Enemy Within

Mean comments. It’s a situation that affects many content-creators, so let’s talk a bit about insults and being scared of the audience. If I make a video and someone insults my eyes, it wouldn’t register with me. No one has ever mentioned my eyes good or bad, and I’ve never felt self-conscious about them. Whereas if someone says something about my teeth, my discolored, misshapen, misaligned teeth: “Yes I tried braces! That’s where the discoloring came from!!!” Oh he’s right!! My teeth are just terrible!!

Who just insulted me? I just insulted me. If I didn’t have a sore-spot to push on, there’d be no pain to feel. I’m the bully, not some external miscreant — I’M the miscreant attempting to humiliate myself through the comment-section. It’s the same way I use a mirror to humiliate myself, “Look at how ugly you are today! Gross! No one’s going to like your content and the comments will show how untalented you really are!” If I seek to be insulted, I will be insulted.

“Okay, but how about the sheer disrespect of someone trying to insult me!” Well that’s still just a sore-spot, it’s a feeling of unworthiness. From a different perspective, it’s nice that someone thinks about me so much that he needs to connect on a visceral level, he just hasn’t figured out how to express his love appropriately yet. As a content-creator, I’ll interpret the audience’s reaction in whatever way I feel about myself. If I hate myself, the audience will appear to hate me too.

In conclusion, it’s not the guy “out there” I should worry about. It’s my own judgmental self I need to be wary of. What a jerk. And if I can’t get myself in line, how can I expect the external world to fall in line? If I can’t do it, how can I expect others to!? So I must strive to be patient with others and appreciate my audience. Frankly, the audience is a lot less critical of my work than I am, plus they’ve gone out of their way to consume this content and interact in some way. “Thank you commenter, at least you’re a lot nicer to me than I am to myself.”

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Creating Connections

As mentioned previously, I’m in the process of turning my writing hobby into a career. Mind you, I don’t need to do this, I want to do this. I’m getting older and want the accoutrements of a career. After six years of writing this blog, I’ve proven my ability to generate a constant stream of content — so I’m all set in that regard. The missing ingredient, the part I’ve been avoiding, is connecting with an audience.

I’ve been writing to an audience of one: me. In essence, this has been a personal diary, entries were succinct and ideas were dense — everything tightly packed and difficult to digest unless you brought a whole lot of understanding to the table. So congratulations if you’re a regular reader — you’re an impressive individual. But from this point forward, I must broaden the appeal of my writing, stop the self-centered approach, and actually think about others while I write.

Hmm… deep breath. Aha, see! Right there! I found a weakness! It’s you. I default to fearing you. I suppose it IS tough to write while considering that people will read what I write or even worse: respond! Luckily, I’m up for the challenge. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’ll do. I no longer believe in a dangerous world that’s hell-bent on my destruction, so I no longer believe that every audience is a sadistic horde attempting to tear-down content-creators in order to shatter their self-esteem.

In fact, in my analysis of content-creators, I’ve often seen them lovingly refer to their audience. “This is OUR success, and none of this would be possible without YOU.” There’s a mutual respect, a bond, and a shared goal of lifting each other up. It’s a family of sorts. And sometimes Uncle Steve gets a little tipsy and yells profanities in the comment section, but so what, no big deal — we compose ourselves and move on to bigger and better things.

And that bigger and better thing is THIS. Connection. In a sense, the content doesn’t matter, it’s simply an excuse to connect. “So what are we doing Saturday night guys!? — Movies? A party? Go bowling? Eat at a restaurant? Karaoke?” No matter what it is, it boils down to meeting-up simply to hang out. And that’s what content-creators facilitate whether they’re blogging about food or fashion, whether they’re live-streaming a video-game or vlogging — it’s all an opportunity to connect.

Virtual Vehicles

It all started at the supermarket. I was in the car waiting for my friend to come out. Scanning the exit door, I noticed the oldest old-lady you’ve ever seen. She could barely push the carriage in front of her, she could scarcely find the keys to her car, she could hardly lift the groceries into the back seat, then she hobbled into her car. But zip, zap, zoom — she punched the accelerator and away she went, not an issue.

Funny isn’t it? A barely functional person has all the dexterity in the world when it comes to driving a multi-ton contraption of welded steel, a device that requires the proficiency to enact split-second decisions. Too funny in fact. So it got me wondering: what’s going on here. And then I knew. Driving is a “routine”. You get into a car, sit in the driver seat, turn it on, grab the wheel, place your foot on the pedal, and the routine begins. Autopilot turns on and away you go.

When I was a kid, I once went for a bike ride on a road that included a rather large hill. That day I went down the hill and pedaled along to increase my speed — which wasn’t a good idea. I was going too fast, my front wheel started to quiver back and forth, I got nervous and wiped out. My knee was a mess but I survived. At most, I was probably going around 15 to 20 mph down that hill.

Let me ask you this, can you normally make split-second death-defying decisions? I can’t obviously. Yet every one of us can somehow take a fire-powered land-rocket to speeds of 70 mph on a regular basis amongst other barely-functional people for DECADES and come out unscathed? Hm. Okay. In a physical reality, that doesn’t make sense.

For instance, how do we intuitively know how to drive? I don’t know about you, but my driving lessons were less than rigorous. My primary lesson was driving in a parking lot with my mom in the passenger seat for about 30 minutes. I even screwed up during the official driving-test and still passed. My test consisted of driving down an empty residential street (no more than 30 mph) and parking next to a curb — that was it. But that somehow qualified me for highway driving.

Yet if you sit me down in front of a piano or have me hold a guitar, I play like crap despite having toyed around with them for years. If you hand my 74 year old mother some hand-tools, she’s pretty incapable of using them — yet give her the biggest, most powerful tool you can legally purchase (a car) — and she’ll drive like the best of ’em. Funny huh?

So driving is a pre-programmed “routine”, so what. So what!? Well a routine doesn’t run in an isolated environment, it only runs as part of a larger program. The obviousness of driving serves to highlight the virtual-nature of the wider world. Unfortunately, driving speeds kept getting faster and faster — which becomes unbelievable at some point. But the program is accounting for this now: robotic self-driving cars.

On first blush, you’d think autonomous cars would be the unbelievable part of the story. That’s until you consider people that can’t even use a simple screwdriver or a hammer, let alone a cordless drill, are driving all the time without any problem whatsoever. Not long from now we’ll forget that people even drove cars and this plot-hole will be patched. Remember, people used to get around by horse, which was an autonomous vehicle of sorts. Even boats pretty much just float there when left unattended.

All we can do as players in this game is politely overlook such an obvious inconsistency. Though for myself, I use it as a reminder of what type of world this is: virtual. And I do that because I tend to take things too seriously. I see the illusions before me as real physical objects and react accordingly, which leads to a fear-filled time. But when I remember the illusionary nature of existence, and the fact that this is a manufactured environment, I relax and appreciate what an impressive place this is.

I guess I got a little more than I expected at the supermarket that day.

Seeking Conflict

The world is FULL of potential combatants. There’s conflict to be had everywhere. But should you seek it? Conflict, like fear, is a low-quality, low-effort source of amusement. Conflict is certainly a common source of excitement, but it’s not necessary for a good time. There’s companionship, laughter, delicious foods, artistic pursuits — and of course there’s even symbolic-conflict in the form of games, and fictionalized-conflict in stories.

If you’re not pursuing some other avenue of entertainment, conflict becomes an easy option to alleviate your existential boredom. But the going wisdom is: don’t do it. Conflict and fear are easy paths to pursue whereas higher-quality paths require effort on your part. It’s easy to generate excitement when you imagine EVERYTHING is out to get you. Step one: stop being so lazy. Conflict and fear are cheap thrills, you can do better.

The highest spiritual pursuit is to end fear and conflict, to see the world as the wholesome place that it is. The world is not devising ways to destroy you — you’re not that good, you couldn’t avoid it if the world really wanted you dead. So stop it already, you’re embarrassing yourself. You’re an invited guest imagining that the host keeps slipping poison into the food, but through your skill and cunning you’ve successfully managed to navigate through the minefield of danger. That’s dumb.

Have some respect for yourself, as well as the host. Accept this invitation into existence graciously and gratefully. “Wow, thank you! This is a really nice place!”, “Oh, for me? Wow! Thanks for this delicious meal!”, “Hey, some companions too! Wow, the giving doesn’t stop around here!”, “Hey let me show you how much I appreciate the time I have here! Check this out!”, “What a great day that was! I can’t wait for another! This place is awesome, thank you so much!”

Out of Sync

When you play a video-game, you’re primarily trying to synchronize with the action of the game. Take Donkey Kong for example: barrels are being rolled at your character by a giant gorilla. You must time the controls just-right in order to leap over these barrels. If you’re in sync, you’re successful — but if you’re out of alignment, oopsie, you’re going to have a bad time.

This is similar to the game of Life. If you’re out of alignment, you’re screwed. It’s easy to tell if you’re misaligned: you’re distracted, unfocused on what’s in front of you; you’re apprehensive, too worried about how you’re doing or what’s about to happen; you’re frustrated, things just aren’t working out. Whereas if you’re in sync, you’ll be breezing through the obstacles like they’re not even there.

To do well in a game, you have to remain focused on the task at hand, dealing with right-now. If you’re looking backwards or too far into the future, you’re dead-meat. If mistakes happen, deal with them and let ’em go — stay on track. You need to keep moving forward no matter what. And relax, if you’re too tense it’ll throw off your flow.

Don’t rush things and don’t worry about the route you take, every path ends the same: Game Over. Get comfortable and settle in for the long-haul. Life only seems hard when you’re freaking-out over the mundane — otherwise it’s pretty easy. Life wants you to win, and you will, when you get in sync.

Guilt-free Consumerism

If Life is a simulation, a game-like environment developed for the amusement of a consciousness residing on the outside — and this is an artificially manifested world comprised of flickering pixels, a virtual-reality — then there truly is no consumption or waste-production going on here. Pollution isn’t real, it’s pixels — flora and fauna aren’t real, they’re pixels — people aren’t even real, they’re pixels.

Whew! That’s a load off my mind! What’s the alternative interpretation? That this is an actual physical world and everything I do imparts a net-negative impact on the planet? Under that perspective, if I truly loved the planet I’d bury myself alive to transform into compost as fast as I could — it’s a pretty anti-human outlook.

Side note: be careful of logic because it can lead to some really dark places. Just because something is logical, doesn’t make it right, it just makes it logical. Logical simply means there’s a clear path to a conclusion. In other words: just because a conclusion can be reached through reason, that doesn’t make it a good one.

But where was I? Ah yes, consumerism. In video-games for instance, I’m oftentimes a consumer. There’s no deeper spiritual meaning involved, that’d be weird, it’s just straight-up consuming — and ya know what, I’m entertained by it. Many games deal with an endless upgrade cycle. Gotta get that new sword, the new armor, the new manufacturing process — whatever it is, I have to keep upgrading. And what’s wrong with that? It’s just pixels anyway.

So what’s wrong with that in our own world? The obvious question is this: if constant-consuming and consumerism is bad, why does it exist and why does it occupy such a prominent place in society? Should I not participate in this process? Wouldn’t it be rude to deny such an obvious way to engage with this world? You’re telling me that I was born into a consumer-focused world in order to completely reject it? Why set it up like that then? Why have shops around every corner?

I think it’s pretty clear that the theme of this particular instance of Life is “consumerism”. Stores are our churches, the places we all regularly attend. Those that achieve-at-selling are society’s heroes — those are the names we all know. Henry Ford? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Jeff Bezos? Just to name a few. Those are who we reward with our highest praise as well as our dollars.

My point is this: we shouldn’t feel guilty over consumerism, it’s who we are as a civilization. But that’s not to say we should do it without grace or refinement — oh no. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. We shouldn’t sloppily clear-cut forests just to sell some lumber. We shouldn’t pour pollutants down drains and into waterways just to get rid of it. We shouldn’t be using the messiest fuel sources we can find. No, we should be seeking to refine and improve the way in which things are produced — always. We are consumers dammit, not savages! We need a constant upgrade cycle — and that means making things better — always.

Dreamlike Emissions

The stupid stuff I’ve witnessed confirms that this is not a static story. For example, when I accidentally stabbed my thumb with a large kitchen knife, or when I birthed a turd so big it choked the toilet, or that time my wife served beans that gave me such foul-smelling emissions that she literally left the state in disgust.

In other words, a self-created world makes the most sense because of all the absurd scenarios that’ve happened. No one is going to create a prefabricated narrative this idiotic. The imbecilic scenes prove that circumstances are manifesting in realtime. AND! This is very good news indeed!

It means two things. One, the story isn’t set-in-stone, I can alter it anytime. Two, if I created such worthless crap, I’m still an actual creator, I just have to focus on delightful tales instead of crap. It turns out the world doesn’t suck, I’m just a very bad storyteller! Yay? But how does one actually “write” their story? Well that’s obvious.

It’s through expectations. For example, what do I expect to receive in the mail today? A past-due notice for a bill — or an offer to upgrade my Internet-connection to synchronous gigabit fiber? Do I expect a small ache to go away — or to grow into something much more nefarious? Do I expect an appliance to work — or do I expect that it reached the end of its lifespan?

That’s it folks, the riddle’s been solved. A shitty life is the product of a shit-focused perspective. In other words, if life sucks, then constant-criticism and pessimism are to blame. This entire experience has been too silly to have been externally directed — that leaves one primary suspect as its author: me.

Therefore, if I’m not living a completely awesome adventure, then the problem lies with me alone. This is obviously a dreamlike experience, and I keep torturing the shit outta my character. Sorry bro. From here on out I’m gonna try my darnedest to expect nothing but the best for you. I’m gonna remain present as much as possible and keep my focus on awesomeness.