October 2015. This has been a good year. I sold my truck and now I get around on my Buddy 150 scooter or my bicycle. The new strawberry patch produced a pint a day all summer. Leigh Ann has started college in interior design.
How do you say your name?
My first name rhymes with Dan, not Don. Think of the Flock of Seagulls song, not the Kurosawa film. And I pronounce my last name like it rhymes with "free-er," but the French pronunciation is cool too.
I've just discovered your site. What should I read first to understand what you're all about?
I hope you start with the newer blog archives, because my thinking has changed a lot over the years.
How has your thinking changed?
I used to start with the most exciting and epic ideas and find a way to make them sound true. Now I start with surprising observations and see where they lead. Or you could say my newer stuff is about my own thoughts, and my older stuff was about the feelings of readers.
I used to be a doomer optimist, expecting the collapse of complex society to make a better world. Now I think the big systems will muddle through the coming climate and resource disasters, and the world will get more utopian, more hellish, and weirder all at the same time.
I used to think rural homesteading was a good idea. Now I think the isolation is psychologically harmful, and the transportation costs exceed the savings of growing more of your own food. A better strategy is to get a modest house on a residential lot in a city with cheap housing, grow high quality fruits and vegetables, ride your bike to the store for cheap staple foods, and take advantage of the economic opportunities of the city.
I used to think civilization was evil, and now I don't even think those two things are real. "Civilization" is a vague word that lumps together a bunch of different ways that humans have tried new things, and trying new things leads to mistakes, and "evil" is a mistaken way of thinking about mistakes. Here's a completely positive definition of "civilization": the increase in elegant complexity of human-made systems
. This is not built into history but it's something we can work at.
There are two motivations in primitivism, and I accidentally fed the wrong one: the desire to participate in radical change driven by moral judgments, which is what got us into this mess in the first place. The other motivation is to live like actual people in the best primitive tribes: have modest needs, meet them, and then putter around doing your own thing all day. Technology can help us with this.
How has your thinking changed the most recently?
I used to think the human search for meaning was noble. Now I think it's stupid. A good life is not one where you feel like you're part of a great story, but one where you have learned to skillfully navigate your stream of experience. My favorite song says it best: bear the weight of yourselves lightly.
Can you condense your political ideas to 100 words?
I'm a patient anarchist and a provisional socialist. For now we need government to balance the tendency for power to become more concentrated and unequal, and we need an unconditional basic income to smooth the transition from a growth-based wage labor economy to a stable leisure economy. But as ordinary humans become more aware, and as we invent new kinds of horizontally connected systems, we can work toward a world with zero coercion and widely distributed power. And long before we get there, we'll have new technologies that will reframe political and economic issues in ways we cannot imagine.
Can you condense your philosophical ideas to 100 words?
As light can behave like particles or waves, reality can behave like either matter or mind. Somehow mind is divided into many experiencing perspectives, but by default their experience is inconsistent. Experience becomes more consistent as perspectives agree to share the same world. Your reality is a compromise between your creation and your surrender to the creations of others. In a world with high consistency, objective truth is a valuable way of thinking and science is powerful, but they're not exactly true. Morality and meaning can be reduced to omniscient hedonism, but there are good feelings that transcend humanity.
How exactly do you live?
I've answered some questions about this in my Frugal Early Retirement FAQ
What do you do for fun?
I occasionally get absorbed in strategy video games like Lords of the Realm II or Starsector, I casually follow college football and UFC, I watch some TV shows including Orphan Black and Game of Thrones, and my favorite thing to do is get really high and listen to music. Unfortunately marijuana gives me lingering fatigue so I can't use it more than once a week if I want to get anything else done. I have some music links on the bottom of this page.
Does your blog have an RSS feed?
Doing it myself would be too much work, but Patrick has written a script that creates a feed based on the way I format my entries. I've uploaded it to http://ranprieur.com/feed.php
. You might also try Page2RSS
What blogging software do you use? And why don't you enable comments on it?
There are three reasons I don't do comments, any one of which alone would be sufficient. 1) I love hand-coding my own html (so I don't use any blogging software), and comments are tricky to code. I enjoy keeping things uncomplicated. 2) Allowing comments would obligate me to read all the comments and moderate the discussion, and I spend too much time reading computer screens already. 3) I want to have only my favorite stuff as permanent content, and doing it the normal way, with comments and permalinks, would make it impossible (or rude) for me to filter down my own posts and reader comments. A principle of permaculture is that anything
in high enough quantity becomes a pollutant, and I believe the internet has been polluted by too much storage capacity -- if people can save everything, they lose the valuable skill of culling.
Do you plan on publishing your writing?
It's already published right here! I'd like to make a physical book, but I want to do a thorough job: scan the handwritten zines, polish the essays, pick out the best blog posts, write disclaimers for stuff I've changed my mind on, have a contest for cover design, and find a publisher that uses acid-free paper at a reasonable cost. This will probably never happen.
But in 2011, a reader went on lulu.com and cranked out a book in a day. It's called How to Drop Out and Other Essays
. That link goes to the paperback, and here's the hardcover
. In 2012 she put together a collection of my zines: paperback
. Nobody is making money on this, not even Lulu since they take a percentage of the author's profits. Some of the texts are also available as free pdf downloads. Thanks Lexie!
Why don't you submit your writing to places that will allow it to reach a wider audience?
Nobody who understands fame wants to be famous.
Are you single?
Leigh Ann and I have been together since September 2012, and we get along so well that even our fights are good.
I thought you lived on an off-grid homestead.
I do have ten primitive acres with a tiny hut and a spring, but I don't spend a lot of time there since I learned through experience that homesteading is not worth the trouble. Do you want to buy it? Check out my Landblog FAQ
or the landblog archives from 2004-2011.
What's your email address?
Ny name with no spaces at gmail.com.
I like it when people email me to say hi. You don't have to bring gifts. Commenting on stuff I've written is fine. If you have a comment on something I linked to, that's between you and whoever wrote it. You can also post on the Ran Prieur subreddit
Do you take donations?
Here's my donation
page. I'm doing well enough for money, but if anyone feels like donating, I won't say no.
In text, the BoingBoing
interview by Avi, and older interviews by by Tim Boucher
and Burn the Furniture
In audio, interviews by Paul Wheaton
(2011, 28 minutes), Aaron
(2006? 40 minutes), Ken Rose
(2011, 46 minutes), and Mark Haim at KOPN
(2009, 51 minutes).
And here are four videos, around 100 minutes total, of me being interviewed in October 2005 for What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire
: part 1
, part 2
, part 3
, part 4
100 things about me
Frugal Early Retirement FAQ
Winter Tour FAQ
How I bought a house
I bought land
My July 2004 bike trip
, my favorite band
Favorite Albums plus Hawkwind