The Mountains Are Closing In

There is a new kind of clarity now about practice. There is nothing more important than waking up now. Quickly: now. Not later today, not tomorrow. There’s just not time to do this the way I thought I could.

I thought we could build a nice, beautiful organization with great people in good relationships, where everything worked the way it was supposed to, and then we would use that to save the world in a wonderful, elegant way that they’d write about in history books later.

I know this was dumb. I should’ve known it was dumb at the time. But here we are. The mountains are closing in.

“This isn’t about winning anymore.” That line from the last retreat’s final talk, when I first found out the news, hit me deeply. I staggered out of the room, dumb and totally confused about why I was doing anything. I just threw myself into practice. I went to bed shaking. I woke up halfway through the night drenched in sweat. My dorm-mate tells me I was talking in my sleep.

What we do now might not make it into history books. They may just not be written. It’s not certain, of course—maybe we’ll be fine, maybe we’ll survive this one. But real, life-exterminating war is a real possibility now more than ever before. Climate change is still accelerating without any solution in sight. This may give you a sense for the problems with AI research. And at this critical stage in the journey, we can’t rely on any of the existing systems to do anything about it.

Make use of this. Ask yourself now: is what I’m doing good enough? Really? Take a serious, hard look at your life, and judge for yourself whether your current and planned actions are acceptable, given the stakes, given the circumstances, given the world.

This is not a time to keep following the script. We need heroism now. We need drastic action—careful of course, considered, not rash, not rushed, but drastic. Now. From you. Whatever you’re doing, is it essential? If not, cut it out. If nothing else, just stop doing everything you don’t have to do. That alone is an enormous act of heroism.

Note that shaming yourself over how badly you’re doing and how unacceptable your life is is not essential.

For me, I’m going to be sitting from now on unless there’s something more important to do. You’re still welcome to book time with me, but I’m going to insist that you give a donation. Not because I have any particular use for the money, but as a service to you, to help you ask yourself that question: really?

What counts as more important for me? Helping this community, with its messed up people in messed up friendships, with all sorts of stuff about it that’s not working the way I think it should, to flourish, so that whatever future unfolds, we can meet it in a way that is of benefit to the world. Connecting, strengthening friendships. Blogging occasionally.

Without assumption of reward of any kind, just giving up this life completely to service, to ending suffering, to doing what must be done in this dying world.

This isn’t about winning anymore.