Relative Discontent

I think one of the most difficult aspects of existence is the “sliding scale of dissatisfaction”. No matter how much life improves, there’s always a “worst”. Even if I eat like a king every night of the week, one of those days contains my least favorite meal. Even if I feel great most of the year, a day in which I have a headache feels like the worst day ever. This phenomenon demonstrates that external improvement can NOT lead to satisfaction.

It is ONLY by the cultivation and practice of “appreciation” that one can get anywhere near the realm of contentment. It’s an internal process utilizing mental discipline. It requires an awareness of focus and the application of effort to maintain focus on high-quality subject-matter. “This is the worst meal I had all week!” becomes “This is the seventh greatest meal I had all week! I’m so grateful to have a variety of foods to consume. Varying meals makes my experience better!”

Rating and comparing are dangerous activities rife with nastiness. When you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes – ultimately leading to dissatisfaction. Don’t like something? Don’t think about it. Like something? Appreciate it sans-comparison. Something is good for its inherent qualities, not because it’s better than something else. And again: if you can’t find an aspect you like, focus on something you DO like – even if it’s a fanciful fairytale in which everything goes your way.

Discontentment flourishes from comparison and criticism. “This is better than that! She’s better than me! This is the worst! I want the best! My expectations aren’t met!” Utilize mental discipline to cease comparison and criticism – stop encouraging such unpleasantness. Stop comparing to an idealized image. Encourage appreciation instead, place focus on what pleases and delights – things that invoke smiles and laughter, activities that inspire feelings of accomplishment.

Training Days

Many years ago I trained with weight-lifting equipment and followed a strict diet. You could say bodybuilding was a hobby of mine. I started out very skinny and proceeded to bulk-up. People noticed. But after a few years, the gains stopped. I looked like I lifted, yet I was no longer getting bigger or stronger. Training seemed kinda pointless at that point. It’s been about two decades since then.

Ever the self-improvement and training type, I moved on to mental stuff. I’ve been training my mind for many years now. I definitely see a change and I think it shows. But like before, I kinda feel like I’ve reached a sticking-point or plateau in which the gains have stalled. I get it, I can see straight through the veil of reality and grasp the fundamental illusion of existence. But so what?

I’m no longer seeing enough change to inspire further training. Like my weightlifting days, I’m a bit disillusioned and wondering whether it’s a pointless endeavor. I even wonder if I’m retrogressing. I feel as though I could finally appreciate living a good life yet the doors still seem closed. “Uh, hello!? I’m ready now!!” Granted, many things are good, but there’s some major changes I’d like to see. I dunno, maybe I’m just impatient….

I can’t help but feel as though I should be experiencing the best of what life has to offer. I didn’t previously believe it was possible. I’ve changed and experienced many resulting differences – yet there’s so much more I imagine. I know this world is a fictional construct, merely a dreamlike concoction of swirling stories, and I know anything can come to fruition – pixels are pixels after-all.

What’s this world to me? A dream. But if it’s any ol’ dream why have it?Just wake-up and go again. Yet I’m a horrible dreamer. For the first half, I believed myself trapped in a hellish nightmare surrounded by pain and danger. In the second half I realized I’m dreaming but live the most mundane experience possible. I don’t want intensity, I had that, I want grandness, magnificence, a sumptuous banquet. For what use is a body but as transportation to travel this realm in splendor and delight.

Puzzle Pieces

Imagine you receive a jigsaw puzzle. You admire the picture on the box, open it, and dump the pieces out of the bag. You’re excited! A reasonably sized puzzle of a pleasant picture. Aha, you found some pieces that go together! The game is afoot! Oh, but now it’s time for bed, darn it – well there’s always tomorrow….

You think about that puzzle and the fun you’ll have putting it together. Finally the next day comes and there’s time to work on your puzzle. Wait, what’s this!? The puzzle is complete?? Fully assembled it sits on your table, not a thing left to do – it’s done. Well you’re happy right? Glad that all the work is done? Phew it’s over! Thank goodness! Right?

No, you’re disappointed obviously. YOU wanted to complete the puzzle. All that potential action and intrigue turned into a lifeless static image. THIS is why we live in an imperfect world. Imperfection provides room for improvement – it allows for accomplishment. Instead of a completed world with nothing left to do, we’re presented with a buffet of potential achievement.

From a certain perspective, the world seems like a mess in which everything is a work-in-progress. It’s junk, it’s broke, nothing behaves as it should. Why can’t everything be perfect!? Because there’d literally be nothing to do!! Every puzzle would be complete. The so-called flaws of life are the loose pieces we get to assemble – without which we’d be staring at a lifeless static image.

Therefore, appreciate the pieces and be grateful that no matter how hard you try, the puzzle will always be a work in progress. This perpetual puzzle is not a curse but a gift. Get to work and try fitting some pieces together. You’ll surely assemble some parts while others remain jumbled in piles. Pick the parts that look most interesting. Day in and day out, look forward to this puzzle that’s always waiting for you.

Passing Scenery

There’s always something to be unsatisfied about – so a quest to fulfill emptiness through external means never ends.

Therefore, seek to be satisfied in every moment through mental discipline (the practice of focusing the mind). Practice until thoughts flow in and out like scenery in the distance. Hold no thoughts in focus. This is one of the hardest games to play, have patience and persist. Ignore thoughts that race-in to fill voids. Boredom is a sign it’s working whereas anxiousness and drama are signs of misplaced focus. Now with a blank canvas, paint with delightful hues that invoke satisfaction.

Focus is the fundamental force of the universe. With focus, you control your experience of existence. “Out of all the thoughts I could be having, is this one worthy of my focus?” Ask yourself this for each and every thought that gets your attention. Pondering positive possibilities is acceptable for example. And if you can’t think of anything nice, don’t think of anything at all. Notice a thought and gently transition to no-thought.

Sometimes you’ll sense mischief, deal with it through lightheartedness. You’re only susceptible to monkey-business when you’re serious. A monkey pokes and prods searching for a tender spot, wince or whine and he’ll know he’s found his treasure. “Ha, what a silly little game” should be your only reply to shenanigans. And consider this: you might be the monkey teasing yourself – but either way, don’t be the patsy losing yourself to frustration.

No thought is more valuable than the practice of mental discipline. Default to unfocusing on thoughts, refocusing only when a thought proves itself good. Evaluate the feelings it evokes. Weed this mental garden, leaving only the resplendent and nourishing to bloom and grow. The path has always been there, it simply seemed too tedious. Why bother with thoughts when a whole world awaits? But those thoughts are the very foundation of the world you experience. Bad thoughts, bad experience – good thoughts, good experience.

And remember, external objectives are never the point, they’re simply finish-lines placed for the fun of it. The purpose of participating in games is to extract enjoyment through the pursuit of frivolous goals.

Tough Life

Is life so hard that even God lost? Think about that. God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. Yet God’s own son had a rather tragic experience on Earth. If even he had a hard time, how’s there any chance for the rest of us? Or was Jesus, through his tragic experience, actually revealing the path to victory?

What Jesus taught was simple: seek and ye shall find. Seek sickness, and you shall have it. Whereas those seeking to be healed, were made well. Basically, a bad attitude begets a miserable experience. Jesus also spoke of the unsavory religious leaders of his day – and guess what he found? Death by way of their vile machinations. Fight against anything in this world, and it’ll kill you: live by the sword, die by the sword. This is true even if you’re the son of God.

No one is exempt from the principle that like attracts like. An acorn grows an oak tree and pessimism grows dissatisfaction. Look for the worst in life, you’ll find it. Imagine yourself in a constant battle against the world and you’ll stuggle until the day you die. Whereas the meek shall inherit the earth because they’re not at war with the world. If like attracts like, this is also true: love the world and you’ll know love. Be gentle, and your experience will be gentle too.

So why did Jesus reveal a victorious path in such a negative way? Why not show a sweet and loving demonstration instead? Well he tried that – no one listened. You can see over time how he became more belligerent. Which would a faithless generation better respond to? “Son of God says love is the answer!” Or “Not even the son of God is safe in these turbulent times! Stay tuned for the excruciating execution by crucifixion!”

Jesus stated what was true and when it fell on deaf ears he demonstrated it through significant action. At first you’d be confused at the transpiring events and upon closer inspection you’d be even more perplexed – BUT, after some time and much contemplation you’d start to see the underlying meaning of it all. God didn’t lose, and life isn’t tough – people just need to calm down, lighten up, and focus on what’s good in this world.

Ignore It

If I ignore something, does it go away or get worse? Answer: it goes away. That sounds like the wrong approach, that such a strategy would only lead to a festering mess in the end. Yet, over the course of many years, I’ve found that it’s the exact tactic that works. Whether it’s an internal ache or something external, ignoring it has typically made it disappear whereas focusing on it only increased the intensity.

From thoughts, to pains, to people, to situations – whenever I stop maintaining them within my mind, they simply fade away. It’s not always easy to forget something, which is why things don’t blip out instantaneously. I typically have to repeatedly ignore the image while trying to focus on something else. But if I keep at it, it goes away.

Yes, this phenomenon demonstrates that the world is not a concrete physical reality in which I’m a mere spectator to life’s objective events. My thoughts and feelings are readily influencing the reality I’m experiencing, there’s no doubt about it. But if that’s true, why am I not having the best time ever? Why do I find myself experiencing unpleasantness again and again?

My guess would be: the lack of application of mental discipline. In other words, I don’t ignore enough. I don’t selectively identify and ignore that which produces discomfort. If I’m not feeling great in every moment, that means there’s something I’m not ignoring. Could it be that simple!? Does ignorance truly result in bliss!? I’m going to dedicate myself to this experiment and find out!

Skinner Box

Is Earth a form of aversion therapy? In other words, am I punished for improper behavior? And if that’s the case, am I rewarded for good behavior?

Even from a purely physical perspective, you’d likely say that penalties exist for inappropriate actions. For example: if I eat too much, I get a tummy-ache. If I treat others poorly, I tend to suffer negative repercussions. If I allow my mind to wander, I find myself thinking thoughts I don’t prefer. If I consume dour and pessimistic media, I feel bad. In short, there seems to be a direct correlation between careless behavior and discomfort.

Is the opposite also true? Am I rewarded for considerate behavior? If I eat an appropriate amount of nutritious food, do I feel better? If I treat others well, do I benefit from similar treatment? If I guide my thoughts down pleasant paths, do I find myself delighted? If I watch a lighthearted movie, do I feel cheerful? In short, is there a direct correlation between thoughtful behavior and well-being?

In behavioral conditioning, the obviousness of the correlation between cause-and-effect is a key factor for learning. For example, if I fail to realize that a specific action results in a particular punishment, there’s no reason to stop an action. In other words, the amount of punishment won’t matter if I don’t know why I’m being punished. Yet, it would be heavy-handed or even harsh to reprimand for every infringement.

In teaching/coaching situations, obviousness is often sacrificed for gentleness. Instead of correcting every single misstep, a gentle teacher often allows some incorrectness to slide. This puts more responsibility onto the student, who must actively watch for trends in order to grasp the direction of the reward/punishment mechanism. The tradeoff is a greater feeling of agency and influence over one’s own life.

This would explain why actions in life aren’t always rewarded or punished appropriately. Life trades cold mechanical conditioning for a more organic feel. There’s no lever that reliably releases a pellet when pressed – outcomes follow trends instead. Also, intermittent reward is a more captivating circumstance and likely leads to longer, more involved engagement.

Honestly, I’ve been obstinately plowing through life, ignoring any signs pointing in the proper direction. I follow my own assumptions about what’s appropriate. As you might imagine, it hasn’t been an effective strategy. Am I to simply follow the path set forth by the aversion/reward mechanism? Hm, that almost sounds like cheating. Wait, actually that seems like a lot of work. Well, I’ll have to keep this is mind and be on the lookout for trends resulting from my behavior.

Detailed Questions

Why is the sky blue? Why do people do what they do? What does it mean to fall in love? What’s the origin of illness? What’s healthy? What’s free-will? How do you live a good life?

If reasons and explanations to life’s questions vary over time, then perhaps details don’t matter. How can details be so subjective? You might postulate that understanding simply evolves. Well I don’t understand anything! I’ve certainly not received any of this advancing knowledge! Nor do I see evidence of it as I witness people living similarly dramatic storylines to those that came before. Fashions change, but the basics seem the same.

Schooling, amusements, occupations, competition, romance, parenting, complaining, and the search for satisfaction – what really changes? Style varies with era, but the fundamentals remain constant. Every age has its own explanations of why things happen, yet subsequent ages scoff at those antiquated ways. And this current age’s understanding will be mocked by those that follow. In that way, modernity admits its own lack of understanding.

What this adds up to is an obvious conclusion: events do NOT sit atop a solid concrete structure of objective ingredients. In fact, the framework for circumstances is fictional, mere illusion, a concoction cobbled together after-the-fact. Something happens, THEN the “how” and “why” forms based on perspective.

This conclusion obviously implies a dreamworld/simulated-reality in which a dreamer/player has ideas that manifest from imagination/pixels. There really is no “how” or “why”, it’s simply not necessary when dealing with dreams/simulations. Anything can appear anywhere at anytime.

And of course I had it backwards the entire time. I thought I was supposed to seek-out the step-by-step specifics in order to traverse a particular path. If you want to accomplish a task, read the pre-printed instructions obviously! NOPE! You simply “do the thing” and let it unfold before you. It’s a dream whose scenes manifest before your very eyes.

Whereas when you’re lost in the dream, it seems so concrete. The details ARE the reason, and nothing exists beyond what the senses perceive. But that’s such a limited perspective – you’re trapped into inaction and unable to do anything significant. Therefore, you must reset your frame-of-reference, step back from the intensity of a dream created by a wandering mind.

Remove yourself from the chaotic nightmare through discipline. Discipline is specifically focusing the mind. It’s pulling focus away from dissatisfying topics while putting focus on delightful ones. It sounds silly, but life is a silly thing. Tame the chaos you previously created, let it go, replace it with a new world in which you choose to experience contentment. In a dream, time is malleable. It is now the dawn.

Delving Into Details

I’ve noticed that whenever I delve into the details of something, it doesn’t make sense, the specifics are silly, the overall concept is absurd. It’s exactly like analyzing the plot of a movie too closely: if you forgivingly accept the storyline, then things proceed smoothly – but whenever you analyze the details, plot-holes abound.

Not only does this demonstrate the fictional nature of this world, it illustrates that circumstances don’t arise from details. Larger concepts come first then details are developed second – and only when examined. Additionally, these details are not objectively true – they vary depending on who’s investigating them.

For example, if you see someone driving a car, you don’t think anything of it. Cool, maybe he’s going to the store. But if you start to analyze the concept of humans controlling complex contraptions comprised of substantial steel at speeds 10 times that of their normal pace, producing forces that far exceed their normal abilities, yet able to maintain their course with adequate reaction time, it gets weird. Especially when you saw that same person having difficulty pushing their simple little shopping cart through the store’s aisles moments earlier.

And that’s not the only example, it’s EVERYTHING. And the good news in all this, is this: details don’t matter. Imagine a supervisor briefly explaining a task to you, yet he leaves out all the critical details and you’re left wondering how to proceed. This is a common scenario simply because details are NOT critical. Humans aren’t typically taught step-by-step instructions, they’re provided with broad concepts, then kinda wing-it.

In other words, if you attempt to learn the details in order to do something, you’re doing it wrong. You do the thing and IGNORE the details. Humans could never reliably drive cars if this wasn’t the case. In fact, details are dangerous and they’re likely to lead to logical conclusions that shouldn’t be contemplated. Whereas if you stick to the surface, things are more malleable and make a lot more sense.

The devil really is in the details. Do not summon him forth through incessant investigating. You’ll create logical conclusions that’ll trap your mindset. Circumstances change much more readily when they’re not ensnared by technicalities. Never worry how something gets done, it just does! It’s a dreamworld after-all.

Wait Not Want Not

At first I thought I was randomly born into a harsh and brutal world that didn’t care if I lived or died. Then after a few decades of living in abject anxiousness, I realized I misunderstood. I was in no danger, there were no threats – the world simply sustained me without effort on my part. Knowing that, I then surmised that the world must want me to prosper and enjoy myself within its walls. That theory has unfortunately not proven correct – I’m not saying it’s wrong, I simply don’t know if it’s true at this point.

For example, you’d want to keep your lab-rats or livestock alive, but you don’t necessarily care how happy they are. Unhappiness might even be a state that’s encouraged for research purposes as part of an experiment. Or this could simply be a game – and like any game, challenges are built into the world as obstacles to overcome. Games by their nature introduce stressors into a player’s life. Over and over, players jump hurdles and chase fleeting rewards.

I have to surmise then, that existence is like a Role-Playing Game. It’s not a movie in which you sit passively watching the scenes go by. I tried that approach and it doesn’t work. You literally end up sitting there waiting for the movie to begin but it never does. You have to actually press forward and manipulate the buttons here and there. I think life assists you, but you have to deal with challenges along the way.

Think about it this way: participation in sports is most rewarding when you push yourself close to your limit. Who cares if you can do something easily? It’s the training and straining that accompanies difficult tasks that produces the most satisfaction. A larger investment begets a greater reward. BUT: if you take a game too seriously, you’re going to have a bad time. Games are ultimately mechanisms-of-fun and your perspective should be broad enough to include this aspect.