Living Without the ‘Vegas Rule’

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Every day, we step into a river of experiences that transcend the limits of language. By default, we treat these departures from comprehensibility with an adaptation of the ‘Vegas Rule’: what happens beyond the limits of language stays beyond the limits of language. That’s what we’d like to believe.

With this bit of sloppy sophistry, we justify leaving the inexpressible not only unexpressed, but also unexamined. This way, we lose. But if we reflect for even a moment, we realize that the Vegas Rule is bullshit. Whether we apply it to decadent pursuits or refined enthusiasms, the rule appears false…


Speaking through the Body

Image created by Lev Janashvili

This story about a fart on a park bench in Austria sparked my interest last week. I already discussed it with one lawyer, and I urge readers to consider the blind spots this story reveals in the legal system’s treatment of farts and torts.

In addition to the article in Vice, the story received coverage on BBC, the Associated Press, The Guardian and in local newspapers in Austria including Der Standard and Kurier. …


This is how projection works: Anti-vaxxers can't face the reality that their behavior poses a threat to public health, so they see the threat in the people untouched by their delusion. Immune to argument and emotional appeal, this ideology keeps growing stronger while reveling in its grievances. I marvel at the self-assurance of these influencers and their success in the attention economy.


The Predicaments of Modern Prophets

Image copied from tweet by Matthew Remski

In this essay, I invite you to reflect on the meaning of this funny tweet from Matthew Remski, one of the hosts of the Conspirituality podcast.

The simple humor of the tweet is that it presents the “Influencer’s Dilemma” as a choice between sermonizing about culture wars and going to therapy. At the risk of draining this tweet of its humor, I’d like to discuss a few other dimensions of this dilemma…I’d like to examine its larger context.

First, this is not only a dilemma for influencers, but rather all writers, organizational leaders and other people looking for ways…


A Poem and a Movie Clip

Image credit: You Be Relentless — Be Relentless but Detached.

In Beyond Language, I mentioned poetry in the list of strategies for working around the inadequacies of language. I’m not schooled in the art, but I playfully experiment with it on occasion. In my latest poetic sketch, I tackle “Civilizational Psychosis”, reinforcing my message with a clip from the movie 300.

Civilizational Psychosis

This is a civilizational psychosis
Said a voice in my head.
Delusions about the prognosis
And informational viruses spread.

Tell me something I don’t know
Said another voice.
Your jeremiad is just a show
About your Hobson’s Choice.

In this drama, I see your dread
Voice 2 said to Voice…


Yale historian Timothy Snyder offers advice on thinking beyond bumper stickers and distinguishing fascism from “not even fascism”.

Image credit: New York Times

Last week, in Beyond Language, I outlined four “messages” about our moment in history. The first message is a critique of the idea that, to mitigate the current assault on factuality, we can “name it to tame it”, so to speak. Here, I’d like to examine this meme more closely.

The idea has a respectable pedigree, and it lends itself to defensible interpretations and applications. For example, in mindfulness meditation and in many forms of psychotherapy (e.g., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), people learn to name their experiences so as not to be tyrannized by nameless horrors. …


The opposition to “identity politics” exemplifies what it purports to oppose. Lapsing into selective outrage, it reifies the cultural categories it seeks to negate. It is part of the problem…


2020 in Hindsight

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I returned to Medium and started a Substack blog midway through 2020 to clarify the Directions to the Promised Land. Three long decades after the sea parted for me and cleared the way to my New Jerusalem (aka USA), I returned to the Burning Bush to ask for clarification about the geography of freedom and the epidemiology of tyrannical untruth.

The Burning Bush immediately asked me to examine the motives behind the request, prompting an essay on Why Write? Diagnosis as Story. Here, the voice of my inner dissident, long banished to a psychic dungeon, gasped an…


Spiraling into Deep Adaptation

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I finally read Jem Bendel’s viral 35-page essay Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. Here, Bendel summarizes the climate science, dissects the psychology of denial and provides coping strategies organized around the “four R’s” that follow the “Holy Shit!” moment when one sees the looming end. Specifically, the four R’s:

  1. Resilience — What do I/we most value and want to keep?
  2. Relinquishment — What can I/we relinquish because it no longer serves us or because it makes matters worse?
  3. Restoration — What can I/we bring back into our way of life?
  4. Reconciliation — What can I/we learn to…


Why The Show Must Go On

Image Credit: PictureQuote.com

The relationship between writers and readers is changing in ways that defy easy description. In simpler times, writers earned the attention of readers by producing text that purported to offer something of value. Readers invested their attention, reasonably confident that they could gauge the value of the text and quickly correct any misallocations of their attention. Now, in our radically balkanized epistemology, we can‘t easily gauge the value of anything or know when we have misdirected the light of our attention.

Among the readers of the preceding paragraph, some may feel that I am overstating the severity of our epistemic…

Lev Janashvili

Writer and former PR strategist seeking new synapses in the neural networks sprouting from the rubble of collapsing institutions and industries.

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