For the next two weeks, I'll be taking a sabbatical from writing. I first discussed the idea here. As the holidays approached, the idea felt more and more expansive.

I decided not to stop publishing, though. It felt more powerful to continue my publishing schedule. So I've had a very busy week this week setting up all my pieces for the next two.

I'm still debating how much of a sabbatical I'm going to take from using the computer at all. Right now I'm thinking I'll keep it off for the entire week of Christmas, from Sunday the 20th through Saturday the 26th (except for one exception, which I'll discuss in a moment), and then will allow myself to use it during the second week, to make an effort to deal with some electronic clutter, the clearing out of which will bring some needed spaciousness into the new year.

And I will allow myself to use my tablet and my phone. I keep work pretty much separate from both; they'll be used for reading and research. I don't think I need to avoid all screens to get the benefits I'm looking for.

The exception I mentioned above: Tuesday the 22nd is the winter solstice, the true New Year, and I can't not write on what I consider to be one of the four holiest days of the year. Last year on the solstice I came to the computer, opened a file, and, with the words, "Happy winter solstice," set about embarking on my rebirth as a writer. More than 200,000 words later, I can safely say that it worked. I won't let the anniversary of that day go by unmarked and uncelebrated.


Whatever is the opposite of DNGAF, that is Hillary Clinton. You get the sense that her monomaniacal, fists-clenched ambition to be president started as a small child, maybe even in the womb. Her whole life has been aimed in that direction, and so you feel like nothing in her world happens without calculation. That it's only after careful vetting by her advisers in light of the latest poll numbers that she decides her position on what to order for lunch. "How is tuna salad playing in Peoria?" you imagine her asking.


A description generally given with a certain admiration. The person who does not want, need, or care about our permission: We shake our heads a little. We give a little smile.

How much is it that admiration that explains how what initially looked like something of a practical joke on most of America appears increasingly likely to win the Republican presidential nomination?

Black Friday and #OptOutside

I first saw REI's #OptOutside campaign via a banner ad. "We're closing on Black Friday," said the ad copy. "Holy shit," I said. "Finally, someone gets it."

I hate Black Friday. I hate it. It's bad enough that it's consumerism run amok. But there's also the narrative that surrounds it, or that it surrounds itself in--at this point, I guess you'd say it's both. You see stories about Black Friday all over the news, giving the hype--GIANT SALES! GIANT DISCOUNTS!--a deeper imprimatur. Every year, we hear of the steady race-to-the-bottom of retail's earlier and earlier opening times. Every year, we see more videos of people stampeding over each other to get into stores. This is how important it is to buy things, these stories and videos imply. Because keep in mind: where are you seeing these stories but via ad-supported media? The whole idea of advertising is to create demand where it wasn't already, to create need. Which is to say that the media itself is--indeed, has to be--complicit in this madness. To do otherwise, to either cast genuine opprobrium on what they force us to witness or else to opt out entirely, would be to cast their whole existence into doubt.

Thus every year, the intensity of hype feeds back on itself and gets worse.

So when I saw a major U.S. retailer responding to the perversity of Black Friday by just opting out--closing their doors, giving their employees two days off, and thereby doing a little to fight against the deeper dissolution of the sanctity of what really should be a pretty internally-focused holiday--I was like, YES.

Look, I have no illusions: #OptOutside is a marketing campaign. I learned about it via an ad, and yes I recognize the irony. I get that REI is using disaffection with consumerism to, to some degree, drive consumption.

But nothing about that changes the fact that they aren't going to be part of the sickness that day. As marketing campaigns go, REI can count me in. Indeed, #OptOutside seems like such a positive development that I am literally going to buy in. Speaking my mind, as I am doing here, is lovely and all, but I want to reward REI for their stance, and beyond my public declaration of support, I'm going to support them with my money as well: I'm going to do my Christmas shopping at REI.

Yes, that means that I'll be battling out-of-control consumerism with consumption. But not on Black Friday. And that matters.

Maybe, just maybe, other businesses will take note, and we can begin to move away from the depths of our craziness.

Oh, and one more thing: Yes, I'll be opting outside.

Surrender (Happy Joyful Piece for a Friday Afternoon)

I look at the world and wonder when we are going to decide to move beyond this cycle of destruction and begin to create again.

We will, I'm sure of it. Creation is our heart's blood.

And yet, this tiresome worship of destruction. Death cults sweep across the Middle East. Our rapacious hunger for resources consumes the planet like a cancer destroys its host. Even simple solutions appear to be beyond us: here at home, we're witnessing the inexorable and increasingly exponential meltdown of not just our government but our whole governmental system.

And we worship false gods. The gatepeople to our culture sell us stories of how we reward creativity. It's a golden age of innovation, they say. But what gets rewarded? Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp. Meanwhile we have the most disparate concentration of wealth the world has ever seen.

My friend Anastacia has the ability to be an open channel for love-energy. But she's no star-eyed dreamer. She and I share a similar geopolitical awareness, and when we look outward at the world we both experience a deep fear as we're forced to ask, How bad will it get?

But Anastacia and I share, too, an optimism, born not of what we see (so much darkness out there right now) but of what each of us is increasingly able to feel: that the first seeds of a great awakening have been planted, are beginning to sprout. She texted me the other day of a download of energy that swept through her. "Whatever we want--LET IT BE SO--like it's up to us to surrender into receiving what the universe is conspiring to provide for us. WOW!"

And does this match my own lived experience? I can only say this: the only thing that I can do these days to stop myself from writing is to fight or try to control what comes to me and asks to be written. Should I surrender? I ask myself: the flow that I am trying to tap into: which is bigger, it or me?


I sometimes get asked about ideas--where they come from, how I generate them--and I usually say they just come. Stay open, and they come. (Furthermore, I say, ideas aren't really the important part. They're a dime a dozen. The important part is what you do with them.)

Ironically, I've recently had a bear of a time coming up with ideas for these pieces. Pretty much every day I've been on the sheer cliff-edge of disaster, and it's getting a little old.

Something isn't working. What am I not seeing that I need to see?


As you read this, I'm on a little road trip. I spent the first couple of days in Moab, UT, with plans to move next into southwest Colorado. Perhaps I'm there right now. Tomorrow I'll be heading into New Mexico to spend a few days with friends and family.

I've been planning the trip for a little while now. "Planning" being kind of a euphemism in this case--I knew which day I'd leave and that my first destination would be Moab. Beyond that, things were kind of ephemeral. I usually like it that way. It works for me.

Last week, as the trip impended, I was writing on my whiteboard things that absolutely had to happen before I left and one of them was "backup my laptop," and it hit me for the first time that instead of bringing my computer with me, perhaps I could completely take a sabbatical from the thing for the duration of the trip. No email, no writing, nothing. I'd just leave it at home. (Not that I would disconnect completely. I'd still bring my smartphone. Because I don't much plan ahead of time, Google's magic proves pretty invaluable.)

I spend hours a day in front of the computer. A week or so completely away from it sounded really delightful.

So I wrote on my whiteboard all the pieces I would need to write and schedule for publication to make it work. I tried to pull it off, but I didn't even come close. I'd have needed to hatch the plan a lot earlier in the process to have succeeded.

But no matter. The seed's been planted. A sabbatical from the computer. It sounds luxurious. I'm going to pick a time when doing so would feel delightful, relaxing, expansive. And I'm going to make it happen.

Be Like Water

Earlier this week, I was thinking about Jerry's stated aim that we develop a "state of ease" with the things we do, and a memory from my time in Spain popped into my head.

In English, we talk of being fluent in something. In Spanish (Castilian, anyway), the idiomatic translation is con soltura. The English sentence, "I speak fluently," translates to, "Hablo con soltura." I've always liked the phrase. I understood it via what it evoked: soltura always conjured for me an ease of motion, kind of like someone comfortably grooving to music.

When this memory popped up, I sought a literal translation; Google Translate offered "looseness." So then "hablo con soltura" means literally, "I speak with looseness" or "I speak with ease."

As I thought more about it, I realized I didn't really know what "fluent" meant. I mean, I understand the word just fine. Obviously, I know when and how to use it. But most (all?) words like that, words that encapsulate a kind of complicated abstract concept, have an underlying implicit metaphor. And in the case of fluent, I couldn't figure out what it was.

So I went to the OED. Perhaps this should have been obvious, but fluent comes from the Latin word meaning to flow. (The same root gives us fluid.) Thus fluent means flowing, ready to flow, fluid.

Thus, through the Spanish phrase, con soltura, I find myself connecting the two languages: when you are doing something fluently, doing something con soltura, you are doing it with ease. You are doing it the way water flows.

"Do it easier" is an admonition Jerry often gives. I understand it better now.

Be like water.