard work is the class room.

Care for your plot in life, while improving your lot in life. Care for your lot, formulate your plot.

As such, there I was shoveling away, an hour into a 10-yr old video lecture by Pastor Chuck Missler about Transhumanism.

My ears perked up at a few things Chuck said. I heard a dogwhistle in there. The thematic similarities are striking between Missler’s ideas and our current generational provocateurs of modern esoteric discourse.

Working the sidewalk I caught myself thinking, “Jesus, Missler was ahead of his time.”

Then out of nowhere, his MC grabs the mic and asks the crowd if “everyone saw Robert Downey Jr. say, “I love Chuck Missler” on The John Stewart Show!?”

Here is the vid at the hour mark.

For me hearing RDJ’s name sounded like a record scratch. Que paso?!

The second siting registers, but can be ignored. For now.

Golden Globes

Later that evening, indoor baseball practice with son #2 is finished. The Bears lost. I find myself watching the 2024 Golden Globes, to see if The Bear will win.

Chris Nolan, perhaps my favorite director not named Rian Johnson, Billy Federighi, or Chris Storer, has just won Best Director for Oppenheimer.

As you know, winners have 45 seconds to say whatever they want, before getting the hook. We know this because 75% of awardees read the teleprompter out loud — “Wrap it up!”

Despite that tiny window to say anything you want to the world. Despite the years of painstaking work Nolan put into winning this award. What does Nolan do?

Chris Nolan says, “Thank you Robert.”

Nolan recalls that the last time he accepted a Golden Globe, it was for Heath Ledger’s post-humous Best Actor for the Joker. Heavy beat, very solid.

Downey was there then. And he was there now. In the same seat again. Only this time Nolan accepts his own Golden Globe.

This synchronicity plays like a real-life denouement — That third act moment when loose ends get tied into the greater narrative.

When a good denouement happens — the weight-bearing physics of the entire structure suddenly becomes incredibly strong. Like the final arch piece of a bridge construction dropping into place.

“As Directors, we bring people together, and we try and get them to give it their best.”

Okay that’s 3x RDJ. As noted — in the world of garbage consumption — this pattern announces an entirely different hew. That’s our premise.

Not Recreating The Wheel

Here’s the next step in our Muse-unboxing process.

Actually it’s the same thing I do when I’m working on any project. I check YouTube, of course! Might seem odd. But I’ve been trained well.

Whether it’s changing a headlight on the car, wiring a ceiling fan, or chasing the Muse down a rabbit hole — we now know someone else probably already made a video about this.

So why recreate the wheel from scratch?

Why struggle with just the instruction manual when a charming gent (preferably named Manuel) can walk us through this whole ordeal like a local tour guide full of home-spun, home-improvement advice.

#1 Hit — Hug The Cactus

That said, the #1 hit was yet another acceptance speech, this time by Robert Downey Jr himself. Only this time, RDJ uses his 45 seconds to as forgiveness for Mel Gibson, who’d been canceled by Hollywood.

RDJ is trying to return the favor by vouching for Mel Gibson here. And there’s a couple amazing ideas in this speech — but the best is “hugging the cactus.”

‘Hug the Cactus’ is apparently Mel’s term. I take it to mean fighting the good fight (for sobriety, humility).

It also alludes to wandering the desert. As in 40 days, or 40 years. (Let’s call this quasi-meta/ ironic moment for Marvel Jesus, and maker of “the Passion Of Christ”).

Hug the Cactus echoes the story of Jacob, from the old book about wrestling with God. Challenging foe. We all grapple with him at some point; some, incessantly.

But therein implies the whisper that if we fight like hell, we can impress our maker enough to get a blessing.

What a Friend We Have

So let’s see if we can make this cactus bloom. In conclusion, there are many take-aways from my day watching Robert Downey Jr videos.

Was he the muse? Or was it just the algorithm? Is there a difference? Is that the better question (and article)?

Regardless, I learned some things. I also remembered a few things. (Worthy distinction?)

Most important of these things center on friendship.

Here’s your denouement:

  1. Be there — to support your friends during the bad times.
  2. Be there — to be happy for your friends during the good times.
  3. Take care of yourself — so you can be there for your friends when the time comes.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of those three tasks is easiest to master.

Try not to get lost in the desert. But if you do, hug a cactus. And remember, given the right conditions, the desert cactus will bloom.

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Brian Deines

Pattern recognition is the task of A.I. (Artistic Intelligence). *This is the pattern recognition you’ve been looking for