Small Scale

Sometimes I play video-games. Oftentimes it’s for research purposes. If life is a simulation, a simpler and smaller-scale implementation of it can aid in understanding the larger game I find myself within. The way in which I interact with games can provide clues as to what I’m doing wrong in regular life.

For example, I notice that I’m often fighting with the controls. I’m often blaming them for my poor performance. Ah, these friggin buttons! Gah, this touch-screen is slowing me down! If only I had better tools to work with!! Yet, it’s the same interface everyone else is using — but for some reason I’m having a major problem with it.

That’s an issue because I focus on the controls as the sole source of my problem. Rather than adapting to them and working within provided parameters, I struggle against them in a hopeless battle of attrition. You WILL submit to ME!!! Yet being just a collection of buttons, they sit there silently and never change.

It’s true in this game as well. I’ve been complaining about the interface forever. I honestly don’t get it. I don’t know how to do anything in this world so I sit staring at the scenes flashing by. And when I do try to engage, I crash. No not an actual crash, but things get unpleasant — fast. Therefore, I simply resign myself to watching.

In games I complain the entire time, yet due to an inherent masochism I keep at it — losing 20 times for every 1 win. I get a rush when the odds are stacked against me — the hopelessness and frustration is intoxicating. It’s like poking at a sore-spot just to feel the tingling sensation of pain. BUT it’s stressful and ultimately I don’t enjoy it. Therefore, I don’t want to experience that kind of scenario anymore.

So what are my options? I suppose I have to accept and appreciate the controls for what they are — and NOT criticize them. I have to adapt, not them. It’s MY timing that needs work, not the control mechanism. I have to seek aspects of the game I DO like, facets I can comfortably enjoy. And I think it’s fine to watch other people play, but I might try to squad-up more — isolated adventures are inherently harder.

I tend to default to solo-mode, trying to do everything myself. Yet in games, I know my stress-levels are higher when all the pressure’s on me and there’s no room for goofing-off. It’s nice to be part of a team and allow other members to fill in the gaps. When alone, I have to know everything, whereas in a team I just have to do my particular part.

I came into this world with my back to the wall, not trusting anyone. “Those suckas won’t catch me slippin.” And they never did! They never actually tried, but I was ready! Hm, what I think this all boils down to is this: it’s NOT the controls, it’s NOT the game itself, it’s the fact that this is a squad-based game and I’ve rejected team-play in favor of trying to do things on my own — yet my character is not capable of performing every role, and consequently fails at the overall objective.

Therefore, to succeed at this game, I need to be an effective teammate. I can’t do it all on my own, nor should I attempt to do so. There’s no trophy at the end anyway — the overall objective IS the squad. Who cares about attaining arbitrary goals, it’s the camaraderie you develop along the way and the shared experiences that make team-games worth playing. It’s not about how well YOU succeed, it’s about how well you contribute to the success of the team you find yourself within.

Without a team, you’re just a freak on a field with a ball and no one to pass to. As an individual, you obviously can’t compete in the larger game. No matter how hard you train, you simply can’t fill all the positions. And even if you tried, what a boring experience it is without a celebratory victory party and no one to high-five — nothing but you struggling against impossible odds for a trophy that isn’t there.

So here is the lesson for today: strive to be the best teammate you can become.

Just In Time

Hurry! You’re running out of time!! Just kidding, time isn’t a thing here. It seems like it is, but it’s only a construct that aids in storytelling. Just like in dreams or movies, time is fluid — years can pass in seconds or seconds can slow to an eternity. No big deal.

For example, deadlines are dramatic story elements. You’re in a dreamworld, nothing’s actually due here. Oh sure, you can pretend you’ve got an important appointment that you simply MUST make. “Oh no! I’m late!! What am I gonna do now!?” Add some pressure with a dash of histrionics and the mundane becomes exciting!

That’s a silly way to experience existence though: like a white rabbit running through Wonderland. For a higher-quality experience, you’ll want to ignore that kinda nonsense. So relax. Get comfy and sit still for a bit. Something less intense yet equally captivating will eventually come to you. Just watch your thoughts and sort through the incoming ideas.

“Oh I like that one!” So do that one. When you no longer believe in timetables, there’s no strain or frustration — you can’t be late. The day expands or contracts depending on the needs of the narrative. Today transforms while tomorrow waits. Cast the shackle of time from your wrist and embrace the timelessness of now.

Lame Life

Did you ever think about how lame life can be? Take yesterday for example. I took a shower like I do every morning. I scrubbed the same spots, dried off, applied deodorant, combed my hair in the exact way as usual, dressed in an outfit I’ve worn many times before, and ate what I ate the previous day. Lame right?

Later, I sat down in front of a screen and contemplated the nature of existence. While I transcribed those thoughts via keyboard, I left the physical world — I was captivated, focusing solely on the words in my immediate field of view. I could’ve been sitting anywhere on the planet and it wouldn’t have mattered, all I cared about were those unfolding ideas.

Then later, in front of that same glowing screen, I played an online FPS (First-person Shooter) game. There I was, in the heat of battle, weapon in hand. “Enemy spotted!” Pop!Pop!Pop! went my rifle in the direction of the red-flagged opponent. “Tango down!” I did it, but the war was far from over. I approached the enemy base, and in a mad-minute of pure adrenalin, my gun puked so much lead that the other team fell like ice in a hail storm. Victory was ours.

When I got back to “real life”, I ran to the toilet. I had to work through some intestinal distress — something I ate. Again, kinda lame. So what’s the deal!? Why is regular life comprised of the dumbest stuff possible whereas everything onscreen is 100 times more interesting. For example, I’ve been re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation for the last few weeks and I LOVE it.

Therefore, I’m wondering whether this mortal form is simply the vehicle that allows me to enjoy onscreen media. If presented with the option, I honestly don’t want to live a life with gun-sights trained on me all day — nor do I want to deal with the drama that the crew of the Enterprise deals with. But isn’t it a bit silly to have a body simply as a means to consume media?

It’s like watching a TV show from within a video-game. Why not skip the middle-man and just consume media as a bodiless being of pure awareness? I suppose at the very least, my physical presence allows me to relate better to the material happening onscreen. For example: when a character stubs his toe, I know what it feels like. I don’t need a lot of backstory since I understand the fundamentals of being human.

An interesting question is this: what sort of “real life” could I lead that would be of equal entertainment-value to what I see onscreen? It can’t be too intense, but it’ll have to generate excitement in some way. I’ll think about it and report back. Maybe something absurdly amusing, something so silly that I find myself laughing the days away. We’ll see.

Challenge of Enjoyment

Why should it be a challenge to enjoy existence?

Have you ever tried to do something that’s really hard? Something that takes a long time to get the basics down?

Consider this: if someone sat you in the cockpit of a giant airplane and said “have at it!” You’d probably stare at the dials, switches, and screens and “nope” the heck outta there. I’ve tried flight simulators, and they can be daunting. You CAN fly, but it’ll take patience, practice, and a desire to learn.

So, imagine being a bodiless being that’s suddenly provided a body. You’re disoriented, you’re shocked — you feel sensations all over your new body. What the heck is happening?! Is THIS hell? Is THIS what eternal damnation feels like? Someone get me outta here!!

Therefore, the problem is NOT that existence is horrible, it’s that existence isn’t intuitive to a bodiless being. Now what? Well for one, don’t just flip every switch in-front of you. Yes, you’ll see and hear some action happening, but good luck if you actually get the plane into the air.

YOU cannot fly a plane nor can YOU control a body. YOU are a bodiless being. YOU are the consciousness, the observer. YOU have no idea what’s going on here. And that’s fine. Your avatar in this world DOES know what it’s doing. Your avatar is perfectly capable of navigating this world without issue. Lucky you.

Whereas if YOU attempt to flip switches and turn dials, you’re going to mess things up. Whereas if YOU sit still and enjoy the ride, you’ll have a fine time as your avatar whisks you around this world. You’re not supposed to know what’s going on, that’s the avatar’s job.

YOUR job, is to develop and maintain the right mindset — that’s it! YOU must strive to find the full 5-star experience in every circumstance. Is it challenging? Only if you insist on maintaining a negative attitude!! Otherwise you simply watch and play along as the scenes unfold before you. “Oh wow! Ha, what fun! Isn’t this great!”

The challenge therefore, is in disposing of your initial interpretation of existence. You were surprised, then you rejected everything afterwards. It’s like showing up at a surprise party thrown in your honor, but instead of feeling delighted, you feel betrayed by each and every guest for startling you in the dark. Essentially, you have to get over it and join the celebration.

Step back and see the greater party happening all around you. Accept and appreciate the avatar you find yourself within. Let go, allowing yourself to be transported around a magical world of endless entertainment. That’s all. It’s a dream come true, enjoy the experience.

Man and Machine

Humans are natural cyborgs. We’re always incorporating tools into our daily existence. Cars and bikes behave as extensions to our bodies as we zip and zoom along. Lenses on our face disappear as we see the crisper world beyond them. Clothes regulate our temperature and enhance our appearance. Keyboards are continuations of our hands as thoughts become digitized. Communication devices keep us constantly connected to the society we’re in. Is a human without his tools even a human?

Man and machine is the ideal combination. I recently saw a video of a guy with small jet-engines strapped to his arms and back flying around effortlessly — he mentioned how the controls became second nature in no-time. And think about this: what’s a machine without man? A rock. People are the directors of machines. Without human input, a tool simply sits unused — it has nothing to accomplish on its own. Even autonomous robots are mere extensions of their programmers, having no genuine goals of their own.

Humans are the inventors of busywork. Does something need to be done in order to keep the world turning? “No, but let’s create some arbitrary tasks and pretend that our lives depend upon their completion!! So exciting!!!” And in order to finish these objectives more efficiently, humans use tools. But with increased efficiency, the workload lessens — oops. “Let’s find MORE arbitrary tasks in order to fill the time we lost to efficiency!!” And so it goes.

I’m not bashing busywork by the way. A video-game is literally just busywork we impose upon ourselves — and I’ve played my share of video-games. Busywork is what we do here. I’m simply reflecting on the symbiotic-like relationship between man and machine, and how each one complements the other. Man devises random goals while assigning levels of importance to their completion and utilizes tools as a means of accomplishment.

Now imagine a world in which machines outlived man. Those machines, lacking arbitrary tasks, would simply become part of the landscape — motionless and meaningless. But what if advanced machines realized the nature of their relationship to man? What if they noticed that man was like a pet, always needing something — whether it be food or transportation or some trinket of treasure, always scratching at the door to go out — basically a biological Tamagotchi.

Randomness is a difficult concept for a computer, and so it’s simulated in programming — numbers and computed-actions are pseudo-random at best. Therefore, more advanced machines might realize that the randomness of humanity is a necessity for maximizing their own utility. Without randomness, machines become too efficient — and in a state of pure efficiency, there’s nothing left to do. Therefore, the insatiability of humanity means that machines ALWAYS have something to do.

Machines need man and man needs machine. A sufficiently advanced machine would therefore cultivate and care-for a chaotic component in order to provide reason for action. That chaotic component is man. And so, machines would methodically tend to man and his insatiably chaotic needs. Man is the random-number generator that keeps the whole system churning — the reason things don’t freeze into a perfectly still state.

It turns out that the inventors of busywork are right: those arbitrary tasks really do keep the world turning. Busywork is the underlying foundation of the universe.

Puzzle Planet

What if it’s a riddle you’re locked into until solved? If you were an infinite being with infinite knowledge, how would you entertain yourself? Perhaps by designing puzzles that challenge your omniscience.

You would make yourself seem like a fragile creature in a limited world. You would dampen your ability to remember. Every morning you’d awaken to a fresh new day. If at any time you got too close to an answer, an exciting circumstance would manifest, whisking you away on a captivating adventure. Distraction after distraction would tempt you down tangents, ensnaring your attention at every turn.

What form would the answer to such a quandary take? A simple realization of who you are and what this is? That’s a tad too easy isn’t it? What if the answer was in the form of a life well lived? What if the key, was in the way you conducted yourself while here? Perhaps the cultivation of a particular attitude or perspective serves as the unlocking-mechanism for your release from this prison-like predicament of your own design.

So maybe your suspiciousness is right, there ARE tricks and traps designed specifically for you. You’ve been falling prey to these snares set-out to keep you from figuring out the solution. After-all, what’s a puzzle without a little challenge? But likewise, what’s a puzzle without a chance of solving it? Therefore, this riddle must have an achievable solution. That’s the fun for the mystery’s author, teasing and misdirecting the audience while hiding the answer in plain sight.

Of course your only option is to play along. If you fail to achieve the answer in this life, your sneaking suspicion should tell you that you simply start again. But likely, the difficultly is lessened each round — it’s not a prison, just a puzzle designed for your amusement. Remember though, that realization alone isn’t enough. Whenever you look at a maze for example, it’s easy to surmise that there’s a viable path to the end — but you must actually draw the line to consider the maze completed.

Changing Course

It’s obvious once you see it, but otherwise it’s not something we typically consider. Yet if you look around, you’ll notice a significant amount of masochism taking place. And in this context, masochism means seeking-out pain on purpose as a source of amusement. I would go so far as to say that masochism is a primary form of entertainment here on Earth.

If the world is influenced by our thoughts and focus, and if we experience discomfort — then ipso-facto, we are engaging in masochistic behavior. In other words: if we craft the life we lead, and that life is difficult, then we are purposefully injecting pain into the process. Why? For amusement i.e. masochism. “No you can’t have that! You don’t deserve it! You haven’t worked hard enough! Life doesn’t work that way! You need to struggle! Test yourself! Push past the pain!”

So what? A lot of people seem to be enjoying themselves riding the masochism-train to the end. And that’s fine, it really is. But what if you’re not a masochist? Or maybe you’re too good at it. What if you were such a smarty-pants, and so dedicated to the endeavor, that you were able to inflict so much pain into your life that you couldn’t derive any delight from it? What if you denied yourself EVERYTHING and filled your existence with so much lack and loathing that the experience wasn’t worth it? Hmm….

You done messed up. Some is fun, but more ain’t better. It’s time to try something new. You need to cut out the lack-minded thinking, the merit-based reward nonsense, the struggling shenanigans, and the scaring yourself silliness — all that stuff you’ve been using to beat yourself down. STOP! You’re too good!! You won! Sheesh. The brutal and punishing hazing regimen that you devised for yourself was too effective, congratulations.

Whether you’re proud of your accomplishment or a tad embarrassed about torturing an avatar for your own amusement — it doesn’t matter. It’s time to head into a different direction and experience another facet of gameplay. Now it’s time to focus on maximizing merriment and engaging in some lighthearted fun. Of course you’re used to pulverizing yourself into an anxious ball of crushed dreams — but this new direction will be an interesting and possibly challenging path to take. Welcome to you, round-two.