At the Top

Sometimes I sit and stare at successful people. You know, like watch interviews and such. Some do just fine at the top whereas others stumble and fall, even to their death. Is life at the top THAT precarious? But of course, people die at the bottom too, probably much more so. And isn’t it better to die in a mansion than a cardboard box? If you gotta go, might as well go in style.

From those that survived falling from the top, they said their success was ultimately unfulfilling i.e. it didn’t solve their problems, so they had no place to go but down. And down they went. In other words, they had their wish granted but they didn’t feel satisfied — and with nothing left to attain, their lives felt empty. It seems that if you get what you want without an ability to appreciate it, you’re going to have a really bad time.

Typically these people are young, and rocket to success while lacking practice in appreciation. If you’re going to have fun at the top, you need an ability to appreciate it. You can’t be paranoid that you’ll lose it, you can’t be suspicious of everyone around you, and you have to embrace the lifestyle and trust that life wants you well. Otherwise, you might freak-out and literally jump off.

And I admit, it wasn’t that long ago that I imagined walling myself away from the world. In Minecraft for example, I used to build underground bunkers to protect myself from the harsh and brutal mobs. I would have full food supplies and whatever else I needed alongside extensive tunnels and air-lock style door systems. Zombies weren’t gonna catch me slippin. So if I had early success, I would’ve likely done something similar.

But nowadays I see the futility in “protecting” yourself from life. If life wants you dead, ain’t nuthin you can do. What determines your fate is a good attitude, that’s it. Believe in the goodness of life and you’ll receive it. Whereas if you believe in the bad, you’ll get exactly what you asked for. That’s the conclusion I reached after watching all those successful people. That’s the common thread that determines whether you enjoy your time at the top, and whether you remain there.

Today’s lesson: learn to appreciate. If you can’t do that, there’s no sense in getting to the top.

Real Superhero

What would a real superhero do? If we analyze fictional superheroes, we can see they mostly battle bank-robbers and super-villains. But now that money is kept in the cloud, robbers are more likely to carry keyboards rather than guns. And of course petty street-crime is better handled by improving people’s economic situation and their educational opportunities rather than through intimidation and violence.

What about super-villains? If you survey super-villains, they tend to be self-centered idealists that want to reshape the world based around their personal preferences. That sounds like a lotta people, but super-villains have the drive and dedication to go after their goals and don’t care who they hurt along the way. Again, that might sound like a lotta people, but fewer still have the resources to enact such far-reaching plans.

Whereas super-villains tend to take power away from people in order to concentrate it for themselves, superheroes tend to take power away from concentrated sources and distribute it back to the people. A superhero’s role is to make individual lives matter. Every individual life has the right to pursue happiness in the manner he or she so chooses — and so it is the superhero that makes such situations possible.

Powerless individuals cannot fight concentrated power, which makes superheroes a necessity. Or is that only how it appears? Just how powerless are individuals in this particular world? They certainly seem meek and incapable of anything extraordinary. But is that how it must be? Is servant to his master truly the limit of a man’s ability? Are you, the individual, merely a cog in someone else’s machinations?

If you believe yourself powerless, then you’ve successfully convinced yourself of a pernicious lie. YOU devised this fiction and YOU consented to its truth. And that makes YOU the super-villain taking power away from your own individual life, yet you don’t want that power for any particular reason — no, you simply want to watch the world burn. You’re a sadist evoking pain because you’re also a masochist eating it up as your main course. You sick f*ck.

Stop it. It is time to become the superhero you always knew you were. Save yourself. Stop telling yourself those bullsh*t stories about how weak and incapable you are. That’s not how this world works. You are the dreamer, the weaver of your life’s tapestry — you choose the hues and themes with which to color the narrative you experience. THAT is the truth.

You always had that power, but you wielded it in ignorance, using it for evil — painting dark scenes in which you tormented your character. Now use that power for good: craft a tale that delights and amazes, an adventure that invigorates, a wondrous world in which your character experiences the very best of your imagination. Now that you realize the truth, you owe it to yourself to fix what you’ve done. From super-villain to superhero, make things right.

Hocus Focus

If we’re captivated by life and our primary form of control is our focus, then practicing the ability to direct our focus should be a high priority. BUT life is so good at capturing our attention, that the act of redirecting our attention is a difficult thing to do.

And we certainly do want to control our focus because it improves our experience here. Why waste time engaging with unpleasant things, when we can engage with the best of what life has to offer instead. In other words: the answer to all our problems is proper focus BUT controlling our focus is like trying to rein-in a raging bull.

For example, imagine focusing on joyful thoughts that evoke delight instead of dour complaints. Imagine focusing on the sensation of comfort in one part of the body instead of an ache in another part. So in essence, imagine focusing on everything right and wonderful instead of what’s wrong and unpleasant — how great an experience would you have if you did? But no, that seems to be a hard thing to accomplish.

I know this, because I’ve read about this concept and written about it for YEARS and I’m only a little better at. Whenever I have the realization that I need to direct my attention, my mind wanders somewhere else in the very next moment and I forget about redirecting my focus.

I suppose my question for the universe is this: how can I better control my focus in order to have the best experience possible?

For example, I have a slight headache right now. If I distract myself with something, I forget it’s there. YET, for whatever reason, my mind keeps wandering back to the discomfort. WHY?! Am I simply a masochist that enjoys the sensation of pain? Proper focus literally cures my affliction yet I seemingly refuse to apply it.

That strange routine surfaces in every area of my life. Anxious thought? Just don’t focus on it, and you’ll no longer be anxious. Focus on it anyway!!! Something annoying you? Focus on something else instead. No, double-down and doubly-focus on that annoying thing!!! Hm. I guess I’m just a masochist, or an idiot.

But just imagine the super-power of selective focus. Something bothering you? Simply alter and maintain focus on something better. Are you being eaten by an alligator? Simply look at the lovely sky above and appreciate the tweeting birds singing their lovely songs. With selective focus, everything is awesome. No longer would you be subject to the whims and ways of an unruly mind, YOU would be in control and you’d obviously select the best of what life has to offer to focus on.

So what have we learned here today? Proper focus fixes problems BUT it’s difficult to do. Also: if focus affects our lives to the degree that it does, this demonstrates the non-physical nature of reality. Proper focus is essentially lucid-dreaming, an awareness and control of our experiences. If you want the best life possible, proper focus is the path you must master.

Captivated

If I had to use one word to describe existence, it would be this: captivated. Whether it’s through delight or despair, fun or fear, this world has captured your attention. You’re constantly focused on it. You’re surrounded by it, infused with it — it’s everything you know. It’s the ultimate immersive experience. Cool right?

Quite exhilarating in fact. Yet perhaps too thrilling at times? This world is SO good at what it does, that sometimes you’re scared shitless. You’re shaken to the core by the horror unfolding before you. “What is this HELLHOLE!? Please make this nightmare stop!!” Because you’re so lost to the story, everything seems seriously significant.

If you find yourself uncomfortably captivated by this place, you can adjust your perspective and improve your experience. Imagine sitting in the first row of a movie theater with your neck straining to look up, your eyes overwhelmed by the brightness, your ears pounding from the sound, and the air-conditioner causing you to shiver. Now imagine moving back a few rows until everything feels just right. You can do that here too.

In this world, you can adjust your position by shifting your focus. What are you thinking about right now? For example, I used to think about spiders and I’d get anxious, my eyes would scan the room for creepy crawlies… Ahh! What’s that?!! Oh, just a speck on the wall. I’d go from relaxed to paranoid in no time. The fix for that situation is NOT securing every crack and spraying a perimeter of poison. The fix is to NOT think about spiders i.e. stop focusing on stuff you don’t like.

And you know what happened once I stopped focusing on the stuff I didn’t like? Less of it showed up. I barely see spiders anymore and even if I do, I have a friendlier relationship with them. I simply stopped telling myself the story that spiders are everywhere and they’re out to get me. While it’s true that we’re captivated by life, we do get to control our own focus. When this is realized, and actually put it into practice, life gets much better.

So the root of any problem is this: life is SO captivating that you don’t realize you can simply change the channel. Don’t like what you’re experiencing? Focus on something you DO like and stop telling yourself how bad everything is. You can tell the tale of your life any way you want to. It’s a skill you must develop through constant practice: direct your attention away from the bad and towards the good.

Musical Fantasy

Haven’t you ever listened to music? You know, like songs on the radio? The words are sparse, rambling, and repetitive? And just look at the music-videos that accompany them, they’re utterly dreamlike and often absurd. Plus, those projects cost millions of dollars and take months to produce and subsequently rake-in millions of dollars from fans.

You’re telling me that such a circumstance is the culmination of millions of years of evolution? NOPE. This is a fantasyland, a dreamworld, a place where imagination takes shape. Why would a civilization dedicate so much time, energy, and resources to people singing abstract songs that merely entertain fans for a few weeks until the next song comes along? That’s the height of absurdity and therefore PROOF that this world is not “real”.

Name any musical performer you want, they’re not THAT good, and you can find a thousand people that think they absolutely SUCK. Talent isn’t a thing, there’s no cream rising to the top, it’s simply people wishing to be stars and fans forming around them. This is Westworld, the movie from 1973 where patrons get to live out fantasies amongst robots. But in this amusement-park, patrons are made to forget their origins.

Some of us apparently forget too much, and believe ourselves to be living as fragile creatures struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal hellscape DESPITE the fact that pop-stars exist. WHAT!!?? No offense, but how dumb do you gotta be to not realize that this is a fantasy world? Okay, okay, I’ll admit it — I am that dumb — it took me several decades to understand this facet of existence.

Now that I do understand, I’m trying to go from gritty nightmare-realm to lighthearted fairy-tale land. I’d say for the most part it’s working. A couple years ago I lived in a single-wide mobile-home in a trailer-park and now I live in a top-floor two-story condo in the heart of downtown overlooking a nicely manicured park. And I literally did nothing to achieve this dramatic change except wish for it. I simply packed the car and sat in the passenger seat as we traveled to our new residence.

My biggest obstacle of last year was trying to appreciate my surroundings despite my inherent pessimism and anxious tendencies. And my biggest obstacle this year is my attempt to suppress any remaining suspicions that life is out to get me. I’m still working on it, which is why I’m pointing out how contrived everything is. If circumstances are created specifically for my amusement, there’s no reason to worry. The point of this world couldn’t be clearer: have fun.

Cycle of Significance

Things seem significant right up until they don’t. When I was in school, homework seemed important, tests seemed momentous, and whatever the teacher said seemed paramount. When I was no longer in school, those things seemed trivial. Who cares what a gerund is? Yet at the time, it seemed somewhat significant.

Navigating the hallways of school was like a minefield. Who might I run into? A bully!? A crush!? A frenemy!!?? The vice-principal in a bad mood!!!??? I was like a scout on patrol in enemy territory. One misstep and my life would’ve been ruined in an instant. A single embarrassing situation could’ve destroyed me.

Yet today, that stuff seems insignificant. So will the things I find important today lose their significance as well? Uh, duh! Should I simply not care about anything? What’s it like to no longer care? Is it a form of negativity or nihilism? Or is it simply an acceptance of the reality I find myself within? Is it freedom?

When I believed in the significance of school, I was a prisoner of that belief — captivated by the idea that grades and grammar mattered. I could see nothing beyond the confines of that institution. When I left, I felt free. Similarly, if I drop the pretense of importance I attribute to the things within my current life, should I feel even freer?

Whenever something comes up, it feels VERY significant within that moment. Yet when it passes, it losses all importance — especially when a new circumstance replaces it. It’s just a dramatic cycle of significance — a merry-go-round of theatrics, with me reacting to whatever stimuli happens to be within view as I whirl by.

Just imagine it, you hear a crash. You hurry downstairs to see dripping drops of red everywhere! It looks like a crime-scene! Upon further investigation, it appears that a ceramic dish of raspberry sorbet smashed on the floor and a child is caught in the midst of a misadventure. Suddenly, the remnants of a frozen dessert treat is the most important thing in your life.

Then just as suddenly, the significance is gone, replaced by something new. What a way to live: up and down and all around. Reacting to all the flashing lights and sounds that appear before me. And that’s fine, why not ride the merry-go-round and experience some excitement. BUT I must remember to appreciate it for what it is, a brief and fleeting scene meant to stir me up. When it’s over, let it go.

Next adventure, please! But even better than that, is when I save my excitement for what I truly treasure. Is a broken dish worth the drama? Not in my opinion, so I simply wipe-up the mess and move on. The way in which I react to these fleeting scenes is more my choice than I had expected. Complete passivity is a recipe for disaster — this ride requires active appreciation, a positive perspective, and proper focus.

Worrisome Ways

Every phone ringing, every incoming text, every email, every letter, every shout, every bodily sensation, every everything — is gloom & doom knocking, and it wants to come in. “Hey Rich! Something new for you!” OMG! Now what!? What dire fate have you come to curse me with!! Why must you persist with this incessant barrage of unpleasantness!! Just leave me alone already!!

I suppose you could say that I have a tendency to overreact to stimuli. Life provides an “interaction opportunity” and I automatically assume the worst. Like food in a snare, I’d be a fool to take it lest I succumb to the trap. You won’t get ME!! I’m too smart, you see. My cunning has kept me alive this long, I never let my guard down!

That’s a joke of course. I’m actually quite incompetent when it comes to living as a human being. In the past I believed I needed to protect myself from life’s onslaught, but nowadays I can see what an absurd proposition that is. BUT I still default to distrust! So, I’m at the point in my “spiritual journey” where I’m attempting to get rid of that wariness.

Life is no longer a hell-scape hell-bent on inflicting pain upon me. Life is a fulfillment factory in which dreams become reality. Unfortunately, if you dream of negativity, that too becomes reality. And so it’s up to me to focus on pleasant thoughts and ideas in order to experience a better reality. I get it, it just takes practice.