Hitting Targets

Just for the fun of target-practice, I have a dart-board as well as some Nerf and Airsoft guns. Something I’ve noticed is: the more accurate the gun, the lesser the fun. What’s the point if I hit the bullseye every time the trigger’s pulled? It’s the intermittent reward that seems most rewarding.

For me, the activity with the most longevity in terms of target-practice has been darts. This is probably because it’s the most inaccurate. I can be off by a lot, only to get two darts in a row within the bullseye on the very next round. It feels like a real accomplishment when I get a double-bulls-eye — I’ve never gotten all three in the bullseye within a single round for instance.

The point being, whatever we attempt in life, we should expect to miss. What adds fun to our activites, is the inaccuracy of our aim. We’re supposed to be clumsy clods meandering our way through life. There’s even a Twilight Zone episode called “A Nice Place to Visit” (S01, E28) in which the main-character is provided everything he wants, in fact he can’t lose no matter what he tries — every spin’s a winner. Spoiler Alert! It turns out he was in Hell.

The outcomes of games are meaningless — there’s no actual prize at the end, it’s “Game Over” for everyone. The only significance to playing is whether you enjoy yourself while doing it. And the only way to enjoy yourself is to lose a lot, creating some tension, building-up anticipation for winning.

If you ever find yourself feeling like a loser, it means you’re taking things way too seriously and lacking perspective. Complete mastery is not something you want — you want to be able to lose, you want to stumble on your way to the finish-line feeling like you might not make it — it’s the only way to feel the thrill of triumph.

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Chasing Significance

What do the enlightened do after achieving enlightenment? The same stuff as everyone else, they just appreciate it more than before. As is said:

Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

Enlightenment simply broadens one’s perspective, the content of life remains the same. Imagine a fairytale after the epic adventure concludes — what happens next? Characters go back to their everyday lives.

We so often sour our lives by lamenting a lack of significance. But even if achieved, things eventually normalize, becoming familiar and repetitive.

We therefore need to practice and perfect the process of extracting enjoyment from our everyday experiences. There is nothing but this.

In every moment of our day, we must be finding the fun, distilling the delight. It’s not an event that makes or breaks our life, but the routine we make for ourself from the components we’re surrounded by.

As the sun unceasingly rises and sets, seek satisfaction from simplicity. From the daily meals we consume, in the repetitiousness of rhythm, toiling upon our tasks, amongst the people we call family — comes the comfort of familiarity.

Getting Up

What would make you energized to get out of bed in the morning?

The opportunity for bonding and experiencing lighthearted camaraderie with people I care about.
Delving into new stuff, like on Christmas morning.
Continuing an interesting project I’ve been working on.
Freshly fallen snow.

Beaten Down

When are we the happiest while playing a game? During our triumphant victory. In other words, it’s when we’ve been beaten down to the point of almost losing, then the tables turn and we march on in as a conquering hero. The greatest elation we feel in games or stories is when the character we identify as beats the odds and wins.

Therefore, if life is a simulation, then it would purposefully design for this condition to be a common scenario. And in fact the most lauded contests we witness always portray this underlying concept, whether it be sports, games, movies, politics, social justice, war, or medical issues — people are always struggling to overcome.

The world is a triumph generator. But for triumph to occur, there must be obstacles and oppression — and we can readily see this to be true. And we want this to be the case, we don’t want to eliminate obstacles or oppression, we want to be beaten down by them to the point of feeling crushed so that we can eventually feel the joy and glory of overcoming them.

As these are manufactured scenarios, the outcome is rigged. Yet so immersive are these scenes, we often surrender to the hardship. We figure we’ve lost, there’s no hope, we’re losers meant to lose, mere cannon fodder for the true victors. Nay, for it is always darkest before the dawn. When we hold onto hope through that lowest point, the sun rises, bursting through with its resplendent light.

We win.

Labor Day

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Haphazard Historian.

Imagine that there are some people willing to enslave other people for their own gain. Well in fact no imagination is necessary, as we can browse the pages of history (or even current events) to know this to be the case. So we know people can, and will, exploit their fellow man for mere economic advantage.

We know there are some that would do all they can to get as close to slave-like conditions as possible, just to get a bit more. This being the case, what protects workers from such unrepentant greed? What protects those with little-power from hungry wolves waiting to feast?

Answer: the power of the herd, an unshakable union of fellow workers. Without this solidarity, workers are picked off one-by-one as each individual stays silent, threatened by the knowledge that he’ll be next should he utter complaint. Only as a solid whole, a single voice, can these workers hope to overcome the power of greed.

And so, this is the day we set aside as reminder of that ongoing struggle against greed. A greed so nefarious that man would kidnap his fellow man and force his labor, that man would employ children in perilous industry, that man would continuously shave as much as mathematically possible from wages — ever attempting to reach zero.

But it is not this selfishness we must focus on today, it is the unity that opposes it. Throughout history, the bulk of mankind has only ever shown a desire to pitch in, to contribute to community. He wants to work and do right by his neighbor. It is with this spirit, that mankind often bands together whenever foxes attempt to divvy him up.

As a collection of individuals, mankind can be divided. And, it often requires a bit of prodding before the sleeping giant of solidarity awakens to the threat of dismemberment. But in due time, and after much strain, he does wake, and those that dared divide him meet their end.

As workers ourselves, it is our duty to keep an open ear for this call to solidarity — for it is in our best interest, and the interest of industry itself. Fruitful commerce requires a fruitful workforce who in turn become prosperous customers. Industry itself is not the enemy, there’s simply some greed that needs weeding out. And we must all be on the lookout.

Building Structures

You can destroy, rip apart, demolish. But you can’t typically look back at the results in a pleasing way. You see a pitted, scarred landscape. Whereas if you build, and beautifully so, you can look back and be pleased.

In a particular world in Minecraft for instance, I was surveying a landscape that suffered repeated TNT explosions, possibly in the hundreds. It was within a world where some buildings were also warped out of their original shape from random additions. In other words, the world was a mess.

I spent some time trying to fix it up but I could only do so much. What can you do when a preschooler learns about the power of TNT? Let him have his fun I say, it was his world anyway. Eventually though, we should seek a maturity in which we prefer to build bridges rather than destroy them.

Whereas there’s another world I built that I don’t allow anyone else in, called Richtopia. It includes a large pirate ship, an underwater submarine, an ocean-floor base, several mansions, coastal property, an airplane, pyramids, a redstone laboratory in the desert, and of course Sky City, with its famed multi-story glass hotel. I look back on that world with fond remembrance and a bit of pride.

I never much cared for the idea of building a legacy, a monument that would last past my lifetime. I still don’t, but I can at least see that having something significant to look back upon in my old age would be kinda neat. I built that, I’d be able to say. Whereas I most certainly don’t want to look back and say, I laid waste to that.

Reference Librarian

When I was a software developer, I’d often get stumped by programming problems. I would typically go to programming forums in order to find detailed information about how to implement a particular algorithm or feature. I’d search through the message-boards until finding a question relevant to my own, then I’d read through the solutions shared by other programmers. And chances were, if I had a question, someone else did too. And if I couldn’t find a relevant question, I knew I was barking up the wrong tree. In all those years I never had to post my own question.

It was the forums in which I found implementation details, but that’s not where the overall architecture of the program came from. For whatever reason, I just knew how to layout the program’s structure. And when I didn’t know, I took a break until the answer came to me, sometimes while showering or doing something else unrelated to programming. There was some source, some reference librarian, that my mind seemed to contact when I had a complicated question. During this time-period I had many “Aha moments”.

When I quit professional programming a number of years ago, I swapped programming problems for philosophical ones. The funny thing is, that this blog became my forum of sorts. I’d have a question and then I’d post a solution. I didn’t know the answer beforehand, I just seemed to transcribe from a source beyond myself. Even today I’ll often look back at old posts of mine to check something. In other words, I’ve created an archive of philosophical solutions suited just for me. And similarly, during this time-period I’ve experienced a lot of “Aha moments” in which spiritually complicated architecture came to light.

With my wondering, I signal that a question needs answering, then a reference librarian of sorts does a quick bit of research and gets back to me with a possible solution. But who is this reference librarian? Why do I seem to conjure satisfactory answers to my questions? And I also notice that other people’s solutions are often similar to my own, implying a common source. To me at least, this phenomenon is consistent with the idea that individuals are mere shards of a fractured creator. There really does seem to be a “collective unconscious” underlying humanity from which we all draw our inspiration.

In interviews, creative people typically balk at the question, “So where do you get your ideas?” Nobody really knows, do they. Essentially, notions just pop into our head. And they’re not random either, they’re tailored to our roles. Previously I received programming insights, now it’s philosophical/spiritual ones. An artist is imbued with the vision it’ll take to craft his masterpiece. A novelist receives an unfolding story within her mind. A craftsman feels his way to a finished product. It just comes to us, the blueprint of our success — all we have to do is listen.