Relativity of Enjoyment

If I sat you down and showed you Microsoft’s Windows 2000 today, you’d be unimpressed. “So what?” you’d say. But in my opinion, Windows 2000 was the greatest operating system ever developed. “WHAT!!??” Yes, that’s right, the greatest! For the record, the second greatest operating system in my opinion, is iOS (the software that currently runs iPhones/iPads).

Why Windows 2000? It was the first fully-featured OS that didn’t get in your way. You could edit full-color photos, watch movies, edit video, browse the web, write in word-processors, make spreadsheets, develop software with relative ease, connect a myriad of peripherals — everything. But one of the most important aspects, is that it didn’t constantly crash.

Prior to its release, I was using Windows 95, Windows 98, and even Windows NT 4. I should note that Windows NT 4 was a decent attempt at a solid OS, but it wasn’t as fully-featured as Win2000. And of course, Win95 and Win98 were complete nightmares to use.

They were nightmarish because you’d be working on something, then suddenly the screen would freeze. Hmm maybe it’s just the program itself, you’d wonder. NOPE! The entire operating system was now in a frozen state. You’d have to Ctrl-Alt-Delete or even hard-reset, and thus reboot the computer. A bunch of minutes later, the desktop would appear and your work would be gone. Fun.

Win95 and 98 made using the computer a very frustrating experience. Turning the power on was a daily game of Russian-roulette. Back in the 95 days, sometimes a file in the OS would get corrupted and Windows would no longer boot-up. You had to boot in with a DOS-floppy and edit a file via the command-line and try again. And if that didn’t work, you reinstalled the ENTIRE operating system!

So when Windows 2000 came out, you’d work for hours and nothing would go wrong. Sometimes a program would crash or lock-up, but it didn’t take down the entire operating system with it. You simply opened the task-manager and ended it. But again, that was a rare occurrence. By comparison to its predecessors, Win2000 seemed like the greatest thing ever.

And just to note, Windows XP was essentially a re-skinned version of Windows 2000. So even if you haven’t heard of Win2000, you’ve probably heard of WinXP (an operating system that lasted over a decade). But what’s my point in all this? It actually has NOTHING to do with operating systems. It has to do with how we measure our experiences relative to other experiences.

I’m not objectively claiming that Win2000 is the greatest OS ever — my love is relative to the abuse I suffered at the hands of Win95/98. If not for those torturous OSes, Win2000 would’ve simply been doing its job — nothing too impressive. It would’ve been meeting the expectations of an operating system: managing the hardware and allowing software to run unencumbered. No big deal.

But because I was so shell-shocked by the intermittent crashing of its predecessors, I literally loved Windows 2000 for treating me decently and therefore exceeding my expectations. So what I’m saying is this: the stuff we enjoy in life is extremely-subjective and dependent on our prior circumstances.

No matter how long you stare at it or how much I talk about it, you won’t appreciate Windows 2000 the way I do. And that goes for EVERYTHING in life. Stories are the way in which we experience life. You enjoy a circumstance or an item based on how it fits into your life’s narrative. An item or circumstance has no objective value on its own.

And that’s a good thing. That means it doesn’t take much to make you happy. It means all you ever need is a positive interpretation of events, i.e. a happy little story to tell yourself, and you’ve got all the necessary components for a great life.

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Checking Boxes

The game-of-life has several categories we must attend to. If any are neglected, we’ll feel a lack of satisfaction — as if we’re not living a “full life”. But the way in which we attend to each category is highly subjective — only our personal character can determine the specifics. In other words, activities performed must be meaningful to the individual.

Body. You must engage in activity that utilizes the body in a way that feels significant to you. This activity does not have to be strenuous in any way, it’s simply taking your body out for a spin and enjoying it. To some, that might be running a marathon, but to others it might be a walk in the park — or it could be more artistic endeavors such as playing the piano or folding some paper (origami).

Busywork. You must engage in activity that fills-up time and accomplishes something you’re proud of. It could be an actual career or it could be a hobby like woodworking. It could be cooking or daily fitness training. Whatever it is, at the end of the day you should feel as though you accomplished something.

Relationship. You must engage in a relationship with some other entity. Whether it be romantic or parental or fraternal or friendship or a partnership — you have to significantly bond with another being. It should be a connection that makes you feel like you’re not alone OR that you’re a vital part of their existence.

Diet. You must find a way of eating that works for you. This is a personal selection of food that fits only your palate. It should make you feel well-nourished and never lacking. Diets change throughout time and culture, there’s nothing set in stone — so you’ll need to discover and experiment, finding the foods that leave you feeling satisfied.

Impact. You must feel as though you’ve influenced your world in some way. Whether it’s simply your immediate surroundings, your family, or even society itself — you’ll need to feel like you left some footprints. This might include having children, or passing on a legacy of some sort, or simply winning “Yard of the Month” and helping your neighborhood look nice.

Appreciation. You must develop an appreciation for life. You must constantly strive to find the good in the gifts you’ve been given. This is the very opposite of complaining about everything. Instead of picking out what’s wrong in the world, you must pick out what’s right.

Home. You must feel as though you’ve found a place in the world, a home. Somewhere, somehow, you fit like a puzzle piece into this world. Find that spot. For some this means a move, but for others it means recognizing the home they’ve already got. Hint: you might be in the correct physical location, but require an attitude adjustment.

Understanding. You must develop a comforting understanding of existence. You don’t have to figure everything out, you just need to develop a perspective that allows you to feel comfortable in the world. This could take the form of a religious or spiritual belief or some other form of philosophical interpretation. At the end of the day, you have to feel good about what’s going on here.

Role. You must feel as though you’re performing your role. You have a particular character with a certain set of preferences and abilities. Experiment, see what your strengths are and what activities you enjoy. This role might tie into your relationships, or how you influence your surroundings, or even your physical activity.

Adventure. You must feel as though you’re wandering through an exciting realm of wonder. Some aspect of life should cause you to feel like you’re discovering a whole new world. If your attention isn’t captured by something, you’re likely barking up the wrong tree — try another path.

Depending on one’s age, many of these items will be incomplete. THAT’S THE POINT. These boxes start out unchecked and you have an entire lifetime to work on them. And it’s not likely you’ll do them all at once — that’s ludicrous.

Also specific to the individual, is the priority we place on each category. For example, some people might spend hours everyday training their body whereas others barely use theirs. Or one person might spend years cultivating a deep personal relationship with a life-partner whereas another person might have a guinea-pig he cares for — both perfectly satisfied.

These categories simply serve as a guideline to the question: What am I supposed to do here on Earth? If you’re not sure, there you go. Work on fulfilling these categories — they’re the roadmap to what’s going on here — you’ll want to visit each of them in some way. Good luck, Earthling!

Focus Game

Think about it this way. Perhaps life doesn’t know exactly what you want, plus the process of “selecting” is fun. Shopping is an example of this: it’s enjoyable to evaluate, reject, and eventually select an item that’s “just right”.

So there you are: center-screen like the spaceship in Astroids, and all these items come drifting towards you (like astroids). But in this game, you use your focus to capture items — like a tractor-beam. To do well, you’ll want to aim at items that interest you — while avoiding items that are undesirable. If you do capture an item that displeases you, it has a poison-like effect that lingers and lowers your stamina. Whereas delightful items temporarily boost your stamina — so keep focusing on and collecting the good stuff, it’s fun.

Sometimes big nasty things get in the way and block your field-of-view. Now what!? You can’t even see anything pleasant to aim at. You’re stuck!! Or are you? Zoom out, obviously. Stop focusing on that giant nasty object — immediately. Concentrate on pulling-back — keep going until that nasty object becomes as small as everything else. Don’t curse its presence, don’t poke it to see if it hurts, simply zoom out until you find something better to focus on. Widen your perspective, go beyond the smallness of your ship.

The items coming at you consist of EVERYTHING, so you have to be choosy. Don’t like it? Don’t pick it. Complaining about its presence IS focusing on it. You must only contemplate the things you truly want to collect. That’s the game, and games are challenging. Sometimes a nasty object will capture your attention and you won’t realize until the poison-like effect kicks-in. It’ll take all your effort to stop staring and zoom the heck out. But good luck out there and have a great game!

Changing Course

It’s obvious once you see it, but otherwise it’s not something we typically consider. Yet if you look around, you’ll notice a significant amount of masochism taking place. And in this context, masochism means seeking-out pain on purpose as a source of amusement. I would go so far as to say that masochism is a primary form of entertainment here on Earth.

If the world is influenced by our thoughts and focus, and if we experience discomfort — then ipso-facto, we are engaging in masochistic behavior. In other words: if we craft the life we lead, and that life is difficult, then we are purposefully injecting pain into the process. Why? For amusement i.e. masochism. “No you can’t have that! You don’t deserve it! You haven’t worked hard enough! Life doesn’t work that way! You need to struggle! Test yourself! Push past the pain!”

So what? A lot of people seem to be enjoying themselves riding the masochism-train to the end. And that’s fine, it really is. But what if you’re not a masochist? Or maybe you’re too good at it. What if you were such a smarty-pants, and so dedicated to the endeavor, that you were able to inflict so much pain into your life that you couldn’t derive any delight from it? What if you denied yourself EVERYTHING and filled your existence with so much lack and loathing that the experience wasn’t worth it? Hmm….

You done messed up. Some is fun, but more ain’t better. It’s time to try something new. You need to cut out the lack-minded thinking, the merit-based reward nonsense, the struggling shenanigans, and the scaring yourself silliness — all that stuff you’ve been using to beat yourself down. STOP! You’re too good!! You won! Sheesh. The brutal and punishing hazing regimen that you devised for yourself was too effective, congratulations.

Whether you’re proud of your accomplishment or a tad embarrassed about torturing an avatar for your own amusement — it doesn’t matter. It’s time to head into a different direction and experience another facet of gameplay. Now it’s time to focus on maximizing merriment and engaging in some lighthearted fun. Of course you’re used to pulverizing yourself into an anxious ball of crushed dreams — but this new direction will be an interesting and possibly challenging path to take. Welcome to you, round-two.

Cannibalizing Your Craft

There’s a carpenter in a wooden rowboat. This guy loves woodworking but unfortunately he has to row a boat for the next few days. Yet all he can think about is crafting with wood. His hands feel the wood-grain in the oars on every stroke. He’s envisioning chairs, tables, and all sorts of dressers. His tools are even sitting in the front of the boat in plain sight. Eventually he can’t stand it any longer, he pulls the oars in and grabs a saw.

Now, why such a strange story? Your avatar here on Earth, the body/character combination that carries you through life, is your wooden boat. Your consciousness is the carpenter. You have been using your consciousness to pick apart your character limb-by-limb for the longest time now. So of course you’re slowly sinking into the depths of existence. The remedy? Stop cannibalizing your craft! Focus on the rowing and where you’re going, not the boat itself.

Don’t focus on the tool, use the tool. The free-will that you possess, is the ability to alter your focus. If you’re not enjoying life, it’s because you’re zoomed-in, focusing only on your avatar. Enjoyment in this world comes from zooming-out and taking it all in. Your vehicle is NOT the attraction. Everything beyond the confines of your car IS the attraction. Whenever your concentration begins to linger inside, stop — then look and listen to what’s going on around you instead.

To constantly look within, is to miss the world you’re in. There’s an entire realm on the outside of you. It’s like you’ve been staring at the windshield of the vehicle instead of what’s on the other side. And the way you’ve entertained yourself, is by picking out flaws in the glass: examining specs of dirt, smudges, and dried rain residue. Of course life seems strange from that perspective. But you can’t blame life for being lackluster when you’ve been focusing on the wrong stuff this whole time.

In summation: Stop constantly engaging with your tool. Look beyond the window, not at it.

Being Very Smart

Let me be clear: if you use your mental-energy to pick-apart life, your behavior is idiotic. Whether they say it or not, the people currently enjoying life intuitively sense what’s going on here. They forgive the paper-thin plots, the poor acting, and any anomalies they find — and instead, they focus on some enjoyable aspect of the experience. That’s what a polite audience does.

But you, oh no, you have to point out every little thing that doesn’t seem quite right in your opinion. But consider this: ya know how you feel clueless when you’re in a social situation? Well perhaps you’re always clueless — in EVERY situation. Maybe the metric by which you judge, is completely misguided?

What’s more likely to be true? That you’re the sole bastion of what’s right in the world OR you’re a dummy that’s been doing things wrong this entire time? And that’s fine, being wrong in this situation should come as a great relief. It means the world doesn’t suck — you just suck at understanding what’s happening here, and that can be fixed.

You CAN intuitively understand the world as soon as you stop your misguided criticism. The world seems like a fecal-covered toilet only because you keep shitting all over it with your negativity. And secondly, stop being so self-centered i.e. stop staring at yourself — there’s a whole world happening beyond the border of “me”.

So what would a smarter approach entail? Cease the introspection, there’s nothing significant to be found in constantly examining yourself — you’re not that interesting. “Oh bother, how do I feel about this? Golly, I’m not sure I liked it! Oh my, what a terrible time I’m having! Oh poo, I wish things would go my way for once!”

And if you rely on your own internal drama for entertainment, you’re only going to torture yourself with worrisome thoughts in order to generate some excitement. Instead, you should be looking to entertain yourself with activities that originate outside of yourself. But of course you’ll likely disparage them, so avoid doing that.

Listen, it takes practice to become a better participant here. You messed up, now make it right.