A yearning for greater certainty in life

The other day I was running through a park nearby my house, and I stopped and looked at a Cow chewing on some grass. The cow was staring into space chewing away, from my perspective, not seeming to give much of a fuck about anything, including the grass in its mouth (some of which was falling out as she chewed). The cow certainly didn’t appear to be worrying about what was going to happen to her tomorrow or fretting over decisions made in her past. From my vantage point, it was difficult for me to envisage the cow thinking much of anything really. Certainly, I found it hard to believe the cow could be thinking something like, “geez I really hope I get to stay in this paddock tomorrow because the grass is so green and lush here…”

That sounds fucking retarded doesn’t it?

Well, that’s kind of how I am.

Yep. Retarded.

If I was that cow, that’s exactly what I’d be thinking…

Why?

Because I have this in-built desire to know everything is going to turn out alright. To know the lush green grass I’m eating right now will still be here tomorrow. A constant and pervasive craving for certainty.

Something I realised while looking at the cow chewing away appearing to not really give a fuck was that this must be a fundamentally human dilemma…

Now, despite the fact I have a love affair with words more serious than the Royal Wedding, my brain is actually wired to deal in numbers. Specifically, probabilities. Yep, you know, like percentages and shit. They give me a hard on. 74%, 32.4%, 23.7%, 99%, 3%, 4.8%… better stop rattling these off, I’m getting too aroused. Okay one more… 37.6%. Fuck.. Too far. Pass me a towel?

Probabilities are how I attempt to interpret and make sense of the all-too-often confusing AF world around me. In my quest for certainty, I endeavour to use information at hand to conjure up internal calculations. In other words, if I decide to go with decision Y, what are the probabilities of outcomes A, B, C, D, or F?

Just the other day I was having a conversation with my Dad about something inherently uncertain I’m doing and I said to him,

“You know Dad, I just wish I could calculate a probability of success. Put a number on it. Any number. 75%. 35%. 80%. 20%. Anything. I’d just like to know. If I had this knowledge, regardless of what the probability happened to be, I could plough on with unbounded enthusiasm and confidence, comfortable in the knowledge I was making a bad decision (because I’m an idiot) or a good decision (because I’m an idiot).”

And he said, “Tough titties, you can’t. Best you can do is buckle up sonny-boy.”

Well, he didn’t actually say that specifically, but it was something along those lines. Or, at least, that’s what I heard… Regardless, Dad was onto something I reckon.

Life is fundamentally uncertain!

Life seems to me a lot like the greatest Baseball pitcher in the world, constantly throwing the most hell-bending wicked-ass curve-balls you’ve ever seen. Shit that’s impossible to hit. You’d think that after a time, you might begin to understand the different types of curve-balls the pitcher’s throwing, and because of this you might even begin to think you can predict what’s coming… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s right about the same time the ball catches on fire. Hard to see that shit coming.

This really messes with your ability to calculate probabilities in life… you might have seen a thousand curve balls thrown your way, but all of this experience facing wicked ass non-fire curve-balls still isn’t going to prepare you for when the ball catches on fire!

Point is, calculating probabilities in life is fucking hard. Some might even say impossible. For example, can you accurately calculate the probabilities of the following:

  • That your relationship will last over the long-term;
  • That taking a new job will be more fulfilling than your current;
  • That more money will make you happier;
  • That writing a novel will be a waste of time;
  • That travelling to that off-the-beaten-track destination will result in your untimely death, horrid life-altering disfigurement, or magical life-changing discovery;
  • That the offspring of a Chicken and a Fish would be able to breathe underwater;
  • That we are living in the Matrix;
  • That you would survive a Zombie Apocalypse;
  • That the Kardashian’s are aliens.

(If you can… can you give me your answers to the last 4? Asking for a friend).

You may have gotten to the point where you’re able to calculate the probability of the pitcher (Life) throwing a wicked ass curve ball at you at 72%, but I’d say it’s a safe assumption the probability of the ball catching on fire bamboozling the fuck-knuckle out of you is fairly high…

In this way we can see probabilities don’t really work when it comes to life, except in one instance: the probability of you not knowing what the fuck is going to happen next. That one’s high.

Because life is fundamentally UNCERTAIN.

We can analyse the information, come up with our best assumptions, calculate probabilities, but at a certain point, we quite simply have to take risks. Jump on into the uncertainty.

And this can kind of suck the fat kumara. Because jumping into uncertainty is fucking terrifying! I like to compare it to jumping off a cliff – you don’t know what the fuck is going to happen after you jump – you know you’ll fall, but that’s literally about it.

Once you’ve jumped, you’ve probably lost your bearings, may have shat your pants, vomited on your sweater (Mum’s spaghetti), and be crying because (a) wind in your eyes, shit in your pants, or (b) because you’re scared… this is a shitty time (pardon the pun) to be asked to start calculating probabilities, but it’s also exactly when you need to…

Personally, I find I’m continuously recalculating probabilities, which is a real pain in the ass. Can I not just make a decision and have everything work out and live happily ever after in a land of Unicorns and butterflies like in the Disney movies??

Uhh… No.

But why the fuck not??

Because life is fundamentally UNCERTAIN.

I’ve found that as I grow, new information reveals itself to me, which if I’m receptive to (read as: not having my head in the sand), sometimes possesses the power to change my perspectives. As I learn new shit, this new shit ends up fucking with my old already established shit. Or in other words, the ball comes screaming toward me, I’m expecting it to be a curve ball but then it catches on fire and I’m all like “what the actual fuck, you can’t do that!!!”, and the pitcher (Life) is all like “motherfucker, I just did”

That’s difficult to deal with.

Funnily enough, I think I actually prefer jumping into uncertainty to the alternative. This is not to say I don’t cling to the cliff’s edge for waaaaay too long before jumping as the uncertainty involved in jumping off, of doing something different, makes me want to shit my pants. But eventually, I’ll jump (read as: one-handed dangle-fall…).

Why?

Because this seems to be the best way to grow, and I don’t much like the alternative which is:

  • Staying in that job we hate.
  • Staying in that unfulfilling relationship.
  • Not travelling to that place.
  • Not following our heart.
  • Not taking that risk.

Dangle-Fall (do something) –> Collect data/information –> Calculate effect –> Dangle-Fall (do something) –> Collect data/information –> Calculate effect

There’s only one constant here: movement!

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving” – Albert Einstein

The best we can do is keep moving!

Re-calculate and adjust as you go, but in all honesty at all times in-between you will be being carried along by a viciously strong undercurrent of uncertainty threatening to rip your togs right off… NOT an easily calculable stream of certain probabilities.

I’ve got a white ass, so the thought of getting out of the water bare-butt embarrasses me, which has me pondering, how can I get greater certainty in life?

Don’t know. But, given how hard it is to calculate probabilities, I reckon that might be the wrong question to be asking.

A better one is this: how can we better embrace the inherent uncertainty of life?

That’s a real Grade-A Dooze-a-Roozy.

Because none of us likes to feel uncertain. It’s an uncomfortable feeling not knowing what’s going to happen. I wonder though, perhaps if you can learn to sit with it, to embrace it, maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe if you’re capable of this, when the ball catches on fire, instead of running away in terror or screaming at the injustice, you’re able to simply see it and say “damn, I haven’t seen that shit before”… then after you’ve taken the time to process what you’ve seen, maybe you decide to figure out how to get your hands on a flame-retardant bat.

Re-calculate. Adjust. Breathe.

There’s no such thing as “Happily Ever After… “.

Attempting to eliminate uncertainty from life seems a rather pointless, and ultimately fruitless endeavour to me. Like trying to eliminate Orange from Oranges.

Perhaps instead it’s best to focus our efforts on embracing the uncertainty?

You know, I just don’t know.

How I’m trying to pay off my student loan without really having much of a job

The definition of a jobby job to me is a “9 to 5”. Why is this? Because, that’s how I was raised I guess… thing is, I don’t really have one.

My jobs

Sometimes I huck fish down at the wharf for a little more than minimum wage.

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Sometimes I write (this earns me 1/3rd of 2/5ths of fuck all for reasons which are hopefully obvious once you look at the below picture of a story of mine).

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And sometimes I play cards (pah-pah-poker). The most lucrative of the three.

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But what does it all mean?

What this “9 to 5” joblessness means is there isn’t any income source of substance being automatically paid toward my student loan (a few dollars and cents each month from hucking fish down at the wharf… but that’s about it).

So, what?

Well, I don’t want a student loan because they suck. But, they seem to be a lot like a hot fart – no matter how furiously you try to wave them away, they just linger around causing an almighty stink.

I’ve set myself a lofty goal of paying off my student loan by the end of the year. Although I strongly believe in the powers of positive thinking, without some kind of plan, paying off my student loan quite simply is not going to happen. To be honest, even with a plan, this MOST probably isn’t going to happen because “hello, do you know how much fucking $ university costs!?”.

But, I’m committed to trying.

The strategy

It’s quite simple really. I’m implementing a strategy of tricking myself into using my weaknesses to help me pay off my loan one small bite at a time (literally).

A glaringly painful weakness of mine is my addictive tendencies. I gots the deep-feels, which means things that feel good entice the fuck-knuckle out of me. Saying no to that piece of brownie or hot chocolate is like trying not to get sand in my pants at the beach.

This weakness seems to me the perfect scapegoat to use to help me out with another weakness (student debt), and so I’ve taken to charging myself money every time I succumb to one of my addictive tendencies…

The list of the things I’m charging myself for started with two items: going to bed and lollies. Since then, it’s grown massively and looks like this:

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I’ve been doing this for two months now, and I’ve managed to pay $1,850 toward my student loan (yeah… I eat a lot of sugar). To me, that was cause enough for celebration, so I went and smacked six brownies, and a 12 box of Corona, which cost me $300. Fuck. Make that $2,150.

At this rate, I’m not going to get ANYWHERE NEAR paying off my student loan by the end of the year… but, it’s better than nothing.

Anyhow, I’m committed to keeping this going… so, let’s see how we go…

I share in case this strategy may be of use to others out there suffering from the potent combination of deep-feels and the crippling ridiculousness of a student loan.

Good luck!

 

The Universe trying to tell me something…

A short story here about my last couple of days in which I’ve interpreted strange co-incidences as the Universe trying to tell me something…

*Photo Cred: Vinnie Carter*

The Universe trying to tell me something…

  • Two days ago

I’m having lunch with my Dad at a coffee shop and in walks a dude I’ve been meaning to email for the past week or so, but have been putting off for whatever reason. The guy just strolls right through the door and goes to the counter to order something to eat.

As he’s about to walk out I call his name, and mention to him I’ve been meaning to email him for quite a while now and that I’ll send an email to him.

He leaves.

Dad and I continue our lunch and coffee, and he begins to tell me a story about how he’s been tasked with picking up a lathe (a metal-turning machine) for a friend who’s bought one on trademe and that he needs a forklift to get it done. He goes into how he’s approached this task and that he’s roped in an old friend of his who can drive a forklift. I tell him I had a spin on one the other day at work (I work for a company that unloads ship containers). He tells me if the opportunity arises, I’d might as well get my forklift license, because… why not!

  • Yesterday

The next day at work, I’m unloading a container of steel with the owner of the business and another guy who’s driving the forklift. While the other guy is off driving the forklift outside, my boss and I are standing in the container and he turns to me,

“Have you ever driven a forklift?” he asks

“Yes… once. But I was terrible at it.” I say

“Are you interested in getting your license?” he asks

I’m a little shocked at how co-incidental it all seems. Bumping into the guy at the coffee shop I’ve been meaning to email, and now my boss asking me if I want to get my forklift license literally the very day after I’d talked about this very thing…

So, at this point you may be thinking… this story is fucking hella boring dude, where are the girls, guns, drugs and all that. Well… sorry there won’t be any of that, but there will be some gambling soon, just hold your horses.

So, I finish up work unloading the ship container and make my way home. My flatmate is home and I can’t resist the urge to tell them about my last couple days and how co-incidental it all seems. I can’t help but blurt out “you know what, I think the Universe is trying to tell me something”.

They don’t really have anything to say about that because why would they… they ain’t me, my Universe looks a whole lot different to theirs.

At around 5pm I make my way into the city to begin working my other job playing poker. I sit down and within two hours I’ve managed to lose these three hands for quite substantial amounts of money:

You may know nothing about poker, but all you really need to know is the probability of me winning each hand was 90% (give or take). And I lost them all due to a poor turn of the deck. The odds of losing all three of these hands is circa 0.1% (or one in one thousand).

I go to the cashier line to reload some more chips because I’ve played poker for long enough now that I know when I’m playing badly verses when I’m getting unlucky. And this was definitely a case of some fairly poor luck. I still felt confident in my ability to play at a high level. The cashier hands the chips across the counter, looks at me as he does, and says “I don’t think the Universe is on your side man”.

I laughed, “you know what, I think you might be right”

I just wanted to share this story to say: Don’t worry Universe, message received.

What do Aliens have to do with Hillary Clinton and World War 3?

When I was in my early twenties, I was driving a New Zealand open road at night with my ex-girlfriend in the passenger seat. We were out in the country where there were no street lights. The moon and many stars in the night sky provided the only light other than for the car’s headlights. The serenity of it got me to thinking about something, and I asked my ex what she thought the most interesting occurrence during our lifetimes would be. A tough question for sure, and not one easily answered on the spot. I don’t recall what her answer was because I’m Narcissistic and was only asking so that I could bring up the thought I’d just had so we could discuss it…

For me, the most interesting occurrence, was the arrival on Earth of extra-terrestrial life. Aliens coming to visit!

I’m a bit weird like that. While some people may think of interesting occurrences a little closer to home, such as visiting a different continent, or country, or having a baby… I go straight for Aliens. Or Zombie Apocalypses, another personal favourite.

A question that has plagued me ever since, and likely will plague me for the rest of my life is “do Alien’s exist?”

I recently stumbled upon something related to Aliens which I found very interesting. Not E.T. phoning home. But, the Fermi Paradox.

The Fermi Paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates for the existence of extra-terrestrial civilizations.

In other words, it is the disconnect between the Gagillions of stars out there in the Universe like our own star (the Sun) capable of generating the conditions necessary for life and the absence of other observable life-forms.

The basic points of the argument (thanks Wikipedia), made by physicists Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) and Michael H. Hart (born 1932), are:

  • There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are similar to the Sun, and many of these stars are billions of years older than the Solar system.
  • With high probability, some of these stars have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some may have developed intelligent life.
  • Some of these civilizations may have developed interstellar travel, a step the Earth is investigating now.
  • Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in a few million years.

According to this line of reasoning, the Earth should’ve already been visited by extra-terrestrial aliens.

So, the question is: where the fuck are they?

In a favourite blog of mine brought to my attention a few years ago by an old workmate and recently again by an old classmate, Tim Urban has already written an extremely popular and detailed post about the Fermi Paradox.

I won’t rehash what he’s extremely eloquently written, but suffice to say, there’s some really interesting shit to think about, such as:

  • Are we alone in the Universe?
  • Are we indeed special or rare?
  • Are we doomed?
  • Are Alien’s watching us and we’re too unintelligent to see or understand this (think animals in a zoo)?
  • Are we plugged into a Matrix (participating in a holographic simulation reality)?

As interesting as these things are to think about, I don’t really want to get into deeply speculative mental masturbations on these topics. That’s much more fun to do in conversation.

Instead, let’s take a simpleton’s (that’s me) broad brush look at the probability of Alien existence. When I look up at the night sky I see a fek-load of stars. You probably do too unless you live deep in a metropolis amongst light pollution. I’ve never counted them so I can’t give any precise numbers, but there’s a lot of Twinkles up there. Our sun is one of these Twinkies. I mean, Twinkles. It looks a lot bigger to us because it’s a lot closer than the other Twinkles out there. When I look up and see the vast number of other Twinkles in the night sky I can’t help but think: “it’s simply not possible for there NOT to be alien life out there in some form or another”.

Although, I freely admit I know jack-shit about the Universe, at its most basic level the reason I think this is:

  • The Sun = a star
  • Stars are capable of providing the necessities for life to develop (evidenced by the fact we exist)
  • There are many stars in the sky (evidenced by looking up at the sky at night)
  • Hence, there must be many other life-forms existing within the Universe

Statistically speaking, it seems rather impossible for there not to be Alien life out there. Certainly, at the very least I’d say its highly improbable. #QuickMafs.

So then, where the fuck are the Aliens? Why haven’t we seen any?

There are plenty of theories as to why we’ve not seen any Aliens. Tim Urban has already explored these in detail in his post far more succinctly than I ever could. Take a look if that interests you. Instead, I’d like to talk about something a little closer to home, which I think links in quite well to why I continue to wish Aliens would visit Earth during my lifetime.

This week I went to listen to Hillary Clinton speak here in NZ thanks to some free tickets from a friend. I’ll get to how this links into Aliens soon, but first I’d like to highlight something I found very disturbing about her talk. Throughout her talk she spoke of Russian peoples in a very negative way. She spoke of them as being a danger to the world. This kind of talk seemed to me to be propagating yet another Us vs. Them mentality, something I’m quite frankly getting fucking tired of hearing.

We’ve seen such things many times in the past (Allies vs Axis / Communism vs Capitalism), and indeed in the present (Black vs White / Conservative vs Liberal).

Talk like this coming from someone with such a powerful voice concerns me. While it may be true the Russians are up to no good (certainly Putin appears to be a fairly nasty man), I do not see how using the public stage to create divide can ever be a good thing. Open discussions and arguments are one thing, but flat out encouraging people to adopt negative perceptions towards an entire nation of people seems a wholly irresponsible way to use such a powerful platform.

Why?

Because I’m not particularly interested in World War III. I’ve studied history. I’ve seen what the fuck happened in the first two. Not in person, but on screen and in books. And to be totally honest, that’s enough for me. It doesn’t look good. It looks downright not good. Selfishly, I don’t want to be any part of something like that.

So Hillary, I say to you this: I understand the Orange Oompa Loompa became president at your expense (that sucks), I understand no one in your country has free healthcare (that also sucks), and I understand that Gyna (read: China) is getting a little too powerful (meh), but let’s not pick a fight with the Russians because of it eh?

So, you may be wondering, if Hillary isn’t an Alien, what exactly does her speech have to do with Aliens?

Well, the reason I used to think Alien life visiting Earth would be a good thing, is because I saw the potential for an E.T. phoning home to unite humanity. Russians, Americans, Chinese, New Zealanders, Australians, British, Dutch, German, Japanese, Fijian, Indian, Samoan, Somalian, South African, Egyptian, Greek, Kazakastanian… once Aliens came to Earth, none of these distinctions would matter anymore. Hillary wouldn’t be talking about the dangerous Russians, but instead would be talking with the Russians about who or what the fuck these Aliens were up to and how as a species we were going to unite in response to their arrival.

I’ll freely admit this is fairly naïve thinking… Alien’s visiting Earth may not be a good thing at all because…

  1. If the Aliens were hostile, the fact they were able to visit Earth before we’ve been able to leave it would mean their technology is lightyears ahead of ours and we’d be instantly obliterated by their super-weapons. We’d be dead before Putin had been able to pour Hillary a cup of tea and have a yarn about what to do.
  2. If the Aliens were friendly, the fact they were able to visit Earth before we’ve been able to leave it would mean their technology is lightyears ahead of ours, which means they would have the capability to destroy us, which means there must be a reason or reasons why they’ve chosen not to obliterate us. Perhaps to farm us for meat? Or more positively, maybe they’re just lonely and want someone to play kickball with? I don’t know.

Regardless of the scenario, it seems to me highly probable that Alien life visiting Earth would bring the world together, albeit only very briefly before we were obliterated (if the Aliens happened to be hostile) or farmed for meat (if they were friendly and hungry) or dominated in kickball (if they were friendly and lonely). Something I’ve wondered is, why wait? Do we really need external proof of Alien existence before we unite together as a species? As “Humans”?

Why wait for Aliens to obliterate us? That seems stupid.

Perhaps I’m a hippie, preaching love and peace and all that crap. But, it’s not really about love and peace and shit. We can be angry at each other if we want to be. Nothing wrong with that. But there’s a difference between being angry and throwing your own shit at someone. Someone wronged you, all good, get angry at them, do what you need to do to right the situation. Just don’t throw your own shit. Because these days your shit doesn’t just stink. It’s nuclear. And it’s in no one’s best interests to be hurling that crap around.

That kind of shit-storm scares the beejeebuz out of me.

But there’s something that scares me even more than that, and that’s the possibility the reason we’ve not seen Alien life is because we are the most intelligent life-form in the Universe. The possibility that it is us who are the Aliens. That it is us tasked with making first contact with other life out there in the great Abyss. That it is us tasked with the responsibility of exploring the Universe.

Why does that scare me?

Because we’re so fucking stupid.

Just imagine… the most intelligent life form in the Universe, instead of uniting, choosing to throw nuclear shit at each other.

Geez Louise, how retarded would that be. Imagine the super-intelligent Aliens 100 billions years from now coming across our nuclear wasteland, wondering “what the fuck did these idiots do?”.

But, I realise I’m getting way ahead of myself. Hillary threw some verbal shade at the Russians. Not a nuke. I get that. But, it’s only a matter of progression.

Despite Trump being quite Alien to me, after listening to Hillary talk, I couldn’t help but think a pretty sombre thought: maybe it wasn’t so bad he got elected?

Wow. Did I really just say that?

What the fudge-knuckle.

 

Comparison is a motherfu**er

Sometimes I compare myself to other people. And by sometimes, I mean, literally always. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. All that shit. Fuck it’s toxic.

I wonder what it would look like if I took a diet from facebook? Mind you, this could be a bit difficult… I’m a bit of an addict when it comes to shit that feels good. The recent genocide I committed against hundreds of innocent Easter Eggs can attest to that. Facebook, just like murdering innocent Easter Bunnies, also feels good. Getting that notification is like holy fuck knuckle, yeah baby, someone is thinking about me! That is of course until I check the notification and realise it’s some advert from a Dax Wax page I liked six years ago back when I actually had hair to use the shit on.

Gawd damn.

Comparison is such a motherfucker. Pretty sure it was some Yoda-level wise person that once said that. Maybe it was Martin Luther King Jr. Or Gandhi. Actually, I think it was The Tooth Fairy. Either way, doesn’t matter. Point is, comparison is a motherfucker!

Comparison is right there when you think you’ve done something good. The other day I put my shirt on the right way around. It was fucking epic. I was high fiving everybody. Until Comparison popped up and said, “Yeah, congrats, that’s not bad, but look at what Jimmy from High School is up to – he owns seventy-three Llama farms, two islands off the coast of Costa Rica, has written six books, is a world Chess-Boxing champion, and in his spare time rescues Baby Elephants from Kenyan poachers”. Then I was all like “fuck me sideways, back ways, front ways and upside down ways, all I did was put my shirt on the right ways. I bet Jimmy eats right-way-around-shirts for breakfast.”.

Fuck.

Well, I reckon this comparison shit is a waste of time. Jimmy ain’t me. And I ain’t him. And maybe he has ambidextrous shirts. I don’t know. And so, I’m trying to be more conscious about recognising when I’m comparing myself to other people. I recall when I was working at a well-respected global accounting firm I felt inferior compared to those working in law firms. Then I realised that kind of work sucks the fat kumara. Well, that’s not entirely true – I’m sure some people love it, but I definitely don’t. However, even now I find that motherfucker Comparison rearing it’s comparatively-large-head. Comparison looks at the peeps in those gigs making the money which I can now only dream of since I’ve learnt I literally cannot do that kind of work as to do so feels like repeatedly stabbing myself in the face with a broken Jack Daniels bottle… so… I’m like “Damn you motherfuckers, how do you make doing that work look so fucking easy!!? Don’t you want a Jack Daniels bottle too? I’ll smash it up for you if you like.”  

Truth is, I ooze with envy. Totally jealous of their ability to slog away at it, printing money. Envious because they are able to do something I am not.

The problem for me is, once I know how to do something, that’s it. Stick a fork in me baby, I’m done! It’s game over. Because once I know how to do something it’s fucking boring at that point. Unfortunately, this is a little to my detriment because I’ve learnt the way being an adult in the world works is roughly this:

  1. Get good at something
  2. Do lots of it
  3. Print Benjamins (money)

I’ve learnt I’m good at point 1, but points 2 and 3 are where I lose the plot. Once I know how to do something, why the fuck would I keep doing it? To me that’s insanity. I’d rather listen to a Walrus sharpen its teeth on the side of a metal van.

So, what to do?

Find a new game. Find a new thing to get good at it. Do it until I’m good at it, and then right when I’m at the point where I can make money from it, ditch it altogether and find something else. Jamie Oliver wouldn’t be too keen on that recipe because it’s a pile of dog shit. But, fuck him, he ain’t me. I’ll eat the shit.

Into the woods: A spiritual journey, or cray cray?

The other day I watched a youtube video critiquing Christopher McCandless – the guy who rejected the superficialities of society by going Into The Wild. He died because of it. The youtube video critiqued McCandless as foolish, irrational, and noted that the people he met on his journey were trying to save him, but he did not listen.

The video critiques the romanticism modern society has attached to his story. Chris ventures into the wild Alaskan shrub alone, woefully unprepared (no map, low food supplies), spends 114 days in the wilderness and eventually dies of starvation.

I’ve not read the book, but I have seen the movie (I know, I know, poor substitute, yada yada… whatever, bite me). In the movie, Christopher is portrayed as a man undertaking a spiritual journey. A quest for deeper meaning in his life.

It seems to me there is a great desire among people to follow in Christopher McCandless’ footsteps. This is a good thing, but also seems rather counter-intuitive to me. Why would we seek to go into the woods? Modern technology should literally be having the opposite effect – as technology provides us with the ability to support more and more of the people within our communities, should we not have more free time to spend in our communities, with each other, invested in each other’s well-being? Should we not have more time to spend within society? Why is it we wish to escape? Is there something wrong with us for feeling this way?

I know of many who dream of winning the lottery (I was once one of them), so we can say “fuck you” to our bosses, as we walk out the door, middle finger raised high in the air, sunglasses on, flip flops clacking all the way to the island paradise that awaits. Do we not see that there is something fundamentally wrong with a desire to say “fuck you” to our bosses? Something fundamentally wrong with a desire to leave the world behind? Why do we desire this? If we felt as if we were working together, on the same team, toward a common goal or purpose, surely there would be little need to feel this way.

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Society is sick. Very sick. And growing sicker by the day.

We cling to our jobs as if our sense of self-worth were dependent on how much cheddar we earn. We continue to believe what we do defines us. We continue to choose to drown ourselves in anxiety over ultimately meaningless things (the report isn’t going to get done by the deadline!), concern ourselves with trivial nonsense (this coffee is a Latte, I ordered a Cappe-Frothy-Mocca-Choca-Whoop-De-Fucking-Do-A-Cinno) and worry about happenings that have not happened (what if there’s an apocalypse and Spiderman’s lazy no-good second cousin comes to my house because Spiderman kicked him out for not paying rent and he eats all my survival biscuits? … wait… what?).

What a crappy way to live this is.

Is it possible we aren’t listening to our own hearts and souls?

Recently I was having a cup of tea with my new boss, an owner of a business that unloads ship containers. Yes, I unload containers now for fifteen hours a week. Basically, I get paid to go to the gym. Though I’m not nearly as good at my job as my Polynesian co-workers. My new boss said to me his business partner used to always say “I” when speaking about his dealings and very early on told him that he’d need to sort that kind of talk out; that he never used this word and always made a conscious effort to say “we”. When he told me this I remembered back to my early days working in an office. A fresh eyed graduate looking to contribute to the world. I recalled that when I’d first started working, this was how I’d used to be too. I used to say we. Not I.

That all changed with Pete’s printing.

The world hurt me. In a major way. The world as I knew it told me it was not we against the world, it was I against the world. It was an arena. A battlefield. A competition. For the highest grades in Uni. For the best job. For the most money. The most power. The most status. A competition for More. More. More.

What a dreadful way to live this is.

I realised one day, after someone who I thought was on my team played me in a game I did not know I was playing, that if I too wished to “succeed” in the arena as I’d known it, that I too might need to play the game. I too might need to step on others in the pursuit of More, More, More.

No thank you.

The pain the world caused transformed itself into existential angst and despair and I found myself unwilling to compete. At this time, despair entered my life and began to hang around me like a hot fart. I could think of no other option than to leave. In retaliation to the pain, I rejected society. I tried to escape. I decided I did not need it. That I could stand alone.

I was wrong.

However, I learnt a lot along the way.

The question is… what of saying ‘fuck this’ and choosing to leave this sick society in your dust like Christopher McCandless? What does that look like?

Imagine… no more anxiety. Nothing to worry about. The bliss. The serenity. It would be endless. Waves lapping the shore. Birds chirping in the trees.

But, would it?

Doubt it.

Perhaps for a time. However, there is a dangerous thing to be found in these woods. Not the Yeti. Although, he might be banging around in there too, so best you bring some Yeti-spray with you. I’m talking about something far more frightening. Something you may have even come across before… Loneliness.

If there is one thing that is truly frightening to behold, it is Loneliness. The holder of despair. The king of dull times. If you are ill-prepared like Mr McCandless, he will show you no mercy. And in these woods, or on that island beach, there may not be any escape from his grasp. Mr McCandless knows this all too well.

How do I know this?

Because, I too ventured deep into the woods, metaphorically speaking.

Fleeing the hurt I felt, I left an office job in my home country among family and friends, to go to a no-job in a foreign country where I knew no one – a journey into the proverbial woods. For quite the time, I found myself deep within their grasp. Though to say I was totally alone would be a lie. I found a tribe. But they were most certainly walking different paths. On the path I’d chosen to tread, I felt woefully alone.

Something I often wonder is how many of us out there feel this way even when we are surrounded by people. In our jobs. In our busy cities. I certainly felt this way once upon a time when I had such things. Why is this so? Are we missing something?

In the woods I encountered new beasts, terrifying things. I also danced with spirit and met with Loneliness and Boredom.

These encounters, even with Boredom himself, caused me to deepen as a being. At the risk of sounding all new age hippie, I underwent a spiritual awakening. This is truth. My truth. Before the woods, the only spirits I thought existed were named Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Mount Gay. Afterward… well, I found it hard to believe how I could possibly have been so naïve for so long.

While in the woods I learnt something I’d once known but somehow lost sight of… I learnt once again I know nothing of this planet, not the life on it, nor the stars beyond. And with this knowledge, the world came to life. The trees took on new depth. No longer were they merely a bundled collection of cells photosynthesising. Instead they were mystical. Magical. Beautiful. Had they not always been this way?

I looked to the stars. Up at a Universe I somehow had not seen before, despite the fact it had been gazing at me from afar every single second, every single minute, every single hour, of every single day. I wondered, in whose eyes (or alien butt-sensory glands) out there was it I appeared as but a twinkle in the sky?

A realm within myself I did not know existed came to life. No longer was I a logic-driven being living a narrow-minded self-gratifying life parroting popular opinion. I learnt to see with my own eyes. I learnt to hear with my own ears. And to feel with my own heart.

A question I have since asked myself is: did I encounter the divine in these woods? God?

I guess that depends a great deal on your definition of God. If your definition of God is a man with a white beard who sits in the clouds, then no, I did not encounter Colonel Sanders… I mean, God. If your definition of God is a sentient being of any description (animal, alien, half-man-half-sausage-roll), then no, I did not encounter God.

My answer is no. I did not encounter God. I was not religious in any way before I ventured into the woods. And I am not religious now. However, recently when a friend asked me whether I believed in God, while my answer was the same as it had been in my earlier years, there was a slight twist, “No. I don’t. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe. I believe in spirit. In life.”

I encountered beauty. The beauty of a world hidden from me for too long. How did I not see it? Right there. In front of me. All along.

And I learnt we are the same. Because I looked directly at my “I” and saw right through it. My new boss knows what he’s talking about. There is no I. Only we.

I must admit to you this has been excruciatingly painful… A lot has changed. Friends. Jobs. A lot has been lost. And loss, however necessary it may be, hurts.

I learnt no one among us can stand alone. NO ONE. And no one of us ever should. Yet it would seem to me this is exactly how we are choosing to live. It’s no wonder despair would pay a visit!

I stood alone in those woods for a long time, but I grew tired of it. So, I tried to come back to the society I had once rejected. Rather quickly I found I could not. At least, not in the same way I’d once known it. This, I am still trying to figure out and perhaps always will be – life is a never finished work in progress.

We live in a society that constantly tells us we need to become more, to own more, to do more, to have more, to be more, More, More, More… Adverts tell us we aren’t complete as we are, and then after creating this psychological void within us, immediately offer a solution: “Buy my WIDGET!”.

Lol. Just lol. Psychological warfare hidden in plain sight.

Fuck that.

More money, More this, More that… More sick…

It will not satisfy you. It will not fill the void within. The simple act of helping a stranger will give you far more joy. Trust me on this.

We are meant to be invested in each others’ well-being. Because that is how we heal. Together.

I’m quite simply tired of it. We can do better. We must do better.

Perhaps I’m an idealist. Perhaps I’m a dreamer. Well fuck it. I’d rather fight to manifest this dream than succumb to living the way I’ve been told, constantly told I’m not good enough, constantly told I need more, constantly sold shit I don’t need, constantly competing rather than co-operating, constantly numbed by substances just to function.

No thanks. I’d prefer to seek my sense of self-worth from within. Not without.

I am enough. There is nothing on this planet you can sell me to make me anything More than that which I already am (except maybe a bionic arm… Elon, can you help a brother out?).

I did not know of Christopher McCandless’ story before I embarked on my own journey into the unknown. I knew only of my hurt, and my relationship with despair. This journey was driven by a simple question: there must be more to life than this, mustn’t there?

I learnt there is. But we must first forget what we know, including ourselves, in order to see it. Call me a hippy if you wish. Or just cray cray. Whatever man. I’m still learning. But without a doubt, I prefer life this way.

The art of the bluff: Suffering in silence

I read a facebook post a few months ago written by an extremely successful Oregon based poker professional.

I’d seen this player playing in Oregon before. He was noticeable for one reason: blonde hair. This kind of sticks out on a poker table. Blondey stuck out because he was a Blonde poker player.

After reading the facebook post I realised I’d not only seen him playing before, I’d played with him before. I’d once played on the same table as Blondey in a poker tournament. He sat in seat one, next to the dealer, and I sat in seat seven, opposite him, facing each other on a slight angle.

I remember Blondey striking me as an opponent not to be reckoned with. Extremely gifted as a player. He conducted himself in a professional manner. A controlled player with a stone gaze. Not offering the slightest hint of disposition. A poker face to be envious of. He possessed command over the table, and knew exactly how to play his cards. I don’t recall if we played in any hands against one another. Most likely, I was trying to avoid such an encounter.

The thing about poker, especially for a sensitive fucker such as myself, is that talking to your opponents is out of the question – you are there to take their chips, and they are there to take yours. Making a human connection with another player poses significant risk to one’s own chances of winning. Certainly, for me, if I was ever to take a liking to an opponent, I’d be far less keen on taking their chips. It is not in one’s best interests to befriend the enemy.

Many people won’t understand this, but poker is very similar to life. Many of us, without even realising it are playing in our own versions of poker games against one another. Some of us, competing rather than co-operating. Participants in games of psychological warfare. Our society is built upon these principles. It got me to thinking about what a difficult way to live this is. And a stupid way too.

I wonder, now no longer a professional, if Blondey and I sat at a table together, would I talk to him? What would I say?

I guess it’s too late now. The facebook post wasn’t written by Blondey. It was written by a friend, paying respect to a young professional poker player from Oregon who recently took his own life. Paying respects to Blondey.

How bad must things have gotten for him to do such a thing? The suffering must’ve been immense. I’ve suffered too, though I would be lying if I said to you I’ve ever been this low. This is not to say that I do not understand how such a thing could happen. Putting on the brave face to the external, when your internal world is crumbling. I’ve been there. Suffering in silence.

I’ve now lived life as a professional suit wearer and a professional poker player and the parallels I’ve drawn between the two are startling. This Western society we’ve constructed upon the overarching principle of “competition is good” is threatening to rip us apart from the inside out. Why are we incapable of seeing this? Can we not see we aren’t here to compete with each other? Can we not see we are here to help each other?

Remember this. Hold on to this. This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting meaning. This is why we’re here. To make each other feel safe.” – Andre Agassi

Take to a tennis court with Andre and he could beat you with one hand behind his back, but he knows that’s not why he is here; he knows that proves nothing.

Sit down at a poker table with me, and I could bluff you all day and you’d be none the wiser. But, I must ask, what does this achieve? You lose. And, because you have not called my bluff, so do I.

Perhaps Blondey was waiting, hoping, for someone to call his bluff?

I didn’t. His poker face was, quite simply, too good.