Frolicking Fragments

Think of a child playing with his action-figures. The child imagines a scene in which these characters are in conflict. Some figures are grouped in the background without much to say, often victims of circumstance. The main-characters trick and surprise one another even though the puppeteer knows full-well the underlying plans of each. The child artfully compartmentalizes the minds of characters, making sure they don’t mix.

Through suspension of belief, the child perceives himself as these individuals, maintaining appropriate actions for each. Yet, if the child’s least favorite character gets a leg up on his champion, a sudden change in narrative will save the day. The child plays as the hapless individual, but he’s ultimately the story’s author, capable of rewriting narratives on the fly. The child is also the front-row audience observing the overall action, an audience cheering for its preferred ending.

These action-figures are regularly presented with dilemmas to be solved. Easy answers are often thwarted as the child enjoys extending his playtime. The characters therefore struggle to overcome an obstacle, attempting to solve its riddle through repeated trial and error. Eventually, creative solutions leak in from the puppeteer who knows the way out. Things begin to fall into place and external pressures lessen. The goal is reached and the scene comes to a close.

This is how a creator can play amongst his parts. Although this description summarizes my observation of an actual child at play, it can be applied to the wider world. Life consists of characters in costume acting out dramatic scenes on a daily basis. There’s an underlying coordination that steers these players into coherent circumstances while creative solutions pop into their minds as necessary. A consistent barrage of obstacles provide fodder for these characters to wrestle with. When objectives are achieved, those chapters come to a close and new ones begin.

Child at Play

A child at play perfectly encapsulates the experience of existence. No supernatural understanding is necessary to see the compartmentalized minds of characters engaged in a world of pretend. Panda acts autonomously, not knowing what’s wrong with crying Kitty, yet deep down Panda does know what’s wrong since they share a puppeteer.

While in-character we suspend belief. Yet answers to problems come readily because we already know them. Creativity flows from a singular source. We even witness miraculous circumstances manifesting before our eyes as the puppeteer strives to fulfill a particular narrative. No Panda, you belong over here. Kitty, let’s forget about the problem you had, you’re now a doctor.

But mind you, we are not at the mercy of some childish brute banging toys together, we are the child — a trinity of author, actor, and audience. Just as a child effortlessly maintains different planes of awareness for each character, we too perceive different levels. Yet we are most often lost in life, playing our character with full devotion.

If at any time we frighten ourselves from the intensity of our dedication, we can remember it’s only a benevolent game. It’s possible to perceive the puppeteer pulling the strings. With a still mind, quietly observing, we can realize our roots. We can know the purpose of our play is to have fun — focusing on whatever evokes delight while living life lightheartedly.

Universal Sum

Nothingness can’t create somethingness. There was at least some potentiality, some force that existed prior to the universe. So either the universe eternally existed in its current form or it was formed from some creative power. This means that something has always existed – a force powerful enough to create or perpetually sustain this world has always been present.

And this force isn’t quite balanced, or else nothing would bother to manifest. There’s a tilt toward the positive – a foundation exists and remains in a constant state of creation. Randomness is a ridiculous assumption since we can plainly perceive an underlying conveyer belt of production churning out well-structured forms.

So the interesting bit to consider, is that it appears something is creating all of this on purpose. And again, not randomly, as the entities being created fit neatly within a narrative of sorts. What gives the artificiality away, is the manufactured drama, it’s too obvious once perceived. Little troupes of players acting out their little skits.

But why? Well why does anyone play? To have fun of course, to entertain oneself. A force powerful enough to create and sustain a universe has no need to learn. Boredom is the universal enemy of every child, so to stave it off he plays. He creates grand worlds full of characters with all sorts of roles and narratives.

And while engaged in play, he suspends belief, every figurine provided a unique personality. Some fight, some get along, yet all autonomous, separated by a compartmentalized imagination. But in actuality, all stem from a single source – at their core, every character draws from the common-knowledge of the puppeteer.

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.

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.

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.