Fourth-Person Perspective

For research purposes I often play video-games. When given the option, I usually select a first-person perspective for piloting my avatar. It’s more immersive and I find it easier to control – plus the added intensity helps to hold my attention. I AM the character – doing what must be done. Whereas in third-person, I feel like I’m helpin’ the guy out – he’s the character, not me. But the downside of being in first-person is the intensity – if my character loses, I lose.

It got me thinking about a possible fourth-person perspective. I couldn’t find much written about the concept. One game, a few years ago, had the player make changes to an onscreen-character’s environment which influenced the actions the character took. And in writing, I heard the 4th-person perspective described as a collective viewpoint: “we” – personal and omniscient all in one.

I often switch up my meditation tactics. Recently, I noticed how hard it was to maintain a goalie-like reactive stance while meditating. Just waiting for thoughts to come made me a sitting duck – I was at the mercy of an onslaught of thought. Therefore, I actively pursued a “destination” in meditation. With my eyes closed, I intentionally stared at the mottled formlessness, the waves of hue and light, the pixels underlying all. I did so until I no longer had to fully focus my attention, I was there.

It worked in the sense that I felt like I reached a place of pure potential, dreamlike, where I left my body behind. You might say I attained a fourth-person perspective. I was beyond the intensity of “I”, beyond the demanding nature of “you”, and beyond the sympathetic viewpoint of “he”. Perhaps it was “we”. We are not just a body, a thinking mind, or even pure awareness – we’re that, plus whatever lies beyond – we’re also an influencer of what we experience.

Maybe the spiritual goal is to reach and sustain this fourth-person perspective. Get beyond the ego, beyond the avatar, beyond the narrative – encompassing all, yet limited by none. Think of a cake: a cake isn’t merely a collection of ingredients (which are measured and mixed into something far beyond what their individual nature suggest). A cake can have significance, representing much more than consumable calories. Perhaps the fourth-person perspective recognizes all this.

To exist in this perspective, is to be removed from the intensity, aware of the narrative but not lost in it, and free from the boundaries of imagined limitations. In the fourth-person perspective, of what importance or weight are those tiny thoughts originating from “I”? “I” is only a fraction of “we”. The process of babysitting thoughts and managing tantrums-of-the-mind loses significance when measured against this grander transcendent journey.

Forging the Mind

The external is a projection of the internal. Therefore, if things are unpleasant on the outside, we know our own undisciplined mind is to blame. We shouldn’t rush to solve an exterior circumstance, we should sit and calm the mind, fixing its focus. This concept is easier to grasp when existence is perceived as a dream – a distressed sleeper has agitated dreams.

Additionally, our own errant thoughts are by far the greatest source of abuse we experience on Earth. A cascade of criticism mixed with embarrassing memory topped with dour prognostication make for an unpleasant stew we swallow daily. Through the effort of meditation and applied mental discipline, these thoughts can be muted. Life simplifies when such swirling malevolence is rejected.

Ah, but a vacuum forms! Boredom rears its head around the corner – a condition that encourages escape. As the mind thirsts for thrills and stressors, a hobby beyond self-immolation must be found. The hobby of finding a hobby begins. Long has poisonous thought made the mind a toxic space – let meditation fill the gap, making an intentional void. Cleanse the clutter, allowing room for lighthearted delight.

Through silence, visit the realm of pure potential where anything can be anything. Come often. Memory is reinforced through practice – stop recalling and allow old images to fade away. Stop living within the imagination – reality is right now. Strive to achieve a well-disciplined mind, ceaselessly forge it into shape – incorporating only the finest thoughts you can find.

Going Home

Sitting down for meditation is like placing a bucket full of sloshing water on the floor and waiting until the ripples settle. In other words, you should expect some initial turbulence, some resistance to the calm. But after awhile the tiny waves diminish – unless disturbed by your own hand. Therefore, one must resist the temptation to stir the pot.

Don’t follow thoughts, keep focus on the breath, see the mottled formlessness within closed eyes. Remind yourself of the infinite absolute: “OM”. Say it silently as exhaling. Imagine you’re going home (‘ome), drifting through space, to the origin of all. Step back from physical existence, reset your perspective by visiting a realm of pure potential.

Meditation is the practice of mental discipline. When a thought remains in focus, remind yourself that no thought is more important than the practice of mental discipline – then unfocus from that thought. Something else to consider: meditation is a concentrated form of what should be occurring throughout the day. Actively apply the product of this practice while living within life’s physical form.

When practiced regularly, meditation should improve the everyday experience. It does so by increasing awareness of all those swirling thoughts within the mind. It’s these thoughts that cause so many problems, thus they must be pruned. Meditation enhances the ability to focus and unfocus attention on these thoughts – so when thoughts arise, they can be dismissed. With a clearer, more focused mind, life gets better.

Striving to Serenity

In order to successfully traverse life, it seems that one must strive to soften over time. Like a stone that’s weathered and smoothed by the elements, a person should likewise allow his rough spots to be ground-down by the buffeting circumstances of life.

When irritation strikes, you shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to cement your opposing position, you should drop the thought that’s triggered. In other words: that collection of contrarian opinions isn’t something you should maintain. They’re not “you”, they’re just a bunch of dumb ideas you collected. Situations that activate your sense-of-annoyance are helping you to notice these dumb ideas – your task is to dismiss them.

For example: “Ugh, cheesecake for dessert!? I hate cheesecake! Why can’t they just have cake-cake!!” This becomes: “Cheesecake? You little scamp! Cream-cheese in the form of a pie, masquerading as cake! Ha, you’re a silly one. But it’s great that people enjoy you. Well, I’m full from my entree anyway. I’ll be satisfied seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they consume you!”

Basically, life should be lived lightheartedly. The active practice of life consists of doing what you’re inspired to do – but in the calmest manner possible. As Jesus stated: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Some translations use the more familiar word “gentle” in place of “meek”).

Sources of irritation themselves aren’t supposed to be removed. These are simply signs alerting you to calm down. Obstacles aren’t the actual obstacle. Or more confusingly: the feeling that an obstacle is an obstacle is the obstacle you need to surmount. In other words, don’t seek to destroy annoyances, seek a state of non-annoyance (i.e. acceptance). Despite the raging inferno that surrounds, be okay with the unfolding events: “This is fine.”

The choice is this: fight a losing battle all the way to the end OR practice unconditional acceptance of everything you encounter. Think of it this way: you’re a block of stone being carved into a beautiful work-of-art by life’s circumstances. You can fight against the artist and refuse to be shaped into something nice – OR you can accept the hammer & chisel blows, allowing the process to happen, letting the rough stone fall-off, revealing the stately statue within.

Three Threads

The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 14) clearly establishes that one’s eternal essence is bound by certain forces that influence its earthly experience. Being born into this world, the spirit is entwined and anchored by these forces. It is the earth-dweller’s task to unbind its non-physical portion from these influences in order to rejoin the spiritual-whole from which it came. Failing to do so in one lifetime will simply result in another opportunity within another lifespan – and so on.

A question that arises is: why does a supreme-being confine a fraction of itself within an embodied-being and then expect that spiritual-portion to find its way back? In a sense, it’s an “Escape Room” scenario in which the spirit must collect clues and solve puzzles in order to find its way out. Additionally, the spirit must first discern that it’s trapped to begin with. Perhaps this entrapment is simply the byproduct of an overthinking celestial entity.

Whatever the reason, the spirit must untangle itself from the threads that bind it. How? By becoming smooth and friction-free. Imagine a rough non-slip surface that catches on everything it touches – it’s stuck. Now imagine a smooth surface that slides easily through life. By not allowing itself to become wrapped-up in the narrative, the spirit can glide through life and find its way back to the origin. Essentially, the conscious mind has to lighten-up and relax.

By perceiving life lightheartedly, one travels an enlightened path. Imagine the undisciplined mind as Velcro’s tiny hooks persistently grasping at every loop the world offers. Now imagine a disciplined mind as being sleek and hookless, no longer grabbing those loops. The loops are there, but the disciplined mind doesn’t keep getting stuck, it’s free of attachment. The world still turns, but its weight no longer rests on the spirit’s shoulder.

So the goal is this: to experience existence without getting upset. And the tools to do this are awareness, attitude, focus, and interpretation. Maintain awareness of attitude and focus. Actively improve attitude and shift focus to non-distressing topics. Seek and sustain an enjoyable interpretation of life. By engaging in this practice, the spirit can overcome its entanglement and return to a place of peace.

Theory of Existence

The primary objective of the perceptible world is to attract and hold the attention of inhabitants (i.e. to captivate its audience). It will do this even at the expense of personal comfort (i.e. expect to be thrilled more than soothed). As part of this, “surprise” is an inherent aspect of the narrative. Outcomes are purposefully uncertain in order to maximize an attention-grabbing effect (i.e. intermittent reward).

Life isn’t random, the path is tuned to the traits of the character. Additionally, the tone of the narrative is directly affected by the character’s focus and attitude. The prevailing theme of one’s life tends to adhere to wherever the attention is focused and the particular attitude that’s maintained. For example, a lighthearted outlook tends to encourage sitcom-style situations whereas a dour outlook tends to evoke sad or dramatic circumstances.

If an inhabitant doesn’t specifically select a topic through focus, life will select something stimulating. This automatic process can lead to undesirable circumstances. Therefore, it’s advisable to intentionally select a topic of interest to focus on, and to deliberately maintain a positive attitude. Letting the mind wander to “wherever” will tend to increase the intensity of one’s experience while decreasing contentment.

Achievement and attainment of physical-world objects and objectives represents a one-time finish-line, not an end to dissatisfaction itself. Winning one game simply leads to another, and so on. When participating in a game, winning a prize feels crucial, but this sensation quickly fades upon the game’s conclusion. Do participate in games believed to achieve a desired result – but appreciate the activity itself as an amusing way to spend time, and realize outcomes are uncertain by design and essentially unimportant.

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.

Xmas Msg

To me, the true meaning of Christmas is a lighthearted celebration of life. During a time of darkness and confusion, I believe Jesus came down to Earth to brighten things up. He turned water into wine, hung out with whoever, argued with austere authorities, and healed those in need. From the heavens, God saw the pain and misery that man put himself through and sent His only begotten son as a means to lighten the mood.

But of course man rejected Jesus’s message and sent his ass home the hard way. Jesus himself complained of man’s hardened heart and man’s inability to understand the message of peace and joy. But thankfully, God doesn’t give up so easily and we’re reminded of this message every year with a lighted tree pointing towards the heavens, encircled by gifts below — because that’s what life is, a gift from God.

It’s no coincidence that Santa looks like a fictionalized representation of God in heaven, an old man sitting atop a throne listening to Christmas wishes and fulfilling them with the help of his angelic elves and flying sleigh. Every year God provides a new opportunity for us to accept the simple premise that life is an experience that should evoke enjoyment in the living.

The world was never intended to be dark and dreary, only man’s negativity makes it so. Therefore, the true Christmas Miracle begins within, it comes from the acceptance and adoption of merriment wherever we go. With a “Merry Christmas!” and a “Happy Holidays!” we remind ourselves and each other that life is a party in which we’re all invited guests. And as guests, it is our sacred duty to participate and enjoy the festivities.

Patterns of Thought

Manage your thoughts, blah, blah, blah…. Yet the REAL question is this: why have unpleasant thoughts to begin with? How quickly a mood can sour when a dour thought comes to mind. If those thoughts simply never came, there’d be no need to manage them. So what’s the source, what’s going on here?

My current guess is as follows. The thoughts traveling through our thought-stream are based on patterns-of-thought we maintain in the mind. In other words, if I watch a scary movie before bed, I’ll likely have a nightmare that night. For example, if I read a lot about computer programming, my incoming thoughts will likely be related to programming.

Concentrate on sad themes and you’ll have sad thoughts. Focus on frustration and you’ll have frustrating thoughts. Delve into drama and you’ll have dramatic thoughts. Worry about whatever, and you’ll have an endless supply of worrisome thoughts. Therefore, bathe your mind in material that promotes the life you want to live.

Establish a better pattern through discipline. Discipline is the process of purposefully focusing your thoughts on a preselected target. And the way in which you direct your attention is by telling yourself a convincing and motivating story. You need a narrative that’s believable and fills you with enough energy to maintain itself.

For example, scaring yourself through constant worry works wonders. I could tell myself there are deadly germs everywhere and I’d die if I failed to wash my hands. Boom! Now I’m motivated to wash my hands all day. But scaring yourself into action is a low-quality method of motivation:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

If you want high-quality thoughts coming in, you have to bathe yourself in high-quality material. If you want a delightful life, then the books you read, the movies you watch, the shows you stream, and even the thoughts you stop to ponder, all have to be in the form of something you find delightful. You can’t watch disturbing shows or contemplate dour ideas and expect your incoming thoughts to be pleasant.

You must create and maintain patterns that paint images of success and enjoyment. Your job is to craft a story that fills your thoughts with hopefulness and delight on a consistent basis. Your life will reflect the consistency of the pattern you establish: wandering thoughts create a meandering life that feels like a rollercoaster. Use discipline to set a steady course.

Wrong View

What if I told you the world isn’t what you think it is? What if I said it’s NOT actually a torture-chamber designed to inflict maximum pain and suffering? Well if you’re anything like me, you’d say: “You idiot! I can see with my own eyes that this world is a hellscape in which strife and misery are rampant! You’re either a fool or you’re trying to lure me into a false sense of security! Either way, I have no time for this nonsense!”

Fair enough. But what if I told you that the unpleasantness you’re experiencing is simply a misinterpretation on your part? You focused on one tiny aspect while completely missing the larger world you’re within. For example, imagine you entered an immersive game in which you were surrounded by dirt — it’s dark and dank and the sounds you hear are low and ominous. You feel frightened so you stay put, not sure what else to do. You remain that way for the entirety of the game.

Upon exiting, you say to the game’s developer: “Wow, that sucked! What a crap game.” And the developer replies: “Oh that’s odd, it was supposed to be really fun. Hm. Well what’d you think about the skies and the oceans and the llamas? How about the mountains? Weren’t they majestic at least?” Confused, you say: “What are you talking about?! It was dark dirt all around!” The developer replies: “Oh, you were supposed to dig through that, like a growing plant emerging from the soil. Beyond the dirt was an expansive world filled with every imaginable delight.”

In other words, you messed up. Whoopsies. Yes, you are currently surrounded by muck and mire, but it’s YOU who is torturing yourself. YOU simply need to stop scaring yourself. Existence is more dreamlike than you think: the way in which you experience this world correlates directly with your thoughts. In other words, a bad attitude makes everything seem unpleasant whereas a positive attitude makes everything seem great. External circumstances are the RESULT of your attitude, they are NOT the cause. You had that reversed.

You believe that horrible things happen which then cause you to have a miserable time. In other words: bad things first, feeling bad second. No. In actuality, you felt bad, and that turbulence created a storm of horrible happenings. You were in a bad mood and told yourself a sad story. Everything around you became dark and grey and unpleasant to be around. THAT is what’s happening here.

To get out from the muck and mire you must STOP telling yourself terrible tales of gloom & doom. That’s IT! Suddenly you’ll spring forth from the mud, the sun emerging overhead, a resplendent glow lighting up the land, and you’ll begin to experience the delightfulness that surrounds. You’ll be glad to be within such a world, ever grateful for the enjoyment you’re experiencing. THAT is the right view.