Fountain of You

You’ll notice that we’re all different in particular ways. Our individual preferences vary quite a bit. For example, I despise the so-called dessert known as “cheesecake” — it’s gross. Our character has a dossier full of attributes that make it relatively unique. To play our character correctly then, is to honor those preferences and attributes.

If you’re playing Street Fighter II for example, you don’t play Guile the same way you play Chun Li — that’ll get you KO’d pretty quickly. You have to learn the abilities of your character and exploit those to the fullest. Special moves and abilities are there to be used, not ignored. You don’t want to play your character like it’s generic — that’s dumb.

That’s why striving to be “normal” is dumb. There is no normal, EVERYONE has an individualized dossier of attributes and abilities. And these abilities MUST be expressed by the character in order to fulfill that role. If you don’t express your individuality, it’s like holding in a poop — your bowels will ache and strain — you will suffer until you let “you” flow out.

How do you know what your character’s preferences and abilities are? Experiment! In Street Fighter II for example, you’ll find that keeping Guile in a low defensive position while utilizing leg-sweeps will prove devastating to many opponents. In other words, you won’t know what you can do until you do it — so do an assortment of things until you find what you’re good at.

Guile is a defensive character, he’s good when you wait for a chance to attack — if you play him aggressively you’ll likely get KO’d. In other words, there really are limitations on your character and you have to play according to his abilities. But that’s the fun part — all games impose limits — it’s a puzzle to solve, it’s attempting to accomplish something within a limited set of parameters.

And the best part is: the game-of-life wants you to win. The game is rigged in your favor. IF you play the character correctly, you WILL win. Whereas if you sabotage the character, trying to make him into something he’s not, you WILL suffer — you will get KO’d. In short, discover who your character is (explore and experiment), then play to his strengths. Result: “YOU WIN!”

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Simple and Efficient

I enjoy cheat-codes. Back in the day, I utilized the famous “Konami Code” to receive extra-lives on Contra for the original NES. It was something like: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, Start, Start. If you look it up now, it’s slightly different, but that’s what I entered and it worked. I learned it from a kid in my class — he was a video-game expert. He’d read about video-games in magazines or something. He also helped me to find all the hidden stuff in the Legend of Zelda for NES.

In other words, I’m not a stranger to taking the “easy route”. I guess that’s why magic and wishing pique my interest. I’m a slave to efficiency — and what’s more efficient than cheat-codes, magic, wishes, etc.? I suppose I like the feeling of taking shortcuts because I love efficiency so much. In fact, the more effort I put into something, the less I appreciate it. The end-product seems too convoluted to be worth all the trouble. For me, simple is best.

But usually, I use cheat-codes when I literally couldn’t have done it any other way. I couldn’t have beaten Contra with a measly 3 lives, I’m not that good of a video-game player — I don’t care enough to dedicate the time nor are my reflexes fast enough. So boom!, there I am with all those extra-lives, reaching the end. From feeling frustrated at my inability, to complete domination of the game itself — how’s that for a self-esteem boost!?

Perhaps it’s part of my character, but I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself. Because I value simplicity and efficiency, the easier and quicker route feels correct to me. So if the game-of-life, for whatever reason, hands me millions of dollars — I’d say “oh, well it’s about time! But thanks, I appreciate this. I was struggling quite a bit with the gameplay, but this will provide the boost I need.” I’m not particularly good at games, but my persistence and willingness to utilize shortcuts typically pays off in the end.

P.S. I serve as a beacon of hope to pessimistic slackers ONLY. I am NOT a type-A hard-charging go-getter. I understand that some people really do get a sense of satisfaction from effort and “hard work” — and that’s great. But it’s also great that variety exists. There’s a path for everyone in this world and some of us have fun taking the accelerated routes.

Dueling Perspectives

You’ll notice that much of life as a human is just trying to “keep it together”: I wanna snap! No, don’t do it! Okay, I’ll try to remain calm. Ugh! I can’t do it! I’m gonna go nuts!! No, no, smooth and steady, maintain composure. Ahh I can’t take this!! Yet if all you’ve ever known was being human, shouldn’t “being human” come naturally? Should simple daily-life contain such struggle? Hmm….

Well, unless you weren’t always human. Or maybe you’re not “just” a human. I know when I play a video-game for instance, it’s often a struggle to get the little character to do what I want. No, turn up! UP! Gah! Dumb controller doesn’t respond to my lightening-quick reflexes! Again, life makes more sense when you view it in terms of a game-character and a game-player.

Obviously, controlling the character we play-as is part of the challenge itself. The player wants one thing, yet the character sometimes does another. It’s a prevalent source of frustration in much of game playing. But the player that enjoys himself the most, is the one that shrugs it off and plays wherever the ball lies — if it ends up in the rough, then so be it.

And we know we can influence our character. We can shut him right down and sabotage everything he wants to do in this world. Perhaps he wants to go out for a nice bike ride… NO, I’m not in the mood today, we might have to interact with other people. Or maybe he wants to rent a new movie… NO, are you crazy, we can’t afford that! If you were merely a human born of this world, why would you argue with yourself so often? Hmm….

In any video-game, success comes down to syncing with your onscreen character and aligning with the timing of the game. You can only jump when the rope swings close enough to grab it. Jump too late or too soon and you fall in the hole. Oftentimes gaming comes down to practicing again and again until you can finally meld with your onscreen character.

Characters, by their nature, are limited in their abilities. The limitations are what provide challenge and make the game fun. It’s not the character that needs to change, but the player. In other words, it’s not appropriate to argue with your character all the time. The better course of action is to go along for the ride and perform the activities he wants.

But what craps that up, is when the player is too lost in the game and gets in the way of his character — the player gets anxious and takes everything too seriously. Whereas when player and character are in-sync, there’s no frustration and no need to “keep it together”. Summary: Your goal as the player is to synchronize with your character — and when you do, your life will be a lot smoother.

Taking a Step Back

I think you’ll notice that the game-of-life pushes the notion of a concrete physical reality mixed with the concept of random chance. And the reason for that, is because those properties maximize the intensity and excitement we feel here. Everything you see and experience is “real”, born of cosmic fire, created through millions of years of evolution and chemical reaction. There’s an epic-ness to it all. “And what’s this!? Any part of it, including me and everyone I know, will be struck-down by random chance?! Gasp!! Oh no!!! So exciting!!!”

But of course, it’s just predetermined pixels designed to appear as if they’re there. It’s obvious when you stop and stare at the gameplay itself, but when you’re lost in your character it certainly feels like the real-deal. And like I mentioned at the start, the game will keep attempting to convince you that it’s real and random.

If you consider the story of the Pilgrims, it’s the story of some people that put the concept of a non-physical-world to the test. Without any special skill or ability, they boarded a boat and went over to the “new world” trusting in their faith of a benevolent world. God will protect and provide — and in many ways He did. They survived the daunting voyage, there was a native man that just happened to speak English who was willing to show them how to procure food, and there was an “empty” village just waiting for them. While it’s reported that half of them died during the first winter, it’s still a miraculous feat.

There are lots of stories that tell of the non-random, non-physical nature of the world — yet for some reason we tend to say it was “luck”, just random happenstance that could never happen again. Yet, unusual things happen all the time, there are “amazing”, seemingly impossible narratives that happen again and again. The very fact that life occurs in story-like patterns is a give-away in itself.

Lest you think I’m trying to spoil the fun and ruin the surprise, far from it. I’m only attempting to provide some perspective. Without their faith in a non-physical world, the Pilgrims never would’ve been so bold. Whereas if you believe yourself a simple creature struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, you’ll dig a hole and hide away your entire existence — it’s the logical thing to do. But, if you know beyond a doubt that the world wants you well, then you’ll step into the sun, soaking up its warm rays as you seek out the adventure of a lifetime.

So consider this: the world is not real OR random. It’s a game of pretend. You’re a character meant to play out your role. Whenever the intensity of immersion becomes too great, take a step back and realize that you’re not just a character, but also the player that watches, the one having the fun.

Existential Challenge

What does it take to live in the world?

The tenacity to maintain a positive attitude. I lived with a bad attitude most of my life. It sucked.

What obstacles are you faced with in your life?

Sleep is a biggie. I don’t sleep very well. In fact I actively fight it at times. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a control issue. And when I finally do fall asleep, I wake up throughout the night.

Existential boredom. I don’t know what I should do with the bulk of my time. It’s been several decades and I’ve yet to find a career path.

The occasional physical ailments: headaches, colds, minor injuries. I wrestle with that stuff like they’re major life-altering obstacles.

Pessimism. I tend to think the worst of everything. I have to actively fight against it.

What obstacles would you rather tackle instead?

Well, nothing to do with my physical body — my body should simply serve as a well-functioning vehicle for my consciousness. I’d rather my obstacles take the form of career related tasks. But like I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure what that career would be.

I suppose if I had my druthers, I’d like to be an eccentric nouveau riche. I’d spend crazy amounts of money at Walt Disney World, stay at Deluxe Resorts (concierge-level of course), decorate my house with outlandishly expensive Disney memorabilia, stay current with the latest tech gadgets, ride electric scooters around town (the fun kind), go on shopping sprees, go to restaurants, collect things, and treat everyone I know to great gifts (like Santa Claus). That excites me.

I’m just kinda waiting for the fun-funds to kick in. Luckily, after several decades of existence I started believing in magic, so the certainty of this scenario is approaching one hundred percent. And if you believe in “nominative determinism”, my name is actually Rich — it’s a destiny thing.

I can also see why it wouldn’t have made sense to have money at an earlier stage of life. Because of my pessimism, it would’ve just amplified my anxiousness. Now instead of fortresses and walling myself away, I can think of more enjoyable ways to spend money. So in a sense, I’d like my career to be shopping. For pro-shoppers such as myself, shopping is like a form of hunting, it’s finding the best, most appropriate item — which takes a lot of care and effort — for those #bornToShop, it’s energizing.

So “the hunt” is where I’d face my obstacles. I need to be me, and if me is a silly guy that loves to shop, then so be it.

Any parting words?

Yes. I think selecting your preferred obstacles is a primary component of designing your life. If you don’t, life will simply hand you some default challenges. For instance, two big challenges for me are sleep and headaches — and that’s just dumb. I’m ready to move on to a more enjoyable context in which to overcome my challenges.

It’s also important to understand that challenges are relative. Everyone experiences maximum-challenge mode. What might look like nothing to you is near impossible for another — whereas what might look impossible to you, is readily handled by someone else. A pimple on the nose could bring someone’s world crashing down. You can’t judge or compare — obstacles are relative to the individual they’re applied to.

Selecting Sides

Good and evil, light and dark, positive and negative. In every instance, you choose whether you’re the hero or the villain. How? By the interpretation of the scene you’re experiencing.

If you seek-out the bad, you create it. If you seek-out the good, you create that too. So which do you see? You think your negativity only affects you, or do you even consider it? Either way, you contribute to the scene you’re experiencing based on your attitude.

You want a better world? Then see it. You’ll witness it transform before your eyes. Want the worst? Keep seeing the worst in everything that parades past.

You can be the one that lightens the mood or the one that tosses a grenade of pessimism into the air. Hero or villain — choose by the attitude you share with the world around you.

Disappearing Act

While it’s true that we can conjure things into existence, can we likewise make things disappear?

Imagine it this way: you walk into a familiar room but there’s a different smell than you’re used to. You ignore the odor and go about your business as usual. Not long after, you become “nose-blind” to the scent and don’t even notice it anymore. Or, imagine looking at a photo of yourself standing in front of a monument. You notice your shoelace is untied in the picture, but you don’t give it a second thought. You’re too busy remembering the feeling of grandeur of the day you visited that monument.

By not focusing on something, by not giving it your energy, it disappears.

Now imagine the previous scenes from a different perspective. You walk into a familiar room that contains a different smell. Although this time, you’re obsessed by it. “It must be coming from somewhere!! I swear I’ll find it!” You hunt and hunt and the smell only gets stronger as your persistence gives it life. What would have been a fleeting event, has now become your reason for being.

Or how about the photo with your shoelace untied? How could you have been so stupid. Probably the only chance you’ll ever have to visit that monument, and it’s ruined!! Ruined!!!! The shoelace incident will haunt you for the rest of your life. You’ll never take another photo without first checking for perfection.

The circumstances of life will forever parade past you, and if you don’t cling to them, they’ll gladly fade out of existence on their own. It takes no effort to make things disappear. Whereas it does take effort to make things persist.

When you allow the scene to move on, it’s gone. Pain for instance, is a symptom of resistance. It’s like you’ve lassoed the scene as it’s trying to leave and you’re fighting so hard that the rope is burning through your hand. Surrender, let go, stop resisting and the scene will simply move on. There’s no reason to fight, life doesn’t want to hurt you. Let go and things get better.