Year Eight

Life IS a quandary, and the answer to this puzzle isn’t mere realization, that’s too simple. The answer lies in a life well-lived. To complete any game, you have to actually overcome the obstacles it sets forth, not simply realize their existence.

Spoiler Alert! To live life well, one must cultivate and maintain the right attitude and perspective. It’s not what you physically do, it’s how you perceive what you do that counts. But make no mistake, finding and retaining the right outlook is a difficult task.

I’ve had revelation after revelation over the years. “WOW! That’s IT! I’ve got it now! I finally understand!!” But those moments quickly pass and life returns to what I’m used to. I haven’t had the tactics or discipline to maintain the momentum of my epiphanies.

This blog for example, is the primary method I’ve used to log my thoughts. Tomorrow will mark the 8-year anniversary since my first post. I have written-evidence of all those insights over the years. So in one sense, I get it. But in another sense, I’ve been unable to consistently apply those insights to my daily life.

Therefore, that’s what I’m working on nowadays: the consistent application of a greater perspective into my daily life. To do that, I’m attempting to maintain an awareness of “now”. Because in this moment, right now, I have the ability to select whatever it is I want to focus on. And what I want to focus on, are thoughts and experiences that evoke appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement and an overall enjoyment of life.

In so doing, I’ll achieve a life well-lived and therefore win this game.

Compelling Purpose

If you’re spending a significant portion of your time simply reconciling with life, perhaps you’re barking up the wrong tree? In other words, maybe you’re out-of-step with life because you’re trying to do the wrong thing — like a dog jumping from tree branches trying to be a bird instead of chasing, biting, and barking.

Of course, that puts you right into the “finding your purpose” dilemma. But perhaps that’s the problem — maybe you really have to take that step more seriously?

The thing about that though, is that I see so many people compelled into a certain path by internal or external forces — they have no choice, they’re simply directed down a path and they readily follow it. I’ve been around for several decades already and I’m not sensing any push one way or another.

And the inklings I do get, just kinda fizzle-out over time. For instance, when I was a teen I was an avid weight-lifter, so much so that I went to college and studied Exercise Science. But as it turned out, I stopped growing taller and could only get mildly muscular — in other words, I wasn’t going to look like a heavyweight pro-bodybuilder. I wanted to be big and strong but it seemed like genetics wouldn’t let me.

I guess I picked the wrong path on that one. Oops. Okay so then I got into computers. I even started programming and went into software development. But oh boy, was that a struggle all throughout. I quit that stuff several times for various reasons. I go back once in awhile but eventually I get so frustrated over something that I quit again. It seems like another dead-end.

After all that, I started writing — it’s been about seven years of tippity-typing away and posting entries on this blog. But it never manifested into a career, not even close. Can you imagine doing something for seven years with ZERO return on investment? No money, no praise, no nothing — I just write for the heck of it. And whenever I try to quit, I come right back to it. Oh. Hm, so I guess I am compelled to write. My bad.

Well there you go, I suppose internal and external forces are actually forcing me down a particular path. Huh, well go figure. No offense though, but this blog is just a collection of thoughts that no one but me cares about. Shouldn’t writing be a career in which I make significant amounts of money and receive lots of praise? Something that makes my family proud to be related to me and a means for me to shower them with lavish gifts?

Yes that’s right, now having realized my purpose, I’m going to complain about it! I enjoy writing too. I like sitting in my office, occasionally glancing out the window while typing on my Apple keyboard as it wirelessly transmits characters onto my iPad. I have no complaints about the writing process — and I always feel like I’ve accomplished something for the day when I press “Publish”. But why so sparse when it comes to external gratification?

You’ve forced me down a path that I’m okay with — got it, that’s fine. But I’m still on the outside looking in — I’m not integrated into the career aspect of life. And that lack-of-career thing has been vexing me my entire life. “So what do you do, Rich?” Uhh…. But whatever, I guess I’ll keep writing and posting since that’s what I’m compelled to do. But just know that my shopping-budget is severely limited and I don’t appreciate it!

I’m sick of getting my friend “virtual presents” in which I pick out something nice, and send her a picture of it. Yes this post is actually about Mother’s Day, which is today. I have to sit there as she prepares breakfast-as-usual with no significant gift to brighten her day. Pitiful. At the very least I had wanted to get her some potted Gardena flowers and a latest generation iPad-mini — but nooo… she just gets a picture and an idiot for a husband. Psh.

At least she had a nice walk around town with her son. They also went over to buy some local honey at the farmer’s market. And like usual, she found what she was looking for — her ability to manifest the mundane is uncanny. Well that’s all for now dear diary, thanks for listening as usual. Signing-off… Rich.

Intermittent Insight

If I look back at the posts in this blog, I can easily see that I repeat the same ideas over and over and over again. That’s a testament to the fact that we’re not able to retain the things we learn. Any realizations are quickly overwritten by incoming thoughts. I come to the same conclusions every few weeks it seems, and it feels like a new revelation each time. Oftentimes I’ll read past-entries in this blog and think: “Wow! How enlightening! I get it now!”

I’ve yet to find an effective way of maintaining these ideas in the forefront of my thoughts. For example, if you keep seeing the same thing again and again, eventually it becomes part of the scenery — lost to the background. Although nowadays, it probably takes me less time and effort to arrive at the same conclusions — so at least some progress seems to be happening. But progress to where? The realization that life is a friendly place, and that my unfocused thoughts are the cause of my dissatisfaction?

That seems like an odd destination, yet it’s one I’ve been traveling to for half a lifetime. As an illustration, it’s like I’ve been thrown into a dark and creepy room filled with psychotic people grabbing at me while I’m blinded by flashing lights and overwhelmed by strange sounds — but it turns out, I’m simply at a dance-party in which everyone is kindly trying to include me in their fun. From that perspective, I can grasp that my misunderstanding and my bad attitude are the underlying cause of my discomfort.

But as pessimistic thoughts pour in, I can’t simply retain the realization that life is a party. The intensity of existence is just too high and I frequently fall back into a state of dissatisfaction. And at least for my abilities, the difficulty level seems a bit too high. The endeavors I attempt all seem to go nowhere despite the time and effort I invest. In other words, everyday is day one. Like in the movie Groundhog Day, I seem destined to relive the exact same problems over and over and over again.

Speaking of that movie, this is an excerpt from my analysis of it:

When Phil clung to the legacy of his past, he tried to use people for short-term gain — ultimately leading to boredom when there was nothing left to attain. And when he was feeling trapped by a futureless path, Phil couldn’t enjoy the physical world anymore and eventually sunk into suicidal despair.

But by shedding the past and future, focusing only on the instant he was experiencing, Phil was able to find the fun. Despite constant repetition and guaranteed predictability, Phil extracted enjoyment from wherever he could. Within infinity, I don’t believe constant improvement is the point — the point was to develop a means to enjoy the moment.

And once he was able to appreciate the present, there was nothing holding back happiness. Even if he had sat in a park feeding pigeons, I think his loop would’ve ended — it was more about the mindset rather than good-deeds. Because again, within eternity, self-improvement and knocking-off the rough-edges can only go-on for so long until you become a polished sphere.

End of excerpt.

So like Phil, it seems like I’m also required to go through incremental improvement at an uncomfortably slow pace. When I was younger and heard about the concept of enlightenment, I always envisioned an instantaneous flash of infinite insight. But perhaps it’s more of a gradual polishing. Day after day, we rub a bit of the roughness away, eventually producing a shinier surface from which light can reflect. Why so slow? Why not — where else do you have to be?

Seven Years

Oh. Ha. Okay I think I get it. Today is the 7-year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. SEVEN YEARS!!! I’m not excited, I’m amazed at my ineptitude.

Instead of actually disciplining my mind, I’ve been writing about disciplining my mind. I mean yes, I’ve improved, but more by osmosis rather than direct effort — that seems terribly inefficient. Had I directly applied myself to the task of mental discipline, I probably would’ve had better results.

My friend was just saying to me: I’m procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do. And then it hit me: I’M procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do!! For SEVEN YEARS no less!!! I should really stop procrastinating and DO the work.

Like the Dhammapada says:

As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought. It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold-in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness. Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do us greater mischief. Not a mother, not a father will do so much; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.

And so THAT’S what I should be doing with my time and effort: disciplining my mind. Therefore, I hereby declare by the powers vested in me by the state of consciousness, that I do solemnly swear to perform such tasks and fulfill said duties that directly lead to a disciplined mind. I shall henceforth engage in adequate activities that indubitably achieve the desired result of calm and steady thought. Furthermore, this pursuit will most assuredly provide receipts for ensured compliance.
— Faithfully and most ernestly yours, Rich.

Pause Here, Again

Just a message for future-me. Hey Rich, it’s past-you. You’re currently writing a new book. Here’s a hint only you’ll understand: “simuletics” (unless it’s been a long time and you forget what it means). Nothing big, just a project you’re working on, which is why there’s a gap here. In order to focus, you’re trying not to write anything that doesn’t have to do with your current project.

You also recently disabled all comments on this blog as well as “Likes” and any notification emails. And just to note, “Likes” still get through by other avenues, even though they’re generally disabled. I turned them off because I didn’t like the silent judgement I felt when some posts received low-to-no “Likes”. Those poor posts, they did nothing wrong… I’m to blame!

Besides that, things are going decently. Oh, at this time you’re currently trying to improve your ability to sleep. How did that work out? And if you’re wondering, Michelle is doing some crafting and just started some new Etsy stuff. Your son is doing well in school and is studying the classics at home (Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Contra for example).

Um, not much else to report. Good luck in your endeavor. Although since I don’t believe in luck, I should say “Good expectations” in your endeavor. I might be back here once in awhile if some thought won’t go away until written down. You may remember that you previously paused in the past for another book you wrote too: Pause Here. Later.

Artistic Endeavor

Most days, I have thoughts that seem to emanate from beyond my mortal frame. I then think about these thoughts: “Hm, that seems interesting or insightful or like a slightly different perspective.” Oftentimes I’ll write the original thought down, forming it into words. I’ll usually publish those words here, as a blog post. Sometimes I’ll fantasize that other people will read what I posted and the message will serve them in some manner — perhaps encourage them to think in a new way — or simply remind them of what they already knew.

And this writing-process is an enjoyable endeavor for me, it’s satisfying. On a well-received post, I might see about 7 “likes”. Although if you look around at other blogs, that’s a comically small number, especially when you consider I’ve been writing here for over 6 years — but I’m fine with that. There will be times when a post only gets 1 “like” or even 0, so 7 is great. There’s no financial incentive either, I do this simply because it’s the only thing I’m inspired to do. Sometimes I fantasize that money will come from somewhere eventually, but I don’t think about it too much.

Obviously I’m slightly vexed by the lack of physical-world spoils. But clearly that’s not a deal-breaker. And I wouldn’t label this commitment to blogging as a stubborn act because that implies I have an alternative activity I could pursue. I don’t. This is it. It feels like my job, a pleasant one. I show up, pick out some ideas that are swirling around the aether, transcribe them, edit my writing, publish the post, and check for any incoming feedback. “Ooh, a popular one today! 10 likes!” or “Hm no likes yet? I guess that post was just for me, well at least I appreciated it.”

Oftentimes it seems like the posts are for my own benefit. Or rather, the benefit of the character I’m playing-as in the game-of-life. It’s as if this blog is an instruction-manual made just for me. I suppose that’s possible. Either way I’m expressing an inner voice within me — and that means I qualify as an artist. An “under-appreciated” artist in my opinion — but to be honest I don’t really like people looking at, or commenting on, my work. I’m trying to get over that though — in fact, if given the choice today, I think I would rather have an audience as opposed to not. Whereas if you had asked me previously, I’d say I prefer a lack of staring eyeballs.

The point of this particular post is this: follow your dreams. At the end of the day, it’s a satisfying way to live. Figure out who you are and what you need to do in order to be your authentic self — then do that. There WILL be obstacles in your way. But it’s the obstacles that make the trek worthwhile. This is an adventure, a quest, a mystery — you’ll need your wits about you, you’ll need to apply some effort, you’ll need determination. But overall this is an enjoyable endeavor, so stress and strain mean you’re heading in the wrong direction. As has been said: “Follow your bliss.”

Pursuit of Slack

What I see as my purpose, is to be delightfully unconventional. I spent way too many years attempting to be logical and practical and it didn’t work, in fact it was anxiety-inducing. So instead of the fraidy-cat anxious-guy, I would rather be a beacon of hope for pessimistic slackers everywhere. Yes, life likes you. No, hard-work is not a necessary component for existence. Yes, you’ll be fine, don’t worry. No, you won’t lack anything, just follow the flow and you’ll end up wherever you need to go.

Eventually, I see myself as an Alan Watts type, just sitting around riffing on life and its playful nature. Maybe I’ll have a YouTube channel, I dunno. For right now I suppose I’ll write. Ah, I can feel the weight lifting from my self-imposed chains of conformity. Fuck-me for taking life so seriously for so long. No one forced me to wear those shackles, I simply assumed it was the thing to do. Damn-me and my slavishness to popular fashion and my unwillingness to be myself.

As the kids say: “Let your freak flag fly”. I shall hoist mine from the handlebars of White Lightning, my trusty kick-scooter. I will proudly proclaim that I am a Master League, level III, War Robots pilot. When asked “So Rich, what do you do for a living?” I will unflinchingly declare that I write a blog. When asked how I survive in this world without a “real” job, I’ll simply state: “To those that believe, wishes do come true”.

And that’s what this all boils down to: magic is real. I denied it, tried to suppress it, pretended that I lived in a harsh physical reality that required ample anguish and suffering — but no, this world is a fantasyland filled with fun and delight. The only thing I have to do, is ride the ride and laugh the whole way through. And if others wish to select this as their primary mode of being, the more the merrier. Welcome friend, to the lighthearted life.

Let’s Get Nuts

Okay here’s the deal. I’m going to continue writing this blog just as I always have. I’ve been debating whether I should focus on something else because it feels a little weird to dedicate myself to a project that’s relatively invisible to the world. It’ll be 7-years soon, over 1500 posts, with only a handful of regular readers. Even though this blog isn’t much, it’s the only thing I’m inspired to create, so I guess that’s what I’ll do. I’ve always found the writing process satisfying, but the lack of audience and income is slightly vexing.

But in a way, that frustration is a turning point: from wanting to be hidden-away and free from the judgmental eyes of others, to wanting to be seen. Yet I don’t really want to spend any time trying to attract an audience. Oh well. This is a personal diary and will continue to be one I guess. I tried to apply logic, I tried to figure out something more practical to do, but ultimately that’s a failed strategy because logic is for losers.

Logic is not the linchpin that binds this blog. This blog will be whatever it’s meant to be by sheer force of will. What middle-aged man is willing to write a “blog” with zero financial incentive, to the exclusion of any other career-related activity, for almost 7-years? A wacko? If I’m a wacko, I might as well go full-blown wacko. The trouble with anything, is when you half-ass it — in any endeavor, you gotta go all-in.

I write a personal-blog as a “career”, I wear an Apple Watch because it makes me feel like a cyborg, I met my wife in an AOL chatroom, I listen to Super Soul Conversations with Oprah, I love Disney World, I have an incense/essential-oil collection, I play War Robots on my 13″ iPad Pro, and I can be seen riding around town on a kick-scooter — let that sink in. I’m a silly guy. A geek/nerd/hipster/new-age/quirky/wacko. If I attempt to live a practical life, then I’m doing “me” wrong.

I’m not Fonzie, I’m not even Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, I’m a complete dork — and I guess I’m okay with that. I’m a comical character, a source of amusement for myself and others. My problem is, I take life too seriously, I take myself too seriously. I love watching funny stuff, it’s only right that my life is one big wacky adventure starring a goof-ball main-character. Fine, so be it — let there be laughs!

My New Year’s wish was to become a player in the game-of-life that focuses on living-out his role the best he can. I suppose this aligns with that. It’s time to remove the self-imposed limitations and be the authentic me. And although it seems embarrassing to be the real me because there’s nothing left to hide behind, it’s really the best option. In closing, I would like to say “Live long and prosper”, “May the force be with you”, “Nanu Nanu”, and of course “Kiss my grits!”.

Contemplating Content

I was just reading through my most-liked posts in an attempt to discern a common theme.

The first thing I noticed: people prefer my casual voice. “Hey guys! What’s up? It’s me, Rich.” Whether it’s a personal story I’m telling or even if I’m trying to teach something — people like the informal approach. No one likes my professorial persona where I speak from a position of authority using the most precise vocabulary I can offer. Unfortunately for me, those are some of my favorites, yet they often receive ZERO likes. I guess the world isn’t quite ready for Professor Rich. This is one such example: Government 101 – 1776.

Another thing I noticed: people like the theme of “overcoming negativity”. It’s the idea that we can improve our lives simply by ceasing our negativity. By altering our attitude, disciplining our thoughts, and changing our perspective — life can become a lot more enjoyable. And that’s great because it’s a topic I genuinely know something about. I was steeped in negativity for DECADES, gloom-and-doom was how I defined life. So I understand the perspective of pessimism and can speak to it authentically.

Although I’ve enjoyed delving into other topics, people haven’t necessarily liked the political philosophy, religious exposition, attempts at humor, or simulation theory stuff — but of course that makes sense, since they’re not written from an authentic perspective, they’re just thoughts that pop into my head. Whereas negativity was literally a way of life for so many years.

Based on that quick analysis, if I want to focus on what people like about my content, I should be writing about “overcoming negativity” while employing an easygoing tone. Where I still need to practice and experiment, is with the integration of that theme within the parameters of effective storytelling and the application of emotion. Okay, we’ll see how it goes.

Just to note: for the last six and a half years, I never had a pre-planned theme or direction for this blog, I simply wrote down whatever I thought about. But as we all know, a rudderless boat just drifts and doesn’t arrive anywhere in particular. Perhaps with some direction, my writing will achieve a significantly-sized audience.

Making Connections

So the next obvious question is: as a content-creator, how do you create connections?

If you wanted to make friends, what would you do? Would you wall yourself off? Wear the same smelly clothes everyday? Show hostility towards everyone and everything? OR, would you put the best, most inviting version of yourself out there for all the world to see? Likely the second option, right?

Next: If I tell you some facts and figures, you wouldn’t care — and even if you did, you’d soon forget. But what really sticks, are stories. You need to weave narratives into the minds of your audience. If you analyze the content we consume, it’s mostly filler, simple stuff that takes up time — so it’s not the actual material that matters so much as the way it’s wrapped.

Third: Not any boring story will do, it must evoke emotion. Get the audience to feel and they’ll follow you on whatever yarn you unravel. No one really cares about the exact time you entered a building, they want to feel the urgency and apprehension of the moment your sweat-soaked hand touches the almost-menacing door-handle. Think roller-coaster, not museum-tour.

Now, if you can forgive a slight interruption, I was just pausing to think about how much I appreciate you for reading this. Someone recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, and all I could think about was you: an audience of my very own. Yeah it’s corny, I know. But really, it warms my heart to think about your presence as my presents. Number four: appreciate your audience.

Five: You gotta want it. For example, I don’t want to make pie, my heart’s not into it — so if I do make pie and I’m faced with challenges along the way, I’m probably going to cut corners and not care too much about the final product. Whereas I do want to eat pie (apple or even toffee-pecan) — and I’ll easily eat a third or even half in a single sitting. So, is creating connections your focus? Are you terrified or thrilled by the aspect of connecting with your audience?

To sum it up: Welcome people into a well-kept space. Tell them stories that stir their emotions. Appreciate them, they’re not mere stepping-stones to fame and fortune — the connection IS the goal — content-creators are a dime-a-dozen, you need them more than they need you. The audience is your friend, and you have to go out of your way to make this one of the most important relationships in your life — be respectful and sincere.