I was talking to Micah last night, and he suggested I take a sabbatical. He said he’s seen me at my best. He knows what I’m like and what I’m capable of when I’m charged up about something. He sees the opposite of that when I come home from work, and he sees correctly.
Given what I’ve been saying about pro blogging lately, the topic of whether I should quit my job has been of almost tabloid interest to the small number of parties concerned with my daily well-being. It's of particular concern to my roommates, of whom Micah has been one recently, because of the storms I bring into the house each workday evening. They, understandably, think I should quit. The people in my life who make their livings as writers give me the opposite advice.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to listen to the writers for now. The daily writing practice in my job is helpful, I've still got more good future clips to write, the networking opportunities are invaluable, and I really love my team. And it's just not in my nature to quit without a plan. Micah sure gave me things to think about, though.
(UPDATE 2/7: Due to a surprising amount of interest in this post, I have changed my mind about that last part. I'm actually doing it.)
Micah described what I'm like when I'm at my best. I thought that was an uncommonly generous thing to do. To me, it's the dirty trick of all human life that I have to go through it without really knowing how I seem to others. Micah gave me such helpful insight. I really got a lifetime of advice out of our conversation, but it was illuminating enough about what I could do with just a month or two... or six.
He said I'm a "journalist of the cosmos" when I'm at my best. I get fired up about phenomena, I point them out to the people around me, and I elevate their meaning. I draw a big, bright circle around something people take for granted, I take a deep breath, and I zoom everybody in to the tiniest detail and out to the most distant ripple of significance.
I was like, "Whoa. I do that? That's a pretty cool thing to do."
So, all day long, even as I was really enjoying the tech news cycle, I couldn't stop thinking about cosmos journalism. It sounds like something the Internet would love. It might even help people. We're still early in an era of incredible mind expansion. We haven't learned how to appreciate the massive and microscopic new scales on which human life now operates. And we have to learn, or we're toast.
If Micah's right about me, maybe I can help.
Keeping The Portal
This summer, I figured out what I want to be when I grow up. It's a crazy story, which you are welcome to read, but I'll give you the one-sentence version here. I had a series of life-changing experiences in a vibrating tricontahedral gazebo called the 12:21 Turquoise Portal, where I sat and talked with many people passing through, and I decided to become a professional portal keeper.
I quickly realized that I already was one. As a reporter, my job is to create an environment that gets people talking. And, cosmos journalist that I am, I like to take conversations to the extremes. Even when the topic is something in the middle, I like to explore how it relates to the very big and the very small. It gives everything, no matter how mundane, a sense of place.
Even though it seemed a little New Age-y for the Silicon Valley set (yeah, right), I started wearing an interesting blue medallion around that I found because it reminded me of the portal. It's a series of nested squares arranged concentrically around a little square portal in the middle. I wear it to the office, to interviews, to press events, constantly. I get asked about it all the time, which is exactly what I want, and I've worked out a totally non-Burning Man explanation:
"Imagine you and I are at the center of this thing," I say. "There are all these ripples of meaning around us, centered around us, and we're picking them up and sending more out. I think conversations are made more special by noticing this. I try to treat every encounter with another person with this focus and sensitivity. So this necklace is a reminder to do that."
And even if they have no idea what I'm talking about, that explanation just feels heavy, so these people are already sensitized to our shared place in the cosmos even if they don't realize it. I don't say the word "portal" at all, usually, but that's what I call that heightened environment.
I like to see how people behave under that increased intensity. It brings out the mysteries in them. It brings them out in me, too. In a portal conversation, it quickly begins to feel like we're talking about something that's significant to everyone because of the sweeping scale. My instinct is always to share what I've learned from these conversations with as wide an audience as possible. That's why I'm a blogger, I reckon.
Tech is a very good topic for me to cover. It's all about scale. But it's a limited beat in lots of ways. At work today, as I contemplated cosmos journalism and the dreamy idea of a sabbatical, I had this idea.
The Daily Portal
The Daily Portal is a blog. It's published from one consistent perspective (yours truly), but it will have lots of characters.
My job will be to cover as much of the cosmos as I possibly can every single day looking for conversations. I'll challenge myself to talk to everyone who makes me curious, and I'll turn those conversations into little stories — and occasionally big stories — about the sense of place in each one. I'll use whatever medium is appropriate to the message.
I will not support it with advertisements. I fucking hate advertisements. They're predatory. This gripping rant about ads (popularized but not written by Banksy) made the rounds today, and it revolted me. If this is really something that helps people, I'll be able to crowd-fund it. And I don't care about making money doing it, I just want to be able to do it.
If I do it, I mean. I'm not deciding anything right now. I'm just thinking about it. Don't worry, I've made all my web namespace reservations in case it really happens.
In the meantime, I'd love to gauge some interest. If you'd think about reading The Daily Portal, leave me your email address. The worst thing that could happen is that you won't get any email from me. If I work up the gumption to do this thing, you'll be the first to know. (UPDATE 2/7:I got up the gumption, so you should sign up.)