Dispatch #1: On an odyssey of ideas

where the only map is an open mind

I have a little downtime in May. I thought I might use it to work on my writing. I want to improve the way I show up on the page, or in this case, the screen. To do that, I've launched another web project. It's another newsletter—the one you're reading right now.

I had to step away from my substack newsletter. Not for any ethical or political reasons; I simply needed a change. I have been writing on Substack for five years. In the Internet world, that's a long time. Things were beginning to get stale for me, and when that happens, I have a habit of blowing things up to escape the routine. Frankly, I was bored of trying to fit in a frame. Or what marketers call a niche. I wasn’t writing to find the truth. I was writing to feed the monster that is marketing.

Look, I understand why niches exist. I understand why people need to have a label for things and why they need consistency. I understand why people need to conform and why things need to look the same. The problem is that I'm not wired for conformity. People often find that ironic, considering I spent 11 years in the biggest conformity machine there is—the US military.

What I really needed was a playground for my thoughts, a place where I could test out ideas, share more personal stories, or follow topics that intrigue me but don’t fit neatly into the same box. To some of you who have been around for a while, that sounds like blogging. This is not a blog.

I took a break from my Substack newsletter over the Christmas holiday last year. I struggled to come back to it in the new year. I couldn't find the will to push past the boredom I was experiencing. I tried changing the name, so the Philosopher's Notes became Nothing Is as It Seems. But it wasn't enough. I knew then it was time to step away from the keyboard. I had to leave Substack alone and let it become another part of my Internet history.

Note: If you're one of my Substack friends and you're reading this, I brought you here. I did it because I figured we could be friends over here instead. If you were looking for a reason to unsubscribe from my substack and you don't want to be here, then please do unsubscribe. No hard feelings will follow. Time is precious.

I don't know if you know that feeling of trying to recreate the vision you have in your head in real life; it can be frustrating. Especially when you're so close but something just isn't quite right and you're tired of chasing your tail.

That's when it's time to crumple up the sheet of paper, toss it in the bin, and start again. Or hit the delete button.

I have spent the morning holed up in my word lab, experimenting like a mad scientist with structures and styles, hoping to find the perfect fit. It's like the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts tries on loads of different outfits. Richard Gere watches as she changes in and out of clothes to the tune of Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman. That's what I have been like this morning.

I had to take a break...

Now, I'm sitting here post-dinner, Courtney Love's sultry voice fills the room. "I made my bed, I'll lie in it. I made my bed, I'll die in it." That's the vibe tonight—a stark reminder of the weight of our choices and the inescapable consequences that follow. It's a night where the past and present collide. We are the architects of our own lives, the creators of our own destinies. Every choice and every action leads us down a path, and we must be prepared to lie in the beds we've made.

There's a certain brutality to this truth, a rawness that strips away the veneer of excuses and self-pity. OK, I didn't mean for this to take a dark turn, so let's come back into the light.

I have spent the evening lost in the pages of others, absorbing their wisdom and their craft. I stumbled upon Dr. Jennifer Cognard-Black's book, On Becoming a Great Essayist. The essay is a form I deeply admire and hope to master one day. I love its elegance and its power to persuade and provoke thought.

But it's a beast of a form, a relentless taskmaster demanding nothing less than blood, sweat, and tears. I keep coming back for more. If you get it right, the mix of brutal honesty and sharp insight has power. It can shake people to their core and make them question all they know. I love the freedom the essay provides to explore different perspectives and dig deep into subjects that fascinate me. It allows for personal expression in a way that other forms of writing do not.

That's the vibe I'm feeling with this new newsletter. To pursue my favourite form in the spirit of Montaigne, the father of the personal essay and who some consider to be the O.G. blogger.

I'll call this series of essays dispatches. I like the idea of the dispatch as a form to explore personal reflections and thoughts while being situated in a specific context or event. Brevity is the other thing I like about the dispatch. It is my intent to keep these personal musings short: 500–750, give or take.

And instead of putting myself in a box or niching down, I'm going to allow myself to follow my curiosity wherever it may go, even if it’s into the shadows.

As I step into this new chapter, I invite you to join me on this odyssey of ideas, where the only map is an open mind and the only destination is a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit.

10 May 2024

Postscript: On the surface, it would appear that nothing much has changed. I’m still playing with words. What has changed, though, is my intrinsic motivation—my ‘why’ for doing what I am doing. And that makes all the difference.