eternity, suffering, death

[Originally published, now with slight updates reflected here and in main doc: ]

[Update: A newer version of this is in the protocol doc.]

[draft status: in need of editing, as per usual]

There’s ways in which the below is inconsistent, confused, and incomplete–it’s not the final word, I still have a LOT to learn, and nor could it ever be consistent and complete, in a deep, philosophical sense. It’s offered because it might be comforting and useful, for some people, as an interim touchstone, or it might help some good things happen fractionally faster, or it’s just interesting. As a recommendation, if you’d otherwise be inclined, don’t particularly try to “make any of this stick”; one sort of has to find their way to this kind of stuff on their own terms, and then you “don’t need to make it stick,” as natural as trusting gravity.


So, many people take refuge in eternity and essentiality, and many people fear death, meaninglessness, and suffering. We encountered those sorts of things somehow already within ourselves, and/or we picked them up from culture, or we confused other people’s stuff with our own, in deep or subtle ways.

So let’s unpack all this a bit more and talk about pluses and minuses and antidotes.


So, IF there’s eternity (timelessness, outside-of-time-ness) then, this is a bit of an incomplete straw, but it kind of follows that everything that has ever existed does always already forever exist and that everything has a fixed, eternal essence. There’s a nearby and simultanously compatible thing, which is “sempiternity,” which means something like “an infinite future” (infinite timefulness, and, maybe necessarily along with that, an infinite past).

Some problematic implications of eternity and sempiternity are that, in some sense, if anything’s wrong with your “essence,” then, depending on how that works, there might be some sense in which it can never be fixed. You’ll be stuck with however you are, and if that’s bad, then that’s infinitely bad.

Additionally, everything becomes infinitely important, any choice has massive stakes, infinite stakes, because it could compound forever without relief. Death might not offer any relief. Anything that produces (“intolerable”) suffering (badness, loss, failure, rejection, loneliness, judgment, uncertainty) is potentially (infinitely) catastrophic. Sure, you might have infinite time to correct your mistakes, but what if, by some chain of events, you find you permanently cannot?


Alongside eternity, as complements or alternatives, there’s also mortality, death, and nothingness.

Problems with these are things like, if death results in nothingness then potentially everything is nihilist and meaningless. And then perhaps there’s no basis for action (or happiness, joy, etc.), perhaps because everything is ephemeral, impermanent–we can’t take it with us, including ourselves, we lose it all, as if it never was, so what’s the point?


And then there’s fragility and uncertainty which sort of underpin the risks of eternity, mortality, and suffering, and kind of take the joy and spontaneity and enjoyment out of everything.


And finally, all these things sort of get tangled together in potentially inconsistent ways. For example, say death if isn’t, for example, conceived as pure nothingness; perhaps it’s unfortunately conceived as sort of potentially an “in-between” state, of maybe trappedness, loneliness, fear, failure, and suffering, and maybe that’s “eternal.”


Ok, so what to do? Maybe just avoid thinking about all this as much as possible? What if you can’t not think about it?

All of the below assumes lots and lots of meditation (or luck/fortune/grace/etc.).


Some of the things that can happen over time are the following, and these are all sort of somewhat entangled together:

Sempiternity and especially eternity can come to be sort of deeply recognized as phenomenologically/pragmatically/epistemically inconsistent. It’s not that one can no longer work/think/model with conceptual and cosmological and mathematical infinity or plan for far futures, but some “literal or functional seating” of these ideas, in the bodymind, can be judged and rejected.

This is partly underpinned by insight into impermanence and/or/rather lack of essence and/or/rather interdependence, as in nebulous, empty, or provisional causes (laws), conditions (“starting” conditions), and spontaneity, through and through. Say it’s all just shimmering stuff or forces and fields or whatever, phenomena or noumena, on the border of differentiation and lack of differentiation. What perhaps follows is sort of a way in which anything like eternity or its implications becomes (literally?) ungraspable. (I might lose some physical or scientific or mathematical realists, here. See below for a tiny bit more on maps and territories and more.)

But isn’t there something like eternity or infinite time or at least vast time? What sort of does the work of that? What kind-of-happens-is-sort-of [sic] an “eternal now” which is sort of immanent, sort of aconceptual. This “eternal now” is very unlike the other “eternity” thing, which perhaps sort of “lived elsewhere.” (This also involves a “‘positive’ nowhere to go,” “just this”-ness.) It’s sort of a better fit for the whole system.

Sounds pleasant, maybe, but maybe literally false? And then what about meaninglessness and suffering and death?

Meaninglessness sort of gets handled by aconceptuality and fluidity and spontaneity. It becomes safe to rest in meaninglessness and pointlessness because there’s sort of something “beneath” them, so loss of meaning isn’t devastating and in need of scrupulous avoidance. And, further, one gains confidence that meaning is either inessential or is at least just always transient, because of systemic fluidity–one doesn’t get “stuck” that way, so it’s safer to go into, and there’s generally (nonmonotonically) something even better on the other side, and especially in the limit. (Spontaneity will be further discussed below.)


Fragility, uncertainty, suffering, and death sort of get handled in a few ways.

Suffering has sort of both “practical” and “general” mitigations. Here we first talk about the “general” mitigation of sort of “no-self-y-ness.” That’s not to say there isn’t often generally coherence and meaning, “self-ing,” but if there’s a disruption of the self and/or “intolerable” suffering, there comes to be a deep way in which it’s “just happening” that doesn’t require a self. (This is sort of coextensive with “no things, including no self, never have/has been, never were, never will be.” (More accurate might be “no stable, permanent, enduring things or self.”) Like, if you are disrupted, then are you still you, there, suffering? Creepy? But, like, in a good/comforting way? And, further, at this point, the “whole system, self and everything” has become extremely good at sort of self-endorsedly “reconstituting” itself, if disrupted. One can kind of rest in an extraordinarily self-aligned and trustworthy spontaneity, because that spontaneity, over time, sort of comes to know just what to do.

With suffering kind of more handled, it can be separated out from death and nothingness. When nothingness is disentangled from various confusions, it becomes much less of a big deal. It’s sort of just like deep sleep (which is still admittedly freaky to think about, for some people); in both cases “you’re not there,” and it’s fine while it lasts. It’s not like you’re there and trapped or there and can’t breath, and so on: it’s just nothing. And, so then “nothing” is especially not some sort of “experientially eternal” bad thing. So, again, much less of a big deal.

So then with suffering kind of more handled and nothingness kind of more handled, then death is kind of more handled–it’s the potential suffering leading up to death that can be super scary to think about, the (“intolerable”) fear of (imminent) death and the dying, versus being dead (in the case that death is “experiential nothingness.”) And, again, the spontaneous-no-self-just-happing-ness kind of helps with this.

Further, the “eternal now” can have a “soothingly deathless” feel. Sort of, as in, “if death is nothingness then you won’t know that you’re dead,” so you’ll always only ever be alive, and if “now is eternal” then you’re immortal-ish, etc.

All of this is sort of positively entangled (and deeply related to) the “practical mitigation” of suffering, i.e. “deconditioning.” People typically have a great deal of “cue-able” or triggerable suffering that gets worked through in the course of meditation. Prior to working through things, we are sort of uncontrollably, prereflectively, “already” freaked out by things before we become conscious of them. And so that happening less and less, for fewer and fewer things, is sort of part and parcel with the more general antidotes above.


But, like, you want things, and lots of people, all things being equal, prefer not to die, a lot, at the very least. If death becomes even remotely less of a concern, won’t people be less good or vigilant about avoiding death? And isn’t that kind of inconsistent and so isn’t that a good reason to fear death and uncertainty?

What kind of happens is a sort of “positive behavioral indifference” in that more and more things get handled and worked out such that “no matter what happens this is the best plan,” “you’re fully up to date,’ in ultimately a deep and prereflective way. So, like regardless of whether you’re (uncertainly) going to die in five minutes or fifty years or one thousand years, your “plan” is intertemporally consistent with respect to all those contingencies. Given your context, limitations, uncertainties, knowledge, there’s both “nothing to change” and you’re fluidly “updating your plan” in each moment as more sensory evidence comes in. And so, you’re avoiding cars, poking at life extension, somehow eating both healthy and deliciously, anything, in a way that fully accounts for your preferences. And “death” is kind of mostly-/semi-background handled in a way that doesn’t self-defeatingly loom large; it doesn’t suboptimally take up ongoing rumination time at the expense of other things; though, it might be innocuously and consistently threaded through things in a way that naturally comes up. All of this is perhaps one facet of “wisdom.”


This might all be well and good but what about something like impingement or corruption. Like what about mind control parasites (toxoplasma gondii) or Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injury or whatever? What if I figure out a bunch of stuff about “eternity” and feel pretty good about that, but then I have a stroke and “lose” a bunch of it?

First of all, the brain is kind of holographic and reconstitutive. Maybe surprisingly, if stuff reaches a “ground state,” versus a person trying to make stuff stick, even traumatic brain injury, all things being equal, doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of stuff is even transiently lost. And, even if “something” (loosely speaking) is lost due to physical or chemical insult, all things being equal, a “deeply settled meditative mind” will spontaneously work/flow towards rederiving/reconstituting what was disrupted (or will find something even better).

But, in any general case, life is messy and death is messy.

To be sure, people do have terrible brain things happen and, outside view, come through with unchanged personalities. But, sometimes a single microstroke will, outside view, radically alter a person’s personality or produce anosognosia, not to mention complexly related fatigue and anxiety (though, all things being equal, a long-term meditator does have a greater chance of “finding their way back,” very very loosely and reductively speaking).

Nothing remotely guarantees health, wealth, a “good death,” sanity, neurological integrity, a long life, immortality, “thinking real good,” hot sex, whatever. And, at the very least, at the time of this writing, meditation doesn’t free you from having a physical brain, subject to decay, demyelination, amoebas, car accidents, or anything.

All that said, a lot of the “antidotes” above generally hold, even in these most challenging of “edge cases” or one’s concern about them. Deconditioning, over time, promotes constructive action and handledness of various contingencies, which obviates and “integrates away” unconstructive worrying. “Best plan”-ness allows for a rich, full life in the light of death, not self-limited by fear or accident (in relative relation to one’s beliefs about risks, tradeoffs, etc.) “No-self-y-ness” and “trustworthy self-aligned robust spontaneous self-reconstitution” helps with acute accident and illness and suffering. Lots of other metaphysical and cosmological and conceptual stuff gets refactored and cleaned up, over time, which mitigates all sorts of unnecessary suffering.

But, yeah, there’s still uncertainty and finitude (modulo dissolving into Brahman, as it were, and eternal nows)–no guarantees about anything.

So here’s yet a couple more globally interrelated things to throw into the mix: determinism and provisionality.

Eventually, through life and meditation, one might get a deep sense of determinism, that, in some sense (pick your cosmology and physics and supervenience and etc.), everything can’t but happen exactly as it has happened, is happening, and is going to happen, via causes and conditions, states and evolution laws (or something kind of like this, in your metaphysics). You are happening just as you’re going to happen, things are happening just as they’re going to happen, including your choices and everything. What’s exactly going to happen is just exactly what’s going to happen. This can be kind of both terrifying and ultimately soothing, by turns, a particular kind of loss of control. But, eventually one can comprehensively sort of align with it, participate in it, deeply, stably, with no remainder. And there’s a deep freedom in that.

Further, in that freedom, there is a certain provisionality. You really don’t know. Was what just happened ultimately good or bad? You really don’t know. What’s going to happen next? You’re “flowing forward” with respect to sort of your best guess as to what’s going to happen next. But anything could happen next, maybe not with respect to the world out there (in some sense), but at least with respect to your current state of knowledge (in some sense). Falsely thin probabilistic tails give way to more appropriate fat probabilistic tails.

And, amidst the sometimes ghastly, horrible, painful, sorrowful, determinism and provisionality are facilitative of curiosity, engagement, play, delight, participation, a cosmic poise, a cosmic opportunism: a bright-eyed, let’s see what happens next.


If you found anything above to be inconsistent or untenable or unsatisfying or false or unworkable, it’s just my own gestural snapshot of some interrelated things, and a low-dimensional projection into words, at that. Things will continue to unravel, settle, resettle for me over time. “Your thing,” on your terms, which will, say, be a living, sensitive dialogue, ultimately not separate from the being and seeming and acting in and of the world, has to be legitimate and credible and consistent and/or constructively nebulous for you.

And it can dialogue with other people’s things/deals, too, in comfort, love, intimacy, support, frustration, outrage, solitude, community, all of it, as part of that. Hell and heaven, eternity set aside, are other people, and all that.


* Whoops, also, I didn’t mean to imply that anyone has to sort any of this out, whether by meditation or anything. And, also, nothing special has to happen in meditation or etc.. This sort of stuff “just pops out”, all things being equal, in the course of correct practice.


don’t be here now

[Originally published: ]

Many people, deep, deep down (or at multiple “levels”) are seeking an elsewhere, an elsewhen. They’re trying to step outside the universe, break the universe, step through a portal, step to another side, into books, movies, daydreams, somewhere else, another planet, another dimension, somewhere safe, somewhere beyond death, somewhere with adventure, somewhere with love, just somewhere else.

Sometimes this is from parts of us not quite understanding, for example, as children, what books, tv, and movies actually mean, how the relate to the world around us; that material “gets in” (and that can be fine and is normal). And, sometimes, this comes just as a strategy for being safe or just getting away from the banal, terrifying, mortal, crushingly boring “tyranny of the here and now.”

These “portals” and other “places” are sort of instantiated through “inner space phenomenology” and “motor output” phenomenology that can introduce contradiction and contention in problem-solving and muscle/motor planning. And/but, in any case, these portals and places are also sometimes deeply sacred and meaningful.

There’s sort of a “double escape” thing that can happen—we sort of escape “towards” these other portals and worlds and dimensions (say, for safety, freedom, meaning). And/but, then we also sort of force ourselves “towards” some conception of “reality” or the “the real world” (also for safety—food, shelter, money—and sometimes this is where love and friends are, too, and sometimes not). So this introduces a sort of (fractal) “hitches” or “twists” or “switchbacks” in this system, where if we don’t go back and “recover,” honor, allow, integrate, receive, surrender to those beautiful, meaningful, “other places” and the ways to get to them, then our attempts to “function” in “the real world,” are kind of held back and stymied, to the point of muscle tension and more. This hitches takes modal/problem-solving “slack” out of the system, pull it tight, make things harder or slower or impossible-seeming. Further, beauty and meaning, being locked away in “other places,” can prevent us from finding wonder, meaning, love, competency, safety, strength, intimacy, wisdom, gratitude, grace, power, joy, community, adventure in the here and now.

It’s a bit of a roundabout journey: Sometimes the way to “here and now” involves going to the farthest reaches of fantasy. Further, we have confusions about here and now (and death and nothingness and a paperwork and jobs and all sorts of things) that make here and now excruciatingly boring, painful, and scary. So, any instructions that look like “be here now” can be pretty problematic for some people, some of the time. It’s confusing result with journey.

Further, *don’t take my word or anyone’s that “here and now” is good, or anything.* We have to find our own way, which, again, might look like five years (or forever!) writing (erotic robot vampire) fantasy and science fiction. “Here and now” is empty, nebulous. “Reality” is empty, nebulous. “Just this” is empty, nebulous. In any case, you still have to find your own way, “subjectively through your own self and world.” Which can take a long time and sort of be sometimes lonely and intimidating. But, that means you will not, cannot, must not leave behind anything you value, no matter how childish, cringe, weird, disgusting, beautiful, meaningful, sacred.

Structure-preserving transformations, that seek “wrong/erroneous/misdirected efforting,” over many thousands of hours, are one way for someone to “eventually make their way all the way down” to the parts of ourselves that, for very good, though sometimes confused, but not to them, reasons, are trying so, so hard to be somewhere else, for beauty, meaning*, safety, and connection.

And then, after that, sometimes things are simple, quiet, easy, rewarding, engaging, exciting in ways you couldn’t have imagined before. (And also sometimes ghastly, tragic, excruciating, and so on! But, in some sense, all of this is yours to navigate on your terms.) Invariants such as love and gratitude may coalesce and shine through more and more.


root cause of overeating and a meal

[See also: ]

[UPDATE: I now tentatively think something weird is up with sweet potatoes, even though they’re supposed to have pretty mild antinutrient effects. To be continued… Possibly seek another source of vitamin A (and possibly other things), but vitamin A may be the 80/20 thing to focus on. Or try limiting them to like 1x/week or something.]

Note: I’m not a doctor, this isn’t medical or nutritional advice, I’m not moralizing, and I’m leaving out some hedging and qualifying.

I’m pretty sure now that all overeating (and unwanted weight gain) is micronutrient deficiency transients and dynamics.

If someone takes an RDA bolus of copper in the morning and an RDA bolus of zinc in the evening, that won’t do anything useful. If they take an RDA bolus of copper and zinc at the same time (so they’re in the same ratio at the same time), even that won’t do anything useful.

What has to happen is (a) the right things, in (b) the right ratios, in (c) the right absolute amounts, (d) titrated over a time interval.

Unsurprisingly, “whole foods,” or “unengineered foods,” moving slowly through one’s intestines, is how one achieves (d) titrated over a time interval.

Also, our taste buds get the ratios right, if we put the right foods in front of ourselves, and we (e) exercise at least just enough that all the fuel burning systems are still running right even when we’re not exercising.

When someone is binging/overeating and/or gaining weight, one of (a), (b), (c), (d), or (e) is missing. The body has to desperately eat too much of something to get too little of something, sometimes until overfull, and the body can’t shed the excess fast enough and has to put on weight to get things out of bloodstream that have no other place to go. (And then if that isn’t fully sufficient, things start getting deposited in the circulatory system itself.)

Maybe try this:

  • Put in bowl, ratios to taste (maybe heat some things before adding other things):
    • red meat (protein)
    • long-roasted sweet potato (“slow” carbohydrates; lots of vitamins)
    • olive oil (“mostly neither polyunsaturated fat nor saturated fat”)
    • iodized table salt (sodium, chloride, iodine)
    • beans (“slow” carbohydrates; lots of vitamins; can be from a can and rinsed)
    • a little bit of butter (saturated fat and a complex mix of other fats)
    • dash of MCT oil
  • Put in large mug, ratios to taste (let sit for a bit for the oats to soften and the frozen blueberries to melt, mix by hand/don’t blend):
    • orange juice supplemented with calcium and D3 (can titrate with regular orange juice for less calcium and D3; vitamin C; potassium)
    • uncooked rolled oats (they’ll still be pasteurized; magnesium)
    • ground flax seed (polyunsaturated fat: omega-3, omega-6; minerals)
    • blueberries (lots of vitamins; can be frozen)
    • a little bit of hydrolyzed collagen (protein that emphasizes other amino acids to balance muscle meat ratios)
  • Also:
    • Drink water when otherwise thirsty.

The above has pretty much everything the body needs, in a single meal. Note that this covers all electrolytes. One could add salmon, egg yolks, some broth of some sort, and maybe a little edamame every so often. Upgrades could be higher quality choices like organic, ethically sourced, etc. If you try this, you might find it very satisfying and that you’re not hungry for many, many hours afterwards, and that weight loss picks up after a few days.

preliminaries for communal, meta-rational, institutional design (draft; ~6000 words)

[Note: If something seems like “alarmingly breathless word salad,” you might just plow ahead, the first time through. It’s not word salad to me, but it’s a compressed draft. 🙂 ]


A person, in some sense, has fish-in-water, transparent, deep ontological contingency, in perception, action, representation, and deontology.

(^This sentence sort of structures the whole doc/post, so it might be worth taking the time to unpack it, a little bit. You might compare to see how it’s reflected in the table of contents.)


  • introduction
  • transparent/fish-in-water
  • ontological contingency
  • ontological contingency of [sic]
    • perception
    • action/intention
    • representation
      • word meaning/sense/intensionality/concept
      • belief
      • expectation
      • counterfactuality/irrealis/imagination
      • preference/desire/goals
  • interfacing
  • directionality
  • depth and ground
  • conflict, deontology, consequentialism, duty/obligation/should/necessity/ought/must
  • structural fluidity, sensuousness, concreteness, freedom/slack/space/play/noninterference
  • shadow, “hypershadow,” say-ability, space-making


We don’t immediately realize how different we are from each other.

Sometimes we surprise each other with our actions: “How could they do that?” Or, “That doesn’t make sense!” Or, “That makes sense, in retrospect.”

Sometimes we surprise each other with our words: “I wouldn’t have put it that way.” Or, “That’s an interesting way to put it.” Or, “What do you mean by that?”

But, by and large, we usually don’t realize how deep the differences go. We grow up in a particular family, maybe go to a particular school, maybe interact in a particular social media algorithmic bubble. And, so, sometimes, when we want something outside of (our) usual norms, or when something is *at stake*–maybe there’s scarcity of money, attention, skill, romantic partners, then we can suddenly realize how different people can be, sort of in their expectations of *how things should go.* Like, who gets what when, and in what order, how conflict is resolved, and so on.

In some ways, this goes “(almost) all the way down” to the “being and seeming of the world.” First pass, we sort of “see through” (instead of *see*) our “concepts” (our “lens”) of “what is” and “what should be.” This “seeing through” is why I use the word “transparent.”

And, we don’t realize that some of this, seemingly, “just what is,” could be, or, in some sense, could have been, experienced as otherwise. So, one way to look at “transparency,” is a sometimes the absence or lack of “available counterfactuality,” “could-maybe-be-otherwise-ness,” “might-be-otherwise-ness,” “modal slack,” and so on.

(“Fish-in-water” is sort of the same thing as “transparent,” like, “a fish has no concept of *wetness*, because a (metaphorical) fish is exceptionalessly, continuously surrounded by water, and knows of nothing else.”)

*ontological contingency*

“Contingency” is distinguished or contrasted from “necessity,” and I like to add in “arbitrary,” as well.

“Necessity” or “necessarily” sort of means “lawful,” or “[really, truly, absolutely, actually] couldn’t have happened any other way, or “Y necessarily follows from X,” “Y must follow from X” (though not in the “should” sense but the “does” sense).

There are shades of “causality,” here, though that’s sort of a different, but very related concept.

“Contingency,” then, sort of means “could be otherwise,” though still with a “dependency flavor.” That “dependency flavor” could be timeless or simultaneous, but, here, I’m using it in a more “timeful” sense. That is, something is “contingent” when “it could have gone a different way if something different had happened before that.” Put in another way, if we have Z because Y happened, but, we would have had B, if A had happened, then Z is contingent.

“Arbitrary” sort of throws out all dependency, necessary, contingent, or otherwise. Anything could happen or has happened! Could be any which way! And so on.

Note that these concepts (necessary, contingent, arbitrary, causality, timeless…) are sort of “hanging in imaginary space”; they’re sort of “toys,” though very useful ones. They’re sort of “out there in the world” and sort of not. Sort of “just in your head” and sort of not. Necessity and contingency sort of only make sense in relation to “counterfactuality” or “other, non-actual worlds.” And then if they’re “non-actual,” where are they? How do we imagine them and then talk about them? And is anything really, truly, completely arbitrary? Does contingency make sense without “underlying necessity”? And then, if so, is anything really contingent??

(This sort of tension between “hanging in imaginary space” versus “out in the world” starts to shade into ideas like “nebulosity,” and “emptiness,” not to mention constructive/positive uses of plain old vagueness and ambiguity, but this is getting out of scope of this document.)

In any case, a final important point about “contingency,” is that it suggests, if not implies, that, in some sense, the past and present aren’t fate or destiny. If things “wiggled” in the past, or, in some sense, could have been otherwise, then perhaps a bunch of those things, maybe even almost all of those things, have “wiggle” in the future, too. 


Ok, so then what’s “ontological”? It’s sort of “having to do with objects or things.”

An “ontology” is sort of a collection of “things that things can be.” Rather, it’s sort of a collection of “concepts” that can be “applied” to “referents.” So, an ontology is sort of a list of “things that can be conceived or conceptualized or recognized/identified.”

(Some other, related words, here are, “lexicon,” which is a list of words, and “idiolect,” which is sort of one’s personal mapping between words and concepts. Also, along with “concepts,” we might also speak of “kinds/types,” or “tropes” or “plural tropes,” but some of these distinctions get fuzzy, and we won’t go into them, here. Also, finally, in place of “concepts” we might also talk about “sense,” “meaning,” “knowing,” “intension,” “intensionality,” “felt meaning,” and so on.)

So, “ontological contingency” or “personal ontological contingency” is sort of pointing at how “different people have ‘different things that can be’, along many different axes. We’re explore a bunch of those axes, below.

Note, too, sort of as above, that these are all “toy models,” so we can have anything to talk about at all. Are concepts real? Where do they live? Can a “referent” even “exist” without a “concept”? Surely it must exist in “some manner” “independently” of perception/appearance? What is that manner? Can that manner itself be conceived or is that impossible? Do conceptualizing/conceiving somehow sort of work “the same” between people? Or is that also deeply contingent? How about when concepts “represent,” or “refer/apply”? How does that work? Does that always happen in the same way for an individual or between people? Do people “use” and “hear” language, differently? Do people “seat” language, differently? One might expect there are regularities or even deep necessities or that at least something “superveniently/emergently lawful” is going on. But, calling back to “transparency,” above, one might guess it’s much more contingent and varied than one might initially expect.

*ontological contingency of [sic]*

In the sections below, we explore, sort of, some of the axes/dimensions of how things can be, for people.


Is there a “world out there”? Of course? There’s a glass of water right there, an apple right there. But, does a cat or an apple “look the same” to child or a physicist or a biologist? I would claim that, in some sense, a biologist “sees something different” when they look at an apple, versus, say, a child. (I’m not saying it’s better or worse, just different.) Ditto for a physicist.

You might claim that they “see the same thing,” it’s just that, say, the “interpretation” is different, the sense, the meaning, the “sign.” (People mostly don’t claim that, after postmodernism, so we’re using it as a bit of a straw, here.)

But, what about an artist? Does a painter *see* the same thing as a biologist, when they look at an apple? Or a musician, for a symphony, or an athlete for a game in play, versus a non-painter, a non-musician, or a non-athlete?

I would argue that there’s an “ontological contingency” of perception. Perception, interpretation (and action), are all linked, in ways that change the “very seeming” of the world “out there” (or “in here”).

Usually, there’s a tremendous amount of “overlap,” between people: we “see it differently,” but “close enough.” Or, it *is* very different, between some people, but each person “has a thing that does enough of the same work.” (That has a bit of a “too separate,” feel, though. Again, it’s “transparent,” “seamless.” Note, too, this isn’t necessarily how any of this feels for *you* from the inside. It’s a toy, a model.)

When there’s conflict between people, sometimes, it can even be that two or more people are seeing things that another person “doesn’t see at all,” it’s not in their ontology or “perceptual vocabulary.” It’s not just that people are seeing the same thing but attributing different implications to that seeing, but, again, they’re seeing (or missing) different things entirely. And if people don’t have the time, space, safety to suss out those differences, then that can lead to misunderstandings, and escalating misunderstandings, and conflict.


Think of all those *ways* we can think, reflect, imagine, plan, intend, and all those muscles and motor units, sports and dance, walking, shuffling, reaching, playing. The space of “mental+’attentional’ action” and “physical action” is astronomical. There’s different styles of dance, different styles of martial arts, hair-splitting differences in posture, distribution of weight, speed. There’s also “abstract, temporally extended actions,” too: We file TPS reports *this* way. We give presentations *that* way. We have processes like *these* to produce group outcomes.

So how do all those “actions,” concrete and abstract “fit together”? How do complex interpersonal things get done? Or, even just the feeling out of quiet intimacy, between two people? How do two people “come together,” if they’re from different hometowns, countries, internet cultures, etc.?


Below we cover things that have a “representational” flavor, an “aboutness” flavor, such as “(word) meaning,” “belief,” “expectation,” “counterfactuality,” and “desire.”

*word meaning/sense/intensionality/concept*

When people use the same words they almost certainly “mean” different things “behind” those words. (Of course!) Sometimes these differences are really obvious. And sometimes those differences are slight, in ways that barely matter. But sometimes they’re slight and subtle in a way that explode later. It’s not solely individual words, of course, it’s phrases, sentences, paragraphs, everything.

Also, the same person will use the same word differently at different times or even in different places in the same sentence. Sometimes this is referred to, pejoratively, as “equivocation,” but it can be fine if enough people “know what they mean, close enough” The ambiguity of words is very useful and powerful, too. There aren’t really enough words, in general. We have to reuse them to get anything done!

It’s very hard, even under the best of circumstances, to use a word “in the same way each time,” which usually doesn’t matter but is sometimes very useful, when someone is trying to create technical or theoretical ideas or writing, in a concise and elegant way. To be relatively more non-equivocal, one usually has to “detach the ‘referents'” from “reality,” in some way, to make a “toy” or abstracted or “idealized” “space.”

Back in the “real world,” it can sometimes help to use implicit or even explicit “subscripts” when referring: Government_Bob (“Government-sub-Bob, “or what Bob means when he says “government,” versus “Government_Sara”…)

Again, of course, we know people mean different things by the same words. And yet, that “of course” tends to not be “consistently global.” We get “triggered,” we forget, we get angry, we are astounded by the things people say. It seems that, at least without practice, we don’t have a “unified language interpreter” that “automatically adds subscripts to everything,” as it were. Sometimes, say with our parents, or our friends, or if someone with authority is speaking, the subscripts don’t get added, metaphorically speaking. And then we feel like we have to agree, or have to disagree, or are just confused. Over time, and everybody will do it a little differently, we can sprinkle in those subscripts in more and more places. And those “subscripts” can have a lot of nuance: Government_{Bob when he’s tired}, Happiness_{this author from five years ago but not in their more recent work}.

*belief and expectation*

“Belief” can mean a lot of different things, and even some of the “better versions” are, arguably, “fundamentally nebulous.”

We might use the word “belief” to mean “what people verbally assert.” Or we might use it to mean “what people verbally (or nonsymbolically) “think to themselves.”

More satisfyingly, is sort of “revealed beliefs,” that is, beliefs are the “things” that “determine what we actually do.” In other words, beliefs are “what we really expect” and “why,” the “things” that really drive action and reaction and everything we do (relative to, and interrelated with, preferences, desires, goals, fears, etc.)

This latter type of belief might seem “more true,” it’s “action-level” beliefs/models, as opposed to things we say or even think (even when those things we say or think tracks those action-level beliefs pretty well, though often they don’t, at least at first). Even for this “kind” of “belief,” are beliefs “real”? Sure. But are they *things* or *things as such*? Surely in some senses, yes, and, in other senses, no.

Sort of relatedly, one could sort of have a “three-valued logic” of belief:

(1) belief, (2) disbelief, and (3) absence of belief

The first two are sort of “presences,” there’s “something there,” and the last one is of course an “absence,” a “lack.” But, even in that latter case, there might be “another belief, or collection of beliefs” that’s doing the “same or similar work,” were that absence “filled.” For example, a person might not have beliefs (in some sense) about “societies,” but they have beliefs about “civilizations” that do “overlapping work.” Or, someone, loosely speaking, doesn’t believe in water but they do believe in H2O. It’s not quite this, because, again, we’re sort of especially talking about the “sensuous, real-time action-level,” but it is kind of like this. (Those more “abstract” distinctions, used in these examples, do matter, too, actually, and not even just for the situated writing or speaking to other people, that we do, as part of our “seamless actioning in the world.”)

And so, regarding the “nebulosity of belief,” these sort of “overlapping non-absences” are one dimension of that nebulosity, but not the only one, cf. phenomenologically, musculoskeletally, neurophysiologically, and so on…


Much of the above section applies to this section as well. In addition to beliefs and expectations, one can have ideas, “imaginations,” sensory imagination, stories, counterfactual worlds, logical propositions, etc., that, in some sense aren’t “true,” “real,” “actual,” “existing,” and so on.

Just like with “belief” and similar to ideas in other sections in the document, depending on how defined (and “definitions” have all the same issues as well!) there’s sort of a tension between the “hanging-in-empty-space-ness” of all of these things and how they “function in self and world.” Different people “do imagination” differently, in deep ways!

Things like “true,” “real,” and “actual,” “existing,” and so on, are problematic (or just nebulous), too. Things can be true in different ways, real in different ways, actual in different ways, exist in different ways. Things be “in our heads,” “in movies,” “in the discourse,” and so, for example, “real imaginary things.” But what about some things being “really real” or “specially real,” like, say, electrons, or death, or war, or just the glass of water sitting next to you, versus, say, unicorns. Leaving aside that someday we might genetically create unicorns, I would just say again, that there are senses in which that glass of water is “really real,” sure, and also not really real(!), but, more importantly, differently people *do* “really real” differently. “Really real” is “seated” differently, in different people. There are different kinds of “really real,” in some sense as many as there are people. You might ask, “but what about ‘doing really real’ in some sort of genetically, semi-universal, modulo slight variations in ion channel proteins, etc., homo sapien bare metal neurophysiological way plus physics plus…” (I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.)


Desires and goals are sort of “counterfactual but could be,” they’re sort of the bridge between imagination and reality. This is of course a “toy model,” like all the others. Preferences and desires and goals, both exist and don’t exist in similar ways to beliefs, imagination, etc., existing and not existing.

Similar to “belief, disbelief, absence of belief,” there’s sort of “positive goal obliquity.” [*] Sometimes the best way to achieve a goal is to “not conceptualize it as such,” e.g. sometimes seeking happiness prevents being happy, and so on. Trying to be cool is uncool, and so on. Trying to directly have a “good company culture” can become oppressive and creepy. Letting go of concrete problems can “cause” them to solve themselves.

Learning how to “conceptually let go of a goal without losing the goal” is something one can become better at, over time.

In any case, different people “do goals” differently, hanging in empty mind space or not, as part of the very being and seeming and affordances of the world, or not, plus the tension and synergy between the two. Goal-ness, goal striving, desire, motivation, etc.–it’s like we all have mostly the same hardware, and things look pretty similar on the outside, at first glance, but the internal “software,” how goals (or lack thereof) “work,” for different people, can be really, really different.

(And the idea of a “goal” is a bit of a “toy,” a schema. One can sort of play with “mechanism” and “telos”, “cause and purpose”, “first causes and final ends”. I won’t unpack these, here, but things can start to get tricky of one starts to really poke at the idea of a “goal.” Additionally, there’s tricky things around will, personhood, interdependence, wholeness, unity, and more, with respect to inner conflict, goal pursuit, multifinality, equifinality, and so on. And all these are sort of “toys,” too.)

So, how can people work towards “common goals”? How can people manage the creation and evolution of common goals, over time, as successes, failures, and learning accumulate, about what’s possible and what’s desirable?


With all of the toy conceptual machinery above, held loosely, we can sort of talk about “building mutual interfaces” between ontologies, of perception, action, goals, etc. Sometimes that will be explicit and verbal, like this document (and sometimes “meta,” like this document). And other times it’ll be sensuous, nonverbal, “having nothing to do” with stuff like in this document, felt out in real time, or, of course, a mixture of implicit and explicit, concrete and abstract, verbal and nonverbal.

It can be helpful to think about all the “ontological categories” we’ve covered, which are, of course, is incomplete, overlapping, and so on: perception, action/intention, representation, word meaning/sense/intensionality/concept, belief, expectation, counterfactuality/irrealis/imagination, preference/desire/goals.

All of these are sort of “interface targets,” all at once. (It’s sort of all seamless and interpenetrating, in any case.) That is, much of coordination, alignment, synergy, play, etc., is coordination about the assembly and disassembly of interfaces, that is, *”mutually recognizable matches and complements between different personal ontologies.”*

Sometimes this is so direct as to essentially be two or more people using the same ontology, narrowly or widely, and this can feel magical. Attention becomes “joint,” joint actions, “we”-actions. Other times, it’s relatively more indirect, there’s a translation layer. And this can be magical, too–plenty of play and safety while still plenty of “we.”


Is it all relative? Does it have to be “just interfaces,” “all the way up and all the way down”? Incommensurable ontologies merely locally commensurated? A hall of mirrors? What of goodness and truth and wisdom and ethics and morality and?

There’s different philosophies, here. And, it’s sort of not a cop out to say, “there’s different philosophies, here,” because being able to “find one’s own footing” (or to fly) amidst other people doing the same thing, is part of the spirit of this document.

But, leaving truth and reality (and goodness) aside, just for a moment, one could say something like “everything is relative, but relative doesn’t mean equal.” [*] I mean relative in the sense of “hanging in space,” deep contingency, nebulosity, buddhist emptiness, etc. But “not equal”: at the very least, we have usefulness, pragmatism, etc. Something can be more or less useful, depending on what one is trying to do.

Ok, but what about truth? There’s an interesting thing that can happen when someone starts moving along “pragmatism gradients” and “local-global gradients.” More and more useful, more and more elegant (cf. Occam’s razor), greater and greater explanatory power, fewer and fewer anomalies and counterexamples. I’m not saying it’s a “*continuous* multidimensional space,” or anything. But there can be directionality (and nonmonotonicities) and even, *very* loosely, provisionally, contingently held “globalities,” albeit “multischematic” and “interschematizable,” and nebulous. And, then, are we really so far away from “truth,” “correspondence” between “map” and “territory,” and so on? Arguably, these are all nebulous concepts, too. The concept of concept is also nebulous. Nebulosity is itself nebulous. And so on.

In any case, there are gradients, in some sense, some of the time, for some purposes. And the freedom to orthogonally and arbitrarily vary the dimensions of usefulness, pragmatism, goodness, truth, beauty, wisdom, compassion, etc., starts to seem less and less and less.

*depth and ground*

Farther above, I’ve emphasized how different people are. More immediately above, I’ve suggested there can sort of be more and more convergence around truth and goodness and stuff like that. Does it ever sort of fully converge? Like, can we all get along, in the limit? But what about in the meantime? And how did conflict get started? Why is there ongoing conflict?

I used the term “deep” in front of “ontological contingency” above, and, instead of “deep,” I almost said “radical,” but that’s too close to “groundless.”

That is, I definitely didn’t want to say “groundless ontological contingency,” and “radical ontological contingency” was a little too intense.

So what do I mean by “deep”? I mean something like “a lot but not completely,” though there’s at least one more piece that this sort of doesn’t capture by itself.

It’s “a lot” because it’s enough that people surprise each other and get into conflicts with each other. And, it’s “not completely” because we form tribes and civilizations and global economies, albeit with genocide, war, terror, poverty, sometimes, and more local abuse and violence.

A piece that’s left out is sort how we *move* from “ontological distance” to “ontological proximity” or “ontological overlap,” the method of interfacing. (That’s not to say that everyone has to have the same ontologies, or anything, just that being able to translate between ontologies seems to be very beneficial!) How that movement happens is sort of out of the scope of this document, but I wanted to note that that capacity for movement, or “translation,” or “harmony,” or “interfacing,” is there, of course. And, perhaps, we can do it far more reflectively and skillfully than we’ve ever done before. Though, that might bring new surprises and challenges of its own, of course, of course.

So, all that above i sort of the “theoretical or methodological endpoint,” a sort of maybe-convergence between truth, goodness, wisdom, compassion, etc., if one looks in the right way, over time.

And then what about a sort of “practical endpoint”? Like, concretely in the world? No war, poverty, scarcity, illness, etc.? That’s a bit outside the scope of this document, too. But, one can think about the idea of “positive sum” outcomes or stag hunts, from game theory, that is, all things being equal, abstractly speaking, everyone gets more, if we successfully work together. More and more winners and more and more winning. And/or less and less losing. It’s not really adversarial, at least in the limit, if we’re all on the same team, if we can figure out how to cooperate, then we all win, as it were. Astonishing post-scarcity. We’ve made a lot of progress, as a global civilization.

This is, of course, an extremely simplistic take. It leaves out so much, about human nature, and at least local or proximal “true scarcity” (even if no-scarcity-in-the-limit) and the state of the world, and how we got there, and where we’re presently going.

But, one could, at least, first pass, gather a lot of the complexity under, just, “better.” Sometimes nonmonotonically (two steps forward, one step back), sometimes obliquely (roundabout), but always thinking about better and better, together, under a very long time horizon.

*conflict, deontology, consequentialism, duty/obligation/should/necessity/ought/must*

Ok! So! Sprinkle on those subscripts, realize people use words differently, realize people are really different, realize, in the limit, we can do more together than apart–why is this hard? Let’s go!

There are challenges, of course. Part of the problem is that every individual starts out at at least “square one,” in terms of understanding the sorts of things in document (and all sorts of other things, and things like the above, said in different cultures in different ways!). Everybody starts out as a baby and a kid (that is to say pretty brilliant but ignorant). And then almost everyone starts out at, not even at square one, but, multidimensionally “less than square one”–trauma, abuse, poverty, confusion, loneliness, etc. It’s just really hard being here on planet earth, and a lot of energy has to be put into “just surviving,” let alone kind of “loosening up” all the stuff above, to make it easier to get along with lots and lots of other people.

And, this is generational, too. Knowledge, wisdom, meta-wisdom, societal-not-square-one, societal-square-2000-plus, has be maintained from generation to generation. Sometimes things/gains are lost, at least temporarily (which can be hundreds or thousands of years), at the societal level, even while things keep advancing, on other dimensions.

Anyway, we all have a different “splash pattern” of confusions and blind spots and “working together challenges” and sort of “triggers.” As above, we kind of “only inconsistently apply our own advice”; it’s somewhat context dependent, at least at first, and we maybe only approach more consistency asymptotically.

In our best moments, at lot of people have a sort of “deterministically blameless” sort of thing. Where, we’re all doing our best, we all sort of are a product of our causes and conditions, and the things we do are sort of more a product of circumstance than “essence” or character. So this allows for (a sort of) forgiveness or even “nothing and no one to forgive,” no matter how upsetting, clueless, myopically malevolent, careless, destructive someone, or a (large or country-scale) group of people, are being. And there can be a sort of “compassionate, anticipatory, proactive consequentialism,” a sort of practical, scale-free, “harm reduction,” harm minimization. Why get upset? Just see it coming, be smarter, head it off or handle it, sincerely, authentically, compassionately, egalitarian-ly, equitably.

But, we all sort of have “conditioning” and “triggers,” though which we “work through” these over the course of our lives.

That is, most people sort of have a lot of “deontology” inside of them, with respect to other people (shoulds, musts, duty, obligation, responsibility). And, we can sometimes be blindsided by people “violating” these, or, it affects us just as much, even when we see it coming.

One could pretend there’s both acts of commission and omission, so:

(a) (prereflectively perceived/experienced) commissive deontological violation

(b) (prereflectively perceived/experienced) ommissive deontological violation

And when we experience these sorts of things happening, we can sometimes get really upset, and it’s ok to get really upset, but it can lead to a worse outcome than if we hadn’t gotten upset, in some counterfactual world: in other words, destructive conflict, or whatever.

We experience someone as dumb, bad, or even hateful and evil, depending. And, often, that has to be something to work through, at least a little bit, before adding in some “consequentially constructive” engagement (or nonengagement). And, in the meantime, sometimes, the things we hastily do can make things worse. (I do think there’s such a thing as, for example, constructive anger, etc. And, all things being equal, it’s important to not suppress anger. But there’s more and less constructive ways and contexts to express it! Hard!)

Anyway, something like “true” or “perceived” local scarcity and perceived/experienced deontological violation can make it hard to get along or to get along long enough to do something amazing and beautiful, that benefits everyone far more than if they’d tried to do something alone.

“Violations” are sometimes accidental, sometimes desperate, sometimes solely in the eye of the beholder, and so on. It’s partly so hard because of the “hijacking” that can happen. It can happen in an instant, by body language or just what they say. And it can be subtle or cumulative, too, where there’s a delay. And, it can go “so deep.” It can feel like an “impossible reality violation,” to the point where at least a part of you wants to KILL the other person or group of people. Or, at least to you, they’re at least partially hateful and evil. (Now, to be sure, sometimes your physical safety, sanity, or future really are at risk. And sometimes your best interests are actively and deliberately and responsively being worked against. Sometimes it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and sometimes it’s just what it is.) In any case, counterfactually and contingently, there’s an astronomical number of responses to all these “possible possibilities.”

Now, to be sure, if something has happened, it’s already happened. We get triggered, we end up in a bad situation, we make a situation worse–sometimes, “it’s just already happened.”

But, part of coordination is having shared language and understanding around “it’s already happened, again” as well as mutual, proactive work towards preempting those sorts of things before they happen (ideally without any judgment when they still sometimes do, and without any “supershame” when they happen even in with the common knowledge that these sorts of things happen). It’s counterintuitive how long it takes for people to change, and not everybody is on board to change in particular ways or at particular times or to prioritize it among all the other things that they’re doing. In any world, change is tens of hours, hundreds of hours, thousands of hours. It’s slow. So a community needs to somehow take that into account, amidst protecting its own integrity.

And, over time, the “center of gravity” of a community has more meta, more “slack” around meaning, less triggering, more “non-self-abnegating preference harmonization,” and so on. And, such a community perhaps has a more “consequentialist” outlook, just working through the nth-order effects of different possibilities and contingencies, working to dissolve hard choices before the even pop up on the horizon, and seeking safety and delight and so on.


Another thing to watch out for, besides, “experienced deontological violations” is sort of “prior, maybe-“entrenched” resignation” and something like “posterior resignation.” Everyone sort of has a splash pattern of “resignations” which are sort of “learned helplessness’s” or “what’s the point of even remotely trying, ever.” And, we hide these really well, often even from ourselves–deep assumptions about what’s even possible, to do, to protect, to avoid, to repair, and so on. And, so, there can be huge clashes around some people trying to avoid some harm versus some people being completely and utterly resigned to that harm occurring, at least at it’s current level of subtlety or intensity. (The former people can be wrong about there being a harm, too.) “Posterior resignation” is sort of overgeneralized, hair-trigger resignation. Resignation can also take the form of mooching, parasitism, exploitation, preemptive-competition with respect to communities, as well. The thought of relatively time-efficient, true win-win is not in the consideration space, and so on, though of course, coordination costs, in the technical sense, can be very real. And in that latter case, competition, whether bounded or “total war,” can *sometimes* be “supercooperation,” in the limit. But perhaps almost  something better than that.

*structural fluidity, sensuousness, concreteness, freedom/slack/space/play/noninterference*

I want to say something here about “coercive interfaces.” Language isn’t free and impartial, ontologies aren’t free and impartial, and so on. They come with differential tradeoffs, for different parties, all things being equal.

And factors external to an ontology can put “ontological pressure” on one or all parties, sometimes, though not always, even when there’s sort of spatiotemporal slack, indirectness, a translation layer, and so on. It just depends.

People can particularly have resignation around languaging, ontologies, etc., and understandably so. They “go deep,” and most people have some, but not a lot of experience with profound, personal ontological shifts.

But, in any case, people need different collections of ontologies at any given time, because people are different and have different needs. And people need to sometimes drop ontologies (or interfaces) and pick them up again later, and so on. A community will ideally have provisions for periods of dimensional unintelligibility, along various axes, as people pick up, drop, and transform ontologies and interfaces, in the course of living, learning, and growing.

*implicitness, shadow, hypershadow, say-ability, space-making*

Finally, sort of an offshoot of “ontological pressure,” it can be important to talk about shadow. Talk of ontologies, and interfaces, at the meta or object level, will always be in dialogue with the implicit, the tacit. Some of this is merely pragmatic in that “not everything can be made explicit all at once,” and this is true both in a single conversation and across millenia. Explicitness become implicit again, can be a part of a cycle of growth and learning, to make space for other explicitness that’s needed in that particular moment or millenium. And the other pragmatic piece is that explicitness, of course, is sometimes the “wrong tool for the job,” where reaching for it means something has already gone terribly wrong. Sometimes nonverbal, warmth, sensuousness, timing, timbre, prosody, eye contact, touch, living and loving, etc., etc., etc., are the right “tools” for the job. This is positive community inertia and “community defenses,” too, in their interplay with explicitness. (And, finally, there can be a recognition of how even the explicit is radically, seamlessly aconceptual, and so on.)

Besides this “positive explicit/implicit fluidity,” there can also be something like “shadow” and “hypershadow.”

By “shadow,” here, I mean the not just implicit but the unsayable, the unspeakable truths, the unspeakable threats, unspeakable fears, some real, some imaginary, but, in any case, unsayable/unspeakable. Articulateness is a skill that can be highly topic and context dependent, per person. Most people are plenty articulate, though, and it’s meta-articulate-ness (making the local conditions safe) that’s failing, or the community is failing them, in terms of safety. Sometimes, if a community is unsafe (or people are easily triggerable or something has become a touchy topic), a person might have to become extremely skilled at “articulateness needle-threading,” hyper-articulateness (versus “counterframing”). And this is a real and valuable skill, but also slow and costly to acquire, and one hopes that not everyone feels pressured to become hyper-articulate, because of power dynamics, in some community. This is very related to ontological/interface coercion, too.

Anyway, a healthy community is perhaps always engaged in “say-ability space making,” and “say-ability restructuring,” power/safety rebalancing, while maintaining community integrity and boundaries, in the small and in the large.

Finally, “hypershadow” is the shadow that remains, possibly “squeezed and intensified” by accidental or intentional “interface/ontology coercion” that specifically takes “shadow mitigation” (ostensibly and/or sincerely) as the object of discussion.



commercialization and distribution

From twitter:

  • (0a) I’m having a low-key, exploratory, commercialization networking call, with respect to my stuff, and it inspired me to try to make some bullet points with respect to context and key, counterintuitive constraints.
  • (0b) Note! I ran out of time to edit this, so there’s super-compressed and maybe cramped and cryptic tweets jammed into this thread, but I figured better to get it out the door.
  • (1) Key insight: The mind is more malleable than contemporary psychology and, arguably, even contemporary contemplative/meditation communities of practice currently believe. I like to say the mind is 99% software, 1% hardware.
  • (2a) The space of this malleability is large and multidimensional, but it’s not arbitrary; it has directionality. That directionality, taken to its conclusion, in the “positive” direction, yields something like (a) wellbeing and (b) “creative, proactive, fit-to-context.”
  • (3) Some features of “creative, proactive, fit-to-context” can be “outside view guessed,” and planned for, but also must be “individually found, from the inside.” This is sometimes a demanding, fraught, counterintuitive process.
  • (4) It’s also a lengthy process, say on the order of 10,000 hours. My suspicion is that this cannot be shortened without very large advances in neurobiology. The speed limit is simply the speed limit of “learning,” involving protein synthesis, downtime, sleep, etc.
  • (5) Good things happen during that 10,000 hours, but one can’t count on any particular good thing on any particular timeline or ever. That is, part of the process is NOT “having NO goals” but self-alignedly releasing the need for most any PARTICULAR (object-level) goal.
  • (6) “No particular (object-level) goal” is fundamental to the process, because bodymind change is “path constrained.” It can only proceed by gaining “slack,” through finding increases in optionality, through “releasing particularities,” little by little.
  • (7a) (It’s important to emphasize “non-arbitrariness,” as “no particular goal” might seem nihilist, on face. Actually, though, while not “particularly” constrained, the system is “abstractly constrained,” by one’s self-sovereign determination of “what’s good.” It’s complicated.)
  • (8a) Somewhat more incidentally, not only are goals “non-particular” (and dynamic), or “fluid but not arbitrary,” but so is ultimately ALL perceptual/representational/behavioral ontology. The system (un-)commits to “no particular thing, anywhere.”
  • (8b) Yet, simultaneously, the system is somehow (aconceptually? preconceptually?) *radically concrete and particular*.)
  • (9a) Because of this sort of “global lack of particularity,” a value proposition might be: [see next tweet]
  • (9b)
    This process, in some sense, will cost you everything (all things) and give you nothing (no things).
    But, to be a bit paradoxical or contradictory, you will get general wellbeing and wisdom. The ongoing tax on that is being fully open to everyday pain and even suffering.
  • (9c) (Wellbeing, wisdom, pain, suffering, etc., how all that works, is outside the scope of this tweet thread.)
  • (10) Regarding commercialization, the process is so hard and so personal, even though there are near-universal, highest-level features. It’s hard to generalize and streamline a 10,000-hour personal journey.
  • (11) Of course, so far, I *have* tried to generalize and streamline (though not commercialize!) the process, with my writing, most recently as ongoing work on a 100,000-plus-word “meditation protocol document,” which people are putting to use.
  • (12) So far, I’ve mostly punted on money/commercialization, with an open-access promise, because there’s a way in which meditative progress is, in my current understanding, complexly facilitated or retarded in a “full-stack, culture-complete” sort of way.
  • (13) One aspect of “full-stack, culture-complete” are the “dynamics of exclusionary stratification”: [see next tweet]
  • (14) I find people get really sensitive about commercialization, though not in the way you might think. (note: I’m not subtweeting anyone or referencing particular private conversations, here).
  • (15) There are maybe sentiments of how else could modern distribution-at-scale work but through commercialization or stratified monetary gatekeeping, that I’m actually limiting net access & adoption by not (yet) somehow having a high-status, ambitious, exponential business model.
  • (16) There are maybe sentiments that I’m playing too low-status, that I must insufficiently ambitious, and so on.
  • (17) But, my ambition is, in fact, global and multigenerational. It’s just that, memetic fidelity, antifragility, and multigenerational adaptability (without memetic perversion? memetic corruption?) is hard.
  • (18) And, we’re still learning, what the thing is that we, hopefully non-rigidly, don’t want corrupted in the first place.
    And/but, I/we could be wrong about risks and rewards, which I why I’m engaging with critique and feedback and suggestions, at an accelerating rate.
  • (19) I think the (maybe) grumbling is a really good sign. It means people perceive value and want to participate in network effects with respect to that value.
  • (20/20) Anyway, more and more, I’m looking to what’s next, with this work and more generally. I’m also interested in governance, DeFi, AI, and much, much more. So this is all swirling around, all together, in a good way.
  • *
  • (*) No particular fixed goal(s), no fixed ontologies (perception, representation, behavior), structural fluidity, might sound kind of chaotic and tangly, and it can be like that, at first, in a waxing and waning pattern.
  • (*) Eventually, across thousands of hours, things become generally quiet, still, and settled, while remaining proactively, creatively sensitive and responsive, as the world turns and true, limit-case unknown unknowns present themselves.
  • (*) It’s sort of the best of both worlds–on the one hand, relatively settled stability, perfectly suitable for pursuing adaptive, stable, very-long-term goals, contingent on the state and path of the world and everything, and, on the other hand, a capacity for continual growth and change, the pursuit of novelty and knowledge, adaptability to misfortune, and the passion and engagement and equanimity and appetite for all of it, whether quiet intimacy, the scope of the whole world, or both, or something else entirely.

epistemic-aesthetic rigor for postrats and metarats (stub post)

[full title: epistemic-aesthetic rigor and systematicity and coordination for meditators, postrats, and metarats]

(There’s some extremely important ideas, here, pointed at without a lot of context and barely glued together. It’s a very first pass at a thing!)

Ok, so, say you’re on board with meaning/truth/etc. being some or all of multischematic, interschematizable, embodied, enacted, felt, intuitive, indexical, ostensive, intensional, hyperintensional, language game-y, innumerable, nonnumeric, gestural, vibe-y.

(Note: I also think math, logic, and computation are excellent and I use them like every day.)

Ok/so/but given original list above, sort of, what’s the gradient? Where’s the directionality? What is quality, here?

Sure, it’s/those are nebulous. But we can, sort of, sometimes, if we want, kind of gesture vaguely in the direction of having good “beliefs” in some sense, or “good science,” or “good writing,” in some sense—usefulness, insightfulness, depth, intricacy, elegance, transformativeness…

How might we generally tack towards that and how might we tack towards that tacking towards that?

Like, what’s the messy, living, breathing interface between sort of someone as they are, someone as they’re becoming, and like writing stuff down?

What if you want to vibe, and you don’t want to mess up your vibing, and you don’t want to sacrifice rigor in some deep sense, even if you don’t alway go “full reason,” and you want your rigor, or your shitposting, to be infused with your vibe?

What might unlock that, very loosely speaking?

A toy hierarchical ontology:

  • Say there’s normal propositions and special propositions.
  • Say normal propositions are built out of
    • normal concepts and
    • special concepts called relations.
  • Say special propositions are built out of
    • normal propositions and
    • special concepts called reason relations.
  • Say reason relations are
    • implication [… implies…; if… then…; …because…],
    • cause […causes…; if… then…],
    • mixed/nebulous [if… then…; …because…], and finally
    • means/end/purpose/for-ness […is for…; …]
  • Finally, say arguments and explanations are built out of normal propositions and special propositions.

Heuristic/gestural elegance, parsimony, simplicity, and more, in argument and explanation:

(I’m still fiddling with these ideas; there could be something really off, here.)


    • without loss of essential detail, roughly MINIMIZE counts/number of
      • axioms/premises
      • other normal propositions
      • kinds/types/classes/abstractions (i.e. normal concepts)
      • anomalies, counterexamples, “unexplainable” phenomena
      • reason relations (path-length/lemmas/inferential-or-causal-depth-to-conclusion)
    • roughly MAXIMIZE counts/number/density of
      • conclusions
      • fan-out / multifinality (with respect to reason relations)
      • fan-in / equifinality (with respect to reason relations)
      • instances/instantiations/tokens/concrets/particulars/specifics (that fall under the kinds/types/classes/etc above)


Now, flirt with the problematic, problematically eternalist ideal of “nonequivocation.”

Equivocation is using the same word for different things, including slightly different things. This can also be just poetic, gestural, normal speech.

Nonequivocation, quotations incoming, would be when you use the “same” word or phrase to “refer” to the “same” “concept” which “refers/applies” to the “same” “referent” in the “same way” “each time.” Or, when the “same”-ish sentence “refers” to the same “proposition,” wherever it’s written multiple times in the same scope/namespace, whether it’s a premise, lemma, conclusion, subproposition, antecedent, or consequent.

Phenomena and noumena:

Maybe flirt with the problematic, problematically eternalist ideas of noumena as distinguished from phenomena, where noumena could be taken as a “limit case concept,” “nearly empty,” and so forth.


Now, then, you can ask, is this more or less true? More or less wrong? A more or less good expression? A more or less bad expression?

So given all that, all that being said, how does one engage with all that? In my opinion, it’s often better, methodologically and wellbeing-wise, to engage with such forms indirectly and obliquely, generally through meditation and global wayfinding. (This is super cryptic, maybe; sorry.)


Further reading:

types of “physical” pain scratch list

I use an ontology sort of like this when decided how to engage with “physical” pain—keep going, stop, wait, do it differently, do something different first, and so on.

(constructed in part with an anonymous collaborator)

  • burning/tearing feeling – micro heterogeneity in muscle tone (partial pulling/tone, contingent “weakness”) leading to subtle tearing during normal usage
  • joint grinding – unbalanced or both-sided too-much muscle tension in oppositional muscle pairs (“too much pressure or unbalanced pressure on the joint”)
  • joint pulling apart – lack of muscle tone, only ligaments are “protecting”
  • nervy/referred (stinging?) – nerve compression at nerve root in spine or somewhere further downstream causing distal pain, burning, or numbness
  • joint “inflamed feeling” – (joint is “waking up”, under-lubricated but becomes lubricated — usually goes away by next day) – “have care, but ‘fine’”
  • normal muscle soreness/DOMs – “fine”
  • grab bag:
    • tendinous pain (tendons/tendinitis) – ???
    • ?deep ache – ???lactic acid buldup? / ketosis catabolism?
    • ?ache – nonlocalized deep, all encompassing
    • tender to touch

autonomic harmony

  1. If you eat something new or unusual for you, you may experience a lingering mouthfeel, that keeps drawing your attention back in stolen moments. This may be phenomenology that is involved in the immune system’s epitope-level inferencing to learn and unlearn possible threats.
  2. For epitopes that have been detected in the mouth, the immune system provisionally considers them less likely to be a replicating invader (because, even if they’re in high concentration, those epitopes could simply have come from food and may be inert/harmless).
  3. The immune system may even do certain kinds of integrative deltas, comparing epitopes detected in the mouth versus the lower intestine.
  4. Some of this inferencing is at the “molecular and cellular machinery” level, but, some of this inferencing is “fully general,” seamless, contiguous, coextensive with high-level “everyday” cognition, and this feeds back into the low-level system.
  5. Both the innate and adaptive immune systems can be top-down modulated (down to the epitope level, at the very least for the adaptive immune system) by high-level percepts and beliefs.
  6. It follows that immune system underreaction and overreaction, when molecular machinery and nervous system innervation are intact, can be progressively corrected through introspective/interoceptive tools such as meditation.
  7. (Tangentially, nutritive/energy inferencing & food motivation, through deconvolution of flavor, & other mouth sensations, combined w interoceptive phenomenology over minutes, hours, & days, etc. (Hours later: “mmm that was such a good meal.”), is just as fine-grain & malleable.)
  8. (Additionally, energy metabolism—energy conservation and burn rate, and thus felt energy & e.g. mood—insulin response, insulin resistance, basal metabolic rate, etc., while highly entrained by mechanical and hormetic influences, are also malleable, top-down influenced.)
  9. Modulo privilege & opportunity cost, across MANY(/all?) dimensions, seemingly low-level physiological machinery & instinctual motivations are “open,” dramatically malleable, the progressive optimization of which culminates in ever more “autonomic harmony” & felt robust wellbeing.


enlightenment hot takes at ~8000 hours

some enlightenment hot takes: I just had another “big” no-self thing (“no self, no people, no things”). “Big” in quotes because it was a soft thing that had such a similar flavor to a bunch of stuff in that 2000 hours post, which updates my degree of belief that those were “real,” too. but also that there’s was plenty more that took another 6000+ hours

a few things became seemingly apparent over the next couple hours:

  1. suffering has gone down, so it does seem like there’s some deep and interesting relationship to self and suffering. it’s not so much, it seems, that suffering is less because there’s no one to suffer, but more like there’s some deep relationship between self-ing and the use of suffering as like a “terrible motivator to produce action.” And somehow seeing through the self is identical to some sort of “unification” that makes suffering less necessary. Like unification of spiritual essence is upstream of “wholehearted-heartfeltness” which somehow reduces self-ing and separately somehow reduces suffering as a strategy (because the self system wholeheartedly-heartfelt-ly “just does the right thing without it”).
  2. i can see why people make such a big deal of “enlightenment has nothing to do with morality.” as per usual, I don’t think that’s true. BUT, /this particular change/ changed nothing about morality/preference/behavior–like not even an iota, which is pretty interesting in and of itself. like there /does/ seem to be something interestingly orthogonal to belief/behavior/preference/morality in whatever changed. to the degree anyone, including myself, is a grumpy, sociopathic dickhead before this thing, it seems they’re exactly as much of a grumpy, sociopathic dick afterwards. BUT-BUT, I still think /meditation/, properly conceived and executed has a direct fuck-ton to do with belief/behavior/preference/morality, just not this particular change.
  3. and re-no self, there is some deep realization thingy going on, but as for the experience, modulo the insight, it’s more like “unreflective flow,” like, hi, I have an identity, I am me, I am typing these words. also, there’s less going on in “inner space.”
  4. ah, and, “this just incidentally happened” as a result of executing lightly held instructions with flexibility and precision and patience. I still think the point is “better,” not any particular thing:
  5. re “no self, no people, no things”–like, ok. there’s a deep epistemics/metaphysics/brain thing here, that’s apparently really consistently replicable across people. it’s really interesting and important, whatever’s going on, here. also, entangled with that, science and neurons and forces and fields, and the better versions of those as science continues to advance. also love, people, etc.
  6. anyway, curious what’s next. again, these are hot takes


“Reversed” as a gender and sexual minority?

So, I think there might be a “missing” gender and sexual minority (GSM) “letter,” as in LGBT[…]+++++… and QUILT[…]+++++….

For now, I’m going to call this “letter” ‘R’ for “reversed.” I’m super interested in any better (more useful, more descriptive, more synergistic) labels.

I use the word “reversed” for two reasons, one having to do with a specific aspect of “sexuality,” and one having to do with “relationship role.” You might jump ahead to the “sexuality,” “career,” “relationship role,” “having kids,” sections, where these “reversals” are more directly discussed, if you are impatient.

The “data” for all the below comes from a sprinkling of informal surveys and discussion, qualitatively aggregated, as well as my personal observations of self and others, and finally personal relationship experiences. I’ve done my best to provisionally, speculatively, appropriately weight all of that—there will be both profitable and distorting selection bias and other qualitative distortion. But, qualitative impressions and concept formation are extremely powerful and necessary “pre-science,” at the very least. It’s just a speculative first-pass.

I’d like to preempt a critique of the below, that it might seem regressive or overly focused on binary roles. I note below that people who might loosely be described by this category have plenty of individual variation as well as wide-ranging preferences. If “reversed” *is* a descriptive cluster, people who identify with it may find it useful for sensemaking, for mutually, first-pass finding and identifying sexual and romantic partners, and, when life planning, for predicting how their preferences for career and family might change over time.

This is maybe a tonally weird document. Parts of it may be off puttingly clinical and inappropriately speculative or descriptive. Other parts will have a warmer feel. I’m trying to give people a lot of detail, to make it easier for them to exploratorily look for themselves, and to experimentally try things on for themselves; as well as provide detail, to add credibly for potentially curious researchers; as well as, finally, to indirectly offer some possible advice. That’s a lot of things to do at once.

I think my provisionally “suggesting another letter” might come across as disrespectful, exhausting, attention-seeking, or of course just “inconsequential whatever,” given (a) I personally have significant “passing privilege,” and, (b) I haven’t had a lot of contact with the wide range of gender and sexual minority culture, and (c) I don’t have a strong historical grasp of how all those letters got listed in the first place. So, I’m taking a bit of a presumptive chance, here, and maybe leading with the “letter” framing might be the wrong way to do whatever I’m trying to do. This provisional framing does come directly out of personally felt “invisibility distress,” for what it’s worth. Finally, I haven’t run this document past a bunch of people, yet. I figured I’d post it here to make it generally available, and it would always be possible to revise it and give it a new home, if desired. (As to why it’s at least temporarily, currently hosted at *this* URL, on *this* blog, maybe that’s transparent or at cross-purposes, but, in any case, I’ll expand on that at a later time.)

Below, I write with a bit of an assertoric or “authoritative” tone, but this is for concision and expedience. I try to hedge a bunch, too. I’m not a professional or academic researcher in gender or sexuality, and I don’t have any training in that direction.

(Anyway, hold it all lightly?)


  • an important note on terminology
  • overlapping or coextensive cluster?
  • childhood salience
  • childhood play style
  • puberty; kinks/fetishes/paraphilias
  • gender
  • presentation/expression
  • orientation
  • sex
  • sexuality
  • career
  • relationship role
  • having kids
  • conclusion/etiology/happiness/what’s next

a important note on terminology

For the sections below, loosely descriptively, not prescriptively, I introduce the terms “r-boy”/”r-girl”/”r-man”/”r-woman,” as in “reversed-*.”

BUT, for ease of expression, I’ll often just use the words “boy”/”girl”/”man”/”woman, instead.”

So, for example, below, when I say man, I mean “r-man,” and so on, by default, unless I specify otherwise.

(I’ll sometimes also explicitly use the term r-individual.)

overlapping or coextensive cluster?

Brief aside, before I even go into what “reverse” is: Does heteroflexibility have a relationship to “reverse?”

Research seems to have shown that there’s something distinct from bisexuality, something that shows up with people labeling themselves as “mostly[-but-not-entirely] straight,” “heteroflexible,” “mostly gay,” “homoflexible.” Notably, this cluster tends to empirically have different needs, problems, etc., than people who identify as bisexual, etc.

I’m not sure at all, one way or another, but I’m curious if some or all people who identify with, for example “mostly but not entirely straight,” tend to also be “Reverse,” as described below.

(end brief aside)

childhood salience

(This may seem very pat, appropriative, or narratively convenient, but!—) anecdotally, r-kids may have strong opinions about relationships and relationship roles, from a young age (even two years old to five years old). “Out of nowhere,” they may feel like “marriage is death” or that marriage is not for them. If they’re a boy, they may be sad or even horrified by how much time dad spends away from home, working. If they’re a girl, they may be sad or horrified about how little time mom has to herself. They may very much “not want that any of that,” that is, a “traditional role relationship,” from a young age.

childhood/tween/teen play style and interests

In childhood, boys may eschew team sports, competition, and overt athleticism and be less outdoorsy or less interested in “getting their hands dirty.” They may be slightly more likely to play with lots of action figures (“boy dolls”) and perhaps have some number of “more feminine” interests, hobbies, and media consumption as they get older. Girls may be more tomboyish, outdoorsy and have an especially wide range of interests. Both boys and girls may tend to be more analytic (perhaps as a deep-seated gender sensemaking strategy). Boys may start inclining towards linguistics, philosophy, and/or spirituality (with some math and programming but not as a main interest). Girls may start inclining towards math and programming.

(Due to lack of data, I don’t have any current sense of the relationship between “reverse” and autism, sensory processing issues, etc.)

puberty; kinks/fetishes/paraphilias

[Note: Some of these initial sections my seem out-of-order, oddly specific, overgeneralizing, or cluelessly or cringely sample-size-of-one seeming—on first reading; but, the ordering of sections is to facilitate re-reads and is loosely “developmental” (childhood → puberty → etc.).]

Anecdotally, in puberty, and through 11-16 years old, some [surely not all, or even many or most] r-boys may start to experience sexual fantasies/desires involving “control” of women. These might be (a) “purely imaginative” or (b) they might be things that they want to actually enact with partners as they get older. An example of (a) might be “magical mind control,” and example of (b) might be a dominant role in a BDSM scene, etc.)

Notably, as we’ll see, these kinks/fetishes/paraphilias may be “aptly paradoxical.”

Girls (“r-girls”), similarly to “non-r” girls/women, do not seem to tend to develop overt kinks/fetishes/paraphilias.



  • “trans” sometimes(!) tends to be more “monolithic” (“I’m a girl/woman;” “I’m a boy/man.”), and
  • “nonbinary” sometimes(!) tends to be more “undifferentiated” (I’m ‘feminine nonbinary.'”), and
  • “bigender,” “genderfluid,” etc., (sometimes!) tends to feel “disjoint”,
  • in contrast (maybe!), r-individuals tend to describe their gender as things like “cis plus,” “cis and,” “and-by,” or just “mostly cis.”

That is, r-individuals may tend to not feel gender dysphoria at all; they feel fine/good about their gender, or dysphoria is mild, fleeting, intermittent, or particularly inchoate.

Also, while they tend to feel pretty clearly like a “boy/girl/man/woman,” they ADDITIONALLY, interestingly, tend to also have, salient, significant, and personally meaningful, felt aspects of the OPPOSITE gender, as well.

Sometimes this additional gender experience is (a) a “side” or  “part” or “partial,” and (b) sometimes it’s an “inner entire extra whole,” but, IMPORTANTLY and especially, in either case, this experience tends to feel very INTEGRATED, not-disjoint, not separate: “plus,” “and,” “also.”

Sometimes r-individuals may feel like they are, simultaneously, both especially masculine and especially feminine. Androgynous might be an appropriate term, or it might not have the right denotation or connotation.


It seems like most r-individuals may tend to present as relatively, unassumingly gender-conforming, or as mildly androgynous, and perhaps they have a felt sense that “something is missing,” or “not quite right,” in their presentation/expression but not have a good way to correct it. And because that sense is mild, they kind of low-key give up or resign on feeling like they’ve really comfortably nailed their gender expression/presentation. But, again, this is maybe a mild feeling. It might just not bother them enough to further pursue, or being gender conforming is just “fine.”

(Western-culture-wise, men may or may not at all choose to have longer hair, women may or may not have shorter hair or undercuts, and so on. Men may add color, jewelry, or not at all, etc.)


R-men tend to identify as straight, mostly straight, or heteroflexible. A smaller subset may identify as bisexual but likely not biromantic.

Women are more likely to identify as bisexual and a (much?) smaller subset identify as biromantic.

In both cases, there seems to be relatively little ambivalence about alloromance, either exclusively or as an unambiguously acceptable option. That is, r-individuals are mostly solidly sexually and romantically attracted to opposite sex or gender, albeit with maybe (or not at all) some fluctuation, alternation, or questioning in the first half or so of life.


Men maybe tend to be a bit thinner/shorter/smaller but can still easily be 5’8” (172cm), 5’11’ (180cm), etc. Their hands might be a bit more delicate, their facial features, while clearly masculine, can be a bit more feminine/”beautiful,” their skin a bit more “glowy” than a usual guy.

Women sometimes have, while clearly feminine, slightly more masculine facial features as well as sometimes a bit more of a “boy voice”—the pitch/tone/timbre/resonance can tend to be more masculine, e.g. sometimes mistaken for a boy or man if overheard from a distance.

Genitals for r-individuals seem “almost basically completely normal.” Men may statistically have fractionally, barely larger [sic] than average penises in diameter or length (cf. studies of penis size in gay men). Women seem to have completely variationally normative clitorises, vulva/labia, vaginas, etc., on the bell curve. Lastly, R-individuals seem normally fertile.

(Unfortunately, I have zero sense of the classical “digit ratio” thing, re prenatal testosterone, at this time–but maybe people could measure this and submit it?)


Allosexual attraction and arousal seem nonambivalent, normal or even intensified for r-individuals. With a compatible-enough partner (cf. the major histocompatibility complex)—the opposite sex smells amazing (breath, genitals, apocrine glands); and opposite-sex genitals—sight, touch, taste, smell—are interesting/engaging/appealing. PIV-penetrative (penis-in-vagina) sex is appealing.

Women have less of a general disgust response and have notably a somewhat more “masculine pattern” of sexual casualness and exploration. They may have slightly less interest in vaginal penetration. They are more experimental and “game” for trying things.

Both men and women may be “vers” (versatile) or “flip,” but here, finally, is where one of the titular “reversals” is: women tend to be more “top” and men tend to be more “bottom,” in terms of “sexual role,” though with any particular sexual encounter (cf. “vers”), or any period within a sexual encounter (cf. “flip”) being an exception.

I chose to use the terms “top” and “bottom” (and “vers”), instead of Dom(me), sub, and switch, because the former are a bit more neutral/noncommittal with respect to “vanilla” sex versus kinky sex.

Additionally, while the terms top and bottom are somewhat borrowed from gay male sexuality, potentially referring to penetrative and receptive roles in anal sex, here, these terms don’t necessarily have anything to do with penetration—anal, vaginal, or otherwise (oral)—though they certainly can.

Here, for “top” and “bottom,” I’m more referring to how r-individuals seem distinctly uncomfortable with normative sexual roles, at least when that “energy” is “really actualized.”

That is, women tend to “lock up” or to “not want to melt” if the man is being “overtly toppy.” And, men tend to “become tired” or “lose motivation” when called upon to be particularly proactive, directive, imaginative if the woman is being “particularly bottom-y.”

Generally, e.g. the r-woman will still happily receive touch, direction, penetration, all things being equal, with any particular moment/time being an exception, and the man will, at some point, want to actualize various preferences, and/or to actively or passively penetrate (and ejaculate/orgasm), all things being equal.

But, the overall “desired weight” will tend to be the woman choosing (maybe entertaining requests and options), the woman enacting her preferences, the woman touching or moving (or directing if being still). And the man will be more still, more sensuous, more receptive, more likely to be physically stimulated (nipples, penis, testicles) and perhaps penetrated (orally or anally).  The woman is maybe a bit more likely to avoid or at least delay vaginal penetration (though not clitoral stimulation). And the man (and possibly the woman) is a bit more likely to at least delay a bit, though not avoid, direct penile stimulation or penetration.

(Sidebar: Someone might note, at this point, “isn’t this just describing ‘sex,’ freed from overly gendered cultural expectation and baggage?” As far as I and others can tell, there’s a real, distinct thing, here, that’s overlapping but not the same as “enlightened sex.” That is, there’d still likely be a long-run “energy clash” between, say an r-woman and a progressive, self-accepting, sensuous non-r-male. And, additionally, the Reverse phenomenon maybe doesn’t quite seem to be when a man and woman are each far enough along the masculine/feminine bell curves, that they “go past” each other—see maybe the “cis plus” gender reporting. [end sidebar])

All of that said, above, regarding “sexual role preference,” all of this is confounded by cultural roles and expectations:

  • R-women might not be able to ask for the above or might not have the “cultural slack” to easily make it happen for themselves; they will be socialized to not take the “top” role, and they might be quite confused by their (suppressed?) desire for this role or the (partial) lack of satisfaction in the “bottom” role.
  • Non-r-men may be happy to go along with the desires of an r-woman, some of the time; they might be delighted with aspects of their “more masculine” or adventurous sexuality. But, over time, they might come to be uneasy or frustrated with intermittent pressure to be in a more bottom-y, passive role. 
  • R-men, as per an above section, may develop “paradoxical” kinks/fetishes/paraphilias that involve women being “controlled,” that may seem like normal, non-reversed sexuality. (This might happen because their “actually desired role” is so deeply implausible or culturally inconsistent, that they (a) need to invent a fantasy mechanism or social context for eliciting aspects of the desired complementary behavior from a woman. And/or, (b) they vicariously identify with the woman’s role in a fantasy or an in-real-life enacted scene.)
  • Given the bullet immediately above, in BDSM, non-r-woman who are submissive, given interaction with an r-man who self-identifies as a Dom, may expect a particular “energy” from the Dom that he can only partially supply, and this might be confusing for both individuals.

All in all, sexuality and sexual expression can be very confusing, challenging, and time-consuming to sort out for r-individuals. Because r-individuals are a minority of the population, given they’re relatively presentation-/expression-conforming and straight-ish, it can be hard for them to find each other or especially even to know that “there’s a complementary there, there,” to find. BDSM, D/s is maybe a convergent vector, for some people, but many r-women and r-men don’t identify as kinky, and there’s the additional layer of an r-man having a paradoxical, seemingly-but-not-exactly Dominant identification/kink/fetish, which could be confusing for everyone. There may be many other challenging factors.


Given the confusing, somewhat culturally induced challenges of sex and romance, as per above, I tentatively suspect that there are a few slightly more likely outcomes for r-individuals.

First, r-women may tend to advance successfully in conventional careers, becoming programmers, analysts, managers, etc. They might also have “hustle” and be “solopreneurs.” The former may be because it’s maybe a bit easier for an r-women to blend in (having a more “masculine vibe”), in slightly more “intense” or high-paying roles, as well as tending to be a bit more analytical, and might be more socialized to accept help and mentorship as is sometimes offered to women in the workplace. R-women may also spend less time feeling the need to sort out sexuality and relationships, though that might catch up with them, later. (Non-r-women of course do just fine and excel in “intense” roles, too, and may be the [overwhelming?] majority of women in such positions, etc.)

R-men may have a harder time in conventional workplace settings, tending to eschew competition and having less of the right “energy” to effectively engage with same-sex colleagues. They might also be quite skilled at analysis and programming, but then somehow not “flourish” in a technical workplace role, and this contrast could be quite confusing.

There is also still tremendous stigma against men appearing (or privately feeling!) feminine, passive, submissive, sensuous, not-completely-hetero, etc., which can be internalized and thereby also be a huge source of confusion or pain.

I tentatively suspect that r-men have an increased chance of “failing to launch,” or “imploding,” somewhere between 20 and 40 years old.

(Of course, any particular r-man or r-woman might “fail to launch,” and any r-man or r-woman might wildly succeed in the pursuit of valued goals and activities, and everything in between.)

There’s a lot of confusing things for r-women and r-men to figure out, made yet harder because it’s sometimes hard to realize that there’s even a “there, there,” because of relatively normative presentation and orientation. And, this might create a bottleneck on relating, life-planning, career, and so on. Combined with “presentation privilege” and “hetero-ish privilege,” it could additionally seem like any life problems are due to “personal failings,” “merely one’s own fault,” etc. Some of this, in any case, is similar to challenges of other gender, sexual, ability, class, race, etc., minorities, though the spectrum of privileges and disprivileges and “net balance” may be different for each.

relationship role

Relationships these days tend to be more egalitarian, flexible, fluid, and so on. But, sometimes, there might be a complementary “core energy” that helps make a relationship smooth and rewarding, that makes the relationship feel “safe” and “correct.”

The list below maybe more properly belongs in the sexuality section, or might seem regressive or even somehow suggestively dangerous; some people are, for example, “only submissive in the bedroom,” and so on. And, some of the list items have a BDSM or power exchange feel, which should rightly be accompanied by cautions about coercion, exploitation, self-assertion, autonomy, boundaries, individuation and differentiation, ability to walk away, and so on.

And/but, there’s a complex interaction between gender, sexuality, relationship roles, and happiness/satisfaction, and so on.

The list items below might typically be attributed to a very sexually submissive non-r-women. I’m listing out things from the the “bottom” side, because the “top” side might perhaps be higher variance and more “world focused,” versus relationship or dyad focused. I’m making this list unqualifiedly “extreme,” in order to starkly highlight ways in which, in this case, an r-man might feel, either solely when sexually aroused but also possibly or even especially with respect to ways that might relate to entire-relationship preferences. Any individual might not identify with some or even any of these bullets, or might identify with something less extreme. And, any particular “r-woman” might identify with some of these, too.

So, here’s the list; again these are mostly, though not entirely, “sexual” and likely “context dependent,” but there might be a feel or energy that extends “outside the bedroom.” This might be controversial or inaccurate; we’ll see:

  • “I want to do what you want to do.”
  • “You can do whatever you want to me.”
  • “I’ll do whatever you want.”
  • “Don’t make me take initiative or be proactive.”
  • “Don’t make me think.”
  • “I want to play a support role in what you want to do.”
  • “I want to be taken care of.”

Most of the bullets are quite “raw” or “pure” or “unqualified” or “unfocused” sentiments that might only be found during sexual arousal, and even then only partially or only some of the time. Everyone likes some autonomy, independence, etc., to be sure. And mostly everyone wants to support and “raise up” their partner. And surely some people who might identify as an r-man wouldn’t identify with any of these at all.

The last bullet, or the last two, have more of a “relationship feel”:

“Taken care of” could mean emotionally, financially, in old age, or none or all of the above, and more.

Affirming/qualifying/expanding, some (many? most?) NON-r-men, I think, of course, very much want to be the breadwinner, the earner, the financial backbone of the family or the relationship. And many NON-r-women prefer to have the independence and safety of earning a living. Further, many r-women might not at all want to be the sole earner, for all sorts of reasons, and r-men might want independent income for the same reasons that non-r-women want income.

In any case, in terms of roles, whether emotional, financial, etc., r-women and r-men, in some ways, might be seeking a reversal of (“traditional”) *”relationship”* roles, in addition to possibly a reversal of “sexual” roles. Maybe the r-man would raise the kids while the r-woman worked, just as an example, as often happens even in non-reversed relationships.

As a final note, r-individuals may be just a bit more likely to be at least de facto polyamorous, out of learning or necessity, trying to work out or assemble all the things they want and need in relationships. And, also, some polyamorous r-individuals might or might not find themselves more preferring something more monogamous (or “monogamish”) over time (and/or they might have always had this as a long-run preference.)

having kids

First-pass, it seems like r-individuals are a bit less inclined to want to have children. R-women seem at least slightly endogenously less motivated to have children than non-r-women.

But, for r-men and r-women, some of the disinclination to have children might be artifacts of two things. First, r-individuals may have deep-seated distrust or dispreference for traditional gender roles and anything that looks like a “conventional marriage” from a very early age. So, they might not have realized that an “r-relationship” or “r-marriage,” including with raising children, might be highly desirous with the right person.

Additionally, gender/sexuality/relationship confusion, and career issues, can reduce emotional/introspective bandwidth and delay financial security, which otherwise might make it easier to consider whether one wants to have kids and to go ahead and do so.

(And, to enumerate the somewhat regressive obvious, how would that all work out logistically? If not independently wealthy, who works? If an option, who stays home with the kids? Is the r-man more likely to want to raise the kids? The r-woman more likely to want to work? Would both parents want to stay home? I’m not sure. In any case, generally speaking, there are more options, here, with each passing year.)

So, all in all, one of my hopes is that people encountering this document might start to consider whether they want to have kids sooner, and thereby end up with more optionality around doing so or not doing so.

conclusion/etiology/happiness/what’s next

Are r-individuals a “natural cluster”? Is “the same thing going on” with putatively labeled “r-men” and “r-women”? How does it relate to prenatal testosterone, brain development, transexuality, homosexuality, hetero-/homoflexibility, asexuality, aromanticism, bisexuality, genetics, autism, autogynephilia, paraphilias, environmental pollutants, endocrine disruptors, prenatal and postnatal nutrition, socialization, and more? I’m not sure. A researcher might use this document as an initial touchstone in trying to determine whether there’s really a “natural kind”, here, and how it might relate to all these other dimensions. It sure seems like there is, first-pass.

Being an r-individual is hard, not as hard as some things but harder than other things. An r-individual may often have at least partial presentation-/expression-privilege and hetero-/straight-passing privilege. But, an r-individual currently at least still has invisibility disprivilege, often at least some gender-non-conforming disprivilege, minority disprivilege, and all the challenges and energy drain that can come from that, and more.

It can especially take a long time to sort out what one wants, let alone how to get it. (Not always! For some people it’s smooth sailing!) Therapy, journaling, discussion, meditation might all be long-term tools to sort out preferences and to overcome other challenges.

Finally, I apologize for all the ways this document is potentially clunky or pigeon-hole-y or maybe regressive. First-pass documents like these usually get a bunch of things wrong, at first. But, hopefully other people will critique and build. Could/should “R” be another “letter?” In any case, hopefully this will save some people hundreds or even thousands of hours, in sorting out who they are, who they might be, and what they might want.


P.S. I expect won’t resonate with everyone, but a lot of work has been done, there (see e.g. the wiki/faq), to sketch out something in this space, and it might be a useful jumping off point, for some people, at the very least. I’m not saying what they’ve sketched out is the same thing as this; I see some possible differences, but it might well be.

Update: One question might be, how might one differentiate a reversed-woman from a “high testosterone” woman? (A so-called “high-T” woman might be competitive, ambitious, sometimes athletic, etc.) The difference might be that a high-T woman might seek out even “higher-T men,” stereotypically masculine or even hypermasculine (surgeons(?), athletes(?), soldiers(?), etc.), on some dimensions, anyway, and/but a reversed-woman will seek out a reversed-man, as a above.