Dreamlike Days

Every day is a brand new day.
Imagination paints in the details.
Focusing on a particular fills in its blanks.

Continuity comes from chosen themes.

Ignore vague remembrances,
develop a preferred theme,
focus on details that delight.

Make each day the one you want.
Inspiration suggests a course,
but customize the path to please the palate.

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I Choose Wood

In the Ghostbusters (1984) movie, the boys are told by Gozer the Gozerian to choose the form of the destructor. Ray accidentally thought of the “Stay Puft Marshmallow man” and there it appeared, a giant angry campfire treat. The boys were then challenged by the manifestation of their thoughts.

I wonder whether our own challenges in life come from the topics we focus on. For instance, if we concentrate on relationship drama, medical drama, legal drama, career drama, financial drama, etc. — will we manifest related obstacles into our life? If I think of nothing but ailments, will I receive the very thing I think about?

If this is true, then we must focus on the form in which we want our challenges to take. And so for this little experiment, I choose woodworking. I believe I can handle woodworking drama. Thus, anytime my focus drifts, I must purposefully shift it back to woodworking until that becomes the source of all obstacles.

In other words, “Is that a woodworking problem? No? Then it’s not my problem.” For the time being, I’m all about tools and fasteners, boards and dowels, hardwoods and softwoods, alignments and measurements — and that’s it. This is the problem I’m willing to have. Oh and Jesus was a carpenter by the way.

Changing of the Guard

I’m not normally one to make New Year’s Resolutions — but this year — rather, next year — I am participating. Essentially, I’m going to give up certain responsibilities I had previously placed upon myself. Of course I had no real power in the first place, but I held to the belief that I did — now, I relinquish that belief.

In short, I’m a horrible steward, too filled with limiting ideas and thoughts of lack. I am ceding control over to someone that is lucky and liked by others, someone that literally receives what she wishes for, someone that sees the sunny-side of life. In other words, I am abandoning the patriarchy and accepting the matriarchy. Mom’s in charge now.

Furthermore, I am going to take up a new hobby. This blog was originally located at the address WhittlinRich.WordPress.com but I had purchased the domain name WellCraftedWords.com about a year and a half ago in hopes of some commercial success. Nothing manifested from that name-change so I’m dropping it and going back to the original.

Relatedly, my new hobby is wood-working. It’s actually a hobby I’ve dabbled-in many times, but I’m going back to it for now. I don’t know if I’ll be posting wood-working-related posts here or not. Although, it would be funny to arrive at this site in the future while looking for wood-working related posts, only to go back into the archives and see all the philosophical stuff.

I don’t know if I’m finally going back into regular life, losing myself to the everyday. Perhaps my Algernon period of awareness is over for now. It’s getting close to six years since I started this blog. The conclusion it reached, is that life’s a funhouse, so have fun — don’t take things so seriously. Or maybe this is just one of those soon-to-be-abandoned resolutions — I guess time will tell.

Either way, Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

New Lands

When things get cramped, humanity goes exploring, discovering new lands to disperse into. Yet what happens when there’s no place left to go? Well amazingly, new territories appear on the map. Columbus thought he’d find India traveling across the ocean, but oops, something just happened to be in the way, a giant continent. And so a swarm of people left the density of Europe for the relative openness of the Americas. Coincidence?

Well what’s left today? The forests? Oceans? Mars? Cyberspace? All of the above? Solar and battery technology along with satellite and radio communications will make moving away from population centers more doable. And with advancing rocket technology, colonies on Mars are becoming more feasible. As for cyberspace, much of my life already takes place online, a virtual existence — why bother to leave the house at all?

In cyberspace, I can browse the endless aisles of Amazon. I can watch shows catering to my particular personality. I can read the compiled works of human literature. I can video-chat with my mom who’s hundreds of miles away. I can control giant battling robots. And these worlds intersect when people you meet online manifest in-person or when packages arrive or when your heart races from a rather intense online-battle.

But new land doesn’t come cheap does it? There’s always a bit of struggle, no? Whether it’s legislative control, corporate hegemony, restricted bandwidth, technological limitations, griefers, hackers — whatever form it may be. But what game comes without challenge — overcoming obstacles is the entire point of many games. So, the things that get in our way are just part of the fun.

We must consider that not everyone left the Old World for the New, so we shouldn’t expect old ways to be overwritten by the new. Ideally, we should all support each other’s right to go in the direction we choose. Just because we don’t like a certain path, we shouldn’t attempt to shut it down. If people want to live in the forests, in the ocean, on Mars, in cyberspace, or wherever and however they want — then good for them.

By the way, such an obvious pattern of constant realm-expansion should serve as evidence of life’s artificiality. For those of us too tightly wound, we should use these little reminders as reason not to take life too seriously — it’s for entertainment purposes only. There’s always something newer and bigger around the corner. Lack isn’t real, there’s nothing physical confining us. Relax and enjoy the show.

Game Pace

If I play a game very conservatively, trying to manage my damage, then it’s not very fun, especially if I’m taken out abruptly by something unexpected — all that caution and care for naught. But if I play a game too carelessly, dauntlessly rushing in with guns blazing, then it’s over too quickly, I never get to experience any depth of gameplay.

So there’s a balance to be had. I have to pace myself. But it’s difficult to pace oneself unless you know what you’re up against — how difficult are the challenges and where’s the finish line? An easy game allows you to adjust to conditions as they become known. A hard game doesn’t tolerate mistakes, but expects you to adapt to its conditions by repeatedly playing from the start.

A lot of games depend on players playing them over and over — you win some, you lose some. Whereas some games are open-ended and meander along with rules and victory-conditions that are more malleable. Maybe life is all things to all people, perhaps for some it’s a harsh game with zero tolerance for error — perhaps for others it’s an open-ended stroll through a lighthearted landscape.

It seems as though we place these conditions on ourselves. From early on I used to take the game-of-life oh so seriously, setting many limits on what I could do, believing in harsh consequences for mistakes. But now that I’ve dismissed all that super-seriousness, I’m surviving just the same. Life was only as hard as I believed it to be.

As for pacing, maybe life adjusts to whatever amount we’re willing to give. If we’re in it for the long-haul, then we have a long life with a detailed narrative to match. If we’re here for high-intensity then BOOM, we’ll get it. Like every game though, we likely play again and again, perhaps selecting different perspectives each time.

What’s frustrating about a game is not usually the game itself, but our insistence on a particular outcome. If our goal is to simply enjoy the game no matter how it proceeds, then there’s not much to stress about. But yeah, it sometimes takes maturity and creativity to figure out how to extract the fun from a certain point-of-view.

Cannon Fodder

As someone that invests in the idea of simulation-theory and the virtuality of existence, I’ve been busy doing research by playing a MMOFPS (Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game). It took me a few weeks, but I recently reached my goal of getting into the top level. The top level is highly competitive in its own right and contains higher leagues, but I don’t care about that, I just wanted to get into the highest numbered level.

There were times when I wanted to quit because I was fed-up with being cannon-fodder for higher-powered players. I eked out an existence by capturing points for my team while they did the bulk of the fighting, and other times I hid behind stronger teammates. But as my capabilities grew, there were times when I stood out front crushing those that dared stand before me.

Overall I had a pretty quick rise through the ranks. But this resulted in me being matched against tougher and tougher opponents, usually in a league or two above me. Although I know what it feels like to be the top guy in a match, I’ve been squashed like a bug many more times.

Was it hard-work and grinding through the lower levels that allowed me to reach my lofty goal? Somewhat. But like a lot of these games, there’s a lottery system. I won things that helped me progress at an accelerated rate. I don’t know if the lottery was rigged in my favor to entice me to keep playing, I simply accepted those wins as my very own good luck.

Another factor beyond my control is the matchmaking. Why am I teamed up with certain people while pitted against others? An algorithm controls my fate. No matter how good I think I am, I get crushed when placed amongst the higher league players. But other times I do the demolishing, it simply depends on the matchmaking. Of course when I win, I chalk it up to pure skill but when I lose it’s due to terrible matchmaking (which it is).

Regular life appears as though it has lottery-like resource dispersement. It has a matchmaking system that introduces certain people into our life while fading others out. We’re pitted against opponents in regularly occuring contests. There are preset goals we’re expected to achieve. Our character even comes with a particular set of attributes.

There are times in regular life when we feel like cannon fodder — and sometimes we want to quit because of it. In games, oftentimes our character is battered and tattered and limping through the virtual-world, yet we persist. So in life we must also persist. We must find the fun amidst the turbulence and keep progressing until we collapse.

There have been times when it was obvious my team was going to lose, we were smashed from the start, yet we stuck it out — fighting relentlessly until the buzzer — and we won. What a feeling that is, to be so close to defeat yet pull out a victory at the end of a hard-fought battle. It’s intense, minutes feel like hours and the prize is so much sweeter.

Of course, sometimes my team did lose badly, but it was that context that became the foundation for the elation that would occur with subsequent wins. Every narrative must have its ebb and flow, that’s simply how it works. We can plainly observe narratives taking place all around us, which proves life’s fictional nature.

It’s silly to yell at the screen when things don’t go as expected. We watch shows and ride rides specifically because of the rollercoaster inducing effects they provide. Essentially, I wanted to lose again and again just to increase the tension so that I could maximize the feeling of triumph.

So when life feels at a low, it’s the same thing — tension is building for the purpose of an eventual payoff. But realize that the outcome only comes when we stick around to see it. If we quit, it’s over — the tension and its reward dissolve back into the aether of potentiality.

Yet why doesn’t the gameplay always align with our preferences? Why are we taking part in contests that we can’t sync with? Why are we riding rides that turn out to be too fast? Why are we involved with stories that are too intense? That’s because there’s an exploration and discovery period where we’re supposed to figure out our perfect fit. Basically we’re shopping and experimenting — and that in itself can be fun.

For instance, when I started playing the MMOFPS game, I clicked with certain combinations of weapons yet couldn’t effectively use others. Even though some weapons were clearly effective at defeating me, I just couldn’t use them myself. So to determine which weapons I was best with, I had to try them all out. It was a turbulent time when I lost a lot, obviously — yet overall, the experimenting was entertaining.

We come into this game not quite comfortable with our role, so we spend time testing things out. And we must remember that every contest seems silly when overanalyzed. We mustn’t judge a mechanism of triumph. For instance, I feel triumphant playing an MMOFPS game. Someone else might feel triumphant overcoming a disease. Every life is full of triumphant episodes, even though outside observers might not appreciate them as such.