Modern Metaphor

A metaphor only works when we can relate to what’s being compared. This is why many of us in the modern world can’t relate to ancient spiritual teachings. The messages may be true, but the metaphors are meaningless. This was my problem until I stumbled onto an updated metaphor, simulation-theory, that says existence is comprised of a computer program in which everything is mere flickering pixels. For me at least, this modern metaphor makes sense.

People that propose simulation-theory don’t always tout it as a spiritual idea, but at its core, it most certainly is. Like any religion, it can provide a comforting backstory for our earthly existence, it can explain different phenomena in our surroundings, and it can be used to construct meaning for ourselves, allowing us to find fulfilling roles within an otherwise meaningless world.

The funny thing is, once I began to embrace the concept of virtuality, all the ancient spiritual stuff started making sense. I now have a working metaphor by which I can relate to what they were saying. Aha! As someone that could not previously grasp spirituality in any form, I can tell you that the before and after is remarkable. The answers were there, I just didn’t get it.

What all these teachings are trying to say, from ancient to new-age, is to be your authentic self, play the role of you but without the fear. The “you” shrouded in anxiety is a selfish beast that feels besieged by danger, thus ready to lash out. But the actual you is a character in a game that’s here to fulfill his role with dignity and grace. The role of you has already been written, just play along.

A game without obstacles isn’t worth playing. So in life, we really do want problems to solve. The trick is in embracing those problems, not lamenting their existence. Furthermore, we get to pick from a menu of options. Whatever issue we focus on becomes ours. We don’t necessarily have to accept every problem that crosses our path — we can pick some while ignoring others, or at least focus on the aspects we prefer.

Now, do unenlightened anxious people distort religion due to their fear and feelings of lack? Yes. There’s no limit to what a confused mind might manifest. So religion can certainly suffer from corruption, which is why it might be good to start anew every once in awhile. Religions are simply collections of ideas that remind us we have nothing to fear. With an appropriate religion tailored to our tastes, our minds are able to rest upon answers that satisfy our existential angst.

Fashionable Origins

Have you ever gone into the kitchen and mixed random ingredients together? Some ground-beef, bananas, cinnamon, grape-jelly, flour, orange-juice — combined, then cooked for a random amount of time? No? Probably because it’d be gross. Good food follows guidelines. Random accidents can result in interesting alterations to entrees, but there’s always an underlying structure.

Yet randomness was how I assumed life begat many millions of years ago (cosmic stew, primordial stew, etc.) In my understanding, random ingredients magically mixed together into the right amounts while systematically evolving into viable entities. But after decades of philosophical consideration, I no longer hold this view.

Nowadays I think of the world as a planned and programmed simulation of sorts. And just as big-man-in-the-sky theory was dumped by pop-culture in favor of randomness, I think randomness will be abandoned in favor of a programmed virtuality. After all, fashions tend to perpetually swing between opposites.

Although big-man-in-the-sky and virtuality overlap in some aspects, there’s some differences. In the first theory, there’s a creator manufacturing hapless victims of existence — man lives by whim of the gods. But in the virtuality theory, the player is the programmer — he simply hides this fact from himself on purpose.

From observing life over several decades, I’m quite convinced that there’s an underlying narrative. There’s too much manufactured drama for the ongoings in this world to be a coincidence. Man is clearly the star of this show — and he’s coddled the entire time. Just look at all the people whose wishes and dreams came to fruition — an improbability within a purely physical world.

The very structure of success had to be manufactured for this fulfillment to happen. There is no randomness here folks. Randomness means chaos and incoherence and incompatibility. Yet we’re all pretty much on the same page, following similar themes, and avoiding major catastrophes. There’s certainly a lot of dramatic acting going on though.

Now, why bother philosophizing about all this anyway? Because, we all need an underlying belief that allows us to enjoy our lives. I found that I wasn’t comforted by big-man-in-the-sky theory or the randomness theory. In fact I found them unsatisfying, full of plot holes, and anxiety-inducing. Whereas virtuality puts me in control, boosting me up while minimizing the unpleasantries of life.

I’ve been on the virtuality bandwagon for a while now and can notice the marked improvement in my attitude and well-being. For instance, I’m not worried anymore — the world will work itself out just as it always has — there’s an obvious balance, an equilibrium that’s being maintained by some kind of programming.

And as long as we don’t wish for the worst, our individual lives will also work out just fine. The stress, discomfort, and difficulty we experience comes from our fearful imaginings, not the actual circumstances of life. Comforting theories, such as virtuality, give us license to ignore our scary thoughts. Ultimately there is no truth to uncover, it’s beliefs all the way down — so it’s our task to develop a satisfying system of belief — this is where happiness comes from.

First Steps

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Way of the Wizard: Modern Magic

But Rich, where do I find introductory material on magic? It doesn’t seem readily available.

You’re right, just searching for “magic” will get you nowhere. But if you look past the surface, you’ll see there’s tons of material about magic. For instance, a lot of popular “success” books are straight-up magic. They don’t claim to be such, yet they’re essentially telling you to wish your way to prosperity and fulfillment. They’ll often talk about affirmations and repeatedly writing your wishes down. Or they’ll mention visualization: vividly imagining the outcomes you desire. And of course the “Law of Attraction” a.k.a The Secret is pure sorcery — it’s all about manifesting your materialistic wants.

For many years I was skeptical of such claims, and dismissed followers as fools and proponents as snake-oil salesmen. But eventually I realized that my pessimism was not proof. These people wholeheartedly believed in magic and I was needlessly dismissive of their lifestyle. And here’s the thing, they were living an enjoyable life filled with hopefulness and cheer whereas I was sitting in squalor endlessly complaining about how horrible the world was. Who’s the fool?

So what does one do upon learning the error of his ways? That’s right, take two giant steps in the opposite direction. I’m in full-on magic-mode now. And I’ve read the common success books, I’ve seen The Secret, I’ve watched adherents relate their stories on YouTube — I’d consider myself versed in the techniques of the trade. Therefore, I’ve completed the first three steps: I believe magic exists, I believe it’s something I can practice, and I’ve gone through the introductory material. Currently I’m in the solo-project stage, attempting to self-solve a particular problem.

Using what I’ve learned, I must make something manifest. The biggest hurdle to practicing magic is remembering to practice. My attention is so often focused on the mundane: all the unpleasantries I encounter, the foul odors, the bad attitudes — I’m so easily distracted by the worst life has to offer. Yet I’ve been diligent enough to use these negativities in my favor, using them as triggers, reminders to think magically — believing I must have inadvertently summoned the bitter into being. We must be careful what we wish, because we might just get it — and so I’m careful to keep only what delights in mind.

Even if magic wasn’t real, I’ve become a much happier person simply by weeding out the pessimism. That vacancy has been conscientiously filled with pleasant fantasies instead. And it is magic’s job to bring these particular fantasies into being. In one sense, I’ve really no more to do than wish and wait. But of course, keeping my garden free of dream-choking weeds is a chore in itself. Thankfully it’s a chore that becomes more automatic with practice. So dear reader, there is your answer, the introductory material is where it’s always been: right in your face. Pick it up.

Intro To Magic

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Way of the Wizard: Modern Magic

So the question becomes, how do we program our world? There are those among us that claim such alteration is possible and we have no cause to doubt them. Skepticism is certainly not reason enough, as that’s merely a form of stodgy conservatism. To make any change, great or small, we must believe in its possibility.

Typically, when we start using computers, we’re not even aware that computer-programming is a thing. The operating system, and the applications running on top, just exist. And when we learn that actual people wrote said software, we believe it to be a feat apart from ourselves, a task undertaken by geniuses tucked away in a laboratory. We could never do that, it’s simply not possible.

We wouldn’t even know where to begin. What do we write, where do we write it? And if we dare look it up, we’re deluged by complexity. What if we look for a book? Which book do we pick? And once we start, how do we keep our head above the sea of uncertainty? Plus, a simplistic step-by-step guide is one thing, an unguided project is a far different beast.

It turns out that software development is more art than math. It is not so much completing equations, but a constant treadmill of trial-and-error. We should therefore expect world-level programming to be quite the same. For instance, let’s examine a realistic scene from the desk of a software developer:

“Will it work? Let’s see. Nope. Okay try something else. Nope. Wait, why’s it doing that now!? Okay how about this. Hmm. Okay let me look something up. Ah, okay, I’ll try this. Ooh better. Ahh, nope, now the other part doesn’t work. Okay let me take a break and see if inspiration strikes. [Later that day…] Aha, that’s it! [Fervent typing ensues…] It works! Now onto the next problem….”

This common scenario plays itself out again and again. The solution so often comes from outside the programmer. Either it comes from an actual archive of answers (a forum for programmers), or from some mystical source of inspiration that’s accessed by the programmer’s subconscious once he engages in another task.

Let’s not gloss over this point, that the key to a programmer’s code comes from external sources. One source is a repository of discussion compiled by programmers over the years. And another source is some other-worldly well-of-knowledge that provides solutions for problems posed to it while the mind is no longer actively searching.

So a wizard should expect much of the same. First, he needs to grasp that magic exists. Second, he must believe it’s a process he can proficiently navigate. Third, he must dive into some introductory materials that provide a cryptic set of rules and steps for completing basic but essentially useless projects. Then as aspirations expand, on comes a contentious time of attempting to self-solve a particular problem. This is accompanied by research into the ways of others who solved similar issues, alongside bouts of inspiration from one’s own imagination. Voila! A wizard is born.

In programming, there is no set canon of introductory materials. Programmers learn their craft by various means. There are a myriad of languages and techniques and styles of programming. There’s countless sources of introductions. The common theme though, is the intent and determination of the practitioner. And there is one other commonality: every programmer begins by writing a small program that prints a simple phrase, a very telling phrase: hello, world

Ancient Bindings

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Way of the Wizard: Modern Magic

Okay Rich, blah blah blah computer-programming, but what about magic?

But don’t you see, if the world is a computer simulation, then programming IS magic:
World.place(object)

But here’s the thing, the easiest programming to understand is typically the most restrictive. In the high-level environments you’re granted access to a few preset commands that aren’t very customizable. In order to tap into the low-level stuff that alters individual pixels of the interface, you’ll need to delve into the ancient API.

The problem with ancient APIs though, is their archaic format and overall complexity. For instance: in high-level programming, objects are managed for you, whereas in low-level, you need to account for their maintenance and dissolution. To call something with the ancient API typically takes more consideration and is much more prone to error.

And of course, if you attempt to build an entire program by invoking the ancient API, then the complexity and bugginess is going to compound. To account for this, programmers oftentimes use bindings that simplify access to the ancient API using a more modern parlance. This also allows the program’s heavy-lifting to be done in a high-level style whereas certain customizations can be made with bindings to the ancient API.

This is what we wizards seek, the bindings into the ancient API. It is simply not worth trying to create a program from the ancient API, the time and complexity are too much. We’d be decades working on a teetering foundation — we need instead to stand on the shoulders of giants. But this takes great discernment of course — because how can we recognize what we don’t know?

Yet that is the wizard’s gift — the ability to recognize a source of power. It’s no different than how a chef recognizes a source of flavor — it’s a built-in attribute of the character. And like a programmer, a wizard conjures whatever needs programming. Either he sees a hole that needs filling or he’s the middleman between clients and their vision.

Through observation we can witness that this world is not merely a pre-compiled binary, there’s also some scripting on the fly. As in a scripting language, code can write code. But of course we must know the correct keywords and syntax as well as the appropriate method of code execution. Programmers for instance don’t simply open up a text document and write random words and symbols.

No, wizards must learn their interface, they must study syntax and keywords. They must seek out repositories of source-code, deciphering the instruction-sets within. They must understand where and when to apply such commands and obtain the tools by which to evoke their spells. This is the way of the wizard, programmer of worlds.

Logical Magic

Even though I now believe in magic, I’m still bound by logic. And to remain logically consistent, I must see the world in a way that allows for magical manifestation. Being technologically-minded, simulation-theory was the easiest entry point. If the world is only a simulation, a virtual experience, then magic is perfectly possible. Sprites can blip in and out of scenes while coordinates can be instantly updated.

Focus and intent are the interface to this app. Whatever we wish, good or bad, comes into our life. The program may offer suggestions in the form of stimuli, yet it’s our reaction that determines an ultimate form. For example: is it a passing pain, or a deadly disease. Is the sound something scary or merely the melodic wind.

Yet the best games aren’t easy to figure out — they take time and practice. It’s not as simple as saying “I wish…”. Life reads our dominating thoughts and sends us whatever evokes the most excitement within. Life doesn’t care if the thought is positive or negative, just whether it alleviates our boredom, immersing us deeper into the game.

With any video-game, it often takes effort to align with the timing of the action and master the controller. But the consensus on attainment seems to be this: focus and believe. For example, if I focus on health-issues and believe wholeheartedly in their manifestation, then I’ll be as sick as I imagined. Or if I focus on getting a nice house and sincerely believe in its certainty, then I’ll soon be there.

The game aspect we must master, is maintaining only what we want within our minds. For one, we must recognize and ignore cheap-thrills as they pass through our thoughts as stimuli. For example, being startled by sights or sounds is excitement inducing and staves off boredom — but it leaves us in a state of immersive anxiety. We can do better than that, we can instead turn our gaze to whatever inspires delight.

And like any sport, we must practice repetitiously, drilling until it becomes automatic — a habit. We must bathe in the daydreams of joy and satisfaction. We must regularly monitor our garden of thoughts, discarding weeds that attempt to crowd-out the fruits we’ve planted. And from this work, by maintaining this discipline, we’ll have an entertaining experience — which after-all, is the point of every game.

Yielding to Magic

It’s happening, I’m finally doing it. I’m crossing over into the realm of full-blown magic. WHAT!? Yes, that’s right, I’m ready to completely abandon any ideas about this world being anything but magical.

First, a bit of background. I grew up in a non-religious and non-spiritual setting. Everything in the world was exactly as it appeared to the senses. God was a fictional man in the sky. Anything non-physical was pure imagination. Things happened for practical reasons and within well-defined limits. Science explained existence, PERIOD. And what couldn’t be explained was fanciful thought not worthy of consideration. This was the foundation of my beliefs for several decades.

But it was a very worrisome world. Chance was real, so life and death teetered on the edge of random circumstance. Might I survive another day? Who knows. Might I get sick and die or suffer an accident at any moment? Sure. Might I fulfill a goal? Only if conditions are just right and no limitations block my path. Might I one day achieve success? Such rarities are like winning the lottery, so don’t bother. What a wicked place to persist within.

Almost two decades ago I met my friend — it was a full moon. She believed in the reality of wishes and magic. For many years I attempted to convince her that her worldview was completely unrealistic and wrong. I thought of myself as a savior rescuing her from childish ignorance. “What!? You can’t do that! That’s impossible! How dare you not think about the horrible consequences that might befall you every-time we leave the house!” Ultimately she didn’t believe me and still believes in magic.

Yet I noticed something. My friend seemed much more at ease with life. She seemed as though she was actually having a good time! She was having fun!? Ha! How is that possible in such a precarious, anxiety-inducing place!? That poor simple child, if only she knew the harsh realities of life, then she wouldn’t be so happy. I tried informing her but she kept on smiling. It was strange, an almost willful ignorance towards life’s grittiness. She seemed unable to understand how horrible everything was.

Then I had a son — he was born on my birthday. I was not pleased with the way in which my parents fulfilled their role, so I took a long hard look at myself to make sure I’d be the best dad I could be. I needed my son to be happy. One must lead by example, so I needed to be happy. One day, while he was still an infant, I happened to be upset over something. I sat in quiet meditation for quite awhile in the afternoon. It was at that time I vowed to become happy, to establish the necessary discipline no matter what it took.

My friend served as my example. Over the past few years I’ve been shedding my old worldview and adopting hers. Of course it was alien and unnatural not to worry, but I persisted. My son needs to see my smile, not my scaredy-ness. But for life to be joyous, he needs to know hope — so I’ve been adjusting my perspective to allow for optimism. We both need to know that wishes come true. My die-hard pessimism had to go.

My friend is an optimist whose wishes come true. As a realist, I would dutifully dismiss such nonsense and accuse her of stretching the truth. But no more. This is a magical world and she is a powerful wielder of wishes. She finds 4-leaf clovers. She receives mental messages from her family with real-world consequences. She effortlessly wins games-of-chance. She finds money when needed. As part of an experiment, I even saw her read the contents of cards without ever looking at them.

But even if her magic wasn’t real, she’s still a happy-go-lucky person. If happiness is my goal, I might as well model someone capable of having fun. When I think of life right now, in this moment, I see it as a love story. I see the ever growing affection I have for my friend. I see the doting father attempting to ensure delight in his little boy’s life. And I see a once sad little man smiling at his tiny family. I like that image, and if I must believe in magic to see it, then so be it — magic it is.