Strangers of Virtue in the Hyperconversation
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May 30th, 2021
Friendships of virtue are needed today, more than ever. Having a friend in virtue is probably worth more than any currency in circulation.
This is Aristotle’s term, which he contrasted to two other types of friendship: utility and pleasure. I have written about these friendships before, and described their essence as: friendships [where] you desire for your friend to be virtuous, and you desire to be virtuous in their presence.
Real friendship takes tremendous commitment though, including time and sacrifice. It is foolish to expect that people you come across at The Stoa, or most places on the internet for that matter, will magically become your friend in virtue.
Evan McMullen dropped a cool term at my recent Interintellect salon: acquaintances of virtue. This is more realistic, and the phrase is pretty self-explanatory. I may be your acquaintance in virtue, assuming we have met at The Stoa, but we also may have never met before. I like a “strangers of virtue” phrasing in this case.
This phrase has a double meaning, one is being strangers in virtue, where two strangers wish virtue towards one another, and the other meaning is strangers to virtue, where virtue is something strange, being met for the first time. I see the latter as an endearing thing, because it is an honest thing, especially in our age of unexamined and unvirtuous virtue signalling.
So perhaps you reading right now, and me writing right now, are strangers of virtue together, as we desire virtue for one another (or at least I do for you), and because this virtue thing can feel like a strange thing. I have been wondering lately, how can we be virtuous, in this strange hyperconversation we find ourselves in?
The hyperconversation is “the conversation” that is happening right now in hypermedia, which refers to all the information that is hyperlinked on the internet, such as text, images, and videos. This is the information we are collectively responsible for. This hyperconversation is a strange thing, because as an example, this letter will be going out to thousands of people, most of whom I have not met in person, spoken to on Zoom, or corresponded with over email.
The asynchronous dimension of the hyperconversation is something that Aristotle probably did not fathom when he was thinking about friendships of virtue. The hyperconversation is happening on the clearnet, which is where the spectacle is found, and that is where all the attention merchants, and certainty merchants, are operating.
These merchants are dropping so much fucking supernormal stimuli all over the clearnet, which are like landmines for our eyes: red notifications, hot takes, clickbait, thirst traps, outrage porn and real porn. This begs the question ...
How does one be virtuous in the hyperconversation?
Actually, it is better for me to personalize this: how can I be virtuous in the hyperconversation?
Well, it seems wise, and maybe unglamorous, to state my most truthful answer that first comes to mind:
I do not know.
“I do not know” does not sell though; it is not a supernormal stimuli, and it does not captivate an audience. Good. I do not want an audience. When I think of an audience, I think of a group of slack-jawed spectators. I recommend spectators go spectate in the spectacle instead, because that is not the game The Stoa is playing.
I am going to stay with not knowing the answer to this question for a moment, and you can stay here as well if you like. Or you can stop reading, and go on YouTube instead, and let their algos pull you towards spectating on some videos not aligned with your daemonic mission. As a personal case study, I have had many attractive bums of female athletes showing up on my YouTube feed for the longest time, because I innocently watched one video from a female pole vaulter.
So imagine this: here I am, trying to upload some galaxy brain video to The Stoa’s YouTube channel, and then my attention starts being pulled by a swarm of athletic bums showing up on my feed. My will broke sometimes, and my eyes soon found themselves watching videos with horrific titles such as “ass compilation of Slovenia long jumpers.” Sure, this may be a pleasant thing for my inner dudebro to spend time with, but ultimately it is not the wisest use of my time.
This was becoming a problem, so I downloaded the DF Tube (Distraction Free for YouTube™) chrome extension, which allows you to hide all the bullshit on YouTube: notification bells, sidebars, trending tabs, comments, and feeds. This was the virtuous thing to do, because my will was being pulled, and it is a virtuous thing to get into the right relationship with my will.
There are endless temptations on the clearnet, and all of them want to take your eyes off your daemonic ball, and tag you out of the infinite game. Sometimes it might be wise to exercise one’s will, but that is often unnecessary, and most times it is wiser to simply download some productivity app, and hide the supernormal stimuli that are always waiting for your weak moment.
I do not want The Stoa to play this supernormal stimuli game, and I think there is a lack of live player imagination out there, as I see many people with platforms justifying that they have to play this game in order to get their message out. It is virtuous not to get seduced by supernormal stimuli, and it is virtuous not to use supernormal stimuli either, or if we must use it, use the bare minimum of it, in a way that the energy can be transmuted. This is what I called “minimum viable spectacle” before.
So, getting into the right relationship with supernormal stimuli is one way for me to be more virtuous in the hyperconversation. What else? The other thing that is coming up is this: stay within my daemonic lane.
Given the slow rise of The Stoa’s profile, lots of people are inviting me onto their podcasts. I have been going on a few, and while they were pleasant for the most part, having these conversations is not something I am called to do. I do not think I am at service here. There are a few reasons to tease out why …
I do not want to have my message get more exposure, for one. The way people are slowly and bespokely discovering The Stoa is the right way. My Stoic laconism makes these conversations awkward at times as well. Sometimes these podcasters ask me these super impressive-sounding questions that just make me feel stupid. Like brah (and it is usually a brah), it is not like I have a bag of arguments on every possible subject in existence.
My verbal intelligence is good enough, but it is not super high, which is probably a good thing, because I might be tempted then to speak about things without really saying anything. Substance is important for Stoics, that is why they have all of these pithy quotes that are pretty boss, such as this one from Cato the Younger: I will begin to speak, when I have that to say which had not better be unsaid.
So yeah, no more going on podcasts for me. There is this weird tit for tat thing that happens though, and a lot of people who invite me to their podcasts are in the same “space” as The Stoa, and I am on friendly terms with them. So me turning them down, is like me turning down a friend for coffee. Hm. What do I do here?
Maybe this is the workaround: if a person wants me on their podcast, I will counter with a private unrecorded one-on-one conversation offer instead, assuming I want to have one with them, or have the bandwidth to have one with them. If not, then they will have an opportunity to practice their Stoicism, and I will have an opportunity to practice mine if they start forming ill-will towards me. I can also send them this entry, upon declining, so they can read my reasoning.
I sense the way for me to virtuously contribute to the hyperconversation is holding space at The Stoa for the highest quality presentations and conversations on the clearnet, with conversational combinations that cannot happen anywhere else, like the Chomsky and ContraPoints conversation that is happening on June 28th.
The other way I can virtuously contribute to the hyperconversation is here in these journals. This is my preferred mode of expression anyway, and I am getting better at this mode of expression. I read a few of my older entries this time last year, and they were decent, but my recent ones just feel better. So perhaps I have improved. I do not know how many entries I have written now, but it is well over 300, and it is understandable for one to improve by writing so much.
This form of weird journalling I am doing here seems like a new kind of artistic expression, and I have a strong daemonic desire to get really good at this expression. It seems prudent to me, hence virtuous, to focus more on creating the best art I can possibly create. This seems like a much better use of my time than incoherently blabbing on podcasts or looking at fit Slovenian bums.
The last thing I can do to be virtuous in the hyperconversation is to embody my virtue, which is to have all three truths in the game: truth, truthfulness, and the spirit of truth. This is cool, because when I allow the spirit of truth to flow through me, while being truthful, and aiming for the truth, then this phrase comes online:
I do not know.
Yeah, I do not fully know how to be virtuous in the hyperconversation, but I am trying to figure that out right here, right now. I sense admitting that I am a stranger to virtue, while being this stranger who wishes you to be virtuous, and hopefully receiving your virtuous well-wishes in return, is the best way for me to continuing showing up in answering the question of how to be virtuous in the hyperconversation.
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