Posted by & filed under Personal, Philosophy.

Happy Friday everyone!

Two other things:

1. Today I had my penultimate radiation treatment. After Monday’s, I’m done. Dropping off handwritten thank you notes to the ICU and recovery nurses at MGH felt good.

2. I’m becoming something of an amateur philosopher. What follows is unrelated to my medical status but I wanted to get it out as I sit here typing on my iphone, so here you have it:

Change is happening faster than most people seem to grasp. Things impossible a couple years ago are possible; things once hard are easy; things once easy are now automatic or unnecessary.

Consider that Harvard economists published scholarly articles on AI in 2004, citing autonomous cars as their prime example of where AI and robot capabilities would meet their absolute limit. Fast-forward less than a decade. Google has put hundreds of thousands of real-world road miles on driverless cars, which will surely hit the mainstream auto-buying marketplace in the next handful of years. This is something HARVARD UNIVERSITY PHD EXPERTS PROFESSIONALLY DEDICATED TO THE SUBJECT said was IMPOSSIBLE, less than 9 years ago. Think about it.

Ditto for using DNA as a storage mechanism to replace magnetic hard drives. The information density is incredible. (Think all of wikipedia in your fingernail.) I enjoyed a great sci-fi book called “The Dervish House” just a few months ago which put forward this seemingly crazy or distant-future idea. Now it’s being put into practice.

I won’t even bother getting into quantum computing.

My point is, we can’t keep pace with the accelerating rate of change. I suspect the human characteristic that will soon prove most important and useful will be adaptibility and openness to change. Because we can’t even *imagine* things that are going to be possible and real just months or a few years from now.

FWIW I am not at all sure this is necessarily a good thing. Good or bad is very difficult to judge (cf The Farmer’s Luck). But it is real, and it is happening now. In any case it is a huge opportunity.

Reading science fiction is quickly approaching the equivalent of reading decades-old newspapers. By the time a novel goes to print, its ideas have been implemented. I prefer to read great positive humanistic sci-fi (like the Culture novel series by Iain M Banks, e.g. “The Player of Games” — thanks  again, Gil! ). Learning to imagine a happy future may become very important in our collective ability to bring one into being.

To this end, I hope people can learn to let go of their rigid ideologies (of *any* kind), to let go of dogma, and to be accepting of whatever is to come. And to be positive and creative in efforts to use the amazing powers we have for good works and loving kindness.

I also hope and expect that this incredibly interesting phase of human existence will lead to amazing opportunities to come to a better and fuller understanding and appreciation of what it means to be alive and awake and conscious in this mysterious and awesome Universe — which we are in and which is in us! It’s suffused with limitless wonder and delight and beauty and mystery and love. I wish everyone could see this the way I do right now.

Of course the future is unknowable. There is certainly a lot of chance involved. But the more we all love each other and practice acceptance and letting things go, the better the chances it will be a future we’d all want to live in and pass on to our children. I am actively working on figuring out tangible ways I can contribute to that happy future. I’ll share more about these ideas when I’m able. Till then, be well! 🙂

With love,

Posted by & filed under Personal.

I have been flattered by messages complimenting me for being “strong” in this challenging time. Thank you! But really, any strength I’ve got all stems from just one thing: love.
I have so much love for my family. It’s epic. If it were somehow possible to quantify or compare such things, I am confident that this love I have for my family would be off the charts. It feels like it must be of historic, record-setting proportions.
I’d happily accept a cure, but I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world.

Posted by & filed under Culture, Personal, Philosophy.

Disclaimer: This post may provoke strong feelings, especially among any fundamentalist religious individuals reading it. That’s not an apology, just fair warning. It comes from a place of love.


I have been spending a lot of time in recent weeks reflecting on my values and priorities, and on the nature of love. Even as I find myself becoming much less interested in argument or debate, at the same time I am finding it really cathartic to keep expressing myself, and feel very strongly about what I’m writing here. So I will risk alienating or angering some of you by expressing my thoughts on different kinds of love and the ways it does (and doesn’t) correspond to religion and philosophy in my experience.

On one side of my extended family, I have more than one cousin who is openly gay. On the other, I have a cousin who is transgendered. Each of them is a remarkable, awesome person who has my respect and love. I’m proud to be related to each of them and psyched to call them my friends. I also have friends and colleagues who are GLBT (some single, some married) and these too are awesome people I’m lucky to have in my circle. Empathy and passion for justice shouldn’t require this degree of personal connection, but in reflecting on the lives of these specific people I care about, I feel compelled to speak out against the bigotry, injustice, hypocrisy and pain they’ve each needlessly suffered.

There are some people in my extended circle who have strong feelings and opinions against homosexuals. Many of these people describe themselves as Christians. Yet, I’d challenge any of them to show a biblical passage in which Jesus speaks out against love. The Old Testament (e.g. Leviticus) doesn’t count. If you lived by those archaic rules you’d also regularly be sacrificing goats as burnt offerings and managing your harem and slaves in specific ways. Jesus spoke so often against hypocrisy and judgement. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety (many parts of it more than once), and besides being raised by ardent Christians as one of them, I also spent a few years as a young adult with that identity. Eventually the cycles of guilt and cognitive dissonance were too much for me, and though prayer brought me some peace in times of decision-making (e.g. deciding to leave UVA, which was a toxic environment for me), over time Christianity just didn’t suit me and I drifted first into ambivalent agnosticism and then into somewhat angry atheism. Gradually that evolved into a more positive and accepting humanism, with elements of non-religious zen philosophy. I’m sure I’ll write more on that when time allows. In any case, I’ve spent most of my life avidly reading about and deeply considering the nature of religious experience (through both direct experience and study). The main teachings of Jesus which I took away from my years of attempting to worship him and studying his life boil down to this:

  • Love, don’t judge. This, over and over again, above all: LOVE, DON’T JUDGE.
  • You must choose between money and power on one hand, or love on the other. You can’t actively pursue both.
  • Hypocrisy is everywhere, and is evil.
  • (Also, he made it clear that his followers didn’t understand him at all.)

Related tangent: this is why things like the “prosperity gospel” absolutely baffle me. Even taking the Bible as a source of literal truth or prescriptive morality (which I don’t), even on its own terms, it is so crystal clear about this. (Don’t get me started on “Christianist” fundamentalists whose self-righteous, judgemental, controlling politics bear more resemblance to Pharisees or the Taliban than to Jesus when it comes to love and non-judgement and compassion.)

Regardless of your religious beliefs, if you would deny any of my cousins or friends or colleagues or anyone else the right to marry the person they love, to have a family, to be parents, to live honestly and openly and to participate fully as first-class citizens of our troubled but still great country, or any other place, then please do the following:

1. Honestly examine the source of your feelings about these medieval taboos. (They do not originate from the New Testament, nor from the words or actions of Jesus. Also, they are remarkably similar to religious arguments made against interracial marriage just a generation or two ago, and they have no defensible place in a progressive secular democracy.)

2. Please don’t post, comment, email, or contact me in any way about this topic, nor about your religious beliefs. (I am not interested in debate, I simply feel compelled to make this point. I could too easily spend time and energy I can’t spare in arguing because I care so much, but it would not be fruitful for either of us so let’s not waste each others’ precious time.)

3. Please stop following my health status on my blog or CaringBridge or Facebook. I just can’t be friends with someone who would go out of their way to hurt my dear cousins and friends in this way.
Note, I need all the support I can get in my battle with cancer, so I don’t take that lightly. But if you’d shun or marginalize or hate these wonderful people (let alone support killing them per things like Uganda’s outrageously evil proposed law making homosexuality punishable by death), we simply can’t be friends. I don’t know how else to make my point as strongly and clearly as I can, and it means that much to me. This is about love, and about letting go of hatred and fear and bigotry of any kind. This is also the civil rights battle of our time. I have been so proud to hear stories of my Uncle Bill’s life-risking trip to the deep south in support of black civil rights in the 60’s. It’s ridiculous to compare a blog post with that kind of courage and integrity and action, but I will take what opportunity I have to try and add my voice to the mix, in favor of justice and equality and love.

On a related theological tack: Jesus was a political radical, who sat down to eat with and literally embrace prostitutes and other “untouchables” at a time when that was momentous, socially unheard-of and politically revolutionary. Personally I don’t view the bible as a reliable historical record or guide to proper living, but even if it were, taken at face value, count the number of times Christ mentions hypocrisy and judgement (and money), and compare it to the number of times he even mentions sexuality. It’s unambiguous. The message is: love, don’t judge. Period.

This is also why I see things like millionaire sunday christians and westboro hate-mongerers as so much more antithetical to genuine Christianity than anything relating to sexual orientation. Also, America is a great experiment in secular freedom and pursuit of happiness. The separation of church and state prevents each entity from being corrupted by the other. If you’d deny basic human dignity and civil rights to any group of minorities (women, blacks, gays, atheists…) then at some level, politically, you share more in common with ancient Pharisees or modern Sharia law Islamic fanatics than you do with Jesus (or Buddha or MLK). But please, don’t start a debate on it, please don’t try to change my mind. This is fundamental to me: I will always love my GLBT cousins and friends and will always support their right to have and to love families. I don’t intend to start a firestorm, but this is about love, and I have never been so full of love for my family in my life. So if you oppose me on this politically and you care at all for me, please, if I can’t change your thinking on this please just let it go and leave me alone so I can fight my fight. Thank you.

With love,


Posted by & filed under Meta.

Hi good people,

I have disabled comments on this site to keep things simpler for me. Thanks for understanding.

(Several of you let me know you wanted to comment here but couldn’t. My first response was to remove all commenting restrictions — but I’ve since reconsidered. I’m realizing I don’t want to manage spam, moderate arguments, or give a platform to people with an agenda. So I’m following the lead of my favorite blogger, Andrew Sullivan, in simply disallowing comments altogether. If you have something to say in response to anything I publish, please simply email me. Thank you, I appreciate it.)



Posted by & filed under Philosophy, Quotes.

I love Sterling Hayden’s perspective on adventure and priorities:

[Many men say]
“I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford

What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in
the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security
we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine -and before we know
it our lives are gone

What does a man need -really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat
and shelter, six feet to lie down in -and some form of working
activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all –in the
material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic
system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments,
mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention
from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie
caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it the tomb
is sealed.
Where, then, lies the answer? In choice.

Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

– Sterling Hayden