This is an opinion editorial by Tomer Strolight, editor-in-chief of Swan Bitcoin and author of “Why Bitcoin.”
I dropped into a Twitter Spaces the other afternoon focused on Bitcoin. In it were at least a dozen grown men talking about how much they loved, appreciated and admired everything about Bitcoin. Over a hundred others were listening in. The speakers compared Bitcoin to the greatest discoveries and inventions in all history — some even saying it was clearly the greatest. Their gratitude for being alive at this time in history was something they took the time to explicitly express. I wasn’t able to jump into the conversation, but if I had joined in I would have shared similar sentiments. There was tremendous respect and brotherhood in the discussion. And, although there weren’t any women speaking there today while I listened in, I’ve been with that group on other days and it is welcoming to women as well. It is a room of welcoming love for people who love Bitcoin. Ironically, it is called the “Toxic Happy Hour.” But it is anything but toxic.
Later, in the early evening, I spent time with one of my kids who just completed a math degree and wanted to share their love of math with me. We went through a textbook that was very advanced. (Please forgive this next terminology-heavy sentence): The final exercise we completed was a proof of a one-to-one reversible relationship (known as a bijective function) between all possible polynomials with integer coefficients and all the positive rational numbers – a proof that involved using exponents of prime numbers to translate between one and the other. I’ve neither the skill nor the time to explain what exactly all that means, but when I finally understood this relationship, I was brought to my knees. This equivalence between two seemingly very different things hit me very deeply. I realized that what I saw was not only a timeless relationship but an eternal one. Whether the universe existed as it is now or in some different configuration, this relationship would still always hold true. It exists even if the physical universe itself doesn’t. It exists outside of time and space. So do all mathematical relationships, I realized. They are all eternal — the universe exists in them, not the other way around. And everything that exists in space and time cannot violate the truth of these relationships.
I point out this latter, mathematical experience because it was a metaphysically pure distillation of what the people in the Twitter Spaces were themselves trying to express. There are truths so deep that they transcend everything. They transcend each of us, all of humanity, and even space and time — and they happen to be beautiful.
This love of beautiful, timeless truth is what had everyone in the Twitter Spaces discussion on Bitcoin so excited. They see in various facets and aspects of Bitcoin some deep truths so beautiful that they are roused to some kind of spiritual ecstasy — they treasure Bitcoin. They treasure it not just because it produces a potentially vast monetary treasure, although it does. They treasure the beauty of its design – how it utilizes the nature of mathematical truths, of fundamental human desires and needs, of physical realities of matter and energy and of numerous other delightful, elegant and beautiful truths.
Until that moment, I didn’t appreciate or understand the beauty of the mathematical proof I was shown. But once seen, understood, and appreciated it was impossible to unsee and to not have some sense of reverence for it — at least it was for me.
And so it is for many people once they begin to study, understand and appreciate Bitcoin. To outsiders who hear these expressions of reverence, there are some who may be intrigued to study it for themselves. But others react with concern, thinking Bitcoin’s admirers to be insane, fanatical, cultlike and zealous. If they ask questions about Bitcoin to these admirers — Bitcoiners — the Bitcoiners will usually bend over backwards trying to explain what it is they see. However, if these outsiders dismiss Bitcoin, or worse, declare that they do understand it and consider it foolish, ugly or false, they are, today at least, likely to evoke an angry backlash from Bitcoiners.
Bitcoiners are trying to share with the world a big, beautiful truth that actually consists of many smaller, beautiful truths. Bitcoin is this truth verification and truth-generating process spanning many realms of truth — the mathematical, the human, the economic and many more. Emotionally, Bitcoiners are delighted when they succeed in sharing this with others, and they’re often deeply disappointed when they fail. And, again today, they’re angered when others go about trying to do the opposite, which is to suggest that Bitcoin isn’t deeply and uniquely connected to the beautiful truths it reveals. Many Bitcoiners may have first heard of and been drawn to Bitcoin through claims that it was a “get-rich-quick” scheme, but they have since dismissed this frantic and superficial goal and replaced it with a deeper goal of “fixing the world” and sharing truth and beauty.
This transformation from anxious money-lusters to whatever it is they’ve become, or are in the process of becoming, does not happen overnight, nor does it happen to everyone. Some people pass by and miss Bitcoin’s messages of truth the first or second time they hear about it. Some explore and encounter something that scares them and drives them to fearfulness where they not only flee Bitcoin but loudly warn others away with panicked fervor. Others reject its truths and see opportunities to in fact get rich quickly, typically at the expense of other newcomers, and most often by creating knock-offs of Bitcoin that don’t share its truths. These people seem well aware of this and cover up those deficiencies with lies about these imitations, false and exaggerated claims about themselves, lies about Bitcoin, or lies about the Bitcoiners. Sometimes the mistakes are innocent, driven by a misunderstanding of why Bitcoin is designed as it is. Either way, over 20,000 imitators of Bitcoin are now in operation, and about as many have come and gone, many leaving victims in their wake.
Not surprisingly, all these things tend to evoke not only criticism from, but also often anger among many Bitcoiners, since they are drawn to honesty and fairness, and these imitators lack the truth and fairness of Bitcoin. This angry reaction has been labeled as “toxic” behavior of Bitcoiners. Their commitment to Bitcoin as a truth, and their efforts to point out the inadequacies and needlessness of imitators have slapped them with a pejorative slur: “Bitcoin Maximalist” — a term implying that they only care about their project and are unfairly closed-minded and dismissive of others. Instead of rejecting these terms outright, many Bitcoiners have embraced them and transformed them into “badges of honor” in a sarcastic, ironic twist intended to demonstrate that name-calling and insults do nothing to alter the actual truth.
However, all this has led to a lot of confusion, especially for outside observers and newcomers. While it has helped some people differentiate between Bitcoin and its imitators, it has also scared off others. It is used as ammunition against Bitcoin by its most dishonest enemies. And it is also frightening to the most sensitive and fragile newcomers — individuals who desperately need real truths that will make them stronger through the knowledge that there are beautiful, incorruptible, inviolable truths that nobody can harm.
But this article is not for the newcomers. It is for the Bitcoiners. What I want to point out is that this hurts us — not Bitcoin — Bitcoiners. I’m not talking about our reputation as viewed by others. I’m not talking about any financial cost we may have incurred. I’m talking about the fact that it has taken away time from our lives that we would otherwise have spent in love, appreciation, admiration, friendship, productive endeavors and other activities that are spiritually far more satisfying than the deeply unsatisfying experience of arguing with people who have intentionally rejected the truth.
When Bitcoin ultimately succeeds and needs no longer be explained or defended as much as today, this “toxicity” will evaporate (in much the same way as nobody today needs to defend the utility of the internet or smartphones, although it needed defense when there were many people claiming these were useless, slow, and expensive).
But for now, having pointed out that explanations and defense are still required, I want to suggest that I believe we can take a different tack than the one many of us find ourselves on — because it is in our individual interest to do so.
That path is one of simply not succumbing to the temptation to anger when the truth and beauty of Bitcoin is denied by others. Truth, as I’ve said, transcends all. Lies eventually wither in a battle not just with the reality of the universe, but with the eternal and inviolable truths that are deeper than even existence itself. If you believe in, or better yet understand the truths that Bitcoin is built upon and operates under, you will realize you need not get angry — even if you are hearing someone who is a very skillful liar and knows they are lying telling horrible lies to hurt others. Rather than get angry, you can maintain your calm, knowing that you yourself need not succumb to the lies, and that you can maintain your calm by offering to speak calmly to listeners in a separate location or time.
This path of refusing to engage in negative emotional debates is far more rewarding. Spending time with interested learners rather than incurious charlatans provides the opportunity to spend time discussing truth, beauty and love instead of wasting time countering irrational or deceitful ugliness that stirs up anger and hatred in you. In such settings, one can take their time and be fully honest, even to the point of admitting what it is that we don’t know, don’t understand and cannot explain.
Bitcoiners are lovers of truth, and also of fairness, justice and honesty — and while I’m telling the unvarnished truth we’re also lovers of success, of friendship and of love itself. And we’re also human. So we’re capable of taking action that doesn’t get us what we love. We need to be aware that we have a choice and be aware of which actions will put us on the path that is not the best one for us. Our enemies want us on that wrong path. It is where they enjoy the home field advantage. But we needn’t meet them there ever. And we needn’t give them free rein in our home field either — the field of truth-telling. To the extent that we do entertain them in our space and on our time they must not be permitted to either draw us away from truth-telling or to draw us towards anger — for that takes us away from truth and love and into anger and hatred.
One truth Bitcoin shows us is that we are sovereign — not just over our monetary wealth, but also over our emotions; not just over where we spend our money, but also over where and how we spend our time. So spend it wisely, with those you love and who you may come to love what you love, and with those who can teach you. Don’t waste your time with those who want to argue for the sake of argument, or worse, for the sake of wasting your precious time and using your presence to mislead others. Take the high road. Point out truths. Caution others of falsehoods when you must. But don’t sink to the low vibrational energy of your opponents. Be a role model even for them. In the final analysis, it may be the only way to get them to see the light of the truth.
This is a guest post by Tomer Strolight, editor-in-chief of Swan Bitcoin and author of “Why Bitcoin.” Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.