Category: Life

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Announcement: Why You’ll Be Hearing Less from Me

Today I’m delighted to announce my semi-retirement from writing. It’s been more than 30 years I’ve been doing this professionally, 20 years since my first book. Now it’s time to do something else. For the people who care about my work, don’t worry. Writing will continue. These essay Thoughts will continue (probably) to be published...

On Chess, Mind Control, and Smashing Paradigms

As in any ideological system, young chess players are inculcated with seemingly inviolable commandments:  Thou Shalt Arrange Your Pieces to Control the Center, Thou Shall Not Move the Same Piece Twice Until All Other Pieces Are Developed. In what you might call the romantic era of chess, before the development of artificial intelligence, these commandments...

I Am Hitler’s Driver

Thanks to their proximity to important people everyone knows, unimportant people whose names we don’t remember, “regular” folks like me and you, often have a fleeting opportunity to change the course of World History. Henry the VIII’s chef; Napoleon’s personal physician; Hitler’s driver. With a little help and a lot of courage, each of them...

It’s All Good

Ask anyone under the age of 35: it’s all good. You accidentally bump your shopping cart into someone standing in line at the supermarket: Oops! No worries. It’s all good. You show up a few minutes late for a scheduled appointment: No problem, it’s all good. You forget someone’s name for the third time: Whatever....

On the Glide Path to Nirvana

At a somewhat advanced age for such youthful pursuits, you’re playing your first-ever organized chess tournament. You’ve entered the Los Angeles Open, along with about 400 other brilliant nerds, many of them teenagers and younger. In fact, every generation is well-represented here. There are players as young as 5 and as old as 90. Indeed,...

One Unofficial Version of Events, Inspired by Terence McKenna

Moko the Hunter possessed all the attributes an early proto-human hominid needed for success. He was strong, strong enough to choke a wild boar with his bare hands. He was stealthy, able to blend into foliage and tree canopies like a biped chameleon. And he could wait patiently for hours, standing still as a birch...

The Real Real Deal

If one could add the entirety of what we can see and what we can’t — the supplicant on a rant, matter dark, unknowable, persistent bitterness neat and stowable – what we would be forced to examine are children wrenched by famine, a panoply of catastrophes, like man-made war, man-made disease. We might also deign to look...

“Nothing But Gifts,” by Edwin Dobb

Published in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine, the essay “Nothing But Gifts,” by Edwin Dobb, is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing we’ve lately had the pleasure of reading. Discursive and tangential in form, the essay nonetheless always returns to the author’s central inquiry: What does it mean to choose to love? The adoptive...

Three Versions of Happiness

1) Refrain from seeking happiness. Be happiness. 2) Become the cause of happiness in others. 3) All right. That’s marvelous in theory. But how do you go on when every morning brings news of the intolerable, the intolerable that we all tolerate? How do you consciously continue the divine comedy, momentarily detouring Dante’s hoary inferno...

Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s “Stonelight”

“Stonelight,” the debut collection from Appalachian poet Sara McCarrt-Jackson, is as plain and unfussy as West Virginia dirt. Seldom have poems of such beauty and human sentiment proclaimed themselves so simply and directly. Shale, coal, rocks, stones — the minerals McCarrt-Jackson’s miners seek have a talismanic power, which the poet translates into the music of...