Archive for the Category Existentialism

 
 

Life is a series of curve balls.

One thing I’ve noticed recently – that I often take for granted – is that life is a series of curve balls.

The concept is so simple its sometimes overlooked. Hearing that phrase evokes a learned and canned response, “well duh, shit happens.” Cynicals would say you were preaching to the choir.

But in a cynical view, the prospector is much less likely to adapt. Every athlete knows that frustration and anger will prevent the mental state and concentration needed for the next action.

Any second can bring confrontation, reversing perspectives, emotional distress, or unplanned events.

What would *I* usually do? I would recognize and react to any situation with my first instinct. Due to my own emotional inexperience, I grasp onto that first strong visceral “gut” feeling and build my perspective off all the assumptions that follow. Its the equivalent of swinging blind. Even later when I would realize my initial assumption was wrong, my pride would prevent me from formally recognizing it and I wouldn’t fully adjust.

Lately I’ve been trying to let my initial and most visceral response pass (feeling the response without action), then analyze the situation with as much data as possible using the emotional response as a guide . Only after would I make any assumptions.

Unless I’m not learning anything new (and I hope I am), then I couldn’t possibly know what to do when the “curve ball” occurs. In fact, more times than not I won’t even recognize I’m in a new situation. My first guess is probably completely wrong. My next one – more than likely – isn’t much better. It won’t be until the third attempt that I gain any sense of awareness or a clear goal.

This could be with a skate trick, a programming or math problem, or even the best way to approach a person when responding.

Maybe there’s a good reason life throws us “curve balls.” In baseball, we get three chances then we are out. We are forced to adapt quickly or we lose. The biggest difference in life is “getting off the plate” is permanently our decision. (This is why most things are better than baseball).

Getting off the plate hides in snoozing the alarm, not remembering small but important tasks, or even worse making a handful of assumptions to “save time.”

We’ve all been guilty of these at some point. Hell, it would be impossible to never “give up” – we “give up” as it were for 8 hours a day (no, not at work – sleep!). The important thing, I believe, is always looking for ways to understand a situation or a person better.  Knowing this is understanding that life really is largely unplanned, things change, and some times your bracket gets screwed in the first round.

Accessing our strengths (loved ones, motivation, perspective, and rest) is really the only way to fight mental and emotional stress.

So when I’m confronted with an event out of my control, I let it go and think about my next swing. Life truly is a series of curve balls.

If you ever want to hit anything, you better pay attention.

Vanilla Sky, Gnosticism, and Refactoring your Mind for Growth


Play-n-Read: Sometimes I find that the right choice of music puts you in a more receptive frame of mind.

“What is happiness to you?”

Last night, after spending my Friday night grocery shopping on my own volition, I sat down to watch Vanilla Sky without knowing what I was walking into.

“Open your eyes”

It all starts with a 33 year old guy played by Tom Cruise who has inherited the position as CEO of the largest publishing firm in New York City. He has never had to work a hard day in his life, he doesn’t take the Board of Directors seriously, and he plays women without any concern for external consequences.

After a car accident involving one of the countless women he has strung along left his face and arm disfigured with constant pain and nerve damage, his world starts to break down.

“Am I crazy? Is this a conspiracy? What is real?”

His reality changes, he wakes up to the entire world empty, countless characters say the exact same thing, people he supposedly knows switch places in his life; all while he becomes convinced he has killed a girlfriend in a psychotic episode.

The viewer is thrown through loops as the perspective continues to slowly reveal itself – leaving you surprised at every turn.

In the end, Aamer (the protagonist) is able to break through his own constructed reality and take control of his life. A true story of transcendence, one of the lasting themes and quotes throughout the movie was “This is a revolution of the mind.”

Vanilla Sky is a beautifully executed tale of gnosticism; a theme that has been gaining moment since the late nineties. Wikipedia defines it as:

Gnosticism (Greek: γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) refers to diverse, syncretistic religious movements in antiquity consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god.

We’ve seen this before; In The Matrix, Donnie Darko, Fight Club, The Truman Show, and to less happy endings, Requiem for a Dream.

The gist of it is that it is innately human to make assumptions about what your reality is to make it easier to cope – and the false/constructed perspectives that we reside in day after day is created by a limited mind, mainly, our own.

Being the complete nerd that I am – I immediately drew a parallel to large programming projects. Any good developer has once said to themselves as they’ve neared the end of a project, “Now we know what we should have done.” This is the concept of technical debt.

I have reconstructed how I approach software many times. The first time I made a game in Visual Basic , all the object data was stored in primitive arrays, and the code was a procedural mess. Then came C++ and object classes, while leaving most of the logic in a switch-statement mess. Then came game state stacks, multiple inheritance (not always a good thing by the way), god classes – and the like. Each project got better – and each time new mistakes were made.

Our brains are no different. We write code with our experiences – assumptions and rules that we deem as true per the direct consequences of our life. Sometimes these are wrong. Sometimes we can get rid of stuff.

Refactoring code, deleting most of it – and still having it work (usually better), is at the center of consciousness as a metaphor. Being able to separate the wheat from the chaff in the most important part of your life – your mind – allows you to learn what is real or constructed, intuition or fear, and determine the difference between a proven, long standing solution and a quick fix.

The only thing I’ve come up with so far is learning is a lifelong commitment. Sometimes, you just don’t know whats on the other side, and you simply have to jump.

Which is exactly what Aamer did in Vanilly Sky, straight off a building.