Hard Work

I’ve never had ANY inclination towards a professional career. Ever since I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had an answer, all I could say was “I don’t know”. It always made me uncomfortable that I didn’t have an answer. And a few decades later, guess what? I STILL don’t know what I should be doing with my time and efforts. I often wonder if I’ll stumble into some sort of career at some point.

I’ve primarily engaged in hobby-level activities. For example: tinkering with computers, writing essays (blogging), making digital art, watching YouTube, playing the tin-whistle & recorder, whittling wood, shooting Nerf & air-soft guns, flying toy drones, playing video-games. I did attempt to become a professional computer-guy & programmer for a few years and I was finally excited to answer the question “so, what do you do for a living?”. But that career was short-lived.

I often hear people praising the virtues of “hard work” and “working hard” and I kinda shrink up, feeling a bit embarrassed. They say things like “earning your keep” and “paving your own way” and a bunch of other stuff in honor of the Protestant Work Ethic. In one sense, I don’t have a desire to “work hard”, but in another sense I feel guilty about not grinding away at some laborious task. I do like hangin-out and passing time in frivolous ways — it just seems like I shouldn’t.

But why not!? Now that I’m starting to understand that life isn’t serious-business, that I’m not engaged in a constant struggle for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, I’m starting to lose this self-imposed constraint. Of course I should be having fun, that’s the POINT!! If life’s a simulation, which I believe it is, the purpose of any game is to enjoy oneself — so if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve been plagued by these contradictory beliefs my whole life: on one hand, I lack the aspiration to participate in a professional career — on the other hand, I seem to believe that professionalism is a necessary component of self-worth and success i.e. if you’re not a “chef” or “engineer” or whatever, what are you? You can’t simply be “Rich”!? Well one of these contradictory beliefs has to give, and guess which one it’s gonna be?

Relatedly, I’m approaching a test, a deadline. So the question becomes: will I be able to maintain my frivolousness and prove myself worthy of a carefree lifestyle? As the deadline nears, all my external effort is invested in frivolity, tasks that lack utilitarian value. Whereas internally, I’m focusing my thoughts on the enjoyment of existence. There’s no going back now, nor would I want to. Onward! To the lighthearted life!

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.

Half Confused

Should one simply accept negativity as half of the whole (the other half being positivity)? In other words, is life truly a balance between light and dark, hot and cold, pleasant and unpleasant, pleasure and pain? And therefore: are anger, misery, and worry fundamental aspects of the human experience that we should honor?

No, negativity has no merit. Here’s an example: if wretched things are meant to be honored, then vomit your first meal of the day into a cup and drink it back up. Take some time to honor “disgust” today. Oh? You don’t want to do that? So there’s a line you won’t cross? Then draw the line further: put fear and frustration and all other forms of negativity beyond that line as well.

If there are aspects of negativity that you won’t do, why do any of it? Lashing out in anger. Constantly complaining. Being perpetually pessimistic. The negative aspects of the human experience are NOT fundamental activities that we should perform, they are the manifestation of a mistaken perspective.

If you believe that negativity is something you should practice, you’re confused, and you’re attempting to justify your bewilderment by pretending it’s an inherent part of life. It’s not. Imagine you’re trying to operate a forklift but you don’t know how it works, so you wing-it. From that point on, you assume that whatever you did is how it’s done. When someone finally attempts to explain the correct operation of the forklift, you belligerently tell them that you already know how it works. BUT, it turns out that frequent crashing and dropping boxes is NOT a necessary part of forklift operation.

In the same way, you entered life in a state of complete ignorance. From there, you managed to scrape together a strategy to navigate through the world. But the so-called strategy you devised sucks, and results in a LOT of crashing. Thankfully, it turns out that negativity is NOT a necessary part of life. You don’t need anger, outrage, frustration, regret, fear, worry, misery, pain, or anything else that results in a poor experience.

Life is better than that. YOU are better than that. So stop swilling your own vomit and cut out the negativity. Living life “right” simply begins with NOT purposefully hurting yourself. Life is NOT a struggle unless you make it one. You’re in a shallow pool flailing around like a madman: stop and stand up. Be still for a bit, listen to the quiet, examine the mechanism of existence.

Imperfect Experience

Existence is the experience of imperfection. Imperfection provides reason for action. Whereas if something is in a state of perfection, nothing needs to be done. Therefore, we are constantly striving towards a perfection we hope we never achieve. Imperfection makes things fun.

If you’re not good at something, great! That’s the point! Games, for example, get boring the moment you master them. Excitement emerges when things don’t go as planned. Variety springs forth from imperfect implementations. Sameness is tediousness.

To extract enjoyment, we must accept and appreciate a playful approach towards perfection. We can’t allow ourselves to feel frustrated by a lack of perfection because we truly don’t want to get there. We WANT the condition of imperfection to inspire our efforts.

It’s a game like any other: we should be sincere in our pursuit but not solemnly so. We should genuinely engage in an activity, but not too seriously. We shouldn’t feel disdain for imperfection, but embrace it on an impossible path towards perfection.

Introductory Dreams

You pine for a simple and clear message of what’s going on here… yet nightly dreams ARE the simple everyday reminder of what’s going on here! You dismiss them as strange and useless phenomena, but they’re the tutorial that preludes each day. Dreams serve to say: Here’s a mini-version of what you’re about to experience.

Nightly dreams are influenced by what we focus on throughout the day. For example: watch a scary movie, have a nightmare. The SAME is true for life. Focus on frightening stuff, live a fear-filled life. And just like you don’t have to watch scary movies, you don’t have to focus on ANY scary stuff. You’re in a dream, EVERYTHING is an illusion.

All that stuff in the news? It’s content generated to incite outrage and worry. Whenever you WANT to get upset, consume it. It’s like adding spicy sauce to your food — sometimes you wanna feel the heat. But if you’re sick of sweating after each bite, stop using it. None of that sensationalist stuff matters, this is a dream.

Every dream comes to an end and then it’s quickly forgotten. We have new dreams all the time, no big deal. Silly stuff happens in dreams and silly stuff happens here too. Strange coincidences, twists and turns, absurd plot-lines, dreams demonstrate what we should expect. In dreams, details don’t matter, things just manifest whenever we expect them.

Attempting to live life as if it’s not a dream creates a lot of confusion. There are no clearcut guides to getting by in this world because they’re simply not necessary. It’s a dream, so getting from point-A to point-B doesn’t follow a logically progressive path. A world full of celebrities is not logical in a solid-world — but in a dream, it makes the most sense.

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.

Good Games

If I should avoid playing stupid games, what are some good games to play instead?

T.E.A.C.H.

Teamwork. Build and strengthen relationships with others.

Exploration. Wander through the wondrous world.

Appreciation. Focus on things you enjoy, engage with them, recognize the delight they provide you.

Creativity. When inspiration strikes, do it.

Hopefulness. Imagine the best possible outcomes.