August 2023. I've been in Seattle a year now and I love it. It's totally worth hearing crazy people shouting, to not have to own a car. I'm working on multiple fiction projects that have a long way to go, and lately I've been really enjoying making Spotify playlists
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.
Your early writing was more exciting. What happened?
It turns out I don't like being famous. I like being influential, but not as much as I hate attention. Conveniently, actually trying to figure stuff out leads to a smaller and nicer audience than telling exciting stories.
If you've just discovered this site, I recommend reading the blog archives, late to early.
What have you changed your mind about?
I used to see collapse happening for physical reasons, like resources and climate. Now I see it happening for mainly psychological reasons: that the tasks necessary to keep the system going, are drifting too far from what we enjoy doing.
I used to think the future would be either techno-utopia, or techno-dystopia, or postapocalypse. Now I think we're getting all three at once.
I used to think rural homesteading was a good idea. Then I noticed that almost everyone who tried it was unhappy and did too much driving. Here's a nice essay about it by Toby Hemenway, Urban vs Rural Sustainability
I used to write about "civilization" and "nature". Now I try to be more careful with language. Humans are engaged in the grand project of separating ourselves from all other life. Inevitably, we will rejoin it, maybe by going extinct. But I think the goal of the human-made world should be to approach the non-human-made world in beauty, endurance, adaptability, elegance, and fun.
I used to want to be Gandalf, the famous wizard who saves the world. Now I want to be Radagast, the obscure wizard who hangs out with trees.
Can you condense your political ideas to under 100 words?
In a perfect society, no self-discipline is necessary, because what needs to be done, and what people feel like doing, are one and the same. In a good society, they're close enough that nobody cares if you don't do anything useful.
Telling stories to make people want to do things is unsustainable. Utopia must be constantly reinvented at the level of basic actions that people enjoy in no-mind
. We have a long way to go, but right now I support an unconditional basic income paid for by a financial transaction tax.
How about your philosophical ideas?
Consciousness is fundamental, and the physical world is a tool for many perspectives to coexist. The ultimate reality is incomprehensible. We see only a tiny slice of it, moderated by culture. Our main interface to the larger reality is the non-human-made world, a.k.a. nature.
Who are your favorite philosophers?
Lao Tzu, Charles Fort, and Thaddeus Golas. Within the canon, Heraclitus and Spinoza.
What is the meaning of life?
Asking a philosopher "What is the meaning of life?" is like asking a librarian "What is the meaning of book?" Not only does every book have a different meaning, every sentence has a different meaning. The only large scale meaning of life is finding meaning on the small scale.
Everything we do will eventually come to nothing, but that's only a problem for an achievement-based culture, where we're always trying to accomplish something that's supposed to be valuable. If it all comes to nothing, we're free.
No, really, what is the meaning of life?
For you, the meaning of life is to be challenged and learn. For other people, the meaning of life is to remain stupid and continue to challenge you.
Where do you find all the links you post?
Mainly on Hacker News
, and a handful of subreddits.
How much weed do you smoke?
I use a Silver Surfer vaporizer, which is extremely efficient, but I've been doing more lately, typically one session in mid-afternoon. Then it wears off enough before bedtime that it doesn't mess with my sleep. Weed gives me creative superpowers, and raises my emotional intelligence to nearly normal. Contrary to the popular cliche, when I'm high I'm a lot more motivated. Being high and not doing creative work is like being up in an airplane and not looking out the window.
What about other drugs?
I do LSD and mushrooms, not at the same time, lately less than once a year. I've never hallucinated, but things look different. LSD is like a major chord, and mushrooms are like a minor chord. LSD is like walking on the sun, and mushrooms are like walking on the moon. On LSD, nature is heaven and clouds of gnats are angels. On mushrooms, nature is fairyland and trees are time-stretched aspects of superior beings. My last few mushroom trips have been totally lame, but they still clean the cobwebs from my brain.
What is your favorite long fiction?
In order of when I read them: Roadmarks
by Roger Zelazny, Wuthering Heights
by Emily Bronte, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
by Hitoshi Ashinano, Little, Big
by John Crowley, A Splendid Conspiracy
by Albert Cossery. Lately I'm enjoying Tales of the Dying Earth
by Jack Vance.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Instead of fixating on goals, practice quickly noticing opportunities that are only there for a short time. Also, floss after every meal and rinse your mouth after eating or drinking anything sweet.
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
Do you plan on publishing your old writing?
In 2011, a friend 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
. There's also 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 Alex!
I thought you lived on an off-grid homestead.
No, but you can read about those adventures in my old Landblog FAQ
or the landblog archives from 2004-2011.
What's your email address?
My name with no spaces at gmail.com.
I like it when people email me to say hi. You don't have to bring gifts. You can also post on the Ran Prieur subreddit
Jordan Mechano's documentary
about me, recorded summer of 2018.
Erik interviews me for Mini Truth
, recorded August of 2020.
James's Hermitix podcast
, recorded April 2020, and also on YouTube
Second Hermitix interview
, August 2022.
Robert's Leafbox interview
, recorded September 2022, and transcribed to text.
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
Old Personal links
100 things about me
Frugal Early Retirement FAQ
Winter Tour FAQ
How I bought a house
I bought land
My July 2004 bike trip