Episode 3: Memento Mori, Memento Sapiens


Hello again, friend. Did you find the answer to the question I gave you? “What do you really believe?”. I did, but It took time, and a detour over transhumanism and the Singularity, before I arrived at now. Transhumanism is a life-philosophy of sorts, that mankind should use technology to enhance human minds and bodies. One of the biggest goals is “eliminate aging as a cause of death”. I was such a devout follower, so convinced that it would happen soon, that I stopped saving for retirement – what’s the point, if the system would collapse under all the centenarians who just kept on living way past their statistically calculated deaths. Mind you, I still believe humans will one day, perhaps soon, slow aging so that we can live seemingly forever. However, unless they also find a way to reverse time, we’ll all die eventually anyway, in the heat death of the universe. But that thought, that we could get eternal life through science became my patronus against the dementor that is fear of death. It didn’t just leave the area, it fled to another country. I think I was buying myself time to answer that question: “what do I really believe?”. I knew that the answer to it was the only thing that could slay my fear of non-existence.

Article about transhumanism in HIQ Magazine
Spread from an interview with me about transhumanism in HIQ Magazine

Time is valuable. We all know it. Even the most corrupt person knows that “time is money”. An the most kind person gives give the gift of time. We have devalued that gift. The internet — the One Machine, as Kevin Kelly called it in his TED-talk— this Machine we see so much promise in, has left our office desks and home PCs and started to meld with our bodies as our devices first became portable, then wearable. Internet is in everyone’s smartphones, and everyone’s phone is in their hands, ready to serve up entertainment, information, even wisdom… and distraction from the mundane. Back when access to the internet was restricted to physical rooms equipped with a computer with an internet connection, the default state was offline. Today, the default state is online — as soon as our phones are on, we are within the reach of the Machine. The Machine is like a mindless giant that you can control with your time and attention. If you pay the wrong things time and attention, the Machine may well destroy you. But give the right things your two most precious resources, and it may lead you to the greatest of treasures.

Our smartphones look rather death-like to me. Like black slabs of aluminum and glass. Dystopian, black mirrors ready to relieve us of awkwardness, boredom, suffering, sadness. Of loneliness. We feel so connected as persons, yet we are so divided as human beings. We spend time documenting our experiences, our meals, our meetings, our adventures, creating a highlight reel of all the perfect moments in our lives, forgetting that every time we take out our smartphones, they make us aware of the moment and how perfect it is. Instead of being immersed in that moment, we share the perfection of it, chasing approval from others that yes, this really is a perfect moment. And when we look at everyone else’s highlight reels, we compare them to our raw footage with all the mistakes, the embarrassing moments, the shame, the inadequacies, the doubt. But maybe posting more highlights will convince others, and by extension ourselves that we, too, are perfect. So we keep our phones close at hand, ready to capture that next perfect moment we will experience. We still give the gift of time, but we aren’t fully present because part of our attention is in our phones. I’m sorry if I have tarnished your shiny image of the internet, but hey, we’re still using it, so high as the price may be, collectively we get our value’s worth even if we’re losing time.

I love science, but I believe that as we cut ties with religion in the wake of the scientific revolution, we lost touch with spirituality – the yin to the yang of science. I think the movie Contact captured this beautifully in the exchange between Jodie Foster, playing the role of our inner scientist, and Matthew McConaughey, playing the role of our inner spiritual:

“Did you love your father?”
“Your dad. Did you love him?”
“Yes, very much.”
“Prove it.”

I remember this dialogue by heart. It taught me that some things simply cannot be proven, they can only be experienced. It took twenty years for that wisdom to sink in.

Transhumanism allowed my old self, who only believed in what science could prove, to believe in eternal life. I was buying myself time, but most of the time, well, in hindsight, I didn’t spend it well. Instead of starting to look for answers to the hard questions, and putting time into things and people that really matter, I put time into escaping. I believed I had all the time, that I would never die, because I placed my bets on two horses in the race: transhumanism was one, the Singularity the other. If either won, so would I.

The Singularity movement is a belief that humanity will build a computer so intelligent (and conscious) that its intelligence surpasses that of all living humans. Now, that goal could also be achieved through a third world war, because the few surviving humans will soon be so demented from nuclear fallout, so that any still functioning Japanese high-tech toilet will be smarter than all of them together. It would be a fitting end to humanity. But the Singularity is a peaceful movement, and they want to achieve that by building an AI, or rather AGI, Artificial General Intelligence.

That AGI, in turn, will be able to build an AGI immensely smarter than itself, just like we built the first AGI although we’re dumber than it. Since it’s so much more intelligent, it will build it’s successor in almost no time. Sooner rather later, version 8 or so of the AGI, will know everything, be aware of everything. It will solve all our problems, and give us answers to all our questions, including those concerning aging and death, ushering in a veritable utopia. It’s the geek version of the concepts of god and heaven in one: we will build a machine that will give us all the answers, and keep us from dying, while providing anything we might desire. Mind you, this may well already have happened. Imagine a future where humans basically live forever and are able to get anything they can imagine at the press of a button. Literally anything. It’s like playing an immersive video game, like in Ready Player One, except the universe in this game truly is immense and you can experience anything it just like you experience the real world. You choose the genre, the script and your own role in any story. You can have a dinner party with Margaret Atwood, Keanu Reeves and Tim Urban (the guy who writes “Wait, but why?”), or a spit roast with Chris Pratt and Jake Gyllenhaal (I know I would, and I’m not talking about the kind that involves cooking). You can be any super hero you want to be. You can be the villain, although I would recommend you be careful with that. Villains are often angry, and we all know that anger leads to the dark side. But I believe Yoda was wrong about the irreversability of the dark path. You can always choose to turn back. Anyway, imagine living virtually forever and having access to such experiences at the press of a button. It would be exciting for the first hundred or thousand years, but eventually, you’d get bored and you’ll press the button thinking “surprise me!”.

Then you’ll realize you can experience the wildest things, but just like a video game on the easiest setting is boring to any gamer worth their salt, you’ll want a challenge. Nothing you can’t handle, of course, just enough to keep you occupied. You’ll start playing hardcore characters, those that only have one life and when they die you have to start over. Then you’ll have a brilliant idea: you can get anything, right? What if you played that game, with your own script and your own genre, but you add a twist: you’ll play a hardcore character and forget that you’re playing it. That way, losing your life becomes a real risk, adding the exhilaration of being near death. And right after that final moment, as you leave the game thinking you’ve died, you wake up and joke with your friends what an awesome session you just had, with the craziest experiences. Then you’ll dive in again to keep building this amazing multi-player existence called “the universe”. Eventually, the game of Universe you and your friends are playing becomes so advanced that you create another game of universe inside it. But good as that button is, it cannot override life, the energy on which all these Russian doll-like universes operate on, and life has a memory. And so we dream of all the other universes we exist in, and our dreams manifest as art. How else do you think Christopher Nolan came up with Inception? When I meet him outside this universe, I must remember to high-five him, his human avatar makes movies that are simply amazing.

While I do believe our universe is a construct made by us, I don’t believe our way there will be through the kind of AGI we are dreaming up today. You see, we have this view that we can create something that is immensely more intelligent than us because we have gotten intelligence wrong. It’s our egos’ fault. We got God wrong, corrupted god with power and money and believe ourselves to be the crown of creation. Intelligent beings created by a stupid environment. This is why randomness becomes important for natural science, since it requires some real freakish random event for a stupid environment to create intelligent beings. And since a stupid environment (whether you believe that to be the Universe, nature or the Earth) created us, we must be able to create something vastly more intelligent than us. Now, I believe we will be able to build an AGI one day, but it will not be more intelligent than us. Sure, from our current mechanical view of the universe, it will seem as if it’s super-duper-ultrea-extra-mega-intelligent, much it the mechanical view dictates that we’re vastly more intelligent than honey bees. But the answers to questions like “what happens after death?” don’t need a computer and intelligence. They just need a mind and some wisdom. And we are borns wise, we have just forgotten it as we became adults.

Let me give you an argument for why you already are wise: You know when you hear or read words of wisdom and you just go “of course!”? You don’t learn anything new in those words, because there is no new information in those quotes. Take this one for example: “You cannot be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you”. No new information, but a lot of wisdom. Wisdom is simply someone drawing new lines between dots you already know. It’s a reminder that you know this. So, you are already wise, you just need to be reminded of it. The more reminded you get, the things that make you go “of course!” make less and less sense to those who don’t remember yet, like “want is a growing plant whom the coat of have was never large enough to cover”. My moment of realization about what I really believe happens after death, was one of those “of course!” moments. I had forgotten, and as I long as I called myself an atheist – which I did for almost half my life – I couldn’t be reminded of them. But it didn’t matter. The beauty of the Church of the Singularity is that technology acts as the “no homo” of spiritually curious atheists. That, and “as long as the souls don’t touch”. The Church of Singularity offers a haven from having to really think about questions of death, and if you happen to do, you simply have a cookie, and when you’re finished eating it, you feel right as rain.

So I spent time and attention on understanding our world and our universe. One important part of our narrative about nature and the universe is what we call “the laws of nature”, and while natural sciences weren’t my favorite subject in school, as an adult I found myself reading about everything from biology to astrophysics. Werner Heisenberg was right when he said “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will make you an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” But before I met god (and boy, is God a Mad Hatter!), I had to face my fear of not existing. I knew that a good way of dealing with fears is exposure therapy. It worked well enough on my fear of spiders. Now I no longer feel the need to kill it, kill it with fire.
But exposure therapy for not existing requires a leap of faith while you’re tripping on LSD. At least it did for me.

They say that the moment of enlightenment has to be instantaneous, but I’d say it’s more like finding a piece that connects two puzzles I’ve been building all my life, knowing them to be completely separate, only that piece connects them and makes them whole. Both are puzzles with a gazillion pieces, but the more you learn about each, the faster you can build it. Towards the end, the speed curve became exponential, I had one awakening after the other, each showing how the two puzzles connect and then, when I had it, I simply stopped existing. The particular piece of wisdom that started all this was a synchronicity initiated by me admitting to myself that I didn’t understand. You see, the problem of knowing too much is that it’s easy to believe yourself to know it all. And since you know so much, you end up being right more often than you are wrong, becoming a victim of confirmation bias. At least, that is what happened to me. I knew so much that my friends had a nickname for that part of me. In Swedish, the short version of Michael is Micke, and so my nickname became “Mickipedia”. This, of course, appealed to my ego. Who doesn’t want to know so much that your friends equate you with the most amazing source of knowledge we’ve collectively built so far? It was such a rare occurrence for me to admit to myself that I did not understand, that I remember this particular time well. It was Thursday, July 7th, 2016. I was looking for answers, and had discovered Syntheism, a movement for secular spirituality. I tried reading the book, and after finishing the first chapter I turned off my Kindle and thought to myself “If someone asked what this first chapter is about, I could not explain it to them. What is metaphysics anyway?”. Perhaps this moment was so historical to me not only because I admitted to myself that I didn’t understand, but also because I admitted it to others. I talked to people about forming a book circle around it, to help each other understand, when someone told me to look up Alan Watts on Youtube. I had heard that name before, but didn’t really associate it with anything. I searched for Alan Watts, and the first video that I watched became my “of course!” moment. It reminded me of what I already knew, and it was a perfect foreshadowing of the journey I was setting out on. I’d like to share it with you, perhaps it will remind you of something too:

When you’re ready to wake up, you’re going to wake up. And if you’re not ready, you’ re going to stay pretending that you’re just a ‘poor little me’. And since you’re all here engaged in this sort of inquiry and listening to this sort of lecture, I’ll assume that you’re all on the process of waking up. Or else you’re teasing yourselves with some kind of flirtation of waking up, which you’re not serious about. But I assume maybe you are not serious, but sincere that you are ready to wake up. So then, when you’re in the way of waking up, and realizing who you really are, what you do is what the whole universe is doing at the place you call here and now. You are what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing. The real you is not a puppet which life pushes around, the real deep, down you IS the whole universe. So then, when you die, you’re not going to have to put up with everlasting non-existence, because that’s not an experience. A lot of people are afraid that when they die, they’re going to be locked up in a dark room forever, and sort of undergo that. But one of the most interesting things in the world — this is a yoga, this is a way of realization — try and imagine what it would be like to go to sleep and never wake up. Think about that. Children think about that. It’s one of the great wonders of life. What will it be like to go to sleep and never wake up. And if you think long enough about that, something will happen to you. You’ll find out, among other things, that it will pose the next question to you: what was it like to wake up without never having gone to sleep? That was when you were born. You see, you can’t have an experience of nothing, nature abhors a vacuum. So after you’re dead the only thing that can happen is the same experience, or the same sort of experience as when you were born. In other words, we all know very well that after people die, other people are born. And they’re all you, only you can only experience it one at a time. Everybody is I, you all know you are you. And wheresoever beings exist throughout all galaxies, it doesn’t make any diferrence: you are all of them. And when they come into being, that’s you coming into being. You know that very well. Only you don’t have to remember the past in the same way you don’t have to know how to work your thyroid gland, or whatever else is in your organism. You don’t have to know how to shine the sun. You just do it. Like you breathe. Doesn’t it really astonish you that you are this fantastically complex thing and that you’re doing all of this and you never had any education in how to do it?

This particular piece of wisdom made the connection in my head. The moments of enlightenment made me feel that connection through and through. Balls to bones.

The fear of not existing was like a hydra. It was the fear of death, the fear of not being loved, the fear that this is all there is, the fear of not having control. Once I was ready to face it, I stopped existing for a while just to try it, and realized it was the purest bliss I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve done my fair share of MDMA to tell you that even your first trip in the most perfect setting imaginable is like holding a candle to the sun, compared to the bliss of not existing. In that state I understood the whole existence in that nothing needed understanding. In that state, I as I’ve known myself for all my conscious life, does not exist. Logic does not exist. Nothing exists, a nothing built out of one paradox upon another, forming the most beautiful illusion in existence. The most beautiful dream so vivid it may as well be called reality. I wish you such dreams, my friend. Until next time, sleep well, until you wake up.

Episode 2: The experience at Fear’s End

Transcript of the episode:

So, you’re here despite the dangers? Good for you! If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I recommend you listen to the first episode. Or be a daredevil and don’t, it’s up to you.

Let’s continue down the rabbit hole, and find out where – and if – it ends, shall we? I think you may have an important question: who am I?

I’ve pondered that question a lot ever since I was born. It started with realizing that whenever I met people at, say, at a party, and they asked me “what do you do?” I almost always started the answer with “I am …” and then stated whatever title or position I held at the time. Had you met me two years ago and asked that question, I would most likely have answered “I am the head of innovation at a communications agency”. It’s absurd, really, that our job titles are not only what we do, they are who we are. But if I’m not my job title, then what am I? I could say that I’m a son, a brother, a friend, a husband (we’re not married yet, but English doesn’t have a good word that fits between boyfriend and husband. Swedish does: sambo. It’s short for “samboende”, which means living together. It’s not only a practical word, it’s also a legal term. You legally become sambo after living together for six months. It entails more rights and obligations than being partners, but fewer rights and obligations than being married. If I have to describe my relation to the the handsome, funny, loving, smart, caring man that I’ve spent almost seven years with, I’m rounding up to husband in English.). Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, I could say that I’m a son, a brother, a friend, a husband – but those words don’t describe me. They describe my relationship to different people.

I could ask you the same question: who are you? Who are you in every context imaginable? Whether it’s in the office at 10 am on a Monday, or at the club an early Sunday morning, Thanksgiving dinner with your family, or a weekend trip to Barcelona with your friends. There is a sameness to the person you are in all those contexts, but which words do you use to describe it? You could play it safe and say “I’m a person”, but are you, really? The word “person” comes from the Latin “persona” which in turn comes from the Greek “prosopon”, which means “mask”. Persona originally meant “mask”, referring to the mask worn by actors in a play. I’m trying hard not to be a person anymore. I learned not to be one in October, when I realized that the image in my mind of my own identity, was hollow due to being a person. It was an outline drawn by every person I’ve met. It was clearly recognizable as me, but it was the collective consciousness’ image of me. They couldn’t tell me what was inside, and since I never looked, neither could I. I had spent all my life viewing myself through the eyes of the public. To avoid looking inside, I turned my attention outwards. Attention is like peeing: you simply have to aim it somewhere. Or perhaps as a flashlight without an off-button, you have to aim it somewhere, and aiming it at your face is just silly and blinds you. I aimed the flashlight at understanding the universe through information. Science. Knowledge. Learning. Whether it was through discussions, books, YouTube videos, blog posts, movies or video games. The smartphone accelerated this, offering information and stimuli even in those moments I simply had to endure before. If I had three minutes to kill, whether it was brushing my teeth or waiting in line, I would have my phone in hand. I think I was afraid of looking inside because I didn’t know how to. Or maybe I was afraid of what I could find. Waking-up is as much an awareness and exploration of my inside and my soul, as of my outside and my universe. I didn’t know who I was until that point, and now I’m starting to get an idea.

So, then

Who am I?

I am a man who’s born a lion
And a man who loves the chi, it calls me
I am the disciple of disbelief
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the worlds
They call meThey’ve delivered me to where we are
I have journeyed fartherI am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me

And the call isn’t out there at all
It’s inside me
It’s like the tide
Always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart, you’ll remind me
That come what may, I know the way

But you can call me Michael. Any additional answer I can give you says little, but it distorts the lens through which you see me a lot. Try it. Picture me as a shoe salesman. Or as an unemployed person. As the head of innovation at a communications agency. As a personal trainer. As a skydiver. I wonder, which preconceived notion about each of those categories popped into your head? I’ve actually been all of those, but today I am neither. In this world, the one we call “the real world”, the few words that describe me somewhat correctly are introvert, male, storyteller and explorer. Oh, and gay (like really, seriously, severely gay), but not too gay to function.

Michael Kazarnowicz
Me over the years

Does this sound crazy to you so far? I don’t blame you. Thirteen months ago, most of the stories I’m about to tell you would seem completely, utterly insane to me. And they are. Being born is like realizing our world is insane and an illusion, and choosing to step out of it. Going out-of-sane. In the out-of-sane reality, I’m a still a storyteller and an explorer, but I’m not so sure about the “gay and introvert” part. I am a demigod – but think less Heracles or Hercules, and more Maui from Moana. If you’re in Europe, you know that movie as Vaiana. Disney changed it because there was a semi-famous Italian pornstar named Moana, and any kids image googling “Moana” could end up finding years of therapy ahead. Anyway, In the out-of-sane, I am a demigod, the son of Alan Watts, the brother of Tom. There’s also an octopus involved, although I’m not entirely sure how yet. It’s confusing to be a newborn sometimes.

Who I am matters little, what is important is what I am, and what I am not. I am not enlightened. I do not want to be, not really. It’s a little like wanting the perfect beach body. If you ask someone who pays for a gym membership, but never actually goes to the gym, if they want the perfect beach body, chances are they’d say “of course!” and then continue never going to the gym. To them, the effort – spending several days a week at the gym – simply seems too high for the reward – a very fit body. Had the effort been worth it, they would have done it. Replace “the perfect beach body” with “enlightenment” and you have a good picture of how I feel about it: it’s not worth the effort.

Now, those of you who have that perfect beach body may think “but it’s totally worth it, if they only experienced it, they would understand!”. You are right, of course. I did that, some years back: went to the gym four to five days a week for a whole year. I had a diet as ambitious as my work-out schedule. It was totally worth it, I did get that fit body I wanted. Unfortunately, working out didn’t do much for my non-existent dating skills, and I was too poor to enjoy the more carnal, no-strings-attached aspects of a great body. Poor as in the Madonna quote “Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another”.

Michael Kazarnowicz
Me trying on a “beach body” avatar

No, my excuse isn’t that of the person who believes the price is too high when it really isn’t. I’ve had a really fit body, and I’ve experienced enlightenment twice. Once August last year, once a month ago. It’s awesome in the true meaning of the word. As in “it fills you with awe”. I’m not talking about the awe of Sasha Velour’s reveals in the final episode of season 9 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, genius as it was. It’s more like all your birthdays, your wedding day, your mitzvah, bar or bat, graduation day, an orgasm, your first Ecstasy kickning in during sunrise on a beach in Koh Phangan and that scene from Avatar when Sam Worthington is reborn through the tree of souls, all rolled into one single moment that lasts forever, because time ceases to exist. Another thing that ceased to exist for a while, was me.

You know what? It’s not scary to not exist. It’s actually complete and utter bliss. Of all the things I’ve told you, this is perhaps the thing that would sound most crazy to my old self. Just like most people, I was terrified of death. So terrified that I didn’t even think about it. I avoided situations where death was visible, like cemeteries. I actually would go out of my way to avoid a cemetery on the morning walks I took in addition to the gym, you know, to get that great body. The cemetery was actually quite beautiful. Instead I chose to walk along a busy road with buildings that would make Easter Europe seem cheerful. It’s quite the symptomatic behavior: I avoided beauty because of death, and I ended up living less.

Norra begravningsplatsen
The cemetery in question

As I was ready to face my fear of death, I realized that it’s not actual death I was afraid of. It was not existing.

Fears are interesting that way, that they often pretend to be something else. They mr. Ripley you with all their talent, and so fear of being abandoned may disguise itself as fear of conflict.

I thought I was afraid of conflicts most of my life, when I really was afraid of being abandoned. I was so deceived by my fear of abandonment that I didn’t even realize that I did take conflicts – with people I didn’t much care about. Since I believed I was afraid of conflict, I didn’t realize that I went Eric Cartman all over people who didn’t matter, and therefore could not abandon me. Only once my best friend pointed that out in a joint effort with my husband, only then could I start looking for the real reason I avoided conflicts with my family, my close friends – and my husband. I avoided conflict because I was afraid of losing their love. I didn’t realize that when you avoid conflict, you also avoid growth. It is sinister, that fear of losing love, because it also stops love from growing. There can be no growth without risk, just like there can be no life without death.

My fear of death was similar. It was a little like the plot from Friday the 13th, where you think Jason is the killer, when it’s really his mom. The mom of my Jason was “not existing”. That was what I was afraid of.

It’s logical, right? When you die, you stop existing – and to someone who exists, that is a horrible concept. I knew that once I don’t exist, I cannot care, but it seemed too simple an answer. Like a trap. I think it was because deep down (deep, deep, deep down, like, that place in your intestines that they don’t know if it’s better to insert the scope through your anus or your mouth to reach it) – deep down I did not believe in non-existence for life. Once I realized what my fear really was, I could ask myself that hard question: “Well, what do I really believe?”

It’s time to say good night, so I will leave you with that question until our next encounter. What do you really believe? Think about that. Children think about that. Sleep well, my friend, until you wake up.

Episode 1: The dangers of following a white rabbit

Welcome to Bedtime stories for grown-ups, a podcast where I, Michael Kazarnowicz, tell, well, stories for grown-ups. Consider me a spiritual entertainer, if you will, as I tell stories of the things I discovered after swallowing the red pill while falling down the rabbit hole. These stories play out in our reality, and as such are true to the best of my knowledge, but they originate in weird and wonderful places outside it. These stories can be true for you too, if you want them to be. Just check your knowledge at the door and use your heart to listen to the space between the words. If you feel something resonate, it may well be your white rabbit moving around in the bushes, making itself known. I dare you to follow it. If something provokes you in any way, or feels outrageously untrue, remember that these are mere stories, told by someone who went out of his mind.
I am just like you. Maybe not on the outside, but if we remove the illusion of difference that our bodies create, we are the same. I am just like you. It’s knowledge that creates the illusion of separateness. Knowledge, you see, requires a subject that knows it, so when we got knowledge, we also got what we call consciousness. Everything you learn reconfigures your reality. Science, in a way, is a way to confirm and evolve our consensus about an objective reality, or as close as we can get to it.
The problem with knowing is that once you know that you know, there’s no way back to the bliss that is ignorance. This is why growing up is a trap, since growing-up means learning what separates a child from a grown-up and applying that knowledge. We learn how to act like an adult, which means not acting like a child. Imagination requires a disregard for knowledge, a disregard children have mastered and grown-ups have forgotten. I hope my bedtime stories, adapted for modern grown-ups, help you remember. All you have to do is check your knowledge at the door, and listen to the space in between the words. You may find a resonance there. That’s your white rabbit stirring in the bushes. I dare you to follow it.
My white rabbit led me to my super power.  It’s a crazy feeling. I almost don’t believe it myself. Whenever I want to use it and it doesn’t work, I feel a panic creeping on: what if I’m just delusional? What if all those times it worked, were just some crazy fluke, some weird freak of nature? But then it works again, and I feel like a little kid anew. The the more I try it, the better I become at using it. I still don’t fully understand it myself, but it feels awesome. I actually only fully realized I had it a couple weeks ago. It is too early to tell you exactly what it is at this point, but imagine believing you don’t know how to surf. You think it would be nice to learn, and you put it on the “some day” list, only to realize that “some day” never comes. It’s always today. Then, when you move it from the “some day” list to the “today” list and finally go surfing, you realize you quickly master it and start doing tricks you never thought possible. I believe you have a super power too, but I don’t know what it is. I think I have a way for you to find out.
It’s hard to tell when it all began. I think Robert Jordan captured it best in the first paragraph of the first chapter of the first book in the Wheel of Time series: “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
I want to give you a heads up, that just like the Wheel of Time, this story that I have begun telling you has no end (unless you believe the heat death of the universe to be the end, then this story ends about then). Even though this is scripted, and the first season is set to have 10 episodes. I’ve only finished writing and producing the first seven, so the end is as yet unwritten. I’m not sure whether the script I’m playing out is a fagulous hybrid of the Matrix and Alice in Wonderland where I’ve discovered a pattern to synchronicity thanks to my Mad Hatter, or an unfortunate combination of Weird Science and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. where a geek experiments with psychedelics and turns himself into a person who ought to have his whole head examined. The end is yet unwritten, and you, friend, can help me figure out the end of this.
The “a beginning” of my story happened exactly a year ago, on June 17th 2017. That’s when I woke up the first time. At least that’s what they call it in The Matrix. You know, that scene where Neo sleeps on his desk and the computer screen suddenly says “Wake up Neo… The Matrix has you… Follow the white rabbit. Knock, knock, Neo.” The actual experience wasn’t too far off, although the wake-up call is not that literal, but the signs are there when you’re ready. The Wachowski siblings did get the outside world, the real world, as they calI it, wrong. But you can’t blame them. It’s very hard to depict a five-dimensional universe using only four dimensions. It’s a little like trying to explain a mind-blowing prostate orgasm using puppets. You just can’t take it seriously.
There are many names for that which I have experienced, depending on your culture. Kundalini, thummo, Sattori, Bodhi, Kensho, Grok. In the western world we sometimes call it “enlightenment”,  sometimes “waking up”, and if it’s religious: “being born again”. While I could call my experience all of those, I would not add the “again” to “being born”. “Again” implies that I was born the time before, but since I don’t remember it, I can only take my mother’s word for it. Of course she believes it, but how does anyone really know what’s real? The nature of illusion is that it’s synonymous to delusion, hallucination and mirage. When you’re stuck in it, it may as well be reality.
This particular time on that Saturday in June a year ago, I was born in the sense that I fully realized what – who –  I am once you remove my body. At that point, I was like an infant, only able to grasp the simplest concept of my superpower, not yet consciously aware that I have it, let alone how complex it was. Just like an infant who can’t even control his face, let alone his bladder probably has no idea that one day, he may have the body control of Bruce Lee, the facial expressions of Jim Carrey, or the multi-skilled comedic genius of Bo Burnham.
Contrary to popular belief, being born isn’t a traumatizing event, at least not in my experience. Have you ever had a dream that that you were so sure was real? So real that even after waking you aren’t sure it was just a dream? A dream so good, that when you wake up you feel a profound sense of loss? Perhaps you had a lot of money, or had met the love of your life. Perhaps you had a super power in that dream, like being able to fly. Whatever it is, it’s amazing and feels so real – but when you wake up, you realize you’ve lost it.
Being born is a little bit like that, but instead of losing something, you gain it. You are not sure what “it” is yet, but you just know it. It’s like being in love. No one can tell you you’re in love, you just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones.
Before you listen further, I have a warning for you: I have no red pill to offer you. The red pill is a symptom of the times we live in, when everything should be achieved as quickly as possible. My diet is better than yours. My yoga is faster than your yoga. My guru is smarter than your guru. We look to listicles giving us ten points how to be happy but never take time to reflect over what brings us real happiness. I have no red pill, but you may find the makings of your own in the space between the words, just like I did. Once you’ve found it… After that, there is no turning back. You stay in Wonderland, and find out how deep the rabbit hole goes. You may fight the fall, but that will just make the pain worse. Remember: all I’m offering is a truth. Nothing more.
Still there? Good. I have one more warning:
If it isn’t traumatizing to be born, it’s the more traumatizing to make sense of this world once you are born. It’s actually mostly the fault of humans. We do some very weird things, both to ourselves and not each other. I’m not talking about sexual stuff, consensual acts of doing weird sexual things to each other – and let’s face it, most sexual things are weird, not to mention the ridiculous faces we make while we do the weird sexual things – those consensual acts are awesome. But the other weird things, like the fact that we believe that a lonely millionaire is richer than the person who has just enough money and close friends, these weird things lead us to chasing money and screwing both people and the planet over for it… it’s traumatizing.
This was when the suffering of being born started for me. It’s different for everyone. Some experience physical pain. Some become depressed, or worse. I’m pretty sure that you cannot get through it without facing every single one of your fears that you haven’t dealt with yet. It means facing your desires, and the inevitable tragedy of either not getting what you desire, or worse, getting it. Much like Galadriel did when Frodo offered her the Ring of Power:
“In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me, and despair!” Tolkien knew that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Galadriel passed that test, but many on this path don’t. They use their newfound wisdom to gain power and money, which just like the Ring of Power, corrupt us to the core.
Following the white rabbit means a high price to pay, a great risk to take, but the greater the risk, the greater the prize. Did I mention I have a freaking super power?
You will need people. I was helped by many people. In fact, any person in my life that I can think of helped me in some way. Some did it without even knowing that I exist, like RuPaul, for example. RuPaul is like Heath Ledger’s Joker, except with wit and gorgeous outfits instead of violence and chaos. “Why so serious?”
Some people helped knowing very much that I exist, like my friends. Maybe this sounds weird to you, me stating that my friends know that I exist. But I’m not sure how to express it in any other way, because on the journey I’ve met people who I didn’t know existed. Like my brother, who was born at the same time that I was. We had met six years before either of us realized we were brothers. We met at a rooftop party in Brooklyn, and we hit it off in that way you do with certain people. I’m lucky that my brother is good looking, because back then I was so superficial that I mostly talked to good looking guys at parties. It’s a common thing among us humans, we want to get laid so badly that people we consider unattractive become invisible to us. Gays are exceptionally good at it.
Have you heard about “the cheerleader effect”? Also known as “the bridesmaid paradox”, “sorority girl syndrome” and for a brief window in the 90s, “the spice girls conspiracy”. It could also be called “the groomsman enigma”, “frat boy deception” or “Backstreet Boys conundrum” because it applies to men and women alike. It’s not just something Barney in “How I met your mother” came up with, although he did say it five years before a study backed it up. The more scientific term for it is “the group attractiveness effect“. Circuit parties are the epitome of “the group attractiveness effect”. If you don’t know what circuit parties are, they are big dance parties attended by muscular gay men – the kind we affectionately call “gym queens” – who see them as a sort of advanced, collective foreplay. My moment of realization that I was part of this illusion was in 2015, when me and a group of friends were in Berlin for a big party at the legendary club Berghain. We had a dinner the night before, and one of us too took a group photo. That photo looks like fourteen versions of the same guy with different levels of scruff. The realization shook me, and I thought “I can’t be THAT superficial, all my friends are really smart, funny, loving people”. But even if you pick your friends only from the subset of people you find physically attractive, you’ll still end up with people who also are smart and funny and loving, because those are some of the traits that make friends, friends.

The photo mentioned above

So, when I met the person turned out to be my brother in July 2011, I was fortunate that he is good looking. If he hadn’t been, chances are I would not have talked to him. Had I not talked to him, we would not have become friends on Facebook, and he would not have been able to nudge me to follow that trail of seemingly unrelated breadcrumbs of chaos that eventually led to me to my super power.
Sorry, that was a long digression from the warning I wanted to give you. But I trust you now understand the risks of listening to these crazy bedtime stories.
If this was a website, this is where the checkbox or button saying “I accept the risks” would be, but it’s a podcast of bedtime stories. If you accept the risk that should the best and worst happen (they’re actually the same thing),when it happens there is no turning back. If you accept it, just subscribe and wait for the next episode. You don’t even have to be serious about it, as long as you are sincere. If you like the story so far, there is one thing I would ask of you: pick two friends you think would enjoy it, and share this episode with them. It’s the dream of every storyteller to reach as many as possible, and you can help this storyteller’s dream come true.
Until next time: sleep well, my friend, until you wake up.