The Total Perspective Vortex

Ideally, listen to this song while you read this post. It’s what I listened to while I wrote it.

If you’ve never hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, you should. It’s a pretty wonderful combination of the mind-blowing, the comic, the cynical and sad, the wistful, the absurd. It’s a classic for a reason (and no, the movie doesn’t count).

In the book, there’s something called the Total Perspective Vortex. It’s a machine that, when inside, makes you fully grasp the enormity, scope, and meaning of the universe. It’s a torture chamber. Anybody who enters is doomed to die inside. Here is it’s origin:

The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses.

To explain — since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation — every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula — for that was his name — was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex — just to show her.

And into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.

In a previous post, I wrote about Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception” and the idea of taking drugs to experience a greater dose of the infinite connection. Now, I am sitting here in a cafe by myself, writing, thinking about major life changes that are happening in my life, in my relationships, for my future, and then this song comes on, and suddenly I am hit by an overwhelming sense of my tininess and the enormity of everything, and all I can think about is the Total Perspective Vortex and what it must have been like to be a child, where the feelings are so much greater than you’re possibly capable of expressing, when you honestly just feel that crying might be the only way to release the pressure and the tension of such enormousness. Italo Calvino touches on this in his (very) short story “The Flash“, where the protagonist has a brief moment of understanding how crazy it all is, the stoplights and traffic and grocery stores and coffee shops and runs out in the street waving his arms and trying to get everyone to stop, but the moment slips between his fingers and suddenly he’s back in his normal brain, the tap’s flow diminished to its normal standing, wondering to where the enormity had disappeared.

It’s been an emotional day, and week, to say the least. I watched (against my better judgment) a video of a police officer murdering a helpless unarmed man begging for his life (and then get acquitted), a cold-hearted and inconsiderate person caused me trouble at work, these small things overlaid on a backdrop of moving to a new apartment, significant romantic changes, living in a world of uncertainty. It makes me feel a bit like I did on the best night of my entire life, at Burning Man two years ago. I’m not sure I’ve written about this story, so here goes:

I had decided to take a magic potion with some friends before meandering to a small party hosted by some friends-of-friends. On the way over there, just as the trip was beginning and the tap was widening, I passed a balcony, dressed up as a castle’s parapet, with a woman standing alone atop it. As I passed, she raised a violin to her chin and began playing, and as she did, string lights illuminated across the parapet, oscillating and bouncing and twisting as she played. I was immediately compelled to sit in the dust and watch, and suddenly the tap was open wide, far too wide, and the enormity of it all stretched at my soul and pressed in all directions from within my chest, until it pushed tears, endless tears, out of my eyeballs and onto my face. To describe them, as I generally have, as “tears of joy”, isn’t quite accurate – instead, it more like “tears of release”, the scope of being alive, of existing, of all the people and their stories and of my own, it was beautiful and terrible and altogether way too much to manage. So I wept, and it was the most beautiful thing, and then when she finished, I stood up and continued and the rest of the night continued on the same magical trajectory.

Even as I write this, I can feel myself coming back to earth. I have let the playlist roll to the next song (after repeating the above several times), and like Calvino’s narrator I am back to my normal life, I feel my focus slipping back to work, getting ready to play poker tonight. The coffee shop’s aura dissipates, and then here we are, just a 30 year old man on a macbook in a bay area coffee shop.

As I soberly reflect on this experience (that I amusingly realize I have just liveblogged for all of you), the word that seems to best describe it is a powerful aloneness. In that moment, the consequence of feeling superconnected is also feeling very isolated. I imagine it to be how someone very powerful or very rich or a true genius may feel, so much to do and be but nobody can understand. Maybe that’s why I felt like I needed to write it down.

These moments happen from time to time, and for me they come with music most of the time. Do you experience this ever? What triggers it? If it’s music, what do you listen to? Or is it a mix of things?

I hope this was an interesting experience to read about, I am highly concerned it will seem extremely dumb as soon as I stop writing, but fuck it let’s click publish anyway eh?

5 days in Israel, 5 days in Gaza

Preface: This summer, I went to the middle east for about 10 days, which I split between Tel Aviv and Gaza City. It was a beautiful, intense, interesting experience. I turned 30 while there. I wrote this in Tel Aviv, but didn’t publish it until now, because I felt that some of the experiences would offend some friends, people I really do adore, but who, in some form or another, participate in cultures and belief systems that I feel are deeply unfair and unkind. However, I think it’s an important story to tell, so here it is.


Hello all,

I am writing this from an apartment in Tel Aviv, cowering under my air conditioner and drenched in sweat after a short walk outdoors. I have one more day in Israel before returning to the United States and my normal-person life, but this trip has been a very emotional and interesting experience.

Before I dive in, I’d like to just acknowledge and accept that Israel/Palestine issues are extremely sensitive and divisive for a lot of people. Many of those who read this will have different opinions, visceral responses to words or phrases, or just plain anger. To everyone – I love you all and don’t judge you for your opinion. All ideas and thoughts are welcome. Let’s get to it.

Context #1: This is Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Gaza is currently secured on all sides – Mediterranean Sea to the west (featuring a complete Israeli blockade), Israeli barbed wire to the north and east with a single gate at Erez, Egyptian barbed wire to the south with a single gate at Rafah, open only a few days per year. In 2007, Islamist militant group Hamas (considered a terrorist organization by both the US government and Israel) won a fair election to become rulers of Gaza, and no fair elections have happened since. In 2014, a brutal and largely one-sided war broke out between Hamas and Israel, resulting in the deaths of around 1500 Gazan civilians and 700 Hamas militants and a total of 73 Israeli soldiers and civilians (not to mention significant destruction of property). Since that war, Hamas rocket attacks have largely subsided and the attack of choice has changed from organized military activity to random and sporadic attacks within Israel, usually knifings or car attacks. Lastly, a power plant dispute between Israel, Gaza, and Fatah (the Palestinian ruling party of the West Bank) has left Gazans with extreme limitations on electricity.

Context #2: I have been to Israel only one other time in the past, on a Taglit birthright trip. For the unaware, if you are Jewish (even the teenciest bit Jewish), the Israeli government (and some wealthy interested parties) will buy you a plane ticket, rent you a tour bus and guide, and show you all the things Israel has to offer (in a thinly veiled attempt to get you to have some Jewish sex, make some Jewish babies, and make Aliyah – the Hebrew term meaning “move to Israel full time”). My favorite people from that trip were two Israelis, one of whom graciously allowed me to stay in her apartment in Tel Aviv (and the other of whom made me very tasty pizzas last night). However, Taglit wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows –  I experienced a lot of casual racism from random Israelis during my birthright trip. It was common to hear things like “be careful for your belongings, there are a lot of Arabs who work here”, or “President Obama is a Muslim, I mean just look at him!” I also experienced some positive elements – the Israeli women I met were incredibly empowered, comfortable giving orders in the military and holding their own ground in a social/intellectual environment. Gay people and people of different skin tones seemed wholly welcomed and integrated. And I ate a lot of shawarma. Altogether, it was a mixed bag.

Context #3: through my network, I had been connected to the director of a tech accelerator program funded by an American service organization. They have a few programs, including a code school and mentorship for young Gazan entrepreneurs. Given my background in both tech and Arabic, it seemed like a good time. So I applied, was accepted, and booked my tickets.

While the Taglit schedule was very tightly controlled, this trip would be different. I arrived on Friday night in Tel Aviv, my friend picked me up, we ate homemade challah at her house and caught up. On Saturday, I walked to the beach, ate a shakshouka, and surveyed the Tel Avivian landscape. Nice cars, clean and safe streets, tourists and families surfing in the water. It felt a bit like Miami. That night, my friend and her roommates asked what I was doing in Israel. “Mentoring startups and entrepreneurs,” I said. “Where?” they asked. “South of Tel Aviv,” I said. I looked at my phone, where the director of the Gaza program had just sent me a message to meet him at the train station in Ashkelon, about an hour south. “Ashkelon,” I said. “Ashkelon?? Why would anybody go to Ashkelon?” I shrugged and said, “That’s the easiest way to get to where I’m going.”

The next day was Sunday, and I took a train south from HaShalom station to Ashkelon, where I met up with two Brits who would be mentoring the coding school, and we were scooped up by the director of the Gaza accelerator program to drive south to the Erez border crossing with Gaza. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I imagined a mix of an Al-Qaeda training video and the scene in Wayne’s World where they open the door to the James Bond villains training (and I CANT believe I can’t find this clip on the internet). Or, I don’t know, something like this:

Instead what I got was an understaffed airport security terminal, tall, grey ceilings with florescent lights and security cameras, a couple distracted-looking guards, and a relatively quick, painless entrance through the Israeli side. However, as I waited for my travel companions to pass through, I looked through a large glass panel that separated me from the leaving-Gaza side, populated by Gazans sitting in orange plastic chairs. There were probably thirty of them, eyes glazed and bored, waiting for the chance to get screened before entrance to Israel (presumably to see family or do work). It was impossible to know how long they’d been waiting, but none of them moved in the five or ten minutes that passed as my fellow westerners were greenlit one-by-one to proceed.

The next step was a mile-long walk to the Fatah checkpoint (since Hamas and Israeli have no mutual communication or recognition, Fatah acts as an intermediary here). Again, bored bureaucrats who glanced at my passport, said “first time in Gaza?”, I nodded, and onward I went. Then, a taxi a couple miles down to the Hamas checkpoint, where (you guessed it) another bored bureaucrat (this time with a big ol’ beard) also glanced at my passport, and then whaddya know, I’m in Gaza. We had a driver there to meet us, Abu Rami, who drove me to the accelerator. The drive was dusty and filled with the chaotic swerving I remembered from my time in Morocco (is there really such public resistance to street lines??) We passed dozens of car-repair shops, service animals (pack mules and donkeys). The disparity in wealth between this and Tel Aviv, where I’d been only a few hours before, was sharp and easily recognizable.

When we pulled up to the accelerator (located in an apartment building), I grabbed my bags, walked up the stairs, opened the door and was frankly stunned at what I saw. The accelerator might as well have been in San Francisco – air conditioned, well lit, filled with art and swag and color and character, people grinding away on their laptops, conference rooms in use, the code school in session. I explored the space (not a small space, and they’re looking to move to somewhere bigger already). I threw down my bags and, jetlagged beyond repair, took a desperate nap, then awoke to meet the staff that runs the accelerator and some of the entrepreneurs. Over the next few days, I had regular meetings with Hussein, Abdul Hamid, Noor, Nuwar, Nael, Mohammad, Hamid, Ahmed, and many others.

To say that I was surprised by their level of sophistication would be an understatement. These were not crappy SF startups with no prospects – most were already revenue positive, their founders were deeply invested in learning business development and marketing techniques and could communicate with me on a high level to discuss their projects. Their English was, in most cases, excellent. Their teams were diverse in gender (the accelerator was a bit under 50% women). It was mind-expanding to sit in this modern space and be surrounded by thirty young women in hijabs all coding and designing on their laptops.

That these companies had achieved such success and progress thus far is really exceptional. As a friend from the program said: “it is considered incredibly difficult to build a successful company in America. Imagine doing it with three hours of electricity per day (at home), no PayPal, no widespread banking or credit systems, an Islamist government that imposes strict punishments for small infractions and severe gender segregation, and absolutely no ability to travel to build your network or do business!” (I’m paraphrasing).

And this is where I became emotional. I had several conversations with Hamid – he’s 18 and dropped out of school because he wanted to teach himself machine learning. He doesn’t have a company yet, but he can be found at the accelerator grinding through online AI classes. I think he might be a genius. In conversation, he was discussing ways to get around the structural limitations of being in Gaza, and casually said, “well, of course I can never leave this place, so I have to come up with other plans,” and the way he took for granted the futility and despair of his situation was very angering. This person could (should!) be traveling to the best universities and working for top companies. Instead, he will sit in Gaza and wait.

The biggest reason I wanted to go to Gaza was to personalize the situation – it is one of the least accessible places on Earth, and much is written about it. Once I actually got to know the people there (and granted, this is a subset of people carefully chosen for me; I did not have any interactions with Hamas members, open anti-Semites, etc.), the sense of injustice, at least for that group, was very strong. One of the workers there, Saed, had his home bombed during the 2014 war while his parents, wife, and child were inside. Nobody was killed, but the home was destroyed (he had worried about a bomb falling on the roof, so he moved everyone downstairs, only to have a bomb hit the side of the first floor). Saed studied in England, speaks fluent English, has a hilarious sense of humor, is a skilled freelance developer, and a very average chess player (bring it on Saed). WhatsApp Image 2017-08-05 at 5.37.54 PM

Saed is on the right. His king is in danger.

For me, the frustration at this injustice found many outlets for blame. One of my favorite people I met was Sara, a brilliant Gazan woman who works for the accelerator as a coordinator. I asked her about dating in Gaza, and she broke down the difficulties and dangers of male-female relationships in such a religiously controlled society. I had an incredible conversation with an out-of-work male hairdresser who lost all his clients when Hamas made it illegal for men to cut women’s hair. He lamented that homosexual relationships carry the price of death. I mentioned Islamic Sharia Law, and he spat on the ground in disgust and rage. He, like literally every single other Gazan I met on the streets (5 for 5), asked if I could help get him out of Gaza. The desperation was palpable, but not just aimed at Israel. Sure, people blame Israel for the travel restrictions, and the bombs, and electricity, but they (at least the ones I met) also blamed Hamas for their militancy, conservative backwardness, lack of free expression, and inability to empower their citizenry. So yes, I was frustrated that Israel limits travel so severely (it’s illegal for Gazans to cross the Erez border with cell phones or laptops, or any toiletries, if they can even get a travel permit which is next to impossible), and the 2014 degree of force was certainly overwhelming and possibly unjustified, but I was also frustrated that people had no agency to participate in their political process, to make their own choices or speak their mind without fear of swift and violent repercussions.

It is impossible to remain completely dispassionate, but people on both sides have an extremely difficult time seeing their own hypocrisy. Over dinner, I asked someone in the program, an American woman who is incredibly intelligent and kind and someone whom I’m glad to call a friend, what she would do if she had ultimate power to rectify the situation. Not fully understanding the question, she offered a couple of reforms that Gazans could enact. “No,” I said, “You can tell Israel what to do also in this scenario, and they have to listen.” She took a sip of her drink, then waved her hand in a gesture that meant, “get out of here.” I asked her to elucidate, and said, “they should go back to wherever they came from.” My first thought, which I swallowed, was, “Back to the camps?” My second thought was, if the displacement of the Palestinian people is the injustice you hope to correct, how would the displacement of the Israeli people provide justice? 1948 was almost 70 years ago. There can be no justice without cohabitation, and there can be no cohabitation without justice.

My days in Gaza were completely filled; I woke up at 6am jetlagging, worked on Digital Reach from my hotel with its spotty internet, ate breakfast overlooking the Gazan beach and watched as kids swam and played in water contaminated with sewage and refuse (there’s nowhere else to swim), Abu Rami drove me to the program where I had 1-on-1 meetings with startups from 9am until 4pm (though always time for two more breakfasts and a lunch), and then I would give a 2-hour presentation from 4-6pm. I’d find a nap around if I could, go out to dinner, and get back to my hotel ready to sleep the moment I arrived. Before I knew it, my time in Gaza was over and I was headed back north to Erez and the crossing into Israel. At the Hamas checkpoint, on arrival, there is a big mural showing a Palestinian being interrogated by an Israeli, with the Israeli saying “Come on, just work with us a little” and the Palestinian refusing. “Stop Snitching” was how my friend described it. Again, I breezed through security (didn’t hurt that it was my birthday) and I was back across. At no point had I felt unsafe or bothered – in fact, I felt (as I always have in Arab countries) that people were exceptionally kind and generous. It had been a powerful, engaging, and moving time. I expect to return as soon as I am able.

I took the train back up from Ashkelon to Tel Aviv, sweated my way through the city to the flat where I’m staying, and took advantage of some of the perks of affluence – a warm shower for the first time in days, a place to wash my clothes. It was my birthday, so my Israeli friends and I went out for dinner and drinks, and I admitted that I had not in fact remained in Ashkelon but had crossed into Gaza. They were shocked. One of them commented that it felt like I had casually wandered into East Berlin in 1965. They had many questions (in fact, I was surprised at just how little information crosses the border). What money do they use? (Israeli new shekels, they were surprised to learn). Did you see Hamas everywhere? (didn’t see a single Jihadi, though I did see some billboards and graffiti recruiting people to mujahideen service).

But, when I described my emotional response to hearing Hamid’s casual despair, my friends hardened in the same way that the woman who made the “get-out-of-here” gesture had. These wars and rules and walls were necessary to protect “us” against “them”, and most collateral consequences weren’t significant if it meant that Israelis were safe. And, in Israel’s defense, there is something a bit terrifying about going to get hummus in Jaffa and wondering if someone was going to randomly walk up and stab me, sort of like the scary scenes in Jessica Jones where she walks around wondering which stranger has been Killgraved and will suddenly attack her.

And, the trappings of modern society (gender equality, respect for rule of law and social structure, a semblance of democracy) are really appealing elements of Israeli culture. However, just as my friend in Gaza struggled with the hypocrisy of her own vision of justice, so did my friend in Israel. The unavoidable truth is that Israel is not egalitarian – some people (Jews) are more equal than other people (non-Jews). My father’s family is Jewish, and therefore I could emigrate here overnight. Hell, they’d probably give me money, a job, and introduce me to a bunch of hot single women. If I was a Gazan with Israeli citizen relatives, or family in the West Bank, I’d have a significantly worse chance of ever visiting them in my entire life (let alone becoming an Israeli citizen yourself) than Andrew Seidman would have of becoming an Israeli citizen before next Wednesday. If you’re Arab, Muslim or otherwise, you’re not required to serve in the military (unlike all Jewish citizens), Arab participation in Knesset is lower than their share of the  population, and your national anthem is about beating Jewish hearts yearning toward Zion. It’s not exactly a bouquet of equality.

EDIT: As I write this, Israel announces the closure of Al Jazeera Arabic News center and revoking of press passes for “supporting terrorism”

But, while Israel is certainly deserving of its share of criticism, at this juncture, I’d like to take issue with two words that are commonly used to describe Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Genocide: this word is often used to sensationalize what is happening in Gaza. It is insulting to the survivors of genocides in Syria, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, and (of course) the Holocaust to throw this term around in reference to Gaza. There is no organized mass killing of Gazans. This is inflammatory language designed to shut down conversation rather than achieve justice, and it is not founded in reality.

Apartheid: Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa, codified into law. While there exists significant racism in Israel, the law does not explicitly support it. And, while in South Africa black people were citizens, Palestinians are not under the umbrella of the nation of Israel and its laws. So, while a sort of modified de jure apartheid seems to exist (in the immigration rules described above, for example), the situation in Israel seems more likely to be a subtler form of racism mixed with legitimate political and security concerns.

The one phrase that is both shocking and seemingly accurate, however, is Ethnic Cleansing. In the past, I had always heard this to be interchangeable with “genocide”, but upon closer inspection Ethnic Cleansing doesn’t inherently mean killing (though it usually ends up that way).

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 1.39.09 PM

Expulsion counts too

Instead,  Instead, by means of population control, incentives for Jews to move to Israel, settlements encroaching onto traditionally Arab areas, it seems very likely to Israeli leadership is seeking to create as close to an ethnically “pure” Jewish state as possible. The continual development of new settlements would seem to be the primary indicator of this. And, it is a scary idea, as ethnic cleansing and violence are pretty inextricably linked (as in, what do we do if they don’t want to leave?).

This type of violence can manifest itself verbally or emotionally before it becomes physical. For example, last night I was having a pleasant dinner party with my friends, and we started watching Israeli Survivor (yes, this is a thing). My friend’s girlfriend (a really nice person who treated me with kindness) had a coworker who was a contestant on the show, a good looking dark-skinned guy named Amir. She explained that the big twist of this season was that Amir had come out of the closet, not as gay, but as an Arab Muslim. He had changed his name from Mohammad to Amir as a teen. She had mixed feelings about it, because Amir had been quite the ladies man around town and had slept with a number of her friends. “It’s not a nice thing”, she said casually with a sip of her drink, “to sleep with someone and then find out later they are an Arab”. My jaw clenched. I did not want to ruin my friend’s nice dinner party by starting a conflict with his girlfriend. I looked at both of my Israeli friends who seemed to happy to ignore or tolerate this type of hatred without comment; perhaps they agreed with it, or perhaps they didn’t care, or maybe they didn’t feel comfortable asserting themselves. This comment felt similar to those I had digested during Taglit (and also some I’ve heard in the American South), and I was left with the impression that these sorts of racist comments happen with great frequency in Israeli culture (especially given that this is Tel Aviv, which should be the most cosmopolitan and liberal part of the country). This is the sort of culture that can lead itself to the mistreatment and dehumanization of others under the guise of self-protection, which seems to be happening (at least to some degree) to Palestinians.

For normal Gazans, they are caught between two sides and have no agency. Hamas controls their domestic life, Israel controls their international life, neither is too concerned with their problems, and nobody has much of an incentive to help them. The Washington Post covered it accurately here. As of right now, though, Israelis hold the vast majority of the power, and I think there are a few things they should do:

First, normal Israelis need to confront racism within their society. In retrospect, I should’ve said something to my friend’s girlfriend, like “why does it matter whether he’s Arab or not?”, but really, one of the Israelis should have said something. They share a birthplace and a language, this is their society and culture, and they need to be the ones combating racism and bigotry.

Second, Israel needs to stop the process of ethnic cleansing, which means the cessation of settlements and the modification of immigration laws to make it easier for Arab Israelis to exist as equal citizens and for Palestinians to fear less for their homes and livelihoods.

Third, Israel should make small investments easing difficulties for their neighbors. No toiletries? No cell phones? These rules almost certainly can be relaxed without negative consequences. Plus, in a nation where everyone serves in the military, being understaffed at the only crossings into the country for Palestinians is a conscious choice and not a budgetary one. Get some more people down there, get some Arabic speakers down there, and help people move about their business with less hassle and difficulty.

On the Palestinian side, the road is more difficult, because their real enemy is a fair amount more nefarious than Israel seems to be. Radical Islamism controls their government and society. Normal people have an obligation to resist this, but this is the most dangerous of all obligations. Hamas has just started to draw a distinction between Jews and Israelis, migrating slightly from “Jews are the problem and must be removed or killed” to “Israelis are the problem and must be removed or killed”, though from what I am told, most average Arabs don’t quite understand the difference yet. And, even then, it’s hardly cause for celebration.

I am reminded of this famous political cartoon:

Half-Way-590-LI (1)

No, what Palestinians need (and this is true for many places in the Arab world) is to throw off the yoke of Islamic Fundamentalism, to control their own societies, grow their economies, and seek to build networks and relationships with their neighboring countries. Israel serves as a convenient scapegoat for Islamist groups, and if it followed the prescription above it would (probably) shift a lot of the focus back onto Hamas’ inability to govern.

The biggest problem is that both sides view the conflict as inherently adversarial. I think a valuable exercise is to close your eyes and imagine an actually peaceful Jerusalem. What does it look like? I see something semi-American – people of different faiths and ethnicities co-existing, working together, building things, arguing sometimes, but free to speak and travel and do business. The impediments are cultural – Gazans need to ditch Hamas (which will only happen at great cost) and Israelis need to recover their soul. Israel was built by refugees on the back of hard work, grit, and determination. In this light, they should have a lot of empathy for the Palestinian refugee community.

Anyway, this blog post has gone on long enough. I will post some pictures when I get more of them back to me. Here’s me with the group:


And here’s me with my Israeli friends:


and lastly, Falafel and Hummus


Anyway, thank you all for reading and please leave comments. Would love to know what you all think.

With love


Finding Work with Purpose

I’ve been hanging out with a lot of poker players lately, especially because one of my best friends in the poker world just moved to San Francisco and has been engaging in a ridiculous APD (activities per day). In some of our discussions, and ones that I’ve had with other poker players over the years, a recurring trend keeps appearing – a lot of people really want to have some sort of work with purpose, but they don’t really know where to start. I hear this all the time: “If I had something I was really passionate about, I would do it, but I don’t really have anything I feel that way about.” The purpose of this blog is to discuss what a massive pile of steaming bullshit that sentence is. Forgive the mental image.

But before we dive into why that line of thinking doesn’t hold water, we can discuss poker for a second to provide a perfectly exaggerated metaphor for the problem at large. Poker operates squarely in the entertainment industry. Think about it. A mix of wealthy degenerates (and some people with real problems) are paying a significant amount of money to be entertained in a highly particular way. When a whale wants a game, they want it now, and that means you are actually on call, waiting around for the whale to stumble toward you, and then you collect your fee for entertaining him (in the form of your theoretic winrate).

In some form or another you work for this guy to scratch his degenerate itch. It’s tough.

Now, entertainment alone does have value, but it’s among the least relatively valuable forms of work. A couple things make me say this: first, it’s an incredibly abundant form of value. In 2017, working in the entertainment industry is like selling ice cream on a street filled with ice cream stores. We have netflix, smart phones, ten new movies per week, fifty new shows, and (for my favorite types of people) books to read. Oh, that doesn’t mention games (like the game of thrones board game which you should never play), toys, and all other forms of entertainment. Us humans love our entertainment, but it’s hard to feel like you’re really doing anything of value in such a crowded house. Second, it’s among the least valuable forms of value. When people are having a hard time, leisure time is the first to go, and poker is pretty far up the list of leisure activities that aren’t really very important.

One quick note that could be the subject of a long future piece – entertainment is not the same as art, though much of entertainment is made in the pursuit of art. Art does have significant value and is highly unique. And, it’s no surprise to me that the artists and musicians I know tend to describe themselves as being more fulfilled than the poker players I know.


probably not art

Okay, let’s get back to purpose. The idea that you will somehow stumble upon some thing and find yourself filled with purpose is madness. Most poker players I know got hooked into the game when they discovered its beautiful complexity and powerful mental and emotional challenges, and the money came as a consequence of that interest and passion. However, nobody starts playing poker with a passion for poker. You might feel some excitement or nervousness before your first-ever game, but you’re hardly thinking, “This game will give me a source of purpose and guide me through life for the next ten years.” No, instead you tried something (playing the game) and then you discovered purpose (“hey, this is pretty cool”).

And this is the grand point. We somehow believe that it goes:

Step 1. Find Purpose

Step 2. Take Action

Whereas in reality it goes:

Step 1. Take Action

Step 2. Find Purpose

At this moment in my life, I run operations for a marketing company I co-founded with two of my best childhood friends. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought I’d find purpose doing work like this, but things give you back what you put into them. Suddenly everyone – my partners, team-members, employees, clients, contractors – began sharing interdependent responsibilities and I have my own portion of that responsibility. Suddenly, the purpose is multifaceted: Can we make it grow? Can we make our friends’ lives better? Can we spin it up into something even greater and bigger than it is now?

For me, a lot of purpose comes from the idea of construction. One of my favorite Burning Man moments this year was when we finally finished building our camp. After a full day of loading trucks, 12 straight hours driving to the playa, immediately spending a full workday without sleeping, followed by two more full workdays, we finally sat down on chairs underneath our shade structure with a cold drink and looked around us. I felt thoroughly satisfied and purpose-filled. So, for me, it’s more of a “start building now, see where it goes” type of thing.

I think many (all?) of my friends have parts of their lives they’d really like to change, but the idea and the feeling is really big. Sometimes these ideas (where will I find purpose? Does any of it matter? Is this relationship good for me? Better or worse for me?) inflate in their vagueness and opacity like giant menacing shadows and intimidate us until we huddle quietly in our job-holes or relationship-holes, waiting for the perfect moment to find change, to feel driven and purposeful, except the perfect moment literally never comes, and so nothing changes.

No, we remain the rested boulders on the hillside, waiting for someone to push us, for the clear signal from the universe to get off our asses and do things differently. But when will it come? Maybe tomorrow?

I am starting to feel energy being exerted and a desire to organize. I feel the start of some cooperative desire between some current and former members of the poker community, and I think we can find some activity of value that might in turn instill us with that sense of purpose. I can’t say exactly what it is, but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now and think it might be starting to take shape.

Are you feeling like you lack purpose or fulfillment? Are you smart and willing to work hard? If you are, send me a note, and let’s talk. I have ideas.


Empathy Points

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately.Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.20.31 PM

And, I’ve noticed that some people are significantly better at being empathic than others. I’ve also noticed that my own capacity for empathy has changed really dramatically over time, and I think I can try to draw a few conclusions.

First, I’d like to argue that, in general, empathy is good and creates positive effects. It causes us to be more understanding of others, to seek compromises and win-win solutions, to listen more and better, to be less reactionary and more conscientious with our choices, to live more sustainably, to give more time and money to service and charity, and to support a greater sense of community and togetherness.


In other words, this

And yet, empathy is really, really hard. To help me understand it better, I invented a system in my head that I call Empathy Points. They can also be imagined like hearts from the Legend of Zelda.


This is almost exactly what my life is like

When you’re a toddler, you have zero empathy points. You literally cannot understand that other people have feelings and that they might be affected by the things you do (I see this whenever my 3-year old niece trucks my 1-year old niece like she’s a Madden character). But, over time your capacity for empathy begins to increase (partially through good parenting and partially through the natural development of your brain). Your empathy meter goes from zero points to 10 points.

This is a common scene when Evie and Ida hangout

Then, you start to read fiction, and you find yourself sharing a brain with another *person*, and you discover that putting in this type of work actually increases your resting Empathy Point total. Eventually, you’ve achieved enough empathy to internalize phrases like “violence isn’t the answer” and “be a good listener”. Finally, you mature to your peak empathy points capacity, and without work that’s where you’ll stay for the rest of your life.

Today, it is understood that reading improves empathy and meditation increase compassion. In short, simply trying to improve your brain yields positive effects. But one thing that I think people lack is an understanding of why developing your empathy point meter is important. Most of us feel like we are plenty empathetic in our daily lives because we’re all nice, lovely people who never do anything mean.


We are all perfect humans who never do anything wrong

But, our empathy meter doesn’t stay full all the time. I’ve noticed that when I’m suffering my capacity for empathy plummets. Imagine that you’ve just walked in the door with some groceries, and your roommate/spouse/child says “Hey, can you help me with this?” and you are putting away your groceries and you’re a little annoyed but you say, “give me just a second, I’ll be right there,” and then a few moments later you stub your toe on a tableleg and a split moment after you hear, “Hey, are you gonna come help me with this?” to which you respond “JUST A FUCKING MINUTE!” Somehow, between the stress and the groceries and the toe, the empathy meter dried up. You’re out of empathy points. Game over.


haha, I am mature

In fact, I find that there is a direct relationship between suffering and empathy, and that the reason why it’s important to increase our total empathy points is so that we can handle difficult situations with more kindness and grace. This manifests itself in two ways – the first is simply having a greater total amount of empathy points to lose before you lose the game (e.g. the Dalai Lama might have a million empathy points, and he doesn’t become a dick when he stubs his toe, whereas I might have a hundred empathy points and just be happy that I’m not too hangry). The second is that a well trained mind can diminish the loss of empathy points when confronted with suffering. For example, when I was young, I was heartbroken, and it caused me to lose empathy for basically everyone around me – I didn’t listen to the girl, or to my friends, I became selfish. But now when I feel down, even though I feel my empathy points slipping away nonetheless, they leave more slowly, I have more to begin with, and I’m faster to replenish them.

Which brings me to the point that I’ll end on. Several times over the past year, people asked me what to do when they were feeling sad (a distinct form of suffering). I recommended that they read, exercise, and watch the occasional movie, and not to spend time dating or trying to meet new people. While exercise is pretty great for fixing your body’s chemical balance, reading and watching movies actually helps build empathy, restoring the sensation of love and centeredness that you really need if you want to be happy (and especially if you want to be happy with someone else).

Maybe the greatest ability is just to be aware of your own empathy meter. Are you doing work to improve it? When you are suffering, how quickly does it disappear? How quickly can you replenish it? These are valuable things to meditate on and incorporate. If you know any good tricks to help, I’d love to know them myself.

Thanks for reading –


On the Feeling of Being Used

Everyone knows the feeling – you’ve extended an effort to do something nice for someone else, and that person takes what you’ve given without giving anything back. “I feel used” is an expression used from angsty teens to mature adults to describe this hollow, sunken sensation. And, it can often exist in the caverns of our darkest fears – what if this person doesn’t care about me, is lying to me, detests me? This, of course, can spiral onward to a self-indulgent loathing, “Oh maybe I shouldn’t have sent that text, or maybe I should just stop doing nice things for him/her, or maybe I was too needy before, maybe I should just text him/her to clarify, oh shit that’s even needier.” And on and on and on.

Now, I think it’s important to first recognize that the feeling of “usedness” comes from our ego-driven attachment to a concept. If I make dinner, I become attached to the “mine-ness” quality of the dinner. So, when my roommate shuffles up next to me to steal a couple bites, I lose the illusion of that dinner’s “mine-ness” and it hurts, it leaves a hole that my roommate doesn’t immediately replace. When I share a beautiful evening with a friend or lover, and then they don’t call me the next day, the illusion that that previous evening would represent all future evenings is similarly shattered. Was it all just a game to them? Does anything have any meaning?

This ignores a few key things, though. First, it ignores all of the times when my roommates have cooked me food, or all the times when didn’t call someone back because I became pre-occupied in other life activities. Secondly, it assumes that all people reciprocate a loving action with an equally representative action. Maybe my roommate invites me the next day to watch a movie with him, and that’s his way of reciprocating the relationship. Or maybe a lover communicates their affection in a completely different, unexpected way.

Of course, these rational thoughts get blinked out of existence in the presence of the visceral and immediate usediness that we feel in the moment. But, instead of trying to assume people are not using us and taking advantage of our kindness (even though it is probably a life best-practice to assume people have good intentions), I’d like to do an experiment.

Let’s assume that everyone, even our closest friends, our lovers, strangers, everyone is trying to use us. Let’s also assume (and this is key, otherwise this whole exercise becomes a nightmare) that all of these people are not sociopaths – they have real needs they are using us to fulfill, even if they have no intention of fulfilling any of our needs. Then, let’s try to reach a mindset where all of that is totally and completely OK.

If someone breaks into your car and steals your sweater, it’s almost certain that they needed it more than you did. If somebody begs you for food (whether a homeless person or a lazy roommate) they probably need it as much or more than you do. In fact, most of those things to which we hold so tightly we probably don’t need, we just want, and even then we just think we want them. In short, it’s important that we focus on being compassionate for the people who take advantage of us (whether in reality or in our own insecure fantasies) – they were addressing a need, healing some pain, and it’s within our power to be strong enough to not succumb to anger and instead to empathize with the person who felt the need to harm others to get something they want.

As I’ve written before, perhaps my favorite book is Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. In the book, The Idiot is constantly abused by everyone – his family, friends, lovers, strangers. But, instead of becoming angry, he remains every bit as peaceful, kind, generous, and loving as he was before. For this, they call him The Idiot. However, Dostoevsky’s name for him (how he’s referred by the Narrator) is “The Prince”. There is something princely about being free from one’s attachments, suspicions, and remaining kind to people even when they’re unkind to you.

One argument I’ve heard against this philosophy I refer to as the “pitcher of water” argument. It says that each person has a pitcher of water (e.g. generosity, love, kindness, etc.) and when each person takes from that pitcher and fills up their glass, eventually the pitcher becomes empty and the person needs to receive some love back before they can keep being positive and friendly. While this made sense to me when I was younger, now I think it’s total bullshit. We shouldn’t give love in order to love back, we should give it because its an awesome thing to give and it doesn’t cost us anything. If you say ten nice things to people and nobody says one back, you shouldn’t swallow the eleventh. Yes, I understand that when we feel suffering (physical or emotional) our capacity for empathy decreases, but this is a function of both our mental control and our initial capacity for empathy. If you’re significantly more empathetic than most, it will take you a lot of suffering before you reach average empathy, which is pretty rad. If you have a lot of mental control, you can tolerate even more without losing your kindness or compassion. Building and maintaining empathy is probably the concept on which I meditate most often (other than maybe which Rick and Morty episode is the best, or my magical sleeptime river meditation, ask me about it sometime).

I know this blog isn’t as fun as some of my others, and I’m sorry for that. Here’s a clip of Tiny Rick to make up for it:

So really, I’d stress two key points:

  1. Most likely, you’re not being used, it’s all in your head, and people will get you back with nice things on the other side
  2. Even if they don’t, be happy – you’re helping someone satisfy a need and it doesn’t cost you much.

I know it’s not easy, but keep those emotions front-of-mind and you’ll conquer them.


A Second Homage to Black Rock City

Last year, I went to Burning Man for the first time and had my life upended. Not only did I discover many of the things I felt had been missing in my life – community and art and openness – I fell hopelessly and utterly in love with someone incredible and wrote many subsequent blogs about polyamory and love tacos. I’d been a member of a large camp, of which my group of friends had made up a small part. Our group decided to create our own camp for the 2017 burn, and as someone with both the vested interest and technical skills to manifest such a thing, a lot of the planning and organization fell to me.


one of many possible outcomes I was afraid of

In some form or another, our camp, the Interstellar Business Cafe, was born. A group of us embarked on the journey to buy all of the things, transport them out to the desert in a twelve-hour overnight truck drive, unpack, build, and deploy them all, shade ourselves from the sun, and create a home for the following week. My hands were torn and sore, my legs tired, my back sunburned. But, in spite of any odds, our camp was indeed built without major catastrophe and the stage was set for burning man to do with us whatever it wished. I was filled with thoughts in the buildup: how would it compare to last year? Would my life change again?

Now that I am home and it is over, I notice that I am not as overwhelmed in the afterglow as I was a year ago, but I remain just as depressed and sad to return to the default world (this is a sensation I expect to dissipate over the next few days). But, many things are the same. It remains impossible to describe the feeling of grandeur and amazement when first biking out onto the playa at night. Hallucinogens remain awesome. The emotional intensity of relationships remains elevated and pulses at a fevered pitch throughout.

On my last morning in the desert, I sat in the desert watching the sun poke its head over the horizon, splaying rosegold light over the sand as the last remnants of the festival milled about in the distance. I felt like my life was hanging on a pivotal moment, tiptoeing and dangling over the abyss of an uncertain future. The air was brisk and I was nestled inside an enormous and ridiculous brown faux fur coat. I felt a gnawing certainty that, once I left this place, the illusion it carried would again vanish into nothingness, that everyone else but me would forget about what had happened and the way we had felt.

After last year, I knew what would happen – we’d leave, turn on our phones and computers, settle into our jobs and our classes and our moderately-but-not-ultimately satisfying relationships, shoot the occasional idle, fanciful thoughts at the life we had been living in that time, viewing those moments as irretrievable and whimsical but nothing to be carried seriously. In this afterburn environment, I sometimes feel like I’m the only one for whom those moments are not short-lived and transient (of course, this is the same way a heartbroken child assumes he is the first to experience such a feeling, as I’m sure many people feel the same).


I’ve often felt that, in the modern world, it’s really hard to create the types of bonding experiences that bring people together with intensity and passion. I think this piece is missing from much of the dating world – it’s hard to find some unifying event or community to tie and bind you together. There’s no crucible to be held over the fire. For me, burning man became that crucible last year, and remained the crucible again this year. Thawing and burning away the frost that exists on the superficial levels of our loves, friendships, and work and heating up the primal core of what it means to be a human being.

So, I find myself still dangling over the edge of an unknown future over which I have no control. It might lead toward love and family, or independence and adventure, or both, or neither. I feel the call of the real world pulling me back from that brink, my phone buzzes with work emails and casual social invitations, but I’m not quite done staring into that moment. I’m sure that in a few days I’ll turn my back to that unknown and resume a daily life with its small joys and annoyances, its work and its play. But for now it’s quite meditative to exist in this space.

I do believe that something better does exist, even if it is elusive. I believe it’s revealed to us in the form of art. I believe it doesn’t live at Black Rock City, but that it lives inside of all people, we just have to lose our fear and choose to live more openly and confidently.

This is getting long, but it seems like a good spot for a digression, so bear with me. At Dartmouth, my existence was more-or-less that of a normal college student. There were classes and relationships and friendships, sex and love and confusion and angst. Then, on the last night before graduation, there was this sudden communal epiphany – tomorrow, after we graduate, most of us will never see each other again. There are no negative consequences to living honestly and freely. Nobody can hurt us anymore. The result was among the most fun and beautiful nights of my life – all of these people I had come to love finally being free. There was more authenticity and intimacy in that night at Dartmouth than in the previous four years combined. I rediscovered this feeling at the playa last year, and it existed again this year. The freedom I had yearned for was a place within my own mind.

Why can’t we live like that all the time? Not in the desert coating ourselves with dust, but free to be honest about what we really want, free to be vulnerable without being defensive, free to actually say and do whatever the thing is?

Anyway, this has gone on for quite long enough, but please don’t misinterpret these words to imagine that I’m depressed. I mean, of course I am depressed – being bathed in love and sunshine while Dani cooks you delicious food all day is decidedly superior to working and dating – but it’s not serious. The world spins, and it seems with each turn I feel a small step closer to art, love, and freedom.

I’d like to just quickly thank the people who rock and helped make this thing a reality, really the entire camp, but especially Nick & Alexis, Alan & Dani, the build crew, and of course p who helped me get back into this whole living thing again.

Now who wants to do a big cabin trip once the snow comes?


A few pictures from the journey:


usually shouting in arabic


weeping ol’bear finds out he’s having a daughter


The Interstellar team

Team Robots vs Team Fascists

Those who know me know I spend far too much time speculating on the future, but to me the act of prediction is a thought experience filled with excitement and mystery. Not only does prediction lead to good financial rewards (i.e. if you saw the future of bitcoin in 2011 you are an incredibly rich person today), but it also can help open our minds and adjust our behaviors (e.g. if you lived in 1948 you might have realized that the future would be one of racial equality and might be more likely to embrace it now).

Plus, people are notoriously bad at predicting the future. We draw a ton from anecdotal experiences, limited in sample size and relevance. We assume that the rate of change is constant within our lives because exponential thinking is tricky. Moore’s law is difficult for us to grasp, especially given that both societal and technological change seem to happen in jumps (yada yada yada CELL PHONES yada yada INTERNET yada ya SMART PHONES). Those ‘yada’ periods feel like nothing too exciting is happening, but the major jumps we all remember for their influence in our lives.


To exemplify this, I recall that when I was in elementary school, I had memorized the home phone landline numbers of my closest friends. If I wanted to see them, I would call their houses and ask their moms where they were. Now, I have a supercomputer that lives in my pocket and can contact them in a multitude of ways (though this is a subject for another blog, let’s list them here: call, email, FaceTime, iMessage, whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, gchat, snapchat, WeChat for my Chinese friends, Signal, Slack, Skype, kik, twitter message, holy shit this is a market problem). The tech gap between 1997 and 2017 is enormous, and if it grew equally much by 2037 life would be radically and unrecognizably different.

But it won’t.

No, the tech gap between 1997 and 2017 is likely to be much smaller than the tech gap between 2017 and 2037. In other words, the world will be significantly more unrecognizable in twenty years that it was twenty years ago today. Some realistic expectations:

Major US cities will be filled with electric self-driving vehicles. Work to build a centralized and optimistic traffic grid algorithm will have already begun. Commute times will be dramatically less and the cost of transportation will plummet.

Food and gas prices will also drop as transportation costs diminish.

VR tech will let you take vacations with your friends from the comfort of your own house. There will also be a lot of sex.

Wireless internet will be universal, secure, and free, everywhere.

There will be between 0-1 human-operated check-out stands at the grocery store.

Drones will deliver goods at a very low cost. They will also be a source of fear, as terror-related drone incidents will increase.

In this most likely of futures, everything is faster, cheaper, easier. It’s the destiny of capitalism – when walking was hard, we invented better legs (wheels). When wheeling was too hard, we invented airplanes that soar. The curve of capitalism surges towards maximum efficiency on a parabolic curve, and eventually it reaches an asymptote. When it reaches the asymptote, though, we reach maximum efficiency and there is nowhere else to go. Everything is cheap and abundant, but machines can do literally everything. This is the future.

I was asked recently if I was a transhumanist. My initial thought was, “how could anyone not be?” We have pacemakers to regulate our hearts, prosthesis to help amputees compete in track and field, cochlear implants that restore hearing, IUDs that let us have sex without the consequence. We’ve already fused technology with our bodies to make our lives longer and better, and we’ve done it using technology that will seem primitive in a short time. When technology exists to limit Alzheimer’s and memory loss, to enhance our visual and audio abilities, to make our lives even longer and even better, we’ll adopt that too. For people who are afraid of change (most people), this will seem terrifying, but for all people it will just be too advantageous to pass up. And, like all pieces of technology, everyone will eventually get on board and get with the program.


That “get on board” process is pretty tricky too. Allow me to introduce you to the Luddites. In 1811, a group of English weavers were frustrated – they felt that the introduction of new weaving technology, and the efforts of their employers to skirt labor rules to maximize use of these machines, directly threatened their jobs. They were correct in this sentiment. So, they set about smashing as many machines as they could find in a violent, five-year-long public uprising. They lost and the machine of capitalism rolled onward, using this excess capital earned to create new industries – “weaving loom repair-person”, for example, or “inventory manager”, or other increasingly white-collar opportunities.


Now, let me introduce you to the fascists. After WWI, and especially during the Great Depression, there was massive, incomprehensible unemployment. If you have grandparents who lived through it, please ask them about the conditions. Without work, lots of men felt both a lack of identity and a lack of security. Centralized, autocratic leadership rallied them around a mix of racial identity politics, economic consolidation of power, and militarism. These common people, frustrated by their lack of identity and their lack of resources, were angry and violently blamed their situation on the most convenient scapegoats. They became the fascists. Their leaders were Benito Mussolini, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and Adolf Hitler. They came reasonably close to subjugating and enslaving the entire world.


The height of fascism in Europe – you can basically count Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden as part of it too

Now, back to modern times – the machines are again coming for the jobs, and this time they’ll be replacing all of the middle class jobs. The minimum wage jobs are too expensive to replace with robots (people are cheaper). The high-end jobs are (probably) too complicated to be replaced. But the middle jobs, the white collar jobs, the jobs that rely on difficult-but-not-too-difficult skills like driving or manufacturing or crunching numbers, these are the jobs that are about to be swallowed.

As I’ve written in the past, I believe the election of Donald Trump is the first salvo in a Luddite conflict between a disenfranchised and identity-stripped middle class against a capitalist system designed to replace them with efficient machines as quickly as possible. The Luddite armies exist on both the left and the right, as both communist and fascist, both just different ways of controlling the means of production and finding an identity in a jobless environment. The fascists tend to win out over the communists, though, due to their willingness to be brutal and because racism is a powerful and ingrained motivational force.

So yes, I believe that the current climate is a pre-fascistic one, which is why I made my Fascism Bingo! board which I am happy to say has not seen any squares get checked off so far (though a few are medium-close).

That all is pretty depressing, Andrew. Is there any good news?

Of course! The good news is that the robots are not just working on how to replace all our economic viability – they’re also working on ways to help us feel happy, connected, friendly, and content. They’re helping to make sure food and healthcare are available to everyone. Their goal is nothing short of a perfect, jobless, abundant, automated utopia, where all people have all things and can just focus on learning and eating and drinking and fucking and traveling and sleeping. This would be an “identity-less” existence that I think most people would eventually come around to. But, somehow, it will be harder for people to accept than you’d think.

So, we end up in a world with a team of fascists rushing to destroy or control the wheels of the capitalist machine, and another team of robots rushing to reach the asymptotic end of capitalism in which human beings can just exist and not need to work.

I’m on Team Robots. Not a surprise.

I also think Team Fascists are faster and more coordinated. The best way to slow them down is to think about identity – when a person works a job, they have a few things: a community that supports them (e.g. their employer and fellow employees), something to do with their time (rather than protest on the streets), and a direct monetary identifier of their economic value (you’re worth $28 per hour, yay!). We need to think seriously about what people will do with their free time, who they will be able to talk to about their identity problems, where they will get money in the short term if their job is swallowed – who can they turn to for help? Because if good, rational, forward-thinking people are not available or present or reliable, the fascists will be there, and they will be there quickly.

This is why I want to focus on the idea of community. How can we better prepare our society for joblessness? For identity loss? How can we coordinate all that free time and alleviate all of that anxiety? What do people really want from their communities?

Would love to hear your comments, and thanks for reading this really long piece.



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The World’s Best Breakup Song

I’ve got some clumsy little movers working right now, knocking over the shelves but clearing some space. This song is perfect though.