My (Forthcoming) New Area of Expertise

It seems like every six months to a year I take an interest in a new subject and plunge deep into it, devouring every book and online article on the topic until my curiosity — or, better still, requirement of the knowledge to take action — is fulfilled.

For instance, three years ago it was retirement investing. Until then, even by age 35, I knew basically nothing about the stock market other than that it seemed like some legal form of gambling. I couldn’t tell you what it was or how it worked…and I certainly had no interest in learning.

I was, however, by then immersed in what’s known as the online “financial independence” community. The way I initially arrived there was by opening an edition of Walden that I got from the library. I didn’t get very far into it (as I found it quite boring), but I did at least make it past the introduction, which referenced a contemporary book called Your Money or Your Life — about how to be free by living frugally and making your resulting surplus of money work for you. This led me down a path of blogs such as (most famously) Mr. Money Mustache and others, and before you knew it I was off to the races. I realized I needed to put focus into the well-being of my older self, so I learned everything I felt I needed to know in order to strategically participate in the market, and now it’s all automated and I can move on knowing that my future is likely secure — or at least that I did the best that I could.

Now that I have a dog, I’ve decided that my next area of “expertise” should become dog training. Rather than be overwhelmed by the undisciplined nature of a living creature, I want to lean into the challenge and make it a goal to train him well — not only to spare both of us the stress of a lifetime of disarray, but also because it will in essence be training me to become a better person and I can take pride in knowing that my well-behaved dog is a reflection of my efforts. Besides, I’m certain that learning to properly train a dog translates to being a good leader in other contexts as well.

So…as I often do with my impulsive and obsessive nature, I’m more-or-less putting aside my immediate plans to devote the majority of my time over the next several months into shaping Morty into the dog we both wish him to be.

If You’re Going to Fail, Just Fail

Since getting a dog, I’ve had a few days when I was out and about and preoccupied for the entire day, and I just didn’t have the time to sit down and think of something to write.

But I made a pact to myself that I would post a blog every single day.

So, in order to make good on my word, on those few consecutive days I quickly jotted down the promise of a future post.

Problem solved: something — even if it contained no substance — was posted.

Then, a few nights ago, as I was completing a longer reflection on my first week with Morty (my dog), I got distracted by the company of a friend. When I looked back at my computer, I saw that the clock had just struck 12:01am. I missed the day’s post.

Now that I had failed, I realized…I actually failed those other two times too, and to post something empty in order to make good on a technicality was actually robbing my failure of its dignity.

I didn’t require myself to have a word minimum on any posts, nor that they even had to take the form of a completed essay. But I can’t allow myself in the future to write nothing more than an “IOU”. Because that’s the beginning of a bad habit.

It’s okay to miss a day, even two. But then just miss it already, forgive yourself, and start anew the next day.

Some Initial Thoughts on Having a Dog

Now that it’s starting to sink in that my dog is a permanent fixture in my life, I’m starting to absorb some of its implications.

One is that I’m grateful that my dog’s “problems”, for lack of a better word, are relatively few, minor, and manageable — and likely correctable (if not outgrow…able?).

Another is that I’m easy on myself for whatever mistakes I may make with him, because I feel certain that his life with me in just one week has been so much more stimulating — as far as places he’s seen and beings he’s met — than all his time with his previous family, if what they told me about keeping him full-time in the backyard is true.

So far his life with me has looked something like this:

DAY 1: On the evening I picked him up, his first stop was to visit friends and their dog in Queens. After they sent us away with some supplies, his next stop was at an Alphabet City bar whose crowd surrounded him with love.

DAY 2: He explored my neighborhood and made his first of now-regular visits to the local dog park. I can tell he hasn’t spent a lot of time around many dogs — as he’s shy and clings to my security — but his intensive in socialization has now begun.

DAY 3: He went to Manhattan and visited another pair of friends and their dog. They offered more supplies and invaluable advice. Then he went to my mom’s house, where he met family that was immediately smitten by him.

DAY 4: He met a great many more people (and a few dogs) at the Burning Man container load-out in Jersey City, and then he got to ride out to Brooklyn in a 26-foot truck. On the way back, he stopped at my cousin’s house in Staten Island to make her and her husband’s acquaintance.

DAY 5: He attended a pool party, where he went swimming and met many more people (and yes, another dog).

DAY 6: He went to the vet.

The more I think about all the places and people he’s seen, the more I think, ‘Wow, look at all the places and people I’ve seen.’ My dog is reminding me of what a great life I have, and I realize that to ensure that he has the best possible life means ensuring that I do as well.

Lastly, I had a revelation that for some time now I’ve been wanting very much to love and be loved by somebody. I’ve also been not liking that I want this, because I want to be free of desire and expectations. I got this dog just because I thought it would bring even more joy to my life. But what I’m realizing is that now I do have something I love on a very deep level, something that loves me like its life depends on it — because its life does depend on it. And suddenly, I don’t feel so needy.

There's No Such Thing as a "Quick" Meetup with My Family

And for that I’m so grateful.

I found myself passing through Staten Island this early evening with my pup, so I called my cousin (who lives there) to see if I could swing by real quick and show her the new addition to the family. Well, she put together a lovely dinner, followed by tea and dessert, and I stayed all night yapping it up with her.

More and more as I grow older I consider interaction with family and friends the best possible use of my time. We come into this world alone and we leave it alone…but at least while we’re here we can share in this life together with others.

This Dog is Keeping Me Busyyy

What a major life change. I like change. I’ve just been hardly home today to write anything, since Коржик (“Korzhik”, the name I settled on) has been making the rounds meeting friends and family. And not being home is always a good thing.

Yesterday I Got a Dog

And that’s why I neglected to post something.

But it feels good — not only to have a dog, but to take action. Indeed, ever since I returned from Burning Man I’ve been pulling the trigger on a lot of ideas.

Getting a dog is something I’d been thinking about for a few years, but I was afraid of the commitment, responsibility, and severe reduction in freedom. I weighed the pros of added happiness against the cons of added constraints. Then I realized I’d been thinking about this all wrong.

The commitment, the responsibility, the restrictions on my freedom — all these are also positives. Perhaps I need more commitment and more responsibility and less freedom. Perhaps these challenges will build character and actually serve as development tools. Perhaps avoiding them has only contributed to my stagnancy, and to take these hurdles head-on will only accelerate all I wished to accomplish when I had only myself to consider.

Anyway, the truth is I just wanted a bundle of joy for companionship, to love and to be loved by.

But I also welcome the life that is now in my hands.

Don't Work

A friend of mine recently remarked on how I seem “really chill”, as if I “don’t work much”. Indeed, I told her that I’m lucky enough to work probably less than half the year. And my goal is to continuously reduce that as much as possible, hopefully someday to zero.

This is because “work” as we know it — as a means to obtain money — is unnatural and therefore deleterious to our health and well-being. In the natural world, we would only ever be doing things that directly relate to our survival and pleasure. Money is arbitrary and indirect, and thus the connection is lost.

Let’s say it’s your job to carry a heavy object up six flights of stairs, as it is for a mover — or even that your job is just to sit in one spot for eight hours and analyze numbers. Either way, for your time and effort you are paid a sum that allows you to buy food (survival) or take a vacation (pleasure). But moving that object or analyzing those numbers — at least in the natural world — in no way leads to being fed or smelling the roses. They’re just arbitrary acts for which modern society established a reward system that’s trained us to perform — and even vie for — activities that we would otherwise never think to do; activities that would actually be a waste of our time.

Instead, natural “work” might be putting time and effort into, say, roaming through a forest to forage for something to eat (survival) or to smell a flower (pleasure). It is direct and pure. It is this kind of logical work that creates satisfaction and well-being.

Modern life has overcomplicated this simple, soulful way of being with extraneous variables, perhaps to increase our “standard of living”. But our standards — at least here in the developed world — are actually luxuries and not necessarily worth the price that many pay with surrendering half of their waking life. In many cases, the luxuries themselves even contribute to our unhappiness, such as by isolating us in our single-occupancy apartments.

My uncommonly low workload is made possible by a mixture of luck and design. I’m lucky enough to have parents who set me up with a support system that cushioned me enough to explore ways of being without feeling suffocated by the demands of society. But I also took proper advantage of this and designed my life in such a way as to accelerate my returns on their investment — most notably by finding ways to be self-employed (and thus in control of how my time is spent) and to minimize my spending (and thus my reliance on money and, therefore, work).

My Latest Fantasy

Since returning from Burning Man, I’ve been fantasizing about buying an RV or bus and souping it up. And then, perhaps, moving into it. It excites me to think about how such constraints of space on the one hand, yet freedom of movement/location on the other, could supercharge my life. Plus, the vast sums I would save on rent and associated costs would further unleash me from work and obligations. I picture ways in which I could securely strap my electric piano and guitars in there, with perhaps a desk area for video editing. It would be a fully-functioning mobile creativity studio. And my sleep would be deep, as sleeping ‘outdoors’ always is. Bathing and such could be outsourced to a 24-hour gym, and coffee shops would serve as my office. Anything that forces me out of the ‘house’ and among people is a godsend.

This is my latest fantasy and the seeds are planted in my mind. We’ll see where I am in a year,

My Two Personae

I recently had a revelation that I have (at least) two dominating personae: Phil and Филипп*.

In the same way that language equals thought and is the window through which we perceive the world, so do my English and Russian names represent the different ways in which I subconsciously see — and present — myself.

Phil is American, somewhat crude and childish, maybe even a little mischievous. He’s a bit of a loner in the world, perhaps without a family. He hides his more refined qualities, attempting instead to blend in and appear as unpretentious as possible.

Филипп, on the other hand, is not exactly American. He’s an honored member of a loving family. He’s thoughtful, artistic, mature. Like Phil, he also has a sense of humor, but it comes out in subtler, more nuanced ways. His voice even sounds a bit different from Phil’s, and he can sometimes be shy or hesitant when speaking since he realizes his grammar is lacking.

These are just a few ways in which Phil and Филипп are different.

There’s also an offshoot persona of Филипп named Филиппок (and its derivations, Филиппочек, Филичка, and Филин, among others). This one is a good, nice, happy, little boy. His voice is perhaps an octave higher.

Historically — at least outside my family life — I have been Phil. But more and more, as I grow in age, I wish to be — and relate more closely to — Филипп.

*Pronounced ‘Philippe’.

Watching Stories vs. Making Them

I’ve always been super into movies. I still am to some degree, but something has changed recently. Part of it is that I’m less interested in watching experiences and more interested in having them. I want to make my life a movie, and indeed that’s what I’m doing.

Lessons from Burning Man

I just returned from my second consecutive Burning Man. I had a blast, met friends new and old, and, perhaps most importantly, wrestled with some life lessons. Here are some things I learned:

“Silence and patience.”
These were the two virtues repeated to me by an older Australian man I randomly(?) and briefly shared a joint with one night on the open playa near Mayan Warrior. I don’t remember how we got into it, but he related how he came to honor these characteristics as he grew in age, and I thought about how I’ve severely lacked in especially the silence part, always telling anyone who will listen exactly what’s on my mind. Patience I’ve generally been better at, but I will continue to stamp these two words on the post-it note of my mind as I continue on in life.

Let go of your agenda.
This one is hard to admit and is something I’ve long struggled with, but I had the opportunity to put it into practice throughout the week. When I would find myself roaming around — whether by foot or bike — and wondering where I might most likely meet a girl, I would stop myself and think instead ‘Where am I least likely to meet a girl?’ and go there instead. I took it as an opportunity to be led by discovery rather than searching, to be present and happy with whatever moment I find myself in, to uncover new experiences that following my desires might have robbed me of. Besides, humans are everywhere, and you never know in what obscure corner of the earth you might meet your soulmate when you least expect to find her.

Like vibrational frequencies naturally find each other.
I met and immediately connected with a new friend named Vitali. Then, in a population of 80,000 with no way to connect by modern technology, I amazingly kept on bumping into him throughout the week. At one point he saw me standing next to my friend Yulia and introduced us. When she explained that we’ve already known each other for a few years, he commented on how wonderful it is that we’re longtime friends, suggesting the synchronicity in him knowing and liking two separate people who turned out to already know and like each other. I asked him how long he’s known Yulia, and he said they just met, which surprised me because I got the sense that they had already known each other perhaps even longer. Then I met Vitali’s friend, Kiril, and, despite a decade difference in age, he and I were fast friends. One day after the official final day of Burning Man, when I assumed most people had already left, I was at a nearby party and got a tap on my shoulder: Vitali again. Kindred spirits naturally find each other.

Just. Let. Go.
After the man burned I was partying in the pyramid. When I was ready to move on, I realized I couldn’t remember where I placed my backpack. People kept flooding in to fill every crevice of the space as I circled the room and had a harder and harder time finding it among the accumulating bodies and growing piles of backpacks. My backpack contained all my most “important” possessions, including my expensive camera with all my pictures from the week, not to mention my barely consumed bottle of water in this arid desert location all the way on the other side of the playa from my camp. Tripping on more LSD than I’d ever taken before, my search grew frantic as I began to panic. Then I stopped and gave myself a pep talk. “Phil, don’t make this your entire night. Your backpack is either here or it isn’t. Looking for it won’t change that fact. Go out and enjoy the night, and come back tomorrow when the party is over and all the bodies and backpacks have left and it will be easier to find.” And that’s exactly what I did. The next morning I returned and immediately spotted my backpack by the DJ stage with all my possessions in it exactly as I left them.

These are some lessons that come to mind at the moment. I’m sure more will present themselves as I continue to integrate into the “default world”. In which case, to be continued….

Gratitude for My Parents

I recently asked my mom what inspired her and my dad to give me piano lessons around the time I was six years old. She told me I was singing all the time as a little kid, so they determined I was very musical and wanted to cultivate that.

And so it went with so many areas of life: I liked to draw, and so I got art lessons; I took an interest in chess, so I went to chess school and was driven to tournaments; I discovered my freshman year of high school that I was good at cross country, and the following summer I was sent to a running camp; sophomore year I wanted to learn the guitar, and so I got guitar lessons (though, to the chagrin of my poor parents, much of those sessions was spent more on discussions of religion, since at the time I had taken a special interest in the subject and my teacher was super Christian).

Every little interest I had, however impulsive, was fostered.

When it came time to consider colleges, my parents encouraged my many applications to various art schools. These were immigrant parents, mind you, with a justifiably deep concern for financial well-being and security in life, yet they never pushed me in a direction they felt I had no interest in and nevertheless considered the potential viability in an art-related career such as animation or graphic design…none of which I ended up pursuing.

Ultimately, I wanted a “regular” college experience and chose a non-art school where I would just major in Fine Art. To this day nearly every wall of my parents’ house is adorned with all the various artwork I churned out in my classes.

During my junior year, I spent a semester studying art in Rome. I recall an episode one evening when I called my mom to check in; I suddenly felt so racked with guilt over the blissful life I was experiencing compared to my parents’ struggles*, and for feeling like I wasn’t honoring all that I was given because I didn’t put my full effort in my education and opportunities, and I began to cry as I told my mom that I hoped they were proud of me. She assured me that they were, but I wasn’t sure I deserved it.

After college, I began to follow my dreams as a performer by going to standup comedy open mics and handing out flyers for two hours in exchange for five minutes of stagetime, while simultaneously working as an unpaid intern at a tiny production studio in the Bronx in my pursuit of filmmaking. Again, my parents did not discourage me.

Within a year at the production studio, I felt I had learned enough about shooting and editing to start my own one-man operation. My parents bought me my camera and editing suite, and I was off to the races. To this day I remain self-employed, and I feel very grateful for the freedom it gives me in life.

Several years later I began to get paid gigs doing standup and started focusing more of my energy on that. I started hitting the road and traveling all over the country, and sometimes beyond. My parents didn’t try to stop me.

When I was 28 years old, I sat my parents down in their kitchen and delivered them a piece of news that I was scared to tell them because I knew they would have a hard time receiving it: I would be moving to Los Angeles. My mother cried. My father, ever the stoic, showed little emotion but clearly did not want to see me go. But they didn’t get in the way…even though I didn’t have much of a plan, other than to take what little money I had and hit the ground running.

Within half a year in LA, I was given an amazing opportunity: I was booked on a comedy tour of New Zealand and Australia. It turned out to be the biggest setback of my comedy career and my morale, as the “booker” turned out to be a very damaged and deceitful person who only posed as a comedy booker, and I got wrapped up in a long-lasting drama that set my life off course (but also gave me a much needed learning lesson).

Afterward, I found myself back at my parents’ house and had my 30th birthday. It was only then that my father finally sat me down for the first time in my life and explained that I was now 30, no longer a kid, that I tried the comedy thing and had my fun, but it was time to get serious and start considering my future. I understood where he was coming from, and I felt bad that my parents were worried about me.

But still I went back to LA. My parents were not happy about it, but what could they do? Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason they “allowed” all my crazy pursuits is because they knew that I was going to do what I was going to do, and to try to stop me would be futile, so they just hoped for the best.

I feel so lucky to have parents who poured so much into me and, while at times naturally concerned, ultimately allowed me to lead whatever kind of life I wanted to lead. My life is so rich due to the childhood I had, and now that I am an adult and have a better idea of the value of money and all the many hurdles to life and to what must go into raising children, I’m especially grateful that they spared no expense in my development — even for the many things that were not directly applicable to getting a “good job”, but just for being a well-rounded person with an appreciation for the fullness of life.

If and when I have a child, I will give them the exact same treatment that my parents gave me. And if said future child ever reads this, you now know that you have your grandparents to thank.

And I thank you too, Mama and Papa.

*Their only time in Rome up until then was in a refugee camp while waiting for admission into the United States.

The Power of Asking, Relationships, and Persistence

Although I’m speaking waaaaaaay too soon on this (and may very well put my foot in my mouth if I arrive in Burning Man without a bicycle), I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment over a task that seemed unlikely to happen and almost didn’t until the very last second.

It’s not a super exciting series of events, but in its own little way it’s an example of what’s possible if you put the energy out there and you have good relationships (since this 100% required the help of other people).

Here’s the walk-through of how it went down:

I’m traveling straight to Burning Man from New York City, and my bike — which I would like to have there — is locked in a garage in Los Angeles. My friend who owns the garage is in Oregon and also going straight to Burning Man from there. How do I get my bike out of the garage and up to Burning Man?

— I know my friend has a key to the garage in a nearby lockbox, so in theory someone in Los Angeles could get it out if my friend is willing to give this person the code.
— My friend’s bike is also in his garage, so I propose to get his bike up to Burning Man as well if he allows me to give a (trusted) person access to his garage. (Now he also has skin in the game, although I’m doubling up on the favor I would have to ask another person.) He agrees!
— I put out a few announcements to those people in my camp who are traveling from (or through) Los Angeles to see if they’d be up to the task of getting my bike and bringing it to Burning Man. Unsurprisingly, no one volunteers. I’m out of luck.
— But wait! A friend of mine from NYC who’s in LA and part of my camp informs me that we will have a container truck coming up from LA. If there’s any way I could get my bike on there, it will arrive in Burning Man. Now I can ask anyone I know in Los Angeles — not just those going to Burning Man — if they could get our bikes and deliver them to the truck. Still, it’s a big ask, so I’m not holding my breath.
— I ask a non-burner friend who’s both very helpful and reliable in all matters. He agrees!!!
— I put him in touch with our mutual friend in OR for directions on how to get the bikes out. Boom!
— I explain to the truck load-in lead that my friend will be dropping off two bikes for me, and I give the lead’s cell and the truck location and load-in time to my friend. Boom!
— All is handled.
— On the night of the drop-off, knowing that everyone knows what’s going on and how to get directly in touch with each other, I (stupidly) decide to go to a movie. Toward the end of the movie, I get a sixth sense that the drop-off should be happening around this time, so I peak down at my phone. There are a million messages from my friend over the course of the last hour. Crap!
— I run out of the movie and call him. Apparently there was some issue where he was unable to get into our friend’s garage until after a certain time, which didn’t give him enough time to get to the truck load-in. If he did it all now, he’d arrive over an hour later than when the load-in is done. I’m ready to give up.
— But first I call the truck lead. The load-in is indeed over, and he’s no longer with the truck. But…the truck isn’t leaving until the early morning, so maybe there’s a shot the guys who are driving it can accept the bikes if my friend meets them where they are. He gives me their cell.
— I call them. They’re willing to take it if my friend can meet them within 35 minutes at another location — one that’s right by his house(!) rather than the original spot that was way further away. Bingo!
— I call my friend and ask if he can still do it. He’s on it! He gets there in time with the bikes, and the bikes are on the truck as I type this!

Again, I realize this is a really low stakes version of mission impossible, but in a sense it almost feels like I willed these bikes from a locked garage in LA to the middle of a barren desert, since there was nothing I could do but remotely put out energy from the other side of the country. And it was only possible because I was willing to ask if I could get it done, I had the kind of relationship and reputation with my friend that he selflessly agreed to do it, and we remained persistent till the very end.

Go Alone

Recently I was talking to someone who was telling me that she felt a bit stifled her first two times at Burning Man, since her group of friends could never agree on where to go. This reminded me of one of the most life-enhancing habits I picked up over the last few years: to always go alone.

Sure, you can invite people to tag along, but don’t depend on them and don’t over-adjust your plans to accommodate them; this is your journey and they’re a privileged guest. If you’re always relying on companions to do things, you’ll never explore beyond your weakest link: the person who wants to do the least. Furthermore, you’re always making compromises, whether waiting on people, deciding on what to do in what order, how you’re getting there, when you’re leaving, who’s hungry when, etc.

This last weekend, I went to a beach party and offered people rides. I was happy to do a nice thing for people, but the experience reminded me of why I like to do things alone. With everyone having different ideas for when they could leave, when they wanted to return, etc., I found myself making considerations I’ve gotten used to no longer making. Within an hour at the beach, people kept wanting to gauge when I might be ready to go home, and all I could say is I don’t know because I’m not thinking about it…I’ll leave when I feel like it, whenever that might be. I started to feel like I was being annoyingly fickle because I’d be getting ready to leave, but then the chilly weather warmed up and the music got good, and suddenly I wanted to stay. At the end of the day, that’s my own problem…while I’ve gotten much better at saying no and not trying to please people, there’s still room for improvement.

When you do things alone, there’s never any discussion and you’re always exactly where you want to be, so you’re never bored. After all, if you were, you’d simply move on to the next thing. Any desire you have, you do on a whim without consideration. There’s never any need to make plans. You’re living in the moment. You’re present.

Plus, your world opens up not only because you’re not hindered by others, but also because now you’re far more likely to meet new people, people whose interests and level of adventurousness — not to mention level of independence — align with yours.

One of my best trips was back in May, when I went to South Africa by myself. To enter a continent I’d never been to before — one that felt from my perspective to be a remote and relatively dangerous part of the world — was already stepping outside of my comfort zone, which is part of the reason I knew I needed to do it. But then to do it alone…well, I made so many new friends from all over the world.

When I arrive in Burning Man next week, my modus operandi will be the same as last year: I might “go out” with a group every now and then, but the moment our interests don’t align, I’m off on my own.

My Ayahuasca (In)experience

I recently participated in an ayahuasca ceremony for the first time. Disappointingly, I didn’t feel as though I had any sort of “altered” experience of any kind — spiritual or otherwise — either of the two nights. The only noticeable effect seemed to be the purging.

However, since my return I have adopted some major new habits (such as this daily blog, cooking nearly every meal, etc.), and continued improvements in my life do seem to be unfolding.

But, while it’s hard to know for sure, I’m suspecting that this is less a result of my “experience” and more a correlation to it. Upon reflection, drinking ayahuasca represents to me that I am so determined to make drastic changes in my life that I am willing to take drastic action to do so. And so, of course, I’m already vibrating at the frequency necessary to affect my life even before I’ve taken one sip.

I will definitely be back, but I can already say that I learned a lot from that weekend, not least of all that power lies in intent and action as much as — if not more than — result.

When In Doubt, Clean

Sometimes, like today, I lack the energy or mood to get anything of consequence done. It might be one of those helpless days when you feel despair for whatever reason: guilt from over-indulgence of any kind, anxiety from time wasted or feeling unproductive, etc.

The first thing I do — and am doing now — is remind myself that I’ve felt this way many times before, and every single one of these times, eventually, was followed by times of excitement, energy, productivity, and happiness. Therefore, it is natural to have down moments, so don’t get sucked into the fear that this is your lot in life. This too shall pass.

The second thing I might do is will myself to the gym to exercise, knowing that this is an immediate and guaranteed mood-booster. However, since I worked out yesterday and like to have at least one rest day, I’m skipping over this step right now.

Instead, I’m doing the third thing I normally do, which is to clean my apartment. Unless it’s one of those deep cleans you might give your bathroom or kitchen every once in awhile to restore them to a shiny condition, the surface-level cleaning I’m talking about requires very little enthusiasm and energy on my part. I can still feel despair and aimlessness while doing laundry, folding clothes, making my bed, washing dishes, putting conspicuous clutter back in its place.

And once all this is done, my mood may very well not be lifted at all. But at least I’ve now gotten something done. And when I wake up the following morning to a brand new day with new possibilities, at least now the less useful part of me of the previous day has gifted this new butterfly with a clean slate from which to operate.

The Absurdity of Outlawing Nature

In this country and many others, it can be illegal to grow, possess, or ingest things like marijuana, Psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote — even though they’re all naturally occurring phenomena. How you can logically outlaw nature I don’t quite understand. Could a sunset or the tide be made illegal? How can something natural possibly be “bad” for you?

Of course, these things aren’t inherently “bad” for you, and that’s not why they’re outlawed. The reason they’re illegal is because they’re bad for “The System” — in our case, capitalism (which, by the way, is not natural and is bad for nature and, therefore, us). Like any effective system, capitalism is self-perpetuating, which means it must weed out (pun intended) marijuana and other elements that pose a threat to it.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist who believes there are self-aware, conscious forces trying to keep the masses down — just as I’m not sure I believe Nature/The Universe/God/Infinite Intelligence/Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It is a conscious entity with an agenda. In both cases, I believe they just are.

But just as a gene or a meme with a track record of success tends to possess the characteristics for self-preservation, so do I believe that a System, such as capitalism, that has (so far) survived centuries does so because it necessarily keeps threats to its existence at bay.

And these magical plants are, indeed, grave threats, since they strengthen our connection to nature and spirituality and the Big Picture of life, thereby lifting the veil from the illusion that capitalism or any other man-made — and, thus, inferior — system has constructed for us.

“Good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong” — how to qualify these objectively can be difficult. I operate by the philosophy that nature and anything natural is probably “good”, and artificiality and anything unnatural is probably “bad”. Then the questions only become what is natural and what isn’t.