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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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.

Magical Happenings

An excerpt from the Manual of Magic.

Magic, is the conjuring of circumstances without a perceptible progression. In other words: now you don’t see it, now you do.

Whereas perceptible progression might be like cooking a fried egg: you place a pan down on the stove, turn it on, feel it getting gradually warmer, crack an egg into the pan, watch it solidify due to heat, flip it and see that both sides toasted up, move it to a plate and voila!, it was an obvious and observable series of events.

Magic on the other hand, would be like having an empty plate, waving a wand over it, and seeing a nicely fried egg appear in its place. Yet THIS is actually closer to what I experience on Earth rather than a systematic approach. I know what you’re thinking: “Rich, you’re just a pampered buffoon that is so ignorant and so incapable, that others must continually make up for your shortcomings!”

Well however you want to explain it, I experience magic. When I’m hungry, I walk into a room where there’s warm delicious food just waiting for my consumption. I don’t know the specifics of how it got there and there’s no way I could reproduce it myself — it’s a work of art. While I could prepare a basic fried egg, this spread is way more advanced than that.

Or for Christmas, when I received an Apple Watch. I went over to Amazon, saw the low price of a Series 3, tapped to purchase, and now it’s on my wrist. How did all that happen? Nothing became something — right before my eyes. And if you try to think of every step that went into the production of an Apple Watch, it would be fantastically complicated, a procedure that I most certainly could NOT reproduce myself — so at least from my perspective, it’s magic.

If you took a thousand people, they still couldn’t make an Apple Watch from scratch — just the mining process alone would be enough to put the task out of reach. It makes me think of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And it’s true, an iPad, the Internet, my Google Home device that I talk to — I don’t know how any of that stuff functions, and it literally took a global effort to create them. Five-thousand random people left on a deserted island couldn’t replicate most of our technology.

My point is this: we live in a world in which I can summon my desires into existence. Something’s not there, now it is. That’s magic folks. There is no perceptible progression. I don’t see the mining process, the refinement, the designing, the engineering, the marketing, the shipping — all that effort happens behind the scenes and no random-joe can replicate it. All I know is that I wave my hand above a glowing screen, an effortless action — and voila, my wish is granted.

Behind the Curtain

If you analyze anything long enough, it’ll stop making sense. Take politics for instance, a bunch of people arguing is somehow considered to be “running the country” — and it’s funny how they always seem to enrich themselves in the process. Or take schooling, what the heck are kids supposed to be learning? I know a lot of people that never payed attention in class and they lived rich fulfilling lives — school-lessons never played a part.

So what’s going on here? Obviously, life is a fictional affair. All those “institutions” are superficial structures not meant to be examined. It’s like the set of a Hollywood movie — if you step through the door there’s nothing there but unfinished space. That shouldn’t surprise you of course, because you’ve always known that something isn’t quite right — you just weren’t sure what it was.

And it’s true, this world is a mirage, a mere charade pretending to be something solid. But that shouldn’t unsettle you, in fact you should be impressed and appreciative. Someone went to all this trouble to make you believe that you were in a “real” physical world. A Hollywood set doesn’t just randomly appear by accident. Structures need to be designed and built (albeit haphazardly), and the underlying story must be written.

Well, you’re in that story. Neat huh? Imagine a ride at Disney World, like Pirates of the Caribbean — it’s an immersive experience in which you’re a fly-on-the-wall watching all that pirate stuff happen. You’re supposed to keep your eyes on the pirates of course — but what happens if you start staring at the black ceiling tiles or notice the EXIT signs? You lose the sense of immersion, that’s what. Put your eyes back on the pirates. Oh look, there’s Captain Jack Sparrow!

In other words, take this world for what it is, and don’t over-examine it. Otherwise, that’s a great way to make it seem lame. You don’t attend a stage-play only to stare at a missed button on the actor’s shirt — you’re supposed to pay attention to the story. Likewise, if you’re not enjoying this world, it means you’ve been focusing on minutia that doesn’t matter. You have to zoom-out a bit and take-in the broad big-picture stuff. Your character is on a path and you’re there to experience the story arc.

Life isn’t hard — being an undisciplined audience member just makes it seem that way. It’s like you’re standing up in the ride-car and taking flash-photography the entire time. Remain seated and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. No one makes such an awe-inspiring spectacle of sight and sound just to torture and punish participants — this world you’re experiencing is for your enjoyment. Trust in it.

Batch of Roles

From my perspective, individuals are hard-wired to be something in particular straight out the gate. People are in no way “tabula-rasa” i.e. empty slates at birth. Everyone seems to have a drive within them to do something specific. And conveniently, the roles we pursue are evenly distributed enough that we find ourselves within a decently-functioning interconnected system of activity. It seems to me that these separate roles coordinate too well to be random-chance.

I would speculate that a central coordinating mechanism exists beyond the visible world. We all have certain characteristics and special abilities suited for some roles but not for others. And from what I’ve observed, you can’t teach people. Either they can do something or they can’t. If it looks like people are being taught, it’s simply that individuals gravitate toward what they’re good at — that’s it. If teaching was an actual functioning mechanism, you could teach anyone to do anything — but you can’t.

For instance, throughout my many years here, I’ve practiced playing musical instruments and I’ve tried cooking delicious meals. Ultimately I’m not good at either activity. And my friend, who’s a natural artist can whip-up a world-class meal without breaking a sweat and she can play an instrument or sing as if it’s second nature. If you simply watch children growing up, you can see how proficiently they perform certain activities that they’ve never been trained to do — it’s just part of their character.

So I think it’s true when you hear: you have to discover who you are. What role have you come here to play? What are your characteristics? What’s your dossier list as your strengths and weaknesses? But you can’t figure it out by logic, you have to feel your way there. You have to sample the selection and see what suits your palate. And this part you play is not a limitation by the way, it’s you being who you were meant to be — it’s your role, your pathway to fulfillment.

Political Debate

I’ve often watched people bicker back and forth about political systems and perspectives. It appears as if they’re attempting to offer some sort of “solution” to the problems facing society today. But by the fact that they never attempt to reach a consensus, we can conclude that they argue simply for the sake of it. They’re pigs rolling in mud, they don’t want to clean up the filth, they in fact love it.

Nothing’s wrong with a pointless argument as long as participants are enjoying the match. It’s like debating whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better — there’s no real answer. As long as you’re having fun discussing whether hand-phasers are a superior weapon to lightsabers, then that’s fine. But if such speculation infuriates you, then it’s a practice you should avoid.

Additionally, the problems of the world keep perpetuating without end. There’s ALWAYS a problem. Therefore, we can readily deduce that there exists a chaotic core to existence. This world ceaselessly churns out a constant stream of hurdles for us to jump over. After all, every game needs obstacles, something to overcome.

Therefore, political debate is futile. It’s sparring with words, a jabbering contest, it solves nothing. Plus there’s an endless stream of problems plaguing the world, plugging one hole only opens up two more. So repeat after me: political debate does not solve problems, it’s simply people arguing for sport.

Why am I saying this? Once in awhile I get caught up in the political stuff and start taking it too seriously, so I’m reminding myself to calm down. There’s no doubt I find some aspects fun, but too much junk food isn’t good for you. And politics is junk food through and through. People that truly want to help others don’t incessantly deliberate, they actually get out there and do it.

Ho No

“So Matt, what would you like for Christmas this year?”
“Nothing.”
“Matt, you’re a ten-year-old boy, you have to want something!”
“It’s a Christian holiday and I’m an atheist.”
“What?! Well then what are you going to open on Christmas morning?”
“I’ll be live-streaming all day.”

That’s an excerpt from an actual conversation my mother had with one of her grandsons. When I was but a boy, I didn’t relate to the Christian aspects of X-Mas either — but Santa and presents sure made a whole lotta sense.

Frankly, I blame the lack of television for this kind of staunch anti-X-Mas stance. When I was young, we were forced to choose from a total of THREE television channels every night. Come holiday time, at least one of those channels was showing a Christmas-themed special in which it wasn’t too late to find out the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas Miracles were around every corner. Nowadays kids don’t even watch TV. Instead of the picture-tube, they’re glued to the YouTube.

And have you even tried shopping for kids today? When I was young, there were large toy-stores in every mall — EVERY aisle was filled with goodies. They’re gone. You have a few aisles in Target or Walmart now. What can a child reasonably put on his Christmas List this year? What? A bike? Scooter? Legos? Classic board games? Action-figures? Remote-control-vehicle? Xbox? TV? iPad/iPhone? Toy robot? Gift-cards? Movie-streaming/gaming-subscription service? Hmm never-mind.

But it’s like they don’t even care. They’re not inundated with commercial after commercial for hours everyday after school like I was when I was a kid. Frankly, most of the shows I watched were 22-minute long ads anyway (Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man). I knew all the latest toys and NEEDED every single one of them because all those ads convinced me. The same with cereal. I wanted every sugar-laden box they sold in the cereal-aisle and I made sure my mom knew it! But kids today? Psh, not even a peep, they don’t even want to go down and check out all the cool characters on the boxes — I always went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

I don’t know what to say, I guess it’s a rudderless generation — simply lost without the guiding hand of television. Every day and night I knelt before its glow and received without question the words it spoke. And I turned out fine. Well, I mean there was the anxiety, depression, sugar-addiction… whatever! It wasn’t TV’s fault, heck they had those World Wars before TV ever became popular. In conclusion, it’s never too late to learn the true meaning of Christmas: rampant unapologetic commercialism ushered in by a jolly old elf. Kids today need to get their act together and get their butts in front of the TV.