This piece was originally published on Substack.
Lonely sits the city
Once great with people!
She that was great among nations
Is become like a widow;
The princess among states
Is become a thrall.
Recently, I experienced a social novelty.
Anna Gát, founder of a roving social club and literary salon named Interintellect, very graciously invited me to one of her events. A dozen or so of us, some known to me but most not, gathered in the backyard of a tastefully restored San Francisco Victorian and drank and ate and discussed various topics of the day. It was a convivial and enjoyable affair, that crackling mix of novelty and familiarity among like-minded strangers and acquaintances that’s virtually impossible to find in coastal cities, outside the confines of the workplace at least.
As I walked home down the steep slope of Fulton Street afterward, I thought: This is like a synagogue, but without Jews or Judaism. Like many things nowadays, the seculars have reinvented a religious concept to cope with the very barrenness that secularism bequeathed us.
Synagogues aren’t the only legacy institutions with attempts at secular reboots: We’re on to nation-states as well. Noted entrepreneur and online provocateur Balaji Srinivasan recently published his intriguing tome, The Network State (available online in very readable format here). The first sections are an introduction to the World According to Balaji, which will seem familiar to anyone who’s followed the very opinionated poaster for any length of time. And for those who haven’t, and are perhaps unfamiliar with the canon of references inhabiting Balaji’s fervid mind, the text is absolutely jammed with esoteric references and links to outside sources. At times the book feels less like a book and more like a Wikipedia page; it’s not clear to me how you’d even read it in printed form, which is perhaps why there isn’t one (Kindle and online only).
Click here to read the full piece on Substack.