Mission 1701

“When you get the shit beat out of you long enough, you will have a tendency to say what you really mean.”

I noticed very early on that no matter where I lived, government policy had very little impact on me personally. My quality of life was almost entirely determined by the people and things that I chose to spend time with, and the way I chose to spend that time. Sure, there was some implicit impact, and on some minutes that impact was felt (thanks obamacare for fining me a few thousand dollars for being uninsured, thanks trump for the tax breaks, etc), but still — none of those things made any measurable difference in my life over the long term. I guess you could call this “privilege”, but I enjoyed it everywhere I (re) started my life.

I am inherently, deeply uninterested in politics. I genuinely despise every politician equally, without any preference for any of the sides. For me they are all spineless incompetent scum, I have zero respect for whatever abilities it takes them to climb the political ladder, there isn't any other career that I have less respect for, and I mean it. In fact the higher up the ladder a politician is, the lower scum I perceive them to be.

In this regard, I'm quite amicable. Whether you despise republicans, democrats, Bernie Sanders, Nikol Pashinyan, António Costa, Hu Jintao, or Lavrentiy Beria, we can always connect over our shared, genuine contempt. And what I've discovered is that anyone with any interest or engagement in politics always has someone they feel strong contempt for.

Having this outlook, I felt kinda sympathetic for Trump, because I sincerely believed that while he wasn't in any significant way more corrupt or horrendous than any other politician who manages to score a national election, he was somehow getting a lot more heat for it. The reality I perceived was that most people who hated him hated his persona, not his policies. People would yell till they were blue in the face about his misogynist remarks recorded on some bus, while the same people seemed a lot more comfortable with Obama having dropped 26,171 bombs just in the year of 2016 [citation not needed]. These bombs killed some humans that many Americans believe may have earned it (though if you talked to them, they just might be able to change your mind about who earned what), and some humans that were just collateral damage. As far as I'm concerned, misogyny is bad and Trump is a scum. So is Obama, for that matter. And Clinton. And Bush. And the other Clinton. And even everyone's favorite, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And yes, of course you can exclaim hey how can you say that these people are roughly equal when it was only Trump who's supporters stormed the Capitol?

And that would make me wonder — is it possible that perhaps by denying him fair media coverage, by refusing to acknowledge anything good about him (no human being is perfectly horrible or perfectly amazing, perfection is reserved for gods, no?), by ostracizing and silencing and making fun of his supporters at their workplaces and on daily television shows, we kinda directed them at the capitol? Is it possible that many, if not most of the tens of millions of people who voted for him actually have a few points worth considering? No, right? Of course not. You get it. They don't.

Well then, at least you and I can bond over our shared contempt for the guy. Whoever the guy happens to be.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Человек может взять все, кроме одной вещи: последняя из человеческих свобод – это выбрать свое отношение в любой ситуации, выбрать свой собственный путь

—Виктор Эмиль Франкл

Some days just remind you that most of the crap you waste your heart worrying about does not matter one bit.

On a fundamental level I am as joyful as a human can ever be every moment that Emma is alright. It’s my cheat-code for unlocking god mode in my game of life. I’m invulnerable, minus a single point of failure. All of my eggs are in one basket. It’s every bad system architecture and investment decision combined.

And it’s perfect.

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

Emma Long

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Something happened today—I was unintentionally rude to someone, and though I tried to explain myself, somehow I felt I wasn’t eloquent enough. So I came home feeling a bit down and thought I’ll just put together some thoughts to explain myself to myself, and then I thought hey I’ll share this with Lucy because we often talk about this, and then I thought well I’ll just put this on Facebook.

When I meet a person for the first time, the first question I ask them after the pleasantries is always “What do you do?”, which kind of really means “What do you do well?”

There are no correct answers to this question. I am not trying to inquire whether you have the kind of career that would make you a valuable connection. I’m not looking for a car mechanic because my car’s got a dent on the hood. I already have a dentist that I like. Every answer is correct—except nil—in which case I try to salvage the situation by asking “What would you like to do?”, which kind of really means “What do you wish you did well?” And if both answers yield no spark of passion, I immediately become uninterested. Sorry—I have no interest in idle chit-chat about the routine. There are other people I can’t wait to meet.

Achieve Master Rank in Hearthstone. Raise an interesting person. Ride a motorcycle around the world, or just ride the entire Emma Long trail. Make a DPDK networking library. Build a school from scratch. Create a gorgeous real-time 3D renderer. Write an ALGOL compiler. Design a building someone lives in. My examples have obvious bias in my interests, but really anything works. These are neither accomplishments nor credentials. They are skills (casually sampled from my friends). And two things set this kind of skills apart.

One, nobody can do any of these things by accident, without long, sustained determination, and copious amounts of work. You can’t just take a motorcycle around the world—you’ll need to work towards that for a decade, otherwise you won’t make it. You won’t achieve Master Rank after a dozen matches—it’ll take thousands of games, combined with a lot of reading and analysis. Nobody can casually build a DPDK library. Learning to make a high-performance real-time renderer and actually making it easily takes a decade of everyday hard work.

Two, no human being possesses the capability of pursuing these things long enough to unlock them without a key ingredient—love. Without love, everyone gives up. Without love, it all gets kinda boring. This is where hobbies get an edge over careers—they are fueled purely by love, and have no greed component to taint them. So when I ask “What do you do?”, I really mean to ask “Are you capable of love?”

And if not, why are we here?