How to Make History

In the past year, I’ve found myself repeatedly invoking, in all sorts of conversations, a hierarchy of agency with three levels: labor, making, and action. Here’s a visualization. The annotations on the left characterize the kind of agency. The annotations on the right characterize the locus where it is exercised, and the associated human condition.

The hierarchy is based on Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition, so I’ve named the visualization the Arendt hierarchy.

A mnemonic to remember the distinctions is mark time or make history. In everything you do, from posting a tweet or buying a coffee to running for President or tackling the Riemann hypothesis, you must choose between two extreme contexts: to either mark time with labor, or make history with action. In between there is a third context, where you can choose to slow time, which includes any sort of making, including art and trade (which is making in the sense of market-making). Naturally, Arendt thought (as do I) that you must choose action and history-making as much as possible. That is what it means to be fully human.

The scheme is non-intuitive, but once you’ve internalized the concepts, they turn out to be weirdly useful for thinking about what you’re doing and why, whether it is futile or meaningful, nihilistic or generative.

The Three Contexts

Arendt’s theory is based on a historical process theory concerning the co-evolution of three contexts of human life: the public (polis), the market (agora), and the private. She also gestures at two additional contexts: the frontier of discovery beyond the public, and the frontier of intimacy beyond the private.

A key failing of her otherwise solid theory (which I will try to address) is the inadequacy of her account of these two frontiers.

One way to understand the logic of the 3 contexts is through the famous parable of the 3 stone-cutters, popularized by Peter Drucker in the business world.

A traveler encounters 3 men cutting stones. He asks them what they’re doing. The first says, “I’m making a living,” The second says, “I’m doing the best job of stone-cutting in the country.” The third says, “I’m building a cathedral.”

Those three answers correspond to labor, making, and action, and Arendt had a great deal more to say about them than Peter Drucker did (they also correspond to the three levels of the Gervais Principle hierarchy, a connection which may interest some of you).

Labor

In the Arendtian account of history, the domestic zone is where you are entirely bound by the burden of life itself. You are what she calls animal laborans, a laboring beast. It almost doesn’t matter whether the burden is due to being in a pre-civilized state of nature where life just takes time and absorbs all your energies, or whether you’re laboring as a slave within a civilized state so others may enjoy leisure.

Whatever the cause, in the laboring zone, you are in a human condition of pure bondage, driven by natural cycles. Fully constrained, consumed, and defined by your labors, and your unalterable connections to other humans. In the domestic zone, even the master of the Greek house, well stocked with women, children, and slaves, is fully constrained. He is only free outside the laboring zone.

It is not necessarily an unpleasant state (like the corresponding state of loserdom in the Gervais Principle). Laboring does not necessarily imply a condition of oppression, nor does it necessarily generate agency (the conceptual and historical failures of both conservatism and socialism tend to follow from those two assumptions of necessity). Laboring is at once futile in a Sisyphean sense (it is never done), but necessary (you have to do it).

The condition does not offer happiness, but it does offer what Arendt characterizes as bliss: the temporary exhilaration of respite from pain and labor, and the joys of communal bonding in an unalterably shared condition. The essence of Arendtian bliss is: we’re all in this together; let’s go for happy hour after work.

Labor has no beginning, and no end. I think of it as natural praxis: a mode of situated action that is defined by natural constraints. One clear sign that you’re in a laboring mode is that money only has transactional value. You earn it, you spend it. It’s fuel for the parts of your life process you cannot sustain by yourself. More generally, laboring is a sort of stateless, memoryless condition.

Labor is also marked by a certain political invisibility and muteness. Not merely because it is hidden from sight (toilets being the prime example), but because it does not interrupt the cycles of nature, and can therefore blend into the background. This means labor is a mode of behavior that does not disclose the unique identity of humans. It is the essence of shared humanity.

You do not appear in public through labor, let alone make history. Laboring humans are fungible as individuals, and only consequential actors with a political voice en masse (whether organized in egalitarian ways as a working class or non-egalitarian ways as a patriarchy, or ethno-nationalist clientelistic identity group).

Making 

One level up, you get a human condition marked by a higher level of agency, derived from interrupting and pwning natural cycles to create a durable world, and a somewhat enduring respite from some aspects of the laboring life within it. In this zone, which you can loosely associate with the market economy, you are what Arendt calls homo faber, maker-man.

Arendt’s insight here was realizing that what we seek to create when we create something, is durability (though it might make things disposable elsewhere). Making is a way to trade laboring within the flows of nature for artificial stocks of some sort that allow us to step outside of those flows.

This results in a durable, artificial world of accumulating things that wear out slowly with use rather than getting consumed rapidly as fuel. A world that offers enduring relief from laboring, and creates the conditions of surplus where freedom can emerge.

Makerdom veers into cluelessness when it deludes itself that durability is timelessness; an out-of-time state of eternity.

It is a particularly useful distinction for technologists, who have historically been suspicious of the natural/artificial distinction (it’s all the laws of physics, we like to tell ourselves). The idea that artificiality is durability created by interrupting and slowing nature down is a powerful one. Among other things, it explains why capitalism exists at all, how it can foster a false consciousness (the eternalism the clueless are prone to in maker contexts), and why it creates so much premium mediocrity (which in Arendtese would translate to the world being less durable than it pretends to be).

Making carries some agency, but not full-human agency. You can aspire at best to sovereignty, not freedom. It is the difference between money as a fuck-you and money as agency exercised among other free humans. Its characteristic emotion (and this is my inference, not Arendt’s) is transient satisfaction, a sort of cumulative, addictive big brother to bliss that gets harder and harder to achieve each time. 

Long-term, however, the infinite regress caused by the means-ends reasoning characteristic of making leads to nihilism (why this happens is too involved to get into, but the basic argument has to do with man, in a solitary/individual sense, becoming the measure of everything, which does not end well; the second stonecutter in the parable assuming that skilled stonecutting is self-evidently a worthwhile thing hints at the contours of the argument; the flip side of the second stonecutter’s pure producerist ethos is the nihilistic ethos of the ultimate consumer, which I discussed in The Gollum Effect).

Making in Arendt’s account is pure poiesis, an imposition of a generative inner order onto the world through instrumental means-ends reasoning, rather than a situation of behavior within the world. It has a beginning: you must choose to interrupt nature and impose some sort of durability on some aspect of reality. It has an end: projects get completed, and products always wear out, and nature reasserts control in the end.

In the world of making, money acquires value beyond the transactional: it becomes a store of value, modeling the appreciations and depreciations that come with enforcing a boundary of artificiality and seeking durability. It becomes a unit of account, weaving a seemingly universal calculus of utility through the human condition, becoming a null measure of both man and everything he makes.

The essence of Arendtian making is what you might call the curse of wealth: making fuck-you money and finding it to be an unsatisfying condition that leaves you alone facing a void within you, without the psyche to deal with it.

The conceptual failures of libertarianism tend to follow from mistaking sovereignty for freedom, individual utility for value, and individual subjectivity as the ultimate measure of everything.

Making is not quite as invisible as laboring, but not as visible as action. To appear in the marketplace, the agora, with durable goods to trade, is to be recognized as sort of half-human. You have  restricted sort of voice, characterized by voting with your dollars and talking like a brand or a customer.

You don’t appear in history, but you do provide the stage for it to play out. If you are clueless, you assume the stage is the world, and there forever; that being a good stonecutter can be an end in itself.

Your mode of political agency does not make you entirely a faceless part of a collective, but you don’t act as a unique individual either. The modern idea of a special-interest group roughly captures the kind of political agency associated with making.

Action

At the top of the pyramid, we have what Arendt considered full-featured humans, enjoying the highest level of agency possible: making history. The locus of action is the public. 

If labor is about blending into the processes of nature, and making about interrupting and slowing it to create a durable world, action is about free behaviors that make history.

Arendt uses the terms poiesis and praxis in somewhat ambiguous ways, so I use the term artificial praxis for the process quality of action. It incorporates the artificial because it plays out in the durable world built by makers (and therefore implicitly incorporates maker-poiesis), but it derives its situatedness (which is what marks it as a kind of praxis) neither from the cycles of nature, nor from the affordances of a durable world, but from the presence of other free minds. To act is to act on other free minds (which have equal agency and can therefore respond unpredictably). The calculus of action is the calculus of processing the unpredictability of free humans.

Transgressions, promises, and forgiveness constitute the stuff of action.

Money, in the context of action, is primarily an instrument of power. Its textbook “uses” — as means of exchange, store of value, and unit of account — have no direct salience to action. In a sense, making is defined by money, and laboring is confined by it, but action is outside of it.

As Francis Underwood laments in House of Cards, “Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power. In this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.”

The metaphor is a bad one in Arendt’s terms though. Both old stone building and McMansions, by virtue of being comparable in terms of the durability of stuff, belong within the calculus of money. To exercise power in Arendt terms is to see the difference between buildings and people.

To act is to begin something without the possibility of meaningful reversal. Do-overs and reworkings are for laboring and making.

But you cannot predict or control what happens after you act. Means-ends reasoning fails as a cognitive mode because other free humans are in the loop. You cannot science the shit out of action the way makers can, or game theorize the freedom of others out of the equation as you can with incentives in markets peopled by curiously behaviorist econs chasing utils. You are also not bound to others in unalterable ways the way labor is.

The reward for accepting unpredictability is meaning. Unlike the abyss faced by makers, the plurality of other humans who are the object of action don’t just stare back. Sometimes they accept your invitation to play on; they join you in continuing the game. To act, in the Arendt sense, is to issue a call to play an infinite game in the James Carse sense (Carsean finite games, obviously, map to maker-theaters).

The reward for dealing with others through promises and forgiveness, rather than fuck-yous, is freedom, a richer mode of being than sovereignty.

Where laboring does not seek immortality beyond reincorporation into broader natural cycles (ashes to ashes, dust to dust), and making accepts durability (in the case of the human body, longevity) as a substitute, action has the potential for immortality because it has a shot at triggering an infinite game.

Because action begins new processes and relies on the actions of other free humans for unpredictable perpetuation, it can potentially trigger generative patterns of events whose course is not tied to the durability of the world. Instead it is tied to the free choices other free humans make about what is worth perpetuating in some form.

Action makes history not because it seeks to, but because it is the inevitable consequence of an exercise of freedom. Action fully discloses the actor because unique identities are integral to how it unfolds.

Combining Arendt and Carse, you could say that history is merely the set of all infinite game moves so far (a slight generalization of the last definition of history I offered: as everything that has been forgiven so far).

Here’s a table summarizing some of the essential features of the three modes of being and doing.

History as Householdization

Arendt’s reading of history is as a progressive householdization — “labor eating the world” — of the human condition, and shrinking scope for action. A gradual fall from the ideal of fully free human existence represented by (what else?) the Greek polis.

At the heart of householdization is labor expanding to cover the domains of work and action. In the laboring condition, you don’t make history; you merely fuel it. Your human nature is part of the fuel.

Arendt’s main historicist suggestions (that she died too early to see falsified) is that from Greek antiquity to Western modernity, the domestic zone has steadily expanded, first due to Christianity, then Marxism, to reduce almost all of the human condition to a sort of ahistorical, domestic state. The essential character of life processes such as feeding and reproducing has now extended to all of society. Life may be materially more comfortable, but it’s all just one giant, atemporal, cyclic process; Gaia with a more durable, comfortably padded, civilizational prosthetic. A natural and artificial living machine whose only purpose is to chug along, sustaining itself, but not creating any history. Merely marking time.

This gloomy conclusion reminded me of the Chinese Compressibility Parable. Householdization is the reduction of the the human condition to the summary, they were born, they lived, and they died. It is a different sort of end-of-history story: They lived in pain-and-bliss ever after.

It is a compelling theory of history, particularly when you consider the evolution of making in the industrial age. In evolving (or rather, devolving in Arendt’s view) from artisan craft to machine production, making has retreated, degree by nihilist, instrumental degree, to the point where the only things that can be said to be made, in the sense of constituting the stocks of a durable world, are art, software, and markets. The only thing that can be accumulated is money in its various guises. Everything else is merely a flow in some sort of machine or the other, including all parts of the machine itself. Grist to the mill, with output serving as grist for other mills. An entity representing nothing more or less than life’s longing for itself.

The industrial age, arguably, was a long period of converting flows to stocks. At least one side of software eating the world too, is about taking that fluidizing to the logic extreme, where everything that is not a pure information flow is a laboring flow within TransGaia.

There is cultural evidence as well. If the public has historically been a masculine zone, and the private a feminine one, arguably the apparent feminization of men, and infantalization of women, through the workings of industrial modernity, is an aspect of householdization.

Public spaces too, have arguably become domesticated into household spaces in literal, sensory ways. Suits and ties gave way to casual Fridays, then every day became casual Friday, and working in pajamas became a thing. Sweatpants and hoodies left the private world and ventured out into malls and streets. Cafes lost their character as public spaces, and turned into extensions of living rooms.

At an institutional level, you could argue (and Arendt did) that modern governance has more in common with the administration of nation-scale households than the management of public life. Exhibit A in the developed world is healthcare costs eating the economy.

Arendt saw a compelling correspondence between the essentially nihilistic workings of means-and-reasoning and the accelerating industrial machine creating an ephemeral, disposable world. The lack of ultimate meaning for home faber mapped to the meaninglessness of the increasingly efficient and smooth running of the machine. In 1970, the year she died, a few years before peak centralization, you could be forgiven for assuming an artificial-natural Gaia household was just around the corner. The arc of history didn’t take a sharp tun the other way until 1974.

Her account of the householdization of politics is more subtle. In her notional Greek polis, the free citizen experienced freedom by virtue of appearing and speaking among other free citizens. The polis was a set of other-free-minds rather than a physical place. But in the notional Christian monarchy that replaced it, the monarch served more as a head of a household. There was no plurality of other free humans among whom to be free, so the European Christian monarch experienced sovereignty at best: the degenerate kind of freedom that one can experience in isolation from other free humans. The medieval Christian monarchs of Europe, by Arendt’s account, were the first humans to enjoy a state comparable to having fuck-you money today.

The only logical locus for a true public, in this condition, is within a community of monarchs. But such a community never came together in Europe after Greece. At best you had your occasional peace talks punctuating periods of war, or some sort of theological Church council. You had no durable polis where freedom could be continually performed and history made.

Arendt’s householdization theory was, I think, a product of its times. She died at the height of the Cold War, too early to see the destabilizing Schumpeterian logic of neoliberalism throw the householdized world into utter chaos, and shred corporatist utopian dreams.

In the brave new world that actually emerged, the industrial machine, far from creating a durable and stable condition on a slower-paced siding outside of nature, accelerated creative destruction far beyond natural tempos. The logic of industrial fluidization — stocks being converted into flows — turned into the logic of automation of labor, bringing productivity beyond what humans could generate, but also undermining the logic of human laboring itself. Instead of a stable (utopian or dystopian) post-capitalist world governed by a post-national world government, we ended up with a Darwinian world of disrupt-or-be-disrupted (the beginning of history may have been more Rousseau, but the end certainly appears to be more Hobbes).

To her credit, she dimly saw it coming. Her commentary on early automation and computing, and the significance of machines is prescient. But ultimately she witnessed too little to make sense of what was to come.

Nearly half a century into the neoliberal endgame, Arendt’s account of the human condition feels deeply incomplete. Whatever the world is, it is not a planet-scale Social Democrat household chugging along with all of us inhabiting it in no-agency material pain-and-bliss. Patches of Europe are trying to sustain that fiction a while longer, but I give those bubbles another decade or two at most.

Frontierization

Householdization as a historical process fails to accurately account for the modern human condition because it is only half the story. The other half that Arendt did not live to see mature is what you might call frontierization: the opening up of the human condition to increasing amounts of novelty and surprisal from beyond the boundaries of its current experience of reality.

Arendt saw this too, but almost entirely failed to see its significance. She argued that three events — the discovery of America, Galileo’s use of a telescope, and Martin Luther’s theological rebellion — drove the course of history from the idealized Greek polis to modern householdized states. But she failed to develop a theory of the external forcing function of history from the three (somewhat arbitrary and symbolic) events she chose to recognize as significant. Her account of these events is in terms of “Archimedian points” (the reference is to Archimedes claim that given a point to stand, he could move the world with his lever).

She recognized the second most important feature of the frontier, that it provides an outside locus from which to move the world, but she failed to recognize the most important feature: that its very existence and accessibility on the margins of the world makes the world an open rather than a closed system. This makes all the difference in the world. Among other things, it makes terminal householdization of the human condition a highly implausible outcome.

The connection to her theory of agency and freedom is, I think, quite straightforward. To be free (among a plurality of other free humans) is, in a sense, to create and transmit surprisal. To bring events from beyond the frontier into the realm of human affairs is to cause surprise. To react freely and unpredictably to surprise is to amplify and transmit it until it is fully accommodated. To participate in such a cascading collective processing of surprise is to make history. To make history in this way is to cause unintended consequences that create a need for promising and forgiving.

Freedom without a constant flow of novelty across a partially open frontier boundary results not in rich unpredictability but empty arbitrariness. What makes action a higher order of agency than making is its openness to, and continual accommodation of, surprise.

Novelty is what allows action to transcend the question which drives pure making into nihilism: if the human is the measure of the world, what is the measure of the human?

The answer is: the measure of a human (singular) is how humans (plural) absorb surprise from beyond the boundaries of the world, from the frontier. The performance of freedom is the accommodation of surprise, and the accommodation of surprise is the making of history.

Basically, the measure of free humans, individually and collectively, is their choosing to boldly go where no one has gone before.

The measure of makers is money, which only has value to the extent that some humans are free rather than merely sovereign.

The measure of laborers is continued survival.

If you lower and broaden the threshold for what you consider “significant” surprisal (there really is no good justification for Arendt’s recognition of Columbus, Martin Luther, and Galileo as ‘special’ surprise bearers of history), it becomes clear that the world became an increasingly surprising place after the European Middle Ages. The rate of surprisal being injected (or naturally irrupting) into human affairs accelerated steadily until, in the post World War 2 world order, it became institutionalized into what was almost another kind of laboring process: innovation and Schumpeterian creative-destruction.

I say almost because by definition, innovation is disruptive. It breaks processes within which humans labor, and the durable worlds and machines within which those processes operate. It is a true meta-process, representing a category that cannot (by definition) be domesticated into a householdized state. To make tea in a kettle is to labor. To observe the rattling of the kettle and invent a steam engine is to break the world.

We can go further. The frontier, as a locus of creative destruction and exogeneous input into human affairs, exists in two places.

One is the obvious: the frontier beyond the public. Whatever counts as the Wild West at any given time. This is the frontier of discovery. Where you go to measure yourself against the biggest surprises nature can throw at you, and from where you return to process that surprisal with your fellow humans. Two of Arendt’s three events came from this kind of frontier.

The other is less obvious: the frontier of intimacy. Arendt dimly recognized that the pleasures of the intimacy were a problem for her account of the private. As the word privations suggests, Arendt saw the intimate zone as primarily a zone of unavoidable pain. We deal with disease and death in private. We deal with aches and pains in private. We deal with depression and anxiety in private. We clean and scrub in private. Arendt’s third surprising event in history, the work of Martin Luther, came from this frontier.

Food, sex, dancing, music, and TV may offer a few positive experiences mixed in, but the general tenor of the private world, to Arendt, was harsh and inescapable privation. Pleasure is ephemeral, pain the constant.

But as she recognized in a limited way, one of the effects of industrial modernity has been to gradually reduce the privations of privacy, and increase its pleasures. The intimate zone today is primarily defined in terms of a lifetime of deepening relationships, consensually entered into with a few chosen others. Not inherited relationships that you cannot exit, bound, circumscribed and depth-limited by the strictures of tradition.

The intimate zone is a zone where people consensually choose to grow together in ways that resemble the freedom of the polis. 

The two frontiers — of discovery and intimacy — form, in a sense, the informational boundary of the human condition. Across both, surprises can flow, keeping global householdization at bay, durability a distant dream, and things interesting.

The post Cold War human condition, fifty years into neoliberalism, globalization, automation, and software eating the world, is best understood today as a sort of arms race between householdization operating inside-out to close off the human condition from its cosmic situation, and frontierization operating outside-in to open it up to newer experiences.

It is a delicate balance. One one side is the ever-present threat of a global household and techno-Gaia, a new Electric Leviathan. On the other is a pluralist condition exploring many realities, in an ever-expanding opera of convergence and divergence among free humans.

I previously did a detailed slide-deck summary of The Human Condition, with many excerpts relevant to the gloss I’ve provided here. I recommend it as both a sampling of the book and a backgrounder for this post.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. Avinash Vamshi Hanumanthu says:

    Where does blogging fit into? Labor, Making, Action? I suppose ‘Making’.

  2. Thanks Venkat. This is good, and I like it.

    Partway through, I started having this irritation about how the ‘world’ as you say it, is entirely mediated through interactions with other humans. Survival, money, history, all as related to how they are had relative to the human population. So anthropocentric.

    I felt a little better with the introduction of the Intimate Frontier, but still all this constant interacting with my fellow species-mates makes me tired. How about some meaningful interaction with the non-human world?

    Quite often when I am in the position of the stonecutter, absorbed in my work, and someone asks me what I am doing, my first reaction is ‘You’re bothering me’.

    This is not to denigrate your model, it gives a useful framework, but instead I am suggesting that there are other places too, if only the cracks and corners that get left from the squaring of the circle.

    • I am using “world” specifically as Arendt uses it in the book: to refer to specifically the human world contained in a built environment of artificial durability.

      You are right, I felt that irritation throughout reading the book, but I think it is a legit way to use the word “world” since it is generally used to indicate the sphere of human affairs. We seem to use words like “nature”, “cosmos”, “earth” to indicate a broader scope.

    • Abbott Edwin says:

      Venkat: great essay.

      Eric, I felt the same way. I read this essay immediately after watching a documentary about David Lynch called ‘The Art Life.’ I’ve been a fan of his for years and the documentary captured him as the archetypal maker. He interacts with the world and family but the moments he describes as essential for him are those of capturing ideas and making. Even though he collaborates extensively, he seems to see those ideas as things – they are the object. He lives in a world that he objectifies and molds. That other can be a piece of wood, or peculiar human facet that he wants to isolate and explore. We can imagine him being as much an actor as a maker. He is in some sense, yet he is not. His work reveals rather than editorializes. Has the mirror he held changed history? It’s possible but it seems rooted in a very personal experience of engagement with the world ‘as a thing’ rather than with people.

      The Arendt Hierarchy is anthropocentric and I appreciate it as a frame, but there are many frames and each come with a set of implicit values. As I think back about the documentary in light of the essay, I wonder whether Lynch, in his orientation, is stunted or whether he’s merely working in a different and equally valuable frame.

  3. Aptenodytes says:

    Maybe householdization and frontierization are the derivatives, so to speak of the overall change from a finite to an infinite game. A name for the “second derivative” would tie in nicely with the need for a new Big History™ era of ever-accelerating interaction. Acceleration as in accelerationism doesn’t exactly cut it because the rate of _change_ is less an accurate descriptor than an exponential increase in novelty. Perhaps the Novel Era?

  4. I like the idea of labour marking time, art/products slowing time and actions being more oblivious to time. The newest thing for me was “Fronteirization”, being on the margins (more open) and how an interesting personality measure may be how we absorb surprises. I’m not quite sure about the difference between surprise and “suprisal” though. Is there a difference or are they synonyms?

  5. Robotpliers says:

    Householdization and frontierization seem to support each other. The former provides the necessary launching pad for greater exploration of the latter, while the latter keeps improving and injecting new meaning into the former.

    In other words, I think a truly successful future society will couple together a flow between the two frontiers, using the strengths of each to mediate the weaknesses of the other. If we continue in an arms race between the two, as you describe, we’ll likely end up failing.

  6. Psychedelic experiences offer a powerful way to approach the both frontiers of discovery and intimacy. This is not a given of all psychedelic use , but it is a potential of it, and it’s ability to create these kind of frontier experiences is where much of its psychological heft comes from.

    Traditional and intentional use of classical psychedelics (LSD, mushrooms, mescalin, ayahuasca, ibogaine) especially can offer this. Medium to strong doses create inputs that create a frontier of discovery even in familiar places. It can absolutely be place where the experience is throwing novel and challenging perceptions your way. It can lead to new perspectives about the world, your past, or even to problem solving. The personal, emotional, and often times introspective nature of the experience also creates an intimate frontier. Decades of anecdotal support and now more recently in controlled medical studies demonstrate the profound ways it can create emotional or spiritual connection to the world around you and even ameliorate depression or PTSD.

    Even the last couple of paragraphs of your essay sound like a trip report, suggesting that new experiences can connect the human condition to the cosmic experience by “exploring many realities, in an ever-expanding opera of convergence and divergence.” Greater and more sophisticated psychedelic culture is surely a tool to create more liberated minds and, in turn, begin to help us solve the many problems facing the human condition.

  7. This framework, while definitely widely applicable, pre-supposes that what we should be optimizing for is output and/or “progress”.

    Said another way, once you’ve “made history”, what happens?

    I’d argue that the sweetness in life is still the warmth of dinner with friends, diving into an ocean wave, your kid making a surprising connection or the colors of a leaf-littered park in autumn. These moments seem to exist outside, and in parallel, to the labor/making /action framework, but they represent an important (and arguably, more durable, accessible, and nourishing) mode of being: paying attention to the beauty and joy that is life happening now.

    The greatest, historical inventors may have been miserable.

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