Notes From The Field

I went back East a few weeks back for The Nantucket Project’s 8th annual ideas festival. Here are some lists I made as people like Laura Dern, George W. Bush, Tig Notaro, Ev Williams, Amanda Knox, Ross Douthat, Valerie Plame, Andre Leon Talley, Gregg Renfrew, Lance Armstrong and Moby took the stage:

Important things to remember:

There’s a difference between loving someone for their qualities or loving them for their singularity. The mind is a pattern matching machine. The magic of nature is in plain sight. Presence begins with simply noticing. Every single thing is on a transition from impossible to possible. Smile, be friendly, but behave only when appropriate.

Surprising but true:

If you’re very creative, you can use skin as an ear to receive music. Averages fail spectacularly to account for individual differences. Some gamers make hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.

Very hard questions:

Is it possible to love animals and eat animals? Why is google still fighting the legislation that BackPage is using as protection? Why is hatred such strong social cohesion? If Ninja makes $500k a month playing video games in his pajamas, does that mean we’re supposed to let our kids play Fortnite? Why do we think a system where no kids fail is a failed system?


Goodness is fundamental, said the enslaved Croatian to his son. Don’t be encumbered by history, said Robert Noyce. All black people didn’t grow up poor, said Andre Leon Talley. Mastery is an asymptote, said Daniel Pink. I am clergy woman, mother fucker, said Nadia Bolz Weber. Court is not a science lab, it’s a storytelling contest, said Amanda Knox. The truth is, it’s easier to double-down than to apologize, said Sean Spicer. We are a nation of immigrants, said George W. Bush.


Thanks to Mary Mazzio and her rag tag bunch of moms, liberals and evangelicals, you can no longer sell kids in America.

Arthur Brooks, former boozing, chain-smoking musician, is now President of American Enterprise Institute and BFFs with the Dalai Lama.

The Mandelas were the first prominent family in Africa to publicly mourn a loss to AIDS.


Activism can save your life. So can art.

Seeing your teacher naked is a traumatic event.

A lot of times the stories we tell about our children are really about us.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed. What we hold back in one situation comes out in another.

Black mothers spend a lot of energy tweaking their children to be palatable to the ugliest segments of society.

There is a story behind every corrections officer.


Films can have powerful wakes:

An Inconvenient Truth is responsible for BeautyCounter. The Hunting Ground brought thousands of assault survivors together and drove 35 pieces of legislation. Pretty Woman did serious damage to our sense of what’s a meet-cute and what’s a perversion.

What to say:

If you get into a sticky conversation, say Tell Me More. If you get really sick, say Sequence Me. If it’s time to retire, twirl, snap and say Peace Out. If someone wants to talk politics, say you’d rather talk policy. If you’re raising kids who you want to be safe in the wider world, resist the temptation to say Don’t Tattle.


Coming to terms with your own mortality is kinda shitty.

Being fully seen — at a molecular level — might well save your life, literally and metaphorically.

Data is the new oil.

The body remembers everything.

Things we can’t do:

Insult each other into agreement. (We are not diminished by taking other’s values seriously.) Let 9/11 become just another date kids memorize in social studies. Stay in the bunker forever. Forget the people who aren’t here.

People who better shape the hell up:

Ivy league millennials, executives who think like tourists and the person who spray painted the word nigger on the African Meeting House.

Real good news:

The cancer of middle school is entirely treatable. Bullies become footnotes. The solution to division is closer proximity.

Anger does not correlate with divorce. Contempt does. Ego does not correlate with confidence. Intellectual humility does.

Maybe Q&A should be Q&O, question and opinion.

When it comes up to times up and me too, it’s not male v. female. The problem is abuse of power.

When in doubt, run the track. A quarter mile at a time.

Things with two sides:

Cameras on police officers, voters on either end of the spectrum, AP tests and scale.


Being keenly aware of where you’re weak is a major asset.

It’s okay to say no.

Ignorance is deadly.

Too much training can be a trap.

There’s room for all of us here.

We’ve got a lot of magic on the table.


Things that make you go Hmmm…

The NYPD has officers born in 106 different countries. Avon predates women’s suffrage. Joe Biden is friends with Lady Gaga. The biggest month of the year for many Walmart’s is February, when tax refund checks come. Education does not equal mobility. The editor of Back Page.com was a woman. The latin motto of Roman Catholicism translates to always the same.


You are now entering mission territory. Arm yourself with compassion and remember, we know the answers: love, love and love.