Constant Conundrum

I was recently re-watching the first few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was essentially watching people/characters that I like, undergo very difficult circumstances. The act of watching drama is basically sadism — deriving enjoyment from the suffering of others. Luckily, the characters are fictional.

Yet isn’t that what we do here? Watch others, especially ourselves, experience the worst things we can imagine? But of course, there ARE other ways to derive amusement from existence, but we so often revert to the easy-fix: the sadomasochism solution. “I’m bored! Is there some sort of suffering from which I can extract excitement!?”

But when watching TNG, I don’t actually enjoy the calamity, I enjoy the competence and professionalism of the crew. How will Picard and the gang get out of this one!? And of course they always do. THAT’S what I like, the problem-solving. But there must be problems or else there’s nothing to solve.

Therefore, life must fill itself with problems i.e. opportunities for problem-solving. So problems are not the problem — the attitude we maintain is the real key. Does Picard get frustrated and give up at each obstacle? No, he proceeds diligently, perpetually performing his duty as starship captain. As they say: keep calm and carry on.

Of course that’s what Krishna told Arjuna on the field of battle that day too: stop whining and do your duty. Because in this life, we all have a role to play, a character whose arc we must fulfill. It’s dumb to pause production in order to incessantly complain about the storyline. Just read the damn lines! Become the authentic character and enjoy the narrative.

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Five outta Five

The other day, I was watching a prominent gaming YouTuber insist on rating everything LESS than “5 out of 5” — because there’s always room for improvement. But, is assuming a less-than-best experience, the ideal strategy for the game of life? I would say no, it’s actually a recipe for dissatisfaction.

I’ve tried both sides of the coin — and no matter which side you choose, you’re essentially convincing yourself that it’s true. It literally could’ve been the best burger in the world, you really don’t know — BUT, you’re going to give it a less-than-best rating “just in-case”. That’s erring on the side of negativity — it assumes you never get the best.

Whereas if you say: “THAT is a five-out-of-five burger!” You’ve lost nothing. In fact, you’ve gained a great experience. “WHAT!? I just ate a perfect burger!? Wow! What a lucky person I am.” Suddenly you go from a mediocre existence in which nothing can ever truly satisfy, to having the best life ever.

And if something utterly fails, and simply cannot be considered 5 outta 5, then find an aspect that IS 5 outta 5. It’s not hard. Are the fries good? The atmosphere good? Are you with good company? Plenty of napkins? Find something and appreciate it. Maybe it was the BEST worst-experience you ever had! Always find the 5 outta 5.

Imperfect Perfection

I would contend that “imperfection” is actually the ideal state of things. In other words, faults are not only fine, but preferred. Therefore, if your life is imperfect, it is in fact operating within ideal parameters.

For a simple example, imagine a picture in which a single perfected flower is duplicated and placed within row after row until it creates a grid-like field of flowers. But such a picture lacks appeal, if you’ve seen one section of the field, you’ve seen it all — and all that uniformity is off-putting. “Perfect” landscapes are those made through organic randomness i.e. imperfection.

In the same way, if life traversed a perfectly predictable path in which everything worked-out well, it’d be dull. Instead, there’s always something that needs to be worked-on or figured-out. Imperfection is what gives us something to do, it provides the impetus for action. Flawed mechanisms require constant care and maintenance, there’s always something to be done.

The point is this: NEVER look at broken things with revulsion. They are opportunities to expend effort, a chance to engage with the world. Within a perfectly functioning system your efforts aren’t needed. And so, the world is in a state of perpetual imperfection. Relish this, don’t revile it. Delight in the fact that you have an unending to-do list.

Perfection is a frozen state, its implementation would create a world in which nothing happens. Whereas imperfection is a dynamic state, it creates a world in which anything and everything happens. This means that an ideal life should be inundated with imperfection. Enjoyment of life will not be achieved through perfection — it is only through appreciating the opportunities provided by imperfection, that we can experience genuine satisfaction.

Why Is It So

Why’s life so hard?

Because if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t care. It’s as simple as that. At what point do you most appreciate something? When you’re about to lose it.

Why’s such a stupid condition true?

It is and it isn’t. If you can muster the discipline to appreciate something in your hand when you have no fear of loss, then such a condition isn’t true. Only when you fail to appreciate what you have is it true.

Why’s it so easy to be an undisciplined fool that can’t recognize the value of what’s at hand?

Is it easy? It actually sounds like a very difficult condition to live with. If you’ve ever appreciated anything at anytime, then you have the power within you to appreciate what you have right now. Shift your focus away from things you don’t prefer and onto things you value. That sounds a lot easier than staring at unpleasant things all day long.

Why’s it so hard to remain focused on pleasant things?

Perhaps you have a penchant for bitterness. When you see something you don’t like, a surge of energy rushes through you, the outrage is electrifying.

Why’s such a terrible condition true?

Have you ever tried to appreciate the energizing aspect of unpleasant things? Imagine it, you’re surrounded by an infinite supply of energy in the form of nastiness. You’re so repulsed by the contents of this world, you could glow like the sun if properly harnessed. Energy is often the byproduct of incineration, perhaps you could embrace the process.

Why’s it seem like you’re leading me to the dark-side of the force?

It was merely a suggestion. But you’re right, just as junk-food is a low-quality source of calories, so too is outrage a low-quality source of energy. Ideally, you should seek to find something that inspires, not enrages.

Why’s it so hard to find that vitalizing path through life?

Is it hard, or do you simply stop yourself, too anxious to proceed on a path that requires trust? Your suspiciousness of life and its motive keeps you locked away.

Why’s it so easy to mistrust?

Again, that sounds like a difficult way to live. Constant anxiety about what’s going to happen next? Feeling weak and powerless, a perpetual victim of life’s whims? When all you really have to do is let go. Life has been carrying you along this entire time — imagine how much easier it will be once you stop struggling against the current.

Relativity of Enjoyment

If I sat you down and showed you Microsoft’s Windows 2000 today, you’d be unimpressed. “So what?” you’d say. But in my opinion, Windows 2000 was the greatest operating system ever developed. “WHAT!!??” Yes, that’s right, the greatest! For the record, the second greatest operating system in my opinion, is iOS (the software that currently runs iPhones/iPads).

Why Windows 2000? It was the first fully-featured OS that didn’t get in your way. You could edit full-color photos, watch movies, edit video, browse the web, write in word-processors, make spreadsheets, develop software with relative ease, connect a myriad of peripherals — everything. But one of the most important aspects, is that it didn’t constantly crash.

Prior to its release, I was using Windows 95, Windows 98, and even Windows NT 4. I should note that Windows NT 4 was a decent attempt at a solid OS, but it wasn’t as fully-featured as Win2000. And of course, Win95 and Win98 were complete nightmares to use.

They were nightmarish because you’d be working on something, then suddenly the screen would freeze. Hmm maybe it’s just the program itself, you’d wonder. NOPE! The entire operating system was now in a frozen state. You’d have to Ctrl-Alt-Delete or even hard-reset, and thus reboot the computer. A bunch of minutes later, the desktop would appear and your work would be gone. Fun.

Win95 and 98 made using the computer a very frustrating experience. Turning the power on was a daily game of Russian-roulette. Back in the 95 days, sometimes a file in the OS would get corrupted and Windows would no longer boot-up. You had to boot in with a DOS-floppy and edit a file via the command-line and try again. And if that didn’t work, you reinstalled the ENTIRE operating system!

So when Windows 2000 came out, you’d work for hours and nothing would go wrong. Sometimes a program would crash or lock-up, but it didn’t take down the entire operating system with it. You simply opened the task-manager and ended it. But again, that was a rare occurrence. By comparison to its predecessors, Win2000 seemed like the greatest thing ever.

And just to note, Windows XP was essentially a re-skinned version of Windows 2000. So even if you haven’t heard of Win2000, you’ve probably heard of WinXP (an operating system that lasted over a decade). But what’s my point in all this? It actually has NOTHING to do with operating systems. It has to do with how we measure our experiences relative to other experiences.

I’m not objectively claiming that Win2000 is the greatest OS ever — my love is relative to the abuse I suffered at the hands of Win95/98. If not for those torturous OSes, Win2000 would’ve simply been doing its job — nothing too impressive. It would’ve been meeting the expectations of an operating system: managing the hardware and allowing software to run unencumbered. No big deal.

But because I was so shell-shocked by the intermittent crashing of its predecessors, I literally loved Windows 2000 for treating me decently and therefore exceeding my expectations. So what I’m saying is this: the stuff we enjoy in life is extremely-subjective and dependent on our prior circumstances.

No matter how long you stare at it or how much I talk about it, you won’t appreciate Windows 2000 the way I do. And that goes for EVERYTHING in life. Stories are the way in which we experience life. You enjoy a circumstance or an item based on how it fits into your life’s narrative. An item or circumstance has no objective value on its own.

And that’s a good thing. That means it doesn’t take much to make you happy. It means all you ever need is a positive interpretation of events, i.e. a happy little story to tell yourself, and you’ve got all the necessary components for a great life.

Checking Boxes

The game-of-life has several categories we must attend to. If any are neglected, we’ll feel a lack of satisfaction — as if we’re not living a “full life”. But the way in which we attend to each category is highly subjective — only our personal character can determine the specifics. In other words, activities performed must be meaningful to the individual.

Body. You must engage in activity that utilizes the body in a way that feels significant to you. This activity does not have to be strenuous in any way, it’s simply taking your body out for a spin and enjoying it. To some, that might be running a marathon, but to others it might be a walk in the park — or it could be more artistic endeavors such as playing the piano or folding some paper (origami).

Busywork. You must engage in activity that fills-up time and accomplishes something you’re proud of. It could be an actual career or it could be a hobby like woodworking. It could be cooking or daily fitness training. Whatever it is, at the end of the day you should feel as though you accomplished something.

Relationship. You must engage in a relationship with some other entity. Whether it be romantic or parental or fraternal or friendship or a partnership — you have to significantly bond with another being. It should be a connection that makes you feel like you’re not alone OR that you’re a vital part of their existence.

Diet. You must find a way of eating that works for you. This is a personal selection of food that fits only your palate. It should make you feel well-nourished and never lacking. Diets change throughout time and culture, there’s nothing set in stone — so you’ll need to discover and experiment, finding the foods that leave you feeling satisfied.

Impact. You must feel as though you’ve influenced your world in some way. Whether it’s simply your immediate surroundings, your family, or even society itself — you’ll need to feel like you left some footprints. This might include having children, or passing on a legacy of some sort, or simply winning “Yard of the Month” and helping your neighborhood look nice.

Appreciation. You must develop an appreciation for life. You must constantly strive to find the good in the gifts you’ve been given. This is the very opposite of complaining about everything. Instead of picking out what’s wrong in the world, you must pick out what’s right.

Home. You must feel as though you’ve found a place in the world, a home. Somewhere, somehow, you fit like a puzzle piece into this world. Find that spot. For some this means a move, but for others it means recognizing the home they’ve already got. Hint: you might be in the correct physical location, but require an attitude adjustment.

Understanding. You must develop a comforting understanding of existence. You don’t have to figure everything out, you just need to develop a perspective that allows you to feel comfortable in the world. This could take the form of a religious or spiritual belief or some other form of philosophical interpretation. At the end of the day, you have to feel good about what’s going on here.

Role. You must feel as though you’re performing your role. You have a particular character with a certain set of preferences and abilities. Experiment, see what your strengths are and what activities you enjoy. This role might tie into your relationships, or how you influence your surroundings, or even your physical activity.

Adventure. You must feel as though you’re wandering through an exciting realm of wonder. Some aspect of life should cause you to feel like you’re discovering a whole new world. If your attention isn’t captured by something, you’re likely barking up the wrong tree — try another path.

Depending on one’s age, many of these items will be incomplete. THAT’S THE POINT. These boxes start out unchecked and you have an entire lifetime to work on them. And it’s not likely you’ll do them all at once — that’s ludicrous.

Also specific to the individual, is the priority we place on each category. For example, some people might spend hours everyday training their body whereas others barely use theirs. Or one person might spend years cultivating a deep personal relationship with a life-partner whereas another person might have a guinea-pig he cares for — both perfectly satisfied.

These categories simply serve as a guideline to the question: What am I supposed to do here on Earth? If you’re not sure, there you go. Work on fulfilling these categories — they’re the roadmap to what’s going on here — you’ll want to visit each of them in some way. Good luck, Earthling!