Eighties Kid

The 80s!? Yeah, I was there man. I was just a kid, but weren’t we all. I was sportin a velour shirt with corduroy pants, my hair a bit too long, and sneakers fastened with newly invented Velcro straps. Those were the times man! It’s what we were wearin. Yeah I rode my bike around the neighborhood unsupervised. That’s what we did, children of the Moonwalk era — there were glitter gloves and copious amounts of hairspray spewing from large aerosol cans. Yeah I sprayed that stuff all OVER my hair! What of it!? The ozone-layer is overrated anyway.

The 80s were like, totally awesome, like, you know? That’s just like, how we spoke. Everything was awesome. And if you were from where I was from, anything better than awesome was wicked-awesome. We’d head down to Papa Ginos and play Pac-Man or Space Invaders while waiting for our pizza. The cola-wars were heating up around this time too: Coke or Pepsi. Though really, we just ordered whichever they served.

I remember going over to my neighbor’s house to play Atari. Eventually we got a ColecoVision console of our own. I even remember Pong. And TV?! TVs had two dials that cranked from U to 13 and 14 to 83 — but only like 7 channels had any shows on them — and you had to adjust the rabbit-ear antennas to get anything to come-in. Sure, your cousin had cable-TV but she lived in the next town over, and your town didn’t have cable yet — those were the breaks.

Kid-culture propagated through sleep-overs, out-of-state cousins, and summer-camps. When it came time, everyone knew the incantation to perform: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board…” or how to play “Murder in the Dark”. Otherwise, we learned stuff through music and movies. We all knew the “King of Pop” and E.T. We rebelled with our hair, our clothes, and of course our music. You don’t understand, OLD MAN! This is OUR time!

Ronald Regan was the president and my sister received Wonder Woman Underoos for her birthday. It was underwear that made you look and feel like a superhero underneath your clothes. Now that’s… wicked awesome! Sure, we had the threat of nuclear annihilation to ponder as we laid our heads down to sleep at night, and we dreamt of post-apocalyptic hell-scapes — but those were the times man. Well it was either that, or we had nightmares after watching Poltergeist or a Freddy Krueger movie.

In the 80s, phones weren’t something you carried around with you, they were hard-wired to the wall. And if you wanted to call someone, good luck! It was a shared device amongst an entire family and the person you wanted to contact needed to be in the right place at the right time. And more than likely, some random family member would answer. And the only game you played on the phone, was making prank-calls. Back then, you didn’t know who was on the other end of the line until they told you.

The food? Breakfast began with a box of Lucky Charms poured into a bowl, followed by a splash of milk, alongside a Dixie-cup filled with orange-juice not-from-concentrate. The prize/toy from the box was already gone, you’d have reached your entire arm inside when your mom first brought home the cereal-box from the supermarket. Lunch was bologna (pronounced “baloney”) on factory-made white-bread with a squirt of yellow stuff, and a box of sweetened colored liquid to wash it down (it wasn’t juice).

I’ve never been nostalgic about the 80s, and I sure as hell wouldn’t start now. The 80s began almost four decades ago — it was my introduction to Earth as a little kid. People were dressed in outlandish outfits, had wild teased-up hair, and applied an over-abundance of makeup (women AND men). I didn’t know what to make of it. The 90s made a lot more sense to me: widespread cable-TV, Grunge music, plain-looking clothes, computers, and of course the Internet.

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Alone in the World

I think solipsism has its advantages — it’s the idea that I’m the only player in the game. It puts all responsibility on me, which may sound daunting, but I don’t take it too seriously. My primary takeaway is that everything that happens to me is MY fault — which sounds bad, but also means I can fix it. I’m not a passive victim of my surroundings, I’m the guy in charge. I may be a masochist that likes to hurt myself — but anytime I want, I can change those circumstances.

So when I think of my childhood for instance, I did it, I caused all that nonsense. WHY? Well apparently I’m a masochist that enjoys freaking myself out. There was no other perpetrator but me, not my mom, dad, siblings, relatives, schoolmates, teachers, strangers — no one but me to blame. Within that context, I never even deal with the concept of forgiveness — there’s no one to forgive. I made the mistake, I was in a negative mental-state and caused myself to have an unpleasant experience — that’s it — done.

So nowadays, if I’m having a tense interaction with another person, I say to myself: “whoa, I must be in a bad mood, I’m even manifesting an unpleasant scene. I better calm down and get in a good-mood, obviously my attitude is causing this negative scenario to develop right before my eyes.” And it works, I don’t blame anyone but myself — and when I further analyze my mental state, I find that I WAS in a bad mood prior to the tense interaction. The evidence is there, I DID do it.

I’ve had this perspective for awhile now, and it’s worked wonders. It’s allowed me to leapfrog over that whole “coming to terms” with people stuff, I don’t have to hash anything out, I don’t have to “forgive” anyone. It’s like it never happened. I suppose it’s a cheat-code of sorts — but I’m fine with that. And who knows, it might even be true.

Magical Morning

You talk a good game, and it sounds like you’re attempting to crawl out from beneath that crushing rock of negativity, but are you actually having fun?!

Okay, okay, fair question, well check it out. Today, I had a Magical Morning with Michelle. We went for a walk at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Just a walk, simply strolling around for the fun and fitness. It was the perfect weather too, blue-skies and temps in the mid-60s. Since we were pretty early, the parking was perfect — from our car we simply walked to the front gate and waltzed right through, no waiting anywhere. Yes there were crowds, yes some people were waiting, but not us — it was a smooth flow right through. That’s magic.

The sights, the sounds, the smells — it was a pretty day at the park. I could smell the buttered popcorn cooking. We wove through the throngs of bustling tourists, delighting in our aimless jaunt — no ride-lines to wait in, no reservations to keep, just out and about enjoying the atmosphere. It didn’t take us long to traverse the entire place, probably about an hour, we walked a couple of miles in total. We did stop to watch the Stormtroopers march at one point. And I’m glad they’re putting in the Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars attraction, it should add a bit more space for walking.

How’s that for fun, huh? It’s not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but it sure is mine. Walt Disney World was my childhood happy-place and it’s good to be back. I tried living here a decade ago but I just couldn’t accept it — my pessimistic, lack-minded, masochistic tendencies flared up and I had to leave. But now that I’m relinquishing pessimism, abandoning lack-mindedness, and discarding masochism — I’m feeling a real sense of enjoyment here. It was even my idea to go today, it just seemed like an enjoyable way to spend the morning.

And all it took was several decades of self-inflicted suffering to finally get to this point! Not bad! Imagine being so stubborn that you refused to see the world in any other way than a harsh and brutal landscape hell-bent on your destruction. I was convinced that life meant pain and hardship, that random-chance was the only determiner of outcomes, that all this was a futile experience not worth having. Oops. But I suppose that’s just my story-arc, the typical Scrooge-like character that couldn’t see the goodness that surrounded him. I’m finally waking up to a new and glorious day in which I see the glistening greatness of this world.

Fountain of You

You’ll notice that we’re all different in particular ways. Our individual preferences vary quite a bit. For example, I despise the so-called dessert known as “cheesecake” — it’s gross. Our character has a dossier full of attributes that make it relatively unique. To play our character correctly then, is to honor those preferences and attributes.

If you’re playing Street Fighter II for example, you don’t play Guile the same way you play Chun Li — that’ll get you KO’d pretty quickly. You have to learn the abilities of your character and exploit those to the fullest. Special moves and abilities are there to be used, not ignored. You don’t want to play your character like it’s generic — that’s dumb.

That’s why striving to be “normal” is dumb. There is no normal, EVERYONE has an individualized dossier of attributes and abilities. And these abilities MUST be expressed by the character in order to fulfill that role. If you don’t express your individuality, it’s like holding in a poop — your bowels will ache and strain — you will suffer until you let “you” flow out.

How do you know what your character’s preferences and abilities are? Experiment! In Street Fighter II for example, you’ll find that keeping Guile in a low defensive position while utilizing leg-sweeps will prove devastating to many opponents. In other words, you won’t know what you can do until you do it — so do an assortment of things until you find what you’re good at.

Guile is a defensive character, he’s good when you wait for a chance to attack — if you play him aggressively you’ll likely get KO’d. In other words, there really are limitations on your character and you have to play according to his abilities. But that’s the fun part — all games impose limits — it’s a puzzle to solve, it’s attempting to accomplish something within a limited set of parameters.

And the best part is: the game-of-life wants you to win. The game is rigged in your favor. IF you play the character correctly, you WILL win. Whereas if you sabotage the character, trying to make him into something he’s not, you WILL suffer — you will get KO’d. In short, discover who your character is (explore and experiment), then play to his strengths. Result: “YOU WIN!”

Simple and Efficient

I enjoy cheat-codes. Back in the day, I utilized the famous “Konami Code” to receive extra-lives on Contra for the original NES. It was something like: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, Start, Start. If you look it up now, it’s slightly different, but that’s what I entered and it worked. I learned it from a kid in my class — he was a video-game expert. He’d read about video-games in magazines or something. He also helped me to find all the hidden stuff in the Legend of Zelda for NES.

In other words, I’m not a stranger to taking the “easy route”. I guess that’s why magic and wishing pique my interest. I’m a slave to efficiency — and what’s more efficient than cheat-codes, magic, wishes, etc.? I suppose I like the feeling of taking shortcuts because I love efficiency so much. In fact, the more effort I put into something, the less I appreciate it. The end-product seems too convoluted to be worth all the trouble. For me, simple is best.

But usually, I use cheat-codes when I literally couldn’t have done it any other way. I couldn’t have beaten Contra with a measly 3 lives, I’m not that good of a video-game player — I don’t care enough to dedicate the time nor are my reflexes fast enough. So boom!, there I am with all those extra-lives, reaching the end. From feeling frustrated at my inability, to complete domination of the game itself — how’s that for a self-esteem boost!?

Perhaps it’s part of my character, but I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself. Because I value simplicity and efficiency, the easier and quicker route feels correct to me. So if the game-of-life, for whatever reason, hands me millions of dollars — I’d say “oh, well it’s about time! But thanks, I appreciate this. I was struggling quite a bit with the gameplay, but this will provide the boost I need.” I’m not particularly good at games, but my persistence and willingness to utilize shortcuts typically pays off in the end.

P.S. I serve as a beacon of hope to pessimistic slackers ONLY. I am NOT a type-A hard-charging go-getter. I understand that some people really do get a sense of satisfaction from effort and “hard work” — and that’s great. But it’s also great that variety exists. There’s a path for everyone in this world and some of us have fun taking the accelerated routes.

Dueling Perspectives

You’ll notice that much of life as a human is just trying to “keep it together”: I wanna snap! No, don’t do it! Okay, I’ll try to remain calm. Ugh! I can’t do it! I’m gonna go nuts!! No, no, smooth and steady, maintain composure. Ahh I can’t take this!! Yet if all you’ve ever known was being human, shouldn’t “being human” come naturally? Should simple daily-life contain such struggle? Hmm….

Well, unless you weren’t always human. Or maybe you’re not “just” a human. I know when I play a video-game for instance, it’s often a struggle to get the little character to do what I want. No, turn up! UP! Gah! Dumb controller doesn’t respond to my lightening-quick reflexes! Again, life makes more sense when you view it in terms of a game-character and a game-player.

Obviously, controlling the character we play-as is part of the challenge itself. The player wants one thing, yet the character sometimes does another. It’s a prevalent source of frustration in much of game playing. But the player that enjoys himself the most, is the one that shrugs it off and plays wherever the ball lies — if it ends up in the rough, then so be it.

And we know we can influence our character. We can shut him right down and sabotage everything he wants to do in this world. Perhaps he wants to go out for a nice bike ride… NO, I’m not in the mood today, we might have to interact with other people. Or maybe he wants to rent a new movie… NO, are you crazy, we can’t afford that! If you were merely a human born of this world, why would you argue with yourself so often? Hmm….

In any video-game, success comes down to syncing with your onscreen character and aligning with the timing of the game. You can only jump when the rope swings close enough to grab it. Jump too late or too soon and you fall in the hole. Oftentimes gaming comes down to practicing again and again until you can finally meld with your onscreen character.

Characters, by their nature, are limited in their abilities. The limitations are what provide challenge and make the game fun. It’s not the character that needs to change, but the player. In other words, it’s not appropriate to argue with your character all the time. The better course of action is to go along for the ride and perform the activities he wants.

But what craps that up, is when the player is too lost in the game and gets in the way of his character — the player gets anxious and takes everything too seriously. Whereas when player and character are in-sync, there’s no frustration and no need to “keep it together”. Summary: Your goal as the player is to synchronize with your character — and when you do, your life will be a lot smoother.

Taking a Step Back

I think you’ll notice that the game-of-life pushes the notion of a concrete physical reality mixed with the concept of random chance. And the reason for that, is because those properties maximize the intensity and excitement we feel here. Everything you see and experience is “real”, born of cosmic fire, created through millions of years of evolution and chemical reaction. There’s an epic-ness to it all. “And what’s this!? Any part of it, including me and everyone I know, will be struck-down by random chance?! Gasp!! Oh no!!! So exciting!!!”

But of course, it’s just predetermined pixels designed to appear as if they’re there. It’s obvious when you stop and stare at the gameplay itself, but when you’re lost in your character it certainly feels like the real-deal. And like I mentioned at the start, the game will keep attempting to convince you that it’s real and random.

If you consider the story of the Pilgrims, it’s the story of some people that put the concept of a non-physical-world to the test. Without any special skill or ability, they boarded a boat and went over to the “new world” trusting in their faith of a benevolent world. God will protect and provide — and in many ways He did. They survived the daunting voyage, there was a native man that just happened to speak English who was willing to show them how to procure food, and there was an “empty” village just waiting for them. While it’s reported that half of them died during the first winter, it’s still a miraculous feat.

There are lots of stories that tell of the non-random, non-physical nature of the world — yet for some reason we tend to say it was “luck”, just random happenstance that could never happen again. Yet, unusual things happen all the time, there are “amazing”, seemingly impossible narratives that happen again and again. The very fact that life occurs in story-like patterns is a give-away in itself.

Lest you think I’m trying to spoil the fun and ruin the surprise, far from it. I’m only attempting to provide some perspective. Without their faith in a non-physical world, the Pilgrims never would’ve been so bold. Whereas if you believe yourself a simple creature struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, you’ll dig a hole and hide away your entire existence — it’s the logical thing to do. But, if you know beyond a doubt that the world wants you well, then you’ll step into the sun, soaking up its warm rays as you seek out the adventure of a lifetime.

So consider this: the world is not real OR random. It’s a game of pretend. You’re a character meant to play out your role. Whenever the intensity of immersion becomes too great, take a step back and realize that you’re not just a character, but also the player that watches, the one having the fun.