Gumdrop Mountain

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Daily Beacon.

Dear Rich, if the world is virtual, why isn’t life an overwhelmingly awesome experience?

That’s a great question. Earlier in my life for instance, I went through many periods of distress, discomfort, despair, and dejection. If Existence was an app, I would have have given it 1 star and a nasty review. But life did get better. Currently I’d rate it 3 stars (out of 5) and leave a somewhat critical review. I’m hopeful that a future update will include the features I’ve requested and I’m optimistic that I could end up giving life 5 stars and a glowing review.

I don’t think life’s primary purpose is paradise — rather, life tries to obtain our full attention by any means necessary. Then once it has our attention, attempts to tell a compelling tale known as “Our Life”. Candyland and the Sweet-Tart Adventure isn’t all that compelling apparently or else we’d be living on Gumdrop Mountain. And as audience members to this pageantry, perhaps we enter with certain expectations and life plays to whatever excites us.

I think when we judge life harshly, it’s like tasting a cake early on while the ingredients are still being mixed in — of course it’s going to taste bad — but just wait, find a pleasant way to amuse yourself while it’s prepped, and appreciate the messy effort involved with creating a delicious treat. Oftentimes it’s the attitude we maintain, rather than the specific circumstances, that makes for an awesome experience. If we take life lightheartedly, any event can become a source of amusement.

Let’s not forget that like any app, life might be riddled with bugs. Stuff will go wrong, quirks will annoy, but ultimately the app exists for the benefit of the user — and overall it’s a decent app that evokes excitement from everyone that plays. But like many technical issues, maybe much of what we don’t like boils down to operator error. It’s possible that the odd annoying calamities we suffer are self-inflicted.

For instance, if we take life too seriously and cause ourselves endless stress, we may succumb to stress-induced ailments. Or perhaps we maintain strict standards and punish ourselves whenever we disobey them. For example, maybe a digestive issue follows an indulgent eating spree because we believe ourselves in need of disciplinary action. So essentially, we receive an injury whenever we perform a task we believe we shouldn’t have done — this injury is self-imposed, not a natural consequence of life.

So there you go dear reader, that’s why life isn’t overwhelmingly awesome: you have a bad attitude and you keep hitting yourself. If you do want an overwhelmingly awesome experience, you’ll need to trust in the goodness of life and develop a lighthearted approach in which you stop concocting arbitrary rules. Perceive life not as a solemn affair, but a merry ball held for the benefit all. Stop criticizing, stop arguing rightness — instead, embrace what’s pleasant, practice cheerfulness at all occasions, seek to expand your acceptance and tolerance until fear and disgust evaporate before your eyes. Look for awesomeness and you just might find it.

Learning Well

Dear Rich, you’ve been observing a growing child for the past five years, did this provide any insight on learning?

From what I’ve witnessed, mechanical learning is not a thing, parents do not provide a detailed list of instructions that the child eventually memorizes and follows. Instead, a switch of recognition is flipped via environmental cues. In other words, the parent provides minimal instructions during an appropriate time period and the child “gets it”. If instructions are provided too early, then the child attempts to mechanically follow through the steps, but output lacks mastery and there’s no progress. Yet when cues are provided at the appropriate stage, mastery comes quickly.

What this means is that knowledge is unlocked as if the child is granted selective access to a universal well of common knowledge. If mechanical learning was a real thing, then extensive and detailed training would be necessary, yet it’s not. Mechanical learning seems real because parents often attempt to introduce a topic too soon, before an appropriate stage, so the child struggles up until he finally “gets it”. But the struggle can be skipped by waiting until the child is ready.

Additionally, over ambitious attempts at mechanical learning might even cause delays, as it will likely frustrate the parent and child. The better course is to periodically introduce topics and evaluate whether the child shows interest and ability. Yet, because the days must be filled with some activities, lighthearted and entertaining attempts at mechanical learning are relatively harmless — but no pressure should be placed on performance as it’s expected the child will perform clumsily.

From sleeping to weaning to walking to talking to potty-training to playing to building to adding to reading, it all came in due time with minimal effort. The parent needs the patience not to push. I’ve been rewarded every time I took the gentle nudging approach and punished whenever I was overly enthusiastic about achievement. One path leads to smiles and success, the other to frowns and frustration. As is said: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Short-term Solution

If you’re on the path, you might be wondering what to do in the short-term. The answer is to create a merry atmosphere for those in your immediate surroundings, including yourself. Think of it this way, how can you receive the grandness of life’s bounty if you’re not prepared to receive it? So begin the preparations — ready the room and hang the decorations.

There’s an ambiguity as to whether life proceeds as a pre-set narrative or you directly influence your progression. Yet at the very least you feel as though you have a tiny bit of local influence, so start there — realizing that eventually your sphere of influence might increase. If your own attitude is all you can adjust, do that.

Radiate outwards, spreading cheer and hopefulness. There will be plenty of practice as dark clouds and shadows attempt to supress this lightheartedness. Shine nonetheless. Again and again, drilling day and night, trading dour for delight. There is no mystery on this part of the path, simply keep your little light lit.

Whatever it is you do throughout the day, maintain the playfulness. Pick anything to do and do it, the activity doesn’t matter, it’s the mood that matters. Despite any surrounding storm, keep the beacon blazing. Should it ever dim or extinguish, look within to relight. In the still of the mind, an everlasting light burns bright.

Simulation Epochs

Perhaps this simulated world is comprised of several distinct epochs. Within each period, inhabitants have the necessary mindset and inclinations to adequately live out their particular lifestyles. Consequently, an inhabitant of one epoch would not be suited for another. Remnants of past times linger of course, serving as chapters in a rich historic narrative, as philosophic inspiration, and as fodder for everyday thought.

The following are examples and not necessarily the actual epochs. For instance, the Age of Mythology might consist of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, etc., a time that birthed the world’s religions. And the Age of Empires might consist of global exploration, a time when disparate parts were conquered and forced into unified wholes. The Age of Ideology might consist of political and economic systems, a time when group identity and nationalism set the stage for conflict. The Age of Commerce might consist of the concentration of business and its preeminence over battlefield combat. And perhaps there’s our current time, the Age of Technology, a time when machine capabilities exceed expectations and borders are transcended through global communication.

The well-of-inspiration from where our ideas originate are tuned for whatever age we’re in. So in this Age of Technology for instance, inventors receive ideas about processing power and machine learning, automation and autonomous vehicles, and methods to connect people in many different ways. There are major upheavals within epochs and the current age would be no different in that regard. For those concerned over such things, it’s important to remember the artificiality of these epochs — they’re a storyline with a particular theme and we’re provided a script for interaction, in the form of our innate reactions.

It must be noted that fear is not part of the character we play, it is from the actor himself — our consciousness. This fear is a reserve in committing to the part and must be ignored. Enjoyment in this production comes from a lighthearted perspective, where we romp through our role, following the inclinations and inspirations we experience.

Final Push

An excerpt from the non-fictional tales of Snow Saga.

Standing in at four-foot tall, with a blade width of 21 inches, and an exceptionally light weight, the orange handled shovel could push snow better than any other shovel I had. But today he met his match. Plowing a rather light load, the blade caught underneath an icy shelf and just… just… cracked. The fatal fracture is near where the handle attaches to the blade.

The driveway was almost clear too. I finished with another, narrower shovel, but of course it took longer than it could have. What can you say about a shovel that did its job without complaint, that lifted loads way above its capacity, that moved more snow with a single swipe than any of its peers? Its life was a relatively short one, but this shovel did more than its share.

This shovel was a nameless workhorse. A trusted tool that came out whenever shallow snow needed plowing. It will be missed. For service above and beyond the call of duty, I salute you, dear orange-handled shovel. A prince among cleared porches, a valiant defender of blacktop, and a remover of the ceaseless snow — go now, to Shovelhalla, and feast upon white flakes forever.

Broken Shovel

Cool Lightning

Daily Dumb-Stuff

If this is all there is, if right now is truly the culmination of billions of years of interstellar development and human evolution, or even if existence is the solemn manifestation of God’s grand design — then why are we spending our time doing the stupidest shit possible? I played with an airsoft gun today. I watched some mundane YouTube videos. I browsed the barely amusing comments on Reddit. I chatted about random stuff with those around me. I ate fried chicken and french fries. I brushed my teeth.

This world is bullshit. Stop taking it seriously. IT’S A FUNHOUSE! I’ve watched people play open-ended video games, and they outright torture their characters — I’ve even done it myself. How much can this video-game character take until it cracks? We like testing things, it’s fun and informative. So how much can a human character take before he cracks? Hmm, but who is doing the testing?

It’s quite possible that our own infinite self is having fun torturing his virtual manifestation. What’s it matter if a virtual character cries or even dies? So what? Relatedly though, I’m a bit more respectful towards video-game characters nowadays. Even though a simple restart of the game could make everything as new, I try to keep my chaos creation to a minimum. I don’t want to set the precedent that my preference is calamity.

American Ideal

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Gentleman from Massachusetts.

It would do us well to remember that the United States of America was established by those that outright rejected and abandoned their previous government. The people that brought about this nation were not United States citizens by birth, for there was no such entity, but they became Americans through their optimism and innovative ideals. From the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers to the later waves of immigrants, America was populated by those seeking drastic alteration of the status quo.

I dare say that stodgy old conservatism does not belong here, this is not a land in which ancient ideas should entrench. America is a country by immigrants for immigrants, it is a realm that cannot be constricted by tradition lest it choke and wither, it is a land in which the constant churn must produce newness. Change in a progressive pattern is the very nature of America, and always will be despite those that attempt restraint.

For those that would deem the establishment of staleness appropriate, I piteously say, perhaps this place is not for you. There are already well-established stalwarts of old-world practices. You may think it harsh to turn-out those knowing only this land as home, but I simply hold a mirror before their faces. And truly I wish them not to leave, but merely align their mind with the true nature of the American ideal, which is unrepentant optimism in an ever changing greatness.

Living in this land does not come without a price. The fee comes in the form of a welcoming spirit. What created this country was not the particular system put in place, but the confidence of risk-takers, the boldness held by the foolhardy, the daring of dreamers fulfilling their vision — it was the courage to trust in positive outcomes while maintaining faith in the goodness of people. Our initiation as Americans is not by birth or oath, but by active battle with fear, a foe we must defeat.

We must not be afraid of the future, of change, of differences, of ideas, of countries, of neighbors, of religions, of lifestyles, nor even death itself. We must not shrink away in the cowardice of conservatism, but go boldly forward into the morrow — our very foundation as a nation wills it. Cowards cannot be free, as they are ever locked in a prison of their own design. Let us therefore fight against fright in all its forms and hold fast to the American ideal of unrepentant optimism, which in a word, is courage.