The How Not to Suck Manifesto


Aloha! Here’s my one sentence manifesto for each and every one of us from now until the end of time.

Great and wondrous things; made by great and wondrous people; who dream great and wondrous dreams; about making the world a great and wondrous place.

The end.

You can go back to sleep now.

Or you can start with me, at the beginning.

Here’s a tiny question. In the immortal words of Hamlet: To suck, or not to suck…what does it mean?

Perhaps we should turn to the collected works of William Shakespeare. Maybe we should crack open the Kant and Spinoza. Maybe we should ask Kanye.

Or maybe, just maybe, all we need to do is…turn on the TV.

Because, let’s face it, there are five hundred channels; and they all…suck. So the question, then, is: why? Why does everything on TV suck? And why do we celebrate it? Like a great cyclone of mediocrity? And what might that, in turn, tell you and I about how not to suck?

Ninety nine percent of what’s on TV is about…people…buying and selling stuff. Pawnshops, (duck) dynasties, houses, containers…wedding dresses, fashion designs, dates, billion-dollar apartments, super-yachts, Bentleys, designer jeans, mega-parties.

Consider storage auction shows; where the poor bastards who can no longer afford the payments on the storage units where they keep, well, what’s left of their lives, have them sold off to the highest bidders; who, in turn, sell them, at…pawn shops. Or pawn-shop shows; where the unlucky and the desperate take 25 to 50 percent of what their possessions might be worth; because they need cash now.

They say a very great deal. About our plight — for, reflecting an age of stagnation, many of these shows are about picking off the ruins of yesterday’s golden age, and trading them for the basics of subsistence.

It’s decline-of-capitalism porn: just as porn misrepresents sex; to hit us with a cheap, quick rush; so decline-of-capitalism porn hits us with a fix of…

What, precisely? Envy. Greed. Jealousy. Fear. Distraction. Escapism. Hate.

Did you see that?

A fix of everything that it means to…suck.

Here’s my tiny theory. We suck because we celebrate sucking. And to not suck, we must do very much the opposite. Allow me to humbly explain.

The economy’s a lot like cable TV. Five hundred channels, and nothing on; five million shows, and barely one worth watching. Five hundred big companies, and not a one that truly matters; five million startups, and barely one worth mentioning.

Just as what clogs the airwaves is devolving to a tiny, narrow subset of human activity — buying and selling stuff — so what clogs the gears of the economy is too much buying and selling (Hi, “Sharing Economy”); and too little imagining, wondering, creating, daring, rebelling.

But human life — especially a worthwhile life — isn’t just about buying and selling. Trading; trucking; bartering. It is, more precisely, about making; about creating; and more precisely still, about all that must happen for great and wondrous things to be made.

Are you getting me yet?

Great and wondrous things; made by great and wondrous people; who dream great and wondrous dreams; about making the world a great and wondrous place.

That’s what it means not to suck.

You and I must be great and wondrous people. We must be people whose dreams are bigger than Ubering in our self-driving cars while we Tinder listicles of insta-dates on our FacePhones…on our way to the pawnshop. Because internet dates and cat pictures might be a nice way to pass the time, if you’re an overgrown fourteen year old with a hormone overload; but they never led anyone to be great and wondrous people; who dream great and wondrous dreams; about making the world a great and wondrous place.

The more that we reduce ourselves to mere pushers; to pawnshop flippers and payday-loan plungers; the less we seek out the great and the wondrous. The more we wish only to buy low and sell high, instead of to defy mediocrity and live true, the more we are something like smug pornographers of life.

You and I have been conditioned to believe a lie. That we can flip our way to meaning. That we can buy purpose from the highest bidder. That we can build stock markets for the human spirit. That we can purchase lives of real prosperity.

You and I have been taught that we can take shortcuts to great and wondrous lives.

Bullshit.

For us to be great and wondrous people demands much, much more — and much better — must happen than endless seas of cubefarms lorded over by sociopaths in bad suits who pay themselves hundreds of millions of bucks for driving once-proud companies into the ground after they’ve…conditioned you and I to buy until we die so we forget to live.

For us to be great and wondrous people, we must do great and wondrous things; and for us to do great and wondrous things, we must live great and wondrous lives.

Lives in which we do not merely aspire, at our highest, noblest, worthiest, merely to buy and to sell; to trade and to flip; to acquire and to peddle.

But lives in which we, ourselves, each and every one, make great and wondrous things.

Things which sear us with meaning. Things which make us hurt with joy; and suffer with passion. Things which sing to us with beauty. Things which suffuse us with love. Things which make us ache with purpose.

What things? What do I mean by these “things”?

Shelves full of products in stores full of shelves in malls full of stores in cities full of malls full of people who are full of…regret, emptiness, futility, frustration, humiliation, sadness…because they’re pawns in a game played by robots programmed by hedge funds to fill the pockets of people whose vaults are already full? Is that what I mean?

No. That’s not what I mean at all. None of these things touch us. None of these sear us; lash us; suffuse us; sing to us; with meaning, purpose, beauty, love.

What, then, are the great and wondrous things we must make, if we are to live great and wondrous lives?

Us. We must make one another great and wondrous people.

And there’s not a shortcut in all world, or in all the worlds that will ever be, to it. No machine can make it; no engine can produce it; no formula can distill it; no equation can program it. For none of these can ever know what the great and wondrous truly are. Only the living — the fully, wholly, truly living — can.

You can’t flip your way to living a great and wondrous life. And so it can never truly be attained by those who are content with buying low and selling high; instead of making what matters; forging from the raw clay of the human spirit lives as strong as steel, as rebellious as fire, and as true as earth.

I get five hundred channels of TV. Not one helps me to be a great and wondrous person. Want to know why?

There are five hundred giant companies in the economy. Barely a one helps us to live great and wondrous lives; most seem to want us to live lives that are desperate, tiny, afraid, quivering, meaningless. Want to know why?

You are not a machine. You are not a job title, a number, a report, a gear, a line of code, a walking app, a computer-in-motion. Repeating a program of self-satisfaction; instruction; formula; stimulus; response. As empty as a universe without a world.

You are a great and wondrous thing. Who must do great and wondrous things. If you are to live whole, full, true.

That is all a life that has been worth living ever was; has ever been; and ever will be.