Confused Ignorance

I’ve been investigating the fundamental nature of reality for a few decades now. The fact that I still don’t have an adequate explanation reveals that the foundation of existence is elusive – or that I’m a moron. But if I’m really dumb, that in itself demonstrates how my intelligence is set to a point below an ability to understand the underlying principles of the world I’m in.

Therefore, the structure of existence is hidden from inhabitants. And this makes sense, it’s like a character in a video-game – he has no idea about the computing-device running the game. Even the player himself doesn’t understand the underlying electrical engineering involved to run the device’s hardware nor the programming-code that powers the game’s software.

But of course, there could be another reason for my ignorance: there’s simply no foundation. Perhaps nothing exists below the surface. In a dream for example, there’s only an imagined reality in which circumstances blip in and out and often fail to follow logical pathways. I had assumed life was logical, but the longer I’ve examined it, the less logical it seems. Things more or less “just happen”.

Yet, my inability to perceive a logical pathway could in itself reveal a lack of intelligence on my part. Are the workings of the world painfully obvious, yet I’m too dumb to understand? But I’ve seen many different and wildly varying explanations of “how the world works” – so this implies that an explanation isn’t easy or obvious. Perhaps it’s like the allegory of the blind men and the elephant.

Either the world doesn’t want me to perceive its underlying structure, or there’s nothing significant to see (i.e. there are no secrets being kept). Either I’m a character in a game, or I’m the dreamer. Either I’m an ignorant pawn kept in confusion – or I’m the author, designer of everything I see. Or is there some in-between position in which I create within constraints? And why is it that I don’t know?

Why is it that I even want to know? It’s simply because I’m unsatisfied with the game/dream. When I’m enjoying myself, who cares how anything works. I don’t mind losing myself within the story if it’s fun. But if things aren’t going well, perhaps I can fix the problem if I can discern how the world works. Whenever I find a physical-world solution, I use it – but if I can’t find one, I go deeper, to the very foundation of existence itself. (Hm, it sounds like I’m trying to hack the mainframe.)

But what if the underlying structure doesn’t matter, what if the “fix” is the same no matter the foundation. What if the solution is simply to improve one’s attitude. For instance, a dreamer’s dream is often influenced by what they focus on in waking life (i.e. watch a scary movie, have a scary dream). And a gamer’s fun is based on his level of engagement and frame of mind (i.e. if he’s too serious, he’s going to get frustrated).

So perhaps it’s a waste of time to attempt to discover the fundamental nature of reality when such an understanding might not solve the actual problem, which is “dissatisfaction”. In other words, just knowing how something works doesn’t make you a skilled user. In that sense, the fundamental nature of reality could be a red-herring that wouldn’t lead to the intended goal of “satisfaction”.

I suppose it comes down to the ole gamer’s taunt: “Get good, noob”. In other words, I’m complaining that a difficult game is difficult instead of putting in the time and effort to get better. I guess that’s a fair criticism. I expect to be good at the outset, have everything go my way, all while dominating opponents with my mad-skills. But I’m sitting here cursing the dumb game-controller for not working right.

I dunno man, this game is hard.

Typical Saturday

My current dream right now? Hm, moving into my forever-home. I want to feel at-ease, like I can finally sleep and be well-rested. I want to head into my office/workshop, surrounded by many tools and gadgets, forever tinkering, collecting, organizing, and upgrading. Throughout the day I’ll be hanging-out with my small family, chatting, eating familiar breakfasts, and delighting in delicious dinners. I’ll also watch shows, videos, and movies – simply absorbing life’s entertaining aspects at a comfortable intensity. And that’s it, not a tall order by any means.

Within my thoughts, there was always a prevalence of lack and impermanence. I don’t have “x” and even if I do, it won’t last long. “That’s too hard to get, I’ll never have it, it’s outta my reach.” Along with: “Things break, they degrade over time, nothing lasts forever.” A mythology of meagerness pervaded my mind. And as it did, my life proceeded thusly. I sought scarcity and found it around every turn.

Was life unpleasant because of its inherent nature? Or was life unpleasant due to my own perspective of paucity? I cannot deny my negative mindset, it’s there. But was it developed as a response to a malevolent world? Or did my mind unjustly paint this place as a squalid slum unfit for occupancy? It seems quite reasonable that I might have to accept blame.

As my outlook softened over the years, I’ve noticed improvements in my physical surroundings. Therefore, one might assume I need to keep improving my perspective in order to see an even better world. I suppose that speaks to the dreamlike nature of reality: circumstances generally flow the way you think they should. And if my life is in anyway unsatisfactory, it’s because I believe it should be – I believe in a lackluster world.

But how does one change their mindset if they’re busy believing in the worst while at the same time experiencing the fruit of their incessant pessimism? It takes a leap of faith to deny one’s current situation as an objective fact – it also takes repentance in the acceptance of blame for its creation. Is the world truly unpleasant, or does the mind make it so? And if an unruly mind makes it so, the solution boils down to the application of mental discipline.

Focus the mind on the greatest aspects of every moment and appreciation of goodness becomes the dominant path in which thoughts flow. Finding greatness in the small builds until greatness pervades all aspects of existence. Soon enough, life becomes an abundant source of awe and amusement to be appreciated.

Packing Purpose

If you know where you’re going, it makes packing much easier. With packing, you can’t always bring everything you own. And even if you can, you still have to prioritize accessibility of items – some things get buried on the bottom while others are kept near the top. What’s the weather like? Hot, cold, rainy? What activities will I do? Which accessories should I keep at hand? How long will I be without the stuff I leave behind?

A couple years ago for example, I emptied out a storage unit that contained stuff I left behind ten years prior. More than half of that stuff was irrelevant and got thrown out. I’m at a similar spot now. I have to leave but I don’t know where I’m going. I have to pack but I don’t know what to bring. Will the rest go into storage again? Another decade entombed until my return? I’m obviously not pleased by this prospect.

If I had my druthers, I’d simply buy a nice home in a pleasant location and settle there. I’m able to make more suitable choices for myself than the powers that be. Yet for whatever reason, something wants me riled up. But honestly, I don’t like this world enough to bear any inconvenience. It’s a relationship in which my needs are reluctantly addressed. Me: “Can I get an ice-cream cone?” The world: “We have popsicles at home.” Me: “oh.”

So dear world, you disappoint me once again. If I could end this relationship, I would. But I know any authority so petty and cruel would not allow such a circumstance – thus your prisoner I remain. Whatever. I have nothing better to do apparently. One would assume that a good host would make their guest’s stay a pleasant one. Yet, it is an absolute chore to attain any sense of enjoyment from this place. Good day to you.

Entry 227-772021

Dear diary, I’m currently displeased. And as such, my modus operandi tends to be questioning the very fabric of reality. Why are things this way? In fact, why is anything the way it is? What is this world anyway?

Here are some things I know. I know I exist within a fictional construct. This world is artificial, yet it attempts to conceal its fabricated foundation in order to enhance a sense of immersion. But every time circumstances fall outside of my expectations, I’m shaken awake by my discomfort. If the fiction doesn’t want to reveal itself, why doesn’t it simply comply with my assumptions?

I don’t have much patience for this world, so additional casus belli don’t help. And what about that? I frankly have a lot of issues with this place. Does it keep me alive and supplied with the bare essentials? Yes. But why doesn’t it go above and beyond? What’s with the bread & water routine? Am I a prisoner? Is this a behavior modification facility?

I seem restricted from doing what I want and I can’t leave. Sounds like prison to me. Hm, even the other inmates form gangs and fight amongst themselves. I currently have an eye-strain headache which doesn’t help, I’ve never gotten a good night’s rest in all the years I’ve been here, and I don’t understand the point of this place. I feel punished, yet I don’t know what for – thus I can feel no repentance.

If I’m supposed to learn something, it’s lost on me. I’ve been in-game for decades and I still don’t get it. Did I sign up for this place? With an in-game single-lifetime obligation? If I did, I’d kick my other-world self in the nuts. I’ve stated many times to this world, just give me what I ask and I’ll play along. Yet for some reason, I find myself ever amidst a sea of uncomfortable turbulence.

Dearest and Almighty Creator of this world, I beseech you as a humble participant in your grand experiment, do not let this wretched creature suffer. Fulfill the preferences implanted within and let me know triumph in this world. Relieve the pain and stresses known so long. Let time-served be punishment enough for transgressions done. Let this mortal form not serve as example of a state unwished for, but let this character become a shining beacon on a hill, an inspiration, one that has realized the resplendence this world has to offer. If there is any hope to be had, let it manifest now.

Mental Wrestling Federation

The mind. It’s like you walk into a giant exhibition center filled with a hundred professional wrestling rings. In each ring a wrestler waits, often goading you to enter his domain. “Come on you pipsqueak! Show me what you got!” Oftentimes you take the bait and enter the ring. Ding! He lifts you up, suplexing your helpless body into the mat. You’ve had it. One! Two! Threee! It’s all over!

You’ve got a few options for dealing with this situation.

One: if the guy looks like an absolute maniac, DON’T get into the ring. It seems super exciting when you’re on the outside and he’s provoking you with his taunts. But you don’t stand a chance, you’ll get pummeled.

Two: Slide out under the bottom rope and run back to the crowd. Once you feel the intensity of being in the ring, just forfeit the match. You weren’t going to win anyway. It’s a valid option and it’s within your ability to simply dump-out any time.

Three: Pick a chump. Don’t get ahead of yourself, pick a guy that looks reasonable. There’s no championship on the line, you’re simply browsing through the expo-center – might as well enjoy yourself. There’s challenging yourself and then there’s being foolish. Don’t be a masochist, thinking you can beat any guy in the room.

Four: Play along, don’t take things so seriously. You got dinged and bumped around? So what. An insult cut a little deep? Your knee hurts? Well that’s the game, you get knocked about a bit. If you can roll with the punches and get into the act, then that’s an option too.

Thoughts are like wrestlers attempting to tie you up in leg-locks or half-nelsons, they want to flaunt their stuff and smash you into the mat. If you can’t take the intensity, don’t engage. If you want some fun, wrestle someone a bit more manageable. If you want even more fun, get into the spirit of things and get in there.

Interpretive Dance

What’s going on here, what is this? I ask such questions because it’s my nature to do so. Yet I know every question that’s answered simply fades away, a new one takes its place. Seems a bit futile doesn’t it, like Sisyphus rolling his rock up that hill.

Of the many question & answer pairs I’ve coupled throughout the years, I can see that the question doesn’t really matter, nor does its answer. Think of it like eating. What’s one meal matter? I could skip a meal and be none the worse for it. The same routine everyday, multiple times per day. Yet by the next day, even though I’ve done it all before, I’m eager to eat again.

Frivolously insignificant repetition – is that the fundamental nature of existence? An individual leaf on a tree is pretty insignificant – but as a whole, leaves bring a tree to life. Song and dance are frivolous by their nature, bewildering words mixed with repetitive sounds, all while undulating in circles. And it’s one insignificant stroke at a time upon canvas that paints a masterpiece.

Every insignificant day forms a life, and every insignificant life forms the pageantry of this world. Each piece of the puzzle is both insignificant and significant, holding two states at once – perspective of the observer determines which. Where is your attention focused and what’s your interpretation.

Futile Resistance

You’ve seen it: a character is placed into what he believes to be a prison. He proceeds to struggle, fight, lash out, not listen, attempt escape, complain, and exhaust himself with all these futile efforts. Eventually, he gives up his belligerent ways and starts to harmonize with his situation. He goes from miserable to okay. He might be attending a new school or joining a new family – whatever it is, it’s new and different and he’s ready for battle.

But then there are characters like Annie. She resists her predicament and actually ends up in a better place with Daddy Warbucks. She didn’t have to accept a hard-knock life and eke-out little bits of happiness wherever she could. She didn’t have to alter her perspective and ignore the muck and mire until she found joy within. No, she was plucked from her predicament and placed in a loving palace filled with earthly delights.

“Face it kid, you’re an orphan, your parents aren’t coming back to get you.” But Annie wouldn’t accept this. She had an enduring optimism in what would come and an unwavering faith in her parents’ love. She left to find them. With the intent of finding her home, she found it – it just wasn’t quite what she expected.

I relate to the feeling of imprisonment and straining against my situation and resisting assimilation. It’s been several decades and I still haven’t harmonized with my surroundings. I spend so much time and effort trying to embrace earthly existence, just trying to get through each day with a decent attitude. I’m no where near the point of actually living life, I’m still trying to accept the basic premise.

“Maybe far away… or maybe real nearby….” Nowadays I spend my days in the prison wood-shop. I make little things as a way to pass the time. Earth feels like a waiting room, with the TV tuned to something I don’t prefer. Waiting for what? I have no idea. I might be doing something wrong, but I don’t know what else to do except sit quietly and wait. I don’t expect anything at the end of the wait, simply the receptionist telling me that they’re closing – and out I go.

Striving to Strive

If you think about the rewards you receive in video-games, you notice how lame they are. A high score? A virtual trophy? Your character jumping up and down? A screen that says “The End”. Meh. All that dedication and effort for what amounts to nothing? And that’s true in this game as well, the actual physical prizes available here are kinda lame.

There’s nothing here, that once gotten, you’d feel “Wow, this is IT! I’m done! Nothing left to get!”. Once anything’s received, it’s a fleeting sensation of attainment followed by a new-normal in which it becomes an everyday object that sits mundanely as any other. Therefore, as in any game, experiences themselves are the only actual reward.

I’ve wasted countless hours in video-games attempting to achieve lame objectives – yet, I was perfectly entertained by the experience. The fun isn’t in attainment, that’s just another form of “Game Over”. The fun is in striving after something, anything, even if it’s a frivolous goal. Striving itself IS the goal here.

And I don’t mean “struggle” by the way. You really should find a level of striving that feels comfortable. It’s kinda dumb to stress and strain over a pointless objective when objectives themselves are valueless. Since they’re all of equal value (i.e. zero), pick something fun. And if you actually attain the object of your effort? Great, now pick another appealing objective and keep striving.

Trend Spotting

I’ve been attempting to analyze the trends of reward/punishment in relation to my behavior.

For example, I’ve clearly noticed a negative trend from overeating. It’s not every time, but overall it leads to unpleasant circumstances such as a tummy-ache or a complete lack of energy. But when I eat sensibly, not stuffing myself mindlessly, things proceed much better. I can clearly see a path I should take and one I should avoid.

Another trend deals with thinking about things I don’t like. If I allow unpleasant topics to remain in my thoughts, I typically feel bad. And once in awhile, those undesirable things even show up in my life. Whereas if I reject those unpleasant thoughts and focus on things I do like, my mood is better and my situation tends to improve. There seems to be an obvious pathway here too.

Another trend deals with how I treat people. If I’m careless and rude for example, good things don’t usually follow. Whereas when I present the best version of myself, I’m more satisfied with my interactions and things typically go much better. Again, there seems to be an undeniable path here.

The overall trend seems to deal with the application of mental discipline. If I’m lazy and let myself act like a disrespectful pessimistic slob, things don’t go well. Whereas when I stay aware of myself and keep to the role of a polite lighthearted guy that colors within the lines, things trend better.

Why are there preset guidelines that I must stay within? Perhaps the answer’s simple: it provides me with something to do. In games you move your character, making sure he stays on the correct pathway – that’s it. Life isn’t a movie: if you sit there, nothing happens – and if you stomp the accelerator without steering, you’ll likely crash.

As player of this game, I must remain awake and aware, with my hands on the wheel ready to make micro-adjustments as necessary to keep my character on the pleasant path. A path that’s discoverable through the reward/punishment mechanism. For instance: I have to actively monitor what he eats, what he thinks, and how he treats others.

Skinner Box

Is Earth a form of aversion therapy? In other words, am I punished for improper behavior? And if that’s the case, am I rewarded for good behavior?

Even from a purely physical perspective, you’d likely say that penalties exist for inappropriate actions. For example: if I eat too much, I get a tummy-ache. If I treat others poorly, I tend to suffer negative repercussions. If I allow my mind to wander, I find myself thinking thoughts I don’t prefer. If I consume dour and pessimistic media, I feel bad. In short, there seems to be a direct correlation between careless behavior and discomfort.

Is the opposite also true? Am I rewarded for considerate behavior? If I eat an appropriate amount of nutritious food, do I feel better? If I treat others well, do I benefit from similar treatment? If I guide my thoughts down pleasant paths, do I find myself delighted? If I watch a lighthearted movie, do I feel cheerful? In short, is there a direct correlation between thoughtful behavior and well-being?

In behavioral conditioning, the obviousness of the correlation between cause-and-effect is a key factor for learning. For example, if I fail to realize that a specific action results in a particular punishment, there’s no reason to stop an action. In other words, the amount of punishment won’t matter if I don’t know why I’m being punished. Yet, it would be heavy-handed or even harsh to reprimand for every infringement.

In teaching/coaching situations, obviousness is often sacrificed for gentleness. Instead of correcting every single misstep, a gentle teacher often allows some incorrectness to slide. This puts more responsibility onto the student, who must actively watch for trends in order to grasp the direction of the reward/punishment mechanism. The tradeoff is a greater feeling of agency and influence over one’s own life.

This would explain why actions in life aren’t always rewarded or punished appropriately. Life trades cold mechanical conditioning for a more organic feel. There’s no lever that reliably releases a pellet when pressed – outcomes follow trends instead. Also, intermittent reward is a more captivating circumstance and likely leads to longer, more involved engagement.

Honestly, I’ve been obstinately plowing through life, ignoring any signs pointing in the proper direction. I follow my own assumptions about what’s appropriate. As you might imagine, it hasn’t been an effective strategy. Am I to simply follow the path set forth by the aversion/reward mechanism? Hm, that almost sounds like cheating. Wait, actually that seems like a lot of work. Well, I’ll have to keep this is mind and be on the lookout for trends resulting from my behavior.