Corporeal Lament

I’ve watched captivating movies, lost myself in enthralling shows, and journeyed alongside characters in great books. While engaged with these stories, I’m undistracted and enjoy myself. In other words, I’m an effective audience member. But when I leave these stories and return to my own story of everyday life, I’m often distracted and frequently fail to enjoy myself. What gives!?

Obviously it’s because my story SUCKS. And it’s true, I don’t like it. If I had to devise a dumber plot or a more unlikable character I’m not sure that I could. As I implied earlier, good storylines are effortless to consume, but bad narratives are boring and a chore to get through. I know good stories exist, I’ve seen them, yet my life is not one of them – why?

Nothing short of a bonafide Christmas Miracle would make the preceding years balance out. Maybe aliens introducing advanced technology such as teleportation, perfect health, mechanized avatars, and recreational virtual worlds. Well whatever it is, there needs to be a deus-ex-machina alteration to this narrative for it to become a worthwhile story.

Am I unappreciative of the miracle of life? YES, it needs to be interesting and engaging or else who cares. Ooh look at me walk around. How fun. Ooh trees! Neato. Ooh all those stars in the sky! So bright! I don’t care. Physical pain, the awkwardness of personal interactions, digestion difficulties, sleep and energy issues, the tediousness of transportation, finding purpose — who needs that crap!? If this world is simply a lesson to teach me that bodies are terrible things to have, then mission accomplished.

Ennui On We

It’s my belief that greatest threat to humanity is ennui. In other words, existential boredom. In an attempt to alleviate this boredom, mankind invents all sorts of problems to contend with. In my life for instance, I’ve been trying to balance intensity and stillness. There’s either too much or too little — things are too serious or too frivolous. Like Goldilocks, I’m ever searching for “just right”. For most of life I’m either scared or bored.

Even after a few decades, I’m STILL trying to get it right. I’m trying to find low-intensity forms of entertainment, things that don’t rely on fear, frustration, anger, sadness, etc. to stimulate and hold my attention. I tried computer programming for example, but found it much too frustrating. I’m also trying to quit the classic game of “worrying about money” — I really think I’m getting close on that one. On the other end, I’m trying to get into woodworking as a hobby, but it takes effort to keep from getting bored. I tried playing a musical instrument for instance, but there just wasn’t enough excitement to sustain it.

Whereas I’ll light up like a Christmas tree when I hear some monkey-business going on. I’m trying to quit that though. Like junk-food, it leaves me with too much of a tummy-ache nowadays and I want no part of it. Maybe my tastes are maturing… or perhaps I’ve been beaten into submission, not sure. I was so good at pessimism and criticism, and they kept me endlessly entertained. Now optimism and appreciation are the arts I’m trying to master — I feel like such an amateur though. It’s so easy to tear something apart and so foreign to build it up.

Well dear diary, that’s where I’m at right now: mid-life and finally trying to put an end to my immature approach to existence. I’m attempting to go from scared and bored to appreciative and enthusiastically engrossed. The greatest hardship I’ve ever faced is reconciling with life, just trying to get a grasp on what’s going on here — and on top of that, finding the right balance of engagement. Some day soon I hope to taste that perfectly warmed porridge and sleep in that comfortable bed.

English Class

It was the early 90s and Mr. Haviland seemed straight out of a different era. While many of us wore baseball caps with t-shirts and jeans, this guy had an actual suit on — with posture and diction to match. He’d often refer to us as Mister or Miss so-and-so — always proper and always polite. Although he wasn’t physically intimidating, his demeanor demanded respect.

A teacher from a bygone age acting his part. We students acted our part too, a listless bunch that didn’t care. We weren’t unique in our disposition of course, we simply expressed it in a manner appropriate to the times we were in. Skateboards, metal-bands, and ridiculing “try-hards” (people that actually cared and tried to do well). Think Beavis and Butt-Head.

While Mr. Haviland proceeded on his anachronistic course, we proceeded on ours — a civil exchange nonetheless. At this point, you’re probably waiting to hear a poignant anecdote. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. I’m not a storyteller. I mention all this simply to remember an interesting character I once knew. I’ve always been in awe at how well he performed his role.

He seemed to enjoy who he was and never varied, a polished professional. I was a freshman when he was my teacher but our paths last crossed in study-hall when he was the teacher-in-charge — taking attendance and doing whatever teachers did (grading papers I’d assume). I never saw him after that. I heard he retired not too many years later, having worked there for a few decades.

In life, there are those that relish their well-defined roles and there are those that avoid being pinned-down by labels. But are those living as nonconformists simply acting out the role of “contrarian” in their wholesale rejection of the status quo? Instead of some “square” that sold his soul to the system, perhaps Mr. Haviland was the most Zen-like of us all.

Mechanical Man

Is man mechanical? A mechanical man is subject to defects, wear & tear, environmental conditions, and requires regular maintenance. Is it true though? Fortunately, it’s false. The mechanical-man myth is just another story we tell ourselves to inflict fear through the concept of solidity. By believing ourselves mechanical, we can worry ourselves into an exhilarating tizzy. But really, it’s just another form of masochism.

“Oh no, I’m getting older and the environment is so harsh! Things don’t run as well as they used to! I better perform regular maintenance or my body will never last!” The obvious falseness lies in the fact that not everyone adheres to the mechanical-man theory — yet miraculously, they live long full lives. Mechanical-man believers simply chalk it up to “good genetics” or “luck”, but they’re full of crap.

I know all about the mechanical-man theory because I used to be a believer. My body existed on borrowed time, it was decaying since the day I was born, the sun damaged my skin any chance it could while toxins snuck in from impurities in my food and water. Everything was poisonous! And germs! Don’t forget about the germs that lied in wait until my immune system entered into a weakened state.

But all of my vigilance was for naught. It was delusion, a fantasy of mechanization. To think that my meager efforts at maintenance were actually effective is laughable. I would pick and choose which parts required service and perform strange rituals of repair in hopes that they’d be beneficial.

And these rituals-of-repair regularly change with the fashion of the day. I had to eat a certain way, exert effort in a certain way, and deflect illness in a certain way — but every few years the current methods become out-dated and new methods take their place. Even location matters, as different regions practice different regimens.

As you can see, the mechanical-man myth effectively puts perfection out of reach. And if you do manage to fix one problem, there’s sure to be another following along. What a clever game to keep our attention so captivated by an endless stream of preventative-maintenance and repair. “Another ache! I’m so concerned! What could it be!? I better take action!”

Personally, I’ve chosen not to participate in that game anymore. There are better ways to entertain myself. And would you believe it? I’m still alive! My cunning and vigilance weren’t really keeping me safe. I’m not mechanical after-all! And without the threat of constant mechanical failure, I’m no longer plagued by worry and I’m much happier.

Xmas Msg

To me, the true meaning of Christmas is a lighthearted celebration of life. During a time of darkness and confusion, I believe Jesus came down to Earth to brighten things up. He turned water into wine, hung out with whoever, argued with austere authorities, and healed those in need. From the heavens, God saw the pain and misery that man put himself through and sent His only begotten son as a means to lighten the mood.

But of course man rejected Jesus’s message and sent his ass home the hard way. Jesus himself complained of man’s hardened heart and man’s inability to understand the message of peace and joy. But thankfully, God doesn’t give up so easily and we’re reminded of this message every year with a lighted tree pointing towards the heavens, encircled by gifts below — because that’s what life is, a gift from God.

It’s no coincidence that Santa looks like a fictionalized representation of God in heaven, an old man sitting atop a throne listening to Christmas wishes and fulfilling them with the help of his angelic elves and flying sleigh. Every year God provides a new opportunity for us to accept the simple premise that life is an experience that should evoke enjoyment in the living.

The world was never intended to be dark and dreary, only man’s negativity makes it so. Therefore, the true Christmas Miracle begins within, it comes from the acceptance and adoption of merriment wherever we go. With a “Merry Christmas!” and a “Happy Holidays!” we remind ourselves and each other that life is a party in which we’re all invited guests. And as guests, it is our sacred duty to participate and enjoy the festivities.

Fundamental Problem

The fundamental problem with embodied existence is NOT survival, health, money, purpose, relationships or any other in-world issue. The fundamental problem deals with the acceptance and appreciation of life’s dream-like nature. Life provides a dreamworld that takes getting used to. When we get frustrated by our inability to figure things out, we tend to paint life as the problem — instead of our own lack of understanding.

In our ignorance, we flail around as if drowning — then we’re overcome by the turbulence we created. From that perspective, of course life seems like a hellish nightmare designed to punish with pain. But it’s not true. Life is simply fulfilling our expectations. A cynical pessimist at the controls creates a dark and dreary dreamworld. And that dreamer mistakenly blames life, believing IT to be the source of all problems.

But YOU are the source of EVERY problem you’ve ever encountered. This is a dreamworld, and YOU inflict every ounce of pain upon yourself. You’ll deny it of course, and swear up and down that you’re not doing it to yourself. You’ll point out how life did this-and-that and you’re not to blame one bit. And THAT is why the fundamental problem of embodied existence is the inability to accept and appreciate life’s dream-like nature. You keep denying your contribution while declaring life as the problem.

Around and around you’ll go on this merry-go-round of misery… UNTIL you finally accept AND appreciate the dream-like nature of life — a place in which your attitude and expectations directly affect your experience. From there, you’ll stop focusing on the worst ideas you can imagine and focus on things that evoke joy instead. And lo and behold, the world will change before your eyes as that hellish nightmare morphs into a delightful dream. THIS is the ONLY problem you must solve, the rest is illusion.

Self-Propelled

I started playing Call of Duty: Mobile when I saw it on the App Store in early October. I’m currently at level 145 out of 150 — in other words, I’m pretty good. Playing a virtual-soldier comes easily to me. In contrast to that, I’ve played some Minecraft multiplayer games that I’m not so good at — I get wasted by the likes of PrettyPrincess123 on the regular (it’s embarrassing).

I suppose it demonstrates that there’s a specific niche in life that our character fits into. Skills are specific to a particular purpose and do NOT translate to other areas. Just because I’m skilled at ONE genre of video-game doesn’t mean I’m good at ALL video-games for instance. But when I’m in the right genre, there’s an intuitive sense that takes over and leads the way.

As far as I’m aware, I have NOT found my niche in regular life. I’m several decades old and I’m still waiting to stumble into something I excel at. For example, I’m not very good at artistic design, competing, socializing, singing, or dancing. Whereas I’m kinda good with technical topics, gadgets/tools, history, philosophy, war-games. But I’m only kinda good — I’m not excelling to point of having a viable career in ANYTHING.

In the games I’m good at, I feel invested and energized by the process as I’m propelled into success without conscious intervention. As my character does well, I simply watch it happen and go along for the ride. What’s missing in regular life, is this energizing self-propulsion that powers the journey. I’ve certainly seen it with other people and I’ve personally experienced it in games — but for whatever reason it eludes me in regular life.

Without that drive and intuitive knowledge, you can’t simply pick a random career path. It’s pre-ordained based on your abilities and preferences — you can’t sustain something you’re just not into. But what would I know, I’m obviously doing something wrong. Attempting to fix things through conscious-effort would probably get me more lost than I already am. What do they tell you to do when you’re lost? Sit still and wait to be found. But does that apply here? I dunno.

Redefining Defaults

The body is not a pain-generator, it’s a tool that allows the consciousness to experience an embodied existence. You can obviously misuse tools, for example you can hit yourself on the head with a hammer — that doesn’t mean a hammer’s primary purpose is to produce pain.

If you’re having an unpleasant time with your body, it’s likely that you’re misusing it (i.e. stop hitting yourself). It’s like you’re grabbing the wheel of your avatar and steering it into a wall — don’t do that. The body is fully capable of navigating through the world it was born into — allow this process to unfold.

Because of fear and skepticism, you’re using your influence to interrupt your life’s narrative — stop that. Dismiss fear and rebuke skepticism and just go for it, allow your avatar to freely flow in the direction it needs to go. It WILL fight you when you try to impede its journey and you WILL lose. Skip the stress by becoming a pleasant passenger.

Relatedly: when new circumstances arise, life is NOT trying to torture you or scare you, it’s simply presenting you with invitations to engage. These are opportunities to do something new and interesting. Again, don’t let fear or skepticism prevent you from progressing on this path. You CANNOT protect yourself through inaction — you can’t hide from life.

Life only seems like a harsh taskmaster because you’re distrustful. Life is more like a mamma bird that’s pushing you out of the nest — she wants to see you soar. Yet you, being scared, fight to stay in the nest even though it’s uncomfortable and you’ve outgrown it. As you fall from the nest, you keep your wings tucked and refuse to unfurl them. Boom! Of course the landing hurts!!

Something else to consider: the options you don’t prefer aren’t there to irritate you, they’re simply part of the buffet. If you see something you’re not partial to, don’t select it — but don’t demonize it, just focus on the things you do like. Because something undesirable exists, don’t assume all of life sucks — just pass it by and select something that does interest you.

In essence, an absolute external world does NOT exist, the world you experience depends on your focus and emerges from your thoughts and attitude. Fear and skepticism are your enemies here. If you defeat them, it’ll be smooth sailing on an epic adventure through a grand narrative of human existence.

Successful Failure

If you wanted to program an android to act like a human, you’d have to introduce erratic behavior into its actions. The android should perform haphazardly, having one mishap after another. Instead of a quick and precise path, the android would need to take a slow and sloppy route. The completion of objectives would become uncertain and prolonged.

But with this change, the android’s actions suddenly become a lot more exciting to observers. “Can he do it!!?? He was so close last time!!” Fast and efficient action that’s always successful is boring. Sports, games, gambling — these events are only fun when the outcome isn’t certain AND we invest some time into them.

Because we’re always traversing a slow and sloppy path toward our selected objectives, we can deduce that existence is a manufactured experience. We’re obliged to take the slow and sloppy route — it’s by design. And it’s this very condition that entertains the consciousness, the observer within watching it all go down.

In other words, you’re not supposed to instantaneously have everything you want. You’re supposed to take a winding route fraught with uncertainty — that’s where the fun comes from. A successful life is not one in which you achieve arbitrary goals — it’s one in which you enjoy the epic adventure you’re experiencing, the slow and sloppy route to nowhere in particular.

Bot Behavior

A bot is an autonomous program, a form of AI. In this instance, think of it like a little man searching for food onscreen. In the least impressive form of AI, my bot would simply ascertain the screen-coordinates of the food from the program itself and place himself next to it. But what if I wanted my bot’s behavior to be more humanlike?

I don’t want my bot to be omniscient nor able to blip himself anywhere onscreen in an instant. In a slightly more impressive form of AI, my bot would randomly wander around the screen until he accidentally bumped into the food. There’s a possibility he’d never find it — but if he runs long enough, his random pattern might succeed even though he isn’t going anywhere in particular nor remembers where he’s been.

To make the bot more humanlike, I’d want to interrupt and alter his movement with random timers, making his path more erratic with less obvious patterns. Humanlike behavior also degrades over time, so a humanlike bot would slow down its actions and decision-making as the activity progressed — even pausing as if decisions are being considered. But within that decaying action, I’d mix in some random “bursts of energy”.

My bot will need biases. Humans have preferences, so a more humanlike bot would need to choose from a set of particular options — not purely random, but a weighted random. Maybe he prefers taking right-turns for example. He’ll also need to pick a destination and get there. Humanlike behavior isn’t meandering randomly, it’s going from one objective to the next.

In actuality, a bot can know everything the overall program knows, but to be more humanlike, his perspective must be limited to his immediate vicinity and not allowed to grasp the whole picture. He needs to react only to what’s around him. But relatedly, he should remember some of where he’s been — but this memory should degrade over time. Some memories might be prioritized and maintained through a reward/punishment ranking mechanism.

Now, if I implemented such a humanlike bot, and you watched the little character onscreen searching for food, could you tell the difference between a human-controlled character or an AI controlled one? The more perfect the character behaves, the more artificial he’ll seem. But by corrupting that perfection with sloppiness, he’ll appear much more human, wouldn’t you agree?

So what’s my point? The very nature of humanity seems to be sloppiness. If a robot wanted to act human, he’d have to introduce a lot of randomly erratic behavior into his actions. “Whoa too much!”, “Oops too little!” It’s always one mishap after another. Now consider this: what’s a roller-coaster? A car on a sloppy path to nowhere.

What’s a movie? A narrative in which a character takes an indirect and winding path to his destination. What makes a movie a movie is the fact that the character takes the sloppiest route possible. This sloppiness is by design, it interjects excitement through uncertainty while prolonging the experience.

My onscreen bot could perform his food-finding function in milliseconds. But so what? No one wants to watch that. Perfection is near instantaneous. But if I mix-in uncertainty and a drawn-out pace, all of a sudden you’re rooting for the little man onscreen. “You can do it! Oh so close!! Come on! YAY!!”. That’s existence in a nutshell: traversing a sloppy path toward our selected objectives.