Problems Problem

The funny thing about solving a problem is that it simply creates space for a new problem. The concept of “problems” never goes away by resolving actual problems – fixing one just invites another to take its place. So in that sense, there’s no rush to solve the current problem.

The same thing can be seen with goals or projects. I’ve rushed through projects only to find myself waiting for the next one to begin. Why did I bother rushing!? If I had taken my time, I would’ve strained less and enjoyed more. Rushing in this world is not a logical approach.

Rushing just gets you to the end quicker. In the case of life, that’s death. If you’re playing a game for enjoyment, why would you speed through it? Slowing down and savoring the sensations associated with gameplay seems the better strategy.

Problems aren’t circumstances that require solving. “Problem” is a label you apply to a particular state of affairs. Without the label, those specific conditions are meaningless. With the label, you’re suddenly called to action, having sufficient reason to engage with the world.

Bored? Now you’re not. That procession of problems is a cure for boredom. But are problems what you prefer to be preoccupied with? If not, you may want to move your focus away from the concept of problems. A hurdle on your path only becomes a hurdle when you define it as such. If you don’t want to jump it, just go around.

Lights Camera

“It’s Friday the 13th!!! There’s a full-moon!! Bad luck AND strange happenings?! All at once!?” THAT my friend, is histrionics. When I wake up each morning, I often wonder what the day will bring. I look out the window to see if the sky or landscape reveals a clue about what’s to come. “I sure hope nothing bad happens today…”

Which of course is the line that precedes something bad happening. I’ve been noticing all the theatrics going on around me lately. It’s embarrassingly obvious when you look for it. But I’ve realized that I’m not really a fan of drama, so I’m trying to ween myself off of dramatic acting. And to do that, a substitution needs to be found.

I suppose that’s why I’m deeply involved in computer programming right now, it serves as a creative endeavor that occupies my time and interest. It seems true of life, that you’ll face a continuous barrage of challenges. BUT if you so desire, you can choose the form of your challenges. IF you don’t choose, challenges will be chosen for you.

Therefore, it’s best to specifically pick the problems you want to pursue. Most of the time, I don’t purposefully pursue a path, I simply meander down the road and let my wandering mind choose for me. That’s a bad idea because my mind can only come up with scary-stuff and overly dramatic nonsense — a real amateurish approach to life.

To live life as a soap-opera, is a poor quality experience in my opinion. The more mature approach, is to pick a creative path — to delve deeply into a personally satisfying topic. Life presents all these options, a buffet of engaging pursuits — it’s dumb not to select SOMETHING wholesome and pursue it as far as you can go.

Nowadays when I wake up, I try to replace mindless drama with thoughts of programming and the current projects I’m working on. When drama comes knocking, I say: “Sorry, that’s not my department, I’m a programmer and unless this issue deals with code, I’m neither interested nor qualified enough to handle it. Buh-bye.”

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!”

Forging Fulfillment

But what of the ugliness in this world?

What rests within dirt and darkness? A seed. Surrounded by muck and mire, the moistened embryo begins its maturation. Think not of the growing-pains, but the potential. Without sturdy roots and ample stem, a flower would fall from its own weight. Any platform must be made to receive the heft it will hold. So to know the joys of life, man must be forged with the capacity to receive.

Anxious Obstacles

Thinking a worrisome thought? Shut it down. Oh dear, but what if my worry can save me?! Death is a destination guaranteed by birth, another minute means nothing. Besides, if your worries were accurate you’d be dead a thousand times over by now.

Instead, think about a goal, something you’d like to see accomplished. It might be fanciful, but so what, it’s just something to contemplate. Craft the story from beginning to end or just focus on a particular part, it doesn’t matter. Think of things that evoke delight.

But the real world! It’s dangerous! If you believe that, then you’re alive by life’s whim, powerless and merely waiting to be plucked at any moment. It’s entirely possible that yielding to your worry might lead to an even worse circumstance.

Therefore, give up your worrisome thoughts, ridicule them, devalue them. Do not be influenced by fear but simply by preference, doing what inspires. It’s the goodness of life we need focus on, keeping our gaze ever on our goals as we progress through this world.

Whether we accomplish anything at all is not our concern. Though our body may break, persist, ceaselessly traverse — limping, crawling, rolling, it makes no difference. Things fall apart, it’s to be expected, but onward we march against the resistance, simply doing what we do.

Baking Cake

To make a cake, some eggs must break. Oftentimes flour spills, ingredients litter the counters, measuring cups and spoons become coated in residue, the bowls and pans need washing — the process can look a little messy.

And so it is with the initial stages of any creation — the process can look a little messy. But we must ignore our tendency to be repulsed, and realize that remarkable works of art form from messes. We must envision the final product, not get stuck on the spills it takes to get there.

Acceptable Challenge

While it’s obvious that life sends us periodic challenges and stressors, it’s not so clear whether we can influence the types of challenges sent. In case life takes requests, I’d like to list the challenges I find acceptable and those I find unacceptable.

Acceptable:
Too many appealing choices to deal with
e.g. too many great shows to watch,
difficulty deciding on the perfect gift,
too many delicious dishes to select from,
too many fantastic toy/tool options.

The challenges associated with:
Reaching personal exercise goals.
Winning games.
Craft/art expression.
Procuring the most authentic foods.
Fixing minor issues.
Developing solutions for theoretical problems.
Understanding difficult theoretical concepts.
Deciding how best to allocate abundant funds i.e. budgeting.

Unacceptable:
Anything related to:
The legal realm or government or bureaucracy.
The medical realm or health.
Loss.
Physical violence.
Travel or transport.
Obtaining food or shelter or financial resources.
Scheduling or billing.
Weather and natural disasters.

Dear life, please be advised that these lists are not necessarily all inclusive but should at least represent a general direction of preferred stressors — also, these items should be adhered to in the spirit in which they are intended. If any unacceptable stressors are in the works, please see that they are cancelled. Thank you for your consideration in these matters.

Happy New Year

Yesterday she was on her way to one of the farther supermarkets, just because she likes to change it up now and again. It started snowing, so she called to say she’d divert to a closer one. I checked the weather radar and said it wasn’t bad, just a brief sprinkle of flakes. She said okay, I’ll continue to the farther one then.

On her way home, she was stopped by the police (first time ever), an expired registration she knew nothing about. It was so expired in fact, that instead of a ticket, she received a court summons. I’m typically in charge of all bills and due dates but this one slipped under the radar, they send no reminders or notices. So thanks to me, she’s to appear in court, early morning within the heart of the city, at the end of next month.

My character’s default is to feel persecuted and get angry at such events. In my more enlightened state, I still feel these things and even express them to a point. I watch though, and do what I can to keep it minimal. I typically try to zoom out, seeing life from a broader perspective until such events appear small and insignificant.

Oftentimes I imagine that life is screwing with me, introducing cute little stressors for me to deal with. They especially seem to appear during times of relative ease. Oh, your life is a bit too comfortable, you’re due for a challenge Rich, here ya go. Uh, thanks. But this regular introduction of turbulence seems too consistent to be anything but artificial — and once I realize that: poof, I’ve pierced the veil and life’s fiction becomes too obvious to stress over.

Obstacle Illusion

Shouldn’t life be easier than this? Learn a few things, put them into practice, then coast until the end — you’d think, right? Well that’s how you know it’s fake. If you don’t see that life is purposefully and consistently throwing obstacles in your way, then you’re not paying attention.

And if the challenges are fake, then the outcomes don’t matter either. When you realize this, the challenges continue, but the pressure is gone.

Also consider, if life is not what it appears to be, then something beyond this visible world must be projecting the illusion.

Riddle of Self-restraint

I frequently observe myself — analyzing my thoughts, actions, and interactions with the world. Self-discipline is part of my personality: diet, exercise, and meditation come naturally to me. I actively manage stress by altering my activities, social-interactions, surroundings, even my perspective on life.

I have a natural inclination for self-control, I study it, I train for it, and I manipulate my ideas and surroundings in a quest for even more self-restraint. I rein in my thoughts, emotions, and actions the best I can, something I’ve done for many years — yet I’m not in complete control of myself. So if someone with this background can’t control themselves, who can?

Based on observation of myself, those around me, and the population at large: it appears that no one is in full control of themselves. It does not seem to be an option. It would only take a moment of passion, and poof, we’ve lost control. We can try to prevent it, perhaps do so for many years, but then it happens, and we’re swept away in a flood of emotion.

But if I lack full control, do I at least have partial control? Look at it this way: if I’m building a structure on a foundation I didn’t select, constructing it with materials that are forced upon me, much of which I’m unsure of how to utilize, but I’m allowed to choose the paint color — is that “control”?

Or think about it like this: if I’m driving a car that’s programmed to turn its wheels at random intervals, am I in control of the car? Perhaps I can compensate, ever vigilant, ready to correct the steering at a moment’s notice — but all it takes is a small lapse in concentration, and poof, the car veers off the road.

So even with all our effort, it doesn’t appear that we have much control over ourselves. But so what? People enjoy building sandcastles at the beach, even though they constantly fall apart and eventually wash away. People also enjoy video games that constantly throw random obstacles in their path. So the fact that we’re allowed minor choices and have minuscule control doesn’t seem to be a hinderance to enjoyment — it just simplifies things.

So perhaps life isn’t about finished products, but the challenge of keeping things afloat amidst an onslaught of waves. I’m not supposed to reach the goal of complete self-control — because then what? Boredom comes from the lack of challenge — and constant challenge appears to be our source of entertainment here on Earth.