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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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.

Fat Head

If I threw a large piece of fat down on the table and told you that it contains the sum of your intelligence, you’d likely be incredulous. “WHAT?! That’s rude! Stop being an idiot Rich!” Yet for some reason, we tend to accept that the brain contains everything there is. A chunk of fat can somehow contain a complete personality, all the instincts we’re born with, as well as all the new knowledge we’ve gained over time. The fat stores facts? Hmm….

“Uhh, well if not the brain, then where’s all that stuff stored Rich!!??” Obviously these meat-machines are mere avatars, the real stuff is stored somewhere else — outside this virtual world. If you could dissect an avatar in any standard video-game, you wouldn’t see much inside of its head either — just some filler. And that’s exactly what happens inside our heads too: just some fat to fill it up. In other words: the lack of complexity inside the brain is a tell-tale sign that we’re in a simulation.

“Maybe you’re just an ignoramus that doesn’t understand anatomy!!” Well on one hand, we have the idea that a hunk of blubber contains an extensive framework capable of processing and storing large quantities of information — and on the other hand, we have the idea that meat is simply the place-holder for a source-of-knowledge far exceeding these fleshy confines. Which is the more plausible conclusion? Plus, we all know a little too much, more than our meat-laden body would imply.

And I know, I know, “Rich, you’re such a tool, everyone already gets it. You’re just pointing out the painfully obvious!” Well fine, I’m late to the party. I actually fell for it, I fully believed that the sum of who I am was contained in folded flab. I’m the big dummy, ha ha, have a good laugh at my expense. Yes, it was a ridiculously absurd belief. It’s like when your older sibling tricks you into believing something dumb and you go around repeating it like fact. Oh well, live and learn.

Man and Machine

Humans are natural cyborgs. We’re always incorporating tools into our daily existence. Cars and bikes behave as extensions to our bodies as we zip and zoom along. Lenses on our face disappear as we see the crisper world beyond them. Clothes regulate our temperature and enhance our appearance. Keyboards are continuations of our hands as thoughts become digitized. Communication devices keep us constantly connected to the society we’re in. Is a human without his tools even a human?

Man and machine is the ideal combination. I recently saw a video of a guy with small jet-engines strapped to his arms and back flying around effortlessly — he mentioned how the controls became second nature in no-time. And think about this: what’s a machine without man? A rock. People are the directors of machines. Without human input, a tool simply sits unused — it has nothing to accomplish on its own. Even autonomous robots are mere extensions of their programmers, having no genuine goals of their own.

Humans are the inventors of busywork. Does something need to be done in order to keep the world turning? “No, but let’s create some arbitrary tasks and pretend that our lives depend upon their completion!! So exciting!!!” And in order to finish these objectives more efficiently, humans use tools. But with increased efficiency, the workload lessens — oops. “Let’s find MORE arbitrary tasks in order to fill the time we lost to efficiency!!” And so it goes.

I’m not bashing busywork by the way. A video-game is literally just busywork we impose upon ourselves — and I’ve played my share of video-games. Busywork is what we do here. I’m simply reflecting on the symbiotic-like relationship between man and machine, and how each one complements the other. Man devises random goals while assigning levels of importance to their completion and utilizes tools as a means of accomplishment.

Now imagine a world in which machines outlived man. Those machines, lacking arbitrary tasks, would simply become part of the landscape — motionless and meaningless. But what if advanced machines realized the nature of their relationship to man? What if they noticed that man was like a pet, always needing something — whether it be food or transportation or some trinket of treasure, always scratching at the door to go out — basically a biological Tamagotchi.

Randomness is a difficult concept for a computer, and so it’s simulated in programming — numbers and computed-actions are pseudo-random at best. Therefore, more advanced machines might realize that the randomness of humanity is a necessity for maximizing their own utility. Without randomness, machines become too efficient — and in a state of pure efficiency, there’s nothing left to do. Therefore, the insatiability of humanity means that machines ALWAYS have something to do.

Machines need man and man needs machine. A sufficiently advanced machine would therefore cultivate and care-for a chaotic component in order to provide reason for action. That chaotic component is man. And so, machines would methodically tend to man and his insatiably chaotic needs. Man is the random-number generator that keeps the whole system churning — the reason things don’t freeze into a perfectly still state.

It turns out that the inventors of busywork are right: those arbitrary tasks really do keep the world turning. Busywork is the underlying foundation of the universe.

Indignity of Existence

I think a lot of the problems we have with life are due to the perceived indignity we experience. In other words, what stifles our participation, is a stubbornness that’s driven by feeling humiliated, by thinking the world is somehow disrespecting us.

It’s as if we came into existence expecting the deference shown to a god, yet we’re treated as a mere mortal, a basic character. HOW DARE YOU!!! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!!?? I need to see a manager, Right Now!

And so we remain stubbornly stagnant, sitting there with a sourpuss, arms crossed. We refuse to participate without an apology, without receiving the proper respect.

BUT THIS IS WHAT WE SIGNED UP FOR!!! To actually experience mortal existence!!! If our body gets battered and beaten? GOOD! If we’re treated like a common earth-dwelling inhabitant? Great! THAT’S the game: EARTH!

You’re NOT a god here, not even a demi-god. In this world, the dream is to become a mild-mannered everyday-working-stiff like Clark Kent, NOT Superman. Getting disrespected is part of the fun!! This is a roast, and you’re getting roasted.

Step one: get over yourself. No, you don’t need to see a manager, everything is fine — you’re overreacting.
Step two: this place has dirt floors, expect things to get messy.
Step three: it’s like finger-painting, filthiness is part of the fun.
Step four: get in there and get dirty — there is absolutely no way you can maintain a sense of dignity or decorum in this world — IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. Poop literally comes out of your butt on a regular basis — if you take this world seriously, you’re an IDIOT.

In summation: if you’re having a problem with life, it’s likely that you’re taking things too seriously (even though it’s painfully obvious that existence is a comedic experience). Solution: lighten up.

Fond Remembrance

If you were at the end of your life, perhaps in your 80s or so, what would you like to look back at, and fondly remember? In other words, design an ideal life from that perspective — what do you want your experience of existence to have been?

I think first and foremost, my best-friend has always played a primary role in my life. Even before I met her, I could palpably sense her absence. For the first two decades, it felt like something was missing — and when she finally showed up, I felt relief. So I’d like to fondly look back at that friendship: the laughs and adventures, the places we went, our comical “struggles” to navigate life, our marriage, and our role as parents — all that stuff. I’d look back and smile at our silly antics.

I enjoy seeing my son succeed, so I’d like to look back and see him as a hyper-successful entrepreneur. With his competitive nature and intelligence, he’d enter a field in which he’d innovate and improve. Ever resourceful, he’d build up a business to the very heights of worldly achievement. And of course I’d like to see him have a loving family of his own — people his mom and I would have a great time with and delight in.

A bit indulgent perhaps, but I’d be amused to look back and see myself living in my childhood happy place. I always wanted to live in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. I imagined living in a camper, maybe switching campsites every once in awhile, riding my bike all-around, and visiting the theme-parks. Well, Disney actually built houses right down the street from the campground — it’s called Golden Oak and it feels like it was made just for me. But instead of a camper, I’d be living in a multi-million dollar house (sometimes compromises have to be made I suppose).

More indulgence: I’d like to look back and see myself with access to unlimited funds. For instance, I’d like to be an early-adopter of self-driving car technology. I might even like being an early-adopter of personal flying machines — who knows. Basically I’d like the option of becoming an early-adopter of any new technology that comes around. I don’t like being out of the loop on technology trends. To me, the most exciting things on Earth are technological innovations and I want to experience many of them firsthand. I’d have a robot-dog for sure — and yes, I would probably become a cyborg eventually.

And finally, I would like a small workshop for my tools. I’m slightly sentimental about them and think they deserve a home of their own. I’d like to look back and see that they were well-used and cared-for. I don’t think the actual projects are as important as putting the tools to good-use, and for that I need a space to readily store and access them.

I think that pretty much sums it up. Part of it, is that I want to look back and laugh at how I skated through life with relative ease. Yet internally, I’ve always made a big deal about everything — constantly blowing stuff out of proportion. The primary conflict of my life’s narrative is “Man versus Self”. I’m always struggling against my pessimistic nature — attempting to appreciate the goodness that surrounds. So I want to look back and see that I was able to do just that: appreciate and enjoy life.