Lowest Point

Even if everything in your life improves, there will still be a “worst thing ever”. In other words, everything’s relative and there’s always a lowest point. For example, if the worst thing I dealt with was a constant fear of physical violence, and I eventually overcome it, I’ll then deal with anxiety from financial instability. If I overcome THAT, I’ll be worrying about the stability of my long-term romantic relationship. And if I eventually stop worrying about THAT, my worst day is having a headache that won’t go away. No matter what, there will ALWAYS be something to ruin your day.

So what? It means that you can’t achieve contentment through external means. It’s like that saying: wherever you go, there you are. If you simply change your surroundings, you’ll just judge your new environment by your old standards and place old labels on new things. Instead, you have to stop your tendency to criticize, stop applying those dumb labels. EVERYTHING should be 5 outta 5. Reset your rating-scale. You’re now having a full five-star experience! Whoa! Nice!

Everything in your reach is now the BEST. If you used to lie to yourself all the time and claim everything was the worst, why is this any different? Well, it’s not! Except that evaluating at the high-end makes you feel much better than evaluating at the low-end. If you claim that there’s always room for improvement, then you’ll never have a top-tier time — you’ll always feel slightly cheated and a little lacking. Whereas if you call something the best thing ever, you’re suddenly transported to a high-end experience that can’t be topped. Except that it IS exceeded by the very next thing! WOW!!

Wait, is this a joke!? No! The joke is that you’d relentlessly sabotage your experience on Earth by constantly criticizing everything while worrying about unpleasant ideas that you focus on in your mind. That’s a dumb joke. So through the power of mental discipline, flip the script and start thinking of your experiences and surroundings as an awesome adventure through wonderland. It’s madcap crazy! It’s exciting! Use an ounce of creativity to find your way there, paint a rose-colored hue on everything you encounter. Make this your new routine and see if you’re not suddenly living the best life ever.

Enjoying Inefficiency

I could describe the quest for happiness as a search for “enjoyable inefficiency”. The most efficient life is to die as soon as possible. Therefore, our goal is to live an inefficient life. But to last for a long time, we need to find a way to enjoy ourselves — or else we’ll quit from boredom. I happen to love efficiency, so this concept has been a lifelong struggle to understand. “What’s the quickest method that requires the least effort?” That’s the universal question I apply to everything.

Now, I must change it to: “What’s the slowest method that evokes the most enjoyment?”. Instead of wolfing down a meal, it’s about savoring the deliciousness of every bite. Instead of showering as quickly as possible, it’s about the sensation of warm trickling water and the formation of suds on the skin that flow down and around the drain. Instead of a quick breath in and out, it’s about deep lingering inhalation that calms the mind. Instead of an exchange of data, a conversation is a dance performed with words.

Efficiency simply gets you nowhere fast. Within this world, there’s no finish-line to rush to. The application of speed simply ups the intensity but moves you no closer to a desirable outcome. NOT getting to a destination IS the outcome you really want. Every objective achieved simply starts a new mini-game with a new objective. What you really want to find, is the level of inefficiency that induces the most fun. Do you want to raise your own sheep, sheer your own fleece, spin your own yarn? There is some state of wasted-time that will maximize your amusement — experiment until you find it.

“What about laziness and procrastination? Are you saying we should simply become slackers!?” No, inactivity leads to boredom — inertia is not our goal — we MUST constantly remain in motion. But the motion we maintain should be sufficiently slow enough to fill our time on Earth. You must find the pace that suits your taste. If you’re currently dissatisfied, guess what? You haven’t found it yet. Most likely, you’re striving for too much efficiency — add some indirectness into the mix. Find a roundabout way of doing things while avoiding straight paths. It is within the inefficiencies of life that we find satisfaction.

Tool Time

I absolutely love tools. LOVE. Throughout the years I never realized how much I adored them. The problem was: I never had much practical application for them. And relatedly, I wasn’t sure which particular tools I prefered. I would stare at tools and wander through tool aisles and wish to have a use for them — but it mostly stopped there. Yes I’ve collected various tools throughout the years, but they never saw heavy use.

A couple of times I tried to dedicate myself to small-scale carpentry projects but it didn’t last. All that measuring, sawing, and drilling got to be a bit much. The precision was a little too exacting. Measure-twice cut-once or the puzzle won’t fit together. I think my detour into computer-programming was a semi-related tool path. But again, I think the need for precision got to me. I prefer a craft that’s more forgiving apparently, something with a higher tolerance for sloppiness.

And so for the past few months I’ve been engaged in whittling or wood-carving or small-scale woodworking — whatever you want to call it. Things like pendants, spoons, rings, whistles, figurines, spinning-tops, cup-and-ball toys — just little things that don’t require exactness or too much time to complete. I’ve been having a great experience using tools and finding new ones to add to my collection.

In a sense, I really did have to find out who I was. I had to enter life’s buffet and sample the selections until I found items I enjoyed. I also needed to delve deeply into the esoteric details. I knew I liked tools for example, but socket-wrenches aren’t my thing, neither are table-saws. I like pull-saws, woodcarving knives, small gouges, and pin-vise drills. But who knew!? You can’t just guess at something so specific, you gotta try things out and see what you like apparently.

Instead of an office, now I want to create a small shop in which all my woodworking dreams come true. My computer desk has been turned into a workbench and I sit next to a stack of drawers filled with tiny tools. In one sense, I’m a tool lover that expresses that love through casual woodworking — what I create isn’t as important as acquiring more tools. I’m always on the lookout for inefficiencies that can be improved by a new tool. And I like it that way, even upgrading older tools is a great option.

So that’s where I’m at right now: attempting to appreciate and engage with something I enjoy (tools). My previous life-strategy was to complain about everything I didn’t like — that turned out to be an unpleasant experience. Oh well, you live you learn.

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!

Imagination Station

Imagine a world in which everything is awesome — then pretty soon, everything becomes as awesome as you imagined. That’s the basis of the book The Law of Attraction (2006) by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I spent some time watching related videos and then read the book. I’ve been delving into the premise of thought being the ultimate controller of our experience on Earth.

Plenty of sources claim this to be the case, I just never believed them. So either these people are crackpots and liars or I’m an idiot for not grasping the fundamental nature of reality. Being that I’m as old as I am and I’ve been able to accomplish so little, I’m starting to believe that I must be a moron. I clearly don’t understand how the world works nor how to get things done. Therefore, I’m trying a new-to-me approach i.e. The Law of Attraction.

In a nutshell, this is my new belief-system: what’s happening right now, is a culmination of the thoughts I’ve been focusing-on and my prevalent attitude. If bad things are happening, it means I’ve been entertaining bad thoughts and maintaining a bad attitude. If it makes me feel bad, I shouldn’t focus on the scene I’m experiencing, because doing so will only create more of the same. I should find something enjoyable and focus on THAT. With a positive focus, I’ll generate new scenes filled with delight, replacing the dour ones.

Because of my belief in Simulation Theory, this perspective makes perfect sense to me. Since there’s no keyboard or game-controller, the controls for this game are our thoughts. We think, then those scenes we imagine render before us. A pretty simple and straightforward concept actually. Things get complicated when we think two opposing thoughts obviously — which unfortunately happens a lot.

Looking back through this blog, I can see that I’ve had these types of ideas before — but I haven’t been able to completely adopt them and fully let go of my previous belief-system. So this particular book and system-of-thought are just more tools and reminders to help me along my way of ultimately ridding myself of a tendency towards negativity.

Upcoming 2020

It’s not about luck or external alignment, a happy new year begins within. Can I maintain my focus on that which is delightful and OFF that which is dour? THAT is the ONLY question that determines the happiness of this upcoming year. The game to be played is this: to keep my attitude and attention on a lighthearted path — to laugh instead of wince.

And so this year I will maintain focus. Watching for when my mind drifts towards the unpleasant, directing it back to what’s pleasing. As I look out the window this morning and experience the dawning of a new day, seeing darkness gradually become light, I witness golden hues atop the trees against a light-blue sky.

In contrast, I also notice a mild headache, a slight pain — perhaps I should focus on that instead? But why would I follow the invitation of pain, a sensation that captivates my attention by making me believe that the body is a mechanical structure subject to wear & tear. By playing that stupid game, I win the prize of discomfort.

Pain is an antidote for boredom — that’s the trade-off. Even though it’s mild, I’m transfixed by the sensation. It provides an activity to pursue: dissipate the pain. Poke it, attempt to ignore it, try and talk myself out of it, take some medicine. Hm, I’m already failing at my new year’s focusing. Ha. Not so easy is it?

So that’s my starting point. Out-gunned by years of practice in pessimism. A negative attitude so honed, it draws blood instantly. Wretched thoughts will come, hordes of them, but I will not succumb. This is the apocalyptic battle between good and evil that determines the fate of the world I live within.

And all it takes is an easy choice: reject the negativity and embrace the lighthearted life. Heaven is at hand, but to the undisciplined mind it becomes hell. A disciplined mind is one that is supervised and steered, ever kept on the merry path. With a firm resolve, I grab the reins. “Onward! To VICTORY!!”

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.

Complicated Belief

It seems to me, that a “belief in simplicity” is the primary component when it comes to effectively doing something. If you examine “talent” for instance, it’s the ability to perform a function without complication. If you have a talent for memorization, you simply recall previous facts — there aren’t any complex routines-of-memorization to perform, the facts just remain in your mind.

Whereas if you believe something is complicated, you’ll have trouble doing it. For example, if you’ve never ridden a bicycle and wonder how the heck you can manage to keep a two-wheeled vehicle stabilized while simultaneously peddling and steering, then you’re probably going to fall a few times if you try it. But eventually, as you get comfortable with the concept, biking becomes a piece of cake. It’ll go from seemingly complex, to effortlessly simple in just a moment.

What unlocks an ability, is not learning or even practice, but the acceptance of a belief that an ability is not complex — it’s simple instead. Again, “talent” is whatever we see as easy and uncomplicated. For example, my friend is a talented cook that can mix and match ingredients at-will, devising flavors that please the palate — to her, cooking is easy. Whereas I see all those ingredients, their various amounts and mixtures, their commingling flavors, and the assorted heating elements involved — and I see complexity. As a result, I’m not a good cook.

Take school for instance, its primary purpose is to take you-the-student through a ritual-of-schoolwork in order to convince you that you’ve learned something. And at the end, you’re given a certificate to further prove to you that knowledge has been imparted. But if you examine the curriculum involved, it’s woefully incomplete and teaches little of importance — and the students barely retain even that.

This is not a condemnation of the education system by the way. I’m saying the process of “learning” simply doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you’re convinced of the simplicity of the subject-matter. If you believe in the ritual of education and accept your status as graduate, then you can move into a professional field that you no longer believe to be complex.

The question then becomes, can we merely turn-on talent by convincing ourselves that the activity-in-question is not as complicated as we thought — that the activity is actually simple istead? “Beginner’s luck” is a thing because the beginner simply doesn’t know better — he assumes that a particular activity is easy. But if self-doubt finally convinces him of an activity’s complexity, he’ll lose his ability.

We don’t think about what we’re doing while doing something well — we just do it. Autopilot takes over as our consciousness sits back to watch the show. But if we consciously believe an activity to be too complex for autopilot to handle, and our consciousness attempts to perform it manually, the outcome is a mess. Whereas whenever consciousness is comfortable with an activity, it sits back and allows autopilot to perform unencumbered, as it should.

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.

Stupid Games

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

How do you know if you’re playing a stupid game? By the potential prize you’d win. If it’s not a prize you want, don’t play it. For example, I could irritate my friend by saying a bunch of stupid stuff until she gets annoyed. On the one hand: I’d get some attention, alleviate some boredom, and feel the power of instigating a reaction. On the other hand, she might retaliate in some way or perhaps my tirade would damage our relationship. So based on the potential prizes, it certainly sounds like a stupid game.

Or how about the game of imagining the worst possible outcomes? On one hand: it alleviates some boredom and gets the anxiety juices flowing — I really feel alive and in danger — ooh so exciting! On the other hand, I don’t handle the stress of it very well and it tends to sour my mood and results in an extended period of unpleasantness. So based on the potential prizes, it sounds like a stupid game.

How about the game of mocking everything? On the one hand: I laugh at how foolish everything is, which provides me with a feeling of superiority, and it serves as an excuse for not engaging with life. On the other hand, there’s nothing to do since everything’s “lame” and “not worth the effort”, which fosters a general mood of “meh” and “who cares”. Overall it leads to even more boredom, so again, it sounds like a stupid game to play.

And what about the game of frustration? On the one hand: all that anger is energizing, it’s even intoxicating as it takes control — all of a sudden I’m on a rollercoaster and who knows what’ll happen next! On the other hand, the prize is a treasure-chest of discomfort and a wake of destruction. Who wants to clean up after that mess? Hm, sounds like a stupid game to play.

Of course there’s the game of masochism as well. On the one hand: I feel the pain and persecution it summons forth, transforming me into a virtuous victim. I’m tossed about in the turbulence of life — poor me at the mercy of a cruel world, struggling against the current. Now that’s exhilarating!!! You have my attention and I’m fully engaged! On the other hand, pain is pretty unpleasant — it’s a bad way to spend the day. Yeah, that’s a stupid game.

It seems like I’ve been playing a LOT of stupid games for the past few decades. And based on the prizes that were offered, it seems like I got what I deserved. Apparently I didn’t think it through. It’s like showing up at a contest that’s offering dick-kicks as first prize, then feeling shocked and upset when you end up winning that kick to the groin. The simple message is this: play games that offer GOOD prizes.