Not a blackhat. Not a whitehat.

A clearhat.

A clearhat is someone who realizes there is an endless war between blackhats and whitehats that has been going on for centuries, even millennia, perhaps since the dawn of civilization itself: For every whitehat that appears on the scene, there is a blackhat out there, who is or becomes an equal. They create each other; as one develops a new skill, the other learns how to oppose or overcome that skill, and vice-versa. It's like an arms race, where each battle is won by the side that develops the best new weapon.

A clear hat

So a clearhat is someone who sees this, and realizes: "No matter how good I am, no matter how bad I am, no matter how skilled I am, nor how poor I am; whether I succeed or whether I fail, I'm contributing to an endless war between two opposing forces, which existed before I was born, and will exist long after I'm gone."  A clearhat, then, aims at a different target than "one side or the other," and engages in a different game -- neither wholly white nor black. The color clear is a reference to staying out of that polarized game as much as possible; being invisible to it.

To those who play the whitehat and blackhat zero-sum game (pretty much everyone except children), the clearhat position is not looked upon kindly. At first glance, it appears to be a betrayal, or at the very least, suspicious because there is an implicit "if you're not for us, you're against us" embedded in the way people see the world. In kinder terms, the clearhat point of view is often seen as incompetent, or immature. The essential point being made here is that it is inferior, in one way or another.

However, think for a moment and you will see: these are all projected labels, not real. Reality itself is neither black nor white, but both and all between, all simultaneously. The projection happens because there is an implicit polarity embedded within our culture at all levels. There is little tolerance for people in the middle who can't make up their minds, especially when there's a war going on. So that's all they see in a clearhat -- someone who won't make up their mind, or someone who is a liability of some kind or another.

Recognizing this aspect of our culture, a clearhat should labor not to do those things which provoke such projections further. For this reason, clearhats aim to be morally and ethically ordinary; not saintly, nor demonly, because these draw attention, but ordinary. Blending in, invisible not by being extraordinary, but by being common.

The ideas behind radical honesty are relevant here, but in a... moderate, practical, non-polarizing, manner. But then again, not too non-polarizing. You should note, being passive-aggressive, or evasive, or somehow else seeming to be one thing while being another is only one of the challenges which the clearhat seeks to overcome. It take more energy to be two things at once; in the interest of simplicity, then, a kind of asceticism is developing. Thus there is an sincere appeal toward the plain elegance of personal integrity, which is implied by the clearhat label. This does not mean it is a whitehat position, which can take such asceticism to a noble extreme. Clearhats see that so-called whitehats often pretend or even fool themselves or others that they have such integrity, but it is a means to cover up their inner blackhat. Seeing this, the clearhat model seeks to go beyond self-delusive self-righteousness in a less polarized, less pretentious, way. Note that this is not an ideal born in a day; it takes years to achieve these goals, working slowly and steadily toward them while the vicissitudes of a normal life play through on their daily cycles. A clearhat path usually arises out of a lot of chaos which takes time to resolve.

Clearhats do not like so-called whitehats any more than they like blackhats. Giants throwing stones across valley with children walking through; illustration from C. S. Lewis story. Their heros can be found on either side. So of course, they like both, but carefully. You see, most of the day-to-day problems clearhats encounter come from whitehats who are self-righteous and thus unable to see their own character flaws and therefore project them on to other people, with clearhats being an easy target for such projection, for the reasons explained above. Thus, clearhats aim for a lifestyle which is resilient to such tactics, and wise to the whitehat flaws -- as well as the more obvious blackhat ones, which everyone knows.

Inwardly, a clearhat is one who invents a path forward which is somehow both and neither, together, simultaneously, choosing to do those things "against which there is no law," walking in that forbidden land between giants who throw stones at each other every day (see illustration). Their game is about things like structural clarity, simplicity, and elegance, not win vs. lose. Beauty, not victory, because beauty is the victory.

The logical flaw of identity has a long history

The age-old black-white struggle may seem structurally simple because it only has two elements, but upon analysis, it describes a very complex global game with many layers of redirection hiding an inherent logical weakness that, like the emperor's new clothes, no one dares admit. This hiding aspect is what makes its seeming simplicity so complicated. The logical weakness is formally known as the logical flaw of identity. Although it is first understood as a cultural assumption, most obvious in the West, it is actually biological. It is an artifact of a left-brain way of seeing things in a way that is not properly balanced with the right brain. Its history reaches all the way back into evolution's grand struggle for survival. The continual ascendance theme of evolution is commonly understood as "survival of the fittest" but this is, like so many things, a zero-sum way of seeing things. Evolution's grand journey through the eons is also an ascendance of a certain kind of concisely elegant resilience... even beauty. In other words, there are other ways of measuring evolution which are not zero-sum.

Instead of inventing the next great weapon, or its antidote, the clearhat is inventing ways to get by without weapons altogether, by replacing their need with other interesting things and ideas. Does this mean the clearhat is a pacifist? Not necessarily; there are times when the pacifist is the traitor, and the clearhat -- sometimes accused of such things by simply being neither here nor there, is especially sensitive to this point. Strangely, the underlying logic indicates that the clearhat aims to pursue happiness, as the Declaration of Independence succinctly put it long ago. In this vein, unlike a pure pacifist, weapons may be appropriate at times -- as they were when that document was written -- but if so, they are seen as ultimately temporary, not to be carried forever, but only until certain existential threats pass. For example, the right to bear arms is not a commandment to bear arms, it's just a right that should never be infringed not only because history shows what a mess we get into when it is infringed. In this way clearhats aim toward simplicity, not messes.

Note, the temporary aspect here is important -- black or white thinking likes to project things with an implied absolutivity, when reality itself has few absolutes, and carries plenty of flexibility; degrees of freedom. For example, think about how many people you know who prefer to carry weapons. Do any of them do so temporarily, or more likely, haven't they made life-long commitments to this belief system, such as seen in "you can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands"? Like cats with retractable claws -- there when you need 'em, otherwise not -- clearhats tend to think deeply about such things, and seek to understand when it is appropriate to make such a commitment, and when it is appropriate to let go, and seek to focus on the simple joys which are invisible to those who are always in Defense Mode. This seeming inconsistency may seem complicated to people who adhere to the absolutist version of simplicity, but in fact, it is a simpler way in practice.

Clearhat simplicity must be a liveable one, not fake or academic, idealistic, theoretical, or extreme. Those are all fragments of zero-sum pursuits, and we're talking about something more coherent, more holistic. However, this is not about going into the desert and living with nothing like a monk, in a vacuum adhering to a principle without practical challenges; this is about living in the midst of a polarized culture, blending in, being ordinary, joining the ordo ordinarium -- the order of the ordinary people -- being one with the common man, because here, in ordinariness, is where the idealistic extremes of black and white are most easily let go in favor of the simple and ordinary things which comprise the daily life of the simple and ordinary.

Pilgrim's progress

There is much to be said here, and the weblog for this site explores these and related non-binary ideas in an "out of the box" manner, circling around the notion that there exists a little-known terra incognita in plain sight, little seen because of the projective lenses of black and white which we all take for granted. Not everything here is non-binary, though; there is a fair sprinkling of perfectly ordinary musings, same as might be found on the weblog of any tech-oriented armchair philosopher. And there are also a few extraordinary things here, too, probably the most notable of these being the most popular page on this site for several years, the ever-growing post on the infinite sphere the center of which is everywhere.

Being a clearhat sound like your game? Have at it. Note that it takes years to transition out of the extremes, and you may often feel like you're failing. But keep at it. Be ordinary. Not defensively, not offensively, but intentionally, thoughtfully, competently, and simply. Not too simple, though. Avoid defining yourself within the zero-sum games when you can.

There is no initiation into the clearhat world, since that would make it one or the other. It's an idea you like or you don't, and if you like it, you do it, whether people notice or care or not. In the Wittgensteinien mode of being what you believe not talking about it, be clear.

And of course... have fun.


Rotating sphere made of hexagons








That being said, this is the website of a software developer, tech writer, and lover of philosophy, mathematics, technology, mostly stuff like Sagittarian INTJs might dig. The rest of you will probably find this all tedious, not charming, and you're probably right.