RW90 - The Briefcase

This week, Dan and John talk about

The show title refers to Dan's initial question if John carries a daily briefcase which John turned into a story about his emotional debt that he feels he will never be able to repay.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

John has a new avatar in Skype. Instead of a picture of him from the 1990s with his cool glasses, he now has a photo of him talking into a Sure SM7B at his desk while he is podcasting and doing a thumbs-up!

Things in Seattle are shaping up. It has started to rain and it will stop briefly in February or March for a week or two before it will start again until June. If you want to move to Seattle: Don’t! It is cold and dark and rainy!

Carrying a daily briefcase (RW90)

John does not usually carry a daily backpack or briefcase when he goes around Seattle. While he was running for office, he carried a little briefcase with his computer in it, but it gave him that constant anxiety that he was going to leave it somewhere. When he puts a briefcase on and walks Downtown, he gets a charge out of it for a while and feels like a jaunty Downtown guy, but eventually it just starts to feel like not him.

The type of person John was supposed to become (RW90)

During his late teens and early twenties, John's idea of the normal person he was supposed to become was a variant of the White Privilege Dude: John should have gone to a good college, gotten a good job and become a pillar of the community. He should live in the straight world and be an art collector, not with a big boat, but with a big library, having read every one of those books. John has been under some pressure to role-play "Normal" for his whole adult life. There was a side of his family who lived in that art collection world and John hated being at their house. There was so much tension created by those people, like an electromagnetic pulse, even just at a friendly cocktail party. Although he hated being in these rooms, he also felt like that is what it is to be a grownup, to shirk it and be a shirker.

From the time he was little and during his whole time in school there was a sense of ”either you succeed or you fail!" John didn’t feel that he was striking out on his own, he didn't know exactly the kind of world he wanted to live in and ”Fuck you, man! Fuck the man! I’m going my own way and starting a band!" Instead he didn’t have that confidence at all! All the confidence he has now is a product of managing to succeed, not having this clear picture and proving himself correct.

John’s story of college and university (RW90)

Getting into the University of Washington was an elaborate path for John. He didn’t go to college right out of High School. First he went to Gonzaga, a Jesuit school with a program for underachievers, but after a couple of years they asked him to leave because he was disruptive. After that he was just bumming around, moved to Seattle and got a job in a bar. He did not feel confident about being a person working in a bar and having a band, because he felt he was not doing enough and so he enrolled at the community college where he had a great time. It was an urban campus with people from all walks of life and from all ages. They were not just trying to get an education because mom and dad would be mad otherwise. Instead, a lot of people went back to school because an education mattered to them.

The community college in Seattle had a program that would gateway you into the University of Washington if you made your bones there. The University of Washington was where John's dad and uncle went and it is routinely in the list of top state schools, so it was very important to him. Looking back, his time at the University of Washington didn’t affect John's career directly, but he learned a lot of the things that ended up being a big part of how he makes his living now. It is a big school, but it is still a state school. It felt like John could salvage some of his preppy aspirations by going to the University of Washington. He wasn’t going to wear one of their purple sweatshirts like an old man, but getting in would already be a minor triumph.

John worked at the community college, did what he had to do, fulfilled all his credits, had two years at Gonzaga already and he did well in his classes. As he applied to the U-Dub, his application was rejected! The University of Washington has 35.000 applicants every year and they have to weed somehow. They select their applicants by coming up with a number calculated from all your classes and from your prerequisites like SAT and ACT. They have a whole admissions office and they do put a lot of thought into it. Ultimately everybody gets a number and if your number is below a certain line, it is like ”sorry”!

John didn't understand why he was being rejected because he had done all the stuff, but his number just wasn’t over the line. The admissions office said that he was right below the line, but no cigar, which is really frustrating. John asked what he needed to do to get over the line, but part of the admission officer's job is to say No to people and John was one of thousands who didn’t get in and he was not anywhere near the top 60% of people who had been trying. There were people on that list who had been trying to get in since they had been a freshman in High School and who somehow still came up short.

In that moment John had been pretty pridefully for doing this on his own. He wasn’t asking for help from home, but he was putting himself through community college and this would be his Horatio Alger story: He was going to lift himself up by his bootstraps out of the ashes of his High School failure and he was going to be kind of a self-made guy. John went back to the community college for another quarter, thinking that it would build up his status to get over this number, whatever this number is. John was living in Seattle and was getting about, so it was a small price to pay. He enjoyed school and he did well in school.

John got good grades at the community college, re-applied to the University of Washington and got rejected again because of his number. They told him it is a 6-digit number and he was just off by one, but that is how the cookie crumbles. John had good grades and great SAT scores, but for whatever reason the math of it just wasn’t pencilling out. He felt defeated because going back to the community college for another quarter or another year was likely not going to affect whatever this alchemy was.

At the time he was not really roll-playing a straight arrow, but he was living pretty rowdy. He wasn’t drinking alcohol because he had recognized it as a problem, but he started drinking again after this period. He didn’t quit doing drugs, which is a weird combination, but it had been the alcohol that kept getting him in trouble. When he woke up somewhere without knowing where he was, it was because he was drinking and not because he was high. John never got picked up by the cops for being on drugs. Drugs were much more personal and although it wasn’t necessarily always peaceful, it was not like the kind of bull in a china shop thing that kept happening to him when he was drinking.

John quit drinking, but he was still messed up because with beer out of the equation, he was just doing more and more drugs. He wasn’t playing it straight, but he was trying to have it all: Being Joe College and Downtown crunch drug addict. The only thing he wasn’t trying to be was a good boyfriend. John had an awful moment of feeling like a borderline personality person. His emotional state didn’t allow him to see beyond the emergency that was right in front of him. Getting into the University of Washington felt like his last chance and failing to do so would cast him into a sea of people working in Rock ’n’ Roll bars for their careers, which was what he was doing at the time!

John was afraid to live in Rock ’n’ Roll while he didn’t have another choice. It was great to live in Rock ’n’ Roll as long as he felt that he also could do other things if it came to it. There was still a lot of the pressure from his family, not directly but through the way he was raised. The feeling of ”You are going to work in a bar?”, he might just as well have said that he was voluntarily going to put himself in prison for the degree to which he was disappointing his parents or squandering his patrimony.

John's uncle Cal was on the board of regions of the University of Washington at the time and John had not mentioned to uncle Cal that he was applying to the University, because he wanted this to be his Horatio Alger moment. He did not want to just waltz in. Waltzing in is definitely in his family genes. His dad waltzed in everywhere he went and his mom’s father used to waltz in. Also John does waltz in and always has, but he didn’t want that to be the case. But there he was, having applied and been rejected twice.

John wasn’t brave enough to say that he will get into the University of Washington by his own blood sweat and tears regardless and if he wouldn’t, he will die trying! He didn’t have the confidence to say that, he didn’t have the sure feeling that he could accomplish it through his own toil. He lived in a world bound by insecurity and by a feeling of not measuring up, a feeling of not being capable somehow. The problem wasn’t his intellectual capability, but he simply couldn’t throw a football, in other words. If he tried to throw a football, a guy from the other team would grab it and John would be the goat.

John got invited to holiday parties at his uncle's house because he was part of the family, but they didn’t actually want him there and he didn’t actually want to be there either. Everybody was just standing around uncomfortably tense, looking at one another’s art collection. John was wearing Logger Boots which just didn’t make any sense to the rest of his family at all, neither as a fashion thing or as anything! Why would he be wearing the boots of a work person? Because of Rock bands! It wouldn’t even come to the level of somebody saying something or looking at them strangely. Instead, there was this constant consciousness of every microscopic violation of the invisible matrix of rules that John couldn’t possibly keep in his head, even though he was raised in them and knew them all. He couldn’t live like that! It would be like being a Shibari model, he just couldn’t live that tide!

When John came to one of these parties, somebody asked what he was up to, although nobody cared, and he told them that he was trying to get into the University of Washington. When he said that, he knew what he was doing! He didn’t want to do it and he didn’t want to betray himself asking for help. He didn’t want them to have the satisfaction of helping him, he didn’t want to deprive himself of the pleasure and the feeling of accomplishment of figuring this out on his own. As soon as he said it, his uncle asked why he didn’t tell him and John replied that he was just taking classes and working on getting into the U. His uncle offered him to make a call. It wouldn’t be a problem.

The next day John was called to the admissions office. The same guy with whom John at this point had kind of a relationship came out while all the other admissions officers all leaned out their doors and looked at John. With a rye smile, John’s officer slow-clapped, like ”Nice job, pulling some strings!” John had effectively communicated to all of them that the meritocracy of University admissions and all of the work they had put into reviewing John’s application and rejecting it doesn't add up to a good god damn if you are a member of the ruling class. They didn’t get a letter from the kid’s father in law who is a professor of Economics, asking them to put a gold star on the top of John's application. Nothing was attached to the file to push John over the number! Instead they got a phone call from the dean of the college telling them to let this kid in! Then John was in. He was a member of the University of Washington. It would always be tainted by the fact that the class system that rules the US and every other country in the world not only allows privileged people to maintain a hold over their ownership of things, but also of access. That was a condition of the world and John had both the privilege of access and also the privilege to pretend not to need it. He could claim he wanted to do it on his own, but if that doesn’t work, he would just make a phone call!

John felt bad for every aspect of it, particularly when he contrasted it against the other world that he was living in: It was a world of people who had left High School halfway through because their home life didn’t enable them to continue or they had drug problems. He felt bad for the people who were neck-and-neck with him and who didn’t have an uncle to call. He was working and living in an environment of people who were never going to go to college. They felt a defensive attitude about college because the whole idea of going to college was that you needed access, even for the community college. It also required you to believe that going to college would benefit you in any way other than making you a slave of the man.

There are so many levels of relationship to what it means to go to college. Even the Punk Rockers who were so contemptuous to go to college were all white kids. They were fighting against college and all the connected ideas purely from a class standpoint without there even being a racial aspect to it. They had a blue collar cultural suspicion of college, let alone kids that were raised in English-as-a-second-language communities, African Americans or somebody with so many additional stumbling blocks to even be sitting there in the admissions guy’s office with their transcript and being told that they have one number too few.

Trying to repay the debt John can never repay (RW90)

John got into the University of Washington by asking his uncle for help and he felt the burden of this unrighteous walk. He had not taken school seriously, he did not give a fuck in High School, he graduated last in his class, he didn’t go to college at first, he went half-heartedly and got kicked out, he bummed around, he got some jobs, he did some drugs, he went to a community college and then, when he needed it, he pulled one string and was sitting in a University context. It is very easy to say that this is the environment he belonged, this is the level of intellectual curiosity he had and these are the classes he should be taking and should have access to.

John belonged there! He was not an alien! At the same time, he didn’t follow the rules to get there. Ultimately he would probably have gotten there anyway on the strength of his smarts and moxy, but no, actually he called a relative who had power. There are a million ways to look at it and feel about it, but John walked into that college feeling like he had a debt to pay! He wasn’t sure whom he owed the debt to. It is not hard for any one of us to reflect on ourselves and find the feeling that we have debts to pay. Either people helped you or your world enabled you to accomplish things. One of the undergirding assumptions of examining unexamined privilege is to realize that you had help, even if it didn’t feel like help, even if it was invisible to you. You had advantages and advantages equal help.

Do you have an obligation to repay those advantages and if so: How and to whom? You try to repay it in the now by being a better person, by recognizing that you can help other people or by stepping aside and making a little bit of room. There are a lot of ways you can repay that debt, but in 1992 when John was 23 years old, he didn’t know exactly to whom he owed it. An argument could be made that he owed that debt to the world of white upper-middle-class art collectors because they were the ones who actually got him into the school.

When John started at the University of Washington, he quit drinking, he got a hair cut, and he moved from his flophouse apartment with a bathroom down the hall to an apartment in the University-district with little built-in leaded glass cabinets and hardwood floors. It was a nice apartment and the building had a manager! John started to go to class, he was wearing a sweater wrapped around his shoulders and he just needed to own this! He was going to go to college and he was going to get an intellectual degree. After that he was probably going to be a lawyer and do his part in progressive politics, because at the time there wasn’t necessarily any cognitive disconnect between being a preppy lawyer, having progressive politics and never examining your place in the world. That was the fashion at the time and had been for 250 years up until that point.

Those people would be really beautiful people with a really nice house with an awesome kitchen and they would write you a cheque for $50 to help you pass the Clean Air Act and everybody would feel that this was the way things got done. They were the good people! John was member of the good people because he was collecting the money for the Clean Air Act and they were the good people because they gave him $50. John met people like this all the way through college: They didn’t want to go and do volunteer work now, but they got established in their career, made a bunch of money and then used that money to help people later on.

It was a common argument among middle-class leftists: They could do more good after they would have established themselves, because if they would not establish themselves and instead join the Peace Corps now, they were going to be handicapping themselves in their ability to really stay competitive and then they would have less money to give to the poor later. People would constantly make that argument and believe it. They make the same argument about doing what they love: What they really want to do is this, but they are going to wait until after they had success in their career because then they would have the freedom to do that thing they love, rather than just doing it now.

For 1,5 years John walked around the University of Washington trying to be a good upper-middle class liberal college student. His grades were really good, he was really engaged in the student life, he still couldn’t throw a football, but he got a girlfriend who was really successful in school. He was having an affair with his guidance councillor and it all felt very much like a normal college experience. It is like Michael Douglas should be walking around the campus.

John had all these friends in Grunge that he knew from working Downtown for a couple of years. He could go to any Rock show in town for free and when he would have friends over to his apartment, they walked in like ”Woa, where the fuck are we? You have crystal door knobs!” Sometimes he would be out with his preppy college girlfriend and there would be people coming down the street the other way with their leather jackets on. She would cower a little bit, but they would come over and ”Wooooo, what’s up, Roderick?” Then they would pull on John’s pink sweater and ask what happened to him. He would say that nothing changed and that this was his girlfriend and his pink sweater. Whatever! Fuck you! John was living in multiple worlds, which was a thing he had always done. He was obviously trying to figure out what the makeup of the world was and where his puzzle piece would fit.

Being part of the establishment, but not really (RW90)

All of a sudden, John would go to these parties at his uncle’s house as a member of the University of Washington. He was no longer wearing Logger Boots and he expected some sort of ”Hail, fellow! Well met!”, some back-padding and some secret handshakes and ”Oh, good! We were worried about you! Come see me after you graduate and I’ll get you a job at Weyerhaeuser!” There was an element of that, certainly if John had pursued it through college and had gone to see his uncle or any one of his dozens of his friends looking for an opportunity. That was available!

On the other hand, there wasn’t any additional feeling of welcome or belonging. That is just not how that world operates at all! This club is a mean and guarded little compound and everybody is terrified that they are going to lose the key to it. Nobody ever feels secure in this terrible wolf-den. That waspy culture of money and privilege is a spiritually awful place to inhabit, not just because of this matrix of rules that you can constantly be violating, but also because of all the things that these rules tie back to: All the assumptions, all the presumptions, all of the tiny little lies that support the whole system. Every lie on its own seems small because they are just small little refusals to see the whole picture.

They have cropped somebody or something from every photograph in their memories. There is always somebody in the background working at the stove that got cropped out of the picture. All those tiny little lies are what contribute to the self-image that this class has that they are all Horatio Alger. Each of them believes that they are self-made and that their inheritances are not really salient. They inherited this money, sure, but then they took it and built this whole empire! Even the ones who haven’t built any empire have culture and they understand how to do it.

They are one of 1000 points of light, they trickle that culture down to everyone and they make the world a better place. That is a collective and mutually supporting dilution! Those are all Donald Trump quotes: He inherited his money and used it to make more money, but also used the power of his money to recover from multiple bankruptcies and to make terrible deals. He had enough money and privilege that he couldn’t fail even when he had disastrously failed. Donald Trump doesn’t even have class. People who have that access and then also have class are in a whole other universe. Donald Trump is vulgar and his art collection is just paintings of himself.

For 1,5 years wasn’t sure how to carry himself and what his values were. He didn't know how to maintain these values and those values, he was completely incapable of voluntarily not seeing things, he couldn’t not see, and he ended up being the person at those parties that was standing over by the wait station talking to all the catering waiters. Sometimes they were people he knew from town, but the catering people don’t want some young prince Zion to be standing over there talking to them and then taking a drink off their tray and ”Thanks a lot, buddy! We are in this together, am I right?” That’s not a good place to be either. You don’t want to be the snob that fails to see that they are also not hip. Punk Preppy!

Eventually the wheels came off of it and like a lot of people in that circle, John just started drinking and doing drugs for the exclusion of all other things. He had enough of a spiritual wasteland where he felt like he didn't belong anywhere and there was no fun to be had. The money isn’t fun, these people are not fun, they will never be fun, there is no amount of access that will let you go deeper and deeper into this world until you eventually will have fun, because in order to have fun there, you will have to be blind and desensitized.

George W. Bush seems like he is having fun. John doesn’t think he would be any fun to be around, but he thinks that he is a smart and educated person and you can’t beat him and not be smart. There is that whole thing of him having bad syntax and calling him dumb. He has got to be smart and interesting, but you can't talk to him about 98% of the experience of the world because he can’t see it. He cannot maintain his sand castle of a universe if he is confronted with it.

John was just trying to drink himself away and when he finally sobered up from that, he never tried to join that world again. He knew that he was exclusive of it. As he continued to go to these parties, he had a little bit more confidence in the sense that he knew he wasn’t trying to get anybody’s approval anymore. It looks to other people like it is a kind of swagger, but it didn’t feel like swagger. For quite a while it felt like defeat. Eventually John realized that he was able to live a life that made more sense than that. There were ways to go to the University of Washington and not be buying into a thing that he didn’t want membership in.

John ended up being a student at the University of Washington from 1992 to 2015. He continued to take more classes after he had a enough credits for a degree and he was really engaged there. He felt like a member of his department and he had relationships with the director of the department and all of the instructors. It felt like community! Even if he only took one or two classes a year, it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t go to their events during the rest of the year and eventually they would ask him to host an event or speak at an event. John felt like a member of a community that had a very special take, a community that was sort of a hot bed at the school of progressive politics, not 1960:s style progressive politics, but 1990:s and 2000:s style: That period of increasing understanding of all these matrices that tie the world together and rendered us under.

Over the years, John tried to erase his debt of getting into the university by exercise of his divine right of kings, at least the part he owed to the University itself, by contributing to the college and being active in the intellectual community. He was not trying to just get in / get out, but he wanted to be part of that thing that his corner of the university wanted: They didn't want to be a degree factory, but a civic place. The debt he owed to the idea of a classless society is a debt he is going to wrestle with his whole life. Anyone listening to this show has access, whether or not they have confronted how much access they have and how much of this access is a product of forces other than just the force of their own will and talent being expressed in the world, whether or not they have realized how much they benefit from structures rather than just living in a world of the pure and utilitarian idea that each of us is a completely contained cat who walks by his wild loan and all things look alike to them.

How Dan got into university (RW90)

Dan got into university with an SAT-score of 1100, combining the highest score you could get on English (800) with the lowest score you could get on the Math (300). This wasn’t good enough to get in anywhere. The system was very different in the 1980:s and has changed in the meantime. He got straight A:s in the classes that came very easily to him like English and Science without ever having to try, but in any other class where he had to try he got something like a C. He didn’t like to try! His GPA wasn't great either and computed at maybe 3.1. Dan wasn’t great college material!

Dans grandparents had put him on the pre-paid tuition plan in Florida which allowed them to pay for his college at the early-1970:s rates. They probably spent only $15.000 on college for him, which was nowhere near of what it would have been in the 1990:s. This meant that Dan had to go to a Florida school, because he wasn’t going to get any scholarship and he wasn’t a good enough student to maintained whatever GPA he needed to maintain in college in order to keep a scholarship going.

Dan applied to a whole bunch of schools and the only one that accepted him based on his scores was UCF. Today they are one of the biggest schools in the country, but at the time it was a commuter college and it wasn’t considered to be any good. There was no sports program whatsoever and it wasn’t on anybody’s map for anything. It was far enough away in South Florida so his parents couldn’t just show up, but it wasn’t so far away that it would have been an all-day drive to get back home.

Dan tried to get into a couple of other schools as well, but they would only accept him as a transient student, which was kind of being on probation. You could get there, but you would have to prove yourself in order to be able to stay. Dan didn’t like that kind of pressure. At the time his major was going to be RTV (Radio and Television), because he wanted to get into radio. Because it was on transient basis, he started thinking what else he could do in order to get in as a straight-up regular student. He was pretty good at playing the guitar, although his mom wouldn’t pay for any Rock ’n’ Roll guitar lessons, which was the kind of guitar he wanted to play. He wanted to play Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, but she would only pay for classical guitar lessons where you got nylon strings and your left foot is up on the block.

Dan had been taking classical guitar lessons for a couple of years at this point, but nobody else was playing classical guitar. Maybe they had a music program and he could get in under the guise of being a music major? He took his classical guitar, made a couple of calls and got an audition with the teacher who taught classical guitar at UCF. He had Dan play something for him, it was alright and he could come in as a music major for a quarter. As soon as he was established, he changed his major back to RTV and was done. He was in! Dan didn’t even take one music class!

Getting in by any means necessary is alright! You have to game the system to get in somewhere! Dan was maybe even thinking he would be a music major until he could see what that life was like and it seemed like it would kind of suck. He still played the guitar a lot, but music major was not for him. He was RTV major for a while and realized that that wasn’t for him either. The point was, he got in and he was a good student! He was better in college than he had even been in High School.

The expectation of being useful (RW90)

There is another side of his family which is not rich. They are still wasps, but they don’t have the money for an art collection. There is a thread of expectation in John's family that you would be useful to your fellows. During the 20th century that turned into leftist politics, because after WWII that was the place where this energy was happening: helping people. Before WWI that energy of helping people was in methodism, a thing located in religious tradition. Although John doesn’t think that anybody going back in any branch of his family was especially devout, they worked within religion to help and John’s grandfather (his dad’s father) was a minister as a civic leader. His politics were probably republican, but he was a helper.

While John was growing up, the expectation from his mom and and his dad was that he would be useful. It wasn't just a thing in his education, but it was a kind of trade. You can debate this around and around! There are people who can just throw a football by the time they are three years old. They are great at throwing footballs! Then there are people with an innate urge to be useful and they can’t be content, because there is always so much work to do. When you have done one thing, you are propelled onto the next. A lot of people like Jimmy Carter for instance have this trade. He thinks of it in a religious and in a political context and he doesn’t rest because there is so much work to do. John got a bad blend of it, because it blended with another thing he inherited: Morbidity. The feeling of there always being more to do crossed with morbidity can be a little dark.

Does John feel like he has repaid his debt? No! He will never fell that way! His debt is to whole human kind and because of the morbidity he doesn’t feel moved to work for Habitat for Humanity, for instance. He got a letter from a friend the other day asking if he does volunteer or give to charities. It was a sincere question. The answer is: Yes, constantly! John is always active and always working on things. Right now he is working with a guy who came to him because of his podcast listenership, but he is an activist, an artist and an art professor. They are trying to put together a plan here in Seattle to push for a safe consumption space for intravenous drug users.

There is all the evidence in the world you need that if you put a clean and well-lit place in a city that is staffed with a EMT and a clean bathroom, you will cut the number of people who die of overdoses under a freeway bridge by a factor of 90%. Just from a cost/benefit analysis it is saving the city millions of dollars, let alone cutting deaths. John has never felt a personal drive to go and serve turkey dinner on Thanksgiving at the mission. There are families that teach their kids that this is part of their family dynamics that they go down on the weekend and help the less fortunate. Religious people have a much better sense of giving back and they also have systems enabling them to plug into charities and into opportunities. They are moved by their traditions. John has never felt that his best use would be as another set of hands.

John helping people by virtue of his podcasts (RW90)

There are a lot of jobs in the world. Part of the job that John has made was through podcasting, a job that didn’t exist before. While it is meant to be entertainment, fun and funny, he always tried to be perfectly candid. For whatever reason, he is capable of that candor. John is not crystal candid. He does quite a bit of humorous self-methologizing and there are secret handshakes, but in general he has felt that some of the greatest suffering in the larger world he has access to is the suffering that comes from feeling isolated, alone and unloved. A lot of that is unnecessary suffering, because people’s problems, although individual, are of a family. If you can hear somebody talk about their problems and you can recognize them to be in the same family as your own struggles, then you might feel less alone, less strange and less isolated. You will potentially become more accessible to others and more available to other, even if you are mentally ill or suffering from some variety of religious experience.

Merlin used to make that long-standing joke that they are helping people with their podcast. John feels that Merlin has as similar approach to communicating with the people that he is trying to help by virtue of sharing his own experience of trying things that failed and then figuring out what worked. It is kind of a ministry he is doing. Merlin and John are very different, they have very different experiences and they have very different ideas of what their responsibility to other people and their roles in the world are, but John has always been tried to be accessible to people and to be candid and to think about stuff out loud where he doesn’t necessarily have the best answer already. He is not preaching, but he is telling what he has in front of him and how he is trying to make his way through it. He is trying to make that visible to people as a way of saying that there is someone else who is trying to do the same thing. You are trying to do this, but it is a process that feels very lonely.

John does feel he has a debt he cannot repay. He always felt like this and there are a thousand instances along the way where he has these little concrete markers, like ”remember when you got into the University of Washington because you were a rich kid who didn’t even have any money, but just class-rich? Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid!” All those things are little checks on that tendency that he would naturally have, to say ”Rally to me!”

There is the question right now whether there is use for a village elder in our culture. The assertion is that anyone who is in the position of a village elder is tarnished by our complicity in a system that promulgates inequality to such a degree that our world view, our perspective and our offering is tainted beyond recovery. John doesn’t have anything else to give. He would be useless swinging a hammer somewhere, not because he can’t swing a hammer (he fucking can!) but because that is just not where he is most useful. What’s nice about the realm of podcasting is that it is available to whomever needs it and wants it. It is not a thing that you are forced to listen to. If it is useful to people, we feel like we have done our work. John is always trying to repay and the best he can do is to share.

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