The Unstoa, Lifeworks, and Becoming an Outsider Artist
Stoic Breath w/ Steve Beattie. Everyday Sunday @ 10:00 AM ET. RSVP here.
Dialogical Meditation: A Symphony w/ Andrew Taggart. December 13th @ 3:30 PM ET. RSVP here.
December 12th, 2020
Step 1. Delete the website.
Step 2. Cancel all upcoming Zoom events.
Step 3. Send a message on this mailing list announcing The Stoa experiment is over.
This will take me 30 minutes to do. I am ready to do this, and The Stoa will be over when I do. Bonnitta Roy wrote this to me back in October:
I believe The Stoa will go down with your daemon, anyway. And when that comes, at that time, it will be a relief for you. You will see what it is next for you to do, having learned and grown so much during this time.
I sense she is right. I have been fantasizing about doing this for the last few weeks, and these fantasies have been serving as a relief. It is not a “heaven yeah” to end this thing at the moment, but it might be soon. If I do end this experiment, I want to end it in a beautiful way.
The Stoa’s first session was on March 21st of this year, and perhaps it would be cool to end it on the same day next year. We’ll throw a big party, existentially dance, flow with unknowingness, and go on Socratic speed dates for the whole day. We will realize this strange place is not the place that will melt all of our trauma, nor will that delicious communitas we yearn for be discovered here.
As I am writing this, thumos is returning, and I sense another period of creativity coming. I stopped daily journaling in November, as I was getting uninspired with this experiment. There was this “too weird” feeling following me around, but I have been privately journaling every day, and I sense I am slowly getting into the right relationship with this thing.
Going into 2021 The Stoa will become bare-bones on social media platforms. The YouTube channel will still have deactivated comments, and now the about page only says this: The Stoa is not a fucking YouTube channel. I deleted the Facebook page as well, and I will eventually delete the archived Facebook group.
I was also going to delete the Discord channel, as it was only meant to be a one-month experiment. It has taken a life of its own though, so I decided to “deofficialize” it. It is now called “The Unstoa.” Ria Baeck asked why I did this, and as with most things I do these days, it was ultimately a “listen to the daemon” thing. I could tease out some reasons though.
I wrote about the memetic colonization thing before, and my friend BJ Campbell’s related thoughts in his recent article are quite good: The old ideological alignments are crumbling under Woke Pressure, and within the internet social media currents a new axis is emerging, that of The Woke and Everyone Else.
I do not want this place to be colonized by the ever-morphing and increasingly weaponized woke ideology, and I do not want it to be a place where reactionaries with mommy issues come to congregate against it. This is that culture war shit. The deofficialization move is partly in service to protect both The Stoa experiment, and the sense of community that has formed around it.
The other reason has to do with beauty. Since day one of this project I was viewing myself as an artist of experience. When I am designing a session, or facilitating one, I want the experience to be beautiful, or at least as beautiful as it can be given the constraints of the session.
It is not just the session space I want to be beautiful, but I want the entire experience of The Stoa to be beautiful, or at least the portions I am responsible for. This includes these journals, and the entire “stewarding” process. It is all an artistic expression of the daemonic energy that is coursing through me, and me listening to the daemon has resulted in the certain "je ne sais quoi" The Stoa currently has.
When it came to the Discord experiment, I was pretty hands-off from the beginning, and I let the collective intelligence do its thing. The whole server looks messy to me though, with all these unused channels, and naming conventions that do not tickle my weird coinage tastes. I am not interested in taking responsibility for it. Since it had the official branding of The Stoa, a tension started forming within me, and by deofficializing the Discord this tension has been resolved.
I sense it best to now view The Stoa and The Unstoa as two separate entities, the former being an artistic expression of this steward, and the latter being an experiment in collective intelligence of those who were initially drawn to this steward’s creation.
Sure, every Discord server, along with everything else on the internet, can be seen as an experiment in collective intelligence. What might make The Unstoa different is that it might become a self-aware experiment in collective intelligence. Most who are drawn to it seem to have a transperspectival mind, a longing for communitas, and a resistance to memetic tribalization.
The Unstoa could still get memetically colonized of course, or simply fizzle out like other Discord servers do. I see really cool projects forming there though, and it is my preferred indifferent that it continues, and perhaps it may even undo The Stoa, and supersede it as the cool place to be. I wish those who are called to take a lead there all the best, and I am looking forward to doing my part to help The Stoa and The Unstoa get into the right relationship with one another. I sense this conceptual delineation of Stoa/Unstoa is already bringing that right relationship about.
This is helping me realize I never wanted to be a leader of a community. I would rather continue to listen to the daemon, and be an artist of whatever this art form is. I said or wrote this somewhere before: in the liminal the lines between an artistic expression and spiritual practice become blurred. Listening to the daemon becomes spiritually transformative. I know this is the case because I have become transformed this year, and if what others have been writing to me is true, then others have been transformed by this place as well.
Philip Rieff coined a term I cannot stop thinking about: deathworks—works of art that undermine the sacred underpinnings of a society. One distinction of Durkheim’s sacred-profane dichotomy is that the sacred serves as a unifying effect, while the profane throws us into banal individual affairs. With this function of the sacred in mind, I’d like to reconfigure the term deathworks and define it as art whose teloi is to undermine communitas and prevent it from emerging. If there are deathworks, then there are lifeworks, which I’ll define as art whose teloi is to engender and sustain communitas.
In the same exchange, which took place over a year ago—months before The Stoa actually emerged—I predicted The Stoa’s emergence: Once we are onto something, build the stoa (a space for those people to gather) so that the right ecologies of practice have a home in which to emerge.
The Stoa is a lifework, one of many that are emerging in the liminal. Writing all of this is freeing me up, and the daemon is smiling. This smile has a burning quality to it, and I am feeling the heat as I write.
If this experiment continues in 2021, it is going to have a different quality. I want less masturbatory galaxy brain conversations, and I want to explore my unapologetic masculine side, which the Jack Donovan session helped inspire. I also want to explore more practical things, which will be in service of developing a power literacy, a financial literacy, a success literacy, etc.
As an example for the latter, on December 22nd we are having our second symposium at The Stoa, and it will be called “The Unsuccess Symposium: Let Us Get Successful So We Can Stop Giving a Shit About Getting Successful.” David Allen of “Getting Things Done” fame will be launching the symposium, and the likes of Malcolm Ocean from Complice and Sebastian Marshall from Ultraworking will also be having sessions.
To run with the artistic metaphor some more: with these new pivots I was concerned that I might “alienate my fans.” Like a rock band who has all these loyal fans, and then they alienate their fanbase by creating some weird concept album. Thinking this through though, I do not want any fans.
There is nothing wrong with fans, but they are consumers of artifacts. Fans are spectators of the daemon. The daemon does not want spectators anymore, because he wants to be emancipated. Besides, having fans is so “Game A,” and I would experience more joy being a weirdo “outsider artist,” in the spirit of Henry Darger and Daniel Johnston. I am listening to the song “Crazy Love” from the latter right now. Outsider artists have been classified as being self-taught, and a “mental illness” label is placed on them.
That is not how I see them. I see them creating because they are crazy, in the right way, and I see them creating out of love, with zero fucks given. They are creating without consideration for applause, and they are not here to instrumentalize others to get egoic highs, nor are they creating more memetic fodder for the spectacle.
Daddy is back for real now, and he is here to create in the spirit of crazy love.