Dear friends,

This week as promised I’m offering up my notes from Ways of Being. If you haven’t been in The Pause for a few weeks, as background, here is the letter I wrote when I returned from the summer having discovered this new experience; and here is the letter about this experiment beginning today for the next 7 weeks. Today, I wander into the beginning.

This is more a collection of stream of consciousness journal entries than a linear letter — sometimes directly reflecting on the book, sometimes quoting from it, and sometimes giving into a conversation it sparks within my own thinking and personal points of reference. There are incomplete sentences, and often — as is good and right! — the intriguing thoughts are questions, not answers.

I hope you will find this of interest if you’re just following along here and taking my notes as food for thought and imagination.

If you’re reading alongside me/us here, let us hear from you — you can reply to this email directly (I’ll be in our inbox with some of my colleagues). And we’d love to see your marginalia and musings by tagging @onbeing on socials.

In the beginning …

I’m fascinated right away that on this remote Greek island of Epirus, artificial intelligence is being applied to getting more fossil fuels out of the ground — energies ancient like the mythologies that emerged from the air and soil of this part of this world and mark us still. Like the theology I studied in the 20th Century, the Greek myths bring home the enduring puzzle of our capacities to fail and betray our best intentions right alongside our capacities for goodness and greatness. Outsized to make the point.

This is an intelligence we often forget in my “younger” land: a knowledge that the stories we tell are also part of what make us and what bind or stretch what we are capable of. 

This feels so alive in our grappling/not grappling with our ecological present. We spin out one dystopian story after the other. They fix in our imaginations where this all is going, and translate into limits to our action. 

And this is true, too, of our technological present: the “ecology of technology” as Bridle sees it, that we are all creating together.

Pg. 5

 — a companion to Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s question: What if we get this right?

Pg. 6

Winston Churchill: “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Our technologies have given us the tools, for the first time in the history of our species, to think and act as a species. We are so far from living with them in this way, but this is the truth, stunning and stark.

We give in to a definition of intelligence that is beyond us and/or “profit-seeking, extractive.”

Pg. 9

And yet, we live in a time in which we’re coming to grasp the intelligence in all kinds of life — the title we gave to our show with Robin Wall Kimmerer.

William Blake: “Nature is imagination itself.” — reminds me of Michael McCarthy’s evocative understanding that the natural world is the original source of our imagination and all of our metaphors.

Pg. 16

Of our belonging to “the more-than human world”: the “broad commonwealth” of the non-human life with which we are “inextricably entangled and suffused by” — our “companions on the great adventure of time and becoming” (p. 17):

Pg. 11

Pg. 12

I didn’t take as many notes on Chapter One, which centers on James Bridle’s personal forays into artificial intelligence. Though you’ll see I got very excited about its closing paragraph.

Pg. 58

I'll see you next week.

With love,


Tune in

An Ecology of Intelligence
A collection emerging from a practice of contemplative/conversational reading alongside James Bridle's Ways of Being – with episodes added throughout this autumn.

New this week:
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Michael McCarthy

Listen on: Spotify

On Being Foundations
A special, short four-part series. Ways of seeing and living to meet the world ahead. More wisdom and practice than podcast. And, interactive …

Foundations 4: Calling and Wholeness

Listen on:
Apple | GoogleSpotify | Our Website

Poetry Unbound
Prayer for Werewolves
Stephanie Burt

Will you be loved well? Maybe. Hopefully. Stephanie Burt answers, “Probably.” A poem of precision and imagination, about creatures and wildness.

My Worries Have Worries
Laura Villareal

Some people say that if we lost our worries, we’d feel lost without them. Here, Laura Villareal observes and addresses her worries.

Listen on:
Apple | GoogleSpotify | Our Website

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