Born for Crisis
Next week’s events:
Swarms, Egregores, and Autocults w/ John Robb, BJ Campbell, Patrick Ryan, and Jordan Hall. March 23rd @ 2:00 PM ET. Patreon event. 90 mins.
Stoic Breath: Breathing Through the Fear w/ Steve Beattie. March 23rd @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
Check out what is happening in our wisdom gym:
Collective Journaling. Daily @ 8:00 AM ET. Patreon event. 90 mins.
Collective Presencing. Every Tuesday @ 3:00 AM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
Embodiment Hour. Every Thursday @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 60 mins.
Collective Presencing. Every Friday @ 8:00 AM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
Collective Presencing. Every Friday @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
Stoic Breath. Every Sunday @ 10:00 AM ET. RSVP here. 60 mins.
Newly posted events:
Argument Mapping: Understanding and Making Arguments w/ Nate Otey. April 4th @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
Suffering Footprint w/ Robin Singh. April 6th @ 10:00 AM ET. RSVP here.
Philosophical Generalist w/ Patrick Flynn. April 6th @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
What’s Left? After the Epistemic Crisis in the Social Sciences w/ Sarah Perry. April 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
Winning in the Aspirational Economy and Why it Matters w/ Ana Andjelic. April 19th @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
Hate is the New Sex w/ John Michael Greer. May 10th @ 6:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
March 20th, 2022
The Stoa’s birthday is tomorrow. Year three then begins. Wow. The energy still feels so new for me with this project. I have changed so much since The Stoa was born, when the pandemic started. We all did.
There are not going to be any sessions tomorrow. I am going to be device-free. No phone, no computer, no screens. I need a break from screens. What am I going to do tomorrow? I am going to get a haircut. And a beard trim. I totally got to get this wild furry bad boy handled, but I do confess I dig this zero fucks digital desert father look. I am probably going to smoke a cigar as well, weather permitting. My first one of the year.
What else? Hang out with Camille, and go on a hike somewhere. Perhaps we will go to a bar as well, and get a little tipsy. We have not been to one since being in Europe. Mask restrictions are lifting tomorrow in Ontario for the first time since the pandemic started. I am curious what people will do. People here on the “Thesis” side are complaining it’s too soon, and I sense mask-wearing is going to become a culture war issue here. Torontonians are pretty precious about their culture warring.
Really though, I do not want to pressure myself to do anything tomorrow. I want to have a day off where my bodymind can wander wherever it wants to wander. I imagine it will wander towards wondering what The Stoa will be up to during its third year. I will allow it to start wondering now…
Dajleet did an astrological birth chart of The Stoa, scheduled for release on the YouTube channel at 10 AM ET tomorrow, when The Stoa was born two years ago. During his reading, he casually dropped a line that will surely be the new motto for The Stoa …
The Stoa was born for crisis.
Born for crisis. I am totally digging this line. The etymology of the word “crisis”: turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death. This feels true. The Stoa was born to help us be responsive to our collective dis-ease, which a disease called COVID-19 made incredibly salient to those of us not coping with endless culture warring. The Stoa is also orientated towards ameliorating this dis-ease, and as The Stoa’s theme song goes: “this time it’s going to be alright.” Yes, it is going to be alright, but to get it right we are going to have to get our “festina lente” on: go fast enough to respond and slow enough to be responsive.
After last year’s birthday I wrote about “four attractors” for year two of The Stoa. Three out of four were kind of true, but really, year two of The Stoa felt as random, unpredictable, and impossible to pattern-match for me as year one did. I imagine year three will be the same, so I am not going to presumptuously state what the attractors will be for the entire year, but I will state what the attractors for The Stoa, and its steward, are as year three begins.
And yeah, they are all kind of related to being born for crisis …
Attractor #1: Apocalyptic Mood
Joe Sinopoli - who created The Stoa intro for year two - gifted us a new intro for year three, and wow, it is fucking awesome. The chaotic opening of the new intro captures the unsettling mood I sense a lot of us are in. Layman Pascal named this mood when he wrote his “Apocalyptarians” piece, followed by a psychoactive presentation at The Stoa. He called it the “apocalyptic mood,” and I have been feeling pretty apocalyptically moody these days.
If you are not feeling this mood, after reading this passage from Layman you probably will…
Our ice caps are rapidly melting. There are huge reserves of greenhouse gasses that will accelerate global climate destabilization if they come to the surface. Meanwhile the Amazon rainforest — still being deliberately burned — is outputting more carbon than it absorbs. Oceanographers point to simultaneous acidification of the seas and an imminent tipping point for cascading die-offs among marine species. At the very same moment, we are building artificial intelligences, self-driving cars and flying killer robots (lethal drones). Our pocket computers are monitoring us and using special algorithms that deliberately erode attention, break up social bonds and generate addictive stress. We can design the genetics of babies in laboratories. The location of nuclear weapons is getting harder to track. Natural and artificial pandemics are circulating. Deepfake technology means that “audio, video and photographic evidence” proves nothing. At least one of your online friends is a piece of software. At least one of the social groups important to you was created by a distant cybernetic troll farm that deliberately wants to radicalize you. Our democratic legislatures are unresponsive to the will of the people. Wild animals are already full of microplastics and strange hormones. Everyone is taking multiple mood-altering drugs. You can 3D print guns that can’t be detected by airport security. The tools for making bio-weapons are spreading. The most beautiful places in the world are constantly on fire. We are moving to make settlements on Mars. Computers can defeat us at all games. And, according to the Pentagon, UFOs might be back in the picture…
This is NOW.
And I bet you could add a half-dozen more things to that list…
Yeah, this is now, and I can add more to this list. Things do feel kind of fucked. And Layman wrote this piece before Russia invaded Ukraine, and before WWIII now feels like a distinct possibility. Well, this is the “meta-crisis” that many of us were talking about well before the pandemic started. We were talking about it abstractly though, perhaps in disembodied ways, making it not feel fully real. It feels real for many of us now.
The meta-crisis is the hyperobject of fucked-up hyperobjects: the perma-crisis, the great weirding, deep politics, The Machine, the traumacene, existential risks, and all the suffering risks and footprints the dark parts of your bodymind can come up with. The Stoa will surely continue to sensemake all of this in abstract ways during year three, along with exploring the various perspectives and solutions out there. I am not really called to just abstractly sensemake all of this in a masturbatory way. I am more so called to do some practical choicemaking, preparing myself and the people I love the most for the meta-crisis.
Where to even begin though?
Answering the following question helped me with my meta-crisis choicemaking: what are the main fucked-up attractors of the meta-crisis? Answer: collapse and totalitarianism, or what the prepper community calls “without rule of law” (WROL) or “excessive rule of law” (EROL). I am not called to put all my attention on going full prepper; rather, I think Jamie Wheal’s suggestion of “hipster prepperism” is the less foolish approach. Which is the 80/20 approach to prepare for both WROL and EROL.
I do think we need to be oriented towards a “Game B” world, whatever that means, but it strikes me as deeply foolish not putting any preparedness to either of these fucked-up attractors. Given this, I will be inviting people to The Stoa who are preparing practically for these attractors: Long Disaster responders, prepared neighbors, Dazzle Clubbers, counter-economists, and security mindsetters.
Abstractly understanding the meta-crisis, while practically being hipsterly prepared, is going to be needed, but we are also going to need to be emotionally ready. And this is where leaning into the apocalyptic mood is going to be key. I sense there is a lot of room for psychotechnological innovation here.
Philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s proposal of “enlightened doomsaying” - negatively visualizing catastrophe to have a chance of preventing it - is a psychotechnology waiting to be born, helping us develop the emotional fortitude to be responsive to all the fucked up shit that is happening. I am a part of Layman’s Ontario Deep Adaptation group, and we’ll surely be exploring the abstract, practical, and emotional dimensions of responding to the meta-crisis. The Stoa - having been born for crisis - will also be exploring this.
It is time to settle in the apocalyptic mood, and a meme that helps me get in the mood is one where an intense paramilitary-looking dude is riding an armored vehicle staring at the camera, with the first-panel reading …
Hey friend, listen, I know the world is scary right now, but…
And the second panel zooms on his head with some parting words …
It’s gonna get way worse.
I find this oddly comforting.
Attractor #2: Ecology of Practices
Beyond Self-Discipline (BSD) starts on the 1st of April, also known as April Fools Day. This is fitting, especially for an experiment aimed at wisdom and becoming virtuous, aka embodying wisdom. As I wrote about recently, we need to recognize we are foolish before we become wise, and instead of trying to become wiser, it is wiser to become “less foolish.” And this might be foolish to believe, but the highest leverage thing to figure out is how to get the “ecology of practice” challenge figured out.
This is what BSD is going to be all about. We are going to be selective in picking 12 people, and week one is about co-designing our individual ecology of practices, one oriented towards each one of us becoming whole. Week two is going to be about being supported in living it out. We are going to call week two “heaven week,” playfully riffing off a Navy SEAL’s “hell week.”
The challenge Daniel and I are trying to crack here is this: how to less foolishly design and enact your own ecology of practices. I sense the art here is to ensure that each practice is in the right relationship with one another, and a meta-psychotechnology could emerge from this: a “DIY ecology of practice” design practice.
Given how complex everything is, and that each of us is unique, I do not sense the “procrustean bed” modernity approach is going to work. Instead, I not only think we need a DIY approach, but we need to have enough ecological agency to redesign our ecology at a moment’s notice. The best ecology of practice is going to be the one that gets us to the next ecology of practice. I am viewing BSD as a protean digital monastery that can eventually become decentralized so everyone can wildly experiment. It could be the punk rock version of Monastic Academy, but with some Stoic punch.
The Stoa can probably be considered a spiritual R&D lab for BSD during year three given this, being leveraged to help BSD by continuing to explore practices from various disciplines: Buddhistic, health and fitness, psychotherapy, self-help, and magick. But really, I imagine the “best practices” that will emerge are going to be really basic ones, like cleaning your room.
Attractor #3: Ritual Agency
The book that kicked my ass the most over this past year was Byung-Chul Han’s The Disappearance of Rituals: A Topology of the Present. A passage from the book:
Rituals are processes of embodiment and bodily performances. In them, the valid order and values of a community are physically experienced and solidified. They are written into the body, incorporated, that is, physically internalized. Thus, rituals create a bodily knowledge and memory, an embodied identity, a bodily connection. A ritual community is a communal body [Körperschaft], and there is a bodily dimension inherent to community. To the extent that it exerts a disembodying influence, digitalization weakens common ties. Digital communication is disembodied communication.
Han, you got me hooked. Later on in the book he dunks on the cult of authenticity:
The culture of authenticity goes hand in hand with the distrust of ritualized forms of interaction. Only spontaneous emotion, that is, a subjective state, is authentic. Behaviour that has been formed in some way is denigrated as inauthentic or superficial. In the society of authenticity, actions are guided internally, motivated psychologically, whereas in ritual societies actions are determined by externalized forms of interaction. Rituals make the world objective; they mediate our relation to the world. The compulsion of authenticity, by contrast, makes everything subjective, thereby intensifying narcissistic tendencies. Today, narcissistic disorders are on the rise because we are increasingly losing the ability to conduct social interactions outside the boundaries of the self. The narcissistic homo psychologicus is captivated by itself, caught in an intricate inwardness. What results is a poverty in world, with the self simply circling around itself. Thus, homo psychologicus falls into a depression.
Okay, Han totally ritual pilled me with this passage. I am all in with this ritual thing now, and I am going to invite scholars studying “ritual modes” to consultants doing “ritual design.” Jonathan Harris recently had a really good session at The Stoa on “Life Art,” where he introduced his tripartite ritual model…
Routines, which build character and anchor us in life, e.g. journalling.
Ceremonies, which create communion (or communitas) and connect us with life, e.g. Burning Man.
Spells, which offers catharsis and transforms our relationship with life, e.g. life art.
This feels right, as does using The Stoa to figure out this ritual stuff, so we can learn the deep code of ritual, in a way that cultivates an open-source “ritual agency” together. If I had to guess, my guess would be this: ritual is the generator function for meaning.
Attractor #4: The Feminine
Along with the new intro, there is a new logo for year three now on the website. I asked Silvia, the vibestress of the scene formerly known as The Liminal Web, to draw the logo. I also asked her to draw Marcus embracing a woman. I do not know why, but it felt like the right thing to ask. Maybe it is because I feel drawn to explore “the feminine” more. It could be all the embodiment and constellation work I have been doing, I do not know, but I do know I am drawn to ways of knowing that I traditionally would not be drawn to.
I still want to be your average super masculine meta Stoic dudebro. That is probably never going to change. And I do not want to do any virtue signalling or any quota male-to-female ratio scheming. I just want to be attracted to and attract new energies, discovering new ways of relating, or perhaps rediscovering really old ones. I find that more women - especially of the embodied witchy variety - are finding their way to The Stoa, and this feels right.
The question that is at my edge now: how to honor women, and more archetypally, the feminine, both externally and internally, in less foolish ways. I might be drawn to this question because my old masculine schema is not working for me anymore. I sense it’s not working for the world anymore either.
These four starting attractors do seem orientated towards figuring out how to get the world to start working again. So yeah, year three begins tomorrow, with the energy still feeling new.
Support The Stoa @ patreon.com/the_stoa
Apply to Beyond Self-Discipline @ maven.com/thewisdomgym/beyond-self-discipline