- Other Life
- Welcome to the new Other Life
Welcome to the new Other Life
I am asking you to quit all of your passive media consumption to read great books and write the truth every single day. Or unsubscribe now!
This is the first time, in quite a while, that I have felt genuinely scared publishing a newsletter.
With this email, I'm launching the biggest rebrand—and refocus—of the Other Life project since it started in 2017.
There's nothing you need to do; you'll continue to receive my emails and podcasts, on mostly similar themes, but you’ll notice more focus. In this email, I’ll share what you can expect.
I quit my career as a professor 4 years ago to pioneer a new kind of independent professorship on the internet. I've mostly succeeded—I earn more than I did as a professor, with greater freedom—through a combination of media, courses, and community initiatives.
But in one way, thus far, I have failed. The wind has blown me around; I've tested so many different ideas and models that I've frequently spread myself thin; I've almost lost track of myself; soul and craft took a back seat. I have not served you to the utmost.
That’s why I’m returning to the masters. I’ll explain.
Diogenes, in his barrel, and Alexander the Great. Diogenes has been a patron saint of Other Life from the beginning. Alexander famously said that if he were not Alexander, he would wish to be Diogenes.
A Return to the Masters
"We should tend to our freedom wisely." —Montaigne
I'm increasingly convinced that we tend to our freedom wisely by reading well and reading more, and writing well and writing more—together, but as detached as possible from the noise of the megamachine. The community is already doing this, through our book clubs and courses, but so far we've only been groping implicitly in this direction.
In the past year, I've written a lot about attention, guarding it better and directing it better. I started withdrawing as early as April 2021. I've been excited by new, sovereign technologies because we need to control our tools to control our minds. But there's a big question I've been ignoring for too long: To what should we pay our attention, exactly?
Everywhere I look, I see an increasing oversupply of cheap words and notions (LLMs are only a recent acceleration of a deeper trend); decimated attention spans; and predatorial social-technological interfaces of the most subtle kinds. It feels like just about everything is conspiring to make us dumber, weaker, and more dependent on nebulous social Schelling points of extremely dubious validity.
Therefore, if we wish to read well and write well, in the context of increasing cognitive chaos, I have come to the ineluctable inference that we must drop most of what we’re doing and anchor ourselves as fully as possible to the most reliable sources of ground truth we have. We must return to the masters.
We must return to deep reading, to the canon. I'm not sure what this will do to the financial prospects of the Other Life company. I know many of my readers are feeling what I’m feeling, but I don’t know how many. Perhaps there will not be enough people able or willing to come with us. I don't know. I just think everything points in this direction, and I'm willing to bet on it.
I mean, Diogenes lived out of a barrel to optimize for truth and freedom. God himself became man and died to optimize for truth and freedom. I’m just betting my little farm—I think I’ll survive.
It's been surprisingly hard to muster the resolve; to rebrand around a specific vision a free-floating personal project of about 5 years now. But I owe this to my readers, participants in our courses, and members of the community—to help others direct their attention in only the most worthwhile directions.
So that’s it. I'm going to read, write about, and teach (humbly, whatever I’m able to learn) from some Great Books (plus some outliers of particular interest to me and our active members). I’m also going to study the lives of great and wild authors, and I’m going to teach you how they did it (I’ve been doing this already, too, with Dr. Johnson, Emerson, Kierkegaard, and others).
With ten years of mature academic study under my belt, I’ve already made some decent inroads on the canon (biased toward political theory). But we are all still children in the scheme of things, and there is no time to waste…
You Should Join Us—or Leave Us!
In our private community, I know for a fact we have at least a couple hundred people who feel deeply called to read better and read more, and to write better and write more—not to growth-hack a large profitable audience in 90 days—but in order to live well, to live fully and freely, without dependence on the judgments or conceptions of others.
To know everything it is possible to know, for oneself, by disciplined study of the most timeless sources known to man, combined with consistent writing and frank speech within a community of peers. To tend to one's freedom wisely.
Moving forward, everything I publish is going to be dedicated to this end. Everything we do in the community is going to be dedicated to this end—our courses, our book clubs and seminars, etc.
So if this vision does not tug at your highest aspirations, I hope you will focus your attention on something that does. I invite you to unsubscribe now.
But if this vision sets your heart ablaze, I trust you are going to love Other Life more than you ever have.
I'll continue to publish thoughtful emails and podcasts for free. And with our renewed focus, I'm solidifying the absolute stack of perks for any modern, independent scholar. (If you're already a dues-paying member, I emailed you earlier.)
I'm going to mail you a unique print publication (twice annually). It will focus on the greatest works and the greatest thinkers who ever lived.
Together, we're going to read the greatest books ever written (plus some recent works of special interest). Forthwith, we're starting with Plato and St. Augustine, plus a couple novels and essays (we're not going in order, it’s all eternal). Bookmark the public calendar of events here. All meetings are free for members.
If we stick with this, I expect for us to read around 100 of history’s most important books in the next 4-5 years.
As in the past, members still get access to the private community (Web2 version and Web3 version, i.e. Urbit). Both spaces have been decluttered and reoriented toward the new focus. Upon joining, we add you to the Web2 community and give you a professionally hosted, personal server in the cloud (an Urbit planet) for connecting to the network state.
Invitations to the annual retreat (early October) will go out soon. Spots are priced at cost, as a public good for members. With our clarified focus, what started as an ambiguous IRL social mixer will now be, essentially, a reading and writing retreat.
New members starting next week will pay dues of $125/year. In the past year, I've been letting people join early for less. If you want to join now, I'm leaving up the $80/year signup page for just another hot minute. You'll be grandfathered indefinitely.
If you just enjoy the emails/podcasts/videos from a distance, please continue to do so. I appreciate your interest.
Together, we will tend to our freedom more wisely than ever. That is my promise.
PS: In the past, members have sometimes been confused about what to do, or how things work. That was my fault, and I’m fixing it. In addition to the bi-annual print edition, dues-paying members should keep an eye on their mailbox for other occasional surprises.