On The Edge


“Each person spends a lifetime engaged in a single overarching project: designing his or her own life. To be this thing, this person, to do it just  the way you want, and to be satisfied with it, that is the major artistic endeavor and creation of our individual lives.” 

I love when dear friends recommend books to me. I feel like they often know my tastes better than I do. That was exactly the case with Karl Hess’ autobiography. When cracked the book I new next to nothing about Hess. I’m not really a well read libertarian, most of my views come from my own self-reflection and discussions with friends. I enjoy reading but I often don’t have the patience or the desire to dive into the classics or even modern political analysis. That’s just not how I work. Lucky for me, that isn’t how Hess writes.

I feel within Hess a kindred spirit. A person who would understand why I rode across country, why I live my life my own way with little concern with laws or social norms, and why my first principle continues to become love. Hess was a man that had many chapters to his life and reading about how he lived and his views has really given me a new perspective and respect, particularly for “beltway” libertarians.

While Hess lived and operated often on the fringes of society he did have his days working in DC and within the established system. I am often critical of the DC life and those that live it, I’ve come to find my criticism is unfair. Those within the beltway are doing good work, it isn’t my work, but it is good work. We all have skills and passions, and as libertarians I believe we should encourage all paths to freedom. If someone is not causing harm I consider them my ally.

Hess’ real focus though was on love. He loved his life and lived it to the fullest. He loved his family and neighbors and with this love pursued activities that would enrichen their life as well as his own. His passion for community and fighting illiteracy shows a man that wants good results, not good intentions, and rightfully sees well-meaning bureaucracies as generally destructive to charity. His love of creating led him to be a sculptor, a welder, an architect, and an artist. He wasn’t defined by a job, he was defined by his passion. When asked what it meant to be a perfect anarchist he didn’t respond with “resistance to authority”, he responded with being a “good friend, good lover, and good neighbor”.

I couldn’t agree more. If Karl was here I would thank him for his life well lived, something that inspires and encourages me to pursue my passions despite the risks or criticisms I may face. I get one shot at this life, there is no reason to refuse new experiences, taking risks, or having many diverse chapters. I know I am certainly going to do my best.

2 thoughts on “On The Edge

  1. I had never even heard of Karl Hess until a few months ago when I converted an old videotape he was featured in. He struck me as a very wise man- and I really liked that he exposed the violent nature of the state simply by leading a gentle and humble life.

    If you have a spare hour you may be interested in this lecture he gave in 1984. I’m sure most of what he talks about here is covered in his autobiography, but you might enjoy some of Hess’s in-person mannerisms that aren’t in his writing voice.

    • Sweet, thanks Evan. I’ll check that out when I get a chance. I didn’t touch on it in detail but his views on community, tools, and knowledge is truly inspiring. I wish I could have met the man.

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