Welcome to Good Thought, a newsletter about fresh ideas for purposeful living in the 2020s.
I’m Aaron Nesmith-Beck. I founded Atman, one of the first legal psilocybin retreats, and my writing at Freedom & Fulfilment has over 1M pageviews. You can learn more about me here.
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Round Up Your Friends & Escape the City
This seems to be on everyone’s mind.
Imagine living in a spacious house with a forest as your backyard, a big body of water nearby, and not a car, highway, or condo building in sight.
During the week you work from home or a local coffee shop, and on weekends you go hiking, camping, or hunting with your best friends. You cook with vegetables grown in your back garden and meat from the wild or a local farm. You enjoy peace and quiet, nature, and wide open space.
Maybe you live this already, but if you’re like most, you don’t.
Let’s back up a minute. What’s this about?
COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the cost/benefit balance of living in a major city, or living in a city at all.
Pre-pandemic, the main benefits of living in a city were jobs, community, and things to do. Each has been affected, some more than others.
Most people live in or near cities because they need to physically go in to work. If your job becomes remote, there is no need to be “close to the office” because there is no office. You can live anywhere. Many freelancers and gig workers were already living like this.
Cities attract interesting people. If you’re creative, ambitious, educated (or getting there), thoughtful, hard-working, high openness, etc. and you want to be around people like you, you’ve had to be in a city.
In-person community remains important, but the amount that’s possible has been greatly diminished, especially if you live in a city with a lot of COVID-19.
And I don’t know about you, but a lot of my friends live far away anyway, and our relationships were already mostly online even before the pandemic. Other friends are leaving my current city for the very reasons I’m describing.
Still, while your job can be done just as well (or better) from your laptop, the same is not true of friendships. In-person community seems indispensable for good quality of life.
Things to do
Cities have restaurants, bars, cafés, museums, art galleries, concerts, shows, exhibits, etc. These are now closed, socially distanced, and/or masked.
I like cafés, art galleries, some museums, and the occasional concert or show, but this was never a big factor for me living in a city to begin with. I’d pretty happily trade it (especially in its reduced capacity) for greater access to nature.
If you value these things more, your calculus here may be different.
COVID-19 has diminished or eliminated the upsides of living in a city, but it hasn’t affected the downsides.
The main drawbacks of living in a city are:
Depending on where you are, you may also experience the general unpleasantness of being constantly surrounded by cars, roads, and tall buildings, and/or the ambient level of stress that is characteristic of places like NYC or downtown Toronto.
What’s the solution? Gather up your friends and move to a small place together. You keep the main benefit of living in a city—community—and avoid the downsides.
You also get the upsides of living in a small place:
The spectrum of potential living situations ranges from highly communal to highly individualistic. The most communal is sharing a house or property with friends. The most individualistic is each person, couple or family living on their own property, close together. In-between options are living in different units in the same building, or having a shared kitchen/common space with individual bedrooms and bathrooms.
The timeframe for this depends on your level of mobility. It’s something I’m thinking about on a 1-3 year timeframe. If you’re very mobile (single, working remotely, already living away from your family/hometown) this is something you could do right away.
There are at least two more important questions that affect this decision.
Moving to a small place makes sense if you’re in a committed relationship and your partner moves with you. If you’re single and looking for a partner, it makes much less sense.
If you’re looking for a partner, you want to be somewhere where you’re likely to find one. That means a place with as many potential partners as possible, and that place is probably a city.
That is assuming you want a long-term monogamous relationship in the first place. If you want something else—polyamory, a lot of casual sex, or whatever else tickles your fancy—you’re still much more likely to find that in a city than a small place.
Cities have an energy to them, and it’s often directed in a certain way. For example, New York is about money, Boston is about intelligence, and San Francisco is about power or impact (according to Paul Graham, anyway). LA, presumably, is about fame.
For my Canadian comrades, Vancouver is about the outdoors, Toronto is about career ambition, and Montreal is about culture (or very beautiful French women).
Living in a city with a particular energy can bring enormous benefit. It’s much easier to work hard if all your colleagues are staying late at the office. It’s much easier to be fit and healthy if you always see people running, cycling, and drinking green smoothies. It’s much easier to raise money for your startup if that guy you met at a party last weekend happens to be an angel investor.
A friend brought up the energy question as it relates to small places. The energy in a small place is likely to be slower and more relaxed, with less “go” in the air.
Could this be counterproductive if you want to accomplish things? And could moving with a community of friends help sidestep this problem? It’s hard to say. But the deeper point is worth considering: how might the energy of a smaller place affect us in unexpected ways?
Has this been on your mind lately? Does my reasoning make sense? I’m making certain assumptions: you’re probably young, you can work remotely, you don’t have kids to take care of, you appreciate nature, you care about cost of living (i.e. you don’t have f*ck you money). These things may not apply to you.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 has opened up the possibility space in terms of geographical relocation. Where will we all go next..?
🍄 Psychedelic research paper: Entity encounters on DMT 👽
Researchers surveyed 2,561 people who encountered entities during a DMT experience. Some interesting findings:
- 96% of people attributed consciousness and intelligence to the entity
- 60% of people reported that the experience produced a desirable alteration in their fundamental conception of reality
- 28% of people identified as atheists before the encounter, and only 10% after
“Breaking through” with DMT is among the strangest possible experiences, and it’s exciting that research can help us understand it better. I look forward to more studies like this one.
📺 Good watch: Making of The Matrix
Filmmaking can be fascinating, especially when the project is highly ambitious and creative.
The Matrix is no doubt one of the best movies ever. The themes are thought-provoking, the action is awesome, and plot-wise you’ll hardly find a cleaner rendition of the full hero’s journey.
Besides, has any other film had quite so many concepts, scenes, and lines become iconic (or memes)?
- Red pill/blue pill
- “There is no spoon”
- “What if I told you…”
- Bullet dodging
- Bullet stopping
- “I know kung fu”
Did you know that Keanu Reeves and the other main actors trained with a Hong Kong cinema team every day for 4 months to actually learn how to do kung fu and fly around on wires?
If you like The Matrix, you’ll probably enjoy this video.
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