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.

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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.

Guilt-free Consumerism

If Life is a simulation, a game-like environment developed for the amusement of a consciousness residing on the outside — and this is an artificially manifested world comprised of flickering pixels, a virtual-reality — then there truly is no consumption or waste-production going on here. Pollution isn’t real, it’s pixels — flora and fauna aren’t real, they’re pixels — people aren’t even real, they’re pixels.

Whew! That’s a load off my mind! What’s the alternative interpretation? That this is an actual physical world and everything I do imparts a net-negative impact on the planet? Under that perspective, if I truly loved the planet I’d bury myself alive to transform into compost as fast as I could — it’s a pretty anti-human outlook.

Side note: be careful of logic because it can lead to some really dark places. Just because something is logical, doesn’t make it right, it just makes it logical. Logical simply means there’s a clear path to a conclusion. In other words: just because a conclusion can be reached through reason, that doesn’t make it a good one.

But where was I? Ah yes, consumerism. In video-games for instance, I’m oftentimes a consumer. There’s no deeper spiritual meaning involved, that’d be weird, it’s just straight-up consuming — and ya know what, I’m entertained by it. Many games deal with an endless upgrade cycle. Gotta get that new sword, the new armor, the new manufacturing process — whatever it is, I have to keep upgrading. And what’s wrong with that? It’s just pixels anyway.

So what’s wrong with that in our own world? The obvious question is this: if constant-consuming and consumerism is bad, why does it exist and why does it occupy such a prominent place in society? Should I not participate in this process? Wouldn’t it be rude to deny such an obvious way to engage with this world? You’re telling me that I was born into a consumer-focused world in order to completely reject it? Why set it up like that then? Why have shops around every corner?

I think it’s pretty clear that the theme of this particular instance of Life is “consumerism”. Stores are our churches, the places we all regularly attend. Those that achieve-at-selling are society’s heroes — those are the names we all know. Henry Ford? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Jeff Bezos? Just to name a few. Those are who we reward with our highest praise as well as our dollars.

My point is this: we shouldn’t feel guilty over consumerism, it’s who we are as a civilization. But that’s not to say we should do it without grace or refinement — oh no. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. We shouldn’t sloppily clear-cut forests just to sell some lumber. We shouldn’t pour pollutants down drains and into waterways just to get rid of it. We shouldn’t be using the messiest fuel sources we can find. No, we should be seeking to refine and improve the way in which things are produced — always. We are consumers dammit, not savages! We need a constant upgrade cycle — and that means making things better — always.

A Happy Tedium

Dear Rich, what’s the biggest obstacle to the pursuit of happiness?

Well, the pursuit of happiness is not an external path, it’s an internal one that primarily deals with the cultivation of a positive attitude and the appreciation of life. So at its essence, the pursuit of happiness is the development of discipline — and developing discipline isn’t very “fun” or exciting. By its nature, the practice of discipline is a bit tedious.

So, I think the biggest obstacle on the path to happiness is boredom from the lack of excitement and the repetitiveness of the practice. The turbulence and terror you’ve been imagining begins to calm down and life literally becomes less exciting. Plus, it’s easy to forget the path you’re on — reminders don’t work for very long — eventually you become “nose-blind” to their presence.

So, the pursuit of happiness requires discipline and faith. You must be able to force yourself to continue a practice even though it’s not immediately enjoyable — all while believing that the effort will eventually pay off. AND, you must remember to keep pursuing this goal despite all the distractions that come your way.

The practice of happiness has to compete against your usual practice of freaking yourself out. One path is not very exciting whereas the other will have your heart pumping and your sweat surging. You’ll have to get comfortable with silence, with calm, with just being. No more scaring yourself in order to alleviate boredom: OH NO WHAT’S THAT NOISE!!! HOLY CRAP I’M GONNA DIE!!!!

You have to set a new normal. Can you simply sit there and enjoy right-now? If you want to be happy, that’s the ticket required for admission. Otherwise, you’ll start introducing anxiety-inducing fodder into the story. Think of it this way: you can engage in each moment from a perspective of apprehension and revulsion or amusement and appreciation — it’s your choice.

But as I said, the choice isn’t that easy. One option is the undisciplined approach, an exciting ride filled with fear that requires no effort at all — and the other option is the disciplined approach that requires an active practice of cultivating positivity and appreciation (which is more mundane by design). One option is hard due to the intensity involved — and the other option is hard because of the discipline involved — but either way, it’s your choice.

Success and Happiness

What I’m currently observing amongst successful people, is that success i.e. the achievement of a large life goal, doesn’t bring happiness along with it. Success simply checks a to-do item off your list. Whereas the only way to achieve happiness, is through a positive attitude and an appreciation of life — that’s it, there’s no other means to get there.

So if happiness is my goal (which it is), I must pour my time and energy into the development of a positive attitude and the cultivation of an appreciation for life. I must become a happiness farmer, planting the positive while weeding out the negative.

And I can sense this is correct because I’ve found myself in semi-successful positions in the past where I simply couldn’t enjoy the situation. And even now that I live in a nice place and have a nice family, I tend to see what’s wrong instead of what’s right. I see what’s missing instead of what’s here.

And this is easy to conceptualize too: does the mere winning of a game equate to happiness? If that were the case, we could cheat our way to victory and be forever happy. But that’s not the case. The people that get the most out of games have a great attitude and take pleasure in the process of playing. The “ends” are pointless, it’s all about the “means”.

But Rich, haven’t you come to this conclusion at least one-hundred times in the past? Um. Yeah. But I believe life handicaps us Harrison Bergeron style. In other words, I’ll forget this concept again and again. But the good news is that I’ll also “discover” it again and again. Does any accumulation ever take place? I honestly don’t know — I can’t remember.

To summarize: success is meaningless unless you have a positive attitude to appreciate it. And if you don’t have the attitude, then work on developing it or you’ll be sorely disappointed when success arrives — it’ll be a hollow victory. True success therefore, is the attainment of an appreciation for life (some would call this Enlightenment).