State of The Madness

How have you been?

Seriously — how have you been?

I’ve been mostly alright. At least none of my debilitating anxieties have materialized yet — in particular, it has been 834 days since I was last attacked by a dog!


What to share — what to highlight?

It’s been a while, I feel rusty.

I guess I’ll just start from the beginning, then skip the rest.

Shortly after I stopped writing here, I had the privillege to spend a couple of months walking solo in the Ukrainian Carpathians. The idea was to hike from the Polish to the Romanian border, following the route I’d planned (and failed quite miserably to execute) the year before. That should have taken only about three weeks, but because of the pandemic I decided to walk also from my home in Stryi to the beginning of the trail at the Uzhotskyi Pass, then back home from the endpoint in the village of Shepit along a parallel ridge.

It went something like this:

I’m still indulged by the fog pools in the morning:

I was surprised by how easy it was to find comfort up there. It was the end of the season, so many of the abandoned huts used by seasonal herders or berry/mushroom pickers were vacant again — not to mention the various times I was a guest of theirs, border patrol, park rangers, monasteries, villagers, weather stations, and I’m probably forgetting something.

National borders still fascinate as much as they confuse me. Walking along what used to be the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia 100 years ago made me wonder what today’s imaginary line between Ukraine and Romania might look like in another 100 years:

There’s definitely more to say. I realize I have yet to process how it all ended so abruptly just a couple of days before I’d have closed the loop back home. I’ll dig deeper into that and other aspects of that experience on another occasion, just not today.

Back from the mountains, Nastia and I split.

I’m not sure how much more I’ll eventually say about this. So, if you want to know something better ask.

I then spent another couple of weeks riding my bicycle back to Odesa. That looked something like this:

The worse roads for cars remain the best to ride on:

They wanted me to take photos of the Medzhybyzh Castle, and so I did:

They also wanted me to photograph Oksanivka, though I suspect they might not find these very useful either:

Ironically, I spent more time on the road in 2020 than I did in 2019 or in 2021.

There should now be a short and delightful paragraph piecing these fragments together and easeing you into the next part of the story — while it took me quite some time, I finally understood that’s not my responsibility.

Upon arriving in Odesa, and understanding that cross-border travel would remain inconvenient and expensive for the foreseeable future, I began scouting for something else to do, and developing a stationary lifestyle that honored the priorities and values I’d discovered on the road. I eventually settled back into tutoring math, and that has occupied the core of the time between my morning and evening rituals and away from my sacred weekends.

This has been executed imperfectly, of course — just like even on my best days on the road I might still get chaffed nipples or let my last bite of Snickers fall right next to dog poop, I’ll often mess up what should have been the most straightforward days in front of the computer.

At any rate, besides having been enough for my subsistence, some charity, a fair amount of pleasure and socializing, and eventually even saving for future endeavors, tutoring has also been unexpectedly rewarding as an experience in itself — it’s not only a good excuse to review and keep learning new math, but also a fabulous opportunity to appreciate the severe (and often damaging) limitations of thought and abstraction.

And so on — I relocated back to Lviv in 2021, cycle toured on vacation for the first time since 2016 (still fantastic), rode my first brevet since 2015, played my first game of Game of Thrones (the board game) since 2017, and who knows for what reason became interested in Formula One again for the first time since 1994.

An earlier version of this update attempted to make a more comprehensive list and develop that into a coherent story at least I might want to read and believe in, but I gave up. To those of you who might read this negatively, let’s both get used to disappointment — there’s likely more to come 😉

It will be fine.

This feels a lot like 2017, and that part of it I like — the vast open-endedness of the future ahead. Not that I can say I ever knew what laid ahead. And yet I’ve made it so far.

To be continued some time soon 🙂

See you when,

See you on the other side!

A conversation I had with a friend over the past couple of weeks put several conversations I’ve had with other friends over the past couple of years in perspective, and made me realize (finally capitulate?) that my intentions have been profoundly misunderstood.

This is my fault — my methods have been ineffective.

I’m taking a break from Not Mad Yet to listen, look for a different language, and perhaps even a different medium or format for what I have to share. I’m not abandoning the newsletter, but I don’t know when I might be back, and what it will look like when I do.

This is not signaling a deeper retreat from people either — quite the contrary! I believe I’ve spent too much time staring at the screen in front of me, and not enough time looking out the window to my right, if you know what I mean. I’m not feeling negative — maybe a little anxious and embarrassed, and otherwise curious about what this change of attitude might lead to!

If you’re interested, I’ve updated my website with a partial list of what I’ve been up to “offline” — as usual, I’ll be glad to share it if you want to know more about this decision or anything else 😉

Thank you for reading, forwarding, commenting, and donating — damn, thank you for hosting, visiting, hugging, crying, laughing, caring, playing, asking, trusting, accepting — this newsletter has been a gift, and I’m grateful to all of you who have helped me make it however you’ve felt moved to do <3

See you on the other side!

I started crossposting this blog on Medium and Telegram

“I was unable to describe my experience in a way that interested the hearers,
or conveyed to them anything of its quality or significance.”

– Douglas Harding, in On Having No Head

Many people have complained to me over time that they would like to read and share what I write, but that my newsletter is arcane, or inconvenient, or that they can’t train Google not to send them to spam.

Now there are a couple more places where you may track what I’ve been up to, and creating in reaction to it:

  • I launched a Medium publication that will be a (nearly) exact copy of this newsletter — I even named it The Not Mad Yet Newsletter — what an impostor! (UPDATED September 29th, 2020: The publication has been deleted.)

  • Those of you who prefer to use the Internet on your phones also have the option to join my Telegram channel, where I’ll announce any new posts — perhaps even share the occasional external link, inspirational quote, or cat picture. (I’m also looking for a more mobile-friendly layout for the website, though that’s going to take a little longer.)

If you were happy with the way things were as a newsletter subscriber, you don’t have to do anything — the mailing list will remain the core of the Not Mad Yet operation, and the newsletter will keep reaching you straight into your inbox just like it has before 😉 — and if you were unaware of the newsletter and would rather follow me via email, you may sign up here.

I hope this helps! As usual, I look forward to your feedback 🙂 I plan to run this as an experiment until my next yearly website update, then reassess.

Featured photo: Khrushchyovkas in Odesa (Cheremushki district, Spring ’20) — nothing stays the same.

Thank you for reading!

This blog is a gift. If you find it valuable and would like to thank me, you may share this piece with someone who you think would benefit from it, consider making a contribution, or simply comment below — all of it will have some value to me along an important dimension <3

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Will I Be Missing Out?

“Gravity’s bind
embraces all.”

Haken; “Bound by Gravity” (Affinity)

A couple of weeks ago, it was the first time I noticed how much the chirping of the birds in my neighborhood varied over time — while I sat to meditate under the instruction to listen to sounds, I could eventually distinguish four or five different patterns and timbres. That perplexed me — the only birds I remembered having seen before were the stupid pigeons.

I could also hear the ebb and flow of not so distant traffic one building over. It’s occasionally cut by the impetus of a hasty driver, the screeching breaks of a marshrutka with long-overdue maintenance, or the higher-pitched motorcycles — more subtly, by the incomprehensible audio announcements when the lights in Odesa turn green for pedestrians, the tram’s palpitation along its tracks, and the steps and chatter from people passing by.

I couldn’t quite account for some distant, irregular beeps — could they be the check-out terminal at the convenience store?

Surprisingly, the waves of traffic noise themselves were rather settling.

Of course, I am concerned — paranoid, even.

I’m anxious about Granny and her 85 generous years. They were celebrated a few weeks ago by an entire day in the hospital for surgery in the knee. “It’s now or never,” the doctor told her as COVID-19 began to take hold in Brazil. “Then let’s do it now because I won’t be able to handle the pain,” she replied.

I can do nothing but be grateful that Granny is privileged enough to have knee surgery, and that my uncle is there to help her. I can only trust that they’re taking the necessary precautions to keep both of them as safe as possible during their follow-up visits to the doctor or the pharmacy — he’s not so young either.

I believe I don’t need to go in detail over everything else I’m stressing out about — most of you probably have your own repertoire. If you don’t, I’ve just read (and recommend) the musings of Adam Przeworski — “the greatest political scientist alive,” according to my sister — his academic granddaughter, and a reputable political scientist herself.

Since that first session, I’ve realized that some of the birds in my neighborhood were peckers! I could now hear them flapping their wings — they’d sometimes land on my window sill. On the traffic front, I’ve noticed people getting in their cars and leaving in the morning — the remotely deactivated locks, doors opening, and then closing, engines starting, the eventual departure maneuvers — I once heard the alert of a truck on reverse. Dogs would bark, cats would meow and growl and hiss, and the people would continue to talk in a growing variety of manners. I’m struggling to describe something that sounded like the loading/unloading of whatever that was, made especially noticeable by its being dropped on the ground. The proxies for the wind seemed countless — trees, clothes hanging to dry, windows popping in or out with sudden changes in pressure, dubiously installed sheets of metal, plastic or wood lining the outside of each balcony according to the taste and financial means of its stewards. I found out that those mysterious beeps came from the magnetic locks of the next building, as they were invariably followed by the entrance doors snapping shut.

Who knows what else was there to notice — inside my apartment, I could often hear my flatmate or our cat on top of my breathing, swallowing, and otherwise trying hard not to move — sometimes I fart, and it’s audible.

Last week I returned to Stryi, and the auditory exploration and discovery began all over again in my new environment.

If I may write about this candidly, Granny has always been just a fall or whatever away from not being there to give me her quintessential “bênça” next time I go to Brazil — my placeholder in this brief note for all the potential ruin I’m perennially anxious about. If anything, now I have a globally shared and largely validated excuse for that pathological anxiety — or do I?

Today would have been the first day of my next epic cycle tour, and that’s curiously not what I’m sad I might be missing out. Indeed, nearly everybody out there has something significant to say about the present circumstances. I fear the most that, in the future, I’ll have lived through an apocalyptic global pandemic, and will have nothing remarkable to share about my own experience — that I won’t even feel like I was part of it because I’m not a doctor on the frontlines, a leader confronted with difficult decisions, a pundit, or even a stranded traveler with a unique story to tell.

The best and, increasingly, the only thing I can do to help with this crisis is to stay home as much as I can. So, when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll once again sit down for another hour and listen for the birds. I’ll then carry on with my day just like I’d have done otherwise — bound by everything that binds me, including the now universal gravity of coronavirus.

Featured photo: ONE LESS BRICK ON THE WALL (Odesa, Ukraine, Winter ’20)

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Not a New Year’s Guide to Sanity

Shortly after starting this blog at the beginning of 2017, i posted a piece subtitled your ultimate New Year’s guide to sanity. It’s a self-help listicle discouraging the consumption of listicles, self-help, and the news — particularly from the algorithmically curated strain.

I thought i’d be reviewing and republishing that piece at the beginning of every year forever. I did that twice, and it’s now time to seed a new tradition.

I don’t believe my arguments on that article will do much to persuade someone who doesn’t already understand that they won’t be missing out if they don’t click on that bait — that mysteriously calculated, frighteningly alluring link at the end of whatever they just finished reading — most probably, watching. I often cannot resist this urge myself — leaving mainstream social media has not been nearly enough to turn me into the master of my attention.

A solution to this problem might transcend the intellect — at this point, i won’t be surprised if it turns out to be simpler to implement and experience than to articulate. I also don’t have one yet.

So, i won’t begin this year by telling you what to do with your attention.

Instead, i’ll start with something i noticed a bunch of the newsletters i follow do over the past several days: a brief reflection on what i believe went well in 2019, and what i would like to go better in 2020 — i’m nailing this whole Gregorian calendar thing!

What went alright in 2019

  1. I got back on the bicycle. I want more of that 😀

  2. I’ve made time to incorporate photography into my learning and creative processes. I’ll continue to prioritize it 🙂

  3. Overall financial support went up! Not Mad Yet is still a looong way from self-sufficiency, but this modest trend has encouraged me to continue pursuing a model to make this work in alignment with my values. Especially to all of you who donated in 2019 — Boris, Dad, Fuji, Leon, Luda, Mom, Natalia, Nathy, Raf, Rajko, Robson, Sigrid, Valéria, Viorica, and Yevgen — THANK YOU <3

What could improve in 2020

  1. I want to post more consistently, both in the sense of establishing a clearer overarching narrative, as well as better aligning my intended weekly schedule with the typical length of a week :p

  2. I want to be less apologetic — this includes being less apologetic about occasionally being overly apologetic. I’m not good at standing my ground and taking care of myself, and i want to stop projecting that onto this newsletter. I want to trust that i mean it when i say that my intention here is to connect with you, and that we’ll use potential misunderstandings as opportunities for that 🙂

  3. After another entire year in Ukraine (except for a couple of trips to Poland), i’m still insecure about my levels of Ukrainian and Russian. I’ve taken measures to address that before the turn of the year, including coming to terms with my decision to learn Russian first. I’ll continue to trust this process — if it works out, i’ll tell you more about it 😉

I think three of each is enough.

How about you?

What went right for you in 2019, and what would you like to go better in 2020?

Yep — that’s an unapologetically late post for the first week of January — i’ll eventually be doing this in Ukrainian and Russian as well 😉


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