One afternoon I noticed I had a philosophy. I might have had one before, I’m not sure. My younger self made a lot of decisions that I no longer understand.

My path to the present included many embarrassing learning experiences. “Learning experiences” is a euphemism. I said stupid things in front of very smart people, argued loudly that I was right, grudgingly admitted that I was wrong, then sulked for days about it.

Put another way, the learning experiences were unlearning experiences. My universe of known things was always getting bigger, but I had to let go of many of the working assumptions I built that universe on.

I thought the unlearning would never end. I liked being able to look around me and read so many layers of knowledge into the world around me. I didn’t like the growing ambivalence I had about the usefulness of that knowledge. I really didn’t like the growing distance I felt from other people. I worried that I would grow into an old man like Michael Caine’s character in The Cider House Rules. He spent his days in service of others. He spent his nights anesthetizing himself. The whisper that asks whether finding meaning in life is easier to hear at night.

But that one afternoon I realized that there was a through line that connected many of the themes that had captured my curiosity in the past years. Ecology and living in balance with the planet. The failure of capitalism and the historical circumstances of its rise. The disappearance of musicians and the rise of a musical monoculture. Queer joy and the healing power of sex. What to do with the artistic spoils of colonialism. How to feel better. What is a community and how does it work?

Here’s the basic thought that I’m trying to develop:

There are very few rewards that humans take in on a primate level. They include food, brain and adrenaline highs, sex, the pleasure of social position, and the feeling of safety. The current global system that distributes those rewards is unjust. It requires misery for those at the bottom of the hierarchy, and our planet cannot sustain it.

That is a cultural choice. We can make different cultural choices. When we provide human rewards to each other without exchanging money, we reinforce a new culture that differentiates between living well and succeeding in an economic marketplace.

I know that sounds very simple, but I hope to spend some time unpacking it. I think there is a lot there. My hope is that developing this idea will generate creative ideas & help me better understand how to be a community member and leader.

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