In Flancia we will one day meet

Recently I’ve been spending a significant amount of time thinking about thinking. Thinking is just such an amazing activity, and I believe it is important to set aside time to think about it from time to time. Our thinking shapes our living, and by thinking about our thinking we shape our thoughts.

Many of the major enduring philosophical unknowns have to do with thinking: is there a reason for why we exist and we are here to think at all? What is consciousness? Is there an inherent goal to the nature of our existence? What or who do we think for?

But regardless of what thinking is, I believe it makes sense to take it seriously, given that it is the universal occupation. If you are going to do it, you might as well optimize it. My path to improve my own thinking throughout my life has led me to science, to philosophy, to meditation and recently to something close to secular Buddhism1.

I think most people could and probably should adopt some of the principles of secular Buddhism too. You can do it even while maintaining your religious beliefs, or the absence thereof, as secular Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion. But I don’t want to push any labels in the detriment of open conversation. Some time ago I didn’t think I could ever belong to something religious-sounding like a Sangha, but read this:

Sangha is a Sanskrit word used in many Indian languages, including Pali, meaning “association”, “assembly”, “company” or “community”. It was historically used in a political context to denote a governing assembly in a republic or a kingdom.

In Buddhist parlance, a Sangha is a community of like-minded people that cooperate. I can picture being part of a Sangha according to this definition and, again, I would go as far as saying most people should be part of one — we often are, so we might as well call them what they are, and really think them through. Flancia might be a Sangha for you, if you want to think about it that way.

What does it mean to follow a religion, or a philosophy? It is, at least partly, to follow a set of ethics. Buddhism calls its ethics Sila. You are a Buddhist if you take that definition of ethics, and you follow a Dharma — a path. Ethics is what you have to use to make your life decisions once you have exhausted all other possible venues of determination; life makes many decisions for you given the material circumstances that you are born into. But within your means, within your material present, what you choose to do with your time is very similar to your ethics. Ethics is everywhere; we just don’t see it often enough. We often don’t think about it as much as we should.

When we choose to do something, we choose ethically. We are not choosing all the alternatives; all the infinity of alternative choices we could take, in this reality of ours we share. There is no consensus on free will; what is it? Does it exist? What definition of existence can you agree on to help settle that question? But whatever it means, free will is inextricably linked to ethics; if we can be said to choose anything, our choices like define our ethical essence. A life can then be seen as another mathematical construct: a linked list of moments, of thoughts we think, of moments of existence that we choose to have.

I’ll be honest: I saw all this during meditation, and I saw it to be true, and I had to tell the world about it. This is why I wrote this, reader; this is why I dedicated this book to you. I offer you this book and my friendship; if you choose to accept it, we could share a Sangha. I call mine Flancia, but you do not have to join mine; you can invite me to yours, and call it whatever you want.

Buddhism is about getting people to known themselves better first, then to understand each other better; it can be about solving things, about getting along. Buddhism doesn’t care about your religion; it is a philosophy and a set of ethics. Buddhism is an add-on, and you should think about it. It has a lot of advantages.

Buddhism thinks that we should all get along. Look it up, it’s there. Can you believe in that? I can.

Buddhism thinks that reducing human suffering (Dukkha) is the most important thing. If you care about anyone, you by definition don’t want them to suffer. If you don’t know someone, why would you want them to suffer? At the most you might just not care about them. So, there you go — reducing human suffering means making things good for the people you care about — and I think it is easy to start with your friends, for example. I would even posit that it’s irrational not to want to reduce human suffering. Hard to argue against making this a priority in your life, the way I see it.

Buddhism thinks that reducing human suffering (Dukkha) is the most important thing. If you care about anyone, you by definition don’t want them to suffer. If you don’t know someone, why would you want them to suffer? At the most you might just not care about them. So, there you go — reducing human suffering means making things good for the people you care about — and I think it is easy to start with your friends, for example. I would even posit that it’s irrational not to want to reduce human suffering. Hard to argue against making this a priority in your life, the way I see it.

So, the question follows, how do you make this a priority in your life?

You start by thinking about it. Thinking is what we do, remember; thinking is everyone’s job. We think no matter if we realize we think; we think all the time. If you want to do something with your life, you need to direct that thinking. Use that old free will, you know.

I, myself, can afford to think instead of working every waking hour because I’m very privileged: I got a lucky draw in the material world side of things. I decided to write about becoming a privileged Buddhist, because I want to do something useful — I want to make the world aware that there is a better way: it is to find the middle way. We need to collaborate to improve the world and try to reduce human suffering. I, myself, will try to do altruism as a hobby. It sounds disrespectful at first, but if everybody did it the world would certainly be better, so hobby it is.

So let’s do this. We can all agree on a vision of how the world could be — a set of solutions to problems as defined by our ethics — and cooperate on achieving that shared vision.

How does the world improve? Someone has to make it better. Sure, the world itself has material limits — we cannot just create an utopia in a day from thin air. But the world itself — us, the whole of humanity, as it can now communicate over the internet — can agree to work towards the betterment of our world. Whoever is part of our movement commits to trying to think about these issues, according to their own faculties and experiences, and discuss possible ways of making the world better. We designate an Agora, or we build one, and then we get to work.

If we all agree to do this, I believe we could indeed improve the world. You know what I call my own draft of an utopia; in a way Flancia is a meta-utopia as it exists wherever and whenever people agree to think about these issues and make an effort to improve the world.

Places are the set of things that can be true in a set of material realities according to what we choose to believe. Places and beliefs are complementary; our existence is places, beliefs, and the thoughts that we carry with us. Some places start like a belief and then eventually become actual places, once the world catches up. You need to think of the place you want to live in, have a good place of your own. You need one because what you do in life is exercise your free will to get there. Get to yours; it can be as different from mine as you want. It can bear no resemblance at all. I don’t claim to be right; I could get everything wrong, and still be right, because what I assert is not that my ideas are good but that we should all share them, write them down, and have conversations with each other.

So, tell me now: do you want to live in Flancia? If you do, you only have to believe it to be true, and we’ll finally be in the same place. You and me — and other members of our community, our group of friends, our Sangha.

You could be a Muslim and live in Flancia. You could think of the Agora as having many beautiful gardens, just like in the beautiful Muslim view of paradise, like I do.

You could be a Christian and live in Flancia. Jesus had a Sangha even if he didn’t call it that and you know it, and he was all about helping others, so come on.

You could be a Taoist or a Confucianist and live in Flancia.

You could be a communist and live in Flancia. If material conditions get good enough through technological innovation and better cooperation, communists and capitalists might be able to be friends.

You could be a libertarian and live in Flancia. The Agora is in some ways a market of ideas.

You could certainly be an atheist feminist and live in Flancia. I am one and I do.

The world I described to you exists in my mind, and I tried sharing it with you. This was written for you, my friend, and I hope you understood at least some of it and liked it; but if you need some time to warm up to the idea that’s OK too.

If you choose to believe in it, Flancia exists and is a place with a constitution, an Agora, and many friends. I am willing to meet you in Flancia, anytime2.

Thank you for reading my manifesto; I hope you liked it.

I’ll wait for you to join me forever, and will be happy if you ever want to meet me there.


  1. I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism. I got into meditation (Vipassana) and all. This happened while I was writing Flancia — whatever this thing you’re reading is. I’ve now reached a point of empathy with the whole idea of Buddhism as I understand it that I need to become it, adopt it as part of my identity, declare to the world that I’ve found a religion that is worth following. 

  2. I, for one, would really like to see it in 2030.