A Life on Fast-Forward


Aaron Swartz’s extraordinary life was lived at 8x fast-forward. In the course of little more than a decade, he packed in every stage in a “normal” person’s career. After some early explorations, he found success in his chosen field, only to realize that the good life was not the life for him. There followed a period of wandering, learning, experimenting, in which he did some things almost as afterthoughts, things that bore fruit when he wasn’t even looking. And then, after his years in the wilderness, Aaron found causes and commitment, a way into organizing and politics. Nothing in his successes or his failures was so unusual; he just did it all before most of us have done any of it.

The word I have seen again and again today to describe Aaron is “gentle.” If he was slightly maladapted to the world, he happened to be suited to the world as it ought to have been.

You should read this, and this, and this and this.


I am so sorry to learn of your friend’s death, James. He was clearly one of our society’s special creative geniuses; the powers that be are not good at dealing with such individuals. Here is another commentary of merit to add to your reading list.

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