Ride the Slide

If I think of life as a dangerous experience, then I’m awarded with excitement. The drawback to this perspective is the potential for anxiety. But if I’m unable to amuse myself in any other way, fear is a great cure for boredom.

If I think of life as a peaceful experience, then I’m awarded with ease. The drawback to this perspective is the potential for boredom. But as long as I have a hobby or creative pursuit, I’ll have something to keep me busy.

If life is a simulation, we might readily select the dangerous experience option. Boredom is the enemy of an eternal being. Any game that becomes boring becomes unplayable. But whether the danger is real or simply perceived is a different question.

So unless we cultivate in ourselvelf the ability to self-amuse with the mundane, then we are truly getting what we wish for when the intensity is turned up high. A tranquil life requires the capacity to derive joy from stillness (like meditation for instance).

There’s an imbalance, an underlying dissatisfaction to life, because that is exactly what we want. Every story or game has something “wrong” that requires resolution. We don’t want to cure the imbalance but simply ride the slide it creates.

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Story Mode

In pretend-play, we can imagine ourself as a single-character hero besieged by an army of one-dimensional villains. When we get tired of winning all the time, we might begin to explore our own character, perhaps sending in some tougher foes. Maybe this time our hero struggles to win or maybe loses a few, only to come back more powerful than ever. Eventually, we might even start exploring the depths of our opponents. Maybe they had reasons to attack, maybe they had their own struggles. Perhaps we might begin to see commonality, teaming up to defeat an even greater enemy. Or maybe we’ll see the futility in fighting and begin to construct a grand society.

As we move along a spiritual path, it’s said that we eventually drop the extreme focus we have on ourself. Instead of only seeing the lone protagonist, we start seeing beyond. Instead of seeing those we interact with as pure good or pure evil, we see nuance. During this time, we believe ourself to be a lone actor playing as a single character. As we move along the path, we notice there’s too much synchrony, things fit together too well to be the random interaction of independent characters. We realize that there must be an omniscient narrator holding the story together.

Then as we proceed further, we come to the understanding that we are the omniscient narrator, or at least some facet of a greater being. At this point we realize the story-like nature of existence with its plethora of story arcs. As we proceed on the spiritual path, the story that surrounds becomes more natural to act within. Whereas we used to fight against the plot, we now flow, appreciating the play. What’s more, the drama we witness lessens to match our gentling temperament. Other characters become multidimensional while adding flavor to the narrative.

When we play pretend, we usually know it’s just for fun. Taking things too seriously is the best way to spoil that fun. Likewise, when we take life too seriously, we spoil our fun. The spiritual path is no grander thing than this: to realize the lighthearted nature of existence. And once aware, we’re to play out our role, enjoying the entire experience.

Prior Art

Sometimes I’ll be standing there and the realization will hit me: this isn’t real. In that moment I accept the falseness of my situation — not in a bad way, I simply see myself as an actor on a stage performing my part. From there I usually continue with whatever I was doing, losing myself back into the scene.

It does feel strange to consider the artificial nature of existence. It’s off-putting in a way, but thankfully that odd feeling doesn’t last for long. It’s much better than the alternative of anxiety. Better to live in a manufactured environment than a randomly occurring wilderness where chance determines fate.

No thanks. I tried living that way, I really did. I suppose it was thrilling to think everything was out of my control, that anything could happen to me at any time, that I was a fallen leaf lost in a rushing stream, floating as long as I could maintain my balance. Too thrilling though, so I abandoned the idea.

Now I’m in on the joke. Shh! Don’t spoil it for those that want to maintain it till the end. I’m kidding of course — it’s difficult to maintain awareness of the mirage as we’re bombarded by the flashing lights before us. Bursts of insight do nothing, it takes an all-out effort. But that’s not the point anyway.

The point is to redefine reality. Remap its origin. We want to be here, in this game of pretend, playing along and having our fun. Just don’t take the game too seriously — it’s a lighthearted frolic. In costume playing a role, we need only watch as the story unfolds, or perhaps we throw in some improv. Enjoy.

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.

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.

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.