On an airplane from Zurich, headed to Berlin for the first time, I wrote: “When your worst fear has happened, then you are free.” For me the question was what to do with that unwelcome freedom, having already unshackled myself from my prestigious career, my home, and the love of my life. What came to me, almost immediately, was to devote myself to creativity.
I’ve visited the US just once since then. I went home to San Francisco in 2015 and had the chance to meet with some dear friends. I expected to feel small with them, one a medical researcher at Stanford, another a technologist on his third successful internet startup. But both described their lives as a “prison” of work defined by their staff, dedicated to the whims of investors, with no time for their own minds. I expected to be envious of their money and their lives in my now-overpriced hometown.
Instead, they were envious of my time to be creative. A struggling “arts-entrepreneur”, I spend my time wandering around Berlin writing in a notebook and then figuring out how to get the writing off the page and make stuff happen in the world. I began to believe that I wasn’t just surviving my career-suicide, I was actualizing myself in ways that my “established” peers weren’t.
The first thing that happened when Duro left was that Andrea sent me this:
When you walk to the edge of all the light you know and step into the darkness, one of two things will happen: You will find firm ground under your feet or you will learn to fly.
Ad-hoc version of Patrick Overton, “Faith”,
The Leaning Tree 1975
Several new friends in Berlin had said to me “you’re so powerful.” I was taken aback. I only thought of myself as poor and lonely. As a former anorexic, I am perpetually tasked with bringing my self-perception into focus with how others see me, so I spent a year considering this idea of power. I started to ask myself, in every difficult situation “what is the most powerful thing I could do here?” Especially when I felt weak, this became a most revealing practice, which radically disrupted my patterns of self-perception and action.
This book, then, is my attempt to chart and extrapolate a system of power, by which to encourage friends that you can build the path under your feet, even as you step into darkness.
Donatella’s heart is definitely breaking. It is a rock in a rock crushing machine, turning to dust, sending splintery shrapnel through her flesh. Her body is a cardboard robot, a pile of boxes, slightly dizzy. It is all she can do to keep herself balanced in the chair.
She can’t take her eyes off him. Brow furrowed, every move masterful. She knows exactly what that girl is experiencing. She sees him graciously wait for her to adorn before moving on to show off his footwork. She sees him pull the girl closer, she sees him do the most intimate things. He drops the girl’s right hand and then takes it up again gently, signaling with a fingertip to the wrist. She sees the girl’s uncontrollable secret smile. The girl feels he is in love with her. Every woman feels that with him.
Donatella is gravel and dust inside. Surprisingly, someone asks the cardboard robot to dance. A good dancer asks the cardboard robot to dance. The cardboard robot, bleeding where the shrapnel has exited, limps to the dance floor, and, for lack of muscle control, collapses into the old man’s arms. He doesn’t seem to notice that she is made of cardboard and exploding. So sure are his steps, so solid his embrace, so accustomed is he to dancing with beginners and women with no balance. She could be anyone. The dance is anonymous, routine, yet somehow gently caring. She wonders idly what wounds has he, for which this dance with her is balm?