To Exist is to Aggress

Pacifism is defined by Google as the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.

But what does that mean in practice? I think many if not most of us agree: violence is to be avoided if at all possible. Except therein lay a clue: avoid violence. If the avoidance of harming others or self is the core determinant of an idea, is not the thing being avoided foundational to the concept?

In other words, the desire to solve problems without violence — or refusing ever to solve a problem through violence — has an unspoken, painful truth. The violence is always lurking in the shadows, ready to show its ugly head if it must.

To exist is to throw yourself violently against the world. Why? Because to exist is to sustain your life inevitably and always at the expense of some other life.

Consider that you are living and breathing because your biological ancestors at various stages in the past stole from other living beings, consumed their life, killed others for all kinds of reasons, and on and on.

Consider that your life today is sustained through the consumption of other living things. Your body does not convert solar energy into sustenance. You must consume to survive.

To exist is to aggress.

And where aggression doesn’t rise to the surface, it’s always there in the background. The miracle of humanity is in how we’ve been able to tame our violent natures just enough to work together, collaborate, and build systems that improve our lives.

That doesn’t mean the aggression goes away. This is the insight of Christianity: that we all carry within us this torch of aggression. In Biblical terms, its’ called “original sin.” While a bit too vague and distasteful in our modern anti-religious times, “original sin” captures the spirit of the problem.

You and I are violently alive.

The capacity for aggression is in all of us and it is there because it has led to our survival over countless eons of existence.

Know it. Accept it. And remember: we’re always at risk of backsliding into terrible, monstrous actions. That potentiality exists in all of us. To deny it is to ignore the nature of your existence.

To exist is to aggress.

How to Fix the World

The world’s got problems. Poverty, sickness, violence, crime, exploitation, and countless other bad things exist. They are not good. What more, their very existence is a red flag that something must be done. But what?

No matter your politics or philosophy, most of us would agree making the world a better place is a desireable goal. Where we all differ is in deciding what should be done to accomplish that goal.

So let’s break it down.

The Mote and the Beam

From the Sermon on the Mount comes the story of the Mote and the Beam. A refresher:

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:1-5 KJV 

I’m no Biblical scholar. That’s my dad. But what of the mote and the beam? Is it merely a store about being hesitant to judge others? Maybe. Or maybe it’s something more.

The Canary in the Coal Mine and Leaving Dysfunctional Groups

The expression “canary in a coal mine” originates from coal miners using canaries as a kind of early warning system. The miners would take the birds into the mine and periodically check-in on their status. The delicate canaries were more susceptible to gases like carbon monoxide, so if they suddenly stopped moving, miners would be alerted of dangerous air conditions.

Hence, the expression “canary in a coal mine” is an idiomatic way of talking about events that portend negative things to come.

Casey Neistat and Success by Doing (Plus Stochasticity)

If you aren’t familiar with Casey Neistat, allow me to remedy the situation.

Casey Neistat is likely the most burgeoning YouTube star of 2016. Here’s his channel. I’m approaching a year having subscribed to his daily vlog videos and to my eye what Neistat is doing on YouTube is a testament to the democraticization of video content.

Clayton Christensen’s Jobs-to-be-done Theory

I have written much more about Clayton Christensen’s Jobs-to-be-done framework over at the FullStory blog:


Clayton Christensen (along with a few other co-authors) is soon releasing a book called Competing Against Luck that will go more in-depth on Christensen’s “Jobs-to-be-done theory,” which is a way to reframe product design and product selling away from fallacious, post ergo hoc propter hoc data and towards first principles.

Digitally Isolated

I keep thinking about being digitally isolated.  What is “digital isolation?” In a nutshell: today we are more connected to anyone/everyone than at any point in history yet (paradoxically) we feel ever more alone. Stranger still, it seems we have chosen this as our preferred mode of existence.  There’s even a joke about it: there are nine ways to reach me on my phone without talking to me; pick one of those.