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

Multitude

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.

Blogroll

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 App.net (in fact, I met many people I still correspond with on App.net). I appreciate his opinions on politics, health care, and tech.
http://notes.kateva.org/

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.
http://patrickrhone.com/

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.
http://morrick.me/

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.
http://caesuraletters.com/ & http://jamesshelley.com/

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.
https://brooksreview.net/

Complicity

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.”