How Pure Must Allies Be?

I’ve been active in several different political movements in my life. I was raised conservative, became a libertarian, and am now a “left” libertarian who is passionate about LGBT issues, the drug war, and social justice. One common thread throughout the movements on the left, right, and libertarian is that many people demand a certain amount of purity in their allies. Personally, I think that is destructive. Particularly when that purity is demanded of someone’s past actions. Take Dan Savage, for example.

I like Dan Savage*. He did a lot to open my eyes to gender and sexuality issues and I think he is right a lot of the time. Though, in the past he made some harmful comments about transgender individuals and he contributed to the idea that bisexuality doesn’t really exist (Spoiler: We bisexuals exist). Since making those comments years ago he has become more educated and changed his mind. He has even apologized for making the comments. In reality, Savage has done more for the equality movement than most people… but he is often demonized because he wasn’t perfect in the past. Hell, he probably isn’t perfect now by anyone’s definition, but I’ve seen people say he shouldn’t be supported, his posts shouldn’t be shared, and that he shouldn’t be considered part of the equality movement because of the things he said in the past. It raises the question, how pure must someone be for them to get our support? And how long to we ostracize someone who has since apologized and changed their mind?

I didn’t always believe the things I believe now. I didn’t always support marriage equality. I used to think being gay was a sin and I said many hurtful things in the past. It seems that if I was more famous back in my youth I would be shunned by some of the people that I care about today.

All you have to do is watch the GOP debates or read the thread on a Reason Magazine Facebook post and you will see that most political views are filled with purity tests. You aren’t a “real” libertarian if you think a Basic Income Guarantee might be a pragmatic and beneficial initiative. You aren’t a “real” conservative if you don’t want to kill Muslims. Forget all the ways you might agree with a philosophy, if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue you are a phone, a RINO, a fraud, and all your opinions are worthless. If you disagree with some people on one issue you become incapable of contributing anything, even if your contributions are unrelated.

It is sad and really ineffective to destroy allies this way. By focusing on our areas of disagreement we only guarantee our movement will get smaller. Pushing people to the margins and cutting them out of the conversation won’t change their mind. Quite the contrary, it will only shrink their circle until they interact only with the people that you disagree with. If someone is wrong on transgender issues, you don’t decide that they aren’t a feminist, liberal, progressive, libertarian, or whatever and ostracize them, instead if you want to change their mind you bring them into the conversation and celebrate the areas you agree.

It is this pursuit of purity that drove me out of most political activism. My chosen identities of anarchist, feminist, libertarian, etc were constantly under fire until I said “fuck it” and just stopped being active. It wasn’t worth the heartache or headache to try and appease everyone. You destroy allies when you demand purity, and eventually you end up alone.

Dream Job

A couple of nights ago Anna and I took a little MDMA while camping. To be honest, it was probably our least favorite roll yet. It was our own fault, we had full stomachs and were pretty tired. We’ve also been rolling quite a bit just the two of us. We love that but some variety would be nice… another couple to roll with (we’ve had great experiences in the past introducing couples to molly) or maybe a festival/rave to explore. To be honest, there wasn’t much euphoria or desire for physical intimacy, it wasn’t a bad experience (can Molly be bad?) but it wasn’t great. There was one highlight for me though, I got to do some internal thinking and fantasizing about my dream job. While rolling, particularly towards the end of the night, you can kind of get stuck in your own head thinking about wonderful things. Your mind kind of wanders in a pseudo-hallucinogenic fashion. During this time of reflection I realized what I would love to do for a living. Sadly, if I tried to do this openly men with guns would kick down my door and put me in a cage.

What I’d love to do is host “Roll Parties” for people. I’d love to provide a set and setting for people to use MDMA carefree. I would provide the location, the MDMA, and whatever extras people desired. It could be completely customizable to the group’s desires. Maybe it is just a couple who want to curl up and talk out their relationship, or maybe a small group want to have a sexy party, or maybe more of a rave is what a group want. I’d love to provide all of that.

For example, maybe a group of six friend’s contact me and want to have a roll party. They don’t have a clear idea for what they want out of the night but want to keep options open. They are fairly sexually liberal but not swingers or poly. To get the night started I would give a briefing on what to expect from taking MDMA, this would happen at every party even if people are used to the drug. After everyone takes their dose we would spend the next hour figuring out what people are comfortable with and what they would want while waiting for the dose to hit. I would have everyone anonymously fill out a “comfort sheet” where they can share their comfort level with certain common occurrences while rolling. Maybe it would look something like this:

How comfortable would you be if the males in this room were nude (unaroused)?

  • Very Comfortable
  • Somewhat Comfortable
  • Unsure
  • Somewhat Uncomfortable
  • Very Uncomfortable
  • Comments:

How comfortable would you be if the females in this room were nude?

  • Very Comfortable
  • Somewhat Comfortable
  • Unsure
  • Somewhat Uncomfortable
  • Very Uncomfortable
  • Comments:

How comfortable would you be if the males in this room were nude (sexually aroused)?

  • Very Comfortable               
  • Somewhat Comfortable
  • Unsure
  • Somewhat Uncomfortable
  • Very Uncomfortable
  • Comments:

How comfortable would you be if the people were giving erotic massages?

  • Very Comfortable
  • Somewhat Comfortable
  • Unsure
  • Somewhat Uncomfortable
  • Very Uncomfortable
  • Comments:

Are there any subjects that you feel uncomfortable discussing or may be triggering for you? Please list or discuss personally with the facilitator?

Are you interested in discussing any of the following subjects more openly?

  • Societies views on sex and nudity
  • Your personal sex life and kinks or interests
  • Spirituality and Religion
  • Politics
  • Your past

This is just a sample of some of the questions and it would be much more thorough. This may seem silly to some but providing a comfortable environment for everyone is important. After gathering all the surveys I would share some rules/guidelines about how the night will go.  If someone said they are uncomfortable with seeing aroused males we could come up with solutions, including getting verbal confirmation of everyone in the room before something like that happens. Or maybe designate a particular room for more sexual activity. I’d also let people know what subjects others are interested in discussing or should be avoided because they can be triggering. Generally people rolling are great about consent and following the kink guidelines (discuss what you like, what you don’t like, any medical issues you may have, what aftercare you desire, etc) but having designated places for activities or guidelines in place at the beginning of the night helps get everyone comfortable. Some groups won’t need this, some groups of friends are completely comfortable with everything or have a lot of experience already but occasionally individuals are in a mental space where they have strong preferences. It is always best to express these things from the beginning to prevent harm or discomfort. The goal is to make the most conservative and/or least experienced person 100% comfortable with how things may go.

I could also provide DJ’s, fire dancers, masseuses, and whatever else the group desired. It would be completely geared to what the group wants. Sadly, this would all be illegal because of the drugs. Sure, I could probably try to host parties like this without the drugs but my passion is really sharing the MDMA experience with others so that their lives and relationships can grow. MDMA destroys jealousy and the unnecessary social walls that have been put up, and it helps spread comfort and love. I’ve rolled with people where all we do is talk and bond, I’ve rolled with people where it gets very sexually intimate with massages and same-room sex, and I’ve had goofy times with people where we explore each other’s bodies in kind of a clinical fashion and just marvel at how beautiful we all are.

I’d love to do this for a living (though, not necessarily for an income). Maybe someday it will be legal… or maybe I’ll just do it anyway and risk it. Providing healing and happiness for other people is the moral thing to do, even it if is illegal.

Out of State Residents, Facebook, and Quotes

7/17 – Out of State Residents

Because we are travelling around the US for a couple of years the idea of a “state residency” is kind of irrelevant to us. Unfortunately, we pay a price for that. Right now in Illinois we are paying nearly double the price to camp in state parks. It is unfortunate that someone can’t just have US residency and be treated equally across the states. The US really isn’t set up for mobile people and many of the institutions encourage a type of state-level nationalism. We can’t find healthcare that is affordable and covers multiple states, and we pay a higher price for things because our IDs are from somewhere else. I recognize the benefits of experimentation among the states and allowing most of the laws to be created and enforced at a local level, but I think that can happen without discriminating against fellow Americans (or really any humans…)

7/21 – Facebook

I’ve been listening to Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek while biking. It has been fantastic and I’m trying to implement some of the suggestions into my life. One of the things he mentioned that really resonated with me was getting rid of time wasters and things that seem important but really aren’t. For me, the biggest thing in this category is Facebook. While I enjoy Facebook a lot it has a way of sucking hours out of my day (sometimes in big chunks and sometimes in many small chunks) and I am rarely better off in my life. So, for a week I am trying to not really use Facebook. I’m checking the message portion because that is a main form of communication for me but I am not engaging in discussions or reading through the negative sludge that tends to accompany posts. My Instagram is still linked to Facebook though to share personal things in my life with family/friends and such.

Overall it has been a wonderful experience for me. I am happier and a ton more productive. Instead of mindlessly searching Facebook on my app I am engaging in more conversations, taking time to do little spot work-outs (a quick 90-second plank or 30 push-ups or 5 pull-ups or something), and doing more work and writing. I am more productive and happier.

There is something about online social networking that causes people to throw social norms of politeness and kindness out the window. Take, for example, what happened on my wall today. Last night I went out to dinner with my wife and one of her friends, we went to a vegan restaurant in Chicago and I shared a picture of the vegan milkshakes we got. There were a few comments and questions about how a milkshake can be vegan, I don’t mind those because they came from people I know in real life and because they seemed genuinely curious. Then, there was one comment along the lines of “I bet they aren’t really vegan because they probably use refined sugar”, this comment came from someone I don’t know personally… we are only online “friends”. First, this person is making huge assumptions without asking any questions or doing research. Second, he seems to be posting a comment simply to be combative and suck the joy out of anothers experience. I can’t imagine he would do this in “real life”. If he saw a friend of a friend walk out of a vegan ice cream shop and overheard them saying they can’t wait to eat the vegan milkshake I doubt he would interrupt them and say “I bet that’s not vegan”. But online this type of “you are wrong and even though I don’t know you I am going to spew negativity on you and try to establish my own superiority” attitude runs rampant.

I don’t want to give up social networking for good, I think it serves a valuable purpose and is going to be a necessary tool for interacting for a long time. But, I need to find a way that is healthier for me. Maybe I’ll trim my “friends” or maybe I’ll just ignore comments and turn off notifications. I don’t know, but I’m much happier and productive without that blue temptation called Facebook.

7/31 – Quotes

I’ve been listening to and reading “4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and it is packed full of quotes that I love. Here are a few:

  • “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain
  • “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.” – Dave Barry
  • “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” – Warren Bennis
  • “It is far better for a man to go wrong in freedom than go right in chains” – Thomas Huxley
  • “By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day” – Robert Frost
  • “On this path, it is only the first step that counts.” – St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney
  • “Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer” – Niccolo Machiavelli
  • “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt
  • “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs

Things I Wrote: One Million Dollars, Thankful, Meditation

$1 Million

On one of the podcasts I listen to the host, Isaac Morehouse, was discussing imagination and mentioned one of the exercises he occasionally does is think long and hard about how he would respond to certain events, including receiving a bunch of money. The amount of money varies from experiment to experiment but the important thing is to give it some real though and itemize instead of just saying “Travel” or “Donate to charity”. Those things can happen but getting into the details allows our imagination to flourish, as well as keep us tethered to reality. This type of thinking (particularly thought experiments about how we would respond to bad events) is very Stoic in nature, so it definitely appeals to me.

So, I am going to itemize how I would spend $1,000,000 (tax free) as best I can. I don’t have internet access to look up particulars but hopefully I can really break it down and go into detail about how I would realistically spend that money.

  1. $67,000 – Pay off student loans. Getting out of debt would be my first move. While I feel no particular ethical obligation to pay back my student loans it does make pragmatic sense to do it.
  2. $250,000 – Set up a personal loan account to buy up my friend and families student loans or other debt. We could make repayment agreements where the payments and interest rate are very low. This is a system that would help me so much right now, it isn’t the minimum payments that kill me, it is the interest rates that basically guarantee I’ll have debt hanging over me for decades. I’d be thrilled if someone offered to consolidate my loans and give me a low (or zero) interest rate, I’d even set up a direct deposit so they are sure they would get their money.
  3. $200,000 – This would go into a safe, conservative (though hopefully interest bearing) account to provide for my future. Right now I can maintain the life I have for about $24,000 per year and this amount would keep me going without a need to work for the next 8 years or so. Not a lifetime but it is something.
  4. $125,000 – One time donations to non-profits I support
    1. $25,000 to DanceSafe to expand their harm reduction program
    2. $25,000 to MAPS for their MDMA therapy program
    3. $25,000 to Karma Rescue to help run the No-Kill Shelter in LA that we adopted Higgins from
    4. $25,000 to SSDP for scholarships to help get students to their conferences
    5. $25,000 to Wikipedia
  5. $100,000 – Provide financial support for 2-3 of my friends who are artists and would like to focus on their craft instead of working to make ends meet. This would probably be monthly payments.
  6. $75,000 – Build a “tiny house” to live in.
  7. $30,000 – Buy a used Subaru Outback
  8. $10,000 – Pay for myself, Anna, and some other friends to go to Burning Man
  9. $100,000 – Provide support for people on GoFundMe (and similar crowdsourcing programs).
    1. $75,000 – Those in financial need
    2. $25,000 – Those advancing technology that I support or have cool inventions
  10. $20,000 – Put aside for moving and set-up costs wherever we go after the bike ride
  11. $20,000 – Honeymoon in Iceland (and maybe other Nordic countries)
  12. $3,000 – Personal Purchases
    1. $500 – Get some really sweet home brewing equipment and start brewing more beer
    2. $1250 – A cool gaming computer
    3. $500 – Books
    4. $1,000 – Health stuff (cooking equipment, weights, nootropics, etc)
    5. $750 – MDMA for a year or more

Post Script: This was more difficult than I expected. $1 million is a lot of money and my estimates are probably a bit conservative here. I’d also like to really nail it down and get accurate in the future.

Thankful

There are many attributes that make up who I am. Some of them are all beyond my control and some I have a bit of control over. I have made decisions in the past that have lead me to where I am today, but much of my past (particularly in my early life) is, for lack of a better term, luck. I was born a white male in the USA to a stable family, that has given me an advantage over many people. I wasn’t born into money, but I also never wondered if I would have a meal or a safe place to sleep. I think it is important to reflect on the ways I am blessed and remember that other people are fighting through life without some of the advantages I have. So, here is a quick list of specific things that I am thankful for, some of them are a product of my choices but some are not.

  1. Teeth – I have healthy teeth. They aren’t particularly straight or white, but I’ve only had one cavity and I have taken pretty shitty care of my teeth. I rarely brushed daily and never flossed until Anna and I moved in together.
  2. Lack of Risk Aversion – I tend to take risks and not really worry about the downside. I don’t act without thinking, but having a bit of a risk involved in quitting my job or going on a bike journey or whatever doesn’t really deter me. I probably would be a business owner like my grandfather if I knew of something I cared enough about to create.
  3. Upbringing – I don’t see eye-to-eye with my parents on much but they were good parents who did their best. They were both around to support my education and personal development. I knew there would be food to eat and a place to sleep, even though sometimes we crammed several kids into a room. It was a loving and stable family.
  4. Immune System – I very rarely get sick. Part of this is genetics and part of it is lifestyle, I try to exercise regularly and eat fairly healthy.
  5. Stoicism – I tend to easily cope with bad situations. Some of this is natural to me but a big part of it is a combination of using MDMA as medicine and practicing ancient stoic techniques.
  6. Network of Friends – Due to growing up in Oregon, joining the Army, going to college in South Carolina, working in DC, living in Los Angeles, and travelling by bicycle I have a vast and diverse network of friends. We don’t always get along but I know that if I need support someone will be there to lend a hand, and I hope they know they can come to me for the same. Having a network that extends beyond a limited geographic region or political/economic/religious/social/racial bubble is something I am incredibly thankful for. I learn so much from having different viewpoints shared on my Facebook wall or in my life.
  7. Late Bloomer – Despite my current thoughts on sex and recreational drug use I was a late bloomer in these areas. I was a virgin until 23 and never even smoked pot until 24. MDMA wasn’t in my life until I was 28. Other drugs like shrooms, LSD, 2-CB, cocaine, ketamine, and 25-I trickled into my life after that. I am incredibly thankful that was the case. I am able to handle my drugs, and introduce myself to new drugs, in a responsible way. I am afraid that I would have made some pretty terrible mistakes if I had encountered drugs or sex in my teens, I was relatively immature socially. That doesn’t mean that I think the abstinence-only scare tactics that were employed against me is the best option, education in all these areas is a far better choice.
  8. Postponing marriage – I had two opportunities to get married before meeting Anna. The first would have been a disaster. The second could have been great but our life goals didn’t match up well. I am really, really happy I waited until I found someone that matched up with me in the important areas (kids, lifestyle, etc) instead of settling for someone. I don’t think people should have long lists of things they need in a partner, but you also shouldn’t give up things that are important to you. If one of you wants kids and the other one doesn’t then it is probably best to break up, there is no middle ground and guilting someone into doing something they don’t want can lead to resentment. The same can apply to desire to travel, importance of money, recreational drug use, etc. Sometimes love isn’t enough and no matter how much two (or more people) love each other their lives are just not going to match up well long term.
  9. Smoking and Addiction – I never really smoked. I used to carry a pack of Marlboro Reds with me when I went out drinking in DC but it never really materialized into an addiction. I don’t seem to be prone to addiction and have very easily stopped something cold turkey when I wanted to, even beer. Smoking seems like the worst habit in the world to me, and as much as I try not to judge I do tend to get a feeling of “eww” anytime I see someone smoking. It just seems to be the opposite of everything I value, but I recognize I am kind of an asshole for having this type of knee-jerk reaction.
  10. No Sweet Tooth – I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. At some point in my life I just stopped desiring things like soda, candy, and cookies (except when stoned… then I will all the Oreos). Anytime I occasionally want something sweet I can eat on pop-tart or a handful of raisons. I do crave savory things a lot, but even that can be handled with some hummus or French fries.

Meditation

Meditation is one of those things that I know I need to add to my daily routine but have a lot of trouble with. I am convinced that the benefits are well worth my time but still keep having trouble doing it. I have the time, I just don’t use it wisely. There are plenty of opportunities throughout my day to spend 10 minutes in meditation. Well, starting at 10 minutes, I do hope to work my way up to more. But, alas, I spend too much damn time in the morning and at night staring at my phone or dicking around on Facebook. I need to find a better way to minimize my time on social networks, they produce a lot of value for me but at some point that value is sucked away and I realize I have been just scrolling and “liking” mindlessly for 30 minutes. I use Facebook to stay informed about the world and share articles that I find interesting, but I usually get that done in the first 10 minutes of logging on. Maybe I should limit myself to 15 minutes on Facebook in any given session, and also limit the sessions per day. In addition to my poor use of time, meditation is difficult for me. I can rarely get through one full breath without my mind wandering. I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself, and I know it will get better with practice, but I still get frustrated at times. Oh well, I am going to keep trying.

Things I Wrote This Week: Cycling, Marriage Equality, I Believe, Dream

I’m trying to get in the habit of writing daily to improve my writing and get the creative juices flowing in my brain. In the past when I try to blog daily I end up quitting shortly afterwards. So, this time I’m going to just try to write something relatively quick daily… maybe something that was distracting me while meditating, or maybe a current event, or maybe something else. Regardless, if I keep up the practice I will post them as a blog post every week or so. These aren’t meant to be a completely thought out opinion or well formatted posts, they are just some thoughts going around in my head.

6/24 – Cycling

The most common complaint I see about cyclists is that we “run red lights and stop signs”. It always makes me wonder if people are angry that some cyclists do something they perceive to be dangerous or if they are angry because cyclists seem to get away with breaking the rules. Is it genuine fear for our safety or is it a drive for equality? I actually think it is the latter. It should be noted that rolling through a stop sign and treating a red light like a stop sign instead of a light is actually legal in a few places. Bikes are treated differently because they are different, they are also the only means of transportation without a segregated path in most places to provide safe travel. Pedestrians have sidewalks, automobiles have roads, and cyclists usually have to navigate on one of those two… pissing everyone else off in the process.

Cyclists tend to get grouped together and blamed for an individual’s bad behavior. Yes, some cyclists are assholes and inconsiderate and break laws, but that doesn’t mean all of us do that. I have never heard someone say “ugh, that car just cut me off in traffic, all drivers are terrible and should be banned”, but I hear that about cyclists. Like it or not, bicycles are here to stay. In fact, they are becoming more popular as America slowly shifts away from a car culture. Ideally, cyclists would have their own protected area to operate like other means of transportation, but we aren’t there yet.

6/27 – Marriage Equality

Yesterday was an amazing day. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of marriage equality. I understand that many conservatives are upset, and I kind of understand why, but I think their anger isn’t justified. Certainly, this has altered the definition of marriage in the US on the legal level. But we humans do that all the time. Marriage was redefined when the Supreme Court ruled that people of different races could marry. Marriage was redefined on a cultural level a century ago when it started being about love instead of property. Throughout the thousands of years of human pair bonding marriage has been redefined numerous times across time and cultures. There is no objective definition of marriage that exists outside of time and place, it isn’t some sort of Platonic form. It is a human social construct that we use to arrange our society, and as our society evolves and changes to advancements in science and technology our social constructs will change. I think this will cause a shift in society, and with most societal shifts there will be some institutions that must change or be destroyed. That is the natural cycle of things, that is creative destruction, that is evolution. And that is okay. We don’t get better as a society by staying stagnant as time changes. Jobs, relationships, government, religion… they all will be forced to adjust their place in society as we advance. Those that don’t adjust will become a historical footnote.

Today is a day of celebration. My partner and I wish we could be in Minneapolis this weekend for Twin Cities Pride, but unfortunately we are far away. But, we are happy… almost in tears at times. This is a great decision for equality under the law, human liberty, and strengthening of relationships. The country is a better place now than it was 24 hours ago.

6/29 Random Stuff I Believe

I identify as a libertarian in practice and anarchist in theory. Though, I am pragmatic with many things, including my love of liberty. If it turns out that by sacrificing some of our liberties we would live longer, happier, healthier lives then I would sacrifice those liberties (though I wouldn’t force others to make that decision). It turns out that I think increasing the amount of freedom people have also makes their lives longer and of higher quality. But, as a realist my policy positions don’t always match my theoretical foundation. So, here are random things…

  • Basic Income Guarantee – I think we need to switch over to a social safety net that provides a minimum basic income for everyone in the country. It doesn’t necessarily need to get people to the poverty level, but would instead eliminate the shitty bureaucracy and allow people to transition jobs, get an education, take care of a family, etc without worrying about an ear infection killing their child or choosing between paying the electricity and feeding your kids. Welfare and stuff is alright but it is inefficient. Besides, as we move to an automated world more and more jobs are going to become obsolete. Even jobs that used to require a college education, just look at how Khan Academy, Coursera, MIT Online, and such are providing an education for free or a fraction of the cost of the university. Everything can be outsourced or automated and if we want to prevent a violent revolution due to a lack of food and jobs we need to transfer some of the wealth to the people. Maybe a percentage of money saved by automation goes into an account that is distributed, or maybe all the wealthy people get together and realize it is in their best interest to provide the Basic Income without a state apparatus… but I think something needs to happen or the US will implode into a blood bath of fragmented nation states. Then again, that might be a good thing.
  • Healthcare – Ideally the state would get out of healthcare, but that ideal isn’t going to happen. As much as many conservatives talk about rolling back The Affordable Care Act they know that isn’t actually possible. Hell, they bitched and moaned about the Department of Education but couldn’t do anything about it. I think a single-payer system is better than the crony hodge-podge insurance shit we deal with now. Other countries with a single-payer system seem to be doing much better than us. People may scream “BUT SOCIALISM!!!!” and I say, “who the hell cares?”. Of course, there is the irony that many conservatives worship the military, which itself has a “socialist” healthcare system.
  • Drugs – Legalize them all. All of them. Yes, even heroin. As bad as some chemicals can be for individuals or society it is made infinitely worse by forcing it onto the black market. The government can’t even keep drugs out of prison, they sure as hell can’t keep them out of the US. And the DARE fear-mongering program is a waste of money and brings about zero benefits.
  • Marriage – Let everyone who wants get married. Plural marriages are different than same-sex marriage, but it is still consenting adults making a legal contract with each other. There is no reason the state should prevent that from happening.

7/2 Dream

I had a dream last night… not an altogether rare occasion but this one I remembered pretty clearly. I’ve heard that you can learn a lot from dreams by putting yourself in the shoes of all the different components. I’m not sure how much objective truth can be gleamed but it seems fun and will be a cool mental exercise. So, here’s the dream:

I’m standing on a cliff overlooking a forest. It is nighttime and I see that quite a few of the trees are on fire. The fire doesn’t seem to be spreading, they are just single trees burning. I walk down to the nearest tree on fire and one of my friends is standing there. This friend of mine is someone that I’ve only met in real life once, though we are strongly connected online. We have a lot of the same friends and share views on drug policy. She is also someone who goes to Burning Man regularly. To be honest, she is someone I admire greatly and wish I knew better. For simplicity let’s call her June.

As I approach she turns around. I see that she is wearing a hoodie with fur trim. Her hair is also on fire a little bit. She doesn’t seem to notice her scalp burning, she is instead looking at the tree with an expression of fear and helplessness. I start patting her head to put the fire out and she joins me until the fire is out.

We decide to go for a walk through the forest. As we walk we talk about a problem she is having. June has an elderly grandmother who does not approve of her partner. The grandmother is angry that June never told her that she was dating anyone. June says that the relationship isn’t serious and they don’t plan on marrying so it isn’t a big deal to not update her grandma about it. Grandma doesn’t buy it and wants to meet June’s boyfriend. June doesn’t want this and is clearly upset about it all, it is causing tension in the family and stress in her life. June starts to cry as we walk.

Okay, so I think there are several themes and casts of characters to analyze. Let’s start at the beginning:

Me: I exist and view this whole scenario. I think this is me as an outside observer in the lives of my friends. As I interact with June I am more than an observer, I am also a shoulder to cry on and to help put out fires. Though, I seem unable or unwilling to put out the fire on the tree.

Forest: The forest is filled with trees, and possibly one person at each tree… though I didn’t see anyone except June. Maybe while helping a friend I fail to notice other friends. Anyway, some of the trees are on fire, some of my friend’s lives are on fire. They are having problems that I can notice if I just open my eyes.

Tree: My guess is the tree represents each of my friend’s lives. They are strong and solid, and as a group they make up a beautiful forest. The fire seems to be their lives in disarray, or maybe a problem that if it isn’t resolved will be terminally destructive. The fire is also a warning sign that something must be done.

June on Fire: The fire from the tree has spread to her as a person. It is now a real danger to her life and wellbeing. Something must be done soon, even if June doesn’t notice the fire it is still there and dangerous. Ignorance to the problem won’t make it go away, it will only make the healing take longer in the future.

June: It seems that June could represent several people. First, it could be me. I certainly have problems that I neglect, and my relationship with my family is far from good. My sexuality, religious views, political views, and lifestyle have been a source of tension between my family and I. I don’t really confront these problems, they haven’t negatively affected my life much and I am very happy right now.

Second, it could be the real “June”, the girl who I kind of know but am not that close to. This seems unlikely unless there is an unproven way for people to communicate subconsciously through their dreams. Maybe June is in need of help and calling out through the dreamworld for support. I am open to this possibility but cautious about it. Either way, I sent a message to June letting her know about this dream and offering a listening ear if she needs it.

Third, June represents someone else in my life. Someone else whose life is troubled and needs someone to talk to and help putting out the fire. I’m not sure who this could be, but if any of my friends read this and feel like venting or something please reach out to me. I love you dearly and will do my best to help you. A stranger once saved my life, and I am always here to do the same.

Walking: The last element I can really remember is walking through the forest. My guess is this is a form of healing. Walking and talking, getting the pressure off of you with a dear friend in a peaceful world.

Things I Wrote This Week: Healthcare, Christian Veganism, Charleston, and Father’s Day

I’m trying to get in the habit of writing daily to improve my writing and get the creative juices flowing in my brain. In the past when I try to blog daily I end up quitting shortly afterwards. So, this time I’m going to just try to write something relatively quick daily… maybe something that was distracting me while meditating, or maybe a current event, or maybe something else. Regardless, if I keep up the practice I will post them as a blog post every week or so. These aren’t meant to be a completely thought out opinion or well formatted posts, they are just some thoughts going around in my head.

6/18/2015 – Health Care
I know I may lose my libertarian credentials for this view, but at this point I don’t really care. More and more my libertarian opinions are founded on the belief that libertarianism will bring the best life for the most people instead of some philosophical purity. If I have to muddy my libertarianism in order to make life better for others then so be it.

All other things being equal, I don’t have a problem with a tax-based single payer healthcare system in the United States. As much as the US likes to boast about being the best we are actually pretty shitty in most healthcare measurements. The VA system when I was in the military wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t worry about breaking my arm and going bankrupt. Young soldiers didn’t worry that their children would get an ear infection and die. Pregnant wives didn’t wonder if they could afford to see a doctor throughout the pregnancy. I see no reason why we can’t have a single-payer system in place that is supplemented by private practices.

I realize it will be imperfect. But our current system seems devastatingly imperfect. Particularly for people like me who don’t have a traditional life. My partner is paying for health insurance but is basically uncovered because most plans won’t cross state lines, and those that do cross state lines are prohibitively expensive. We might as well be crossing international borders. Hell, even if there wasn’t a tax based system it would be nice if there was a truly national healthcare system available. I just don’t understand why car insurance companies have figured out how to operate in both North Carolina and Oregon, but if I need to get pink eye looked at in Oregon I may be shit out of luck because my insurance is from California. We live in an online, international age but we still act like people only leave their homes for an annual vacation to a time share 200 miles away.

6/19/2015 – Christian Veganism

When God gave man dominion over the beasts of the earth (Genesis), was there any limits to this? Does this dominion mean that man can do whatever he wishes… own, cause pain, and even kill? Or does it mean that man is to care for the beasts of the earth?

I’ve seen this argument made to basically say God is okay with us eating animals for food unneccesarily. I’m not a Biblical scholar but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Christ seems to have wanted to minimize pain and suffering in the world. His message was one of love towards all, particularly those who can’t defend themselves. Maybe that doesn’t apply to animals, but I don’t see how God would be upset if we lived our lives in a way that minimized harm to animals as well.

Doesn’t the Bible also say that husband has dominion over the household and his wife? Does that mean that he can abuse and kill them as well? Maybe it is a different root word or my memory is wrong. It has been a while since I read up on this. Even if Biblical morality allows for eating animals, it seems like it is better if we don’t. Animals don’t exist simply for our pleasure.

6/20/2015 – Charleston
What happened in Charleston was a tragedy. It was a racist, terrorist act committed by a young adult who was indoctrinated and brain-washed. I’ve lived in South Carolina, I was engaged to a young woman from South Carolina, I have a little bit of insight into the culture there. There is certainly a pride in ignorance. Much of “Redneck Pride” and “Southern Pride” is about rejecting outside influence, placing tribe above all else, and racial segregation. As disgusting as the rebel flag is to many of us, the outside push for it to be removed from the SC statehouse is only going to make things worse. There is a strong current of belief in the south that all the poverty and problems are the fault of outsiders. They cling to their flag and what it means to them (sometimes racist, sometimes not) because it gives them a reason why things are bad. It is a corner of the US with a weak economy, a poor education system, and a theocratic view of government. It is no coincidence that poverty, obesity, abstinence only education, and harsh criminal penalties for marijuana all exist in the same place. There is little education available and a cultural resistance to what education can be found. There is a religious culture that views contraception as evil. I remember when my ex-fiancé wanted to get an Associates Degree at a Community College, her family freaked out and didn’t understand why she would ever want to leave her hometown (a hometown with three generations of family members living in trailers with no economic opportunities). I remember her father saying that he would never allow his daughters to date anyone who wasn’t white, though his son could date any race as long as he didn’t marry them or get them pregnant. A nice dash of sexism with your racism. He swore he wasn’t racist, just that the races mixing was unnatural… “like cats and dogs fucking”.

Regardless, the outside pressure is going to make things worse. It is going to make those in poverty believe that outsiders are trying to destroy their way of life. And maybe outsiders are, I’m all for the destruction of terrible institutions and cultures. But I will be very surprised if this outside pressure through petitions and phone calls and viral videos of  rebel flag burnings is going to bring about anything fruitful. Like it or not, if you want the rebel flag to come down the culture of the region needs to change on its own, or you will have to send in men with guns to force it.

6/21/2015
Today is Father’s Day. A hallmark holiday with good intentions, buy like many good intentions meant for universal distribution it often has some negative side effects. Those who have suffered the most often bear the worst of it. A child whose father was abusive, absent, or just a shit-head are forced to be surrounded by happy children celebrating the paternal figure in their lives. Some are likely forced to make cards by well-meaning teachers who are unaware of the hurt and pain that these children experience at home. I think it is important to show love and caring and recognition to those in our lives who are good to us, but to force a universal standard upon children is a maneuver that will hurt many.

Adults on Father’s Day are better off, for they are adults and can handle more pain, but it can still be a day of sadness. Many are plagued by memories of betrayal, sexual abuse, or abandonment. While others long to be a father but can’t due to lacking a partner or physical inability. As ads flood our tv channels, radio waves, and online searches imploring us to “thank dad” many people have a spotlight shone on their pain.

Sure, Father’s Day (as well as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day) means well. But for some it hurts. That doesn’t mean those of us with loving fathers shouldn’t recognize those in our lives who have provided support, comfort, and guidance. But maybe, just maybe, we should be aware that our perspective is a limited one and not everyone feels the same.

Helena to Bozeman (or, The Hills of Methtana)

Helena proved to be a fun little town. There was definitely a more rural feel to it than Missoula, but it still had some great breweries and bars, and our Couchsurfing host was amazing. She showed us around town a bit (took us to Blackfoot River brewery as well as Lewis and Clark brewery), and she graciously let us take over her backyard and house for a few days. I feel like Helena has a lot more for us to find if we had time to explore and dive in a bit. Maybe someday we will be back for an extended stay.

Higgs. Chillin'.

On Wednesday (5/20) we hit the road again. Our next major stop was Bozeman, Montana…another city we knew nothing about but shows up on a map. The day started out a little late for us, it is always tough to gather up and get moving after a few days off, but by 11 AM or so we were back on the road. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by our old friend, Headwind. Headwind sucks and I want to punch him in his cocky throat. The first hour or so was a little rough with Headwind plus a slight uphill, but eventually the wind settled down and things got a bit easier. The time passed quickly as we wound through the mountains, and we even saw some antelope (antelopes?) in a field!

The last ten miles or so of the day were pretty easy, it was mostly downhill. We are now coasting along the Missouri River which eventually finds its way to St. Louis (thank you informative sign at the campsite for that info). Also, Lewis and Clark hung out around here a couple hundred years ago, which I find kind of cool.

Home is where the tent is.

Our place of rest for the night was a little campground along the Missouri (Indian Road Campground). It was free, which is always a bonus. Also, someone left a full can of Coke on the table near our spot so we mixed that with some rum we happened to have. I don’t remember where the hell we got a small bottle of rum but I’m glad we had it. It was nice getting into the campground a bit early, I was able to plug in the solar system, get some work done, and even do a little reading. This camping thing is pretty cool when you have some daylight to enjoy it.

The night was fairly uneventful and our morning was calm and relaxed. We eventually hit the road around 10:30 AM and made a quick stop at a gas station in Townsend to get some water. The campground we stayed at was wonderful in many ways (including being free) but it didn’t have any potable water available. But, nothing a stop at a gas station couldn’t fix!

The route for the day was similar to yesterday, a gradual uphill for about two-thirds of the ride and then a downhill into our planned camping spot near Three Rivers. Despite an early appearance by Headwind (blast him), things went smoothly until about 10 miles into the ride. Then, we hit some construction. This wasn’t just normal construction with flaggers or a detour of a few hundred yards, this was serious construction. The entire road had been torn up and was basically gravel-covered mud for about five miles. Hardly ideal for a car, much less a bicycle. We didn’t really have a choice, as no alternative routes showed up on any maps, so we just continued through the construction zone cautiously as semis blazed past us at alarming speed. (It seems they really don’t care if there are no road markings or actual pavement to drive on.) About halfway through the construction, one of the workers stopped us and said we could ride in an area that was sectioned off from the main road. Apparently they weren’t doing any work in that area today so it was all ours. It was still gravel, but at least we didn’t have vehicles flying past us spraying us with mud and flying rocks.

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line. Engines pumping and thumping in time. The green light flashes, the flag goes up.

We eventually made it through the construction, got back on solid road, and were finally able to take a much-needed break. We saw a hitchhiker who waved to us, but that was about it. Then, a few minutes later, we spotted a bicycle chained to a piece of farm equipment. Sitting nearby was a bedroll, a backpack, and some other belongings. One of the tires on the bike was flat and we realized the hitchhiker may have actually been a cyclist who needed assistance. If that was the case, we wished he would have asked for our help! Regardless, Anna and I both promised to start explicitly asking any travelers we pass, especially those on foot, if they need help instead of just smiling and waving. One benefit of riding so heavy is that we generally have plenty of water, food, and electricity to share with anyone who might need it.

Peter admiring that world famous "Big Sky"

Eventually we got back on the road after our break, climbed to the top of our hill, and found ourselves staring at dark storm clouds right in our path. It was tough to judge distance but we guessed they were a couple miles away, coming our direction. There wasn’t much we could do so we just pressed on and hoped for the best. Luckily, we somehow missed the storm and made it to our campground without really encountering anything more than a few random raindrops.

Hmm, that doesn't look good.

The campsite (Missouri Headwaters State Park) was a bit of a disappointment. First off, it is expensive as fuck. It is $28 for a tent spot (despite saying $10 online). Normally a campground will offer you some amenities for that price, like running water, electricity, possibly a shower and/or laundry facility on site, maybe a pavilion, or even just beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, this campground did not get the memo. It is miles away from any actual rivers or trails or anything you would come to the state park to see. There is no electricity, showers, laundry, or even trash removal on site. The bathroom is an outhouse. And the only place to refill water is about three miles away from the campsites…which meant we had to bike an extra six miles to fill our water bottles. We essentially paid nearly $30 for worse amenities than we had at the free campground the night before. Kind of disappointing, but not much could be done. (We were pretty beat at the end of the day and biking an unknown number of extra miles to avoid this campsite didn’t sound fun.) We set up our tent, ate some food, charged the solar battery for a bit, and went to bed. Soon, we would be in Bozeman.

Rainbow!

The road to Bozeman was fairly straightforward – we had some rolling hills with small towns and farms along the way. We met some friendly horses who ran up to their fence and eagerly snatched up a few baby carrots out of Anna’s hands. This might have been some sort of farming taboo, feeding horses that aren’t yours, but everything seemed to turn out okay.

Anna feeding some carrots to our biggest fans.

And, of course, we were surrounded by meth. Anti-meth signs were everywhere. The hand-drawn “not even once” posters dotted the landscape and every city advertised (bragged? warned?) that they were a “Meth Watch” community. I really never knew Montana had a meth problem and part of me seriously wonders why. Is it just impossible to get good drugs? I guess Montana is pretty far from the traditional drug pipelines of Seattle, Chicago, New York, Miami, San Diego, etc… but man, this is the age of the Internet. I know for a fact you can order incredibly clean MDMA online and have it delivered by the postal service, and all you need is an Internet connection, Google, a few hours of spare time, and a ninth grade level reading comprehension. Oh well, I guess out here meth is king, which is really kind of sad because MDMA is such a better experience. I’ve never actually done meth unless it was mixed with Molly to make it a bit speedier. Much like heroin it really doesn’t appeal to me, but I do know people who use meth recreationally and are functional parts of society.

I’m torn on these scare tactics. I could see them being effective in a limited way if only applied to certain drugs. If we had a comprehensive education program about drugs and ended the tyrannical war on drugs, then it could be effective to have a couple drugs (like meth) that are advertised as too dangerous to try even once. But clearly that requires us to stop putting weed, MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, 2C-B, LSD, shrooms, and everything else into the same category. If you tell students that all drugs are really bad (mmm-kay) and they end up smoking some weed and see that it isn’t that bad, then you undermine the entire program. If the government is willing to lie about weed, why should I trust them about meth?

Of course, the best thing to do is to legalize everything and put more money into health services like Portugal did. Further research into addiction is showing that the environment is a major factor, and people (or rats) don’t sink their whole lives into a drug if they have a community to be a part of. The research and work done by Dr. Carl Hart is really changing how we look at drugs and policy, but sadly not many politicians are listening because power is gained by blaming drugs.

Anyway…that was an unexpected tangent.

About halfway into Bozeman, we started getting some ominous clouds forming over us. I thought we were going to be luck out again, Anna wasn’t so sure. Anna was right. I should listen to her more. After lunch we ended up getting soaked for about 20 minutes. To be honest, sometimes that sucks more than it raining all day. Getting pissed on for just 20 minutes feels like a prank. Like Zeus and Poseidon are on Mount Olympus laughing at our happiness and thinking it would be funny if we had dripping wet socks, but not wanting the farmers in the area to actually get their crops watered. Fuck you Zeus and Poseidon.

Welcome to Bozeman?

Despite the downpour (and another one soon after that, which we escaped by hiding under a Safeway awning), we made it to our wonderful Couchsurfing host’s home in Bozeman around 6 PM. We chatted for a couple hours, despite all of us being pretty tired (she had early work in the morning). Our host is going to start a European bike tour later this year and it was fun to exchange experiences, talk about equipment, and hear each other’s plans. Sadly, we are only staying here one night and the rest of our time in Bozeman will be with someone we met off Warm Showers. She seems pretty awesome too so I am sure things will continue to be great. In some ways this bike ride is more about the people than anything. We meet such awesome fucking people. Hell, we even had a stranger offer to let us crash in his living room when we were buying supplies at REI. The world really is filled with beautiful, amazing souls who genuinely want to help others reach their potential and experience all this world has to offer. It is an inspiring thing.

**If you are interested in more photos of our journey we have a Facebook page you can follow (www.facebook.com/shiftsandhiggles).**

Helena to Bozeman - Map

Helena to Bozeman - Elevation