The beautiful idea: Anarchism means many things to many people. Classical anarchism in Europe defined itself in relief to its three opponents: the church, state, and capital. In our historical estimation, we find that anarchism in America has been known in any given time much more through its associated struggles. Decades ago, it was synonymous with punk rock. Even before that, it bore the face of immigrants: Emma Goldman, Johann Most, Sacco and Vanzetti. Contemporary anarchism has been linked to the anti-globalization movement and more recently, Occupy. The picture gets even more complicated if we expand our gaze globally, especially when we include Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Does the same fire burn in all of these times and places? Is there something that persists beyond a shared name? To be direct: what is anarchism?The answer I now give to this question is that anarchism is the start to a conversation. As someone who loves that particular conversation, I use the word freely, contradictorily, and in public places. I continue to find the implications of words – words spoken out loud, not hidden behind word-processing software – to be bracing. The power of saying “I am for a Beautiful Idea called anarchism” out loud still makes me feel something –something akin to how I felt at a punk rock show (where my politics did originate), something not jaded.But that conversation quickly turns to something else. We may share a dream of a world without coercion-in-the-form-of-the-State or persuasion-in-the-form-of-Capitalism but it is likely we share little else. I am happy to keep it simple, to talk about the glorious history that ended in the Spanish Civil War, or about how doggone rotten this world is, with its politicians and captains of industry. But of course for many (most even), they want to turn the conversation somewhere else entirely. Their interest is an Anarchism as revolutionary ideology, and when they cut to the chase, they could not be more clear what the idea is all about for them: What is to be Done?This wholly other direction tends to lead to (or be) sets of men acting like pocket Lenins pretending to rigorously and honestly consider how they and theirs are going to Take Down the Whole Fucking System! (See https://itsgoingdown.org for many examples.) The delusional conversations about building movements and the logistics of such hold little interest to me.I am absolutely concerned with the implications of the idea in my daily life. I am also concerned with living out, with my body, these implications. Mostly, this has involved something unattractive to many people. For me, the daily life of anarchism is one of conflict, of taking responsibility for the people you disagree with by being in that disagreement (versus pretending it does not exist), by not suffering fools, by honoring my hostility, and by being willing to admit when I am wrong. As I have aged, the tenor of this changed – I am not as willing, for example, to scrap with people who are dumb online, and my living is more comfortable than most – but it is not particularly difficult to get me to shout. But at this point in my life I would almost always rather have a conversation.