Category Archives: opinion

‘Nosediving’ I: Life Imitating Art in China

“I’ll just follow my nose…”
-Toucan Sam

Friends,

In my recent efforts to get caught up on the program Black Mirror, I yesterday watched the first episode from season 3, entitled “Nosedive.” In this episode, the protagonist, Lacie lives in a world where everyone is constantly rated by each other on a 5 star scale. One’s rating at any given point is an aggregated average, with 5-star ratings from “high-4s” bringing one’s average higher than 5-star

ratings from 3.5s and lower. Lacie averages a respectable 4.2 at the episode’s beginning but to achieve a 4.5 and receive the benefits such a ranking holds (financial, social and professional) she takes a gamble and enters the high-stakes game of upward mobility at the elite level. Things quickly unravel for her as circumstances beyond her control coupled with some “average-dropping” faux-pas’ cause her to drop just below 4.2 and lose that ranking’s necessary benefits. This leads to an emotional outburst and profanity (a positive no-no in the perfectionist world of social media lifestyle cultivation) which gets her harshly penalized until her average is so low that she throws away all pretension and goes thermonuclear at the very social event that she gambled would bring her 4.5dom.

The whole episode seems as if it’s going to be a sobering parable about hubris and the dangers of superficiality, but late in the episode  Lacie has a chance encounter with a formerly high-4 woman happily reduced to 1-dom and we start to see that maybe letting go is the path to salvation and the moral of the episode. The final scene in a jail cell where Lacie (at an abysmal sub-1 average) trades barbs with a fellow inmate only confirms this moral.


She seems happier cussing out this black man than at any other point in the episode….RACIST!!

And it’s a good moral. It smacks of Voltaire’s timeless bit of wisdom, “Man is free the moment he wishes to be.”

I pondered this moral and it’s implications for me and where I’m at. I realized a few years ago that cultivating a squeaky-clean image online was not possible for me, nor desirable, as it would psychologically limit me in the future when I wanted to say some real shit.

Or perhaps more accurately, recognizing that a social media presence is a digital monument, if I built one based on omission and SFW opinions, I would be unwilling to topple it down the road (with risque points of view), it being a monument after all and something I would have, at that hypothetical future-point, invested much time and effort into creating.

No, better to speak my piece, polarizing as it may be, and let the chips fall where they may.

Enter the universe (or invasive data-mining), which, in it’s infinite wisdom, has been known to conspire: Logging onto the Facebooks this morning I saw that a friend posted an article from Wired entitled, “Big Data Meets Big Brother: China Moves to Rate it’s Citizens.

 

That’s right, China is moving to implement citizen ratings based on stringent governmental standards by 2020. I would suggest you read the article for Rachel Botsman’s in-depth analysis of the implications, but essentially people will qualify for better services and greater privileges based on how high their rating is. Furthermore, and much more insidiously, those considered “untrustworthy” (Naturally, China is framing it as a trust-scale more than a conformity-scale) will not only have a lack of privileges, but be a threat to their circle of friends, as one person’s degree of “fuck-uppery” will reflect poorly on anyone who deigns to associate with them, threatening even the ostensibly “trust-worthy” with loss of privileges.


“China, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!”

It’s like in Full Metal Jacket when Pyle keeps fucking up and so Hartman decides to punish the rest of the platoon, alienating him from everyone and causing them to beat the shit out of him, in what was (impressively) arguably the most disturbing scene in any Kubrick film. Punishments against bystanders for indulging and tolerating undesirables is a fundamentally malicious policy because it goes against beautiful and humanistic ideals such as “Love thy Neighbour” and “Do Unto Others…”

I’m not so naive to believe that this is a China-problem, nor that people-rating hasn’t already manifested there and here in the west. In a way, I’m all for it; I’ve worked hard to be a good traveler and earn a good reputation on CouchSurfing for example, and that reputation (rightly) gains me the trust of new hosts in new places a lot quicker and more easily. The logic is simple: Don’t be a shithead; Don’t get treated like a shithead. Simple! I, much like Ms. Botsman believe reputation to be the once and future currency of the world -good enough for proto-human tribes, good enough for the post-scarcity economy we’re moving toward.

However, China is bastardizing the noble concept of reputation by taking two of it’s ugliest permutations, credit ratings (a mechanism to further deprive the already deprived) and people reviewing (a “legitimate” way to smear someone via apps like Peeple), and combining them into an ugly abomination with the power to bestow privilege and convenience to the worthy and mete out suffering to the unworthy based on pre-established standards which are reflective of the state institution’s survival needs rather than the ability of citizens to co-exist with each other. And if that wasn’t already enough, those afflicted with “unworthiness” carry a memetic contagion of sorts, alienating them from worthy members of society who may help to, at the very least, rehabilitate them, even though they may have done nothing worse than question policy.

In this last regard, China is almost creating a prison without walls, which might not be so bad if this state-sanctioned social smearing was implemented as an alternative to physical incarceration (even though the ‘bar for entry’ seems to be much lower), but there has been no apparent mention of this, so its essentially just a way to lock up more citizens and scare many more into falling in line.

Well-played, China. The magnificence of your bastardry apparently knows no bounds.

My knee-jerk reaction to this article was predictably fear and anxiety. I’m not a violent criminal but it seems ‘crimes’ we all engage such as out-spokenness may one day land us in hot water as state-ratings become normalized and global. From a strictly amoral and Machiavellian perspective, it does seem to be a viable way to conserve and consolidate power and only someone with a complete lack of imagination or an interest in seeing this system propagate could deny it will be implemented in the western world if the China test-case proves successful.

Again, what was most paralyzing about the worry I felt  was that I realized one day having an opinion that was considered unpopular could hurt those I care about. If I had to dissociate from my father for example, or worse, if he decided to dissociate from me because I was too much of a liability… Well, how could I fault him for that?

But in that moment of panic I realized that I was just feeling, I wasn’t thinking. The former has a place to be sure, but sometimes we have to be pragmatic and logical. Whenever I am seized by existential anxiety I go over my escape plan. The details of it change over time but points 1 and 2 are pretty much always the same:

ANDRE’S SUPER-SECRET, ‘DON’T TELL THE GOVERNMENT’, ESCAPE PLAN

  1. If shit gets too bad I can always kill myself and then my problems on this material plane are over.
  2. I can always focus on my breathing and the present moment.
  3.  Refer back to points 1 and 2 as needed until such time as a better solution presents itself.

You could maybe argue that the order of 1 and 2 could be switched, but they’re just a starting point and as important as their actual viability as solutions to the problem of life, they serve the purpose of reassuring me while I formulate other strategies.

Those strategies I will elaborate on in my next post which will be a follow-up to this one.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Mental Gender and The Kybalion

Friends,

This past January I fell in with a hippie named Timmie somewhere west of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert, a few scant kilometres north of the Mexican border and on the fringes of the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation. We were living in what amounted to a desert suburb -giant plots of land, hundreds of acres each, connected by endless desert track. Maverick bovines mingled with their branded counterparts, and save for the fences which partitioned each ranch/plot of land, the only features which dotted the horizon were the farmhouses, existing kilometres upon kilometres from each other.


We spent our days mountain climbing and smoking metric shitloads of dope…
…rather idyllic…

Add to this isolation the natural desolation of the desert, the alien appearance of the saguaros, the evidence of coyotes ferrying illegals over the same routes we walked mere hours earlier, the omnipresence of the border patrol, the unseen eyes of the minutemen, the looming threat of danger from nearby neighbours who’d tried to rob Timmie, and most importantly the raw spiritual power of the reservation land we were on, and it all amounted to an exciting and interesting place to do drugs.


The remote watering hole on the reservation where we’d take Timmie’s sick dog, Oshe every day, read and allow our peace and harmony to attract wild horses.

And do drugs we did. Well, weed and mushrooms anyway.

I should qualify that: We smoked weed everyday, several times a day and it was even more of a trip because Timmie was one of those guys who could see the matrix; he was always making connections between words, acronyms and numbers and well….everything. As well, he had the gravitas of a wise Indian shaman and so there was something hypnotic about hearing him deconstruct reality…

But with regard to the mushrooms, we only did one trip: 9.5 grams of Amanita Muscarias (which I recorded and edited down to an 8-minute youtube video).
It was a powerful trip spiritually and we did a multi-day preparation for it which included a simple, nourishing diet, meditation and discourse, and reading aloud from The Kybalion. For those unfamiliar with this text I encourage you to read the wikipedia entry on it, but in brief it is the distilled teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, the greatest of all the alchemists, and it posits that there are 7 Hermetic Principles, which it then expounds upon. They are:

I. The Principle of MENTALISM
II. The Principle of CORRESPONDENCE
III. The Principle of VIBRATION
IV. The Principle of POLARITY
V. The Principle of RHYTHM
VI. The Principle of CAUSE AND EFFECT
VII. The Principle of GENDER

These principles don’t seem profound in and of themselves; indeed any pop-scientist who’s ‘liked’ IFLScience on Facebook could probably give you a tenable breakdown of vibration and cause & effect at the very least. However, it is when all seven principles are taken in conjunction that their synergy and implications manifest. It’s all very interesting and their are certainly more in-depth analyses of each specific principle to be had out there if you don’t have an interest (yet) in reading the entire book, but herein I just want to explain the fascinating revelations of chapter fourteen, which deals with MENTAL GENDER.
Mental Gender (MG) might be best explained as an elaboration on the previous chapter’s discussion on principle #7: the complementary masculine and feminine principles/energies/aspects in all of creation. Indeed, the book goes to great lengths to explain how in any act of creation, from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the universe itself, there is always a masculine energy/will which then imposes itself upon/inspires a feminine energy/womb. The masculine impresses itself upon the feminine and the feminine receives impressions -BAM! Creation!
I’ve found a handy conceptual tool to imagine this is that the feminine might be considered the energy (or matter at lower levels of vibration) and the masculine might be considered the vibration itself, determining what form the matter/energy exists as.
So why break gender down further into mental gender? Well, refer to the first principle, Mentalism, and it’s assertion that “All is Mind.” Everything is a creation of the mind, and if every creation is a culmination of masculine meeting feminine, then these two principles, mentalism and gender, share a very interesting connection.

Now allow me to digress a moment: when I left Timmie and Arizona to go to Carpe Diem Eco Project in Nicaragua, I met a traveler named Ryan my first night. He had achieved a high-level of mastery at life and so I listened when he spoke. He left the next day but one thing he said which made a deep (masculine) impression on the (feminine) womb of my mind was this: “I AM is the most powerful phrase in the universe.” While I didn’t understand fully why at the time, I knew it to be true, and so I incorporated this phrase into daily affirmations.

Fast forward to months later, and me finally finishing The Kybalion and wouldn’t you know, the phrase I AM is explicitly discussed and now better understood.

Why?

Well first we must separate I AM into its constituent parts and descriptions:

I is the statement of being. The masculine will which is cultivated through discipline, effort and focus. It must be cultivated.
AM is the statement of becoming. The womb or creative space where our ‘ME’ is created through the impressions we receive. It exists (without any need for cultivation) as primordial chaos which seeks order (I) for the act of creation.

The AM will be impregnated by/create with the strongest I (or Is) it receives impressions from. Since many are derelict in their duty of cultivating a strong I or will in their lifetimes, one strong I, whether from a mentally stronger human being or larger, more influential organization can impregnate the AM space of many, while the I of many individuals simply atrophies and languishes. (I don’t think I need to go into the parallels this realization has on our physical plane, but female sexual selection comes readily to mind, even if masculine and feminine are not specifically male and female.)
It is therefore incumbent upon us to take the time and effort to cultivate our I so that we can create our own reality as opposed to existing in the reality of another.

THINK ‘I AM’ > SPEAK ‘I AM’ > DO

Order yearns for chaos and chaos yearns for order, but chaos is a harsh and choosy mistress, so do the mental work of cultivating a strong I through meditation and reflection, speak a strong I in the direction your will is pointing and then manifest that reality through acting in accord with mind and voice.

I suppose this last bit is as much of a reminder for myself as it is advice to any of you xo

For a full downloadable pdf of the Kybalion: http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/kybalion.pdf

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

 

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Limiting Beliefs as the Pillars of Human Civilization

Friends,

Recently, I had a conversation with my friend and colleague, Peter Mazzucco about the USMC’s “40% Rule.” The rule itself has interesting implications for will-power, but it also gave me pause to think back and reflect on something which had occurred to me months back then I was on the road shooting my upcoming adventure-documentary, Just Might Be Ok. I was somewhere in Mexico sitting on a rock taking a mid-day water break from walking. I had done 30 km already and was fairly impressed with myself. I reflected on how I had prepared for this undertaking: several full days every week spent in the late-summer heat walking the Hamilton region. My feet had toughened, my endurance had gone up, and the muscles in my legs, hips and lower back had developed to accommodate these new weight demands. But did these factors actually enable me to walk 30+ km every day encumbered with gear, or was I always able to perform this feat and I simply needed to convince myself that I could (with training and gains).

I found it to be an interesting question with wild implications. First and foremost, if a proverbial “97 lb. weakling” who never worked out walked into a gym with a deeply enough held belief that he could lift 400 lbs., could he?  On the other side of the spectrum, is the professional body-builder able to lift the 400 lb. weight because he has increased his muscle tissue and bone density through his workouts or have those physical changes simply had the desired effect of convincing him that he could lift the 400 lb. weight?

henry-ford-think-quote-mood

What we’re really talking about here is the relation of thought/belief to reality. At this moment, there is a Playstation controller on the table in front of me. In theory, if I have a deeply enough held belief that I can’t lift the controller or if I have some fear-based aversion to touching it, it’s not getting lifted, regardless of how much I have worked out. On the back end, isn’t that the same as not being able to lift it?

Ability has at least as much to do with mentality as it does with outward physical appearance and musculature. However, our mentality shapes us and so those with strong mentalities, disciplined mentalities, typically have bodies which reflect this. This too, could be seen as an indication of the relationship between thought and reality.

When discussing this idea further with my roommate, Kelton, he broadened the question by asking if the 97 lb. man could use levers and pulleys and other such machines to perform the lifting feat. I figured that that still counts as exerting one’s will upon reality and so I said sure. When you think about it, this is how society works: We can’t do something; “fly” for example, so we build machines like planes which allow us to do just that and see our will imposed upon the world around us. But this also made me think of another aspect and nuance of the question: We have laws and regulations governing aviation, what if we had laws and regulations prohibiting the use of levers and pulleys? Well, in absolute terms, the 97 lb. man could contravene the law and still lift the 400 lbs., but assuming he came up in the authoritarian public school system and our society more broadly, he would likely have a deep-seated fear-based aversion to using prohibited machinery. Again, on the back end, this is the exact same as not being able to lift the 400 lbs.

I would go further in fact to say that all laws and their corollary rights fundamentally serve as limiters of possibility. They limit what we believe we are capable of. I used to look rights and laws as opposite ends of a continuum, both flowing from a central point (the state/authority/power), the former protecting the individual and the latter protecting the collective, and always in a constant state of tension. There is truth to this view, but within the context of limiting beliefs I began to conceive of a new conceptual model for our relationship to rights and laws.  Imagine that same central point (the state), but it is above us and it projects beams downward and outward to envelope us in an upside down funnel shape. These beams are rights and laws, and while they are touted as guarantors of freedom, they actually act as bars caging us into the activities and potentials the state has dictated to be acceptable.

5-ways-to-overcome-limiting-beliefs

Every law and right is in fact a micro-aggression which limits our possibility. Even the most well-wrought, agreeable laws, against killing perhaps, even these still limit our conception of what is possible for us in this world.

It’s at this point where the unimaginative might derisively retort, “So are you saying that we should get rid of all laws, you anarchist?” -as if such a proposition is completely ludicrous. I think the abolition of laws and rights is a desirable state to get to but it is a state we can’t discuss without talking about other societal changes which are beyond the scope of this post.

For now, it is simply important to recognize that every new law, rule, right, guarantee, statute, and stipulation is coercive. Recognize that you have been conditioned to be afraid of force being used against you for contravention of the laws. Recognize that a law against stealing means that there are consequences for stealing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t steal.

You can do anything. Convince yourself of this. Believe it at an experiential level, and begin to undo a lifetime of limiting programming.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Nintendo: Once and Future Overlords of Gaming (and the World?)

Friends,

On July 6, Nintendo/Niantic released the “augmented reality” game, Pokemon Go. In this new instalment of the franchise, players are required to move around the world, the real world, in order to capture monsters digitally super-imposed onto the landscape around them and observed/detected/captured with their smartphone.

While an interesting idea, I was a little cynical when I first read up on this mechanism of the game. Why cynical? Well it seems to me that Nintendo has been trying to incorporate physical activity into gaming since the release of the Wii in 2006 (although in a broader sense they have been trying to get gamers out of the house more since the release of the Game Boy back in the 80s). While I appreciate this good intent, I remember that on the handful on occasions I played Wii, after the initial novelty had worn off, I kinda just wanted to play sprawled out on a couch in a dark room with the blinds drawn and wearing dirty track pants, like nature and God had intended.

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

Cm-KlcYUEAAm_NX

Cm-LbeIVYAA2uJe

Or, most tellingly…

sorry-mom-ill-be-leaving-our-hometown-next-year-to-1213139

People are literally being mobilized to go out into the world in a way that video games have not been able to (nor sought to) make them thus far.

 856347
Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Why is this incredible? Well, Nintendo, or more specifically Niantic has figured out a way to not only get people to move around in the world, but has theoretically also found a way to get mass groups of people to all congregate in certain places at certain times. If you look at Niantic’s last augmented reality game, Ingress, you see a world where people try and dominate the global-digital landscape with whatever colour they have chosen, blue or green.

ingress-screenshots-r471x

They can “attack” and thus take over any region held by the opposing team provided they physically go to that area. However, beyond co-ordinated attacks or other such player-driven events, there is nothing driving people to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the case of Pokemon GO, all the Pokemon (at least those which have been released thus far) seem to be distributed more or less evenly in the countries where the game can played*, taking into account of course that certain types are only found in certain geographic conditions i.e. water-type Pokemon only found by bodies of water, etc. But as suggested by the above Bear Grylls meme, what’s to prevent Niantic from placing a Legendary (thus rare and prized) Pokemon like Articuno, somewhere inaccessible like Everest Base Camp? Nothing, save for the limitations of Google Maps.

But let’s take it a step further. What if Niantic released a statement saying that a certain incredibly rare Pokemon would appear only on the lawn of the White House, and then only for twelve hours? People would MOB D.C.!

……

Okay, this scenario is probably beyond a “step further” but I think you get my point. Even if Niantic did a 5-day Pokemon appearance event in a certain city, we could see mass-migrations of people. How serious am I about that? Well, according to Wikipedia, the app, after less than a week of being released, and then only officially in three countries, topped daily usage of Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram. That means, it’s beating out people’s libidos and narcissism -no mean feat.

The effort put into capturing Pokemon may seem unbelievable to non-gamers, but is it that surprising? We take our games very seriously especially when there is a ranking structure and an opportunity to demonstrate our prowess and superiority. MMOs in recent years have seen this vulnerability exploited as people will stay indoors on a beautiful, sunny Saturday playing games online in order to take advantage of Double XP weekends. It’s about bragging rights and Pokemon GO differs only in one critical arena -your couch is the last place you wanna be.

Artificial Scarcity
I’m fond of talking about the power of scarcity to motivate people and games truly exploit that power. Whether it’s reddit karma, Pokemon in your pokedex or having a Vex Mythoclast in Destiny, these are things that take work to accumulate/acquire. It’s hilarious because they are digital constructs -lines of code, which by their nature are infinite. But, limit their available quantity or occurrence, attach some status to possessing them and all of a sudden people will scramble.

712862

For now, this is all guess-work and hypothesizing on my part. But it seems foolish not to make the thought-experiment. Maybe this potential hasn’t occurred to Niantic/Nintendo or maybe they are just waiting for an opportune time to mobilize their willing army of Pokemon trainers against the regimes of the world.

All I know is, if it turns out that there are to be different Pokemon in different parts of the world, I will be on the front lines becoming the greatest Pokemon master of them all.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*The game has at this point only officially been released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but lo and behold, here is a picture of me playing it in Canada…

IMG_1609
Fuck the P0-lice!

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“31, Numb, but the Hurt is Gone…”

Friends,

I’m 31.

31 stony grey steps toward the grave if I’m looking to be poetic and needlessly morose.

It’s certainly been a full 31 years, but even in light of everything I have experienced thus far, I feel in some ways like I am just getting started.

Not at life, mind you, but at living.

This is gonna be a big year for me. How do I know?

Well because it has to be. I can’t keep on the way I have been thus far or I will keep getting what I have always gotten.

And I’m bored of that.

2015 was a big year for me. Monster was my operative word. It was my theme for the year if you will. It was on my tongue for everything I wanted to do career-wise.

And, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy: It was my biggest year in film (such as it was), and certainly I could have kept said momentum up and kept growing, albeit in a linear fashion.

But that didn’t seem righteous to me. Essentially, there were other areas of my life I had been neglecting during my entertainment pursuits, most notably my aspirations as an adventurer, and to keep on the same way I had been would have been to repress those longings.

So I donned the sombrero and poncho of el peregrino and made my first foray into Latin America where I partook in ayahuasca and shot a film. This satisfied my longing for adventure while reassuring me that I wasn’t losing too much professional momentum. I got two birds stoned at once as it were.

But now I’m back home. Back for over two months actually, and I stand at a bit of a crossroads: Where do I go from here? I could go back into that linear progression but it doesn’t feel righteous; that is to say I don’t find myself pulled in that direction. After all, do I really wanna spend the rest of my life only telling other people’s stories? No, mine must be the priority.

I feel on a very deep level that to keep pursuing the same things, the same way in the same place is to do myself a disservice and squander my potential while ignoring my passions.

If the theme of 2015 was Monster, the theme for 2016 is Evolve. I have known this…felt this, since mid-2015. I’ve recognized this need for a quantum-shift for that long.

So how do I plan on evolving?

Well, I am precipitating said evolution assymetrically and on many fronts simultaneously, developing existing aptitudes and even trying my hand at new endeavours not strictly film or even adventure related. That’s a big step for me.

So what are some of my approaches?

Well, there is another adventure documentary in the works which will be my greatest undertaking yet. I can’t speak too definitively about it right now simply because I’m not producing/organizing it (which is kind of a relief), but if it doesn’t get deferred until 2017, it will begin this October. Stay tuned for that.

But, I’m kinda sorta almost hoping it does get deferred until next year because my back-up plan is pretty damn sweet too. I’ve started making some inquiries about this one but I can’t start making arrangements until my new passport comes in over the next couple weeks…

On the home front I am starting a collective which at this moment I am simply calling ACCESS. It will be a first furtive step in the direction of embodying a set of values important to me and my partners in the project, values such as sustainability, abundance, collaboration and skill-development to name a few. We are still selecting the property we wish to purchase for this endeavour, and there is a strict set of criteria it must meet, but I am confident we can have that portion of it sorted out before any departure I may be inclined undertake in the fall. This will be a long-term project that will grow and develop as my partners and I do, and I’m excited to begin living values that I have thus far just been discussing.

With regard to strictly creative endeavours, I’ve done something I’ve been meaning to for some time now which  is to lay down vocals for a hip-hop track. Director and Rapper, Matthew Luppino is producing it and it should be out over the next few weeks. I love rhyming and playing with words and so this is a long-overdue step. I want to challenge myself to write a few tracks a year as a way of harnessing this skill. I’m nice at writing bars. Now the world will see this.

Film-wise, I haven’t been applying for auditions but I have kept busy enough through referrals and the like, and for about a month of my time home I was pretty goddamn busy doing stunts on Blood & Fury: America’s Civil War. This latter was actually really important because it gave me that feeling of still being in the game which is so useful for combating feelings of idleness during this period of reflection.. But the whole time I’ve meditated constantly upon how to evolve. A seemingly obvious step would be to finally look into getting an agent but I’m not 100% sold on that…yet. I think there are other ways in which I can transcend where I’m at before I allow that influence into my life.

Finally I am going back out to comedy shows after a lengthy hiatus. This time however I am more aware of how I present myself on stage and going to try new means of delivering my ideas which will hopefully add to their efficacy.

Like I said earlier, I’m 31. I am LITERALLY in the prime of my life when all factors are taken into consideration. True, my body may have some wear and tear (I was in the army for 10 years), but that is mitigated by eating well and keeping fit. And really, from a physical fitness perspective, I’m still easily in the upper 20th percentile of North American men my age. But even if I wasn’t that lack would be offset by the fact that I’m smarter, wiser, more focused, more established and freer than I’ve ever been. I am at a singular moment in my life where I can do ANYTHING. So it’s very important that I don’t squander this time with vain pursuits because I will never be able to achieve like I can achieve now.

Evolve.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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The 10 Laws of Adventure

Friends,

I am currently on a self-imposed lockdown for two weeks enduring what is called monk mode. I intend to write more about my circumstances and goals in that endeavour but that will be my next post. What I want to talk about now is, as the title suggests, 10 maxims I fleshed out in my journal while making my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America for my upcoming film, Just Might Be Ok

IMG_1311
Pictured: Two of my favourite books.

You see during this monk mode period I have been reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and it’s inspired me to present my maxims in a similar, if abbreviated, way to really hammer home their importance.

Law 1:
Be Physically Imposing

Observance of the Law:
Having been robbed on a previous trip I was more cognizant about where I slept and kept my baggage, but these considerations were not the only thing which saved me: As a fit guy with a better than average build and great endurance I made my way through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador without incident because I was (I assume) more trouble than I was worth.

Keys to Power:
Prior to departure I thought long and hard about what kit I would bring and what I would wear. I wanted to go fast and light and so abandoned the large backpack from the get-go, instead opting for a military vest with a custom pouch set-up, leg bags and a small backpack with a hydration bladder (GEIGERRIG…great piece of kit). A few days into my trip I acquired a sombrero and poncho. The entire look culminated thusly…

KBK_8496
“El Peregrino”
Photo Credit: Kenneth Klemens

Now that may be more comical than imposing to some and to be sure I did want to capture a certain good-natured, adventurous aspect as I was simultaneously shooting a film, but as I keep pretty fit and spry I wasn’t just some fatty at a convention cosplaying. No, everything I carried was functional and the skin I showed was calculated. It wasn’t like I could take anyone who might want to attack me, but I was imposing enough to make any comers think twice, and mobile enough to be out of range if their second thought was, “let’s fuck this dude up.”
However, the safest I ever felt was walking around shirtless or in a wife-beater after stashing my gear at my accommodations. Why? Because I have a built upper body. And without the encumbrance of my gear I was not an attractive target. The way I look and my physique (such as it is) didn’t happen by accident and a modicum of fitness is a warning and beacon to others that perhaps this dude might go the distance if they tried to pull some shit. It shows discipline, and someone who is disciplined on any level instantly becomes a less attractive mark.
On another note, people often poo-poo a workout regimen that focuses on the upper body, but if I could recommend one workout for the adventurer unrelated to endurance and stamina it would be pushups. If your upper body is built, it doesn’t matter if you have chicken-legs, as ne’er-do-wells are creatures of convenience and there’s always lower hanging fruit. So yeah.

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The Pit-Bull. Raised by a loving family it has the sweetest disposition and will allow you to scratch its belly and pet it, but its powerful appearance and reputation make the uninitiated balk. The brave and wise know that it is a powerful a loyal friend.

Reversal:
Cops. For whatever reason they don’t like you walking around the city dressed like a paramilitary, so its wise to keep aggressive-looking gear easily stowable in urban centres. With regard to being muscular, there’s always gonna be some shithead who tries to pull your card even in your hometown, but it likely won’t be on a street in broad daylight. Standard rules of preservation apply: if you go out to bars, try not to go alone, don’t eyeball people, don’t get too drunk and don’t hit on anyone’s girl and you’ll probably be ok.

Law 2: 
Always Bring a Bottle of Something

Observance of the Law:
Throughout the duration of the pilgrimage I relied heavily on Couch-Surfing as a means of sleeping for free. On my last night in Mexico, I couch-surfed with Sinuhe and his family in Villahermosa. I went out for a run in the evening and returned with a bottle of my favourite spirit, Mezcal. We sat to have a couple drinks and it turned into a party. His girlfriend and friend joined us, his mother started making food and pulling out bottles of tequila. It was one of my best nights of the trip.

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Me and Sinuhe, before eating some worms.

Keys to Power:
“Free” really means the ability to put money you would have spent on accommodations elsewhere. Like, for example, food or beverage to show your host appreciation and party with them. The benefit of this is two-fold: First, it makes it more fun. Second, Couch-Surfing is a community where people review each other after the stay, and those references have an effect on whether other people let you crash with them in the future. You could call it Social Capital, and you can increase your social capital by turning positive reviews into glowing ones.

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Jesus Christ. Where people expect water, you bring wine. A vagabond of abundance, they admire your grit, your salt-of-the-Earth sensibilities and of course your desire to make them the guest of honor at the party they didn’t know they were hosting. Then when the morning comes you are gone, having enriched their lives with just your presence. For the rest of their days they spread the legend of the pilgrim who came and made them a part of his adventure.

Reversal:
It is wise to check if the household is amenable to drinking before placing a bottle of booze on the table and telling people to fill their boots. Also, sometimes people will pick you up (if hitch-hiking) and take you home and feed you. In cases like these it is understood that they have the means and desire to treat you and in fact might be put off if you insist on stopping somewhere to purchase them a gift. Feel it out and find some other way to contribute or content yourself with paying the kindness forward.

Law 3:
Be Generous

Observance of the Law:
Being 31 on this last outing, I was more established in the world than a lot of the people I met in hostels, often the 18-23 age range. But they were cool people who I wanted to hang out with and didn’t want them to not come out or sit there without a drink because they didn’t have the same budget as me. I thought of all the kindness and generosity I had received on this excursion and previous ones and realized I had a lot of good karma to pay back. So, around me, no one ever thirsted.

Keys to Power:
I am not a wealthy man in absolute terms but I certainly have enough to buy a round of beers in Mexico, several times over in fact. And for a few dollars, nights wandering the city alone turned into nights on the town. Plus, due to the natural tendency of guys to one-up each other, buying a round meant that every other dude would wanna buy a round and it would become a party.

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The Brother. If the Brother gets 20, his brother gets 10. In fact, the Brother can’t be at ease unless his brother is taken care of. Stand together or die alone.

Reversal:
Don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted. Women are usually worse for this back home, but on the road everyone understands the value of reciprocity. Still, be careful of drinking with locals; either they’ll peg you as the rich gringo and try and run up your tab, or some blonde cunt in Mexico City will try and put a bottle of champagne on your tab because you’ve been hitting it off with her friend all night. True story.

Law 4:
Wear a Condom

Transgression of the Law:
Back in Cairns, Australia in 2006 I picked up this lady named Tania and took her back to my hostel. Since I had a shared dorm room we went downstairs into the laundry room and began to get busy. Now not only did I not wear a dome but I also failed to get her appropriately warmed up, and so when I went to stick my penis in I met resistance.
I pushed hard. Still resistance.
So I gave ‘er the old college try and –OWWW!“- I achieved penetration.
Now, whence cometh the ow? Well being an uncircumcised dude I actually tore my frenulum (the piece of “webbing” between the head of the dick and the foreskin. When I pulled out I noticed a profusion of blood and was like, “Hmmm, that’s peculiar.”
Needless to say, that soured the whole thing pretty damn quick.
She left and I looked up with my pants around my ankles and a used napkin soaking up the blood only to stare into a security camera.
Great Job!
A condom may have absorbed the brunt of the friction and torn first sparing me the embarrassment.

Observance of the Law:
I met some lovely ladies and got to stick my penis in a few of them. It was terrific.

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(…they exist, just…not available…)

Keys to Power:
Traveling through Latin America, an STI isn’t even the worst thing that could happen from having unprotected sex (BABIES!). There is nothing incredibly profound about this law I know but it bears repeating because, well…when I wrote these laws down (Jan 2016) I was really feeling this particularly strongly I guess.

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A Suit of Armor. Not to be worn all the time, it is donned during battle and protects its wearer from the ravages of love and/or war.

Reversal:
(*sigh*) There really shouldn’t be, but every guy reading knows that sometimes a girl makes a really compelling case for why you should fuck her without a condom. She’ll say something like this: “Fuck me without a condom.” And you’ll be like, “……….” And then she’ll be like, “I want your big dick to come inside me.” And then you’re like, “Fuuck!”

Then five minutes later you’re lying there beside her terrified that you just ruined your future while she’s planning your lives together.

Totally worth it.

Law 5: 
If Your Budget is $5,000, Have $10,000

Observance of the Law:
Departing for this trip I was over-prepared in many regards: I brought more gear than I needed and ultimately gave a bunch of it away; I was already fairly enlightened before taking ayahuasca which really took the edge off (more on that to come), etc. But perhaps in no regard was I more prepared than finances. Since I was on a quest with a fairly clearly delineated end-goal it was very important that not only did enough enough money to finance my mobility, food and accommodations (hitch-hiked and camped a lot which really brought costs down), but also enough in reserve to deal with any emergencies and the inevitable spur-of-the-moment decisions that one makes when on the road (See Law 6).

Keys to Power:
I never wanted for anything aside from during times of discipline-oriented, self-imposed austerity, and I was actually shocked when I saw fellow travelers leaving things like food up to chance. There is a fair amount of leaving things to chance one has to do when living on the road and I certainly didn’t go without my share of Quixotic adventures and reversals of fortune, but I decided I didn’t want to be hungry unless it was a some kind of personal challenge. Did having extra cash embolden me to make some choices which were costlier than others? Almost certainly. Do I regret those decisions? Not in the least!
This law can be interpreted in two ways. Literally it can mean, “if you’ve planned a $5000 trip, find a way to accumulate another $5000, but for most that’s wildly impractical and unrealistic. Instead, look at what your budget and then trim as much fat as you can. Time is your ally here as well as grit; if you’re willing to live outdoors and hitch-hike and deal with the resultant uncertain arrival dates, $5000 all of a sudden stretches WAY goddamn further. Also and this is just my opinion here, you don’t just travel, you have an adventure.

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A Clerical Error. Somehow, some way you were allocated twice as much as you actually need and it allows you to regularly spoil yourself in the carefree pursuit of whimsy and new experiences.

Reversal:
I like to think I travel on hard mode which is why I try and refer to it as adventure. But if I do it on hard mode there are some who can be said to do it on extreme mode. With only the proverbial dollar and a dream they eke out a living as they go and basically stay in a place until they earn enough to leave. This is also an enriching way to travel and one I haven’t yet delved into.

Law 6:
Don’t Deprive Yourself of Something That Will Make a Memory

Transgression of the Law:
In September 2006 I departed on my first backpacking excursion to Australia. Landing in Cairns I was close to the Great Barrier Reef, but I was so caught up with getting to the outback that I dismissed going diving there as too peripheral to my interests. I even used the cost to justify my decision not to go. Now I’ve seen most of Australia, but I still haven’t seen that goddamn reef.

Observance of the Law:
Departing in November 2015 I had planned to make my way south through Mexico sticking to the coast and avoiding Mexico City like the plague, as I had heard nothing but how high crime was there. But hitch-hiking is nothing if not a circuitous and unpredictable way to travel. Compound this with the fact that my espanol is poquito (i.e. language barriers) and I found myself inexplicably back on the doorstep of Mexico City after I had managed (I thought) to work my way around it. So I said, “fuck it” and decided to enter the city and hope for the best.
Turns out it was the best choice I made throughout the whole trip. The city had an amazing vibe to it, full of energy and exuberance. It was exciting, dangerous, the women were beautiful, the food was delicious. I even fell in love one night. Looking back I am glad that fortune conspired to make me reconsider my fear-based decision.

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Also, there was some gorgeous architecture in ‘D.F’

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A Stock Portfolio. The record or where you have invested your time and money. It should be diverse and robust. Not all investments will be “profitable” in the short or immediate term, but you hold onto them for life and you see their value increase over time.

Reversal:
Do it for the story can be a great mantra to live your life by but it must be tempered with judgment (See Law 7), because every choice has an opportunity cost. Don’t follow an exciting whim that will jeopardize something dearly important to you hoping that things will just work out somehow (See Law 4).

Law 7:
Find the Level of Stupidity You’re Comfortable With

Observance of the Law:
When entering Mexico from south Texas I had a lot of anxiety. Everyone I met told me it was dangerous, or I would get robbed, kidnapped, beheaded, etc. I was kind of a big bag of nerves when it came time to cross the Rubicon that is the US-Mexico border. However, skipping Mexico and heading right for Guatemala was not an option as I wanted to experience every place. So I compromised: Reckoning that the Mexican border region was the most problematic area of concern I opted to take a bus from Texas through the border and into the interior to the state of Zacatecas.
From there I hitch-hiked south unmolested and had some great adventures.

Keys to Power:
Any number of fellow travelers have passed through the Mexican border without incident and some I met along the way who told me of what a great time they had and it made me wish I had spent time there. But we all make the choices that appear right to us at the time and so it’s hard for me to feel regret. Instead I feel glad I faced a fear on my own terms and kind of smirk inwardly at the constantly-repeating situation of being scared of no more than the unknown.

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The Stuntman. The Stuntman’s raison d’etre is to perform the feats that others are either unwilling or unable to. But every Stuntman has a forte and shines most brightly in a certain area. When there are risks to take, make sure they are the ones that are important to you and that you feel competent taking them. To take the metaphor further, push yourself, but if you’re someone who specializes in getting lit on fire, don’t let them throw you off of a building.

Reversal:
If you have to impress a girl sometimes you gotta double-down on stupidity. It is a man’s prerogative after all…

Law 8:
There are No Dangerous Places, Only Dumb, Unprepared, Fearful People

Transgression of the Law:
In September 2011 I was in Madeira, Portugal, the beginning of a trip to circumnavigate the northern hemisphere. It was a vacationer’s dream and everyone I spoke with screwed up their face with disbelief when I asked if it was safe. “Of course” was the response. I got lulled into a false sense of security and my first night there I fell asleep on the beach and woke up to find all of my gear missing.
Safe place. Go figure.

Observance:
After the robbery in Portugal I decided to continue on and a few months later found myself in the Middle East. It was November 2011 and Egypt was still jumping off after Arab Spring. Naturally I decided to fly to Cairo from Beirut -I wanted to see the pyramids! I made some prudent decisions such as avoiding Tahrir Square where shit was liable to jump off at any given time (See Law 7) but on the whole had nothing but a great experience in spite of people’s warnings that it was super-dangerous. I kept my wits about me and was fine.

Keys to Power:
It is natural for us to be wary of places where something bad has happened. But when you really internalize the idea that bad has happened (literally) everywhere, what you see is that you have a lot of power to avoid getting yourself into said situations. There will always be circumstances beyond your control but you can choose what you make yourself susceptible to by being aware of bad situations as they’re developing and ejecting/aborting if you sense trouble.

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The Surfer. The surfer knows that the ocean is much mightier than he and could kill him very easily. But he understands that there is beauty in danger and it is beauty which he is in search of. So, knowing that he can never hope to control the ocean’s waves, he doesn’t fight the ocean but instead learns to ride it.

Reversal:
If your hear gunfire don’t walk into the crossfire thinking, “As long as I keep my head on a swivel I’ll be fine.” Some situations are empirically dangerous, particularly those which are not contingent upon your actions and interactions.

Law 9:
Play Dumb with Cops, but BOLDLY Dumb!

Observance of the Law:
While walking through Manzanillo, Mexico in full adventure gear I had my poncho drawn closed to conceal my equipment from view. On a whim I decided to throw the poncho back and walk around town looking like a paramilitary. Of course I looked cool walking around but it was also a controlled opportunity to see what I could get away with in Mexican towns; a trap of sorts to make 5-0 reveal their hand. In short order I was stopped by cops who had no compunction about manhandling me and asserting their presence. I played the meek tourist (a stark contrast to the calculated manner in which I was attired) and told them I was a pilgrim. The leader of the cops asked me if I was a some religious nut and then if I was escaped from a (mental) hospital (this I took to be the highest flattery) and I assured him I was not either. I showed them my journal and portrayed myself as a quixotic but harmless young adventurer (not far from the truth). As they flipped through the journal’s pages they saw that I had a picture of a girl. They asked if it was my girlfriend and I smiled like some kind of hopeless romantic and said, “maybe one day.” This really humanized me in their eyes.
But most important by far was the fact that I was so committed and bold in my portrayal as a meek, well-intentioned traveler. My feigned bewilderment brought their defences down and while they approached me hostile and defensive, they left curious, amused and perhaps only mildly annoyed.
The mark of success was that they didn’t even check my pockets or pouches even though they identified I had re-purposed grenade pouches.

Keys to Power:
Getting stopped by cops can be inconvenient, but acting bothered and inconvenienced only gives them further pretense for investigation. As Law 22 of The 48 Laws of Power advises, “Use the Surrender Tactic” -be overobedient to authorities flexing muscle. Even if they suspect that you are insincere in your deference and respect, they face a dilemma because calling you out on insincere respect is implicit admission that their power is contingent upon your accepting and agreeing to it.

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The Jester. He plays the buffoon and everyone has a supposed laugh at his expense with never more than a cursory suspicion that they might be the butt of the joke. As such he outlasts the more confrontational and is indulged by the powerful.

Reversal:
It depends on where your interests lie. The majority of our encounters with cops are them fucking with us and it is our resentment and desire to end the encounter quickly that causes us to offend them, or worse, implicate ourselves in some crime or another. This is why this rule is so important; learn to have fun with your encounters with so-called authorities as it is only when they have you scared and/or aggressive that you can truly lose.
That said, there are times you may find it expedient to answer all questions quickly, diligently and without feigned meekness. For example, if you are registering a complaint or in some way asking for their help (which as a general rule I don’t advise). They will ask you probing questions which, if you are like me, you may resent answering, but their help is contingent you being straightforward with them.

Law 10:
Don’t Carry Drugs

Transgression of the Law:
On about my third or fourth week in Mexico in December 2015, I left Mexico City for Veracruz. In VC I decided to lighten my load some more. I figured I would ditch my pipe kit as pipe tobacco wasn’t really abundant and as I went to throw pipe and kit away I had a last-minute impulse to check the compartments in the pouch. I found a joint that I had accidentally smuggled into the US and then Mexico completely unknowingly.
I ended up having a fun time that night but that’s not the point; my oversight could have been very costly had I been caught.

Transgression of the Law II and Obedience of the Law:
In Jaco, Costa Rica I was on the beach with two people from my hostel outside of a club when cops pulled up for an surprise shakedown/search. The other two didn’t know me too well and I didn’t know them and fortunately the cops segregated me from them. Playing boldly dumb (See Law 9) almost to the point of belligerence I reacted indignantly then the one cop lifted up my shirt to see if I was hiding anything and such indignance and lack of fear they seemingly took as a signal that I was not a tourist they wanted to fuck with too much. After all, lots of rich, connected bastards go to Costa Rica, and even though they are police they don’t want to create too much of a stir when tourism is their bread & butter. But, as it pertains to the Law 10, carrying no contraband on me, I had really nothing to fear; when they turned their backs on me I walked about 10 metres away to piss on the beach while looking at them and challenging them to do something (not brilliant, I know) Then as I started to get bored of the whole endeavour I hit the ground and started doing pushups. This earned outrage from my sequestered companions but to the cops it was like saying, “You guys wanna fuck around? Okay, I got all the time in the world.”
They drove off while I was mid-set and passed me closely I guess as a way of trying to intimidate me. Fags.
My companions didn’t fare so honorably. You see, they were, unbeknownst to me, carrying cocaine. And so with that fear of getting caught  they folded and the cops, sensing their fear, searched them like they hadn’t searched me.
They didn’t get arrested, but after the cops left they were visibly shaken while I was annoyed and ready to fight someone -certainly not an ideal state but better than theirs.

Keys to Power:
While it is a prudent idea not to carry contraband, the real meat & potatoes of this law is that if you feel you are culpable for some reason you will be less confident and more fearful during an encounter with authority which will cause you to act erratically and/or dishonorably as my fellow hostelers did. Better to feel righteous and carry that frame so strongly that whomsoever dares impede you starts to suspect that they are in the wrong.

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The Crusader. On a holy mission from the Almighty himself, the Crusader’s moral high-ground is never in question. Should another find themselves at odds with you they will seriously consider where it is they stand and check themselves.

Reversal:
The only possible reversal is that whatever you do, whether it is carrying drugs, guns, etc. convince yourself and believe that it is the righteous and noble thing to do. The goal here is not to sweat under scrutiny and to be bold and unafraid when encountering some “authority.”

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And so ends my adventure maxims. As I wrote these more occurred that I had thought over while adventuring but never committed to the original list. It may be a worthwhile endeavour to revisit the subject in the future.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Division of Labor

Friends,

I spent the last month of this past winter in Nicaragua working at Carpe Diem eco-village.

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It’s a project where volunteers can go and live for free in exchange for working roughly four hours every morning on the various eco-friendly construction projects being undertaken there. Given that it is a place where you are learning these processes for free it is actually quite a good deal as you leave the place enriched.

While it is not an intentional community proper, I did learn some things about human behaviour and initiative that I imagine would carry over. As I ultimately hope to live in such a community, I have wondered how people would sort out who does what and what would motivate them to do it when the monetary incentive was removed.

There are two primary lessons I learned:

1) The Culture Dictates Behaviour

Ghislain, the owner and originator of the project described to me how during the first season of the project he attracted a lower calibre of volunteer -people who wanted to come live for free but didn’t much care to fulfill the work obligation, preferring to go out boozing every night and recovering every day. It was an uphill battle, but as a start-up project he had to take what he could get. The larger problem was that when new volunteers would show up they were shown a culture of lazing and idleness and would either be turned off or fall into the same habits.

When this next season began in January he resolved to not indulge such behaviour and even had to ask some returnees to leave after the first day -a difficult choice for someone whose vision demands helpers. But ultimately this discernment paid off as the small core group of hard-workers attracted more people and inclined them to stay longer. I can attest to this as I initially passed through CD in early January 2016 (the beginning of the season) and opted to return in mid -February after finishing my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America -that’s how impressed I was by the culture there. I stayed a month upon my return and was impressed by not only how much got done, but also by the work ethic of my peers.

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It even brought out the inner maker in me and I frequently took
on small personal projects which I’m not always wont to do.

Still, it’s kind of funny to muse that if these same peers and myself had showed up last year, our more idle and lazy traits might have been nurtured too. But, by changing his standard he changed the culture of the camp into something more congruent with his vision. That’s powerful and profound.

2) Everyone Will Find Their Place

One volunteer showed up during my month there named Nina. Nina was a 19 year-old German girl who was neither diligent nor motivated when it came to work. Mixing cob, building walls, preparing food -these were all things that she would only make the most gestural efforts at, and those efforts only when she wasn’t too sick to do anything but lay about in camp.

At first I’ll admit I looked at her a bit resentfully as I carried heavy loads of building materials around and scraped the shit out of my limbs gathering the thorny firewood for our cooking fires. Quickly though, I overcame this resent because I am a firm believer in the maxim, “What you eat don’t make me shit’ -or simply, as long as you’re not posing a detriment to me it’s not my business. When I got over myself and my ego in this manner I could look at Nina a little more dispassionately and objectively. What I saw was that while she laid about she was engaging and playing with the young Nicaraguan toddlers who lived next to us and who would always wander into our camp to observe and play. It occurred to me that if this were an intentional community where people were having children and building lives, I would be grateful to have a Nina around -someone who relished being with kids and playing with kids…

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…and not simply just acting like a kid.

Then I thought about myself -for the duration of my stay I woke up at 5:45 every morning to get the fire going and the water boiling by the time people started waking up 6:30. On top of that I would do the wake-up alarm by singing at the top of my lungs every morning. Nobody told me I had to but I wanted to because I wanted to have breakfast and coffee before work started at 7:30, and of course because I love singing. As well, I always gravitated toward gathering firewood and building fires -I just liked to do these things and they needed to be done.

On a similar note, my friend Marijo usually did meal prep because she was good at it and liked to do it. Nobody said she had to.

And I think this is the larger point. I saw people finding their equilibrium and their place within a society in a very natural, very organic way. And this gave me hope that the community I’m looking to build and be a part of one day just might work.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

Carpe Diem Eco-Project: https://www.facebook.com/carpediemecoproject/?fref=ts

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