Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

– Søren Aabye Kierkegaard


Featured artist: Cami Dobrin

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 101!

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With a mix of anxiety about the future and excitement about long-overdue change, I’ve been turning to books and essays that help me challenge entrenched mental models. One such book is Active Hope, which I describe in the Books section below. An essay that has really stuck with me for the last couple of weeks is Charles Eisenstein’s Building a Peace Narrative.

He argues that all of our thinking centres around a war narrative – our need to identify and defeat the Bad in order for the Good to flourish. The war narrative dictates not just how we fight actual wars, it shapes our approach to most problems: whether it’s ‘fighting’ a cold, ‘killing’ weeds, ‘beating’ our political ‘enemies’ or ‘defeating’ negative traits within ourselves.

“Here is the basic template of war thinking. First identify the cause of the problem, the culprit, the perpetrator – find something to fight. Then, control, imprison, exclude, kill, humiliate, or destroy the bad guy, the culprit, the cause, and all will be well. And the better able we are to do this, the better human life is going to be.”

Eisenstein gives plenty of examples of how this war thinking has penetrated our minds and how it guides our relationships, our politics, even modern science. We rely on war thinking to form identity: “People who gain their identity from being on Team Good in the war against Team Evil, actually need Team Evil. They need the other side. It’s like two cards leaning against each other and propping each other up. When ‘evil’ is taken away, there is a crisis, a kind of political vertigo, and a desperate rush to find a new bad guy. ... We default to a fight first because we’re so used to seeing the world in terms of good and evil. So a fight becomes the default, reflexive response.”

The antidote to the war narrative is a peace narrative, a new way of thinking about ourselves and others that requires “deprogramming from condemnation, from, ‘which side are you on?’” Rather than judging its symptoms, a problem seen through the peace narrative becomes an invitation to better understand its underlying causes:

“It starts by asking, Why? Why is he so greedy or why is she pro-fracking or why is he violent or why are those people – you know who they are – pro-this or anti-that? What story informs their belief system and what state of being co-resonates with that story? What is their experience of life? All we judge, we begin to investigate as symptoms. We ask, for example, ‘Where does greed come from?’ That question opens up insights, understanding, and new possibilities for change.”

At the centre of the peace narrative lies what he calls ‘inter-being’ – the recognition that every time we apply war thinking, we actually fight and hurt ourselves: “Holistic thinking understands that everything is intimately related to everything else. That everything is a part of everything else. That to exist is to be in relationship. That we are not separate individuals, but are interdependent both practically and existentially. That we are inter-existent. Therefore, anything that we see as an enemy is part of a constellation of relationships that includes ourselves.”

It sounds more fuzzy and ‘up there’ than it actually is. If you read his essay in its entirety, I think you will agree that his peace narrative approach offers a very compelling new way of looking at ourselves and how we relate to the world around us.

There is a lot I want to quote, but do yourself a favour and give the whole essay a read. It’s long but rewarding. It got me excited about diving deeper into Charles Eisenstein’s work, including his books, which I will share more of here in the future. – Kai

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Visually lightweight and blazing fast video for work

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Apps & Sites

Roam →

Networked note-taking

The Roam app has a pretty passionate community of writers and researchers who are quick to point out how powerful it is. Trying to figure out what exactly makes it so powerful, I ended up watching this fairly long video review. I don’t think Roam is built for my own needs, but if you tend to dump lots of complex thoughts and lengthy excerpts into a giant, messy document without any structure, Roam might be exactly what you need.

Witeboard →


It does what it says on the tin: visit and you’re instantly taken to a blank whiteboard with a URL you can share with other collaborators to sketch out ideas together.

Not My Fault →

Carbon diary & sustainability guide

I’ve written extensively about how we need to talk and think about individual action on climate change. Keeping that in mind, making individual lifestyle changes can give us a sense of agency and help us align our actions with our intentions. The NMF app is a good starting point for doing that.

Horo →

Mini menu bar timer

Horo is a simple, free timer app that lives in your Mac menu bar. Enter the time, press enter and the counter starts running.


Worthy Five: Eliot Peper


Five recommendations by novelist Eliot Peper

A video worth watching:

Neil Gaiman’s How Stories Last lecture for the Long Now Foundation explores the subversive power of narrative.

A question worth asking:

This question reliably yields interesting answers because it challenges your interlocutor to reframe the conversation: ‘What’s the most important question I’m not asking?’

A podcast worth listening to:

I love how Song Exploder breaks down the creative process behind individual songs with extraordinary granularity – a beautiful and empowering demystification.

An activity worth doing:

Sleep. We all do it every night, and yet it’s profoundly underrated. Nothing levels up my creativity, compassion, and courage like ample amounts of consistent, good sleep.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Tina He’s Fakepixels brings an odd, revealing lens to bear on our evolving relationship with technology – illuminating the nuance and complexity of what it means to make things on the internet.




Active Hope →

How to respond to the existential crisis

This is not a book that dwells on the dire state of our planet. It’s a book about gratitude, grief, interconnection and how we can respond to crises in a way that gives our life meaning and hope. “The book guides the reader through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play our role in the collective transition ... towards a life-sustaining society.” I’m half-way through it and so far it’s given me a mental lifeline while in lockdown.


Karst Notebooks →

Paper made from stone

If you haven’t had a chance to touch/write on Karst paper before, let me just say it’s a pretty unusual experience. “Made from calcium carbonate recycled from construction and mining waste, with a high quality, non-toxic, non-virgin resin, no trees have been harmed in the making of Karst’s notebooks. Their method also uses 60% less energy than traditional paper, and produces no water pollution.” It’s weird to think that they managed to make paper from stone that is water- and tear-proof, and extremely smooth.


Overheard on Twitter

A – always center the impacted
L – listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L – leverage your privilege
Y – yield the floor



Food For Thought

How to Rebuild Cities for Caregiving →


I’m always fascinated by the social, economic and environmental impact of new approaches to urban planning. This excerpt of a new book looks into ways cities can rethink simple public services to help overcome social inequalities: “Cities like Stockholm have adopted a ‘gender equal plowing strategy’ that instead prioritizes sidewalks, bike paths, bus lanes, and daycare zones in recognition of the fact that women, children, and seniors are more likely to walk, bike, or use mass transit. ... instead of plowing in ways that reinforce car-centered behavior, Stockholm’s method encourages everyone to use alternative modes of transportation.”

An Onslaught of Crises Has Created a Modern Paradox →


We all feel it. There is a growing ‘crisis fatigue’ that makes dealing with complex problems rationally and effectively more and more difficult. This is happening while – paradoxically – living standards are rising. “In the past, most of the fears that people had about life were solid. They were tangible. ... If you’re fearful of wild animals circling your tent, at the very least you know what you need to shoot at or run from. [However,] when the fear is intangible and hanging over you, you feel trapped. And I think that sense of feeling trapped is a very powerful way of understanding how a lot of people feel today. They feel trapped within the precarity of modern economic work practices. They feel trapped by environmental concerns, which are very hard to deal with from an individual perspective. They feel trapped by political systems that feel unresponsive and very remote from them.”

Struggling to achieve perfection? This nautical metaphor might help →


A short, soothing read for perfectionists like myself: “One useful perspective shift here is to reframe the situation so that learning to tolerate the discomfort of doing things imperfectly becomes a kind of self-improvement project in itself. From this viewpoint, a defining quality of the successful activist (or exerciser, declutterer, or anything else) is precisely that she cultivates the ability to resist demanding perfection of herself – to relish every small accomplishment as vastly preferable to the only real alternative, which is doing nothing at all.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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I really love the use of earthy, rich colours in the work of Brisbane-based illustrator and painter Maus Haus.

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I recently came across local Melbourne ceramicist Tantri Mustika who makes a range of light-hearted and colourful ceramics. Her current collection of work incorporates a modern spin on traditional terrazzo tiling, applying it to bespoke functional forms.

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The work of self-taught photographer Gregory Prescott tries to elicit an appreciation of the beauty and body of both men and women as being sensual creatures with a vast array of skin tones.

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Serif typeface FH Ronaldson stands out through its sharp feet and peculiar vertical stresses.



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