Avoiding Value Taxes

[This letter is part of the Little Letter Republic, a project whose purpose is to build community in St. Louis and beyond.]

Hi Gytis,

I haven’t forgotten you at all and remember our conversations fondly. At one point we discussed the role of role models in crafting our desires and whether different games prime us for different intellectual interests or whether it is the other way around.

Yes, I remember reading that essay by Paul Graham, but I also notice that Graham perhaps underestimates how many different cultures coexist within any city. I would say that the cultures he identifies within Cambridge, Silicon Valley, and New York are the most discoverable cultures, but the other cultures exist too (maybe in an embryonic stage) even if you don’t know how to find them. 

Nonetheless, I strongly agree with your characterization of living in a world that doesn’t quite get it. “Not subscribing to the culture of your region means having to reassert and re-explain your values and ideas to everyone you meet. It’s like a tax that you perpetually pay and that most just can’t afford.” Your strategy for rising above the wasteland through long-form conversation and small groups is exactly what I think one needs to escape the taxation.

I personally do this in three ways: through friends whom I can talk to at length either via phone or email or in person, through a small group whose purpose is to report on personal projects and act as accountability partners and healthy critics keeping each other on track, and through building up the context I want to see in the world through friendships and by educating in Saint Louis.

One thing the DC trip cemented for me was that this strategy will work especially well. The answer for me is evidently ‘No.’ Saint Louis affords me plenty of opportunity to build things and meet the right types of people, while at the same time I can have a house $800/month and can afford a family. If I need to go to NYC or DC, a $200 flight gets me there quickly to talk with the people I need to talk to. I have our online network of friends, builders, and intellectuals as further support for new ideas. And furthermore, there is a lot more opportunity to make a difference in a city which is not past its peak but is rather awaiting a renaissance.

Context, community, friendship – these are actions, not possessions. One either performs the actions related to them or not. Patiently build the working community with those you can and great things will happen.

Happy to discuss more!

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