Therapy in a Nutshell

I’ve been seeing a therapist, and he’s helped me see more clearly some important things. Shame, guilt, fear, and postponement are all strategies to avoid feeling things like, “I’m a failure. I’m a fraud. I’m not capable.”

The trick is to cut through these outer layers, and expose the true pain. In exposing the pain, it will thaw, and the outer layers will melt away. 

Strategies to begin the thaw? Exposure. Communicating with our partners, friends, workmates, and important people in our lives things like “I’m having difficulty with [whatever]…” when we actually are having difficulties. It’s far better than allowing avoidance to creep in, and making a small bump in the road turn into a giant mountain.

One Year Later

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It’s been about one year since I made the decision to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization.

The Bad

  • I’ve lost almost 100% of my former friends due to cult indoctrination and phobias.
  • Relationships with my JW family are tenuous.
  • I’ve lost a large part of my former professional network, since many of them were also Jehovah’s Witnesses and I am persona non grata in their eyes.
  • We left a place we loved because it would have been too painful to stay in our small community as we went through the events of the past year.
  • We left our cat behind.

The Good

  • I feel more mentally free than I have ever felt. And I’m feeling more free by the day.
  • My relationship with my wife is far better than it ever has been.
  • I feel alive. Possibly for the first time.
  • Letting go of negative feelings, guilt, and shame about sex has started to free me sexually.
  • I don’t have to feel bad about being depressed or about feeling ecstatic (or about feeling anything in between).
  • I can do things for people because I want to, without any ulterior motive.
  • My values are my own.
  • We’ve traveled through six countries, met some new wonderful people, and spent time in some amazing places. We are currently expats, living in Amsterdam.
  • I’ve reconnected with family I’d previously neglected or not gotten to know at all.
  • I feel far less fear on a daily basis.
  • I feel a deep connection with the world at large. The good and the bad.


Two weeks ago, I checked off my first bucket list item. I visited a boxing gym in my neighborhood and joined one of their regular Monday night training sessions.

The gym is a short cycle from our apartment in De Pijp, along the Amstelkanal. I arrived for the 7pm session about 10 minutes early. My first impression of the gym was a little jarring. It definitely was institutional looking.

The entrance to the first boxing gym I tried – Abov Amsterdam.

The entrance to the first boxing gym I tried – Abov Amsterdam.

I introduced myself to the grizzly old boxing instructor and said that I’m a beginner trying out the gym, and that I needed to rent gloves. Transaction completed, he walks away back into his office leaving me to try to figure out where the locker room is, where the showers are, or whether towels and water available. The front entry starts filling mainly with Dutch men, mostly in their 30’s and 40’s, so I follow the crowd into the upstairs locker room, get changed, and head out to the gym.

As the gym starts filling up, I don’t notice a lot of English being spoken, and I suddenly realize I never asked if the training is offered in English or Dutch. This ambiguity is soon resolved as the same instructor who checked me in enters the gym and starts barking warm up commands in Dutch. I follow along as best I can, usually looking around to see what others are doing with me following a couple seconds later.

At one point, we are broken into pairs to spar. Other than my general knowledge of what uppercuts, hooks, and jabs are from my time playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out as a kid, I have no clue what the proper techniques are. This becomes plainly evident to my sparring partners. Thankfully, they speak English, and give me some pointers.

The one hour class was evenly split into thirds – twenty minutes of warm-up, push-ups, sit-ups, arm, and abdominal strength exercises, twenty minutes of sparring, and twenty minutes of punching bag work.

At one point during the class my insulin pump fell out of my pocket, and the instructor noticed:

– “What’s wrong with you?”
– “It’s an insulin pump. I have type 1 Diabetes.”
– “And you’re OK to do this?”
– “Uhh…I think so.”

He smirks and walks away. The class soon ends. I’m soaked and sore, and I cycle home.

Why boxing?

This seems to be the main question I get when I tell people I’m interested in trying boxing. Boxing is not a thing I would ordinarily do, and this is part of the attraction for me.

Reconnecting my mind with my physical body is a theme I’m interested in lately, and boxing seemed perfect for that. It’s hard to feel disconnected from your body, when you are trying to avoid being punched. You can’t overanalyze shit when you’re about to get an uppercut to the jaw.

This aspect of boxing is similar to my experience trying yoga. Among other things, yoga is an exercise in being present. It does this by demanding that you put yourself in all sorts of uncomfortable and physically demanding positions. You have no choice but to pay attention to what your body is doing.

There is also an element of challenging my self-identity that is attractive to me. I’ve never been a violent person. I’ve never really been one to challenge myself physically, and I don’t have an overactive masculine ego. So it’s fun to try this thing that is usually identified with all of the above. It’s a great exercise in recontextualization.

What now?

The first experience was great, but I wasn’t too interested in going back to that particular gym. So, with a Dutch friend, I tried a new boxing gym near Westergas Park.

First impressions were similarly disappointing, from a facility perspective. There wasn’t really a locker room, just a kind of waiting area where both sexes (there were more women in this class) got changed, and a kind of water trough to fill bottles.

The instructors were much better at the second gym. There were two for this class, both of them African, both of them a lot more fun than the instructor at the other gym. Much better music, and more energy, all around.

I found myself really enjoying the second session. I’m sure this had to do with having already conquered some first-timer nerves a couple weeks previously. I think it also had to do with the fact that I was there with a friend, which made it more fun, particularly with sparring.

On my ride home, I had an almost euphoric feeling. Is this what runners talk about when they report they feel amazing after pushing through the initial agony of running?

The training was still really hard, painful, and challenging, but it was also fun.

I think I’m going to survey some of the other gyms around Amsterdam to see if I can find a boxing-focused one with better facilities. If I can’t, though, I’ll probably end up back at the one near Westergas, even though it’s about a 20 minute bike ride away from my apartment.

If you’re in Amsterdam and want to check out a boxing gym with me, get in touch!

Bucket List

I did something yesterday that, if you know me at all, is completely uncharacteristic. I wrote a first draft of a bucket list. If you told me 18 months ago that I’d be publishing one of these, I would have laughed you out of the room. And yet here I am. This list is a very broad first draft. It is completely subject to change. In fact, I can already think of several more things to add. Some of these are very broad, and I will probably hone the specific action that goes with some of these broad themes as I start to look at doing them. I also plan to write a bit about each of these as I check them off. *Phew* – here goes.

  • try boxing
  • see Gregorian chanting at Sant’ Antimo, Italy
  • play music (some sort of instrument, vocal, or electronic music thing – the point is to have the experience of expressing myself through music)
  • try a tobacco pipe
  • try hookah
  • road trip through American south
  • motorcycle trip through Vietnam
  • visit Jerusalem
  • visit the Ngorongoro Crater
  • visit Japan
  • do an all night club night
  • take MDMA
  • try psilocybe
  • take part in a human rights-related protest action for a cause I believe in
  • read a book in a house in coastal Scotland with a fireplace and no TV
  • Visit Norwegian fjords
  • feel strong
  • a full day without fear of any sort
  • plan, execute, and show an art project
  • get (and stay) out of debt, build up savings
  • camp in the desert
  • winter camping
  • work on a group art/film/creative project where everyone is 100% fully time committed to the project for a week or two
  • do some sort of pilgrimage/travel thing alone
  • successfully operate my own business/freelance practice in an intentional, sustainable way
  • ring trip around Iceland
  • take a philosophy class
  • visit Baja
  • visit the Hebrides Islands
  • stay in a hostel
  • do a bike trip and sleep on a beach somewhere outside
  • learn how to conduct an interview
  • learn more about my family’s genealogy
  • Play pétanque in an urban park on a sunny day with great wine and cheese and good friends
  • Visit Beirut
  • Visit Iran


A friend of mine has been telling me all about his reading of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s book Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire which inspired me to seek out some of Hardt’s work. I’ve listened to several lengthy interviews and lectures this week, and a few things have jumped out at me.

First off, I appreciate how comprehensible he is, without devolving into pop analysis. He does jump all over the place, but not nearly as incomprehensibly (and perhaps not as entertainingly) as Slavoj Zizek.

Central to Hardt’s work is his conception of the multitude. Again, I have not yet read the book, but from the lectures I’ve listened to, the multitude refers to the notion of many peoples acting in networked concert, but not necessarily in full, or even intentional, solidarity.

The multitude’s potential for direct democracy actually springs from the products of our contemporary economic and political situation — global capitalism. Hardt argues this seeming irony is so, due to the model of labor that has become dominant in recent years. The kind of labor that is concerned with the production of ideas, images, affects, and relationships in an information economy. This kind of service economy produces immaterial goods rather than physical commodities.

The social and technological skills needed to function in this immaterial economy are the same skills which point to an increased capacity among the multitude for networked cooperation and social relations on larger scales, which have serious democratic potential.

In the dated revolutionary model, solidarity is required. Within the context of multitude, solidarity is not required, but cooperation and engagement are. Centrally enforced ideology and group identity is not as important, and neither are strategic leaders.

This was a freeing concept for me. It rescues the primacy of the individual (long a capitalist claim), and balances it with the potential for collective democratic change. A person need not subscribe to all dogma to engage, and have a say. Democracy need not be limited to a choice between neoliberal elites every 4 years. A person can drop in and out of support for a given movement as much as their conscience and personal conviction move them. There is no need for authenticity arguments, or identity politics in order to contribute.

As a person emerging from a lifetime of centralized dogma and enforced identity, I had been struggling with this dilemma where I was noticing that advocacy and participation in some movements have the potential to enforce rigid identities of their own. That this does not have to be the case, that you can still be effective, that a diversity of approaches is actually a strength, and that leaders should be strategically subordinate to a movement’s unifying ideas is a fascinating prospect.

Hardt’s outlook is ultimately optimistic. We need not give in to despair, because wrapped up in some of the deepest problems of the world might also be an increased capacity to form solutions together.


In the spirit of community, I’d like to give shoutouts to a handful of my favorite blogs that I read often. I’ve personally corresponded with all of these folks and invite you to give them a follow.

It strikes me that I really need to spend an afternoon on my RSS reading list soon. There are many more writers, particularly women, and non-tech industry contacts that I correspond with often on Twitter, but haven’t added to my RSS app.

Gordon’s Notes
I met John during my time on (in fact, I met many people I still correspond with on I appreciate his opinions on politics, health care, and tech.

Patrick Rhone
I first followed Patrick when he wrote Minimal Mac, but stayed due to my appreciation for his essays on mindful living. He’s also written a couple books that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Riccardo Mori
Rick writes about technology, the liberal arts, design, typography, UI, and translation (he’s an Italian who lives in Spain and writes in multiple languages). I appreciate his mindful tech analysis, and I love the typography on his website.

James Shelley
James is a writer, researcher, and Editor-in-chief of the Caesura Letters. Caesura Letters is a “magazine for critical thinkers, mindful contemplatives, and life-long learners”. James is one of the primary contributors, but he also posts to his personal website. Both are well deserving of a follow. &

Ben Brooks
Ben does not shy away from expressing often divisive opinions on tech hardware, software, UI design, online privacy, and photography. This is a good thing.


Complicity is inescapable. But it is not the end of the conversation. Knowing I am complicit in all that is good and bad about the world involves me in it. I am not disassociated from the world, nor do I wish to be.

I spent the first 33 years of my life separated from the world. Being “no part of the world” became a way of life. Though I attended public school, and developed an interest in history and the humanities, my viewpoint was as an observer. I had no stake. According to my worldview, the system would be violently overthrown by God, ushering in a new global utopia.

Waking up from this potent indoctrination, and understanding that we all are a part of the world was a heavy realization. The entirety of the world’s philosophies, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, actions, cultures combine to form the background of the world we live in, whether each individual within it realizes or not, or indeed wants to be included in it.

After making such a connection, it’s easy to become burdened by guilt. I don’t think this is a healthy reaction. Complicity does not make us each personally responsible for all of the problems of the world, it just means that we are involved in a system that, collectively, has produced certain outcomes.

So what can an individual do in response to their systemic complicity? My first instinct was to rush to form black and white distinctions, continuing to separate myself from the elements of the world that I saw as most obviously harmful and negative.

What good does this do, though? To quote one of my favorite scenes in Todd Hayne’s film I’m Not There, this sort of guilt “doesn’t do a damn thing except disassociate you and your audience from all the evils of the world”. Refusing to engage doesn’t make the evils of the world go away.

Doesn’t do a damn thing except disassociate you and your audience from all the evils of the world. I refuse to be disassociated from that.

I don’t pretend to have any firm answers, but I think I’ve developed some starting points for myself. We have to learn to really engage with the world we live in. We have to search for and understand underlying causes. We have to be willing to dig deep. We have to be willing to challenge our assumptions. We have to be willing to talk with each other. We have to be willing to listen to each other. We have to be willing to learn from our history. We have to be willing to reclaim good ideas from the past, make them new again in our current context. We have to resist the urge to demonize people, which is the yin to disassociation’s yang.

We are all complicit, which ultimately means we all have a stake in making the world a better place. To finish the quote from I’m Not There, “I refuse to be disassociated from that.”

What is Art For?

So many answers.

“Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant. He said, ‘Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.’ So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.” – Marina Abramović

“Why should this veneration of ambiguity continue? Why should confusion be a central aesthetic emotion? Is an emptiness of intent on the part of an art work really a sign of its importance?” – Alain de Botton

“Art is a revolt, a protest against extinction.” – André Malraux

“All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” – Federico Fellini

Terrence Malick Movies That Should Have Been Short Films

All of them, except Days of Heaven, The New World, and The Thin Red Line.

A Seattleite in Amsterdam

Empty table, two chairs, Cafe Sarphaat terrace, reasonably sunny autumn Amsterdam day. Score! I stake my claim, text Devon to meet me downstairs and enjoy the Sunday afternoon with me and a couple of Leffes.

Two dudes sit at the next table over and the one closest to me tosses his jacket on the chair-that-would-be-Devon’s. Invasion of the code! Did he ask if someone was sitting there? No. Did he flippantly assume I was there alone without bothering to ask? Yes.

I stew on this for ten minutes all the while thinking up increasingly implausible scenarios of the extent of the infiltrator’s sins. I quickly down my first Leffe. I’m still side eyeing the jacket. Who the hell does this asshole think he is?

Devon emerges from our doorway and is crossing the street to Sarphaat. My head swivels back to the Philistine and his jacket. Devon is a few steps away. My hand reaches for the jacket, ready to shove it at the asshole in contempt.

“Oh, let me grab that,” says the gauche Dutch dude, flashing my wife and I a sincere smile without a hint of malice. “Cheers!”