Greetings fellow wranglers of time,
It’s good to see you again. Thank you for all the kind responses after my last dispatch. My vision is slowly returning, but the jury’s still out on how the dust will settle around the health gamble.
To test my eyes each evening, I’ve been watching Venus and Jupiter flirt outside of my kitchen window these past few weeks. It plays out like a high-school drama: the sun moves across the sky, a steady overseer ushering all of the celestial characters from east to west. Once it drops below the horizon, Venus and Jupiter hang back in lingering twilight - teenagers flirting with each other outside of the bright gaze of their chaperone. Just as their bodies edge tantalizingly close, out of nowhere the moon shows up like the gym teacher at a high-school dance - chasing them apart with its knowing gaze. Scattered and shook, the little ones won’t sidle up next to each other now until 2032 - when they’ll be more mature adults and ready for an intimate relationship, obviously.
…I might be going stir crazy.
Life this winter was whittled down to essentials: healing, work, and home. With limited energy, I’ve tried my best to not let the basics fall through the cracks and, despite bumping into my limits almost daily, I did alright. Worn thin at the end of each day though, I continue to do my best to be soft with myself and remember: whatever happened today, tomorrow I get to try again. It’s true on both the good and not-so-good days.
Plodding forward, this season is slipping away; darkness yields to light and snowdrifts ebb in a window of time we Winnipeggers call, “false spring.” Alongside the return of the sun, I can feel my strength returning bit by precious bit. They say resilience can only be fostered in the face of struggles; I hope to feel something akin to that with hindsight, but I’m not quite there yet. Still, the seasons swirling around me mirror the process going on within - nonlinear, but steadily moving onwards.
Exactly one year ago today, I rebooted this newsletter after much trepidation. At the time, the voice in my head created all sorts of excuses, including: amidst the cacophony of voices vying for attention online, why add to the noise?
(Yes, my inner voice uses words like cacophony.)
Now, I’ve always had tech inclinations - seeded from young years spent reverse-engineering broken hand-me-down Palm Pilots and Pentium 2s back in the 90s, which eventually sprouted into a Major in Computer Science in the 00s. But since stepping out of the shelter of play and education, I’ve cultivated a careful skepticism - one I’m grateful was seeded by the quirky professors in the Ethics department.
We can’t know how innovations will play out once they’re introduced to the wider world, but we can at least ask the questions: - Besides being novel / interesting / money-making, how does the introduction of this thing add to or take away from society? - What second order impacts could happen from this functionality being used in a less-than-ideal way?
In the tech world, these questions tend to be an afterthought. This is unheard of in other fields of invention (think: biology, chemistry, and physics). My thesis is that we should consider the responsibility of self-driving cars and social media as much as we do with atomic energy and CRISPR.
This is a roundabout way to say: the optimism I once had about the internet transforming public discourse into a new era of society has become a worry about how the internet is transforming public discourse into a new era of society. Hot-takes and trolling stifle honest exchange of ideas, and without respectful conversation these spaces devolve in spectacular ways akin to a dumpster fire. Mired in this, what are our options? Some rise up to the fight, others sign off entirely, and an idealistic few stay to try to shift the momentum towards some unrealized potential. To myself, I ask: which of these kinds of people do I want to be?
Fighting furthers divides. Running for the hills leaves others behind. The only way to untangle the tangle we’re in, is to live within it and the frustrations that come along with it. I roll up my sleeves, flex my fingers, and get to work.
With this, I made a mental commitment to give the newsletter a chance to exist as a small piece of the internet’s possibility. But another hesitancy quickly surfaced: once I publicly commit to this, I will need to follow through…do I have the time for this?
When life is full, it’s hard to imagine there’s space for something new. And yet, doesn’t life always feel full? It’s a duality that can be paralyzing - one that expends energy on thinking about doing, rather than doing.
For myself, I’ve found the key to hacking this paradox is to create structure around the work. Making commitments has a magical way of creating space even where there isn’t any; ambitious deadlines serving as a forcing function to get out of one’s head and into the work itself. Perhaps you’ll eventually meet the lofty bar you set - or not - but either way you’ll have given it a real shot and can then move on appropriately. One thing is for sure: if you don’t ever start, the outcome will be nil.
Casting rumination to the wayside (at least temporarily until it boomeranged back to hit me in the head), I embodied the saying of a certain popular sporting company and just did it. Edition 001 was released. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, I can now look back on nine (!) published editions of Intersections. Over the same time period, I posted only eight times to Instagram…I’m not sure whether that statistic should make me proud of the former or ashamed of the latter, but whatever the case it is evident where I’d rather spend my time / energy / efforts.
In fact, it is very, very clear: I also sent out 26 daily dispatches as the Afterwords Japan: Through the Torii Gate popup newsletter, alongside building the Perfectly Ordinary series on Youtube.
While deadlines create guardrails for the work to get done, ultimately it’s the process of the work itself that I’m most interested in: the inquisitive, often murky and uncomfortable, explorations of thoughts and ideas that sometimes result in more questions than answers.
But why bother? What is the purpose of stirring unknown waters and all the sediments that come along with it up?
Creativity is an odd thing. It’s a process of turning things over, a constant dance between experimenting, refining, and sharing - intertwined with the ongoing deep work of listening, living, and learning.
Entering this process without an end goal comes with intangible benefits quite rare in our modern world: it is a chance to organize seeds of thought and nurture what takes root, without worrying about economic viability or being hamstrung by what other people might think.
And if we persist navigating the stirred up waters we discover things that were otherwise unknowable.
I started writing this feeling exhausted from other aspects of life, but now I find a thousand words behind my blinking cursor. Paradoxically, the process fills me up simultaneously as it drains me. The sun has set once again, and Venus and Jupiter hang in the sky to keep me company in this strange season of minimalism in my life.
Soon, the planets dip below the horizon and my gaze shifts to something closer: the faint reflection of my silhouette in the windowpane.
Through writing these newsletters, I’m learning to trust in a new creative process. The voice in my head is slowly becoming a voice on paper.
And what do I mean by voice? This is my working definition:
Voice (pronounced vois): The imperfect translation of experience into words, poetically pointing towards ideas that don’t fit cleanly into the confines of language itself.
How many things sit unprocessed and unshared in our lives? I suspect I’m not the only one with gems to be mined from raw experience. However it takes time to dig them up - and also the discipline to slow down and work with the rough edges.
With sustained effort, I’ve been finding my voice.
As I fumble forward, I’ve realized that hitting send comes with a sense of relief. Little endings are important in that they give us permission to move on; a moment of space on the far side of the creative churn, before jumping into what’s next.
So here we are, one year after we started: all the little moments of showing up have cumulated in this this growing archive. I’m excited to see how it’ll develop in the next ten-ish years. Imagine in 2032: Jupiter and Venus together again, peace on earth, this archive, and…us - reimagined.
Getting to create, evolve, and experiment is more fascinating and gratifying when it’s done in the company of others. A newsletter holds this friendly container, a little corner cordoned off from the worldwide (and wild) web. This connection to a budding community allows me to give a part of myself freely and together we see what comes of it.
Thanks to the many who have ever hit reply on one of these, thanks to the generous several who’ve dropped a donation in the hat at the bottom of each of these emails, and thanks to the individuals who have reached out to collaborate on projects.
But most of all: thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read. I do not take your time for granted and choose my language carefully so as to not waste it on idle words. When one of these slides into your inbox, it is my sincere hope that it adds to your day.
For now, I hit send and feel a sense of relief; a chosen ending, with more to come.