Amusing Obstacles

In a video-game, your character is constantly confronted with obstacles and often dies because of them — or at least receives some damage. Consequently, do we consider video-games to be about “suffering”? No, we consider them to be “fun” in fact. So when considering the ongoings of “real life”, why should we consider life to be about suffering?

Growing up, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of life — this is too real, and I’m so fragile. Life was out to get me and I had to hide. But of course it was out to get me, those were the obstacles — that’s where the fun comes from!! I was just too enthralled by the spectacle to realize what was going on.

And of course this is the case. I’ve literally done nothing to ensure my own survival for the past several decades — yet I’m still here. It’s as if life keeps throwing balls at my face and I’m just too dumbfounded to realize I should catch them. I keep staring at the balls coming at me while calling myself a victim of life’s abuse.

But in games, we don’t call that abuse. Life is literally attempting to engage us in a challenging adventure. There can be no doubt about it, the narratives are everywhere and we’re not even responsible for maintaining ourselves. Notice how the body just chugs along without our intervening — the heart pumps, air goes in and out, food digests, thoughts flow through our mind like a constant stream — the whole thing is on auto-pilot, we’re just along for the ride.

So here’s the deal: yes, you’re not paranoid, life really has been out to get you — you specifically, you’re not just a statistic. And no you can’t hide, life knows exactly where you are at all times. But don’t worry, this is all in good fun. If life was truly about survival, your pitiful-ass would’ve been dead a hundred times over by now.

Life is looking out for you, obviously. But life is like a mamma-bird that keeps pushing you out of the nest — she knows you can do it, but you stubbornly refuse to open your wings, believing yourself incapable of flying. Consequently, you plop on the ground with a thud. Uh, ya gotta open those wings bro. That’s your choice, life does provide the vehicle you ride, but you gotta consent and press a few buttons now and again.

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Real or NPC

Being that I believe in Simulation Theory, I tend to evaluate people on the basis of whether they’re actual players or merely NPCs (non-player characters). I was thinking about designing an evaluation to determine who’s who — like a Turing Test. But of course it relies on the assumption that other players share my perspective — it’s possible that other players relate to the game in a vastly different manner than I do. But I suppose it’s also possible that I’m not really a player, but a confused NPC.

From my perspective at least, I tend to judge people as actual players if they exhibit the following behaviors.

They demonstrate an appreciation for the absurdity of their humanness. In other words, “wow existence is weird huh?”

They demonstrate a well-functioning sense of humor. Being a human that poots and poops is a silly thing. Because we’re not natively so, being a human is an awkward experience that’s inherently funny.

They demonstrate an inability in dealing with humanness, i.e. they’re not an automaton effortlessly performing an assigned role. In other words, they don’t mechanically adhere to pre-fabricated societal roles. They’re confused or frustrated at times by the concept of existing — they may have an existential crisis for instance.

They try to figure out who they are and what their character is capable of. They engage in introspection and wonder about themselves.

Well those are just a few quick ideas. Again, I can obviously pass this test because it’s designed around me. But perhaps other players have a different way of experiencing the game. So, it’s not a sure thing. It’s also possible that we’re all players, and some of us just have a shallow gameplay style.

In other words, some people aren’t providing their full attention, their character is on auto-pilot most of the time. Whereas in a lot of video-games I’ll turn the “assists” and “auto-pilot” modes off and try to do everything manually. It could be the case with this world too, where I’m attempting to manually control my character without relying on too much assistance (or I just suck at this game even with the helper settings turned on).

Dramatic Overlay

Just think about the ongoings of life for a minute.

Let’s use my mother as an example. Her day consists mostly of smoking cigarettes, handling animal poop, some light landscaping or interior-decorating, applying makeup, shopping, watching sentimental shows on cable, listening to my sister, babysitting her grandson, eating some quick-to-assemble food, napping, watching prime-time TV shows, and going to bed. I’ve known my mother my entire life and we even lived in the same house for several decades — in other words, I’m pretty familiar with her narrative. She’s in her seventies and doesn’t expect much more out of life at this point.

Although I described her current routine, her routine from several decades ago wasn’t much different. Externally, her life hasn’t been too exciting I’d say. Internally, she’s very anxious and worries a lot. Every phone-call has the potential to be a life-changing disaster. If I dare call her outside of my normal routine, well then something MUST be wrong. So internally, I’d say her life has been very exciting. She’s captivated by the fear of terrible things happening in her life (despite the fact that so little has happened in all those seventy-plus years).

My point is this: I’ve directly witnessed a few people’s lives. And I gotta tell ya, from those examples, existence seems like a pretty mundane affair. Do some people have super-duper exciting experiences? I dunno, I don’t know those people. The lives I’ve personally observed are boring on the outside and a veritable high-intensity electrical-storm on the inside — my own included. So what’s the take-away from this?

From a simulation standpoint, that means the rendering and scripting of daily-life can be simple and repetitive. If everything interesting happens in the imagination, well that’s easy-peasy. That means life is more like a book than a movie — a scene is suggested and you simply picture it in your head. In the external world, just follow a basic pattern of activities — but inside your head, infuse some drama into the mix, add some fear or anger and suddenly a basic interaction becomes so much more.

How many times do we find ourselves lost in thought, imagining the motivations of others? These people have literally done nothing, yet we craft an entire soap-opera around the way in which they did or didn’t say “Hello”. In the external world, nothing happened — but in our internal world a grand epic just took place. This is very convenient for players that lack skill in maneuvering their character through the wider world — a noob can basically stand still while experiencing an entire range of intense emotions.

We wake up, eat, defecate, perform some mundane tasks, interact with others in a minimal way, talk about everyday topics, travel to and fro in short uneventful trips, read some stuff, watch some stuff, sleep — our external experiences are almost nothing compared to the excitement on the inside. The dramatic overlay we place upon these very basic activities is amazing. We’re authors writing our novel each and every day.

And here’s the thing… if so much of life is written inside our heads — maybe 90% or more, then we have the ability to control 90% or more of our life through the shifting and directing of our focus. By writing our novel in a way that fills us with delight, we can craft the best possible experience imaginable. It’s within our power as soon as we realize we can do this — and actually apply it. All lives are essentially boring, it’s the same stuff everyday — they all suck UNTIL you place a dramatic overlay that you enjoy on top.

Life is Suffering

“Life is suffering” is a fundamental misunderstanding of existence. I think there’s a truer statement: life is captivating. And to be captivating, life is oftentimes hard. Furthermore, if everything is mere flickering pixels, there’s no actual body that suffers, it’s only ever a suggestion of pain — and we the consciousness can choose to accept or reject that suggestion.

For me, an engaging video-game is one that stretches my limits and beats me down. I lose often. It’s a drive to resist this subjugation that pushes me to play again and again despite my seemingly futile attempts. But then, for no good reason, or perhaps the game literally tires of my persistence, I start winning. All that anticipation finally pays off in a feeling of glorious triumph. Sweet relief comes as I finally conquer my foe. But that only means it’s time to find a new game.

Life knows what pushes my buttons and so, pushes them. As players we should expect nothing less. Of course not everyone has the same pattern of pushes — some are satisfied with the simple life, I’m a glutton for feeling like a loser, and some are downright freaks that bathe in blood and gore. Whatever it is, life will find a way to captivate us all.

Of course that can seem overwhelming. It IS overwhelming. It’s nuts — life is the ultimate video-game, reading our thoughts and customizing itself in a way that tantalizes us to our core, turning up the intensity until we literally think we’re part of it. You gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.

Life is SO overwhelmingly intense in fact, that even if you realize it’s only a game, you’ll STILL get lost to it. You’ll think, “Haha I got this! Whee! So fun!” — but all that goes out the window in the next roller-coaster drop. “OH SH*T!! WHAT THE F*CK WAS THAT!!??”. That’s life baby, and it’s got your attention — and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Universal Mind

Why do we know things — individually and as a society?

From a purely physical perspective, all knowledge is held within the collective minds of mankind. In other words, every individual is a redundant data-storage module, that when combined with all other individuals, contains the sum of human knowledge. Society’s memory is simply stored in the memories of individuals. No one person contains everything, but multiple people hold the same information for particular areas.

There is a slower archival-storage mechanism, in the form of books and videos and such. But this still requires an individual to know enough to seek out such books and know where to find them and how to follow them. So primarily, society’s memory is stored in the active memory of individuals.

We also know that memories decay over time. As new things enter our mind, old things become less relevant, the past becomes even more distant and details fade. And memories aren’t stored digitally, but in an analog format. For example, when I try to recall something from decades ago: I kinda remember, I know it sounds like “mara…” no, no, it was “Sara…” wait no, “Kara…” that’s it! But I might be wrong and the memory becomes corrupted.

The details of not-so-popular things are probably corrupted the most since less people hold them in memory. But what if my own memory contradicts the memory of the collective mind? When a few individuals share the same contradiction, this concept has been termed the “Mandela Effect” or sometimes “Retroactive Continuity”. Some adherents claim there’s evidence of archival-storage contradicting the memory of the collective mind (sometimes called “residue”).

Since I believe in Simulation Theory, I don’t adhere to the purely physical perspective. My belief is that knowledge is held in a Universal Consciousness located beyond the confines of the physical world. When inspiration or understanding comes out of nowhere, I assume it comes from this Universal Consciousness. In other words, parents and teachers do not impart the knowledge we possess, it’s simply unlocked at the appropriate time when needed.

In my experience, there is no wisdom of the crowd. Instead, an individual is instilled with an inspiring idea that subsequently influences the crowd. And this inspiring idea wasn’t passed down, it didn’t come from society’s memory, it was fresh information that radically altered society as a whole. Spiritual leaders, political leaders, philosophers, inventors — the things these people knew didn’t come from rehashing old stuff into something great — aging leftovers don’t make the best meals.

And I don’t believe the simulation is absolute and concrete in its ways. It’s more of a dream that flows and forms based on feedback from the player. And in dreams, continuity doesn’t matter, corruption of concepts is a regular occurrence — so in my thinking, things like the Mandela Effect or Retroactive Continuity could readily occur. (I’m mentioning these concepts because my friend mentioned them to me this morning and I’m writing this to help clarify my thoughts on the matter).

Collective Data Corruption

In memory management, when the last reference is severed, the object is trashed. This is one method of keeping a computer’s memory from getting bogged down with instructions or data that’s no longer needed.

In our collective memory, we all hold references to certain ideas. When there’s nobody left that remembers a particular topic, it’s gone — poof. From a logical and practical standpoint, this is true. Old ways of doing things are long forgotten. Ancient languages and the manner in which they were vocalized are zapped from memory.

But are irrelevant items truly gone or are they simply written off onto long-term storage? Can certain topics be recalled, albeit at a significantly slower rate as they’re read from outdated storage media? Yet sometimes old media weakens with age, and the stored data becomes corrupted — resulting in inconsistent output.

My friend was talking to me about the Mandela Effect (or collective false memories) — and like usual, I was quick to dismiss it. But then I framed it within the context of Simulation Theory, and it started to make more sense. I think it’s possible that inactive topics are frequently flushed out of our memory when there are no current references left.

But when a topic re-surfaces sometime in the future, we have to go into the archives and retrieve the relevant data. But of course this is stored in a lower quality format, making it prone to corruption errors. And for that reason, clusters of people have varying ideas about certain long-term remembrances.

Although I suppose it could all be just a dream, where fact isn’t any different from fiction. Where one minute you’re holding a glass of lemonade and the next it’s a bumblebee flying from your hand. Where any backstory is simply manufactured on the spot. Where our commingling imaginations ebb and flow and some visions take precedence over others at varying times.

Who knows. The one thing I know is the unknowableness of life. Whenever you strive for the answer… poof… it’s gone. Life brings you back, envelops you in the spectacle of bright lights and distracting sounds. You become overwhelmed by the sensations that surround. You’re no longer an ethereal thinker floating through lofty spaces, but a creature of this world, grounded by gravity.

Advanced Controls

So if we’re in advanced-mode, how do we control the car? Not with a hyper-focused conscious effort, that’s for sure. Think about walking for instance, do you analyze every foot-placement and muscle-action? Of course not, you simply allow your body to walk unencumbered — whereas if you constantly examine and manually direct the movements, you’re likely to trip.

It’s true for any game: you sync with its rhythm, take a lighthearted approach to winning, and enjoy the experience itself. And no, you can’t wish your way through — you have no idea what’s in store, how could you know what to wish for? Instead, you gratefully accept the obstacles and surprises as they’re presented to you.

But keep in mind that you influence the obstacles and surprises by your attitude and outlook. If you’re suspicious and full of complaints, you’re simply not going to enjoy what’s provided. Whereas if you’re in the mood for fun, everything becomes a party, an entertaining adventure, a grand ol’ time.

So, the controls are easy. What’s hard is maintaining an awareness and a focus that allows you to implement them. The “advanced” part, is that your mind is allowed to wander anywhere and everywhere — you’re allowed to think anything you want. If you want to contemplate the worst stuff possible, then go right ahead (that’s the equivalent of crashing into a wall by the way).

But if you want to tame advanced mode, and become a decent player at this game, you have to stop trying — simply flow along with a cheerful confidence. This game, like any game, is made for your amusement. You have ample ability to excel: just allow life to take you on a ride — let go, that’s all you need to know.