Miserable Mess

The bad news is: you are living in a miserable reality. But the good news is: you created this mess — and as its creator, you have the power to change it.

First: entering into existence is a tumultuous affair, no doubt — who could blame you for being a bit sensitive towards the spectacle of light and sound flashing before you. But that initial anxiousness made you imagine everything as potentially dangerous. You took life much too seriously and literally believed yourself to be a fragile creature struggling for survival. And since then, things have spiraled out of control to the point that you’re wracked with fear and you’re having an unpleasant time.

What you’ve got, is a negative attitude: no matter what life presents you, you twist it into something nefarious. This then frames you and life as opponents: life is trying to kill you, while you’re simply trying to survive. The way out of that hole is to surrender to life, to say:

Ya know what, Life? I understand that if you really wanted to kill me, you could’ve done it quite easily by now, but you haven’t. In fact, you’ve been sustaining me this entire time. I’m sorry for disparaging you every chance I could. I realize that the horrible things I’ve experienced were due to my confusion and pessimism. After considering things, I want to live happily, I want the best of what you have to offer, I don’t want to think of you as my enemy, but as my provider. Thank you Life for what I’ve been provided, and I will strive everyday to consume these gifts with appreciation.

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Scary School

When I was a kid in school, we were told to be afraid of drugs and drug dealers. It seems like every generation is provided with something specific to be scared of — some boogeyman that will steal your life away. I remember seeing the old “Duck and Cover” films of the 1950s that were about nuclear attacks for instance. And before that I believe there was polio and other childhood diseases. I think my mother was most afraid of abductions by strangers. Then there were political and philosophical ideologies out to get you. Heck, you could even get drafted by your own government and sent off to die in war.

But what’s the point? If there’s a constant reoccurring narrative, it’s an obvious sign of an artificial reality. How can EVERY generation get some unique form of fear? That’s ridiculous — it’s a conspicuous pattern. And what’s even more ridiculous, is the helplessness that surrounds the source of fear. Surely SOMETHING could be done?! “Nah, it’s just the way things are….” Or at least when I was in school, you could try saying “No!” to drugs, but they didn’t always listen.

So we all grow up with a boogyman that can’t be stopped — and the details change in order to mask the repetition. Oops! Spoiler Alert! My bad.

But you know what? It’s probably not Life’s fault. Life is not a torture-chamber designed to scare little children — it’s a fun-factory that makes dreams come true. So the society-wide boogymen we experience, are likely due to mass-hysteria brought about by all the pessimists among us. (Being a former pessimist, I would like to apologize for my contribution to any mass-hysteria I was a part of.)

And the reason nothing can ever be done to stop the source of fear, is because the boogyman isn’t real. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” It is literally FEAR that must be stopped — that’s the only way to end the cycle.

Having been a child when Freddy Krueger came to prominence, and subsequently scared shitless by those movies, I don’t find the concept of battling the demons-of-our-dreams too absurd. And like in Freddy’s world, our nightmares can kill us.

In summation: to end the nightmare, stop being afraid.

Challenge Accepted

Do you have a problem? Is it a problem that you don’t prefer to have? Stop focusing on it, don’t think about it. The problem dissolves. A new problem floats in and replaces it. Rinse and repeat until you find a problem you prefer, one whose solution interests you. Dedicate your time to solving it.

Because life is a virtual environment comprised of flickering pixels, what you do here ultimately doesn’t matter — this also means that problems don’t matter either — so you’re free to pick and choose amongst the bunch you’re presented with. Being the particular person you are, you’re provided with a range of problems that fit your specific character.

For example, I’m a suburban-dwelling American male at about mid-life. In this role, I have certain career issues I can wrestle with, family relationships from a husband/father persective, existential crises, my fitness and appearance, political/profession sports-team stuff, finding just the right movie to watch on Netflix, whether to play video-games, and seeking out delicious foods as part of a culinary adventure.

Previously, I was under the assumption that I had to acknowledge EVERY problem that presented itself — even those that weren’t mine. “Is there a problem somewhere in the world? Then I can’t relax until it’s solved!” That was dumb and it’s a great way to create a miserable experience for yourself.

But it turns out that not only shouldn’t you acknowledge every problem in the world, but you shouldn’t even acknowledge all of your own problems. You get to pick and choose. And yes, you still want “problems” — what else are you gonna do with your time? But if you’re doing it right, they’re not really problems in the painful sense, they’re challenges and obstacles for you to overcome simply for the fun of it.

In summation: accept the challenges you prefer, decline the challenges you don’t. So when a non-desirable problem shows up in the queue, repeat after me: “This is not a problem I choose to focus on. Next!”

Spiritual Means

Spirituality is not an end but a means. The point of Monopoly isn’t sitting there trying to become one with its creator — the point is to play the game. You show respect and appreciation to any creator by engaging appropriately and attentively with his or her creation.

Spirituality comes in when you’re reluctant to engage, perhaps intimidated and a bit scared — when you’re not having a good time. Spirituality is a way to ease you into the experience of existence.

“Hey there, this is the creator, it’s actually a really fun game, don’t worry, everything will be okay.” And from there, the hesitant participant starts to feel as an invited guest and a part of something pleasant.

So if you’re taking the spirituality approach, it’s just that, an approach — it’s a path to ease your way into life. It’s like the shallow-end of a pool — eventually you have to dunk your head and swim through the deep end. Spiritually is a start, not a destination.

Out of Sync

When you play a video-game, you’re primarily trying to synchronize with the action of the game. Take Donkey Kong for example: barrels are being rolled at your character by a giant gorilla. You must time the controls just-right in order to leap over these barrels. If you’re in sync, you’re successful — but if you’re out of alignment, oopsie, you’re going to have a bad time.

This is similar to the game of Life. If you’re out of alignment, you’re screwed. It’s easy to tell if you’re misaligned: you’re distracted, unfocused on what’s in front of you; you’re apprehensive, too worried about how you’re doing or what’s about to happen; you’re frustrated, things just aren’t working out. Whereas if you’re in sync, you’ll be breezing through the obstacles like they’re not even there.

To do well in a game, you have to remain focused on the task at hand, dealing with right-now. If you’re looking backwards or too far into the future, you’re dead-meat. If mistakes happen, deal with them and let ’em go — stay on track. You need to keep moving forward no matter what. And relax, if you’re too tense it’ll throw off your flow.

Don’t rush things and don’t worry about the route you take, every path ends the same: Game Over. Get comfortable and settle in for the long-haul. Life only seems hard when you’re freaking-out over the mundane — otherwise it’s pretty easy. Life wants you to win, and you will, when you get in sync.

Attacked by Life

Dear Rich, will life come after me, perhaps even outright attack me?

Oh of course, yes, definitely. But in those instances, life is doing your bidding — you are the one orchestrating the hit.

If you’re afraid of life, your wish will be granted. Insects, animals, diseases, injuries, verbal assaults, physical violence — they’ll be coming for you, no doubt. On the brighter side, it shows how good you are at manifesting your wishes into the world — nice job!

If you don’t want to keep attacking yourself, that’s an option too — and that starts by stopping yourself from being afraid. If you’re full of fear, it obviously takes a leap of faith and some commitment in order to let your guard down.

But really, it doesn’t take much of a leap. If life really wanted to get you, you’d be dead already. Obviously life is a benevolent caretaker or you’d be squashed a thousand times over by now.

And because of all the silly/stupid stuff that’s happened in your life, you can easily establish that this is a self-directed drama. No external being is going to take credit for a narrative this ridiculous. In your confused state, you did all this to yourself.

Every bad thing that happens to you should be like an alarm-clock waking you up to the fact that you’re asleep at the wheel. Did something unpleasant occur? Oops. Snap out of it, you were being pessimistic/disparaging/anxious/suspicious again, weren’t you?

Life is very responsive, it’ll do what you ask. Think something is dangerous? Oh, it is. Think something will work out poorly? Oh, it will. But luckily, life is looking out for you and tries to prevent your worst wishes from happening. Your persistence will eventually pay off though — so if you really want things to get nasty, just keep at it.

In summation: if you enjoy being attacked, life will accommodate you. Whereas if you don’t want to be attacked, don’t wish for it. The way in which you wish for it, is through your thoughts and attitude. Through practice and focus, you can change your thoughts and attitude to whatever delivers the life that suits you best.

Hard to be Happy Club

No offense, but I’ve been a card-carrying member for several decades and I want out. I’ve done the negativity-thing to death — I’m over it. I’m done with the constant revulsion, resistance, outrage, struggle, fear, and paranoia. I will no longer believe that Life is a torture-chamber hell-bent on my destruction.

Life is a paradise designed for my amusement — that’s it. Life is easy — end of sentence. The content of Life is a pleasure to behold — done. Delusion? You wanna go, bro!? I’ll positively smash you, son! No, the delusion was when I believed life was a danger-filled hellhole when it clearly wasn’t. My continued existence is proof of that — the only turmoil I suffered was self-inflicted by my pessimism.

This morning I walked my little boy to a school just minutes away. Then I continued walking alongside my best-friend on a pleasant little jaunt around town. Over the weekend she performed as part of a chorus that I watched from our balcony — she was in the little park across the way. And as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance, a breeze blew by and Old Glory began flying high in the sky, waving proudly in the wind — it was a moment so touching that the woman next to her had tears in her eyes.

It’s so easy to destroy, to rip apart and criticize until nothing but dust remains. Eventually the unpleasantness accumulates and you’re left as a shriveled bitter shell with a pucker held so long it finally stuck. But as every Christmas movie tells us, it’s never too late. You haven’t missed it! There’s still time! With cheer in your heart and a giving spirit, you too can join-in the festivities of Life.