Hard Work

I’ve never had ANY inclination towards a professional career. Ever since I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had an answer, all I could say was “I don’t know”. It always made me uncomfortable that I didn’t have an answer. And a few decades later, guess what? I STILL don’t know what I should be doing with my time and efforts. I often wonder if I’ll stumble into some sort of career at some point.

I’ve primarily engaged in hobby-level activities. For example: tinkering with computers, writing essays (blogging), making digital art, watching YouTube, playing the tin-whistle & recorder, whittling wood, shooting Nerf & air-soft guns, flying toy drones, playing video-games. I did attempt to become a professional computer-guy & programmer for a few years and I was finally excited to answer the question “so, what do you do for a living?”. But that career was short-lived.

I often hear people praising the virtues of “hard work” and “working hard” and I kinda shrink up, feeling a bit embarrassed. They say things like “earning your keep” and “paving your own way” and a bunch of other stuff in honor of the Protestant Work Ethic. In one sense, I don’t have a desire to “work hard”, but in another sense I feel guilty about not grinding away at some laborious task. I do like hangin-out and passing time in frivolous ways — it just seems like I shouldn’t.

But why not!? Now that I’m starting to understand that life isn’t serious-business, that I’m not engaged in a constant struggle for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, I’m starting to lose this self-imposed constraint. Of course I should be having fun, that’s the POINT!! If life’s a simulation, which I believe it is, the purpose of any game is to enjoy oneself — so if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve been plagued by these contradictory beliefs my whole life: on one hand, I lack the aspiration to participate in a professional career — on the other hand, I seem to believe that professionalism is a necessary component of self-worth and success i.e. if you’re not a “chef” or “engineer” or whatever, what are you? You can’t simply be “Rich”!? Well one of these contradictory beliefs has to give, and guess which one it’s gonna be?

Relatedly, I’m approaching a test, a deadline. So the question becomes: will I be able to maintain my frivolousness and prove myself worthy of a carefree lifestyle? As the deadline nears, all my external effort is invested in frivolity, tasks that lack utilitarian value. Whereas internally, I’m focusing my thoughts on the enjoyment of existence. There’s no going back now, nor would I want to. Onward! To the lighthearted life!

Space Game

I’m still knee-deep in computer-programming activities. My latest experiment/release is an Astroids-like Space Game. It’s using Javascript to draw on a Canvas element by utilizing a bunch of trigonometry. Because I like using vanilla Javascript and a raw Canvas element, I had roll my own collision-detection mechanism.

I’ve also been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix (I’m currently up to the middle of season 3). That particular series is chock-full of competency by the way. If you want to bathe yourself in the concept of people performing their jobs exceptionally, that’s the one to watch. Picard is professionalism personified — and of course the entire crew steps up whenever duty calls.

I think the show has been keeping me from getting road-blocked by problems that spring-up along the way. In the past, I’d often quit when the going got too tough. But now, if something isn’t functioning properly, it means I need more research or perhaps a different approach. With enough perseverance, there’s always a solution. Quitting is not an option: there is only the performance of one’s duty till the end.

It’s dedication to the craft. In Star Trek, that craft was an actual craft, the starship Enterprise. In my case, the craft is the art of programming. It’s authoring and organizing sets of complex instructions. It’s coercing pixels to dance across the screen in predictable as well as unpredictable paths. It’s seeking out new ways and unique solutions, boldly coding where no developer has gone before.

More Programming

I’ve spent the last few weeks reacquainting myself with programming. First it was Codea on the iPad, then Godot on the PC, and then Javascript on the web. It’s been interesting to see what’s changed and what hasn’t in the near-decade that’s passed since I stopped programming. It seems like Javascript became a big deal for instance.

I even re-established my old domain-name (which I couldn’t get rid of for sentimental reasons): https://WellCraftedSoftware.com. It now points to an Ubuntu instance on AWS — I always wanted my own Virtual Private Server. It hosts some of my recent experiments with Javascript, including a simple Node.js server demonstration.

I’ve been using Visual Studio Code to whip-up some quick little programs that utilize Javascript to manipulate Canvas elements within the browser. I’ve also familiarized myself with the CSS Grid spec and found it a decent way to do layout. When I left programming many years ago, Javascript and CSS were an absolute mess — now they seem downright pleasant (if done right).

I did look into a few other programming areas, but I wasn’t that pleased with what I found. I still dislike Xcode, but I’m excited to see if SwiftUI can turn things around. I also looked into Android Studio and saw that they switched from Java to Kotlin — very interesting. But overall, the development environment is too big and heavy — I prefer a leaner/meaner setup.

For the time being, I think I’ll concentrate on browser-related stuff. The HTML Canvas element is pretty primitive, but it’s kinda fun for now. I haven’t touched NoSQL databases yet, but they look promising: just throw them some JSON? Cool. Oh and honorable mention to https://developer.mozilla.org, their documentation for Javascript and other web-related stuff has been phenomenal.

Programmer Part II

I am going to reattach the label of “programmer” to myself. The last time I was serious about programming was approximately eight years ago when I was selling desktop-apps on the Mac App Store. Nothing fancy, just little programs I whipped up.

On one hand, I’ve always been fascinated by programming. But on the other hand, I was never able to create something significant enough to manifest a satisfying career. So after a bunch of years going nowhere, I got fed-up and quit.

As an idealist, I imagined creating the most awesome-est software possible that generated tons of passive-income as I sat there raking-in all the profits and praise. When that didn’t happen, I said “Gah, what’s the use!” and gave-up.

Now I’m setting my sights a LOT lower. My current definition of programmer is: someone that writes and runs code — that’s it. And that’s all I plan to do for now: write and run code. Sure, anyone can type in some pseudo-code, but not everyone can get code to compile.

As I was recently reacquainting myself with programming, it was just sooo familiar. With such an intimate knowledge, how can I not have programming in my life? It’s like family. “Hello C#! So good to see you and .NET again! We should totally reminisce later! Oh hey PHP, ha yeah… you look just like I remember you… ooh who’s that over there!? Hey Godot! Wow, haven’t seen you around, but it seems like I know you already. Hello WebGL, wow you seem like a powerful backend for browsers!”

To me, programming is mostly a means to paint pixels on a screen. Even the text I’m typing is just painted-on pixels — a series of ever-changing specks with varying hues. So my task is to make those little dots dance — and by the power of programming, I shall.

Myth of Productivity

My work of late has consisted of trying to develop a better attitude. And one thing holding me back is valuing the concept of grueling-work. “Why do that the easy way, when there’s a much harder way to do it!!!” See? That’s stupid. Yet that’s what my attitude boils down to: “Work harder, not smarter! And how dare you enjoy yourself!!!” That’s masochism, plain and simple.

I believed that frivolous activity was worth less than “productive” activity. Yet, I’ve noticed that the less “productive” I am, the easier life gets. It turns out that life is NOT a struggle unless YOU struggle against it. Productivity is a myth because you can’t actually produce anything of value. In other words, if everything’s pixels, ALL activity is frivolous.

In addition: either life gives it to you, or you don’t get it. Effort doesn’t guarantee outcomes i.e. planting seeds won’t always result in bountiful harvests. There’s a certain combination of conditions that must be met or else your fields won’t yield. You could work sun-up to sun-down and still get nothing. In order to receive what life provides, you have to play the game correctly.

In fact, “working hard” displays a fundamental misunderstanding of life. You’re assuming your tiny efforts amount to something significant. Yet you’re completely missing the point of how much life is doing for you while deluding yourself into believing YOU did it. But the most you can do is appreciatively accept what’s already provided.

Imagine you’re at a party. You walk over to the buffet-table and pile tons of food onto your plate. It gets so heavy that you’re starting to break a sweat. You struggle to maintain your balance as you find a seat — plus it’s a bit crowded so it takes a couple minutes. You sit down to eat and proceed to stuff yourself. Then you sit there gloating and boasting about how much effort and work you put-in to obtain and consume all that food. THAT is what patting yourself on the back for “all your hard work” is like. You simply partook of what was already there!! You did NOTHING.

So the better attitude is this: Thank you life for this amazing party. Wow, it really has everything I could want. There’s people to interact with, food to eat, chocolate cake especially, heck there’s even a pool to swim in! There’s tons of activities to keep me busy. I’m actually overwhelmed by the many choices. But don’t worry, I’ll try my hardest to have fun! I understand that my duty as a guest is to enjoy my time here. I also understand that I should focus on the activities I derive the most delight from. Thanks again!

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.

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.