Hiring Hippies Is Dangerous

** First off, welcome to my blog all the new followers. My post yesterday had my highest view count and brought in many new followers (most of whom even seem like real people). This is probably due to two titans of social media (Jennifer and Cathy) sharing my post on Facebook… by the way, if we aren’t Facebook friends we should be. I use FB as a way to aggregate news, thoughts, cool stuff… it is pretty awesome in my opinion. I also accept all friend requests (though slut-shaming, misogyny, racism, and general assholery will get you unfriended). You can follow me also but that still seems a little weird to me, no judgement though. So, my blog is mostly my personal thoughts and journey, particularly on issues close to my heart like libertarianism, sex-positivity, body-positivity, Burning Man, Ke$ha, the drug war, my upcoming cross country bicycle adventure, polyamory, and human enhancement. I do this writing for myself but if you get something out of it that would be fucking amazing to me 🙂  **

Well, I finally talked to my boss about my upcoming bike ride and how that would effect my job. I basically informed him that there is an end date for my employment. He was surprisingly understanding and supportive of teaching me as much as he can before I leave. I think he has realized for a while that I’m not cut out for the office life. My boss and coworkers are fantastic but warming a seat in an office for hours determined by tradition and not need feels like a noose around my neck.

Maybe something is “wrong” with me and I can’t just “fall in line” or “play the game”. I just have a hard time dealing with activities that can’t be logically explained to me. Wearing dress clothes, commuting through the city, and working a 9-5 shift doesn’t make sense when my job is done completely on a computer. I could be just as effective sitting on Redondo Beach with a Corona in my hand as I am here in the office. Add my commute to that and I just feel like I am nearly wasting moments of my life that I will never get back, all for a paycheck and job-security. Security is worthless when protecting nothing of value and I feel like my life is diminishing in value every day.

While I recognize I need a paycheck to pay the bills, and I am willing to “play the game” to some extent, my needs in life are small. I don’t have kids or a car, I live with my partner, I don’t have a TV, pay for cable, or desire any possessions beyond books. I could quite literally maintain my lifestyle for about $25k per year (I did the math). That includes paying off my student loans, going to Burning Man each year, buying several books a month, rent, food, 1-2 raves or party nights a month, maxing my Roth IRA, and additional investments. Of course it means I shop at Goodwill and Ross for my clothes and furniture, but I just don’t care. I would rather work minimally and have time to write and adventure than have nice things.

So, my boss knows I’m quitting. I feel good that I gave him over 6 months notice and he will be able to find a replacement. Working in an office for a couple years like this was certainly good for me to figure out who I was and what type of environment I can thrive in, just like living in DC was good even though I hated that city. I believe each person should try new things and follow their passion, even if that road isn’t down a popular one or isn’t socially normal. There is a huge spectrum of potential lifestyles when it comes to jobs, families, lovers, homes, etc. and I don’t think anyone can know which one is “right” for them until they experiment, take changes, get their asses kicked, and come out more confident.

I’ve shared this before but I just love this XKCD:

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Pope Francis Is Just Alright By Me

I like this pope, and it is not only because I’m an atheist. I grew up in a series of non-denominational churches, which means I pretty much have no idea what the hell Catholicism really is. My paternal grandmother was Catholic but I only met her a handful of times. I think there is something about praying to Mary, lots of candles with angels and stuff on them, and I’m pretty sure the Pope is infallible. I think they also are cool with My knowledge of “protestants” is just as vague because protestant Christians are like the colonies under the Articles of Confederation, they are more united by what they aren’t (Catholics) than what they are. I’ve been to Lutheran and Presbyterian churches (both chasing girls) and I always wondered where the electric guitar was and why their pastor wasn’t wearing jeans… I’m getting off topic, sorry about that.

I like this Pope because I think public discussion, debate, and disagreement is good for everyone, particularly when the subject is faith-based. There is a real danger when all leaders of a group agree on something, or at the very least they all publicly agree. Francis seems to be different (at least to this guy who knows nothing about Catholicism). He seems to disagree with prior Popes and even disagrees with his own assistants. I haven’t seen this much debate on my Facebook wall since I asked whether I should watch Harry Potter.

Individual members of any group do not hold a monopoly on understanding or the truth. Every person who subscribes to a belief or teaching or philosophy should take it upon themselves to become experts and question everything. That is something that I always found lacking in the church, the Bible studies and church services were too rigid and too “right or wrong answer”. The documents may be 2000 years old but you don’t need a degree in Theology to read them and try to digest them, but in reality that seems discouraged by the churches. I was told what to believe and if it didn’t make sense I was told to “have faith” and unanswerable questions (or those that defied current science) were chalked up to “the lord works in mysterious ways”.

We should all process new information and change our minds when necessary, even when it comes to matters of faith. This Pope seems more willing to do that, particularly when it comes to the complexities of human sexuality. Church lacks Socratic dalogue and bible studies too closely resemble elementary school arithmetic exams where the “teacher” knows the answer and anything that deviates is “wrong”. There are too many people who believe they have the correct answer so they stop processing knew information.

If there is a God surely that is not his intention, I agree with Galileo “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.” Even Proverbs 27:17 agrees, debate and discussion make us stronger, surely faith and intellect should not be allowed to rust because our leaders have told us (not taught us) the right answers. Pope Francis sparked debate inside and outside the Catholic community, and because of that I think he rocks.

Unrelated: If you haven’t seen the “True Facts” videos you should… here is one about owls and one about Morgan Freeman… and some music from my youth.

Cargo Cult – Burning Man 2013

As we wind our way through California’s mountainous passes it is impossible for me to not reflect on the last week I spent at Burning Man. The embers of the Temple still burn in my heart and I feel the love of that place erupting from the 70,000 spirits that have scattered across the globe, taking The Playa with them. In the end Burning Man is not a place, event, or time, it is us. Our stories, our lives, our desires and dreams, that is where the real value is, and in the end we impact each other on many levels known and unknown.

This year I did not camp with an established theme camp but our little collective of LA friends (and one last minute adopted Washingtonian) started calling ourselves Camp Sonder. The word “sonder” comes from the dictionary of obscure sorrows and is defined as “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”
That is beautiful to me, and in many ways defines much of my experience out in the dust.

It is an oft repeated cliche but Burning Man really is whatever you make it, and often you don’t know what you will create until you get there. This year was like no other for me. In 2011 my mind was broken and the Playa provided healing. In 2012 my body and life was in constant movement and Black Rock City provided stability. And this year, my life is on a great path and I was given a celebration.

It has always been difficult for me to acknowledge my own successes. I feel guilty when things are going well and it feels braggy to admit life is good, but since my last Burn my life has been fucking awesome and that was reflected in my week on the Playa. I was able to spend a week with a woman that I’m crazy in love with, two of my best friends, an amazing couple from LA who I originally meet prepping for Burning Man in 2011 that I hope to know better in the coming months, and a new friend who is likely stuck with us crazy kids for a long time. I danced, I sang, I relaxed, I smiled, I loved, and I simply celebrated my life… and for once I realized that’s okay. Sometimes you just need to party. Of course, I want the only one celebrating. I was able to witness two beautiful weddings out on the Playa celebrating the love of four burner friends.

This last year has been a dynamic time where I pursued adventures, love, and happiness. I moved across the country in search of liberty instead of security and it paid off. I opened my heart to what the universe had to offer and I fell in love. I chose to be me instead of what society says I should be and things worked out better than I imagined. With the falling of the Temple my new year begins. This Burn may not have been a deep spiritual experience but it was exactly what I needed, an acknowledgement that my life is on an amazing course and when you pursue your dreams good things happen… and when good things happen you should celebrate and enjoy it.

Students For Sensible Drug Policy

Well, by time this post I will be well on my way to the Playa dust of Burning Man and letting my freak flag fly. While I won’t be able to do my regular ridiculous Facebook posts about drug policy, libertarianism, love, science, and all things Awesome, I hope that if you enjoy what I share you will take a moment and consider donating what you can to Students For Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

SSDP is the premier organization pushing for a sensible approach to prohibition. By focusing on students they help mobilize the next generation of leaders, encourage the adaptation of policies that actually save lives, and educate a wide range of citizens on the harm produced by such a tyrannical approach to narcotics. They have personally impacted my life in a huge way and I have agreed to match every dollar that is raised between now and the end of Burning Man up to $1000. I wish I could give more but that is what I have right now, I hope you will consider giving a few dollars as well.

I am not a staff member, board member, or anything like that. I am simply an individual who believes in their mission and hopes to see change in my lifetime. We live in a time where medicine is unavailable to veterans suffering from PTSD, cancer patients, and lives are being ruined when students make one-time mistakes. It is time for things to change, it is time for policies to reflect science, and it is time to give students the opportunity to grow and prosper. Every dollar helps.

 

Damn Dirty Hippies

Labels are fascinating (though often annoying) things. I am a libertarian. But my path has been a strange one and I now identify as a hippie also. I was a veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan, I earned a degree in Economics from The College of Charleston, and I worked in the suit-and-tie non-profit world of Washington DC… but none of that felt 100% right to me, the fight against government was not all I wanted. In my experience hippies tend to be associated with “the left” (whatever the fuck that even means anymore) while libertarians have a history of aligning with “the right” (again… WTF does that mean), particularly over economic issues. The focus on economic freedom and aligning with the right has in many ways tainted the word “libertarian” in many people’s minds. Some of the tainting is justified, while some of it reflects a lack of understanding of what it means to be a libertarian.

As a libertarian I believe in the freedom to do what I wish with my body, my mind, and my labor, as long as I am not harming someone else. Being a libertarian DOES NOT mean that I have a slavish devotion to corporate hierarchy, consumerism, or crony capitalism. In fact, I hate all three of those things… though the last is the most offensive because it violates both my personal preferences and my libertarian philosophy. Crony capitalism is the use of government (read: guns) to prohibit others from competing (read: acting freely) in order to make money. That isn’t just un-libertarian, that is evil.

Being against government is the easy part of libertarianism, it is well defined and fits neatly into a black and white world view. Violence is wrong, government action is all violence, therefore government is wrong. While many conversations and debates can be had on issues of practicality or the utilitarian results of reducing government the ethics behind it easily stand. Many libertarians believe that libertarian philosophy stops with government, I am not one of those libertarians. Government is certainly a destructive force posing as the “will of the people” or communal action, our fight doesn’t end at anarchy… our fight continues until bigotry, sexism, and any power that treats one life as less than another or sees equality as the enemy is destroyed. It may be easy to see the government as the only true use of coercion against people but that is not reflective of reality.

Coercion, harm, oppression, and the other ills that libertarians strongly philosophically oppose do not exist solely in the realm of governments and criminals. Mental harm can come from harassment, bullying, and generations of institutional (government or otherwise) discrimination have very real harmful effects. We have learned enough about the human brain to know that it can be harmed, even if it is not touched physically. Libertarians would benefit from recognizing the legitimate claims that harm exist outside of the state and defeat of the state will not solve the destructive forces of racism or sexism.

So yes, I am a libertarian. I believe in markets, economic freedom, and personal freedom to do what you wish as long as you don’t harm others… but I believe that harm comes in many forms and is a more complex concept than “no physical force”. And yes, I am a hippie. I believe in loving people first and foremost, love is limitless, I enjoy expanding my views of the world, I find the body beautiful and enjoy being naked as often as possible, and I believe complete freedom cannot come until we cast of the shackles that we place on others and ourselves. In the end I feel most at home in where my libertarianism and hippyness combine, a place that is peaceful, anarchist, accepting, and loving (ie Burning Man). In the end, the labels are worthless.

I am me, part of we, and that is fucking awesome.

I am an introvert… really!

When I define myself as an introvert it seems to really surprise people, particularly those people who know me primarily online via Facebook or this blog. I can understand this perception… I’m obviously comfortable naked (particularly in public), I share my intimate experiences, I very vocally advocate for non-traditional relationships, and I fully participate in communities like Burning Man. I’m not a shy person usually, particularly if I am even remotely comfortable, but I am still an introvert.

Introverts are not defined by how active they are in public, it is all about how they get energized. I get exhausted when interacting with strangers, particularly when there is small talk involved, so I hate “mixers”, networking, happy hours, and any other form of forced association with people I don’t know. I am not a fan of dancing or clubs, even bars tend to drain me unless I am with close friends. One night out a week is plenty for me and I would rather lounge at home watching Netflix or reading than go out… but I have also found a way to be an introvert but be social and lose the shyness when in public.

The most important thing for me is to have close friends I can retreat to even in social environments. Yes, I did a naked bike ride, but I did it with my partner and one of my best friends and the entire time I hung out with them. Yes, I share moments I have but these moments are with people I love and I share them on the internet but I can control what feedback I get in these venues. I need the people I am closest to around me, I would be lost and exhausted and anxious without them. My dearest open-minded friends are now geographically close to me which is part of the reason you don’t see many events like the ones above from my time in Washington DC.

Another tool in my “I’m introverted but want to get out there and have adventures” is a having a distraction. I don’t like dancing when people can see my face but if I have a firestaff, a mask on, or some sort of LED tool that distracts it helps me break out of my shell. While logically I realize on a logical level that on a dance floor or out on the Playa I am hardly the focus of attention for anyone it still helps me to have a distraction that is within my control… the whole experience drains me less when the focus isn’t on me. Actually, in retrospect this paragraph is more about shyness than introversion but I wrote it so I might as well leave it…. maybe someone will get some value out of it.

As an introvert I store energy by being alone, I stay energy “neutral” when with close trusted friends, and I exert a lot of energy when dealing with strangers. Now, it doesn’t take long for some people to move from stranger to close friend, but my close friend circle still stays small in numbers. That is just how I operate, I may not understand extroverts who love going out nightly to happy hours or want to talk when they get home from work, but the beauty of this world is the diversity and I don’t need to understand. Extroverts create beauty, just like introverts do, and if we can respect our different ways of processing energy I think we can all learn from each other.

Expectations

With only a few weeks until I am bound for Black Rock City it is hard not to think about Home. This year (as is always the case) will be different from years past. I am a different person, I am going with different people, camping in a different place, and everyone that will be there is facing the same changes from the last time we united on the Playa. This year I will be going with my partner, it is her first time, and I find myself thinking a lot about what my expectations are for Burning Man… which is of course very dangerous.

When I committed to going my virgin year I was crazy excited and became pretty obsessed with researching and preparing. My best friend, who was the one who introduced me to it, gave me some great advice: “You need to go to Burning Man with an open mind and heart, it is okay to hope for certain things and to focus on certain aspects like art or intimacy or spirituality, but you can’t have expectations. If you expect certain things you will be disappointed”. When you really think about it an “expectation” is simply an assumption about the future, and when you make assumptions that involve factors out of your control and you give up your emotions, happiness, and your experiences to someone else.

I think some expectations are reasonable. I should buy food because I expect to be hungry tomorrow…. I should save money because I expect to go on my yearish long bike ride in April… but to expectations should be managed. Burning Man will have 65,000 or so people spread across the desert and each of these individual entities will be filled with their own passions, energy, hopes, ideas, and emotions. To expect certain experiences with that many moving parts is foolish, unwise, and immoral (it is viewing others as means to an end).

So, with a partner by my side there are more experiences available to me, particularly anything that involves intimate encounters, but I must tame expectations and instead leave the default world with openness. Expectations are blinders that cause us to focus prematurely, and when we are overly focused on something we often miss other opportunities that are right in front of our faces. I expect to go Home (which might be a dangerous assumption as well), but once I am there I will try to commit myself to the moment and know that if my heart and mind are open it will be as life changing as ever… and hopefully I can bring some of that magic to my everyday life again.