My fear doesn’t give you enough credit.
I write about authenticity, but I’ve been censoring myself for fear of losing you. I haven’t lied, per se, but I haven’t been forthright either. Looking back, I think this may have started when I took the job…
For a decade and a half, I owned a small business. I was never, in my mind, a success. But somehow I managed to raise three kids and avoid serious debt through those 17 years and my ex-wife rarely had to work a job. (She homeschooled all three kids and helped me with the business.) While I’ve owned some form of business since childhood, this was the longest stretch where my business was my only income, rather than a side-gig. I got used to the idea that I’d never have a boss again.
Some interesting changes occurred throughout these 15 years. My kids grew up. My ex-wife’s drinking turned from a reclamation of youthful experiences into a serious problem. My entire sphere of associations changed and my worldview, my deepest held beliefs turned upside down.
Stated matter of factly, these changes sound like a sudden tectonic shift. But as with many big changes, it was more like many small tremors accented by a few large earthquakes. We stopped going to church (that in itself a longer gradual story that I’ll spare you), we moved several times (both our home and our business locations), two years into the fitness business I discovered CrossFit and performed a complete overhaul of my business model. I read Atlas Shrugged.
In the early days of CrossFit it wasn’t much more than a blog that prescribed the workout of the day (WOD) and a small handful of Affiliated gyms in California and Washington. In 2007 I became the 4th Affiliate in Oregon. Back then the challenge was trying to explain what CrossFit was to potential clients. Nowadays, CrossFit gyms (boxes) are more like Starbucks. If the line is too long in the one you’re standing in, just walk across the street to the next one.
The CrossFit community was tight back then. The highest level athletes and coaches were just as available to chat online as the members of your own gym. So we all spent a lot of time on the CrossFit website. Their blog at the time (perhaps still) used to prescribe a workout each day for three days in a row, followed by a “discussion” on every fourth day. The discussions were often politically charged and at the time I thought they got a little heated. Nothing compared to the average exchange on Facebook these days.I kept seeing references to Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged and other Libertarian thinkers. It piqued my curiosity.
I felt a little insecure about my education at the time. 15 years prior I had dropped out of high school, scooped up my GED, and put in less than a year in college before I received a huge lesson in economics. I learned that I couldn’t support myself and pay tuition. And that was that. Jobs. Marriage. Kids. Moves. Gratefully, I’ve always been a curious person. With the social emphasis on “higher-education” that we’re exposed to, I think self directed curiosity is severely underrated. So, instead of buying-in to my insecurities, I bought books.
As I read through Atlas Shrugged, my opinions shifted back and forth. There were tremors of change. I just didn’t recognize them as such because they looked like boredom followed by interest. Affirmation followed by defensiveness. Continuing to read (it’s a long book), the ground kept moving under my feet. I felt vindicated when I’d agree with the text, offended when it challenged my beliefs. The disorientation drove me to look deeper. I watched interviews with Rand, I discovered Mises, Rothbard, Spooner. Contemporaries on YouTube; Ron Paul, Stefan Molyneux, Jeffrey Tucker. (For the record- I think Molyneux has gone insane and I would love to reject any association with him, but at the time he was thinking differently and introduced me to the application of logic, reason, and evidence applied to current events.)
Reading Aristotle brought up in me conflicting joy and anger. Joy at the reading and understanding, anger at a school system that refused to feed my curiosity and intentionally gives the impression that philosophy is only approachable by scholars. Philosophy is reserved for philosophers and Phd’s and you, my dear drop-out, are neither.
Formal schooling feeds us a lot these days, but we’re starving from not knowing how to think.
So now we’re getting to it. I’m beginning to sound smug. Arrogance must be kept in check when I’ve spent fifteen years in earnest, attempting to learn how to think better and look around at the society I live in. One in which people are bombarded with what they should think, but are given scant exposure as to how to think better.
Skepticism, logical consistency, objectivity. These are skills much like handwriting. We’ve been practicing for years, so we assume we have the skills. But take a look at your handwriting. Have you really been practicing long to produce that slop? (A few of you are exempt from that criticism, but I’m sure with little effort you can think of a skill that you’ve used for decades, but scarcely improved upon your initial attainment of it.) Effective practice requires intention. Without the intent to reduce flaws, you’re merely practicing the flaws. You’re further developing the “skills” that are flawed.
This catastrophic earthquake shook the very foundations of my core beliefs. I gave up my religion. I let go of my political ideologies. (In my current opinion, they are often the same. Most atheists are politically progressive and appear to attribute god-like powers to a saviour called the state.) If I can’t rationally defend my position, I know I need to dive deeper to find answers. It’s the first, not the last signal of my ignorance.
This comes off as arrogance to those who don’t care for logic, but I’m humbled by consistency. That which I cannot rationally explain falls squarely into the category of, “I don’t know”. I’m never quite satisfied with remaining ignorant, so I’m constantly seeking, not with the assumption that I’ll ever find an endpoint, but with the full and joyful expectation that there will always be much that I don’t know (joyful in that I can count on the fact that I’ll be able to keep learning and growing).
But I can only celebrate ignorance as it represents potential for learning. My frustration comes by the gnawing impression that I live in a society of people who are joyfully content with remaining ignorant. It seems these days that “tolerance” means “I appreciate you as long as you agree with me”. “Debate” has become a contest of volume, the loudest wins. “Discussion” is confused with concussion as we try to beat our opponents over the head with our ideas.
False dichotomies have become the gold standard of character: you’re either with us, or against us. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Why is it so difficult to see that the enemy of your enemy can still be your enemy?
I spent about a decade attempting to bring the light of liberty to people who didn’t want to hear it. But I owned my own business. I answered to no one but my own clients, and if they were so offended by reason, I didn’t need them around anyway. I co-hosted an interview show where we would assess recent events under the light of logic. We’d interview people who were active in the pursuit of liberty. We were not shy about our criticisms of evil men and their nefarious institutions. If the death toll is real- it’s easy for me to call a spade a spade.
Some of the friends I met as a result of that show I now consider my chosen family. Most are still out there, trying to bring about change to save lives.
But I took a step back. I went to work for someone else as a temporary stop-gap. I decided to become a writer, but I was still being paid as a coach. My employer’s clients were his, and I felt a responsibility to not alienate anyone through the proselytizing of my ideas. At least, that’s the excuse I used to censor myself.
The reality is that I was tired. Tired of saying things I found to be obviously ethical only to meet resistance by almost everyone outside the echo-chamber of my inner circle. And I’m fearful. I fear losing too many people that have become a part of my community. If they find out what my opinions really are, they might reject me (I’m human. That hurts.). But on a more rational level, that rejection might also result in a loss of audience. Then what? Will it ever matter what an author has to say if nobody cares to read it?
This is where I owe you an apology.
I haven’t given you enough credit. It’s not fair for me to assume that you’ll reject all I have to offer if you disagree with me. This is historically accurate, but past performance is no guarantee of future results. History, in fact, does not repeat itself, even though it often rhymes. Still, that’s no excuse. For a decade or so, I promoted my ideas online while I ran a somewhat viable gym. I held no secret that I was an atheist and an anarchist. I still had clients and friends with whom I found common ground on progressive, conservative, spiritual, and non-affiliated ideas.
I write, primarily, on personal development these days. A massively important skill I try to teach and practice is vulnerability. That includes, in my opinion, honesty combined with forthrightness. It’s a type of generosity. Being vulnerable with others is an act of giving. You’re giving respect and trust to the other person, and in exchange you’re getting to live a more authentic life.
From now on, I’m reclaiming my honesty. I’m giving to you all of me. I’m done holding back. I’ll no longer censor, because I believe that censorship is destructive for everyone. It can cripple the one being censored, and it keeps blinders on the ones who would otherwise see what has been hidden from them.
I’ll attempt to construct my arguments as bridges and not walls, as I hope to connect to you rather than shut you out. If you leave, I’m sorry to see you go. But, I feel I owe you the benefit of the doubt.