“At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.”
-Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
I am still trying to interpret and integrate all that I experienced and learned about disintermediation, about myself, and about y'all at last week's First ZeroHedge Symposium and Live Fight Club in Marfa, Texas. I hope that writing this after-action report will help me to better assimilate it.
Last Wednesday, I picked up the aquaponics speaker, Tim, upon his arrival from Hawaii at the airport. My family and I got to know him well during our short 10.5 hour drive out to Marfa, and over the course of the next 6 days. We now grok the differences between aquaponics and hydroponics, and the similarities between our two families.
For us, staying in the tepees, tents, and vintage aluminum trailers at El Cosmico proved to be a very good choice. ZeroHedgers arrived and immediately coalesced around the open-air showers and community kitchens. Usually the question of, "Are you here for the symposium?" was answered with a yes, a big smile, an offer of a beer or mescal, and an introduction such as, "Hello, I am hedgeless_horseman."
Some of us had come a day early to tour the art at the Chinati Foundation. I had very high expectations based on the reading I had done, and they were exceeded. It was sublime to experience Donald Judd's 100 untitled works in milled aluminum, in that particular light, architecture, and environment. Another favorite was Robert Irwin's relatively new permanent installation where we literally moved out of the darkness and into the light. The full-day tour served as the perfect appetizer to clear, open, and prepare my mind for the three-day symposium.
Thursday afternoon, I learned from our gracious hosts in Marfa that a few special snowflakes, which had only recently fallen in this hot and dry desert, had started a petition for the city to ban us from holding the symposium in "their" town. I asked what the perceived problem was, and was told that they were afraid we were violent and white supremacists. We all laughed, especially the non-whites and pacifists. Someone asked if the special snow flakes were able to read the list of speakers and topics. Apparently not. However, I immediately suspected that their concerns and petition were just another clear case of FEAR, False Evidence Appearing Real. This was confirmed when I agreed to be interviewed by one of them, a young woman from New York, who also claimed to be a freelance journalist.
Our two hour interview took place in the relaxing lobby at El Cosmico, where we were occasionally interrupted by ZeroHedgers as they arrived and came over to the table to introduce themselves to me. It really was more of a standard ZeroHedge fight club conversation, rather than an interview. The young journalist, Sasha, spent far more time talking than listening, as her audio recording would indicate. It is, of course, entirely my fault. I kept asking her questions, like this one. "Which of the two libertarian principals of maximum freedom and minimum government do you disagree with?" She said that we are only as free as we are allowed to be. I was quite sad that she honestly feels this way, even sadder that she might actually be correct.
Sasha asked if I trust the MSM. I said that I was not a good person to ask, as I have very little exposure to it these days, and am by no means an expert on the topic of her chosen profession. We haven't had a television for a very long time, nor do I read newspapers anymore, or visit the MSM websites. She said I was pissing her off. I asked her why. She said she felt like I was denigrating the main stream media. She said I reminded her of her father. I replied that she seemed to be taking this all rather personally. Sasha agreed. I asked her if she could be professional and objective in writing a story about the symposium. She said she could not. I asked if she would write it anyway. She said she did not know. At the end, I said that it appeared plain to me that she had really enjoyed our conversation. She agreed that she had, as did I. I explained that what we had just experienced was exactly the type of free and honest Fight Club conversation that ZeroHedge enables, and that we were hoping to have at the symposium, only live and in person. I invited her to attend the symposium and to see for herself. She flashed me an absolutely beautiful smile and promised that she would attend.
That night, about 10:00 pm, a group of us went out East of town to the official viewing area where we hoped we would see the mysterious Marfa Lights. I drank a memorial toast. "His name was Seth Rich." We were fortunate. They were obvious, real, and very mysterious indeed.
Friday morning dawned in the desert, cool, clear, and bright. Around 60 attendees flowed into the Marfa Activities Center for the first day of the symposium, and as I welcomed them I kept thinking how amazing it was that these people actually came all the way out here, and what an act of courage that is.
As we had hoped, Arizona radio host, Sean, was able to fire everyone up with his opening rant. And just as important for setting the symposium's tone was that we had several people in the audience jump in with questions, comments, clarifications and yes, most importantly, disagreements! People were passionate, but respectful. It quickly became apparent that a live fight club was going to work.
Next, I began my talk on negotiating directly with physicians and hospitals. I opened by explaining how in many discussions leading up to this symposium I was asked, "How many people do you think will attend?" I explained how I never really cared about the quantity of attendees. If we wanted to maximize attendance, then we wouldn't have picked Marfa, Texas. I was, however, very curious about the quality of the attendees. What kind of people read ZeroHedge, and are ready, willing, and able to travel for days to the high desert of West Texas for a symposium? Well, over the next few days we all had the chance to find out.
As it turned out, we are an amazing group of intelligent, kind, honest, generous, and even hopeful group of people that is capable of creativity and critical thinking. Yes, you read that correctly, hopeful, not doomers. Who would have thought it?
After me, Forrest talked about the truth and consequences of being a landlord. His stories of nightmare tenets will not soon be forgotten, and neither will his pearls of wisdom.
A couple of days earlier, I had learned that our last speaker for that day, scheduled to discuss distilling and brewing, was not going to make it out from Alabama due to illness. Fortunately, Maurice had offered to be a first alternate, and so we all learned from him how we can disintermediate the home builder and construct our own monolithic dome for a home, and the advantages it has over a box made of sticks.
Friday night was clear and dry, so we made the beautiful drive up to McDonald Observatory for the Star Party. The UT astronomers gave a fantastic lecture, then we had the opportunity to look through more than a half-dozen telescopes at Saturn, Jupiter, nebulae, clusters, and other heavenly bodies. It was a beautiful Texas night, without a moon, and the stars were indeed big and bright.
Saturday morning started with sunrise yoga, and surprisingly, the small group consisted solely of men. We had a peaceful 40 minute session of Kundalini, out of doors, followed by 90 minutes of black coffee and honest talk on my trailer's deck.
After breakfast, the first speaker for the day was Russell, discussing disintermediated education in your home and community. I knew in advance that all four speakers that day were going to be very good, but I was still blown away, just like everyone else. I remember sitting there and thinking to myself, over and over, this man lives a righteous life. I lack the words to adequately describe the power of his talk. Maybe someone else that also heard it can attempt to do so in the comments below. We hade nearly a hundred people there to hear him.
The next two talks, before and after lunch, easily had the most timely subjects based on current news flow. First, we heard Ken and Jonathon talk about crypto currencies, the Death of Banking and the Rise of New Financial Ecosystems - How to Make it Work For You. We dove deep, then shallow, then deep, then wide, then narrow, then deep again. Clearly, many attendees really wanted to learn literally everything about this subject, and these two experts were able to rise to the occasion by occasionally enlisting the assistance of one symposium attendee, Scott, whom they knew to be a founder of a leading bitcoin wallet company.
After lunch, Robert introduced us to his big idea, an alternative news service, with his talk on Breaking Alternative Media's Dependency on the MSM. The discussion got quite lively, and we even tried to rope-in one of the Financial Times' reporters that had traveled from NYC to cover the symposium.
Next, coming all the way from Hawaii, Tim taught us how we can often disintermediate the corporate farmer, fisherman, and grocer, and make backyard and commercial aquaponics easy and inexpensive. For ten years he and his wife have operated the first certified-organic aquaponic farm and school, having a few wild, wicked, and wonderful experiences along the way which he shared with us.
That night, we all came together, many wearing cowboy boots, some for the first time, and we drank really good mescal. We danced to incredible live music, I sang a song with Shane, two attendees played dueling harmonicas, one of them performing an epic freestyle about the symposium. We partied. God, did we party. Nobody wanted to leave. Many stood around outside and talked through the early morning hours.
Sunday dawned cool and clear. Most woke in a thick, earthy, mescal haze, and praised God for the miracle of hot coffee.
Brian gave the last talk of the symposium, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away, and we learned one reason why we need to disintermediate the state, and more importantly how to actually start doing it. When he was done speaking, many of us literally rushed him on stage to get one of his defensive knives and DVDs.
In the book, Fight Club, Project Mayhem is the name of the mission given to Tyler Durden's army of followers. In the last session, we received our homework assignment, a mission. It is simply to go home and start a fight club. Everyone was then invited to step up on the Paper Street soap box with the microphone and say whatever they wanted to say. And maybe because the rules of Fight Club state that if it is your first fight club, then you've got to fight, it seemed to me that about everyone took the opportunity to do so. What they had to say was incredibly powerful. I am sorry if you missed it.
I am not sure why Marfa was chosen. Maybe because holding it in the middle of nowhere worked like a filter. In the book, Fight Club, the recruits must stand on the front porch and endure abuse and discomfort before being allowed in Tyler's house. We all witnessed the passion, interest, emotion, frustration, and strength that 100% of the attendees and speakers brought to the fight. Every person really wanted to be there, and in fact, seemed to me very grateful to be there.
I would also add my observation that the Fight Club in Marfa ended up being an entitlement-free zone, maybe because it was anonymous, we are all just Space Monkeys, and maybe because it was free, we didn't just buy our way in, nor get in because of our father's name. We had to work for it. So, unsurprisingly, there were no pretentious assholes, trolls, or special snowflakes, which, by the way, is also a term from Fight Club.
See y'all next year.
Peace, liberty, prosperity,