Dreamlike Days

Every day is a brand new day.
Imagination paints in the details.
Focusing on a particular fills in its blanks.

Continuity comes from chosen themes.

Ignore vague remembrances,
develop a preferred theme,
focus on details that delight.

Make each day the one you want.
Inspiration suggests a course,
but customize the path to please the palate.

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I Choose Wood

In the Ghostbusters (1984) movie, the boys are told by Gozer the Gozerian to choose the form of the destructor. Ray accidentally thought of the “Stay Puft Marshmallow man” and there it appeared, a giant angry campfire treat. The boys were then challenged by the manifestation of their thoughts.

I wonder whether our own challenges in life come from the topics we focus on. For instance, if we concentrate on relationship drama, medical drama, legal drama, career drama, financial drama, etc. — will we manifest related obstacles into our life? If I think of nothing but ailments, will I receive the very thing I think about?

If this is true, then we must focus on the form in which we want our challenges to take. And so for this little experiment, I choose woodworking. I believe I can handle woodworking drama. Thus, anytime my focus drifts, I must purposefully shift it back to woodworking until that becomes the source of all obstacles.

In other words, “Is that a woodworking problem? No? Then it’s not my problem.” For the time being, I’m all about tools and fasteners, boards and dowels, hardwoods and softwoods, alignments and measurements — and that’s it. This is the problem I’m willing to have. Oh and Jesus was a carpenter by the way.

Beaten Down

When are we the happiest while playing a game? During our triumphant victory. In other words, it’s when we’ve been beaten down to the point of almost losing, then the tables turn and we march on in as a conquering hero. The greatest elation we feel in games or stories is when the character we identify as beats the odds and wins.

Therefore, if life is a simulation, then it would purposefully design for this condition to be a common scenario. And in fact the most lauded contests we witness always portray this underlying concept, whether it be sports, games, movies, politics, social justice, war, or medical issues — people are always struggling to overcome.

The world is a triumph generator. But for triumph to occur, there must be obstacles and oppression — and we can readily see this to be true. And we want this to be the case, we don’t want to eliminate obstacles or oppression, we want to be beaten down by them to the point of feeling crushed so that we can eventually feel the joy and glory of overcoming them.

As these are manufactured scenarios, the outcome is rigged. Yet so immersive are these scenes, we often surrender to the hardship. We figure we’ve lost, there’s no hope, we’re losers meant to lose, mere cannon fodder for the true victors. Nay, for it is always darkest before the dawn. When we hold onto hope through that lowest point, the sun rises, bursting through with its resplendent light.

We win.

Sweet Release

There’s a role we’re assigned to play and we know this because we each have preset preferences guiding our path. Our job is to be this character, following his inclinations at each fork. Where we get tripped up, is when we don’t trust the script and we’re too afraid to follow the prescribed path.

When we lack trust, we get anxious, we get irritable, we freeze, and sometimes we lash out from feeling cornered. We also become terribly selfish, grabbing and hoarding whatever we can for fear of losing it. Yet this nervous beast is not our authentic self, it’s merely the result of resisting our preferences.

Imagine needing to use the toilet really badly, but you hold it in. You’re obviously going to have an uncomfortable time at whatever event you’re attending. You’ll be preoccupied with pee or poop, fecally fixated, everything underlined with urine. But the moment you obtain sweet release upon that golden throne, you’re okay, it’s back to the buffet.

So in life, we must release the pent-up fear we’re harboring. We must respect and align with the path before us. To do this, we must develop a belief system that supports fearlessness. We must believe that life has our best interests at heart. We must reject any idea of randomness, replacing it with a pattern of positivity. We must see life as a party in which we’re all honored guests.

Humbling Realization

Existence is not what I thought it was. I was under the impression that I was my body, an animal crawling on a big rock hurtling around a fireball, a hapless victim of random chance. Oops. I’m not entirely sure why I developed that assumption nor why I believed in its truth for several decades. Having thought of myself as smart and knowledgeable, I suppose it’s a humbling experience to understand how wrong I was.

Though in my defense, I think it’s a very easy assumption to make. Even now, when the flickering pixels are patently obvious, I still get lost to the scenes playing out before me. It’s literally effortless to fall back into the assumption that I’m a physical body, slave to its ways. Although, one could say this constant pull, this head-turning spectacle, is a clear indication of life’s fictional nature — and that’s true, but it took me a lot of practice to maintain the external awareness necessary to realize that.

Every second of the day it seems, we’re pulled down some path. Flashing lights serve to captivate. Whether it’s the aches and pains we imagine, the relationship-drama we find ourselves mixed-up in, the political farce in the news, the lemonade-stand-like game of commerce, the gossip we gab about, the management of fluctuating budgets, the fashion and beauty we obsess on, or the frights we incessantly fantasize about — we’re basically forced to focus on something.

But I don’t believe this is a nefarious conspiracy to steal our attention. No, I think it shows that the body is merely a vehicle for entertainment, and that this world is an amusement park of sorts. And the best part, is that we get to choose what we focus on. Unfortunately, many of us start off on the wrong foot — we get too wrapped up in the “reality” of the situation, believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s all actually happening. So of course we’re scared to death of life’s turbulence.

We believe we’re nothing but a leaf floating in a violently rushing river ready to sink at any minute. But as it turns out, we’re not. I was under the impression that it was my skill and cunning keeping me alive all these years. But as it turns out, it wasn’t. I’m actually quite incapable of taking care of myself, my body is basically self-sustaining. I was simply imagining it was weak and fragile. Whoops. As it turns out, we’re leisurely drifting down the shallows, and at any time we need only stand to see this for ourselves.

Because of my early confusion, I frequently stand, still afraid to carelessly float. It’s like sleeping with the lights on. But that’s fine, eventually the lights go off after we cease to maintain the bogeyman in our minds. I don’t feel dumb or immature because of these training-wheels, I think the mystery of figuring out life is just part of the fun. Some people spend hours dribbling a ball all day, I spend hours reminding myself not to be an anxiety-ridden pessimist. Same-same — we’re all just fumbling around in the game of life.

Piece of Cake

I’ve been playing Minecraft off-and-on for over a year-and-a-half now. Yet only very recently was I able to complete a solo survival challenge, a cake-making challenge I set for myself. I entered a new world at the normal difficulty level on survival mode — and my goal was to make a cake without dying. A cake requires wheat, sugar, eggs, milk, and iron to make the milk buckets.

The toughest part was the fear. I had to stay alive while collecting all the ingredients. Yet funny enough, by the end of the challenge I didn’t even have a single run-in with a dangerous mob. I never saw a creeper, skeleton, Enderman, or witch. I heard a few zombies banging on my door at night but they were burnt by sunup. I was so cautious in fact, that I mined enough iron to create a full set of armor to ensure I’d survive any attacks. But I never needed the protection nor my iron sword.

I noticed too, the minuscule amount of space this world consumed compared to my creative worlds — it was tiny because I barely ventured beyond my hollowed-out cave in the side of a mountain. If I was a lazy programmer-of-life, the most efficient thing I could do, would be to scare my player into remaining inside all the time. Just bang on his door a few times and watch him scurry into a corner to sit with his anxiousness all day, mind racing, thinking about imagined dangers lurking everywhere.

Why bother designing a giant interactive world when I can simply keep the player excited and stationary through fright. But relying solely on scare-tactics is a cheap ploy for inducing excitement. But Minecraft isn’t that cheap thankfully, it actually does provide a giant interactive world for players to explore — as long as they don’t let fear get the best of them. I bet the real world is similar in that regard, although I wouldn’t know, I spend most of my time in a little cave.

Middle Path

What are we looking for when we begin an activity? We’re looking to get lost in the activity. We’re looking to become so captivated that we forget everything but the task at hand — and so focused that we block out everything except what’s in front of us. That’s pretty much true with existence too. Life ensnares our attention to keep us constantly engaged. And if we step back a bit we can recognize the artificial process powering the spectacle — we can see there’s an underlying narrative to life.

Ordinarily we don’t need to think about the mechanics of a game, we just play it. But what happens when we become too overwhelmed by the intensity of a game, when we take it too seriously? Typically, we’ll fail to enjoy ourselves. The game will become a burden, perhaps even a torturous experience. At that point we could rage-quit, or we could step back a bit, perhaps take some time to understand the fundamentals of the game better and most importantly take a more lighthearted approach.

This is where the path to enlightenment comes in. It’s not some beam that sucks us up into the heavens upon attainment, it’s simply the way in which we learn to better engage with existence. When we develop problems with life itself, it shows we’re taking things much too seriously — we’re spoiling our own gameplay. Enlightenment is what allows us to reset ourselves to the middle, where life is not too somber or too silly (a game played too frivolously is no fun either).

Enlightenment alters our perspective of the world, allowing us to understand the game-like nature of it all. Fears and frustrations melt away as we see the fiction before us. And we like games and stories of all sorts, so no fun is lost along the way — only enhanced. There’s no pressure to perform anymore, the past doesn’t matter, there’s nothing in the future to lose, and we realize that the point of every game is simply the enjoyment we receive from engaging.