Seeing is Believing

Dear Rich, what if magic ISN’T real, what if random-chance IS the only determiner of outcomes, what if the world IS a harsh and brutal hell-scape in which you must struggle for survival? What if you’re only deluding yourself?

Well dear reader, unfortunately the cat’s already outta the bag. When I was younger, those possibilities had some plausibility, but I’m too old now and I’ve experienced too much. Wishes work, random-chance is a fictional mechanism, and the world is a well-functioning fulfillment factory. And I did delude myself for several decades in fact, I kept telling myself how scary and horrible the world was. Now that I’ve seen otherwise, I can’t go back.

Yes I still see some nasty things, but those scenes are just remnants of a reforming masochist. There’s no doubt that you’ll see whatever you want to see in this world — it’s a fulfillment factory, remember? I can still conjure up gloomy days, but beyond the clouds I can sense the sun is always there, shining bright as always. Whenever I want, I can let go of my character, I can stop focusing on my story and become the watcher. From that vantage point, the intensity resets — I return whenever I’m ready.

The idea of random-chance is a scare-tactic used to make life seem more thrilling and dangerous. It’s fun for sure, but it’s only a mechanism of make-believe. It’s great if you’re a masochist attempting to evoke a sense of suspense and potential doom.

Logic and the lack-of-magic is a limiting-mechanism, an artificial obstacle — this concept adds constraints to make accomplishment seem impossible. But it’s just a story-telling gimmick to make life appear harder than it is — which increases frustration (a favorite feeling of masochists).

The idea of struggling within a harsh world is another scare-tactic. But if you examine the concept closely, it’s such an easy facade to see-through. In my own life for example, obviously my cunning, skill, and vigilance aren’t the reasons I’m still alive — that’s absurdly comical. So anytime I go into “survival mode” I laugh at myself — me versus the world is a silly concept. My existence is sustained by a benevolent author that resides beyond my character — and that’s a fact.

I tried to trick myself into believing otherwise — and I was good at it, so good in fact, that I eventually scared myself awake. I was so full of fear and worry and despair that I finally lost all energy to sustain the deception. I was so despondent that I shut down. And without the energy to maintain the contrived concepts of random-chance, logic-based lack, and the need for struggle, I finally saw life without the lens-of-negativity. Without all that self-imposed pessimism, life seemed okay.

But of course, a good masochist isn’t going to give up that easy. It took many years of back-and-forth to finally get to the point of truly grasping the benevolent nature of existence. The proof was all around me of course, but I stubbornly refused to accept it.

So dear reader, this isn’t a mere “belief” I have, there’s no “faith” involved, I’m not “hoping” these things are true. The life I’m experiencing right now is literally full of magic, it’s lacking in random-chance, I’m not struggling, and the world is actually a pleasant place to live.

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Middle Path of Pixels

In terms of a video-game analogy, you do want to be here on Earth playing this game as a specific character. You’re not attempting to get beyond your character. “Enlightenment” is not transcending your character in order to solely identify as the player. That’s dumb — the player came to play, and to do that, he must become a character.

But as a player, you don’t want to over-identify as your character, it’s too stressful. Yet this is what happens: the player gets so lost in the game that he forgets he exists, he believes he’s actually the character. So what enlightenment is, is when the player finally realizes that underneath it all, he’s actually a player — but it doesn’t end there.

Once the player realizes he’s a player AND a character, he must balance those two perspectives into an enjoyable ratio. Too much character is too intense — and too much player lacks a feeling of immersion. All this Earth-stuff is here for a reason, you most certainly want to interact with it, but you need to do so with a lighthearted attitude, not taking things too seriously.

Imagine if you associated too closely with the character of Pac-Man for instance. You’d attempt to hide from the ghosts, you’d be petrified of being eaten, every step you took would be a step closer to your doom. You’d hover over by the power-pellets, your only source of safety in a world designed to destroy you.

Now imagine if you associated too closely with the player of Pac-Man, never immersing yourself in the game. “Who cares about gobbling those meaningless pellets?” — “So what if a ghost gets me, it doesn’t matter anyway.” — “Oh well, died again, and again, and again.” — “Meh, game over, so what.” — “That was quick. Now I’m bored and have nothing to do.”

Whereas if you strike the right balance between character and player: “Ooh! That was a close one! Ha almost got me ghost, but not today!” — “Oh, oops, well I guess his friend got me. But now it’s my turn to get you!! It’s Power Pellet Time!!” — “I can’t believe I cleared the board! Victory is mine!!” — “Second stage! Let’s do this!”

New Year’s Wish

In games, sometimes there’s a tipping-point in which you become the master. After struggling to get even a toe-hold, you get to a position where your dominance is inevitable. You don’t always want to reach that tipping-point though. If you’re not prepared to handle it, it will be very unfulfilling and you’ll be left with nothing but emptiness. Boredom will come — and from that, you can’t hide.

And it’s true — at one point, life presented me with a scenario I preferred, but I couldn’t handle it. Without a doubt, my negativity won. From there, I went into a multi-year exile. During those years, I trained — not my body as I had done in my youth, but my mind. I sat in isolation attempting to figure life out — trying to understand what I was doing wrong. The culmination of everything I gathered is within this blog.

In the upcoming year, I hope I’m ready to reach that tipping-point — to become a player that focuses on living-out his role the best he can. I hope that I’ve shed my negativity and developed an ability to appreciate the simple fear-free life. I’m done with using fear as a crutch to stave-off existential boredom. Anxiety, distress, worry, despair, anxiousness, hopelessness, frustration — these are words I knew well, but now wish to know only from a distance. I’m not afraid of them, I’m simply ready to mature beyond them.

I was meditating yesterday, methodically shutting down every thought that came into my mind — and a realization occurred: I shutdown this chatter in order to create an inlet for life to enter. These constant thoughts simply don’t allow life to happen, they choke it in every instance — like a loudmouth shouting over everyone else — or weeds preventing desirable crops from growing. So in this new year, I wish to listen — to allow life in.

Welcome Neo

If you listen for it, you can hear a lot of people providing instruction on how to better enjoy life. And these instructions are given from many different points-of-view. There’s all sorts of perspectives: spiritual enlightenment, religious salvation, service-to-others, medical means, diet & nutrition, physical activity, and thought-based approaches — and they all serve a particular segment of the population — whatever you need, it’s there.

Well, I’m seeking to service one such segment. I’ve been provided specific experiences and abilities that are tailored to a particular group of people. I’m a member of the Serious Thinkers Club. Our traits often include over-thinking, taking things too seriously, being too smart, skepticism, pessimism (or “being a realist”), anxiousness & worry, negative reactions, over-application of logic, atheism, and introversion. My goal, therefore, is to help those in this club improve their experience of existence.

So if you think too much, believe that life sucks, don’t go out much, believe that people suck or they’re idiots, seek logical explanations, doubt everything, worry a lot, expect the worst, or if you laugh at the absurdity of religion — then you’ve just found your entrance into a better life. Welcome. My name is Rich and I’ll be your guide here. You’ve no doubt wondered why you entered into this world so blind, with no introduction whatsoever — well, here it is — sorry it’s late, but full-immersion requires it.

Don’t worry about taking notes at this point, this is solely an introduction, we’ll be covering more details later. The main idea of today is that your life can be improved — drastically. You’re right, as it currently stands, your life does suck. But you’re here and I’m here to turn that around. Are you with me so far? Being as smart and aware as you are, I’m sure you can grasp the simple logic involved — and that is: you can continue on the path to suck-ville, or you can accompany me to awesome-ville.

And don’t worry: there’s no cults to join, no leaders to worship, and no fairytales to believe in. This is all a legit logic-based approach. Obviously you’re skeptical (you’re in the Serious Thinkers Club after-all), so I understand that my role is to convince you of what I’m saying — and that’s cool, I’d expect nothing less. And if you have any questions for now, feel free to shoot ’em over. But being a cynical introvert, we both know you’ll remain silent.

Say your Prayers

I just read the Bhagavad Gita again, which in essence, is a distraught man’s conversation with God. It’s about a guy having a tough time with life, and so God-incarnate talks him through it. “Hey bro, life’s not as miserable as you’re making it seem — I mean yeah, it can look a little gruesome, but so what. A cake is an unappetizing mess until it’s cooked too — but the process is still worth it. So ya know what? Have some fun, get rowdy, and break some shit brah!” In the end, the archer gets it and does what he needs to do — which in this case, is to fight in a bloody feud against members of his beloved family.

And it got me thinking about what I’ve been writing in this blog for the last six and a half years. What IS this? I suppose you could say it’s a distraught man’s conversation with God. I seem to be the primary audience here, I read and re-read posts all the time — I find them super insightful. I’m the one always asking questions and receiving helpful answers — I don’t know where those answers come from, they’re certainly not from my everyday-self or I wouldn’t ask the questions in the first place. And anyone that wanders upon this blog is simply witnessing the conversation taking place.

Perhaps this is a form of prayer, a dialog with God in the form of a diary. Prayer is often portrayed as one-sided, but I’ve certainly heard of two-sided prayer in which God responds in one way or another. And apparently, the easiest way to interface with me, is through succinctly written entries. For the most part, this is where I come to get in touch with my “higher self”, the part of me that’s beyond the scared little creature I often revert to. This is where I come to make sense of the world going on around me. Are You There God? It’s Me, Richard.

As far as I’m aware, I never had a personal relationship with God. I didn’t go for that nonsense, it didn’t resonate with me. “Um hey big-guy, so I know you’re busy maintaining the universe and all — but if ya could, my team really needs a win this Saturday. Whaddya say?” Well that’s how a relationship with God was portrayed in pop-culture anyway. But considering it now, it seems that I’ve established a relationship with God through this blog. Just a decade earlier I was writing atheistic, I’m-too-smart-for-this-world type posts in my previous blog — I guess I’ve gone 180 degrees in some ways.

I dunno man, I suppose we’re all trying to figure things out. Even with God by our side, this stuff is tough. No offense, but a game requiring this much hand-holding might be a tad too complicated. Or maybe those of us that need extended-help just suck at this game — I can see that. From an external perspective, it looks like I’m not even trying. But I interpret everything so intensely, that I barely have to do anything and I feel overwhelmed for the day. I recognize that I’m overreacting to the world’s stimuli, but it just happens to be my default. “AH! What was that! Oh, it was nothing. AH! I’m being attacked!! Oh, oops, no it’s fine.”

If a cosmic bystander simply observed my reactions to the world, he would assume Earth was a prison-planet in which inhabitants were regularly tortured for the sadistic pleasure of a malevolent creator. Whereas if the same cosmic bystander observed what I actually did all day, he’d wonder why I sat still for so long, and he’d wonder why I randomly freaked out for no apparent reason. Objectively, the physical portion of my life has never been difficult — but the mental aspect has been off the charts. And the only reason the mental part is so hard, is because of my tendency to overreact. If I’d simply stop imagining the worst, things would be easy.

And that’s where spirituality and this blog come into play. These entries are helping me to understand that life is not out to get me. For six and a half years I’ve been trying to rewire my defaults. I think I’m getting better — really. Yes, I oftentimes react as if I’m afraid, but underneath I don’t feel anxious, I quickly dismiss my scaredy-cat responses. Yes, I’m still presented with classic pessimistic reactions to many things that come my way, but I usually laugh at the silliness of such a perspective. And if someone attempts to sell me a pessimistic idea, my mind readily counters it with positivity.

So that’s the message I received this time around while re-reading the Bhagavad Gita.

Success and Happiness

What I’m currently observing amongst successful people, is that success i.e. the achievement of a large life goal, doesn’t bring happiness along with it. Success simply checks a to-do item off your list. Whereas the only way to achieve happiness, is through a positive attitude and an appreciation of life — that’s it, there’s no other means to get there.

So if happiness is my goal (which it is), I must pour my time and energy into the development of a positive attitude and the cultivation of an appreciation for life. I must become a happiness farmer, planting the positive while weeding out the negative.

And I can sense this is correct because I’ve found myself in semi-successful positions in the past where I simply couldn’t enjoy the situation. And even now that I live in a nice place and have a nice family, I tend to see what’s wrong instead of what’s right. I see what’s missing instead of what’s here.

And this is easy to conceptualize too: does the mere winning of a game equate to happiness? If that were the case, we could cheat our way to victory and be forever happy. But that’s not the case. The people that get the most out of games have a great attitude and take pleasure in the process of playing. The “ends” are pointless, it’s all about the “means”.

But Rich, haven’t you come to this conclusion at least one-hundred times in the past? Um. Yeah. But I believe life handicaps us Harrison Bergeron style. In other words, I’ll forget this concept again and again. But the good news is that I’ll also “discover” it again and again. Does any accumulation ever take place? I honestly don’t know — I can’t remember.

To summarize: success is meaningless unless you have a positive attitude to appreciate it. And if you don’t have the attitude, then work on developing it or you’ll be sorely disappointed when success arrives — it’ll be a hollow victory. True success therefore, is the attainment of an appreciation for life (some would call this Enlightenment).

In the Moment

What’s wrong right now? What’s the matter in this moment, in this very second? If you’re actually on fire, great! That immediate danger will bring you right into the present — you won’t be capable of being anywhere else. But if you’re not on fire, then it’s likely that nothing is actually wrong right-now.

And if nothing is wrong, you should be feeling great. If you’re not feeling great, then you’re not present — your thinking-mind is taking you on a turbulent ride that you’re not enjoying. You’ve been transported to sometime in the past where you’re ruminating about unpleasant memories OR you’ve been taken into the future where you’re prophesying a doom-filled fate.

You better pump those brakes and get back into right-NOW. Start by breathing: in… out… in… out…. Focus on the breath in order to take focus off your thoughts. Now do a systems-check, starting at the top and working your way down: relax every part of your body — when you feel tension, release it. In that process of relaxing, you should feel some sensation at each spot.

For example, you should feel something as your thighs relax. Keep focus on those sensations as they happen. When all done, feel the sensation as a total-body experience, as an inner-energy pervading through your entire body — like you’re radiating light and joy. Focus on that feeling and know what it’s like to be in the moment — perfectly present.