The Impermanence, Karma, and Bad Behavior of Why The Lucky Stiff

Well, looks like Jonathan aka _why erased everything he’d worked on with absolutely no notice. My first reaction was that he got hurt or was in trouble, so I contacted a couple folks who might know him and asked. Nobody knew.

Then it became clear he just jettisoned all that was his online _why persona in one quick move. He got rid of hacketyhack, his call to help kids code. He got rid of Shoes, his call to make Ruby more fun to code with. He got rid of his books, and his art and everything he’d built.

Rock. What a way to go out like a fucking punk rock star. Good on ya my man. I am totally into destroying the parts of your life that cause you suffering, and killing your self (notice that’s your SPACE self) once in a while is a great thing. This represents the impermanence of life and how your only way to reduce your suffering is many times to destroy who you think you are.

However, contrary to certain uninformed opinions this is not even remotely Buddhist. Buddhists early on figured out that believing only in the impermanence of life leads to callous and indifferent behavior toward others. Without an understanding of how your actions cause suffering in others the belief that nothing is permanent and real gives you free license to kill, rape, and destroy the world.

A belief in only impermanence and illusion is Nihilist, not Buddhist.

This is why the belief in an impermanent life is balanced by a belief in Karma. Karma is commonly thought of as a kind of cosmic score, but it’s not. A better description is that it’s an understanding of your connection to the world and the impact of your action on those connections.

As you move through the world your actions cause or reduce suffering, and many times you can’t control which result you’ll get. If you live a life where you cause everyone around you nothing but suffering, you’ll eventually get it back on you.

Ironically, if you live a life where you do nothing but reduce everyone’s suffering, you’ll also live a fairly horrible life full of your own misery. The important thing is that Buddhism balances between reducing your own suffering and that of other people, while still understanding that none of this is really permanent or that important so you avoid attachment (but not too much).

It’s this balance that’s important, and hopefully Jonathan will find balance. I think maybe he was spending too much time easing other people’s suffering and not enough time on his own.


However, it is possible to admire and respect a man while still completely hating his actions and behavior. I find that it’s important to separate the two when you know the man is probably a good person, but currently he’s being a dick.

Taking all of your code offline, and erasing your whole persona without so much as a warning or helping people take over projects they spent years investing in is a dickhead thing to do. That’s a rough thing to say, but I feel very strongly about this, because while I respect the attitude of impermanence, I have no respect for someone who has such a complete disregard for other people’s investments and feelings.

Even when I destroyed every connection I could with the Ruby community, I still made sure that all my code and projects were taken care of or continued to exist online. Even though I hated everything that my projects stood for, and saw them as nothing but an albatross around my neck, I understood that to contributors and users they were more important. Erasing them without warning would have been a horrible thing to do.

Obviously it’s not all that bad a thing for Jonathan to delete everything, as the code will most likely continue, thanks to distributed version control. What is bad though is that he did it so quickly and violently, without any warning to people who loved him and cared about him.

To me, that’s fucked up, and something only an obnoxious Nihilist would do. A Nihilist who was just jerking people around and playing a long con on everyone.


Johnathan, I truly hope you’re doing alright, but that was a dickhead thing to do.