Ezra Butler is Editor-at-Large at The Kernel. He lives in West Hollywood, CA and is a one-trick pony. His essays are generally trite and formulaic.
I will never forget a brief Twitter exchange I witnessed a few years ago between Basheera Khan, a former writer for the Telegraph and Milo Yiannopoulos, my current Editor-in-Chief at The Kernel. In a tweet, Ms Khan mentioned the word ‘liminal’. Piqued by the meaning, I immediately initiated the Google search that ultimately redefined my self-description.
In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in “The Souls of Black Folk” about his ‘double consciousness’; how he handled being both black and American, in a time where the former was not truly accepted by the latter. Mr Du Bois championed using both parts of himself equally, unwavering, unafraid, unhiding. Both identities were inextricably intertwined, but together created a literary masterpiece which accurately foretold the next century of American history.
‘Liminality’ was initially described a half-century later, by Arnold van Gennep, as an anthropological construct aimed to describe the in-between stages in time, in place, in people, and in culture. Terms that cannot be accurately depicted by one term or another, because in reality they take aspects of both. Twilight is neither day nor night. The beach is neither land nor sea. They comprise an existential Venn diagram.
Growing up in a religious Jewish home, I knew a lot about twilight. According the 3rd century “Ethic of the Fathers”, God created ten things during twilight on that first Friday to complete his creation of the world. Included were things like the manna, the food the Israelites ate on their exodus from Egypt to Israel, and the rainbow, the signifier of the end of a storm and beginning of sunshine. I would even know the exact time of twilight, because every Friday, our lives would change over from the insanity of the week to the serenity of the Sabbath, in a transition from the profane to the sacred.
I came to see the brilliance and the beauty in the intersection. It meant the mastering of multiple domains, but melding them together at the midpoint. During a bachelor’s degree in computer science, I became infatuated with sociology and psychology; while in a graduate program in history of religion, I became obsessed with narratology and linguistics. During that period, my heroes ranged from Ecclesiastes to Benedict de Spinoza, Emile Durkheim to Mordechai Kaplan. I was drawn to them, yet lacked the vocabulary to explain why. I identified with their desires to syncretise their life experiences with their belief systems and their knowledge bases.
Just as I left the synagogue and the seminary, I chose to depart the ‘Silicon Wadi’ of Tel Aviv and move to Los Angeles, where, in all their attempts to popularise the name ‘Silicon Beach’, I have been mostly successful in keeping out of the scene.
Technology for the sake of technology does not interest me at all. Hype is lost on me. I only recently upgraded my 4 year old iPhone 3Gs. (It refused to continue working.) I’ve never actually read an ebook, because I like holding paper in my hand and being surrounded by books in my home. I am bearish towards the view that the future of education will occur in the cloud or that teaching everyone to code will produce anything more than a generation of manual laborers whose job it is to perform high level data-entry. I believe ‘domain expertise’ is a more worthwhile banner to carry than ‘disruption for the sake of disruption’. I like talking to waiters and strike up conversations with complete strangers on the street or in the cafe. I don’t use any online or mobile dating platform.
With the relaunch of The Kernel, I plan to continue being liminal.
As Ecclesiastes famously wrote, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ When trying to make sense of the new-fangled ‘sharing economy’, for instance, I will analyse the history of apartment buildings in New York. To better understand the trend of ‘hate-reading’, I will learn a bit more about the psychology behind enjoying horror movies and BDSM. I will approach Bitcoin the same way I studied eschatology in medieval religion and find clarity about 3D printing in research about the original Industrial Revolution.
The essays I write are my personal travelogue for my intellectual circumnavigation of issues in the technology world and on the internet. They are the transcriptions of the thoughts that traverse my head when I read another columnist, journalist, or pundit.
I hope they are interesting.