Dans Trois: So You’re A Philosopher?

A few years ago, I commissioned a painting from a good friend that focused on a moment in my life in the fashion industry, where I served as an Equity Partner/COO of an apparel brand. I also wanted the art to represent my fraternity, which is why we called the work “Dans Trois”. I often use art -whether visual, music, or film- to paint a memory of the moments in my life. I’m on Spotify now as I write this.

It took a good amount of moments to even say the D word to describe myself. To me, it was worse than the N word.

Disabled.

I think now there have been various terms to describe our community — years ago it used to be handicapped. I learned there are rules too, such as never use a disability as an adjective. It is not a blind actor but an actor who is blind. I often wonder who exactly makes these rules to tell me what I should call myself.

One of my good friends was born with MD, though to be honest, I am not sure because we discussed everything but what could have limited us. I met him during college when he became a member of my fraternity. As the years progressed, I’ve seen my fraternity brother live beyond his mobility limitations, serving as a business engineer with an energy company.

With visual disabilities, it often takes me longer to get places or I often have to be extremely creative about a lot of things most people take for granted. To me, it made me a hustler. I learned quickly to hustle hard.

The picture above is from Rembrandt, Philosopher in Meditation (1632). The painting referenced the parents of Tobias, Tobit and Anna, from the apocryphal bible. This painting has been my favorite for years for a few reasons.

Tobit was blind, and that disability strained his marriage and, ultimately, made him pray for his own death. But through it all, he preserved and achieved in a number of fields of human endeavor. He hustled.

Another reason why I loved the painting because while it refers to Tobit as a philosopher, it shows none of the attributes of scholarship or philosophy—books, globe, scientific instruments. Like Lawrence Kris Parker, Tobit may have been asked “are you a philosopher?” in his time too.

I often see the phrase hustle used in the startup community — and rightly so. I see it often and have been there too, 3 a.m. coding and strategy sessions. I have to say that the startup community definitely borrowed a lot of that energy and phrasing from other communities.

Speaking of the philosophers from other communities, imagine -- instead of that hustle in singing Move That Dope about cocaine and MDMA, when we say move that dope, we are moving that dope at drug discovery startups like TwoXar or Evince Bioscience, whom I mentored as part of my role as Accelerator Director.

Instead of talking about being in the lab (the studio) like Quad or Electric Lady, we are at the bio or chem lab making new discoveries in biomimicry or bioinformatics.

Full disclosure: I’m a trap music fan at times, as well as a fan of a myriad of other types of music. Shout out the my peoples Hughes and AKC for being my human musical discovery apps.

I was talking to a colleague who mentioned that there was an idea to turn the meth labs of our region into wet labs for research innovation. The idea focused on instead of making meth for street hustlers or emulating Walter White, making pharmaceuticals for the corporate hustl… err, entities.

There’s messaging in the art, music, and movies, and it is especially important to remember for those who write the checks to produce the art. I often say we want to be what we see, so imagine what image is being feed to your community. I don’t know who painted the art below but I’d love to meet them.

On June 23, Hustle Con is coming to Oakland, focusing on nontechical startup badasses. I’ll be there, with this song in my head:

“Same old shit, just a different day,
Out here tryna get it, each and every way.
Momma need a house,
Baby need some shoes.
Times are getting hard,
Guess what I’mma do.”
-- Antoine McColister