Selecting Perspective

What I see as the fundamental problem of existence is “perspective”. How are you looking at the world? It is perspective that determines the quality of your experience. Something can become “treasure” or “trash” through a single statement.

Tim: What’s that you have there?
Ron: Oh, just a rock I found, it’s nothing.
Tim: Are you kidding!? That’s a large chunk of jadeite!
Ron: So?
Tim: It’s valuable!
Ron: Oh wow! I had no idea! I thought it was worthless!

The malleability of value is absurd actually. It’s unreasonable how quickly and severely something can be valued and devalued in an instant. From relationships, to objects, to concepts, to styles, to actions and behaviors – it’s nuts how something can be suddenly adored or unapologetically hated. And the condition can even be reversed if new information comes to light!

So here’s what we know: perspective determines the quality of experience AND perspective can readily change. Therefore, a logical conclusion follows: I should be able to alter my perspective until I achieve a high-quality experience. In other words, I should be able to adopt an outlook that paints every scene in a delightful way. And because perspective can easily change, this task shouldn’t be difficult.

So why haven’t I done it? Maybe it’s simply a lack of effort. Have I tried altering my perspective whenever I notice I’m having an unpleasant experience? I suppose I haven’t applied it all the time. In fact, I tend to accept many unpleasant circumstances as physical facts that defy redefinition. “This is bad and will always be bad!”.

Although to be fair, some of these circumstances are physical ailments, and I’m not sure how to put those in a positive light. For example, what if I’m experiencing digestion issues, have a headache, or my skin has a sore spot on it, how can I reframe conditions that seem fundamentally unpleasant? Because if I can’t, it puts me in conflict with the world. “Oh cruel world! Why would you inflict such harsh punishment upon me!!? What crime have I committed against thee!? Or doth thou reveal thy true sadistic nature!?”

Here’s some techniques to consider. In these cases, you’re trying to justify and accept circumstances that are unpleasant by their nature. Essentially, you’re trying to take blame off the world and provide a quick and easy way to dismiss your complaints so you can move on and focus on something more pleasant.

Put the blame on yourself, chalk it up to laziness and lack of discipline. Although you know better, you allowed yourself to do something that resulted in a negative consequence. It’s just basic hygiene: if you don’t keep your body clean, it’ll eventually smell.

Accept that there’s a minimum amount of discipline and maintenance required by the world. For example, you have to watch what you eat – which foods and how much. The need for discipline and maintenance is good because it allows for deeper immersion, you have control over some serious consequences – you can actually crash your avatar.

Consider maintenance of the body as a bit of a dance that you have to figure out. It’s customized per person and you have to experiment with what works. Like any complex device, sometimes it’s more fun when it’s unreliable. The early days of computers was like that – it was fun when things broke and you had to track down the problem and work out a solution.

You could also accept some ailments as part of the character you’re playing. Oh, well he’s just the “can’t sleep” guy. Then deal with that aspect in a lighthearted way. “A good night’s rest? Ha, if you consider two and a half hours adequate! Then yeah! All rested, haha.” Or perhaps life is doing you a favor, maybe you’d barrel through life like an express-train if you were well-rested and full of energy. At least now you get to observe and enjoy from a slightly sedated state.

Another option is to think of the body as subject to “weather-like” patterns of periodic “good” and “bad” conditions. Have a sore on your skin? Well it’s just passing through, like a rainy season, it’ll move on eventually. And skin simply wears with age, like coastal erosion. “Oh well, just a facet of the environment I’m in.” It’s simply the ebb and flow of nature.

To sum up, perspective is everything. In every circumstance, select a spot that facilitates a pleasant perspective. In this way, quality of experience improves immensely.

Character Analysis

Thought exercise: Who do you want your character to be? But, he must be flawed, experience difficulties, be surrounded by a bumbling cast of characters, forced to make choices containing suboptimal options, have good and bad days, and live within a faulty world.

Note: It’s probably a good idea if he’s able to deal with problematic circumstances. For example, if I said my character is a leader that gets things done – he’ll be leading a bunch of screw-ups and he’ll need the mental fortitude to handle the many failures he’ll experience. In essence, the strongest character might be one that can effectively process discontentment.

My character, version 1.0:

“Life on Earth” is an immersive theatrical experience in which you’ll live as a “human”. In this flaw-full world, you’ll engage in wacky and dramatic scenes that’ll enthrall and appall. From experiential stories, to fictional depictions, to musings within your own mind – there are exciting narratives around every corner. Can you keep calm amidst the tumult in this land of endless storytelling!?

My character is a visitor to “Life on Earth”. My goal is to have an enjoyable time. I want to get a general overview of the environment, doing just enough to grasp the basic idea of what’s going on, nothing too intense. I’d like a small family so I can experience love and affection in my daily life. I also want to wield tools and interact with technology.

To live as a human, one must become human. For full immersion, any knowledge of my origin is gone from my consciousness and the world actively tries to keep me in the dark about it. Since I chose to visit an action-factory instead of a lifeless moon, I’m willing to accept a certain amount of uncertainty and surprise (it’s like getting into one of those giant wave-pools at a water-park). I’m here for the vibrancy of the experience after-all.

My character is a bit of a nerd, he’s generally aloof but enthusiastic about the stuff he’s into. He has difficulty communicating, participating, appreciating, and deciding. But I accept these “flaws” because all characters have attributes that distance them from perfection – it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Protagonists are always striving toward an ideal they can’t reach. The problems and peculiarities of the world are what make for the most interesting stories.

As for my character’s “strengths”, he offers an atypical perspective blended with a bit of humor. He possesses a robust resilience and a deep dedication. He has a way with logic and reasoning – always seeking to find the optimal, most logical solution to a problem. He strives toward an ideal comprised of a lighthearted attitude, an ability to appreciate, a proficiency in creativity, and a mastery of effective communication.

On a daily basis, he engages with life through a combined expression of his flaws, strengths, and ideals. He seeks understanding of the world he’s in. He follows his interests and consumes narratives wherever he finds them. He partakes in fun little hobbies and plays with tools. He’s also the goto guy when friends seek a certain complexity or depth in conversation.

Existential Stage

If life is an immersive theater, then specific outcomes aren’t important. Whether something is accomplished doesn’t matter. And the point isn’t to fix a system that’s made to be broken. A plot without problems is no longer a story, it’s “The End”. Nor is finding fulfillment possible, it can’t be done – characters are sieves from which achievement and attainment rapidly drain.

The biggest mistake a participant can make is to take the absurdity seriously – it only leads to frustration. Should things be going wrong in your life and the wider world? Yes, of course. Should you feel unfulfilled at all times? Yes, of course. What should you be doing about this unbalanced state of affairs? Acting! You must play a part.

First, customize your character, dress him up, research some things you want him to know, work on his attitude – shape him into a character you want to play. Second: scenes, choices, and interactions will come. You can’t avoid participation in an immersive environment, there’s no place to hide. Even your own thoughts will come looking for you.

Important note: don’t fret about the character you’re playing. He’s intentionally flawed and VERY far from perfect. Things will NOT proceed as planned. You can guarantee he’s going to look foolish and he’ll fail repeatedly as he’s bombarded by difficult circumstances. But that’s what interesting narratives are all about: a protagonist that’s forced to contend with a broken world. Have fun.

Annoyance Theater

The thing about immersive theater is the collaborative aspect, as it’s often ill-defined. Are there scripted actors? Improvisation? Who’s who? Is it co-crafted emergent entertainment or a specific story that’s written out and witnessed in close proximity. I suppose that ambiguity is part of the fun, making it a dance with give-and-take and a bit of mystery and surprise.

I think in this world, the input of the audience is taken into account to some degree. But to what degree I’m not sure. For example, I’ve been having a very uncomfortable morning for the past few hours. That’s not even atypical, as I’m uncomfortable a lot. But this morning seemed more frustrating than usual, filled with a bunch of circumstances that seemed tailor-made to incite annoyance. Why? What did I do to invite such unpleasantries? And what kind of production would go through the effort of portraying such things?

Maybe like a timer in an escape-room, pressure is put on the audience to act. I feel the pressure, but I’m honestly at a loss – where do I apply my output in order to relieve the pushing? I need a hint. In an immersive theater there’s usually someone pointing the way. Maybe I skipped the introductory instructions. Maybe I’m just supposed to keep looking, but with a keener eye backed by increased dedication.

I gotta be honest though, the show I’m experiencing sucks. I really just want to sit in a chair and observe. Every part of this immersive stuff has been too intense or unsatisfying – just overall uncomfortable. If I’m a beta-tester in a soon-to-be-released immersive simulation that allows players to experience human life on Earth, my report is not going to be a positive one. No one should have to experience an endless procession of dissatisfaction. It’s just torture at some point.

P.S. I can obviously perceive the negative tone of this essay. I am also at the statistical nadir of human happiness i.e. mid-life. Is this more of a mid-life crisis manifesting? One of the specific points a participant must endure in order to get the full experience of humanity? Maybe one day I’ll look back at this and laugh joyfully, surrounded by the things I love and fully satisfied in the life I live. Here’s to then.

Human Connection

The world facilitates dissatisfaction. We’re deliberately presented with suboptimal options for choices we have to make. Our memory tortures us with events from our past, yet readily forgets any insightful realizations that could ease our burdens. We long for what we don’t have and get bored as soon as we get it. We eat the wrong thing and we’re rushing to the toilet. My point is this: the world unapologetically inflicts turmoil upon its inhabitants.

Sounds pretty bad – it doesn’t seem like a nice place to live. But, what if this turbulent condition indirectly results in something else. Perhaps agitating inhabitants isn’t the end-goal, but the secret-sauce that encourages human connection and creativity? With things always going wrong, we have lots to talk about, problems to ponder, stuff to fix or replace. People connect over what they dislike or often bond through shared burdens. By this drama, human narratives are created.

Of course there’s an endless series of choices, that’s life forcing you to act! And of course your options are suboptimal, that’s what stories are made of! A protagonist is always forced to act and struggle along a strenuous path surrounded by bumbling characters. All the dumb stuff going on in the world, in your life, wherever, is just fodder for human interaction and fellowship. The world is a story generator.

Of course you’re supposed to yearn for something. Of course it’s always just out of reach. Of course you constantly forget important tidbits of information that would’ve helped in your current situation. Of course you always end up in circumstances that make you look foolish. Of course you feel like something isn’t quite right – it isn’t! You’re not paranoid, the world really IS subjecting you to a convoluted plot in which you’ll experience many difficulties.

But the point isn’t to fix something that’s made to be broken. If you find yourself in the middle of a play, you don’t yell at the actors for pretending to be someone else, you don’t point out all the perceived plot holes, you don’t try to convince everyone that the play is just one big lie. You need to accept that life is one of those lame immersive plays in which actors wander around the room pretending that you’re a part of the play too. Since you don’t have a script, your dialog is going to be rough, just clear your mind and say whatever comes to you in that moment.

Imposed Options

I think this world is trying very hard to paint the illusion of self-determination. “People are deciding their own fate!” As a species, as political units, as families, as individuals – we struggle against whatever limits our ability to choose. “I want to make the choices that shape my life! I want to make my own decisions!” Yet, this aspect seems a bit too contrived. The premise seems to be: “I’ll be more accepting of this world if I feel as though I’m choosing my way through it.”

One might even describe life as a series of choices. But who’s setting the scene that provides the very narrow set of options? For example, I would’ve picked a completely different start to my day than what I experienced. I’m not even saying it was a bad morning, it wasn’t – I’m simply saying this isn’t the path I’d choose. There’s a lot less robots involved for instance. So, the options I was actually provided weren’t satisfactory in that sense.

To be honest, I’ve often picked “none of the above” when presented with options. That means I refused to participate, I chose to sit in a room by myself. To me, life has been a series of undesirable options. And the more I’m presented with such choices, the more I resent being placed in this position. I don’t want to choose the “least-worst” option every time. I want to choose the “best” among other greats.

Imagine loving ice-cream and someone takes you to a frozen-yogurt store. “Hey, it’s close enough right?” But it’s not, you dislike the subtle sourness of yogurt, it tastes like bad-milk to you. Then you’re asked what flavor you’d like. “Well, none, I don’t like yogurt in any form.” But then YOU’RE the bad-guy! “Oh, why do I offer you anything! You’re so unappreciative!” But if you’d have gone to an ice-cream parlor, those flavor choices would’ve been a source of delight. Vanilla! Maybe mint-chocolate-chip today! Oh boy!

Is my character simply an ungrateful complainer? I don’t deny that I’m tuned to notice very subtle changes and differences – or that I have a tendency to express my dissatisfaction. But I know I have an ability to respond well to things I like. Just this afternoon for example, I installed a new router on my network and it improved Internet performance. Great! Love it! Awesome-sauce! Let’s have more successes like that!

But again, my options were “slow Internet” or “faster Internet” – there wasn’t a bunch of amazing options to choose from. The option I’d have picked was: “jack into a virtual world with instantaneous transfer rates and imperceptible lag, where my avatar encounters the ultimate in immersive experiences”. Instead, the world provides some not-so-awesome options and expects me to choose one, and then I’m supposed to feel invested, even grateful?

Clearly, the world is designed to introduce an endless series of choices populated by suboptimal options. In every instance where a choice must be made, I can think of a much better option – but I’m stuck with picking the “least-worst”. Why would a world regularly present suboptimal options – with results I’m supposed to accept and appreciate?

Maybe it’s stress-testing? Perhaps I’m an advanced AI within a computer simulation. Maybe I’m a human being studied by aliens – or an alien being studied by humans. But it’s obviously not a destructive test, it doesn’t push past a certain threshold. Something’s been keeping me fed, housed, and generally cared for all these years (sub-optimally though). Maybe it’s a type of prison and it keeps me alive so I can experience punishment through dissatisfaction.

Or maybe it’s a game-show, like ones where people subject themselves to surviving alone in the wilderness. Maybe there’s a competitive aspect. Maybe I volunteered. Or maybe I setup the entire system and injected my consciousness into it. Maybe I live in the carefree future but wanted to experience stressful conditions, just to see what it was like. Maybe I’m a youngster, sent here as a character-building exercise. What’s exercise after-all, but the process of repeatedly exposing oneself to stressors.

And it’s not just externally, my mind presents me with unpleasant options all day long. I wouldn’t purposefully consider ninety-percent of the crap my imagination conjures up. But there I am, contemplating dumb stuff all the time. My point is this: this world is deliberately confronting me with choices containing limited low-quality options. This world ensures my existence but within an uncomfortable environment (i.e. can’t get cozy). And only through intense introspection am I able to perceive this predicament i.e. there’s an attempt to obfuscate the artificiality.

Through experience, I can say this though: things seem to go better when I interpret this experience lightheartedly. “Oh, a bunch of crap-options? Haha! Well we’ll see what I can do with those! What a neat challenge, lol!” Or, “Oh boy, my mind loves coming up with unpleasant scenarios, haha!” I suppose the game is this: see if you can get through this “fun house” while maintaining your composure. If you lose your patience, get frustrated, worry, get scared, etc. – you lose points. Most points, wins.

Next Version

Thought exercise: think of Earth as a quick scribble-sketch or a rough draft, just some raw-material to get a structure in place, containing concepts to contrast and evaluate. Now, see it as your job to come up with improvements, clean up the roughness and design whatever you think is more suitable. In this exercise, you’re as powerful as a dreamer realizing you’re dreaming – anything is possible and every part is malleable. To reiterate: in this dreamlike scenario, there are no limitations whatsoever.

Instead of corruptible bureaucratic institutions managed by highly fallible people, every major system would be replaced by robots.

There would be no elections, no government officials, no ornamental buildings for legislators, no pomp & circumstance, no speeches, none of it. You know how people have essentially zero influence on, or interaction with, their government in this world? That would be the same, except they’d be spared the nonsense and rigamarole. Computers would allocate resources without mismanagement, waste, corruption, etc.

I should note that these intelligent computing systems just exist, they’ve always existed in this alternate world and the population doesn’t think twice about it. The computing systems are autonomous, operating without human intervention of any kind. They exist like the forces of nature exist – they’re just part of the world. Note: when I use the term “robot”, I’m using it as a catch-all term for AI-based computer systems, some of which are actual androids, and some of which are just boxes.

Healthcare is also one of these computer-managed systems. Robots succinctly evaluate and treat ailments. If surgery is requested (it’s never done without consent), robots perform the operation with precision. Medications are allocated and measured for effectiveness by robots as well.

All mechanized transportation is robotically influenced or controlled. In instances where people control the direction of a vehicle, a robot maintains safe operating conditions at all times. There are no vehicle accidents.

The concept of a military doesn’t exist, as there are no governments or people in positions of power. As far as policing, robotic units can deploy if violence is detected, repeat offenders will be subject to relocation and monitoring. An isolated landmass named Australia (no relation to this current world, it’s just a coincidence) will be allocated for permanent relocation of those not capable of civilized behavior [as determined by robots]. Also, robots don’t kill people, ever.

As there are no people in positions of power, there aren’t any highly-structured or hierarchical religions. But, there exist large impressive monuments and buildings that celebrate different aspects of earthly existence. People might gather or visit or give thanks at these locations.

Like with government, people have essentially zero influence over their economy (in our current world). Therefore, there’s no change in that aspect, except the economy is managed by robots. There are no bubbles, no collapses, no booms or busts, no threat of imminent disaster – the economy just works since it lacks human “management”. Currencies and resources are administered by robots – and people working for subsistence isn’t a known concept. Food and other major resources are supplied by robots. Small-scale farming is an option for people, but the food-supply doesn’t depend on it.

There are no catch-all stores like Walmart or Amazon. There are small farms, mom & pop shops, boutiques, bakeries, restaurants, local entertainment, singers, authors, artists – just small-scale creative endeavors. People make stuff and entertain each other. There’s a lot of automation, so people don’t generate anything of great significance, just fun stuff. Shipping is free and fast and performed by robots as it’s part of the global infrastructure. There is an Internet where people exchange ideas, show what they know, and engage in world-wide trade. Global travel and relocation is an option as well.

Unique neighborhoods and distinctive public-spaces are valued. Regions try to out-do each other in terms of culture and beauty. Traveling the world is an adventure for the senses, as quick and reliable travel whisks people away to distinctive locales where sights, sounds, smells, and flavors entertain and delight. People are friendly and welcoming.

Having kids takes a conscious choice and requires a multi-stage effort. Think of it like training to attain a muscular body – it’d be difficult to accidentally end up as a body-builder, it requires dedication and effort. Likewise, the human body in this world can’t just produce children without a dedicated regimen. Robots are not involved in this process, it’s simply a change in the mechanics of the human body.

I suppose this constitutes a 2.0 version of Earth, and might require some tweaking once released. Overall I’m pleased with it – I’d move there. Honestly, the current 1.0 version of Earth seems like a place that robots send humans for “re-education”. It’s here that humanity learns to appreciate having robots control the infrastructure of existence.

Meta Mission

Following-up on the previous post.

If you’re always in meta-mode, thinking about life itself instead of actually doing something, I’m guessing that’s a poor strategy. So, attempting to get more into the meta-zone might be a bad option. Maybe you DO want to get lost into life. And anyway, you can’t really sustain meta-mental routines, they just fade into the background as the chatty-mind lives its daily life.

But what you CAN sustain, are real-world physical routines. So it sounds like you need a mission – something when you wake-up, you wanna do, everyday. A purpose, an endeavor in which to dedicate yourself. But what? I’ve been wrestling with THAT question as long as any other. Maybe the answer doesn’t matter? Maybe it’s the dedication that counts?

Hm, I’m not sure about that because there have been things over the years that I dedicated time and effort to – but I never felt fulfilled by any of them. Why do you think I started analyzing the meta so much? I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on here so I could have an enjoyable experience.

And I don’t think it can be as simple as a hobby, the effort needs significance. Missions are motivating, they drive you to act – they stand out from your daily life, they’re memorable and thus sustainable. A lot of missions seek to improve the world in some specific way. Or sometimes they’re about proving something to yourself. Give it some thought, try to come up with something.

Dissatisfying Source

Something I’ve noticed in myself and others, is a tendency to blame a particular condition or circumstance as the source of dissatisfaction. Logically then, one would assume that fixing the condition or circumstance would result in a state of satisfaction – but I’ve noticed that it does not. The attainment of a desired outcome doesn’t produce contentment. In fact, it often elicits a worse feeling. With nothing to blame for ongoing feelings of dissatisfaction, a distressing dilemma can arise.

“What is causing this unrelenting unhappiness!? Nothing seems to satisfy! Won’t I ever feel contentment!?” It appears to me that the root cause of dissatisfaction lies outside the bounds of the fulfillment of one’s desires. In other words, if you attempt to cure discontentment by acquiring something you want, you will fail by your achievement. Another way to put it: by winning, you’ll lose.

I don’t think chasing goals is inherently bad, it’s a game like any other. But believing that attainment will bring a sense of satisfaction is totally and completely wrong. That’s not where you’ll find it. You’re not unhappy because of a condition or circumstance or because you lack something you want. You’re unhappy because you’re perplexed. You don’t know what’s happening here, yet you’re sure that something’s wrong with your situation (which is illogical and demonstrates your confusion).

How could your situation be “bad” if you lack a definitive metric to measure by? Maybe it’s good? How would you know? Yet, you can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that fulfilling your wants will leave you even more dissatisfied. Try it, you’ll see. You’ll be no less empty – you’ll remain full of discontentment.

Creative Process

Not long ago, I picked up a pencil and began sketching. I’ve attempted to sketch throughout my life but was rarely able to produce something I found satisfying. Recently though, I started drawing to a quality that I kinda like. I noticed I have a drawing-process that I didn’t have before.

Essentially, I scribble my subject – very poorly, it’s literally just back-and-forth scribbling like I’m jokingly drawing a picture. But in that scribble, I see the basic form revealed. I can see what’s wrong with it and I go back with an eraser and start correcting little by little. Erase, redraw, erase, redraw – until finally, what started out as a scribble becomes a halfway-decent picture.

So in one sense, my tool isn’t the pencil as much as it’s the eraser. My lines usually aren’t clean, I sneak up on smooth lines with my eraser. To make the process easier, I switched to drawing on a tablet – but it’s the same style, just using digital graphite. I don’t use a stylus, just my finger while I frequently zoom in and out.

Give me something broken, just a scribble in this case, and I easily perceive that something’s wrong with it – something’s off so I’ll move a line until it looks right. “Ah, there! Now on to the next part!”. But recently, I seem to have a better sense of where to place these lines in order to achieve a degree of three-dimensionality. Sketching isn’t frustrating like it used to be.

In life, I frequently see what’s wrong with all the stuff I come in contact with. My mind is filled with constant criticism for everything. But most of what I criticize isn’t within my reach or power to change. That’s a frustrating circumstance, obviously. I suppose I should try to keep my attention on things within my fixability range.

In addition, perhaps this artistic endeavor illustrates another point: That it’s possible to take something messy and worthless and little-by-little transform it into something nice. Maybe I’m that scribble. Maybe I don’t need an epiphany or some drastic alteration to thoroughly transform my life. Maybe, all I need is to incrementally fix the small things I’m able to. And maybe, I’ll end up with something I can appreciate.