Plowing Ahead

In one sense, it doesn’t matter what’s causing unpleasant external conditions. I have to deal with them either way. Whether it’s random chance, mischievous imps, an existential escape from boredom, karmic repercussions, part of a dramatic narrative, a simulated challenge-generator that maximizes player engagement — it doesn’t matter, the obstacles are there. And complaining about their presence, is an ineffective strategy for dealing with them (my exhaustive multi-decade study has proven this to be true).

Since complaining doesn’t work, I have to try a different approach. But I will NOT be engaging with these obstacles directly, it’s just not my play-style. Any time I’ve tried the direct approach, I’ve just gotten frustrated by my lack of ability. Whereas I’ve always been intrigued by the Buddha’s approach: disregard obstacles. “Oh is something blocking my path? Hm, cool, well I’ll just chill here, no biggie.” Haha suck it obstacles! You hold no power over me!!

There’s still hurdles, but instead of jumping over them, I shift my perspective until there’s no longer a desire to jump them. This isn’t new to me, I’ve been trying to get this nonchalant approach to work for a long time. It hasn’t been effective enough to end my angst yet. Essentially, I’ve been attempting to dismantle the veil of illusion that makes the world seem “real”. But of course the world lures me back with a mix of pain and pleasure, physical aches and aspirational promises.

Ideally, there’s a balance I can achieve in which I’m in this fictional world AND able to enjoy the experience. By all my efforts thus far, it seems to be a VERY delicate balance though. Oftentimes I wonder if a balance is actually achievable, and the attempt feels futile. I keep trying since I’ve got nothing better to do. I don’t believe I can quit this game – if I dared, I think I’d be right back where I started. My only option is to plow ahead.

Plowing ahead for me means to keep adjusting my focus. Thoughts streaming through my mind require evaluation before they monopolize my attention – most should be disregarded and left unconsidered. It doesn’t matter why I encounter unpleasant experiences or even the content of those experiences – my role is to remain calm and unattached, tuning my focus to whatever’s more pleasant in the moment. Day after day, I chisel away on my quest for balance.

Character Analysis

I’m not good at playing pretend – I often take my role too seriously and add too many procedural details and attempt to establish elaborate and often dour backstories. Plus, overreaction comprised of frustration and histrionics is a hallmark of my characters. “WHAT!? This is preposterous! How dare you!”

I think in life, you have to commit to a role. It makes improvisation easier in the sense that a character has a typical response to a given situation. Whereas I often don’t know how to react, so I stand awkwardly attempting to evaluate the situation and analyze my feelings. But a pre-established character would simply respond in his usual way. “Wowza, that’s the beez kneez!”

I don’t think it’s a good idea to figure out a character by examining the external world and looking for clues. Characters are best defined by whatever evokes the most joy – so you have to look inwardly. I think the world we experience is a product of our imagination and subject to interpretation, therefore the world can appear as a paradise or a nightmare solely based on perspective.

When you commit to a character, I think circumstances change and form to accommodate it. So if you play an anxious character for example, upsetting scenes and stimuli will become the basis of your experiences. I’ve often played as an overly-sensitive anxious-guy but I don’t enjoy it and never feel committed to the role. And like I mentioned, not having a preset role leads to slowed interactions with life since every stimulus sparks a new analysis.

Therefore, I’m in the market for a new role. And unlike before, I’ll take a much more lighthearted approach. Instead of that solemn guy that disappears into every room he enters, often spouting pessimistic nonsense to himself, I’d rather be a cheerful optimistic fellow that people are glad to see. “Oh snap! Rich is here!? It’s about to get good!”. Instead of nervousness and doubt, calm and confidence should be my foundational feelings. Yeah let’s do that instead of all the nonsense I’ve been doing.

Calm and Easy

If you want a calm and easy life, you need a calm and easy attitude. Hm, I suppose that sounds plausible. Even though the external circumstances of my life are relatively calm and easy, I maintain a raging storm of distressing turbulence on the inside. My thoughts tend to be anxious, disparaging, selfish, petty, paranoid, and pessimistic. In summation, I have NOT harbored a calm and easy attitude – quite the opposite in fact.

Despite that, my external experiences are typically mundane. I suppose I simply couldn’t handle more than that. Remaining relatively isolated in a small room all day? I can do that. But of course that provides ample opportunity for me to wrestle with negative thoughts – resulting in a life that is NOT calm and easy despite its appearance. So now what?

I think after all these years, I’m ready for a calm and easy life. I’m tired of the turbulence. I’ve spent so much time straining and resisting – against what? I rejected life, wouldn’t accept it, and remained constantly suspicious of everything. Yet, this cantankerous contentiousness has not benefitted me in any way. I can finally recognize that perpetual negativity is a dumb hobby.

So is that it? We good here? Is this little epiphany enough to flip my attitude around? Um, hello? Apparently not. So now I’m in a limbo of sorts, aware of my situation and stuck cleaning up the mess? Am I supposed to undo decades of discontent and attempt to fashion a positive attitude from scratch? Well that sounds like a lot of work.

Spoiler Alert! It is a lot of work! I can say that with confidence because I’ve had this exact epiphany over and over for many years. This 8-year-old blog is a testament to that fact. A realization isn’t enough, it takes applied effort. Every minute of the day I’m presented with a new thought that must be processed. It’s tedious. Why are so many so negative!? The defects must be rejected and tossed into the trash.

But how can I catch them all!? I miss a lot of these faulty thoughts and one bad apple spoils the bunch. I’m always looking for a more efficient approach to everything and this process is no exception. If it’s not obvious, I haven’t found it yet – I’m still grinding away. It seems like the biggest obstacle is “forgetfulness” and getting lost in everyday life. I’ll have an epiphany, devise a strategy, then I’ll simply lose it as the day’s drama unfolds.

And no, simply writing it down doesn’t work – as this 8-year-old blog demonstrates. Well whatever, I’m gonna try my hardest to adopt a calm and easy attitude. That’ll be my mantra for now until it’s lost to the repetition. “Calm and easy, calm and easy, calm and easy…” I’ll be an unsinkable cork floating atop the undulating waves of the world on my own joy-filled frequency, calm and easy.

Detailed Questions

Why is the sky blue? Why do people do what they do? What does it mean to fall in love? What’s the origin of illness? What’s healthy? What’s free-will? How do you live a good life?

If reasons and explanations to life’s questions vary over time, then perhaps details don’t matter. How can details be so subjective? You might postulate that understanding simply evolves. Well I don’t understand anything! I’ve certainly not received any of this advancing knowledge! Nor do I see evidence of it as I witness people living similarly dramatic storylines to those that came before. Fashions change, but the basics seem the same.

Schooling, amusements, occupations, competition, romance, parenting, complaining, and the search for satisfaction – what really changes? Style varies with era, but the fundamentals remain constant. Every age has its own explanations of why things happen, yet subsequent ages scoff at those antiquated ways. And this current age’s understanding will be mocked by those that follow. In that way, modernity admits its own lack of understanding.

What this adds up to is an obvious conclusion: events do NOT sit atop a solid concrete structure of objective ingredients. In fact, the framework for circumstances is fictional, mere illusion, a concoction cobbled together after-the-fact. Something happens, THEN the “how” and “why” forms based on perspective.

This conclusion obviously implies a dreamworld/simulated-reality in which a dreamer/player has ideas that manifest from imagination/pixels. There really is no “how” or “why”, it’s simply not necessary when dealing with dreams/simulations. Anything can appear anywhere at anytime.

And of course I had it backwards the entire time. I thought I was supposed to seek-out the step-by-step specifics in order to traverse a particular path. If you want to accomplish a task, read the pre-printed instructions obviously! NOPE! You simply “do the thing” and let it unfold before you. It’s a dream whose scenes manifest before your very eyes.

Whereas when you’re lost in the dream, it seems so concrete. The details ARE the reason, and nothing exists beyond what the senses perceive. But that’s such a limited perspective – you’re trapped into inaction and unable to do anything significant. Therefore, you must reset your frame-of-reference, step back from the intensity of a dream created by a wandering mind.

Remove yourself from the chaotic nightmare through discipline. Discipline is specifically focusing the mind. It’s pulling focus away from dissatisfying topics while putting focus on delightful ones. It sounds silly, but life is a silly thing. Tame the chaos you previously created, let it go, replace it with a new world in which you choose to experience contentment. In a dream, time is malleable. It is now the dawn.

Frying Pan

I’ve swung so far: from surety in a brutal concrete reality to surety in a fictitious dreamworld. That’s a LOT of surety for someone that’s lost and confused. But when you’re drowning, you grab tightly to whatever’s near, whatever provides the most buoyancy amidst the turbulent waves that cause you to choke with panic.

You grip tightly until you’re eventually calmed by despair. I suppose hopelessness is the primary driver behind my religious conversion. There was no grand epiphany in which I was visited by angels, I simply couldn’t take the intensity of ever-present anxiety, and gave up. I quit caring. I stopped taking the game so seriously.

And nothing happened. I didn’t drown. It was as if I had been in shallow water the entire time. There was no danger. I was overreacting and only imagined myself drowning. Oops. It wasn’t my cunning and vigilance keeping me alive!? Oh well. Luckily, I’ve got it all figured out now! Nah, just kidding.

I know how to be pessimistic and overly serious, but I don’t quite understand how to play and have fun. I’ve simply gone from one confusing predicament into another. So now I have to spend my days dismissing my inherent negativity while attempting to add levity into everyday life. I have to find enjoyable activities and actively appreciate them.

Happiness isn’t easy, it’s a lotta work. But again, what would I know? I like precision and predictability and knowing how things function. Yet patterns and pathways seem to be purposefully derailed in this world. My inclinations don’t apply. Whatever direction I step doesn’t get me any closer to where I want to go. Nothing makes sense!

But if you’ve ever attempted to learn something new, that’s what it feels like. And over time, with practice, you get better. Living a good life isn’t something you inherently grasp, nor something you figure out in a day or even after a few years. You immerse yourself in the process and you stop trying to think your way through it; you let it happen.

Mental Priority

No thought is worth more than mental discipline. In other words, any idea or mental-image currently capturing your attention is less valuable than a well-focused mind. A thought will never provide the insight or satisfaction that mental discipline brings. This means it’s better to specifically direct your attention, instead of allowing it to wander amongst thoughts.

If you dismiss a thought, you’re not missing anything important. Thoughts come from a chatterbox that likes to hear himself speak. But he rambles on until he stumbles into a topic that thrills and excites, then you’re stuck with the resulting anxiety. You do yourself a favor by stopping this process and preventing this search-for-excitement.

This chatterbox is like a hacker brute-forcing a way towards anxiety, trying every combination of ideas and images until he finds a weak-spot into your attention. And once found, he throws everything he’s got at it. Deny such attacks by shutting down the spam, don’t bother looking at the attention-getting titles, just auto-filter it out.

This chatterbox is like a door-to-door salesmen that constantly comes knocking – don’t invite him in or you’ll be subjected to a stream of solicitations all day and night. “Boredom!? Not any more with the new and improved Thought-o-Matic Instant Anxiety Machine! It’ll make you tremble with stories so shocking, that you won’t be able to concentrate on anything else!”

Mental discipline is the practice of not answering that door. It’s the practice of denying thought-scans that seek surges of emotion. It’s the practice of putting proper focus first, above all thoughts. So stop giving thoughts priority, put them in their place below mental discipline. A well-focused mind is the key to your satisfaction.

Absurd Mischief

There are two things I regularly observe: the absurdity of human activity (individually and as a society) – and second, the mischievous moments periodically introduced into my day. To me, this means I cannot earnestly participate in the game of life. Have you ever tried taking a game seriously while other participants fooled around and ignored the rules? It’s not fun. And then to have your efforts regularly thwarted by mischief? Why do anything at all?!

BUT, the guy that takes a game too seriously is not correct – he’s actually a killjoy. Imagine playing a game of pretend, like “house” for example: You knock on the door and inform the homeowner of high-interest rates, the possibility of refinancing, the benefits of a 401K retirement plan, as well as the need for adequate life-insurance. Your playmate looks at you in disgust as she quickly closes the door and tells you to quit being a jerk.

I’m often guilty of applying too much formality to life. Wherever I go I want to check what I can and cannot do. “We must consult the rules!!”. But if you’re constantly looking for a rulebook that doesn’t exist, you’re going to have a bad time. In fact, this world is VERY resistant to rules – it’s a Wonderland in which mischievous absurdity leads the way. You can’t apply structure to its formlessness – it’s more dreamlike than anything. The ONLY recourse is to play along.

Imagine being at a dinner in which most of the participants peridodically stand and move to the center of the room. A cacophony begins and people hop around the floor while grabbing at one another. You think: “Why don’t they sit down, be quiet, and simply eat their food!!” But of course they’re just dancing to the music, yet you refuse to appreciate or participate in the frivolity.

In video-games, it’s common to work long hard hours to achieve arbitrary rewards that disappear as soon as the game’s over. So it’s fine to pursue frivolous objectives, that’s the goal of games – but the pursuit must be enjoyable. The point is to have fun while straining to achieve those ephemeral ends. In other words, you CAN work hard within a mischievously absurd environment, you just can’t obsess about the outcome. You can’t cry when the sandcastle crumbles.

In general, enjoyment must be extracted from the process of doing something and NOT from savoring something that’s already completed or attained. In that way, it doesn’t matter if attainment even happens or an accomplishment fades away. You should be too involved in the activity you’re doing now to care anyway. In this way, mischief can’t quite affect you.

In regards to absurdity, you’ll have to embrace it and play along. For example: just do whatever you want. If you want to paint popsicle sticks, do that. Stay calm, don’t worry, and just do whatever relaxing activity comes to mind. The more lighthearted you are, the more lighthearted the mischief and absurdity that surrounds: so keep it playful. Oh and planning doesn’t work as expected in an absurd world – in fact, it just makes it easier to tease you.

Wait Not Want Not

At first I thought I was randomly born into a harsh and brutal world that didn’t care if I lived or died. Then after a few decades of living in abject anxiousness, I realized I misunderstood. I was in no danger, there were no threats – the world simply sustained me without effort on my part. Knowing that, I then surmised that the world must want me to prosper and enjoy myself within its walls. That theory has unfortunately not proven correct – I’m not saying it’s wrong, I simply don’t know if it’s true at this point.

For example, you’d want to keep your lab-rats or livestock alive, but you don’t necessarily care how happy they are. Unhappiness might even be a state that’s encouraged for research purposes as part of an experiment. Or this could simply be a game – and like any game, challenges are built into the world as obstacles to overcome. Games by their nature introduce stressors into a player’s life. Over and over, players jump hurdles and chase fleeting rewards.

I have to surmise then, that existence is like a Role-Playing Game. It’s not a movie in which you sit passively watching the scenes go by. I tried that approach and it doesn’t work. You literally end up sitting there waiting for the movie to begin but it never does. You have to actually press forward and manipulate the buttons here and there. I think life assists you, but you have to deal with challenges along the way.

Think about it this way: participation in sports is most rewarding when you push yourself close to your limit. Who cares if you can do something easily? It’s the training and straining that accompanies difficult tasks that produces the most satisfaction. A larger investment begets a greater reward. BUT: if you take a game too seriously, you’re going to have a bad time. Games are ultimately mechanisms-of-fun and your perspective should be broad enough to include this aspect.

Corporeal Lament

I’ve watched captivating movies, lost myself in enthralling shows, and journeyed alongside characters in great books. While engaged with these stories, I’m undistracted and enjoy myself. In other words, I’m an effective audience member. But when I leave these stories and return to my own story of everyday life, I’m often distracted and frequently fail to enjoy myself. What gives!?

Obviously it’s because my story SUCKS. And it’s true, I don’t like it. If I had to devise a dumber plot or a more unlikable character I’m not sure that I could. As I implied earlier, good storylines are effortless to consume, but bad narratives are boring and a chore to get through. I know good stories exist, I’ve seen them, yet my life is not one of them – why?

Nothing short of a bonafide Christmas Miracle would make the preceding years balance out. Maybe aliens introducing advanced technology such as teleportation, perfect health, mechanized avatars, and recreational virtual worlds. Well whatever it is, there needs to be a deus-ex-machina alteration to this narrative for it to become a worthwhile story.

Am I unappreciative of the miracle of life? YES, it needs to be interesting and engaging or else who cares. Ooh look at me walk around. How fun. Ooh trees! Neato. Ooh all those stars in the sky! So bright! I don’t care. Physical pain, the awkwardness of personal interactions, digestion difficulties, sleep and energy issues, the tediousness of transportation, finding purpose — who needs that crap!? If this world is simply a lesson to teach me that bodies are terrible things to have, then mission accomplished.

Practicing WhoAmIism

I’m sick of imagining a dumb backstory. “Remembering” isn’t even the word for it since I don’t know if it really happened. Because honestly, who’s to say when existence began? I literally could’ve achieved consciousness this morning and presumed a bunch of ideas and injected a few false memories about who I am and what’s happened thus far. My examination of my situation could be further tainted by a negative perspective, leaving me with incorrect interpretations all around.

So now what? What does that leave me with? For one, it leaves me without ANY baggage to carry along. I’m free of whatever preceded right now. In other words, I can think of the present moment as the start of a dream. Nothing before this moment actually existed, it’s all concocted in an attempt to explain what’s happening now. I don’t have to take it seriously, I can ignore it or even invent a better backstory and believe that instead.

In a sense, I should approach each new moment as if I have amnesia, unsure of who I am or what’s going on. It sounds a bit odd yet it’s closer to the truth. I really don’t know who I am or what’s going on here. Sure, I’ve made a bunch of assumptions but I don’t know if they’re correct, in fact they’re more likely to be wrong. These assumptions I’ve made haven’t benefitted me in any way – and typically, they tend to make me feel bad.

In summation: As soon as I became conscious, I inadvertently focused on a lot of strange thoughts. I assumed they represented a factual reality. I further assumed that following those thoughts would lead me to an explanation of what’s going on here – but doing so only led to more confusion. All those thoughts I invested in turned out to be trash and are therefore unworthy of further attention. The present moment is the only time in which I should invest my attention. Focus on now.