Art of Life

I suppose I’d liken life to the production of art. In art, you have a certain set of tools to work with, and each toolset has distinctions and limitations. The medium of choice has its own characteristics too. You’re also producing a product that fits within certain expectations. If you don’t do anything, your medium will just sit there – which is true in life. You have to actually go about sketching, painting, sculpting, constructing – whatever.

In my experience, I could simply sit alone in a room and nothing much happened. So in that way, life is not a ride on a track whisking me around, showing me all the wondrous things I should see while I passively sit back and relax. But, there seems to be impulses of inspiration encouraging me to do certain things (just like in art). In some ways I think I can ignore these urges.

An artist shouldn’t necessarily paint over his entire canvas with a splash of maroon simply on a whim. Some impulses should be ignored depending on the selected theme. And art can certainly be frustrating. It often takes years of practice for brush strokes to come across as artistic additions instead of blotchy mistakes. Sometimes the initial vision wasn’t right and you have to repaint or repair.

For example, I initially painted life with dour hues – so now I’m trying to paint the whole thing over with brighter colors. There’s just so much grey and sometimes I need several coats. I try to stay focused on the pretty parts I’ve updated while ignoring the rest. What happened before this point in time? I don’t care, I’ve moved on. That paint’s dried and I can safety paint atop it.

Problematic Analysis

Due to an abrupt interruption in lifestyle, my character perceives a problem that must be fixed. How can I maintain or upgrade my situation? A potential downgrade is unacceptable – so therein lies the issue. One way to workaround a downgrade is to shift perspective and see it as an upgrade – but that technique is more of a last-resort.

Scanning potential options…. Hm, oh-well I suppose shifting perspective is all I have available at the moment. I don’t see any feasible physical-world solutions. I have “hoping” and “wishing” but I’ve yet to see satisfactory results from previous attempts. My most effective strategy for life has been resigning myself to “what is” and then engaging in some form of small-scale distraction therapy.

Through observation, I can tell that this life is a fictional construct. Also, it seems to be very dreamlike in that the plot goes “wherever” and circumstances follow “dream logic” (reasoning that only makes sense in the dream). Therefore, life isn’t like a ride on a track, a mechanism constructed to gradually reveal an interesting concrete narrative – instead, it simply flows all over the place like a dream.

But not quite “all over the place”. It flows in the general direction of the thinking-mind. I suppose that’s what the “law of attraction” stuff is basically saying: think pleasant thoughts, have a pleasant experience – think nasty thoughts, have a nasty experience. It comes down to controlling the dream through a prevalence of theme. In other words: deluge the thinking-mind with awesomeness in order to live an awesome life.

I admit to beginning life as an untrusting pessimist that searched for ways in which things would fail. And in that way, my wish was often granted. That great things should come to an inelegant end, is well within my belief system. So of course it is of no surprise to be unceremoniously booted from my current abode. But I’m sick of losing, I’m ready to accept a magical transition to an elegant end-game in which I effortlessly excel in the game of life.

Happily Ever After

It’s been 3 years since we loaded up the car and traveled 1500 miles from Maine to Florida. I’ve been in the process of packing my stuff again. I like this place though, it’s probably my favorite home so far. On paper, I’m only leaving because the owners want to sell and I can’t afford to buy (I’m only a renter). I’m not sure if there’s some higher spiritual-plane reason I’m leaving.

If I had the resources, I’d probably just buy it. I like the town, the neighborhoods I walk, the nearby stores are decent, and there’s access to world-class entertainment – overall it’s been a really nice stay here. I actually lived in this same town a decade ago for three years and then left for Maine when things didn’t quite work-out. I came back because I missed it.

I’m fine with leaving in one sense, but to where? I have no place to go. To be fair, when we headed to Maine and stayed there for a few months during a snowy winter, we didn’t have any reason to be there. We only went because my wife saw a seasonal pie festival mentioned on the Food Network. We ended up living there for 7 years. We even welcomed a little Maine-boy into the family. He currently misses the snow, although he might be willing to trade it for a pool.

I don’t really enjoy too much challenge, I’m more of a resource manager. I like buying, organizing, and upgrading stuff. I’m getting too old for sudden changes in lifestyle. I’d like to settle down into a forever-home and go to my workshop each morning – play with tools, do some woodworking, and tinker with tiny motors. Well, if the Disney movies I’ve been watching taught me anything, it’s that something magical will step in to save the day.

Sleep To Dream

I don’t sleep well. I’ve never slept well. Although, when I was younger I remember being able to sleep for 5 hours straight and oftentimes going back to sleep for a couple more hours. That 5 hours was a hard limit that was timed pretty perfectly. Nowadays it’s more like 2 or 3 hours until I wake up. Getting back to sleep is very hit or miss and mostly miss. Oftentimes I remain in a sleepy state that isn’t really sleep.

I tried various sleep aids and remedies of course, but nothing fixed the problem. I finally resorted to supplementing with caffeine during the day – which has helped the most. Oh, but what about naps during the day you say!? Well, I actually have plenty of opportunity to nap during the day… BUT, I can’t nap. It’s forbidden apparently. If I attempt to nap, something ALWAYS wakes me up very soon after I drift off.

For example, I can sit in a room in which no one enters EXCEPT when I fall asleep. I briefly fell asleep in the afternoon the other day but the power randomly blipped on and off (which rarely happens) and people came looking for me. I was woken up, and that was the end of that. If I fall asleep, some external circumstance tends to wake me up. And if it doesn’t, I just wake up after a few minutes with a burst of energy. So no, I can’t nap.

I wonder if it’s some sort of “Harrison Bergeron” style handicap (the short-story by Kurt Vonnegut, 1961)? Being in a perpetual state of low-energy induced by a lack-of-sleep certainly has a suppressing effect. It seems strange how well-enforced it is: time-limits, disturbances, and a no-nap policy. The strangest part is the well-coordinated external interruptions. I used to live in a place where I regularly woke up to the sound of an old howling cat. I thought that was the problem, but even after I moved I just woke up anyway.

Why doesn’t this world want me well-rested? I don’t enjoy being in a drowsy state. I suppose it’s just one of the many types of limitations placed on people, like low self-esteem or imposter syndrome. Life can’t just be easy apparently.

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.