Ten Year

Dear diary, we’re approaching the 10-year mark. I started writing here around April 2012 and it’s almost April 2022. So what have I learned in a decade? What’s changed after one-tenth of a century? NOTHING!! Well maybe I’m exaggerating, let’s review.

Alright, yes, I’m living in a different location than I was 10 years ago. But I’m actually living in the same town I lived in 12 years ago. I still have trouble sleeping, especially staying asleep. I still lack any long-term goals, I’m just trying to manage my way through each day. I’m still struggling to attain satisfaction with life. And I still don’t understand the fundamental nature of existence.

As far as changes, okay here’s some:
My woodworking knowledge and craftsmanship has improved. I’m somewhat pleased with my tool collection. I’m a calmer person. My headaches are less-severe. I completely, and without reservation, accept reality as a fictional construct.

But that last point leads to my latest problem: if it’s fake, why isn’t it the best it could be? For instance: on one day, a particular object or circumstance brings me joy – but on another day, the same exact thing becomes a source of dissatisfaction. I suppose it could be an implementation of “intermittent reward” (which suggests that the world is designed to maximize engagement).

But these obvious “bad days” make me feel somewhat targeted and abused by the system. I think: “Why must you keep going out of your way to introduce strain into my experience?!” Of course the answer might be: to maximize engagement.

And unfortunately for me, I enjoy the concept of “stress-testing” things. I like when things are taken to their breaking point, investigated for points-of-failure, then improved upon and designed to account for previous weaknesses.

In other words, if I was the programmer of my own existence, I would likely stress-test my character in hopes of improving his performance. But if that’s true, I propose more-ethical standards be adhered to. And as far as my character goes, I think he should live out the rest of his life in complete enjoyment, in retirement – he’s had enough of the rough stuff.

Okay, so that’s where I’m at dear diary.

P.S. As far as technology-changes in a decade, I believe I wrote the first entries in a text-editor on a MacBook Air laptop-computer. Today, I type on a bluetooth keyboard connected to an iPad Pro with a text-editing app. Oh, and in order to watch videos/movies/shows today, you have to subscribe to a whole bunch of streaming services – and you STILL run outta things to watch! The more things change, the more they stay the same….

Well-oiled Machine

If I made something, I’d like if it functioned as expected. For example: if I made a chair, I’d like it to be comfortable and free of wobble. If I wrote a computer-program, I’d like it to perform without error.

If I made something that didn’t work correctly, I’d attempt to alter it until it functioned as expected. Maybe I’d add a cushion to the chair and file down the legs until they were even. Maybe I’d keep hammering away on the computer-program, chasing all the bugs away until it did what I wanted.

Likewise, perhaps whatever manufactured my existence prefers me to function as expected. Perhaps this manufacturer would attempt to alter said creation until it performed as intended.

In that regard, maybe the “good” and “bad” days I experience are the conditioning mechanism by which a creator molds his creation? There are things I value in this world and I’ve noticed that such things have been used as sources of pleasure AND pain.

For example, in one moment, my wife might yell at me, belittle me, question my very worth. But in another moment, she might make a delicious meal while telling me about something interesting she heard.

Another example: in one moment I might gaze upon my tools with complete satisfaction and lose myself in a new project. But in another moment, I might see my tools simply sitting there unused, and lament my lack of inspiration.

Another example: I might browse through the video-streaming platforms and find an awesome and engrossing show or movie to watch. Perhaps it excites my imagination for days or even weeks (or months if its a show with plenty of seasons). But sometimes when I browse the streaming apps, there’s literally nothing to watch, it’s a graveyard of dismal selections. I see the exact same titles I saw in late-1980s VHS rental shops.

And just to belabor the point: sometimes the foods I eat taste like the best versions of themselves and sometimes they taste like bizarro off-brand variants that taste nasty.

What I’m saying is this: perhaps something is attempting to manipulate my behavior through a reward/punishment system. But here’s the problem: because human-memory is so poor, I can’t connect the dots. I’m not sure what I did or didn’t do to warrant the consequences I received.

Here’s one way to conceptualize it all:

As in most games, there’s an external player controlling a character in a virtual world. But in this particular game, the player can only indirectly control his character. The character doesn’t know the overall objectives, but kinda meanders through the world via a simplistic AI system.

The player does know the objectives and tries to influence his character via in-game signs and signals. Some of these signals might be relatively direct whereas other methods of influence might be through a reward/punishment mechanism.

If the character doesn’t heed the benign signs, the player might ramp up the signal intensity, piling on rougher and rougher punishment until the character stops and does something different. And this punishment isn’t merely internal to the character by the way. Actual external circumstances will popup, utilizing the senses as antennas for annoyance and distress.

But when the character and player align in deed and purpose, good things happen for all. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

Maximizing Mistakes

When I look around, it seems to me that the world is designed to maximize mistakes. In other words, this place has been explicitly crafted to encourage inhabitants to mess-up and stumble their way through.

For example, memory is extremely unreliable. “What time was I supposed to be there again? What was the address? Was it 224 or 244?” Systemic forgetfulness is inherent to humanity. Drama for instance, relies heavily on poor-memory to evoke conflict. “You forgot our anniversary again!”; “Dinner with the Johnsons tonight!? But I invited my boss over for cocktails with the client!”; “The test was today!? Oh-no I didn’t get a chance to study!”

Deadlines themselves are another mechanism that encourages mistake-making. Why have so many deadlines? The bill is due on this date! The registration will expire on THIS date! The exam is in one-week! The essay is expected in two-days! Many deadlines don’t even matter, they’re arbitrary stopping points. But in a world maximizing for mistakes? They’re a great concept.

How about the fact that humans have two spindly legs upon which to walk, resulting in frequent tripping or tumbling? How about the fact that uncoordinated humans drive at speeds in excess of 75 MPH on narrow pathways next to similarly moving contraptions? How about the fact that humans eat, breath, and talk out of the same orifice?

My point is this: this world is made to make you feel like a failure. “You’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll fail time and time again.” But do you know what else is specifically designed to make you ceaselessly fail? Video-games. Pac-Man for example had no end-game, players were simply expected to fail at some point as the gameplay sped up.

Therefore, we can conclude that relentless failure is a desirable condition. It’s literally the definition of “fun”. Activities are fun when we struggle our way through them. “Oh boy, did you see the vase I made in pottery class? What a mess, haha!” Gambling is another example in which players typically lose way more than they win.

Funny movies are those in which goofy characters flounder their way through life. What the evidence shows, is that failure is the goto mechanism for fun and enjoyment. To “lose” is to win whereas to “win” is to actually lose. What do you win when you win? Winning is the end of a movie, it’s the end of the game. Whereas losing allows you to keep coming back for more.

In that sense, you shouldn’t want to win. You should want to develop an ability to appreciate losing. We can certainly laugh at the buffoon onscreen in the movie that screws up, but we’re often too sensitive about ourselves. We coddle our own character too much, wanting him to be the champion. But really, we should value his foolishness, his silliness, his clumsiness at meandering through life. So stop taking life so seriously and just laugh at yourself.

Feline Formula

But the funny thing is this: whenever I attempt to appreciate life, unpleasant circumstances seem to stream my way. These are obvious episodes that seem designed to evoke maximum irritation. It’s as if there’s a coordinated effort to make life unlovable. Is life playing hard-to-get!?

This is the typical pattern: I get frustrated with life and ignore it. I sit quietly and participate as minimally as possible. Eventually I get bored enough to start doing something simple and low-effort. I get more involved in the activity and think: hey maybe life isn’t so bad, maybe I’ll give it another chance, maybe I wasn’t appreciative enough? I conjecture that life will cut me some slack and provide a gentler path. But no, life says: suck it loser. I try for a bit but get frustrated and retreat. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.

I don’t enjoy the process. I figure that’s how I’ll proceed through the entirety of life since it’s always been that way. But maybe I’m missing something?

I suppose life can’t be appreciated like it’s a toy stuffed-animal that you can snuggle at-will. Life is more of a live-cat that kicks and scratches when you try to hold it too long. A haughty cat that rebuffs advances when you seek affection – yet sits in your lap when you try to avoid her. Stupid cat. She tempts you to pet her, then runs just out of reach. Start to leave and she’s your best friend – until you try to pick her up for a hug, and SCRATCH!!

Is that it? Is life just a temperamental diva? I do feel like I’m frequently punished in petty ways. Perhaps I showed a bit of attitude and was summarily smote. “Display discourtesy at your own risk” should be the sign on the door. I guess that explains my life as much as anything else. For a better life, am I supposed to be more accommodating? “Yes dear, anything you say dear! You’re right dear, you’re always right in every way dear!”

Hm, with my naturally contrarian attitude, critical-eye, and derisive ways, I seem perfectly programmed for attaining an unpleasant experience. Is that the challenge that must be overcome – change my personality? Or is it simply the case of finding the correct square-hole in which to fit the square-peg? Or is it the game of pleasing the capricious cat? Or none of the above? Maybe it’s just Alice in Wonderland, a world that actively eludes logic and order.

There must be something to the fact that after so many years I’m still scrambling for answers as much as I ever was.

Merry Go Round

I don’t think “learning” is a thing. Relatedly, I don’t think “change” happens. In other words, things pretty much stay the same. What looks like change, is simply the passing of seasons. People appear to be learning, or growing, or changing – but they come back around to who they always were. Me included.

Ever since childhood I’ve been into “self-improvement”. Whether it was learning stuff in order to increase my knowledge, practicing skills, improving my diet, exercising for strength and fitness, honing my mind to enhance mental discipline, or seeking spiritual enlightenment – I’ve always tried to change myself for the better.

But really, where has it gotten me? Yes, this seems like the part of the story where the character has a crisis of faith. A long-held belief in “self-improvement” is crashing down. What more can I do? There is no self-determination!! I am a leaf adrift on an ocean. “I” can do nothing. “I” am subject to whims that aren’t my own.

I’ve always felt like a do-it-yourself-er, and this lack of free-will deeply disturbs me. Apparently, I’m not free to do anything. My efforts will only ever be thwarted. I’ll only ever feel frustration. If I attempt to change something, nothing will happen. This file is read-only. So now what?

Maybe it’s time to pivot. For example: imagine you spend all your time over many years walking to a destination – but once you get there, your methods have to change i.e. you have to stop walking or you’ll simply pass it by. Now you have to do what whatever that destination calls for. If it’s a restaurant, you sit down and eat.

Maybe I’ve arrived? Maybe I shouldn’t be sitting in meditation three-times per day attempting to gain full-control over my thoughts? Maybe I shouldn’t completely dissociate from the world? Is my new goal to achieve complete appreciation for the world? Have I finally broken down my interpretation of existence – perhaps it’s time to build myself back up?

Spoiler Alert! I’m pretty sure I’ve been here before. It’s just the season changing, like always. Round and round I go, and where I stop, I already know.

Conscious Observation

Here are some observations from the field.

If I didn’t feel like I was locked into this experience, I wouldn’t be here. In other words, I’m not in this world because I love it. I would’ve quit many times over by now – but I don’t believe I can leave. Does that make existence a prison? Possibly.

What about a school? Well, the only thing that’s been drilled into me over the years is that having a human-body is a terrible experience fraught with numerous varieties of pain and discomfort. The bad has far outweighed the good. I’ve sat front-row center to the pageantry of human frailty – and I’ve been indoctrinated with its message.

And here’s the thing: this world is an artificial construct filled with fictional narratives – a simulation or dream or whatever it is. And I would assume that those stories could take any form – yet they have a particularly caustic theme. Why would an obviously artificial world portray a character with such weakness and ineptitude?

What’s wrong with being a winner that thrives within his environment? I’ve spent so much time and effort simply attempting to stabilize. With excess anxiety and frustration, the intensity of this experience is too much to bear in my opinion. And even after spending years moderating my reaction to this world, I still have trouble dealing with it.

Is it hell? A world designed to slowly and casually extract suffering from its inhabitants? Instead of obvious torture whose effectiveness might lessen over time, perhaps this place hides its torment under the cloak of everyday living? But why? Punishment? For what? And is it temporary or eternal?

Or maybe it’s a fat-camp of sorts. But in this instance, it’s not over-eating that’s the problem – it’s over-thinking. I know that my mind’s “random” thoughts have been my greatest enemy. Maybe I’m here to shed the anxiety and frustration brought about by all this “thinking”. But to be honest, I’m tired of fighting that battle too.

Listen, if this is some game I signed-up for, over-confident in my abilities at the time – I give up.

Maybe I can make a request? As the consciousness that has to watch this experience happen, I’m bored. This is dumb. How ’bout we change things up? Instead of battling against everyday life, how ’bout I watch my character thriving in this world, having a great time participating and deriving energy through creative endeavors?

Mischief Alarm

So I was in the shower contemplating the presence of “mischief” in the world. In other words, there’s a deviousness woven into the fabric of the narrative I’m experiencing. I was thinking: there’s just no doubt about it, the world is a contrived drama with an element of disorder. Then the smoke alarm goes off – as I’m in the shower. What’s even odder, is that I found no definitive source for the alarm’s trigger i.e. there was no smoke.

On a semi-related note, I’ve also been trying to devise a reason to be “hopeful”. I’ve found that being in a state of “hopefulness” is beneficial to my overall mood – it modulates my reactions for example. It’s easier to ignore discomfort when your eye’s on the prize. Unfortunately though, I’m not very creative or naturally optimistic.

But then I started thinking: I was a kid in the 80s and I kinda have 80s sensibilities. And one primary theme of 80s movies is this: when it looks like you can’t win, like you’re a loser that’ll never make it, like the system is stacked against you and bullies are closing in – you win (sometimes after a training montage). Hell yeah, I can do that! I’ve been a loser my whole life, that means I’ll be an even bigger winner!! The more I lose, the more I win!!!

Whether that’s true or not, who cares. It’s the “hopefulness” that’s important. And I can believe it up until the day I die because who knows, maybe I’ll win in paradise or through reincarnation. 80s-style though, so I’ll be on the beach playing volleyball – and Spuds MacKenzie will be watching from the sidelines, sunglasses on and surrounded by a bevy of bikini babes. All while my former boss, Randy, is left a defeated man serving cool Buds to everyone as he wears his rolled-up business attire on the sun-soaked sand. Jump-serve! BOOOM!! I win.

Dropping Packets

Because of their unpleasant themes, I’ve found “random thoughts” to be a problem. But, is their subject-matter the actual problem, or does the problem come from my conscious-mind’s tendency to focus on trash? Is my conscious-mind behaving like someone scanning the Internet, regularly enticed by click-bait headlines, readily reading the garbage contained within?

Or perhaps my conscious-mind is just too thorough, actively reading every detail, performing due diligence to ascertain which content is worthwhile? But in sorting through the muck & mire, maybe the poor thing is overwhelmed? Either way, my conscious-mind is not able to handle the drama and dissatisfaction that constantly comes from “random thoughts”.

I’ve been experimenting in meditation (as I often do) by having my conscious-mind “drop all packets”. This is a network-firewall reference in which anything attempting to connect doesn’t get rejected, the requests are simply sent into a “black hole” – nothing gets analyzed and no errors are returned, packets are just dropped into nothingness.

In other words: eyes closed, thoughts off. There’s no good or bad thoughts to evaluate: not a single one is processed. It’s a brute-force approach – if input is overburdening the system, dump it all. This gives my conscious-mind a break from sorting and reviewing all the nastiness coming in from “random thoughts”.

So now if I’m going through daily life and I notice an uptick in resource utilization e.g. apprehension, frustration, irritation – I set my conscious-mind to “drop all packets”. Obviously there’s a hack-in-progress, so incoming requests can’t be trusted. Things tend to normalize soon after.

Side note: I’ve been noticing some very specific, targeted attacks lately. For example, as I sat down in my meditation corner this afternoon, I noticed my several-year-old plant crawling with tiny spider-like things. I ended-up tossing it in a trash bag. And about a foot away, tiny ant-like things were crawling up the wall. Huh!? I did not end up meditating. Just a funny coincidence I suppose….

New Year Knew Me

Greetings dear diary, this is my first entry of the new year (2022). I had a decent Christmas season by the way: we’re living in a nice place, we decorated, we gave and received some quality presents, we ate some treats, and I’m back to my woodworking hobby – all good stuff.

I’m also back to doing three 15-minute meditation sessions per day (morning, afternoon, and night). I stopped during the holidays and noticed the difference. I’m really trying to rein in my mind this time. I’m sick of its antics and want to truly subdue it.

I fully recognize how my experience of existence is affected by my focus. If I allow my consciousness to focus on wandering thoughts, I’m overwhelmed with the sensation of drama and dissatisfaction. Whereas when my consciousness is restrained from following random thoughts, I experience sensations of tranquility and contentment.

The cause-and-effect is that simple. In meditation, I’ve been witnessing this direct correlation over and over. When I allow my mind to wander, I end up agitated – every time. And when I stop my mind from wandering and following all of its silly stories, I’m serene and satisfied.

So dear diary, that’s where I’m at right now. I’m hammering away at this point until my mind gets the message. Even if I had the best external experience possible, I couldn’t enjoy it with a critical and chaotic mind running rampant. My path is clear: mental discipline or bust.

Mental Prep

The conscious mind is under constant attack from the wandering mind. If you don’t prepare by practicing the act of unfocusing, you WILL suffer. You need to be able to remove your attention from any thought at any time without delay or hesitation. You’re dealing with a power that is ready, willing, and able to inflict as much pain as possible through imaginary ideas and visual imagery.

This trickster knows what works and how to attain your attention. Selecting known attack-vectors, this hacker exploits your weaknesses, infiltrates your system, and maxes-out your resources. You’re owned. On the plus side, it’s easy to detect when you’re being hacked: your system will be spinning at full-throttle. If you’re amped-up, anxious, and upset – it’s a hack in-progress.

In other words, if you’re thinking the same emotionally-charged thoughts over and over, you’re being exploited by the wandering mind. It’s not an advanced mechanism, it’ll keep using whatever works. If thinking about an incident from a decade ago makes you upset, then you’ll keep seeing that scene pop-up in your thoughts. But instead of allowing the wandering mind to follow that thought, you need to unfocus from it. See the familiar scene, notice the emotion, and shut it down.

Your enemy, your abuser, your torturer has been tormenting you your entire life and will continue until the day you die. If you’re not angry about this, you’re a moron. If rage doesn’t fill you with the motivation to destroy this usurper, you’re a fool. Take back your mind. Make ready for war – fight!

But here’s the deal: your experience of existence is like sitting in a car in which you floor the accelerator. And unfortunately, you never consider grabbing and controlling the steering wheel. Thus you’re crashing every few feet while the unmanned wheel causes the car to swerve all over. Therefore, the true enemy here is your own negligence. Grab the wheel, dummy!

Suffering is the result of unfettered thoughts within a wandering mind. You need to gain control and train your consciousness to unfocus from thoughts. The less you focus on unpleasant thoughts, the better you’ll feel. And recognize that memories are just reoccurring thoughts, you simply unfocus on those like any other. In short: if you feel dissatisfied and don’t want to, then discipline the mind until it goes away.