Here are the notes I read this episode from: People keep acting like I'm different, that they have to balance things that I don't when acting on the environment. So I'll share a recent decision I made. People I tell have sounded intrigued and delighted to hear it so I'll share with you. First sensed hairline retreating at 19. Not much for maybe a decade following, I don't remember. Maybe 10 years ago started using minoxidil. Don't know if works or not, but used as insurance. Not insanely expensive. Tested on thinning in back, so even less sure if it works. Over the past few years noticed it becoming my greatest plastic consumption. Thought more about stopping. Even stopping flying was reversible. Never decided to stop forever, just kept finding that it improved my life not to fly. Constraints breed creativity. Stopping minoxidil not reversible. Might not do anything. Might go bald. I don't want to go bald. I like my hair. But I'm pitting purely my vanity against reducing plastic pollution. Last bottle of last 3 month supply was running low. Kept thinking about it. Risk balding, but maybe no difference. Last American president elected bald was Eisenhower. Have to beat Hitler to get elected. Women complain they get judged by appearance, but men do too. Felt helpless, yet also recognize the alternative is simply to live with my genes. What chemical shitstorm is in that stuff anyway? But the bottom line was every time I've chosen to live by my environmental values, it's improved my life. I used to have faith, but faith is belief without evidence. Between avoiding packaged food, avoiding flying, picking up garbage daily, plogging, all of which I thought would worsen my life, they've all improved it. So I made a deal with myself to flip a coin. Heads I'd keep it. If every 3 months I flipped, eventually I'd have to end. I started making deals with myself -- just get to 50 years old. It's so little plastic compared to everyone else. Just one more time. I found out you can buy the raw ingredients on Alibaba. What if I found a great price? Rite Aid had almost half off online. Another place even lower prices, but then more packaging. So I flipped the coin. Tails on the first try. I made a rule only flip a coin when I can't decide any other way, then never reverse that decision or it undoes the value of coin toss's decisiveness. Still I started bargaining with myself. Are you getting how hard I found this decision? I was deciding in the moment a choice to affect me possibly for the remaining several decades of my life. I didn't refill. I still went to Rite Aid intending to buy another box, against the coin toss, but the low price was only online. I was going to break my rule, but didn't because of circumstance. Within a day I could feel new breeze on my forehead. Maybe coincidence, but maybe I'll end up bald in a few months. Maybe it will recede a bit and stop. Who knows? I don't see a path to this choice improving my life, but I'm going with it. Talk about your first-world problems, right? But everyone goes through similar decisions too. Should I buy the coffee on the way to work in the disposable cup? Should I take a subway or shared ride? We all do mental gymnastics to rationalize behavior we know is against our principles. I do. My difference today versus me years ago is that I've moved my balance toward stewardship. Each time I do, I find it improves my life. Before long I find role models beyond where I am. I learn from them, for example Bea Johnson, whose family of four produces collectively less trash than I do. The world will see the results.
While I was jogging (actually plogging) along the Hudson River around 7:30am, a person not wearing a mask stepped into my path, blocking me, saying the person's shoes had been stolen. The person seemed to let me pass, but then threatened me and threw a bottle that shattered at my feet as I ran past. I kept running, the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my adrenaline high. I don't know if the person had a weapon. I describe more and some of how it affected me in the audio. I was first going to say I was threatened since he didn't touch me. I'm not a lawyer so I looked up the definition. According to FindLaw.com's page on Assault Torts and Injury Law: legal scholars define assault as an intentional attempt or threat to inflict injury upon a person, coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, which creates a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact in another. Notice the words “attempt” and “threat” above. In tort law, assault does not require actual touching or violence to the victim. We use another term for the touching or contact: “battery.” Here are the notes I read from: The story from this morning running Happens all the time, not daily but throughout my life I don't think he did it because black, but I suspect were I not white it may not have happened. Can't say this time. When I stayed in Atlanta Friends say, you can say to us but careful with others Shared about mugged childhood, but still happening Maybe there is a secret white suburban life I don't know about Recently white friends have started sharing how they've been mugged Consistent with Dov's saying how sharing stories will lead to others feeling they can share too That's all background. Here is my point: every time I bring up suffering or being threatened, while I may get some listening, the other person always says, remember others have it worse---not that person, not even someone with their skin color So they don't know from experience but they're telling me as if I haven't heard before, and they're presuming to know my experience I don't know anyone's experience but mine, but everyone absolutely everyone dismisses it without asking, presuming it's the caricature in the mainstream. When I hear white people talking about BLM, George Floyd, there's always this mea culpa. Maybe they are guilty, I don't know. I never hear them speak about their problems. Maybe they have no problems, maybe I'm unique, but that people open up with me when I share and they hear I'm not white supremacist or racist---though in today's world white people even mentioning race without saying how they are allies or something making up for guilt or things like that---then they tell me about their experiences, but they insist on my respecting their confidence, which of course I do. So much of what I hear from white people sounds so similar andinauthentic, I don't think they're being open, honest, or candid. Maybemany are as privileged as they say, but people have told me about being attacked, their lives threatened with weapons, and so on. I think about risks maybe not every day, but all the time. And when Idon't, some guy walks into my path, throws a bottle at me, and threatens me. For a while I feared sharing messages like this because people mightsuspect I'm turning into a white supremacist. I came to terms that ifpeople think that about the opposite, I can't let their preconceivednotions hold me from acting for equality.
People constantly suggest they have to balance different values as if I didn't. It came up in a recent conversation so I shared about it today. An element I factor in is how my pollution affects others---not just what I know about or wish I contributed, but what I actually contribute. Yet people think I factor in nothing else. It's weird to learn people see you as one-dimensional. If they felt others viewed them as they see me, they'd be insulted.
I think I've accidentally led people astray, sharing how much I enjoy acting in stewardship. I would prefer doing anything I wanted whenever and wherever, on my terms---that is, if I didn't have to consider how my behavior affected others, especially those powerless to stop my effects from hurting them. Today's episode shares how I'm doing on the personal level what science suggests---no magic, nothing personal, just following the advice that makes the most sense. On the social level, I'm leading other people, corporations, institutions, and government. I'm not making things up or denying. I'd rather play sports, cook, hike, meet girls, and so on. But science shows the state of the world and the risks to come. I refuse to ignore or tell myself what I do doesn't matter. So I act as best I can in stewardship.
I loved Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. I found it inspiring. It had a property that qualifies for me that something qualifies as a work of art: it said something I always knew was true but that I'd never seen expressed that way." I mention it for two reasons. One, I recorded a podcast episode with Steven the other day, which led me to reread the book. Two, I found the book applies to acting in stewardship. Substitute a few words and new meaning emerges, mainly changing art to stewardship. Most of the rest follows. That recording is in the editing queue so should be ready in July. I describe the analogy in this episode's recording. I share a few examples. I hope it helps motivate. I recommend The War of Art to nearly anyone. I recommend it especially to people who want to work on the environment.
Today was a rough day for me in New York. Most of my solo episodes I start with a point. Today brought me down enough that I decided to share more openly some thoughts I get when seeing situations that look hopeless and are deteriorating. I wouldn't listen to it if you feel down. Normally I try to support others. It occurred to me, I hear almost nothing back from listeners, friends, family, or the world providing hope or support. More commonly people seem mystified that I or anyone would try to live sustainably when they could instead eat, travel, buy, etc with nary a thought of stewardship or empowerment. Below are my notes reminding me of a few things during the day to cover while speaking. As I'm writing these words, fireworks---that is, loud explosions---are going off within a block or two, unofficial. Helicopter since 5:20 No masks Litter everywhere, every meal Just saw Story of Plastic Nobody seems to care. We can go a day without water, but 8 oz bottles Police everywhere Mayor absent President exacerbating Why bother? Am I missing signs of mainstream effective action? Plastic production higher than ever
Think of where you are now in two ways---first, how it looked before humans arrived there, second, how it looks now. The difference is our influence, which results from our behavior, which results from our beliefs, values, hopes, dreams, and so on. In other words, the environment is the outward manifestation of our beliefs.
Dave Chappelle set a line for himself that when he became famous he would not cross it. His life crossed it and he left a successful show and a $50 million contract. He returned to become more successful than ever. I recently saw him win the Mark Twain award. Here's Wikipedia on him staying true to himself: Season 3 was scheduled to begin airing on May 31, 2005, but earlier in May, Chappelle stunned fans and the entertainment industry when he abruptly left during production and took a trip to South Africa. Chappelle said that he was unhappy with the direction the show had taken, and expressed in an interview with Time his need for reflection in the face of tremendous stress: "Coming here, I don't have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down. I'm interested in the kind of person I've got to become. I want to be well-rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well-balanced. I've got to check my intentions, man." Immediately following Chappelle's departure, tabloids speculated that Chappelle's exit was driven by drug addiction or a mental problem, rather than the ethical and professional concerns that Chappelle had articulated. Chappelle's decision to quit the show meant walking away from his $50 million contract with Comedy Central. [...] In an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired on February 3, 2006, Chappelle explained his reasons for quitting Chappelle's Show. He also expressed his contempt for the entertainment industry's tone-deafness regarding black entertainers and audiences: When I see that they put every black man in the movies in a dress at some point in their career, I start connecting the dots. [...] Chappelle said on Inside the Actors Studio that the death of his father seven years prior influenced his decision to go to South Africa. By throwing himself into his work, he had not taken a chance to mourn his father's death. He also said the rumors that he was in drug or psychiatric treatment only persuaded him to stay in South Africa. He said, I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, that's not the way it was. ... I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I'm going to Africa. The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching. Draw your line Where do you draw your line to prioritize acting on the environment? Does billions of people restricted to their homes not cross it? How about rivers catching on fire? You will love life more if you don't allow yourself to watch ourselves cross our lines. You will love the meaning and purpose you create by making the environment your priority. Whatever you give, the work will return more.
Race is a major topic since police killed George Floyd in custody. I consider one of the major problems that people don't feel heard or understood. I see virtually no one in authority showing that they are listening. A friend who is white shared some of how she is struggling. I shared my background regarding race. She said I should share that background. I shared it with others. They agreed. This episode shares my experiences regarding race---a loose collection of memories. One person said hearing my details helped him think about his, which was my goal: to help people express themselves. I start from my earliest memories through grade school, high school, graduate school, starting companies, and recent reflections.
I discuss the connection between perceiving lack of variety in food made from scratch and feeling miserable and bored under lockdown, despite having access to all the world's art, music, literature, and culture ever recorded and more material abundance than kings only a few generations ago, despite our material abundance being only slightly less than a few months ago. Here are the notes I read from for this episode: Yesterday recorded episode with Rob and my stepfather Talked about food variety, said mine lacked variety Only tried three times People always see theirs as varied, others as not People say I don't like Chinese or Indian, billions, huge variety I see McDonald's and Taco Bell as same Count Chocula versus Froot Loops I made something with broccoli versus zucchini or cauliflower as different I see industrial food as the salt, sugar, fat, convenience treatment Add sugar versus add salt, people see as different, but to me corn flakes and Fritos are basically the same Supermarket carries same things year-round. Seems like variety because at any given moment lots of choices But once the prime pleasure becomes salt, sugar, fat, convenience, same to me. Because there's the raw flavor, which can differ, but we've reduced that variety to monocrops so only a few varieties of mango here, despite abundance in nature, and zero radishes for most people To me variety among apples is huge, which I cherish German beer law -> abundance and just local ingredients is huge compared to their four People lived since dawn of our species on local ingredients When did we become so entitled that we should get anything we want whenever, wherever? What's so bad about not having berries every damn day? A farmer nearby wants to provide food for me and you Instead a large part of your money goes to Saudi Arabia for fuel, Madison Avenue for advertising, Wall Street for finance, and Venezuela for farmer now not feeding their people So my parents, who have lived here for over a decade, say there's nothing available local this time of year It's like someone who played loud music their whole lives to deaf saying there's no bird songs The human aspect is important to me. I would probably eat meat, which until just before this time of year would be our option, and we'd cherish it, not take it for granted and ship from all over the world Then treat with salt, sugar, fat, convenience So no, I don't consider Filet-o-Fish as different than a burger, nor Taco Bell as different from McDonald's, Olive Garden, etc They all treat the raw ingredients as commodities. I want to treat them as a painter treats paints on a palette or a musician treats notes on a scale. A piano has 88 keys. A trumpet three valves. No variety? Let's get to bigger picture. I've also come to see our educational system as equally tone deaf Some will see history as completely different subject than economics Or even humanities as different than science Even there, most humanities people will see math and physics similar Most science will see history and philosophy as similar To me, if they all teach the same skills of reading, listening, taking notes, analyzing how they teach to analyze, but not to learn their own values and create own skills, teaching the same compliance That most Americans or people in East and West, when confronted with new problem, can't help Mandela, in prison 27 years, lived more free in 10x10 foot cell with forced labor than people today. How do I know? Because he created his happiness despite few raw ingredients, yet people today with much more comfort, convenience, and variety feel depressed and bored. I learn from Thoreau, who lived off the land. Read Walden and Civil Disobedience. People today miss the point by saying he interacted with people. He found that being put in jail for not paying taxes to avoid supporting slavery and an unjust war made him more free. People who emerge from our educational system learn dependence, not independence. Rob complains about system and as best I can tell spends his time in solitude trying to find how someone is causing his problems rather than appreciating nature that no matter how we try to dominate it, will never go away nor be weaker than us. With zero evidence constructs a world view that Chinese labs were trying to hurt him. Mandela learned to relate with and help the people imprisoning him, realizing the problem wasn't the people, but the system People make themselves depressed, despondent, angry, and such unable to apply their compliance and analysis to understand a situation beyond what school taught. Victor Frankl lived a life of more happiness and bliss in Auschwitz, or Jean-Dominique Bauby, the guy from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly who suffured a stroke that led to him devoid of voluntary control of any muscles except his left eyelid and who wrote a book that became a bestseller and a movie that won awards, He did it by connecting with the people around him. They lived more variety and happiness than people today who want to riot when they only have access to all the food in the world, all the world's knowledge, video to anyone and everyone, all the art, music, literature, movies, ever recorded As well as the tools for themselves to recreate those works or even make their own So go ahead and call my bowl of cereal one day with a bartlett pear and the next with an anjou pear lacking variety while your Wheaties different than your Spaghetti-os, which I see as the same While you complain, plan to riot against people suggesting you live with slightly less material abundance than yesterday, by your own prideful boasting greater than kings of only a few generations ago, and sink into depression and rage Miss out on seeing that the same process happens with travel as with food. Just as they industrialize food to produce what superficially looks like variety but beneath the surface is monotony, people's actual experience of Italy versus China have become as different as different sections of Disney World, while they can't see the nuance between going on a bike camping trip versus spending a week to learn bike mechanics. Or they can't see that spending a week on a meditation retreat might change their lives more, despite probably less emissions, than crossing another item off a bucket list that is actually less photogenic than the million pictures on the net, that they degrade by going and also degrade where they came from. Or even as my stepfather describes meeting the people or the land in faraway places, while missing out that his very own childhood created the same results by going places on foot, miss out that the variety and diversity of people is everywhere. My greatest recent vacation was the day, just to see if I could, I got on my rowing machine and rowed a marathon---that is 26.2 miles. You would say I didn't leave my apartment and with disdain say I missed seeing Macchu Piccu or some other thing beyond my physical horizon, while I found myself, physically, emotionally, and made myself more able, more creative, less needy, physically, emotionally, intellectually. It wasn't just a day but a journey, since a month earlier I had rowed half a marathon for the first time, that feat a couple months after seeing people do it during the crossfit games, which I found researching a guest on my show who won the crossfit games after winning a gold medal in the Olympics, whom I met from another guest on the podcast from several months earlier who had won the Americas Cup, whom I met from learning to sail, which I learned to cross the Atlantic because I challenged myself not to pollute by not flying. While most Americans seem unable to put two and two together to see the opportunity to create the joy, happiness, bliss, community, and connection that someone the Nazis tortured, that Apartheid tortured, and whose stroke deprived of voluntary control created. You think they're dead. Some of you probably think they're dead white males, as one entitled student described my heroes including Mandela, MLK, and Gandhi. I find them more alive than probably you find alive most of your Facebook connections including possibly your spouse, as Rob tells me many people are looking to divorce as they meet their partners more. So go help bankrupt your local farmers, saying they can't provide you with food in the winter and help support despotic regimes and a system making more de3spotic regimes, lying to yourself that you aren't contributing to it And lament that after the vaccine everything will return to normal despite connecting with people around you more, as the guy I mentioned to Rob that my step-father and I talked to yesterday told of finally learning that his son was languishing in school, but flourished when his own father actually spent time with him. His father said he wouldn't go back to the old way. He could have learned about his son any time. Why didn't he? He was busy. He had time for things not his son but not his son. Compliance-based education may have resulted in a child getting an A, but not knowing his father, or rather knowing his father doesn't have time for him but does put him in a place that bores him. Teaching below him more likely led to him getting a low grade, not high, less factual understanding which nobody cares about anyway, and shoved down learning experientially value, meaning, and purpose, connection, family, ability, creativity, initiative, and what makes life abundant. Now he has less, but he's finding more, he's creating more. He says, as you have the capacity to, that he would have changed earlier, had he known. Reverting back to before means you are passively accepting the compliance and impotence that supports those regimes, keeps you stupid however vaunted your degrees and able to regurgitate information but not tell the difference between radish varieties to where you call salads with two different varieties lacking variety And you would have reacted as I would on mentioning putting pears in cereal, that I won't because pears' flavors are so nuanced and delicate that I would rather eat my oats plain in order to savor the pears Except when they're in peak season and so abundant and cheap that I feel richer than a king when I indulge in them, appreciating the abundance of nature, not the scarcity of soul in your supermarkets and convenience restaurants, however crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and your prepared restaurant meals full of pleasure bereft of feeling. Now watch your farmer sell his land and pay some Saudi prince while you make yourself powerless to love and spend time with your child when restrictions decrease and you can do what you want. Go complain and use your compliant, entitled dependence to turn greater material abundance and prosperity into emptiness of meaning and purpose and feel superior to my walking four miles to meet a guy in person who can tell me where my local farmers will sell me a rutabaga you wouldn't deign to eat as it lacks variety, while my life overflows with abundance of meaning, purpose, sensory delight, and even amid this tirade love. I have to admit as I write and speak the word love that I'm hit with humility, what little I have, that my poor rhetoric and reflection have led to a tone accusatory and condescending. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm fooling myself. But I'm sharing not to put down but to invite you to try, not sample or visit, but sincerely, authentically, and genuinely try to live this way for a while. Maybe start with food. For a week or two go for nothing packaged, no added salt, sugar, fat, nothing made extra convenient. Cook everything from scratch, maybe more than a week or two, until you master it, which may take months and will make you as sore as someone using muscles for the first time in their lives, but when strengthened will enable you to achieve more than ever. I predict you'll wish you had earlier, that you'll connect with your world, community, and family more than you thought possible, that you'll open yourself to learning, growing, and connecting. If after you master local foods you return to Cracker Barrel, please teach me why, because I'll have something to learn from you. I predict instead you'll want to share what you've learned with others, and you'll be able to do the greatest thing anyone can about our environmental problems, greater than not flying, greater than avoiding packaging, greatest of all: you can lead others---people, communities, corporations, and governments -- to love, honor, and steward nature, which includes us.
This pandemic continues to reveal new aspects of relationships—or rather spending time with people does. I think we used to spend more time with people, not mediated by the internet or distracted by screens and other powered things. I shared a new analogy in my conversation with my mom that several people liked. I found that my stewardship contrasting with my mom and step-father's wanting to live like they always have reminded me of the 70s television show All in the Family. For those who don't remember it, the show garnered huge audiences and stellar reviews. From Wikipedia: All in the Family is an American television series that ran for nine seasons, from 1971 to 1979. The show revolves around the life of a working-class father and his family. It broke ground on issues previously considered unsuitable for a U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, antisemitism, infidelity, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, religion, miscarriages, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence [note not the environment]. Through these controversial issues, the series became one of television's most influential comedies, bringing dramatic moments and realistic, topical conflicts. All in the Family is often regarded in the US as one of the greatest television series in history. Following a lackluster first season, it became the most watched show in the US during summer reruns and ranked number one in the ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first series to top the ratings for five consecutive years. One episode was ranked number 13 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. TV Guide ranked it as the number four comedy. Bravo named Archie Bunker TV's greatest character of all time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it the fourth-best written TV series ever. Characters: Archie Bunker: Frequently called a "lovable bigot", Archie was an assertively prejudiced blue-collar worker. A World War II veteran, Archie longs for better times when people sharing his viewpoint were in charge, as evidenced by the nostalgic theme song "Those Were the Days". Despite his bigotry, he is portrayed as loving and decent, a man simply struggling to adapt to a constantly changing world, rather than motivated by hateful racism or prejudice. His ignorance and stubbornness seem to cause his malapropism-filled arguments to self-destruct His foil was Michael "Meathead" Stivic: Gloria's Polish-American hippie husband is part of the counterculture of the 1960s. While good-hearted and well-meaning, he constantly spars with Archie and is equally stubborn, although his moral views are generally presented as being more ethical and his logic somewhat sounder. He is the most educated person in the household, which gives him a self-assured arrogance. He has intellectual belief in progressive social values. So a major part of America saw the clash between a racist, sexist, bigot and an intellectual, more considered egalitarian. It worked in part because the two lived in a house together, leading America to see the values of two generations clash. Looking back and even in that time, I think people recognized that Archie's views were unfair. He was racist and sexist, but you couldn't blame him. He was living values that made sense to him his whole life. A wife lived at home. He grew up in a white neighborhood. He fought to defend these ways and live in peace. Now these young people were undermining that peace. Why couldn't everyone just live how they used to when life worked? Those were the days. Listen to the episode for the rest.
Leadership means choosing and deciding for yourself and for others. To lead effectively, it helps to know how you choose and what happens in your heart and mind when you choose---that is, how your intellect and emotions interact in the decision-making process. This episode refines and adds an element to a model by a guest of this podcast, Jonathan Haidt, for how we decide. I describe his model---you may know it, about the rider on the elephant, which contrasts with a common model of a charioteer with horses. Then I describe how our world differs from the world where his model applies. His model still works as long as we're in a benign environment. My model adds a different part of our minds from emotion and intellect. We live in a world where other people try to motivate us to do what they want, not always to help us. People get us to associate sugar-water with happiness or jeans with sex. They actively do it. The elephant isn't choosing among benign options as it did in our ancestors' world, little constructed by humans. I present a model where our emotions are like an ox with a ring through its nose with people around it tugging at the ring. That's the start of the model. I describe it more in the audio.