You've heard of the digital nomad: people who use telecommunications
technologies to earn a living and conduct their life in a nomadic manner.
I've worked remotely for nearly as long as it's been feasible. Way back in
2007, only a year out of college and into my first job, I took the plunge
into remote working and never looked back.
I remember being among the first wave of remote workers in Portland. It
was becoming more common to see laptops in cafes, but it wasn't as
normalized as it is now. I remmeber thinking that this style of work was
going to change the landscape of cities and the way we think about work.
I never gave it much thought, but for the tenure of my remote work career,
I've appreciated and enjoyed the sense of adventure that comes from the
freedom to work anywhere. There are days—workdays—I spend walking from
cafe to cafe, exploring, taking photographs, joining friends for meals,
cycling, shopping, and experiencing the beauty of the city. This is
a beautiful privilege for which I am deeply grateful.
When my friend visited from Seattle over the weekend, she mentioned
Portland was the perfect city for the budding flâneur. I couldn't think
of a better word to describe the essence of this lifestyle.
dig·i·tal flâ·neur (n): A person who uses digital technology to earn
a living in pursuit of experiencing beauty in the everyday.
I've noticed, over the course of my adult life, a tendency to oscillate
gracefully between flaneur and entrepreneur, bon vivant and businessman,
bohemian and industrialist. There seem to be within me threads from each
of these cloths, vying for my time and attention.
I've spent the past few months as an idle lounger, but am squarely ready
to get back to work. I know though that, within a few months of returning
to work, I'll be longing for the tranquility and freedom of moments spent
This weekend, a college friend visited from Seattle. We spent the better
part of the weekend indulging in our own subjective experience. We drank
coffee and tea, ate local cuisine, consumed cannabis edibles, took long
walks, and shared our current favorite music. It was the best of times.
Something strikes me whenever I feel deeply connected to another person
and myself: It's never a result of industriousness, money, or
power—although these do play a role in our privilege to spend our time
this way. No: the greatest amusement park and entertainment device is
between our ears.
Ever since I watched the oh-so-vulnerable-to-skepticism movie The Secret
back in 2007, I've been fascinated, in varying degree, by the central
premise of the film that our thoughts create our reality. This idea is
much older than The Secret. Napoleon Hill wrote about the causality of
thoughts in his seminal self-help book Think and Grow Rich way back in
1937. And before Hill, Phineas Quimby wrote about the idea after having
been diagnosed with tuberculosis and believing in the idea of mind over
body in his miraculous recovery.
From a skeptical perspective, the idea that our thoughts influence or
produce reality is untenable because it's not falsifiable. If I begin with
the premise that our thoughts are creating the reality around us, there's
no way for you to disprove it because I can always cite examples that will
support my claim. And similarly, there's no way for me to prove it to be
the case that thoughts are causal, since you can always come up with
But the scientific perspective, to me, isn't valuable when considering the
causality of thoughts. That's because the idea of the law of attraction is
much more like faith than science. We can debate whether or not God exists
from a scientific perspective until the end of time, but whether or not
God exists does not negate the value billions of people derive from
believing. It is this faith mindset—the idea that there is a force beyond
ourselves at work—that makes the idea of causal thoughts powerful.
If you, for instance, believe that you are doomed to forever be
unattractive to the opposite sex, and carry that belief with you
throughout your days, there's a good chance your behavior will match that
perspective. You'll likely slouch and suggest lack of confidence with your
body language. You might overeat or abuse alcohol in order to cope with
your poor self-image. And you certainly won't be smiling at or approaching
anyone. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean your thinking you're
unattractive to the opposite sex has directly caused you to be
unattractive, but it does imply that your thoughts translate into
behaviors which then result in your belief coming true.
Conversely, if you choose to believe that you are abundantly attractive to
the opposite sex and work to carry that belief with you, it's likely that
your behavior will align to match. You'll stand up straighter, smile more,
and be more willing to engage with others. All of this lands you a much
better chance at success. Again, this isn't a direct causal relationship
between thoughts and reality, but a causal link from your thoughts, into
your behaviors, into reality.
Prayer and meditation are the practiced manifestation of these types of
positive thoughts, and have been around for millenia. We sit in stillness
and contact a higher power in order to manifest something different in our
lives, whether that's as simple as a better mood or as profound as
reversing terminal illness.
I'm a lifelong skeptic, but I often invoke prayer and the law of
attraction in my own life because I recognize the value in maintaining
focus on a goal. Whether there are peer reviewed papers on the efficacy of
such a technique, to me, is missing the point.
Awhile back I wrote about how I prepare coffee at
home. Now, I love coffee, and it's
hard to admit this, but I think it's been contributing to what has become
a constant dull roar of anxiety in my life.
Last week, I decided to try something different. I boxed up all my coffee
gear, and resolved to make coffee a special treat for when I'm out at
cafes, and to make tea at home instead—especially first thing in the
morning when usually I'd down a cup of Aeropress on an empty stomach.
So far, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. I've noticed that
I'm more present during my 7:30am workouts, and can drink green tea on an
empty stomach without getting those horrid "coffee gurgles." I've also
noticed that I crave carbohydrates much less often, which has
a compounding positive effect on my mood since I'm not constantly spiking
my blood sugar levels.
Because of my newfound appreciation for tea, I thought I'd share a few of
my favorite varieties.
Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan, comprising about 80 percent of
the tea produced there. It has a somewhat grassy taste and a cloudy,
green-gold color. I love sencha for the fact I can drink seemingly
unlimited quantities of it and not get jittery or anxious. That's because
sencha, like all green teas, contains theanine, an amino acid analogue
that counteracts some of the negative effects of caffeine. It also
contains significantly less caffeine than a cup of coffee, meaning it can
be consumed in much higher quantities than coffee. Additionally, green tea
isn't acidic like coffee, having a pH between 7 and 10, with coffee having
a pH of around 5.
Literally translating to "coarse tea leaves from the Upright Mountains",
lapsang souchong is a variety of black tea which is smoke-dried over
pinewood fires, giving it a distinct smoky taste that I think is
reminiscent of a fine scotch.
Because of the smoky flavor and higher caffeine content when compared to
sencha, I've been drinking lapsang souchong in the mornings. Its smoky
flavor is a delight for a reforming coffee drinker, since it gives the
impression that you're still imbibing something, erm, rugged.
Cinnamon spice rooibos
And finally, for those glorious hours before bedtime, I love to relax with
a cup of my favorite herbal blended tea variety. If you're in the Portland
area, both Townshends Tea Company and Tea Chai Te have similar blends:
I love these teas because they taste like, well, Christmas. They're
incredibly warming, naturally sweet, and you can drink as many cups as you
have time for. I like to think it's a great non-alcoholic substitute for
mulled wine in the autumn and winter months.
Autumn is upon us. It's time to pack away the sunwear and prepare for
a more productive season. I'm always struck how ready I am to begin
working again at the end of a hot summer. There's a certain energy abound
in the autumn season that begets sitting in cafes, tap-tap-tapping away at
your computer, doing the mental work that got cast aside in the throes of
I've gone through several transformations in the past few months which
have informed my perspective in autumn. Chief among these is becoming
newly single, foisted into a period of my life where I once again am able
to reunite with myself. At times, it's felt like an early midlife crisis.
At others, it's felt like a rejuvination. Either way, it's been an
incredible period of growth. If you're going through a breakup right now,
just keep in mind that often the biggest strides are made when you're at
Being single has taught me that no matter my relationship status, I still
have to face myself. It's tempting to imagine that a partner can save us,
but our problems persist in spite of them. In fact, sometimes being in
love can inhibit our growth by distracting us from the difficult work that
My career, for the past months, has been on a well-deserved and much
needed hiatus. As I wrote back in
March, I went on a self-imposed summer vacation
in order to see what I could discover and learn during a period of no
work. Surprisingly, it's at times been quite difficult to maintain my
sanity without needing to be of service to others. The first few weeks
were hell; my life had always been arranged around work. With nothing to
fill the void, I tended to fill the time with bad habits. After a couple
months though, I got into a routine filled with workouts, bike rides,
novels, and drawing:
That said, I think, as of today, I'm ready to go back to work. I feel like
I've taken the time I need to decompress, redefine some things that needed
time and space to redefine, and to explore and experiment with new
lifestyles, ideas, cultures, and perspectives. It's funny how, in spite of
resenting and renouncing the workaday world so much, I find myself
returning to it for a sense of purpose and dignity. I'm not sure I'll ever
feel at home in a nine-to-five traditional job, but I think it's
imperative to feel needed and to have a purpose outside of myself.
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For years, I've actively battled my introversion. It has always seemed
like I wanted to spend most of my time alone, but I denied this because
I thought it would lead me to become antisocial. Extroversion is our
culture's default mode, and sometimes it feels like I'm not supposed to
want to loaf around doing nothing all by myself.
This past weekend I attended a music festival with my friends. It was
three days and two nights of camping in close quarters and time engaging
with groups. Within a few hours, I was exhausted. Several times
I retreated into the tiny confines of my tent to read and think on my own.
For most of the weekend I found myself sitting alone on the sidelines of
the festival, not wanting to engage. I thought I was a loser, a recluse,
a loner. It was a blow to my ego to think that I couldn't hang in this
On my way home, I stopped at a cafe in Salem for some breakfast. There,
I Googled "introversion" on my phone, and stumbled upon the
/r/introvert subreddit. I suddenly
felt at home! Here's a community of over 100,000 people who feel generally
the same way I do about socializing. It's not antisocial to want to spend
most of your time alone—it's introverted!
I usually shy away from actively pursuing labels to add to my identity,
but "introvert" has become a label flag I'll proudly fly. For my entire
adult life I've been trying to fight my tendencies to spend time alone, to
have a deep internal life, and to avoid group situations like the plague.
I spent over a year in a relationship with a partner whose personality was
so different from mine in this regard. In spite of our best efforts, we
just couldn't make it work because I always wanted to spend more time
"alone together" than she did. I really took that personally, thinking
I was somehow deficient. Now I realize I really do need a partner who
wants to make the relationship her #1 priority, like I do.
This week I've noticed a certain tranquility in moments spent alone in
cafes reading or writing. Instead of feeling the typical guilt or shame
I'd feel when I was alone and everyone else was gabbing away in the
background, I realize now that I loathe small-talk and much prefer to have
a few meaningful social interactions instead of constantly exhausting my
social energy on mundane conversations.
If you're an introvert struggling like I was, I can assure you you're not
alone! There are plenty of kind, intelligent, quiet introverts like us who
can't wait to sit in cafes with you, headphones on, doing our own things,
Today I got rid of my home office. I had a six-foot beheamoth of
a desk in my living room with a giant monitor that pierced your soul.
I've spent the past several months quietly deliberating whether or not to
pull the plug, and every time it came down to a sense of fear that I'd
somehow be lost without it. That a laptop might not be enough.
That I'd be a less serious engineer if I worked at the kitchen table.
Now a credenza stands where my desk once stood, its surface covered in
plants, candles, a lamp, and a small speaker. Now when I have my morning
coffee, I no longer look across the room overwhelmed at all the busyness
I'll soon endure. Instead, I sit transfixed on the fractal nature of my
spider plant, and realize why I'm here in the first place.
There's a lot of talk about multiculturalism these days. Well, I'd like to
offer an alternative: Anticulturalism.
Multiculturalism is the idea that we ought to celebrate the cultures of
the world and welcome them all into our communities. Anticulturalism is
the idea that culture divides us from one another and binds us to
arbitrary tradition, and that we'd be better off without it.
Where the culturalist will do as the group does, the anticulturalist will
follow their own intuition. They will forge their own path, produce their
own traditions, and create their own ideas.
To be an anticulturalist is to reject the idea that we should continue
doing things a certain way because that's how we've always done them. It's
celebrating diversity not at the level of the group, but at the level of
the individual. It is taking responsibility for our own thoughts and
The anticulturalist doesn't waste their time reading the news or following
politics because they realize the inadequacy of policy to rectify the
world's ills. Instead, their crusade is one of liberating those around
them from the cultural chains that bind them, so that they too can become
empowered to define the course of their own lives.
Usually in the name of pride, the culturalist blindly follows the norms
and traditions handed down to them, even if they do not serve their own
interests. While the culturalist talks about fictitious entities like
"freedom" and "justice" and "purity", the anticulturalist realizes such
abstractions aren't real. To be an anticulturalist is to reject archaic
narratives that use abstract language to justify the wielding of power
Culture takes us out of the animal body and reduces us to a matrix of
loyalty and compliance through language. By refusing to participate, we
I'm a terrible employee. You don't want to hire me to work in your office.
I'll show up late. I'll leave early. I won't attend meetings. Sometimes
I'll take two hours in the middle of the day to go sit in a park or ride
my bike. It's not that I'm not doing my job—I'll probably excel at
whatever project you give me. No, it's just that I'm a terrible employee.
I love to work. In fact, it's been hard, over the course of
the past month of sabbatical, to not compulsively
look for gigs. I love the challenge of a new project. I love to sink my
teeth into new technologies. I love to know I'm useful to somebody.
But I can't do that at your office. It's nothing personal. You probably
built a fantastic company culture. You play ping-pong and have free snacks
and give your employees excellent benefits. But it's not for me.
Sometimes I like to spend long, luxurious mornings writing and sipping
coffee. I love midday walks, making myself lunch, and the serenity of
owning my own time.
I love the creativity that comes in those moments sitting alone in my
apartment. Ironically, the most valuable thoughts and ideas tend to come
when we're doing the dishes or taking a midday shower. If I work in an
office, I wouldn't do either of those things.
"But Teejay, don't you need a salary? You could make $XXX,XXX/year plus
excellent health benefits if you took a job in your field!" I could, and
I have. I was miserable. I lived to work. I was addicted to my salary and
bought things in a misguided attempt to distract from my misery. I drank.
It wasn't for me. I'd rather make half a salary per year consulting
part-time and loving it than spend 50 weeks per year glued to a desk.
When you're addicted to recurring income, you acclimate to certain
luxuries. You buy new things each month. You eat out constantly. You take
exotic vacations. You justify all of these things in the name of
"deserving it" or "enjoying yourself" or "living a little". But in
reality, none of these things have ever brought me contentment. They might
bring you contentment—and that's great. But they're not for me.
So, if you're thinking of hiring me to work in your company, don't. I'm
a terrible employee.
I don't usually write about politics on this site because I like to
keep things constructive and jovial, but I had an epiphany last night that
I thought was worth sharing.
Ever since the 2016 election here in the US, I've felt an increasing
political divide amongst my peers and in society at large. I've also found
that the mainstream political left in this country has veered in
a direction which I cannot myself support, and that I've sought different
perspectives across the political landscape. I won't mention what the
specific policy positions are that have led me to this shift, since
they're irrelevant to what I'm about to suggest.
This growing political rift has led to violent confrontations in multiple
cities, including my own. It has led my partner and I into arguing about
our political differences instead of uniting around our shared values. It
has engulfed the country in an all-out culture war, wherein we disown and
disavow those tribes who disagree with us.
Our nation's bitter disagreements are about moral issues over which people
will almost certainly always disagree. Things like abortion rights, gay
marriage, religious freedom, globalization, and immigration.
As well, they're often about our immutable characteristics: race, gender,
class, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
But what if our squabbles are actually the ruling class's means of control
and manipulation? What if, in all our fighting amongst each other, we're
not speaking truth to power but actually giving it more fuel?
Divide and rule is a strategy of gaining and maintaining power by
breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually
have less power than the one implementing the strategy.
creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent
alliances that could challenge the sovereign
aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the
fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for
political and military spending
Applied to US politics in 2019, we see:
news media promoting issues which seek divide the populace according to
race, gender, and sexuality
major political parties embracing this strategy of division, since it
serves the ruling class
growing tensions between racial groups and between the genders
diverting political spending and energy away from real challenges to
power (i.e., limiting campaign contributions and lobbying, financial
system reform, and universal social welfare systems) toward those that
distract and divide (i.e., racial and gender inequality, immigration)
This isn't to say race and gender issues aren't important. They are. But
they're also divisive and breed resentment. They incite the worst tribal
qualities within us. And the irony is that the strategies currently
employed will never unite us because they're designed specifically not
This strategy works from both sides. For instance, take gender. In popular
media, women are told they're part of an oppressed group in
America. Whether or not that's true is irrelevant to our discussion.
What's relevant is that they believe it. In believing this, an agenda is
set: rectify the gender gap. But men might not see things that way. They
might say women have been granted, by power of the legislature, all the
rights men have. They won the right to vote, the right to own property,
and freedom of movement. Men now resent women for their suggestion they
are oppressed. Women resent men because they feel oppressed. Neither
realizes they're being had by the real oppressor: the thumb of a ruling
class who has all the money.
You see these corrosive dichotomies everywhere in society. Feminists
fighting the patriarchy versus men's rights activists. Black Lives Matter
versus Blue Lives Matter. Leftism versus classical liberalism. Antifa
versus the Proud Boys.
Resentment toward diversity quotas for putting aside the principles of
meritocracy in the workplace in the interest of more racial equity. Anger
at white men for the fact they hold most positions of power. Outrage at
police brutality directed at young black men. Wanting to send all the
immigrants back to where they came from because they're taking jobs.
Resentment because you can't use the bathroom that suits your gender
identity. Anger because there's a man in the woman's bathroom.
It is in the interest of those in power to keep us disagreeing with one
another over issues that are inherently divisive so we don't focus on the
burgeoning concentration of political and economic power in the hands of
a few people.
George Carlin made light of this fact years ago:
They keep the lower and middle classes fighting each other. Now to
balance the scale I’d like to talk about the things that bring us
Things that point out our similarities instead of our differences.
Because that is all you ever hear about in this country is our
differences. That’s all the media and the politicians are ever talking
about, the things that separate us, things that make us different from
one another. That’s the way the ruling class operates in any society.
They try to divide the rest of the people. They keep the low and the
middle classes fighting with each other so that they, the rich can run
off with all the f*cking money. Fairly simple thing, happens to work.
You know anything different, that is what they are going to talk about,
race, religion, ethnic, and national background, jobs, income,
education, social status, sexuality, anything you can do – keep us
fighting with each other so that they can keep going to the bank.
You know how describe the economic and social classes in this country?
The upper class keep all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The
middle-class pays all of the taxes, does all the work. The poor are
there just to scare the sh*t out of the middle-class.
Now, this isn't an appeal to conspiracy theory. I don't think there's
some meeting behind closed doors where the ruling elites gather and
discuss which incindiary news stories they'll publish in order to sow
unrest. No, it's more sinister than that. It's all about incentives.
News media organizations, now more than ever, are incentivized to publish
the most anger-inducing, crazy-making, Facebook-post-generating stories
they can. They rely upon our clicking their articles so we'll see their
advertisers' ads. Which headline would be more likely to get you to
click: one about campaign finance reform or one about a racial or
Okay, so if this is all true and we're being manipulated into fighting
with one another over issues with no solutions, what do we do?
First, we must banish the sources of these corrosive ideas from our lives
for good. The Washington Post, the New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC, and
the like are owned by some of the most powerful people in the world. They
don't care about us. The sooner we stop listening to them and heeding to
their agenda, the better. We should start to see news media for what it
Second, we must become more mindful when we're engaging in rhetoric about
issues that will perpetually divide us. This doesn't mean we shouldn't
speak truth to power about real oppression, but that we should frame
issues in a way that does not alienate those who might otherwise be proud
allies in our struggle. Engage more in discussion about issues that
resonate with everyone, like poverty, healthcare, infrastructure, and the
concentration of political power in the hands of the few.
Third, we must strive to engage with people whose viewpoints are
different from ours. But, rather than engaging politically about our
differences, we must seek to forge alliances apolitically. We must
recognize when we're engaging in an unwinnable fight over abstract
concepts and return our attention back to the real world. We'll never
agree on whether one race is more oppressed than another, but almost
everyone can agree that no one should live in abject poverty.
Fourth, we must continually ascend to take a bird's-eye view of our own
behaviors and retrain ourselves to recognize when we're playing into the
divide and rule game. One way I think we can accomplish this is by
recognizing when we're feeling resentment toward other people who are
different from us. Whether we're men feeling resentment toward women, gay
toward straight, or black toward white, it's a good indication we need to
take a step back and realize we're being distracted from the dark ruling
class strategy of divide and rule.