2022 Reflections & Gratitudes (2023)

We are meaning makers hence I write this to love what I went through.

كُن فَيَكُونُ
Be, and there was.
Ya-Sin, 36:82

I have been working on epistemic risks for humanity lately. When I came to Konya, my grandmother made me discover it in my personal life. This is a writeup of my reflections from 2022. If you are receiving it, it is because you made a dent (maybe a whole crater) in my life. There are many personal shoutouts & I’ve taken the liberty to keep a soft anonymity across everyone, you know yourself. Please reach out if you are compelled to do so!

2022 Reflections & Gratitudes (1)

I found a felt prayer rug in Konya, Turkey three days ago. It is gray, a very peculiar ashen gray, with beautiful red flowers sparsely surrounding its edges. I’m planning to hang it on my wall. I have never prayed regularly, yet theology has always spoken to me through reason and discourse. I have enjoyed how faith can send its rays through the little gaps between the rationalist bricks I try to build with. This might be the most religious writeup I’ve ever put out there, for it is most appropriate after a visit to Konya.

The rug was made by the chief feltmaker of the Sufi order started by Rumi, pursuing ecstatic devotion to love. This feltmaker has a shop that is barely a minute away from the Sufi lodge. It was fascinating to find the leaders of the Sufi order - the chief ceremony guide, the primary reed flutist, the head chef, the chief feltmaker all within a block away from the lodge, which has been turned into a museum by the secular government. They were all displaced from the center, yet the Mevlevi order still operates, somewhat underground, somewhat loving that they are underground. This reminds me of the Sufi principle, the enlightenment is meant to descend into the city. All of the current leaders of the order are running ordinary shops, serving as a tour guide to tourists, echoing the principle that monastic life is discouraged. Withholding the gift you have for humanity at a remote monastery is equivalent to death while lingering around. I was always drawn to the sharp contrast this had with Buddhist & Christian traditions.

Knowledge is either carried around, or turned into life. We shall not be a mule hauling the weight of unleavened knowledge in an academy - our duty is to bring knowledge into life and love.
- Chief Feltmaker
[who shall not be named in public due to operating underground, but if you want to find him, let me know.]

I originally came to Konya to visit my grandmother and find guidance, and she told me to find the feltmaker for some sohbet. Sohbet means discourse - this is what Rumi and his teacher Shams did. It is a spiritual transmission to be held in total trust, sincerity and respect. I didn't know why she recommended the feltmaker, but I found him. Felt is significant in this tradition, for shorn wool is not noteworthy on its own - it is 'nothing,' and working over and over on 'nothing' turns it into something loved and meaningful. This is what humans go through. The word ṣūfi literally means ‘woolen,’ and felt represents the elevated self - shrinking and strengthening.

دنیا همه هیچ و اهل دنیا همه هیچ
ای هیچ برای هیچ بر هیچ مپیچ
دانی که پس از عمر چه ماند باقی
عشق است و محبت است و باقی همه هیچ
The world is nothing, its residents are nothing, you’re nothing don’t bother pointless things
Do you know what is left after life, love and affection and the rest is null and void
- Rumi

The Sufi tradition founded itself at post-nihilism more than half a millennium before Nietzsche. Since I exited my startup, I’ve been working on epistemic risk, meaning-making, and human alignment - and the transition has been, to put it lightly, tough. There have been moments of self-doubt, fear of uncertainty, lack of clarity, and of course, grief. Finding a new balance in an unexpected context, with many awaiting a clear vision has been a lot of weight on my shoulders. The most difficult part has been ‘seeing what is possible,’ and I am writing this to you, for you’ve helped me find my path. You saw more than I could and pointed me in the right direction.

وَمَا يَسْتَوِى ٱلْأَعْمَىٰ وَٱلْبَصِيرُ
The blind [to truth] and the seeing are not equal.
Fatir 35:19

One day after talking to Zoe about epistemic risks facing our civilization, the feltmaker started the sohbet by saying “‘You know very well that the biggest sin is willful ignorance, to deny what is before our eyes. But I’m noticing that for you, to let others deny what is before their eyes, could be even worse.’

I’ve been building an organization whose mission is to end wilful ignorance towards what we need, want, and how we flourish.

I am feeling the most friendly, calm urge I have ever felt - we ought to bring it to life the possibilities we see for humanity, share with each other and do it with love. I have been working on ways to create a culture of inspiration in a landscape of fear of existential risk. Everyone has been talking about what we should avoid, few about what we can do to flourish. Peter’s friend Karen put this well, saying ‘Peter saw optimism not just as a belief, but as a strategy.’

There is really nothing here but love - and all our work is making love manifest into reality. The feltmaker has been turning the wool into felt with time and love. I was not surprised to find a man in rural Turkey who lived many lives before this - he told me about the years he built suspension bridges across Europe and worked as a truck driver - he called these years his years in exile. These years were his Cile - his suffering.

Cile is a particular kind of suffering along the path of life that the Sufis appreciate for awakening. It isn't the pain of the mother who lost her child, it isn't the anger of injustice - Cile is a quiet suffering from watching nothingness pass by without realizing the marvels - without getting to wei wu-wei. He made me see the four years of my startup as my years in exile. He guided me to live those four years again and again - I genuinely felt like I lived hundreds of lives in one conversation, with every slight variation possible, which made me realize there was no path in which I wouldn’t have suffered. This exercise, called Time-within-Time, is a certain way of focusing that has sustained an elevated state of consciousness since I met him while staying sober. Would love to tell you more if you are interested, but this part is meant to be in person. Valerie & Ilya - you know this very well, finding infinite moments within moments! The density of qualia is what makes life long.

The heart misunderstands the measure of time, the value of the moment.
It stands by idle, alas, when we at last regret all these unharvested moments.
- Khwaja Hafiz

The feltmaker told me there are three pillars to work: faith, devotion, and effort. I’ve lacked faith through massive doubts lately. Faith goes much beyond beliefs and rituals, it is about trusting and having faith in the pace of the universe, that it will bring the best once you are aligned and flowing, without denying what is before our eyes. It is believing that with devotion and effort, faith will bring the outcome - and I’ve seen massive proof of this with all of you this year, and I believe now.

After Time-within-time, I realized I ought to show up this way. It's been difficult to adjust through my startup exit - some of you watched me closely, others know from your life experiences what it must have been well from afar. I have set far too high expectations on myself as is in the culture of Silicon Valley. Anxiety is from fear of failure, from fear of wasting effort, from fear of feeling disappointment, from feeling I am not enough - but I have moved mountains - I don’t want to have the anxiety be a driving source, I instead want to do what I do with love - for I genuinely love what I do! Showing up with love to your own self is the greatest appreciation, the drift from the startup days made it difficult. Samira, thank you for pointing out how I would show love and admiration to others who went through what I’ve gone through.

Now instead of moonshots, I would much rather flow through every day, and never be burnt out - with incremental steps this won’t feel like work. I have known this to be possible, but inertia has been hard. After looking back at 2022 and all its gifts, I now have faith. When I am devoted to what I want, and I zoom out and look behind, it is obvious where the river is going.

“You are asking where to find water but floodgates are opening all around you, look around!”
- Melanie McDougall

I think I found my devotion in life, I’ve never been this excited. I'll be pretty fast and intense next year - most of you knew this about me already, much before me, I finally got it.

Thank you all for making me realize my calling in life - inspiring others into motion, into creation. Emily, you were the first to see me in this, and I saw you see me, which really unlocked me on my way out of the exile I've been at for a couple years. Thank you for showing me this path, for I take such joy pointing out to everyone what is before their eyes. And Peter, thank you for giving me space to do so. Ivan, thank you for acknowledging me for doing this, this reinforcement was so timely - you saw and voiced it generously.

Giving inspiration - this is when I am at my felt workshop, where I am at my teahouse. If you know me a little bit you know how much I love tea, and I maybe love the conversations over tea even more. I thought I'd run a teahouse after exiting in September, that'd I'd have some time.

It would be lovely to have a teahousewhere people come for tea and talk,
but what if I told you, you are runningthe teahouse every single moment of your life?
- Natasha Jensen, thank you for telling me that.

I have touched on so many lives this year, I am grateful. I love sohbet, this is what I do. This is what I want my life's work to look like. These are texts I received just last couple days "that conversation changed how I see my life" "I now understand my mom" “our friendship remains the greatest discovery” "so much clicked into place for me today. I am forming such a cool vision" "I've been faking it, but I think I'm making it" - I now see that this is the work I am to build. Please voice gratitude every time you see, for it will make thousands more people find their alignment. I am grateful for the exile & all the signposts you all have brought into my life that made it undeniably obvious to know where to come back to for love.

I can't wait for more. I am learning patience, and how to love myself through every minute of living.

2022 Reflections & Gratitudes (2)

Melanie (who helped me make time to write this and I'm living her cave spelunking explorations vicariously as I write this with the best view in front of me) thank you for showing me how to find clarity. Thibault for showing me all the colors of love - for a human, for a cause, for work and for play. Samira, thank you for showing me there is no scarcity, nights are infinite. Valerie, thank you for making me understand the real success metric is density of experiences - and how to rock high-waist pants. Emily, thank you for teaching me what inspiration has meant to me all my life. TJ, thank you for showing me what excellence means, with its good and bad and ugly. Emre, thank you for helping me how to decide and come back to my roots. Mila, thank you for sharing an understanding of the power of narratives. Orowa, thank you for showing me how to ask for help & how to give. Asha, thank you for showing me beauty takes time. Viki, thank you for teaching me how to unravel with love. Ivan, thank you for giving me a compass pointing at devotion - there is a religiosity to how you show up. Ilya, thank you for showing me how to be relentless at doing the thing & guiding me into the box. James, thank you for seeing me where I am at and loving me for it, and moving me through - the flow towards this writeup came from the motion you started. Paul, thank you for showing me where the ground is. Zhenya, thank you for bringing me back to my body in the most primal ways. Brian & Jakara, thank you for showing me what we can create with infinite excitement. Brittney, thank you for showing me where I left my intuition. Gaia, thank you for making me believe in the love and support I will get if I ask for it. Daisy, thank you for remind me the dedication with which I practised art. Tasha, thank you for bringing me to my teahouse! Finn and Zoe - thank you leaning in with excitement when we barely knew each other & for being the last proof point - the seal - of this writeup! The world unfurls when we flow.

Peter, thank you for throwing me at the deep end - what a ride! You'll read this when we defrost your brain.

P.S. I’d be very excited for you all to meet each other over a tea party! How wonderful that’d be - let me plan this some time next year. And please write to me or comment, would love to hear from you, even if just two lines :)

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