Problematic Solutions

Fixing one problem can reveal or exacerbate another problem. I think that’s what’s happening here. Early on, my primary focus was fear and hostility. I was an anxiety-ridden mess, always worried about something and suspicious of everything. I fixed that problem through a major alteration of perspective. In short, I dumped my belief in a physical-reality ruled by random-chance. I replaced it with a belief in a simulated (or dreamlike) reality in which random-chance doesn’t exist.

It took a few years of dedication, but eventually the new perspective took hold. I truly believe that I exist within a simulation/dream. Because of that, my anxiety and hostility are gone, there’s literally nothing to fear and nothing to fight – it’s all flickering pixels. But now that fear and hostility are gone, so is my primary hobby: worrying and arguing.

With time on my hands, I started focusing on the good-things in life – I finally have the capacity for appreciation. But here’s the problem: if life is a dream, why can’t I have everything I want? Previously, I figured chance wasn’t in my favor, I was lucky to have what little I had. I was fine hiding away from the world, remaining unnoticed. But if this is a simulation, and random-chance doesn’t exist, what’s keeping my wishes from coming true?

Therefore, I’m getting a bit frustrated. Fixing one bug caused another: frustration has become my new hobby. Apparently, I have a tendency to pick dumb ways to occupy my time. So now what? Obviously I have to fix this problem while maintaining the previous fix – I need a comprehensive solution that doesn’t introduce more issues.

One option is to completely renounce the physical world, seeing attainment as an exercise in futility. But this seems wrong. Why exist within a world that offers so much stuff? Purely as an exercise in denial and self-restraint? That seems rude. Hey, here’s this vast and wondrous world to engage with! “Um, no thanks, I’m good – I’ll just sit here facing the corner.”

Another option might be believing in benevolent constraints. Essentially, rules for your own good. “You’ll spoil your supper if you eat dessert first!” Or maybe to keep the narrative more engaging: there’s no story to tell if you already have everything. Or maybe it’s like a Christmas Wishlist: Santa might bring something you asked for, or he might not – be grateful either way.

Although I’ve looked, I’ve yet to find an effective algorithm for attainment. In my experience, success seems haphazard. But in my belief-system, it can’t be chance-based – there has to be some underlying principle. I don’t have to discover the true fundamental nature of reality, I just need a convincing non-contradictory explanation that I can believe in. An adequate answer to the question: how do I get what I want, and why don’t I always get what I want?

Frustrating Circumstances

I’m constantly frustrated. Like, that’s literally my primary character trait. Sleep? Can’t do it. Eat and expel food simply and easily? Nope. Carve a path through life? Yikes, no. Get something I want. Ha. Eventually get something I want? Okay, but it’ll just open up new pathways of frustration. Play a game or engage in a hobby? Okay, but again, it’ll just be another source of frustration.

Imagine a car-racing game in which the car bolts off the starting-line and crashes into everything. It swerves and skids and spins 180 degrees – it has a terrible time getting to the finish line, if it makes it at all. But why not simply slow-down to a manageable speed? Because, you’d lose by not qualifying for the minimum time allotted for the race. So there’s an in-between space that must be mastered: not too fast and not too slow.

I’m stuck alternating between those two extremes, losing either way – hence my perpetual state of frustration. In games, I can sometimes manage to make this back-and-forth work. Practicing at the fastest and the slowest can sometimes get me to a middle-ground that’s workable. Why can’t I just start at medium? I don’t know. It’s either all-in or barely-in, and then I can potentially maintain an “average” for a limited time.

Is this the middle-path that the Buddha spoke of? I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve been perpetually frustrated and I don’t like it. At some point it’d be nice to achieve a state of mastery in which things just work. Instead it’s: “Oh no, another problem, another obstacle, another reason this can’t be done.” Frankly, I’m sick of it. If there was a reward for all this effort, great. But I’m simply trying to get through each day, performing the most rudimentary tasks.

Okay, let’s calm down and think for a second. If I’m supplied with an endless quantity of frustration, maybe that’s a good thing? Frustration is invigorating. For example, if a task goes smoothly, it’s over and done with – quickly forgotten. “Oh I won? Cool, what’s next?” Whereas a frustrating task keeps me coming back and burns itself into memory. “Gah! I’ll get you this time! Ha! Victory never felt so sweet!!”. You see? Without frustration, you wouldn’t care.

Take that car-racing game as an example. Imagine you’re able to easily drive through the first few courses. Why bother with the rest? You know the outcome, the game’s too easy. But as soon as you swerve off and smack the first tree… the challenge begins! There it is: the thrill of the hunt! Can you improve?! Can you make it past this race-course!?? Oh no!! There’s a conundrum, a puzzle to be solved – a question without a known answer! And you’re off, energized by the investigation.

So dear Richard, you’re simply being an ungrateful complainer. The game sparks your interest and you curse it. And if each day passed without challenge, you’d also curse it! Think about what happens if you win the car-racing game? You receive a virtual trophy. The point being: rewards are insignificant – just superficial symbols that cannot satisfy. They are finish-lines painted at arbitrary points for the purpose of providing something to race towards – giving you something to do. It’s the pursuit that matters. And the very thing that powers pursuit is: frustration.

Therefore, you have unlimited access to the greatest and most powerful resource ever created: frustration. Ipso facto, you’re very rich and powerful. Congratulations, you’ve done it!

Bad Days

I’m pretty sure “bad days” are a real phenomenon. There have been days in which I feel good, like I’ve got things figured out, like everything’s going to be better than okay – like I’m a winner. Then all of a sudden, I’m sucker-punched in the gut, doubled-over and questioning my entire existence and hating everything this wretched-world has to offer.

Then things kinda go back to normal and I follow my usual daily routine. I’m not sure if those bad days typically follow the days in which I feel like a winner – or are they just randomly interspersed. Is it a normalization process in which my ultra-positive attitude is brought back down? Or simply some bit of chaos mixed into an otherwise boring routine?

It’s like having a nightmare. Hm, well if life is a dream, then having some nightmarish days makes sense I suppose. Although I wonder if I encourage them, or do they appear randomly. It’s really easy to get lost in the narrative of a bad day too. I suppose I should try to recognize those days as soon as possible and do something about it. Hm, but what – especially when my energy feels so drained.

Maybe bad days aren’t so bad? Maybe they’re just days filled with potentiality – swirling with chaotic creativity, providing a chance to switch things up, an opportunity to step off of a dull habit-formed path. Hm, maybe. Well, on a bad day I suppose I shouldn’t attempt to follow my typical daily routine – maybe that’s why I lack the energy to do so.

Since everything is harder, it only leads to frustration, so maybe I should try something new? Instead of: “Oh boy, it’s going to be a real struggle to get through today. Nothing I usually do is working, it’s like failure around every corner.” It becomes: “Oh wow, it’s a day of chaotic creativity! I shouldn’t expect my usual approach to work today. Therefore, I should refrain from my typical routine and try something different!”

Confused Ignorance

I’ve been investigating the fundamental nature of reality for a few decades now. The fact that I still don’t have an adequate explanation reveals that the foundation of existence is elusive – or that I’m a moron. But if I’m really dumb, that in itself demonstrates how my intelligence is set to a point below an ability to understand the underlying principles of the world I’m in.

Therefore, the structure of existence is hidden from inhabitants. And this makes sense, it’s like a character in a video-game – he has no idea about the computing-device running the game. Even the player himself doesn’t understand the underlying electrical engineering involved to run the device’s hardware nor the programming-code that powers the game’s software.

But of course, there could be another reason for my ignorance: there’s simply no foundation. Perhaps nothing exists below the surface. In a dream for example, there’s only an imagined reality in which circumstances blip in and out and often fail to follow logical pathways. I had assumed life was logical, but the longer I’ve examined it, the less logical it seems. Things more or less “just happen”.

Yet, my inability to perceive a logical pathway could in itself reveal a lack of intelligence on my part. Are the workings of the world painfully obvious, yet I’m too dumb to understand? But I’ve seen many different and wildly varying explanations of “how the world works” – so this implies that an explanation isn’t easy or obvious. Perhaps it’s like the allegory of the blind men and the elephant.

Either the world doesn’t want me to perceive its underlying structure, or there’s nothing significant to see (i.e. there are no secrets being kept). Either I’m a character in a game, or I’m the dreamer. Either I’m an ignorant pawn kept in confusion – or I’m the author, designer of everything I see. Or is there some in-between position in which I create within constraints? And why is it that I don’t know?

Why is it that I even want to know? It’s simply because I’m unsatisfied with the game/dream. When I’m enjoying myself, who cares how anything works. I don’t mind losing myself within the story if it’s fun. But if things aren’t going well, perhaps I can fix the problem if I can discern how the world works. Whenever I find a physical-world solution, I use it – but if I can’t find one, I go deeper, to the very foundation of existence itself. (Hm, it sounds like I’m trying to hack the mainframe.)

But what if the underlying structure doesn’t matter, what if the “fix” is the same no matter the foundation. What if the solution is simply to improve one’s attitude. For instance, a dreamer’s dream is often influenced by what they focus on in waking life (i.e. watch a scary movie, have a scary dream). And a gamer’s fun is based on his level of engagement and frame of mind (i.e. if he’s too serious, he’s going to get frustrated).

So perhaps it’s a waste of time to attempt to discover the fundamental nature of reality when such an understanding might not solve the actual problem, which is “dissatisfaction”. In other words, just knowing how something works doesn’t make you a skilled user. In that sense, the fundamental nature of reality could be a red-herring that wouldn’t lead to the intended goal of “satisfaction”.

I suppose it comes down to the ole gamer’s taunt: “Get good, noob”. In other words, I’m complaining that a difficult game is difficult instead of putting in the time and effort to get better. I guess that’s a fair criticism. I expect to be good at the outset, have everything go my way, all while dominating opponents with my mad-skills. But I’m sitting here cursing the dumb game-controller for not working right.

I dunno man, this game is hard.

Self-care Routine

I practice self-care through the process of mental-awareness combined with mental-discipline. In a sense, I allow myself to have a good day. This is not related to external circumstances, it is solely in regards to how I’m feeling. I watch my thoughts through the practice of awareness and when something inappropriate is detected, I steer them away through the practice of discipline.

Again, my physical situation isn’t important, I’m only concerned about my attitude: is it positive or negative. For example, if I look up to the sky and see an astroid hurtling towards me, I’d notice a disturbance in my feelings. As soon as I’m aware of this agitation, I’d drop those thoughts and adopt other thoughts that improve my mood. “Oh how beautiful that burning rock is! And to think it should all end like this, in a magnificent world-ending event! This must be what I came here to see! Amazing!”

But honestly, I’m rarely if ever exposed to disturbing external events. Most of what disturbs me is self-inflicted. In a sense, I’m constantly hitting myself with a stick. A stick that takes many forms:

“Hm, why do you look like that, what’s wrong with your face. Why aren’t you good at anything? You know, there’s a term for unfit creatures like you, it’s called extinction. Imagine your life if you weren’t so unpleasant to be around, people might like you – or maybe not. Why’d you do it that way!? That’s dumb! You’re going where!? Do you know how dangerous the world is!? You must be a special type of moron to have a complete lack of regard for personal safety! Uh-oh, is that an ache? It can only mean a severe disease followed closely by death.”

It’s surprising how much of my life is just me bullying myself. Therefore, the most significant step I can take to improve my life is to stop hitting myself.

Art of Life

I suppose I’d liken life to the production of art. In art, you have a certain set of tools to work with, and each toolset has distinctions and limitations. The medium of choice has its own characteristics too. You’re also producing a product that fits within certain expectations. If you don’t do anything, your medium will just sit there – which is true in life. You have to actually go about sketching, painting, sculpting, constructing – whatever.

In my experience, I could simply sit alone in a room and nothing much happened. So in that way, life is not a ride on a track whisking me around, showing me all the wondrous things I should see while I passively sit back and relax. But, there seems to be impulses of inspiration encouraging me to do certain things (just like in art). In some ways I think I can ignore these urges.

An artist shouldn’t necessarily paint over his entire canvas with a splash of maroon simply on a whim. Some impulses should be ignored depending on the selected theme. And art can certainly be frustrating. It often takes years of practice for brush strokes to come across as artistic additions instead of blotchy mistakes. Sometimes the initial vision wasn’t right and you have to repaint or repair.

For example, I initially painted life with dour hues – so now I’m trying to paint the whole thing over with brighter colors. There’s just so much grey and sometimes I need several coats. I try to stay focused on the pretty parts I’ve updated while ignoring the rest. What happened before this point in time? I don’t care, I’ve moved on. That paint’s dried and I can safety paint atop it.

Typical Saturday

My current dream right now? Hm, moving into my forever-home. I want to feel at-ease, like I can finally sleep and be well-rested. I want to head into my office/workshop, surrounded by many tools and gadgets, forever tinkering, collecting, organizing, and upgrading. Throughout the day I’ll be hanging-out with my small family, chatting, eating familiar breakfasts, and delighting in delicious dinners. I’ll also watch shows, videos, and movies – simply absorbing life’s entertaining aspects at a comfortable intensity. And that’s it, not a tall order by any means.

Within my thoughts, there was always a prevalence of lack and impermanence. I don’t have “x” and even if I do, it won’t last long. “That’s too hard to get, I’ll never have it, it’s outta my reach.” Along with: “Things break, they degrade over time, nothing lasts forever.” A mythology of meagerness pervaded my mind. And as it did, my life proceeded thusly. I sought scarcity and found it around every turn.

Was life unpleasant because of its inherent nature? Or was life unpleasant due to my own perspective of paucity? I cannot deny my negative mindset, it’s there. But was it developed as a response to a malevolent world? Or did my mind unjustly paint this place as a squalid slum unfit for occupancy? It seems quite reasonable that I might have to accept blame.

As my outlook softened over the years, I’ve noticed improvements in my physical surroundings. Therefore, one might assume I need to keep improving my perspective in order to see an even better world. I suppose that speaks to the dreamlike nature of reality: circumstances generally flow the way you think they should. And if my life is in anyway unsatisfactory, it’s because I believe it should be – I believe in a lackluster world.

But how does one change their mindset if they’re busy believing in the worst while at the same time experiencing the fruit of their incessant pessimism? It takes a leap of faith to deny one’s current situation as an objective fact – it also takes repentance in the acceptance of blame for its creation. Is the world truly unpleasant, or does the mind make it so? And if an unruly mind makes it so, the solution boils down to the application of mental discipline.

Focus the mind on the greatest aspects of every moment and appreciation of goodness becomes the dominant path in which thoughts flow. Finding greatness in the small builds until greatness pervades all aspects of existence. Soon enough, life becomes an abundant source of awe and amusement to be appreciated.

Problematic Analysis

Due to an abrupt interruption in lifestyle, my character perceives a problem that must be fixed. How can I maintain or upgrade my situation? A potential downgrade is unacceptable – so therein lies the issue. One way to workaround a downgrade is to shift perspective and see it as an upgrade – but that technique is more of a last-resort.

Scanning potential options…. Hm, oh-well I suppose shifting perspective is all I have available at the moment. I don’t see any feasible physical-world solutions. I have “hoping” and “wishing” but I’ve yet to see satisfactory results from previous attempts. My most effective strategy for life has been resigning myself to “what is” and then engaging in some form of small-scale distraction therapy.

Through observation, I can tell that this life is a fictional construct. Also, it seems to be very dreamlike in that the plot goes “wherever” and circumstances follow “dream logic” (reasoning that only makes sense in the dream). Therefore, life isn’t like a ride on a track, a mechanism constructed to gradually reveal an interesting concrete narrative – instead, it simply flows all over the place like a dream.

But not quite “all over the place”. It flows in the general direction of the thinking-mind. I suppose that’s what the “law of attraction” stuff is basically saying: think pleasant thoughts, have a pleasant experience – think nasty thoughts, have a nasty experience. It comes down to controlling the dream through a prevalence of theme. In other words: deluge the thinking-mind with awesomeness in order to live an awesome life.

I admit to beginning life as an untrusting pessimist that searched for ways in which things would fail. And in that way, my wish was often granted. That great things should come to an inelegant end, is well within my belief system. So of course it is of no surprise to be unceremoniously booted from my current abode. But I’m sick of losing, I’m ready to accept a magical transition to an elegant end-game in which I effortlessly excel in the game of life.

Happily Ever After

It’s been 3 years since we loaded up the car and traveled 1500 miles from Maine to Florida. I’ve been in the process of packing my stuff again. I like this place though, it’s probably my favorite home so far. On paper, I’m only leaving because the owners want to sell and I can’t afford to buy (I’m only a renter). I’m not sure if there’s some higher spiritual-plane reason I’m leaving.

If I had the resources, I’d probably just buy it. I like the town, the neighborhoods I walk, the nearby stores are decent, and there’s access to world-class entertainment – overall it’s been a really nice stay here. I actually lived in this same town a decade ago for three years and then left for Maine when things didn’t quite work-out. I came back because I missed it.

I’m fine with leaving in one sense, but to where? I have no place to go. To be fair, when we headed to Maine and stayed there for a few months during a snowy winter, we didn’t have any reason to be there. We only went because my wife saw a seasonal pie festival mentioned on the Food Network. We ended up living there for 7 years. We even welcomed a little Maine-boy into the family. He currently misses the snow, although he might be willing to trade it for a pool.

I don’t really enjoy too much challenge, I’m more of a resource manager. I like buying, organizing, and upgrading stuff. I’m getting too old for sudden changes in lifestyle. I’d like to settle down into a forever-home and go to my workshop each morning – play with tools, do some woodworking, and tinker with tiny motors. Well, if the Disney movies I’ve been watching taught me anything, it’s that something magical will step in to save the day.

Sleep To Dream

I don’t sleep well. I’ve never slept well. Although, when I was younger I remember being able to sleep for 5 hours straight and oftentimes going back to sleep for a couple more hours. That 5 hours was a hard limit that was timed pretty perfectly. Nowadays it’s more like 2 or 3 hours until I wake up. Getting back to sleep is very hit or miss and mostly miss. Oftentimes I remain in a sleepy state that isn’t really sleep.

I tried various sleep aids and remedies of course, but nothing fixed the problem. I finally resorted to supplementing with caffeine during the day – which has helped the most. Oh, but what about naps during the day you say!? Well, I actually have plenty of opportunity to nap during the day… BUT, I can’t nap. It’s forbidden apparently. If I attempt to nap, something ALWAYS wakes me up very soon after I drift off.

For example, I can sit in a room in which no one enters EXCEPT when I fall asleep. I briefly fell asleep in the afternoon the other day but the power randomly blipped on and off (which rarely happens) and people came looking for me. I was woken up, and that was the end of that. If I fall asleep, some external circumstance tends to wake me up. And if it doesn’t, I just wake up after a few minutes with a burst of energy. So no, I can’t nap.

I wonder if it’s some sort of “Harrison Bergeron” style handicap (the short-story by Kurt Vonnegut, 1961)? Being in a perpetual state of low-energy induced by a lack-of-sleep certainly has a suppressing effect. It seems strange how well-enforced it is: time-limits, disturbances, and a no-nap policy. The strangest part is the well-coordinated external interruptions. I used to live in a place where I regularly woke up to the sound of an old howling cat. I thought that was the problem, but even after I moved I just woke up anyway.

Why doesn’t this world want me well-rested? I don’t enjoy being in a drowsy state. I suppose it’s just one of the many types of limitations placed on people, like low self-esteem or imposter syndrome. Life can’t just be easy apparently.