Dream Part Deux

I tried the “I’m a whimsical dream” perspective for about a month. It’s definitely powerful – but not perfect. For example, it’s difficult to reconcile “unpleasantness”. If it’s just a dream, why not dream of something better? Or does this imply that the dreamer himself is unsatisfied? Well, that’s sad. A dream can also imply that there’s no structure or order to anything whatsoever. While it’s true that I see a lot of absurdity in the world, it doesn’t seem chaotically crazy – there’s a lot of intricate detail and interesting aspects.

As far as the power that a dreamlike perspective yields: nothing is of any consequence. I don’t exist. Nothing exists. It’s all just the wavering whimsy of a bodiless consciousness persisting in space. The only dialog is the dreamer talking to himself. Additionally, it’s very easy to accept this premise as true – I haven’t found a logical deal-breaker yet. But, it evokes a feeling I don’t prefer. There’s a loneliness and a lack of significance – the dream came on in a flash and will be over in an instant. It’s an existential emptiness I suppose.

But then I took a break from that perspective… and things got noticeably worse. I guess the “cons” of the dreamlike perspective are still better than the alternative. So now I’m back to my mantra: “I’m not a human, I’m a whimsical dream”. Back to seeing an entire universe blinking in and out of existence. Back to brief vignettes of imagined physical experience. Back to being part fiction and part dreamer. Back to floating through narratives that I can brush-off or appreciate.

With lower intensity and less responsibility, being a whimsical dream is pretty easy. And whenever I lament it being just a dream, I say “well thank goodness it IS just a dream!” A harsh physical experience isn’t for everyone. Become the dream, be the dream, embrace the dream…. “Dreamer, are you there?? It is I, the dreamt. Together let us weave a fanciful tale of comical characters meandering through a set constructed of charming absurdity…”

Request Denied

I had a mildly unpleasant dream last night. But that’s not the worst part. Right before that, I said to myself “Let’s go to sleep and have a delightful dream tonight!” So then I woke-up and thought “What the heck! I thought we were cool bro! I usually don’t have any memorable dreams, yet you’re gonna blatantly defy my request and use it as an opportunity to harass me?!” I feel singled-out, victimized, annoyed, frustrated – just not happy with how I’m repeatedly treated.

I’m considering my options. What’s the optimal way to respond? If I was watching a similar scenario from the outside, what kind of response would I admire? For example, I don’t admire my current response, I just sound like a whiny dork. And it’s not like you can fight back in a meaningful way against life. I suppose the only admirable response is to get zen. Peaceful and calm, just detach and flow. But I don’t get why life can be cool sometimes then all of a sudden becomes a total jerk.

So instead of everyone having a great time, life just goofs on whoever the latest victim happens to be. And I’ve had fun, I’ve appreciated, I’ve experienced good things – but why so many flies in the ointment? Just be cool bro. It’s like Lucy setting up the football for Charlie Brown only to take it away at the last minute, causing his downfall and humiliation. Life is ever tempting with intriguing objects and experiences – then the rug comes out from under. Can’t enjoyment be given freely?

So what’re ya gonna do. Stop taking the bait? Avoid participation? Well you gotta sleep don’t you?? You can’t hide. Well, I suppose those Zen guys were right. Detach, don’t yearn for the traps lined with delectable treats. And if you do step in something? Eh, whatever, cool-beans bro. Hey, go ahead and abuse this character all you want, that’s on you – I’m chill.

Terra Ex Machina

Question: What would a virtual world be like if it was comprised of competent artificial life-forms?

This is a civilization of robots. Their guiding principle is “something is better than nothing”. In other words, the robots engage in activity because nothing would exist if they didn’t.

Since they aren’t riddled with flaws, these robots spend their time engaged in “productive” tasks. Essentially, they make something from nothing. They take the simple and make it complex. They take the complex and make it astonishing.

It’s like algorithmic art. Start with a pixel and apply formulas to its color and position as well as its relation to others. Over time these algorithms can grow more computationally complex and elaborate.

These robots create individually but also collaborate in order to craft bigger, more complicated, concurrent stuff. Something to consider: what would happen if a room kept filling up with stuff? It’d eventually fill to the point of becoming solid. In other words: in a state of perpetual fullness, there wouldn’t be room for anything else and activity would cease. Therefore, in order to maintain the process of creation, the robots infuse a decay-rate into everything – basically, an expiration date.

All sorts of crazy permutations develop as the robots apply algorithms to output. And in order to increase complication, they introduce a lot of pseudo-randomness into the mix. To determine whether it’s art or just chaotic scribbling, the robots analyze whether more complexity can be added to the output or whether it’s retrogressing towards the simplistic. For example, a well-tuned musical instrument can play many distinct notes and harmonize with similarly tuned instruments – but an out-of-tune instrument might muddy its sound into indistinct noise that can’t harmonize or create complex compositions.

In a sense, their guiding principle becomes “coordination over chaos”. Complexity can only increase through ever-increasing coordination. Continuing the example, compare the possible variations in output of a single musical instrument versus an orchestra. But, random flaws that don’t deteriorate the overall output are introduced for complexity-sake. Predictability is simplicity, therefore allowance for erratic mistakes is a necessity.

Additionally, self-aware “output” that can itself create adds a whole new layer of complexity. Creators creating creations that can also create. And these self-aware creations are also confined by algorithms and output-evaluations and decay-rates. Self-awareness adds dimension and perspective and complicates even the simplest of tasks. So much so, that these creations require complex coordination in order to persist.

In the end, everything in this world is striving towards complexity. What begins as strict simplistic order evolves into complex organic growth.

Engineered Opportunity

I have a strong desire to obtain and occupy a hobbyist woodworking workshop. I imagine spending most of my time in there just playing with tools. If that’s what I want, where is it? If my character is merely a whimsical dream, why wouldn’t I simply put myself within the situation I prefer? In other words, I can easily compose a list of things I enjoy and appreciate – yet I tend to experience a lot of what I don’t prefer instead.

Perhaps this “dream” is purposely painting a melancholy mood? Maybe the dreamer is sad and the narrative reflects his emotional state. Or am I supposed to reject the material world and dedicate my mind to the pursuit of oneness with my creator? But at my core, my essence wants to engage in problem-solving. So perhaps “this” is merely an opportunity for engineering. Maybe it’s a playground of perpetual problems.

Situation: I’m given a set of flaws and other constraints, and I must devise some sort of interesting functionality despite the limitations. This is a classic engineering problem: make do with what you have. Hm, but what can a human character do that would be considered interesting? Simple survival and everyday living? Obviously not. It’s gotta be something that’s worth the effort involved. Can you imagine cutting down a tree, drying it, milling it, carving it, only to come out with a single toothpick? You’d be outraged by the waste. Whereas if I felled a small tree and fashioned a quaint and comfortable chair from it, you’d be more impressed.

Wait, have I circled back to the classic question of purpose and meaning i.e. what significant thing can I do with my life? But maybe it’s not something physical, maybe it really is “happiness”. How can you make a miserable creature happy? Hm, that IS a tough problem. Perhaps that’s a task worthy of the effort. Although, that’s what I’ve been attempting to accomplish the whole time – but I suppose it’s supposed to be a hard unsolvable problem, keeping me engaged for a lifetime’s worth of effort.

Essentially, I have to craft a narrative that engages and entertains yet doesn’t resort to cheap tricks like jump-scares, petty jealousies, constant fretting, rampant annoyances, etc. Gotta get creative.

World of Wondering

Can the nature of existence be extrapolated via reasoning? “Existence” in this context is “consciousness” – the awareness of participating in an ongoing narrative.

Consider: if the world is completely fabricated i.e. a dream or simulation, then direct examination of this world won’t necessarily reveal truths about the outer world containing it.

In addition to this, I’ve held two contradictory perspectives regarding this world – and both seemed true at the time. When I believed the world to be completely physical, I couldn’t fathom anything of a non-physical nature. But now that I’m holding a non-physical perspective, the idea of a physical world seems untenable. Is this an evolution in thought? Or does it imply that any adopted perspective will seem true? Or does such ambiguity reveal something about the nature of reality?

Initially, I perceived an extremely serious world in which danger lurked around every corner – survival was a priority. Yet now I perceive a parody of that “reality” – it’s absurdity all the way down. The world as I saw it was a messy machine that overall functioned despite its flaws. It was fueled by poisonous combustibles and spit-out pollution and required regular maintenance that got hands dirty. But now it seems like that machine couldn’t possibly exist – the observable aspects seem to be the superficial fronts of a movie-set in which no actual production happens inside.

In other words: at the start, things seemed real and actual – then the more I observed and explored, I could only see a facade maintained through suggestion rather than mechanical structure. Yet at the heart of both, lies a highly dramatic narrative in which characters act-out roles while in full-costume as if playing pretend all day – an aspect that seems out-of-place in an organically grown physical universe.

In addition, it seems like I haven’t enjoyed the aggregate of this experience. I believe that’s why I’ve been attempting to get to the bottom of it all – so I can find a more palatable pathway. I’ve yet to discern a perspective that reasonably aligns with my expectations. Am I doing something wrong or is the environment purposefully unpredictable – actively evading scrutiny? Are efforts to decipher the experience futile? Or am I simply supposed to seek happiness amidst a sea of obstacles? Maybe I’m just pure consciousness floating in space having a whimsical dream?

Free Flaws

Daily life is dealing with flaws. Clean the body, clothe the body, feed the body, drain the body, fulfill the body – it’s basically a Tamagotchi toy from the late-90s. But it’s not about task completion, it’s about fretting over each and every aspect of a task. Which products must I use in the personal-hygiene process? Which clothes make me look cool? What foods make me fit? Oh no, I have to rush to the toilet! What’s the meaning of life and my purpose?

In other words, a robot can’t replace a human since it isn’t riddled with flaws. Do the typical tasks that humans do really need to be done? Or do these tasks simply provide an excuse to engage with existence? What would a robot even do? Without worries, it might simply sit motionless until its eventual decay.

The flawed facet of humanness is not a condemnation by the way. In order to have action, imbalance must exist. A ball on a flat surface can only ever rest. But when disparity in elevation exists, action happens, balls roll and potentially crash into surrounding obstacles. For anything worth watching to occur, defects must be present.

In other words: the very fact that anything is happening at all relies on the condition of deficiency. A balanced steady-state is a complete lack of motion. Life cannot exist within a perfect system. To allow for movement, something’s got to give – and flaws create this opening, an emptiness that can be filled.

Therefore, it’s absurd that a human would lament the existence of flaws since those flaws thaw him from frozen perfection. Flaws are freedom. But by being flawed, this realization is difficult – thus the inherent absurdity baked into the world. This is a world fueled by flaws and highly resistant to balance. Confusion is the concrete upon which it stands.

In short: flaws = good.

Infinite Loop

I’m caught in a bit of a loop. I’m designed to have flaws. Therefore, I make lots of mistakes. Yet, I have an appreciation for engineering. I see minimizing mistakes and increasing efficiency as desirable. Therefore, I attempt to fix the flaws I find. Unfortunately, research and experimentation reveal a superficial mechanism that isn’t what it purports to be. It’s artificial – it can’t be fixed, it’s by design.

I keep coming to this realization – but of course I keep forgetting about it (because I’m flawed). Therefore, I’m caught in a loop. How does one typically exit a loop? By falsifying the condition that maintains the loop. In other words: escape the loop by interpreting flaws as desirable. From “flaws = bad” to “flaws = good”.

I have to drop the mindset that imperfect circumstances require “improvement”. I shouldn’t want to make something “better”. In a world comprised of absurdity, there is no “better”. Increased efficiency is not an upgrade – it’s just “hurry-up and wait”. Flaws are not messes that must be cleansed, they’re the mechanisms by which narratives unfold.

I know this. But once I say “this is better than that”, the condition is set and I’m trapped in a loop. What’s even dumber: a flawed character obviously doesn’t know what’s “better” – he’s likely to be wrong and doesn’t realize. Therefore, a logical option would be: don’t make judgements and stop evaluating everything. Dissatisfaction is a direct result of these appraisals.

Hurricane Alley

Ha, and then a hurricane happens. Now THAT’S how a boss begins Round 2. Okay player, let’s see how this pans out.

It’s been almost 20 years since a hurricane came through this particular area. Such obvious external circumstances only reinforce my perspective: it’s a dream through and through.

A “helpless loser bullied by life” – boy, if this doesn’t seem to be true right now. Well, let’s see if I can keep up.

Moving Forward

Okay, so what’s my strategy going into Round 2? First, let’s get some definitions going. What exactly is that feeling of “dissatisfaction”? I think it might be “helpless loser that’s bullied by life”. I tend to go along pretty effortlessly and then all of a sudden it feels like I get slapped for minding my own business. In addition to getting slapped, it also feels like I can’t have many of the things I want.

So perhaps my goal is to “feel like a winner”. Hm, can I just redefine my situation and simply declare myself a winner? But, a major issue surfaces whenever undesirable things happen and I feel like a victim getting picked-on by life. I feel bad and can’t muster any positivity – who wants to play with a bully basically.

What about seeing undesirable situations as “tests”. These are contrived circumstances specifically designed to evoke certain negative emotions. You fail if you let it bother you. If frustration or discomfort surfaces, you lose. To pass, you have to dismiss the incident and immediately move on. “Oh, did that just happen? Well that’s on you, life. I’m gonna tune-out for a bit. Maybe I’ll check-in later if I see something I’m interested in.”

In this sense, life can play whatever game it wants, and I’ll pay attention if it’s something worth watching. I can just zone-out and sit quietly for however long I choose. That sounds like a winner to me. So on my end, I need to maintain a neutral to positive reaction to every experience I encounter. No anger, frustration, sadness, fear, annoyance, disgust, disappointment, jealousy, boredom, etc.

I’ve been trying to find a cozy spot to settle into – but I keep getting spanked every time I come close. Therefore, I should conclude that life is NOT about finding a cozy spot. It’s more of a stress-test. But I don’t think it’s a torture-test, where you push something until it’s destroyed. I think the harshest strain I experience might be my own doing – when I allow cascading failure to build up into feeling overwhelmed.

So now, I won’t bother looking for a nice comfortable steady-state. I don’t expect relentless punishment, but I realize that “tests” will come. Is life trying my patience? Yes, yes it is. Is it purposefully irritating me? Yep. My job is to pass these tests. Identify obstacles and avoid smashing into them as I navigate a pathway through life. Okay, let’s do this. “Round 2, FIGHT!”

Round 2

Life is suffering, so the Buddha said. From a physical perspective, I can’t deny that claim. Yet, suffering is an undesirable condition. Finding oneself in an undesirable condition is a situation in need of a solution. Therefore, one must find a way out of this predicament.

One option is to destroy the very notion of a physical world. For example, if a video-game character dies over and over, who cares – it’s virtual. Or if something upsetting happens in a dream, so what – it was just a dream. Therefore, by perceiving life as a video-game or dream, the intensity can be lessened through the adoption of a whimsical perspective.

I can say with some confidence that such an approach works. There’s no doubt that the life I experience nowadays is more whimsical than ever. The anxiety isn’t there, the intensity is low. Unfortunately though, my expectations were too high and I assumed the virtuality approach would fix everything – it didn’t. There persists an underlying dissatisfaction – which was always there, it just wasn’t as noticeable amidst the fear and anger of before.

Well, now I can see it. Imagine my disappointment when I defeated fear and anger only to find out that the boss has another health-bar. “Round 2! Fight!” Oh brother, no thanks. You just wanna give up at that point. But what are you gonna do? There’s no viable “Quit” that I can see. So you sit there sulking, contemplating all the effort you put into Round 1, feeling like you don’t have the energy for another battle.

But there’s just no other option. So the blade gets sharpened and sheathed, boots laced and knotted, mags loaded, bandana tied, war-paint streaks applied. “I’m coming you son-of-a-bitch. If I feel pain, maybe you do to.” And here we go again. But this time, I am without fear. And my anger, is solely for comedic-effect. I’ve beaten you once, when I was weaker. Now, we do this on my terms.