Grit Rushing

When you’re using sandpaper to smooth a surface, you start with lower/rougher grits and move your way up through higher and finer grits. For example, I might start with 150 grit to flatten out rough spots, but that leaves the surface a bit fuzzy feeling, so then I move up to 320 for a finer finish. If I want to get closer to an eggshell shine, I’ll follow that with 600 grit. And sometimes for the fun of it, I’ll go up to 1000 or even 2000 grit — the wood I use won’t really attain that level of sheen but I try anyway.

Okay, so what happens when you get impatient and rush through the grits? Maybe you’re sanding some wood or sharpening a knife or glossing up epoxy-resin. Well, if you switch to a higher grit too soon, the deep scratches from the courser grits won’t disappear, you’ll just get some shiny spots alongside the gashes. But you’re so anxious to see your reflection that you rush through the grits!

In life, I think I rushed through the grits. In many ways, I never got past pre-K. Just basic things like sleeping and using the toilet are actual challenges for me on a regular basis. I obviously have some deep gaps in knowledge. I suppose I skipped some early grits and wanted to get right to the final polishing. In gaming vernacular, you could call it a “speedrun”. Just get to the end!! Screw the build-up process and the prerequisites! I’m ready to graduate NOW!!

Thankfully, life isn’t an experience in which one must struggle for survival amidst a harsh and unforgiving landscape. I’ll be fine. Despite continually ignoring the basics, I’ve made it this far. That really says something about the degree to which life is willing to support and encourage my existence. It makes for an abrupt and disjointed narrative, but I don’t care. Life catches me struggling and says “Oops! You should be here by now sweetie!” and places me there anyway.

Not sure I’ll be getting high-score on this round guys….

Year Eight

Life IS a quandary, and the answer to this puzzle isn’t mere realization, that’s too simple. The answer lies in a life well-lived. To complete any game, you have to actually overcome the obstacles it sets forth, not simply realize their existence.

Spoiler Alert! To live life well, one must cultivate and maintain the right attitude and perspective. It’s not what you physically do, it’s how you perceive what you do that counts. But make no mistake, finding and retaining the right outlook is a difficult task.

I’ve had revelation after revelation over the years. “WOW! That’s IT! I’ve got it now! I finally understand!!” But those moments quickly pass and life returns to what I’m used to. I haven’t had the tactics or discipline to maintain the momentum of my epiphanies.

This blog for example, is the primary method I’ve used to log my thoughts. Tomorrow will mark the 8-year anniversary since my first post. I have written-evidence of all those insights over the years. So in one sense, I get it. But in another sense, I’ve been unable to consistently apply those insights to my daily life.

Therefore, that’s what I’m working on nowadays: the consistent application of a greater perspective into my daily life. To do that, I’m attempting to maintain an awareness of “now”. Because in this moment, right now, I have the ability to select whatever it is I want to focus on. And what I want to focus on, are thoughts and experiences that evoke appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement and an overall enjoyment of life.

In so doing, I’ll achieve a life well-lived and therefore win this game.

Age of the Introvert

I’m an extreme introvert and a former long-time germaphobe. Suddenly, the world seems to be conforming to my expectations. If I’m not by myself or with my tiny 3-person family, I prefer small concentrations of people. I prefer doing anything and everything online as opposed to in-person. I prefer keeping my hands to myself as opposed to physically greeting others or handling shared objects. I prefer relatively quiet streets and being at home. I prefer kids having free-time and spending more time with their parents.

From my perspective, the world seems normal now. It’s suddenly cool to be like me. But funny enough, I stopped being a germaphobe a few years ago, so now I’m the reckless one! And I only use a small amount of toilet paper since I prefer a more bidet-like experience. But of course, fashions come and go and I might become “anti-social” once again. But for now I’ll relish the fact that I’m basically a “hero” doing my part in the effort against our current enemy.

Though I must say, I wouldn’t mind seeing the streaming traffic and the large warehouses of people it fills become a relic of the past — an end to the rat-race and an easing on the environment. Perhaps it will become an age in which artists and writers flourish — a renaissance no less. And in these more technological times, maybe we’ll enter an age of engineering excellence, with flying cars or new settlements in remote areas — and yes, even space-travel.

Nay friends, I live not in troubling times, but at a point of progression in which old ways are gone for good. How long have we lamented the backward nature of society? So I say relish this opportunity for change and use it to advance ever-forward once again. It is through unexpected upheaval that we enter new epochs of unimagined innovation and prosperity. Not fear, but appreciation should fill our hearts each day. So dear friends, onward and upward!

Ennui On We

It’s my belief that greatest threat to humanity is ennui. In other words, existential boredom. In an attempt to alleviate this boredom, mankind invents all sorts of problems to contend with. In my life for instance, I’ve been trying to balance intensity and stillness. There’s either too much or too little — things are too serious or too frivolous. Like Goldilocks, I’m ever searching for “just right”. For most of life I’m either scared or bored.

Even after a few decades, I’m STILL trying to get it right. I’m trying to find low-intensity forms of entertainment, things that don’t rely on fear, frustration, anger, sadness, etc. to stimulate and hold my attention. I tried computer programming for example, but found it much too frustrating. I’m also trying to quit the classic game of “worrying about money” — I really think I’m getting close on that one. On the other end, I’m trying to get into woodworking as a hobby, but it takes effort to keep from getting bored. I tried playing a musical instrument for instance, but there just wasn’t enough excitement to sustain it.

Whereas I’ll light up like a Christmas tree when I hear some monkey-business going on. I’m trying to quit that though. Like junk-food, it leaves me with too much of a tummy-ache nowadays and I want no part of it. Maybe my tastes are maturing… or perhaps I’ve been beaten into submission, not sure. I was so good at pessimism and criticism, and they kept me endlessly entertained. Now optimism and appreciation are the arts I’m trying to master — I feel like such an amateur though. It’s so easy to tear something apart and so foreign to build it up.

Well dear diary, that’s where I’m at right now: mid-life and finally trying to put an end to my immature approach to existence. I’m attempting to go from scared and bored to appreciative and enthusiastically engrossed. The greatest hardship I’ve ever faced is reconciling with life, just trying to get a grasp on what’s going on here — and on top of that, finding the right balance of engagement. Some day soon I hope to taste that perfectly warmed porridge and sleep in that comfortable bed.

Finding a Foothold

I spent most of my life just trying to get a grasp on what’s happening here. I became conscious in the 80s and was freaked-out by all the high-hair, garish makeup, outlandish clothes, strange music, bizzare gyrations, unpalatable food, tedious routines, random violence, and cheesecake. I didn’t get it, was it cake in the form of a pie? And why cream-cheese!? That stuff belongs on bagels.

I honestly didn’t understand the setting I found myself in. I couldn’t deal with the life I was living. What am I supposed to do here!? I spent a lot of time watching TV, which didn’t really explain anything, in fact it probably made things worse. I would spend the next few decades completely lost, trying to get a foothold on ANYTHING. I was seeking solid truth, but I was in Wonderland.

Looking back, it’s painfully obvious that this is not an objective physical reality that I’m experiencing. This is in fact a highly subjective virtuality that I’m experiencing. I think the closest analogy would be a dream — and I’m the dreamer. And the things I think about and focus-on flow in and out of my experience. There’s a narrative for sure, but I’m the one telling it.

I’m at mid-game now and it’s about time I figured this out. I’ve been so unfocused that I’ve been seeing the most haphazardly slapped together world I could imagine. It’s truly embarrassing the stuff I’ve been giving all my attention to. Okay, no more of that nonsense, it’s on to bigger and better things. Everyday, and all throughout the day I’m now focusing on the stuff I actually WANT to experience.

Upcoming 2020

It’s not about luck or external alignment, a happy new year begins within. Can I maintain my focus on that which is delightful and OFF that which is dour? THAT is the ONLY question that determines the happiness of this upcoming year. The game to be played is this: to keep my attitude and attention on a lighthearted path — to laugh instead of wince.

And so this year I will maintain focus. Watching for when my mind drifts towards the unpleasant, directing it back to what’s pleasing. As I look out the window this morning and experience the dawning of a new day, seeing darkness gradually become light, I witness golden hues atop the trees against a light-blue sky.

In contrast, I also notice a mild headache, a slight pain — perhaps I should focus on that instead? But why would I follow the invitation of pain, a sensation that captivates my attention by making me believe that the body is a mechanical structure subject to wear & tear. By playing that stupid game, I win the prize of discomfort.

Pain is an antidote for boredom — that’s the trade-off. Even though it’s mild, I’m transfixed by the sensation. It provides an activity to pursue: dissipate the pain. Poke it, attempt to ignore it, try and talk myself out of it, take some medicine. Hm, I’m already failing at my new year’s focusing. Ha. Not so easy is it?

So that’s my starting point. Out-gunned by years of practice in pessimism. A negative attitude so honed, it draws blood instantly. Wretched thoughts will come, hordes of them, but I will not succumb. This is the apocalyptic battle between good and evil that determines the fate of the world I live within.

And all it takes is an easy choice: reject the negativity and embrace the lighthearted life. Heaven is at hand, but to the undisciplined mind it becomes hell. A disciplined mind is one that is supervised and steered, ever kept on the merry path. With a firm resolve, I grab the reins. “Onward! To VICTORY!!”

Coincidental Calamity

Nothing’s going right right-now. Look at that opening sentence for example!! “right right”?!! COINCIDENCE!? Three, yes THREE different activities that I typically enjoy crashed and burned today. Wait, make that FOUR activities now that my opening sentence sucks. What’s going on!? Are the forces of physics and chance aligned against me!?

But if they’re aligning in such an obvious way, then a chance-based physical reality isn’t real. Something else is going on here. If EVERY place smells like poop, it’s time to check your own shoe. Okay, gotta get back to basics — gotta get calm. These were just simple activities we’re talking about, yet for whatever reason they went extremely wrong.

Uh-oh. You know what went “right” today? I was really enthralled by the Netflix show Lost in Space (season 2). And you know what happens in EVERY episode? Something goes drastically wrong!!! “Danger, Will Robinson!” What if I’ve been feeding my mind a diet of calamity, and consequently it’s introducing that theme into my everyday life!

My mind’s like: “Oh, you’re entertained when things go wrong? Well here’s more of the same! Yay!” Such a helpful and dutiful mind, right? So sweet. I remember watching a dark-themed show a few weeks ago and noticing a dour cloud around me then too. Hm, I guess that’s not a coincidence. What goes in, is what comes out.

Hm, does that mean I have to completely cut-out shows that showcase disaster, even if they have upbeat endings? Is it like stuffing yourself with a bunch of junk-food and getting a tummy ache? Or, does my awareness of this circumstance help to negate the effects? Can it be consumed in moderation?

Hm, I only have a few episodes to go, I’ll try to keep my awareness high and monitor the situation. I’ll report back…

Rich, out.

Mechanical Man

Is man mechanical? A mechanical man is subject to defects, wear & tear, environmental conditions, and requires regular maintenance. Is it true though? Fortunately, it’s false. The mechanical-man myth is just another story we tell ourselves to inflict fear through the concept of solidity. By believing ourselves mechanical, we can worry ourselves into an exhilarating tizzy. But really, it’s just another form of masochism.

“Oh no, I’m getting older and the environment is so harsh! Things don’t run as well as they used to! I better perform regular maintenance or my body will never last!” The obvious falseness lies in the fact that not everyone adheres to the mechanical-man theory — yet miraculously, they live long full lives. Mechanical-man believers simply chalk it up to “good genetics” or “luck”, but they’re full of crap.

I know all about the mechanical-man theory because I used to be a believer. My body existed on borrowed time, it was decaying since the day I was born, the sun damaged my skin any chance it could while toxins snuck in from impurities in my food and water. Everything was poisonous! And germs! Don’t forget about the germs that lied in wait until my immune system entered into a weakened state.

But all of my vigilance was for naught. It was delusion, a fantasy of mechanization. To think that my meager efforts at maintenance were actually effective is laughable. I would pick and choose which parts required service and perform strange rituals of repair in hopes that they’d be beneficial.

And these rituals-of-repair regularly change with the fashion of the day. I had to eat a certain way, exert effort in a certain way, and deflect illness in a certain way — but every few years the current methods become out-dated and new methods take their place. Even location matters, as different regions practice different regimens.

As you can see, the mechanical-man myth effectively puts perfection out of reach. And if you do manage to fix one problem, there’s sure to be another following along. What a clever game to keep our attention so captivated by an endless stream of preventative-maintenance and repair. “Another ache! I’m so concerned! What could it be!? I better take action!”

Personally, I’ve chosen not to participate in that game anymore. There are better ways to entertain myself. And would you believe it? I’m still alive! My cunning and vigilance weren’t really keeping me safe. I’m not mechanical after-all! And without the threat of constant mechanical failure, I’m no longer plagued by worry and I’m much happier.

Imperfect Experience

Existence is the experience of imperfection. Imperfection provides reason for action. Whereas if something is in a state of perfection, nothing needs to be done. Therefore, we are constantly striving towards a perfection we hope we never achieve. Imperfection makes things fun.

If you’re not good at something, great! That’s the point! Games, for example, get boring the moment you master them. Excitement emerges when things don’t go as planned. Variety springs forth from imperfect implementations. Sameness is tediousness.

To extract enjoyment, we must accept and appreciate a playful approach towards perfection. We can’t allow ourselves to feel frustrated by a lack of perfection because we truly don’t want to get there. We WANT the condition of imperfection to inspire our efforts.

It’s a game like any other: we should be sincere in our pursuit but not solemnly so. We should genuinely engage in an activity, but not too seriously. We shouldn’t feel disdain for imperfection, but embrace it on an impossible path towards perfection.

Unknowable Truth

The ultimate truth of life, is that absolute truth isn’t knowable. Reality is only ever experienced from a particular perspective. When observed from different positions or at different times, what seemed true no longer is. We can easily witness this phenomenon as we age, yet we rarely regard its significance. Instead of acknowledging the truth of unknowableness, we pick a few “facts” and cling to them as long as we can, telling ourselves that they represent absolute truth.

We play this truth-game for as long as we can. Because these ideas aren’t actually true, they readily collapse whenever we fail to maintain our delusion. We’ll struggle for a bit until we pick a new “truth” to believe in. And on and on we go, attempting to make our leaky boat float, patching it wherever we find weakness. It’s a futile effort of course, but it’s a game we apparently like to play.

For playing this stupid game, we win the stupid prize of a flimsy foundation upon which our life rests. Our life never feels secure because it isn’t. But playing pretend isn’t the problem, the problem lies with trying to extract an absolute truth from these games. Within this world, we can only play: the characters we meet and the circumstances we experience are forms of fiction, not fact.

The things of this world are fictional and fleeting. And because nothing is of substance, it’s all frivolity. In other words: the temporary tales that constitute our experience reveal that it’s all for fun. Solid unchanging facts can be taken seriously, fleeting fiction cannot. Therefore, we purposefully play the truth-game in order to add solemnity and solidity to life.

The opposite is also true. If at any point we find life too intense, we can simply stop playing the truth-game. In other words, we can stop believing in the sources of fear and woe. Monsters disappear when we no longer believe in them. Once we stop fantasizing about the solidity of the world, there is no foundation upon which woe and worry can rest. By accepting and appreciating the ultimate truth of unknowableness, we cease in scaring ourselves — life turns from nasty nightmare into delightful dream.