Constant Conundrum

I was recently re-watching the first few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was essentially watching people/characters that I like, undergo very difficult circumstances. The act of watching drama is basically sadism — deriving enjoyment from the suffering of others. Luckily, the characters are fictional.

Yet isn’t that what we do here? Watch others, especially ourselves, experience the worst things we can imagine? But of course, there ARE other ways to derive amusement from existence, but we so often revert to the easy-fix: the sadomasochism solution. “I’m bored! Is there some sort of suffering from which I can extract excitement!?”

But when watching TNG, I don’t actually enjoy the calamity, I enjoy the competence and professionalism of the crew. How will Picard and the gang get out of this one!? And of course they always do. THAT’S what I like, the problem-solving. But there must be problems or else there’s nothing to solve.

Therefore, life must fill itself with problems i.e. opportunities for problem-solving. So problems are not the problem — the attitude we maintain is the real key. Does Picard get frustrated and give up at each obstacle? No, he proceeds diligently, perpetually performing his duty as starship captain. As they say: keep calm and carry on.

Of course that’s what Krishna told Arjuna on the field of battle that day too: stop whining and do your duty. Because in this life, we all have a role to play, a character whose arc we must fulfill. It’s dumb to pause production in order to incessantly complain about the storyline. Just read the damn lines! Become the authentic character and enjoy the narrative.

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Perpetual Politics

“The problem with the other side, is that they’re a bunch of know-nothing morons that try to impose their stupidity onto everyone else! They simply don’t understand the world we’re living in! Well, I guess now that we’re in charge, we can try to work with them, but you know they’ll constantly fight against us. But for the sake of the country, we’ll try to get along.”

I use to follow politics because I thought it made me smarter. To be smart is to be well-informed. And since politics plays a prominent role in shaping the world, I had to know about politics in order to truly understand what’s going on here. WRONG.

Examining politics as a means of understanding the world, is like staring at the contents of a used toilet in order to understand people. Politics is not the start of the cycle, it’s the end product — the stinky, nasty turd in the toilet.

If you take a step back and really look at politics from a wider perspective, the repetition is obvious. It’s the same situations over and over, rinse and repeat ad nauseum — oftentimes the names don’t even change. And just like the digestive cycle, if you feed it crap then even worse crap comes out the other end.

If you want to understand what’s going on here, the WORST place to start is the toilet bowl. From there you’d surmise that people produce nothing but foul odors — they’re gross, disgusting creatures that smear feces wherever they go. Yuck!

Politics will always engage your outrage, that’s its nature. Don’t get involved with potty-talk, speak to people when they’re outside the stalls. Rise above the revulsion. Focus on what you’re feeding yourself and what you’re offering to others.

Search for Success

Did you ever try searching for the thing you’re good at? Like when you see an interview with a super-successful person, and they mention how well-suited they were for the particular path they took. And so you start thinking, “Hmm, maybe I have an obvious talent within a specific domain as well!” So you run down a checklist of traits and abilities trying to ascertain where you fit within the catalog of available professions.

Psh. After several decades, I’ve yet to come up with anything conclusive. The areas which I’ve explored most are: exercise/nutrition, computer-programming, writing. Yet nothing has yet to snowball into a viable long-term career. In each of those domains, I invested YEARS of practice. The most financially successful was programming, but for some reason it just kinda stalled.

Recently, I procured a Windows-based laptop and installed a bunch of programming-related stuff on it. I’ve been browsing around for the most suitable programming paradigm — one that matches my temperament and skill-set. So far I’ve installed Python, Python with Qt, C# and .NET, Roblox Studio, Godot, and Android Studio with Kotlin. I also looked at a few others but passed them by.

I don’t have anything particular I want to make, I just want to “program” and have fun while doing so. Therefore I’m attempting to find an appropriate medium with which to express myself — something that’s powerful but not too complex. So far Godot seems the most promising, it’s a blank canvas backed by a physics engine — but of course its feature-rich flexibility comes with a learning curve. I’d actually like to get into robotics programming, but I haven’t found an entry-point yet.

But anyway, that’s where I’m at right now: trying to find something I’m good at. Of course I was very good at being negative and complaining and scaring myself, but now I’m looking for an activity on the fun-side of life. Something I can invest myself into and experience a return of appreciation. “Wow Rich, great job! Thank goodness you’re around to do what you do!” That kinda thing.

Compass of Consciousness

An observer sits within the avatar as an audience to what’s happening. One thing that this consciousness notices is the thought-stream, an incessant flow of ideas and opinions and internal-debates that cascade through the mind. Yet this stream is only a single aspect of existence — and if the observer stops and stares too long, he can become mesmerized by it — frozen in time, just looking at thoughts as if they are life itself.

If you truly examine the totality of life, you’ll notice there’s two distinct aspects of a person. The character he’s playing as and the audience-member within him. In other words: inside each persona, there resides an observer that’s simply watching it all.

But so what? Why care about our composition? Because, it helps in developing a broader perspective of existence. If you’re completely lost and having a bad time here on Earth, this type of perspective can become like a compass helping you ascertain a definitive direction.

So much goes wrong when you’re lost. When you can’t find your way, you tend towards negativity — focusing on what’s wrong then becomes a way of life. And once you become a pessimist, there’s no obvious way out — EVERYTHING looks wrong. Everything’s a trick or a trap meant to deceive or destroy you.

The only way out is to look within and see that things aren’t what they appear to be — things are what you project them to be. You begin to realize that your negativity was painting a dark hue upon the world. And by ceasing to spray your pessimistically-laced graffiti all over the place, the world brightens up. And by this enlightenment, you find your way home.

Five outta Five

The other day, I was watching a prominent gaming YouTuber insist on rating everything LESS than “5 out of 5” — because there’s always room for improvement. But, is assuming a less-than-best experience, the ideal strategy for the game of life? I would say no, it’s actually a recipe for dissatisfaction.

I’ve tried both sides of the coin — and no matter which side you choose, you’re essentially convincing yourself that it’s true. It literally could’ve been the best burger in the world, you really don’t know — BUT, you’re going to give it a less-than-best rating “just in-case”. That’s erring on the side of negativity — it assumes you never get the best.

Whereas if you say: “THAT is a five-out-of-five burger!” You’ve lost nothing. In fact, you’ve gained a great experience. “WHAT!? I just ate a perfect burger!? Wow! What a lucky person I am.” Suddenly you go from a mediocre existence in which nothing can ever truly satisfy, to having the best life ever.

And if something utterly fails, and simply cannot be considered 5 outta 5, then find an aspect that IS 5 outta 5. It’s not hard. Are the fries good? The atmosphere good? Are you with good company? Plenty of napkins? Find something and appreciate it. Maybe it was the BEST worst-experience you ever had! Always find the 5 outta 5.

Imperfect Perfection

I would contend that “imperfection” is actually the ideal state of things. In other words, faults are not only fine, but preferred. Therefore, if your life is imperfect, it is in fact operating within ideal parameters.

For a simple example, imagine a picture in which a single perfected flower is duplicated and placed within row after row until it creates a grid-like field of flowers. But such a picture lacks appeal, if you’ve seen one section of the field, you’ve seen it all — and all that uniformity is off-putting. “Perfect” landscapes are those made through organic randomness i.e. imperfection.

In the same way, if life traversed a perfectly predictable path in which everything worked-out well, it’d be dull. Instead, there’s always something that needs to be worked-on or figured-out. Imperfection is what gives us something to do, it provides the impetus for action. Flawed mechanisms require constant care and maintenance, there’s always something to be done.

The point is this: NEVER look at broken things with revulsion. They are opportunities to expend effort, a chance to engage with the world. Within a perfectly functioning system your efforts aren’t needed. And so, the world is in a state of perpetual imperfection. Relish this, don’t revile it. Delight in the fact that you have an unending to-do list.

Perfection is a frozen state, its implementation would create a world in which nothing happens. Whereas imperfection is a dynamic state, it creates a world in which anything and everything happens. This means that an ideal life should be inundated with imperfection. Enjoyment of life will not be achieved through perfection — it is only through appreciating the opportunities provided by imperfection, that we can experience genuine satisfaction.

End of Spring 2019

Big things happened in the last twelve months.

For the seven years prior to that, I sat on a big green bean-bag chair located in the corner of our mobile-home’s second-bedroom. It was there where I earnestly confronted my inability to extract enjoyment from life (this blog stems from that). But of course, this is life, and life is meant to be lived — you can’t sit in quiet contemplation forever.

So about eleven months ago, we moved. We sold our mobile-home (for about the cost of a low-end luxury vehicle) and left for a completely different climate. By that point, my wife despised cold, snowy, desolate winters. We moved back to the hot, humid, and happening place we had once lived. Although it was super-hot, it felt good to be back.

The first order of business was finding a place to live. We tried a realtor in town, but nothing suited us. We almost rented an apartment in a far-off area, but my wife wanted something near the school. Being a magician, she found an obscure listing for a condo located exactly where she wanted. We barely met the requirements for renters — but here we are.

On my son’s first ever day of school, and every subsequent day, we were able to walk him across the street to his school. Prior to that, I had homeschooled him for Pre-K and Kindergarten. So now he got to experience a classroom full of kids and field-trips and all that stuff. He even tested into the gifted-program — such a bright little guy.

My personal goal for these twelve months was to actually appreciate and enjoy the experiences I was having. Like I mentioned, we had lived here once before, about a decade ago. And although I recognized how nice things were, I simply couldn’t appreciate my surroundings. Looming-doom and the feeling of inevitable loss were too much in my mind.

This couldn’t be real, and if it was, it couldn’t last. There I was, a software-developer working from my home-office inside of a luxurious top-floor condo, mere minutes away from my childhood happy-place, with a beautiful wife that cooked the most delicious meals I ever tasted. I did it: Success! But as I “predicted”, it crumbled. Or more likely, it was self-sabotaged.

So this second-time around, I was determined to enjoy my surroundings. We picked a nice place to live, we got furniture, we watched fireworks from our balcony, we got annual passes to the amusement park, we walked our son to and from school, we ate at restaurants, we went for leisurely walks, we went trick-or-treating, we got a Costco membership — the suburban dream.

And honestly, yes, I’ve been able to enjoy and appreciate it. BUT, this has literally been my full-time job. I’m such a misanthropic naysaying pessimist, that it took my full concentration and efforts to enjoy myself. Overall I’m pleased with the results, but it leaves me in an awkward position at the end of these twelve months. And that is: can I stay here?

Once the lease is up, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Although it could’ve caused me worry, I never felt it. In a lot of ways I’ve passed the test. Whereas last time I strained to get here and stressed-out once I arrived, it ultimately didn’t work-out because of my bad attitude — so I’m not going to repeat that mistake. I’m not going to stress and strain because it only leads to a bad-time.

I literally did nothing to get here the second-time around — I simply went along for the ride. It was my wife’s idea and she handled everything. She did most of the realtor stuff, planned our road-trip down, procured our dwelling, and got all the school stuff set. I mainly did the heavy lifting when it came to packing. Last time, I handled everything and made a mess of things.

The less I attempt to impose my will, the better things get. And so, as the twelve months come to a close at the end of next month, I will continue to have an attitude of hopefulness for what’s to come. I spent this year appreciating and developing an ability to enjoy experiences while not countering them with constant criticism — and I believe I succeeded in that endeavor.

Here’s to whatever comes next! Cheers!