January 17, 2021

That House in Vermont.

A house and family in Vermont, writing a book a year, no staff, no responsibilities.

Sometimes I wonder.

Elephant’s 18 years in. Does it matter, anymore? Is there a genuine, urgent need for a daily reference point for sanity, community, hard conversations? And are we able to better fill that need, with each passing year? Yes, we have had some success, and what’s more we’ve stuck with our integrity, and learned as we went. But have we ever come close to our goal, consistently? Does anyone, in this Qanon/Facebook Group/Parler/whatever world, care about indie media, mindful community?

If you bother to subscribe to and read this newsletter, you’re probably thinking “oh hellll yes.” But why are there only a million or 30 million Elephant readers, a month? Why have we failed to become a first-tier reference point?

Some of that falls on me, certainly. I’ve declined investment, so we’ve grown steadily, not quickly. Without money, we can’t react as nimbly as we’d like to opportunities or challenges. Further, 2020 and thereabouts is a brutal period for media—the fact that we grew 4% last year makes us a muddied unicorn, struggling through the destruction and division that Zuckerberg and Friends have wrought.

When things seem stable and healthy at Elephant—like, last week—I think, maybe we can do it this year. Maybe we can build something that can help inspire billions of folks to tackle climate change, meditate a little every morning, care about, say, anti-racism education, or voting rights. Together, we could do it!

But, then, someone key at Elephant, as happened just four hours ago, tells me they’re leaving. She’s wonderful, been with us for 5 years, she doesn’t owe us anything, she’s got a lot of love and kind words for our dear team and her time here. But how to replace such a key leader, and servant, to the mission and to our readers? We’re so small, we can’t afford to hire and get it wrong. We can’t. It’d break us.

I’ll write more about this dear colleague, as the time comes closer—she’s been the heart of Elephant.

And so, on days like today, I visualize…well, retiring, taking myself out of this arena, and moving back to Vermont, to a little farm, to write a book a year and rescue animals and raise a family. That sounds pretty good.

There’s no point to this, beyond letting you know that Elephant is a living thing, and when you subscribe, you keep that thing possible. Let us take nothing for granted.

Please write on Elephant. Please share us. Please invite your friends and family to subscribe to this newsletter, which offers our best inspiring articles, every day, and helps us stay alive and independent from Facebook. We’re only here as long as folks want us here, and “folks” includes our own dear staff.

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