0647 – empty your cup and be free

I was working late yesterday when I found out about NASA’s discovery – that there are 7 exoplanets orbiting a dwarf star ~40 light years away from our solar system. I found myself very happy at the discovery. I was pleased. I was delighted. I was excited. It stimulated a part of me that hasn’t been stimulated in quite a while. And I felt light, and a sense of joy and gratitude.

The next day, right before I was going to call it a night and go get showered, I discovered that Radiohead had finally recorded True Love Waits. Every recording I’ve heard before was a taping of a live show. There was one that I liked – the quality wasn’t amazing, but there was a desperate earnestness about it that really always hit me right in the chest. And I hadn’t listened to that in quite a while, either. So I listened to both, one after another. And I went to shower, and now I’m in bed, with the lights off, with my laptop, listening to the new song. And I have feelings. I feel grateful. I feel old(er). I feel a sense of the passage of time – how there are neurons in my brain that still hold on to these old ideas and memories, after all these years. I must’ve first learned about Radiohead when I was 13 or 14. I can’t have been older than 15 when I first heard True Love Waits. And now it’s been more than 10 years later. I’m married. I’ve been working for a few years. But there’s still a certain peace that comes over me from listening to this. I’m not sure why exactly. And I’m not sure if it’s particularly knowable. But I know that I’d like to sit in this space and continue listening to it, and to see what happens next.

The thought that seems to be coming to me is “it’s okay”. What’s okay? Everything is okay. You don’t need to win. You don’t need to be famous. You don’t need to defend and protect yourself from the judgements of others. You COULD, but the cost of being isolated under all that armor is higher than the cost of just getting hurt. There are probably some exceptions to this – like sometimes if you’re hurting bad, then it makes perfect sense to put on some armor for your own safety. You shouldn’t have to justify your choice – it’s your choice. You get to deide what you want to do within the limited set of options we have.

Let go of your stress. Let go of your outdated ideas about what need to happen next, how your trip needs to unfold in order for you to have a good time. Your trip is your trip. There are going to be surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant). And here while listening to Radiohead on YouTube I find some beauty in the comments – everything is more complicated than you think, life is the most infinitesimal, precious thing and yet we spend it anxious, stressed, tired, in agony. Life should be ecstasy, or it should at least have ecstatic moments.

I feel like I want more out of life, but I also simultaneously want to be less attached to outcomes and be more at peace with who i am in the given moment. I need to be more mindful. I need to be more present. I need to be less swept away by the noise and hustle and bustle of the moment, and find my own inner calm. I’m halfway there right now, drifting off to sleep before I even finish this word vomit.

So I gotta stay up long enough to finish this train of thought. And I’ve learned from reading my old material that it’s a bad idea to try and cover multiple ideas all at once. Better to just focust on one thing and cover that as thoroughly as you can, even if you think you’re wasting your time and you could do more. This isn’t about your feelings as a writer. This is about what will be your experience later on when you’re reading it, when you’re trying to process it. At some point you’re going to have to cut off limbs so that the body can survive. When you’re in that situation, you don’t want to be overflowing with limbs.

// nothing goes as planned
everything will break
people say goodbye
in their own special way //

I feel like I’m done but I should circle back around and do some meta-commentary. I think it’s good to be able to feel sad from time to time. I think it’s good to cry from time to time. I think I don’t cry enough. I think I don’t feel sad enough, and I think that’s what eventually puts me into a sort of depressive state when I get into one. It’s a lack of warmth, lack of discharging of stress and feelings, a lack of catharsis. A human must make time for himself or herself. The way I’m currently spending my weekends is wrong. I can’t just keep trying to force myself to do things when I need some novelty, I need some change. I need to get out of the house. I need more time by the Esplanade, from time to time. I could do with more of the occasional coffee. I could schedule that with myself every week; why not? What’s stopping me?

Nothing. Nothing. I’m in my own way. My cup is too full for me to fill it with something better. I need to practice emptying my cup. Simultaneously, I need to have faith that it will be okay. I am not a child any more. I am able to get some things done. Yes I will make some mistakes, but mistakes are survival. I can let go of my shame. I am proud to make mistakes, because it means that I am making decisions. I’m going to learn to love and enjoy the pain, because I treat myself with mercy and kindness and love. And true love waits.

 

0646 – excite yourself and spill paint everywhere, bitch

I was talking with a friend a while ago about the idea that we all have within us a consciousness that is ‘deeper’ and ‘greater’ than our ‘normal everyday self’. The everyday self is a sort of shell. It’s an interface that we create, one that’s consistent and coherent and relatively simple. We do it to make it easier for other people to interact with us. We need to be a certain way when we’re on a crowded train, or when we’re buying food from a crowded market.
 
I’m thinking now about how some people complain about how everybody else is only talking about small talk – “i’m so tired of small talk, why don’t you tell me about your hopes and dreams and fears and about whether your believe in aliens or an afterlife or god” and so on. And in a sense that might be a sort of virtue-signalling, a way of saying “look at me, I think big interesting thoughts, I’m not a small-minded person like all the sheeple”.
 
But also at the same time I’m not so sure how receptive people are to thinking and talking about “big things” all the time. I had this idea for an app called “BigTalk”, which is like chat roulette but everybody is primed to talk about “big things”, like what your dreams are, what your relationship with your parents is like, do you want to have children, what would you do if money was no object… actually as I reflect on this I still think like it might be a decent idea. But I’m a little bit bored about the idea of it, for some reason. And I suppose it’s because as I get older I feel like I’ve heard it all before. I’m thinking about having watched Tony Robbins “I Am Not Your Guru”, and how all these people were speaking their truth, and their values, and who they were, what they really felt, and it all seemed a little… vacuous? I don’t mean to say that they were fake or lying or anything like that. I mean that ultimately maybe we’re all striving for the same sort of thing, like there’s a limited set of human values and that we don’t differ very much from it. It’s not really possible to be original in that regard. Nobody can say anything truly new, and even if they could, how interesting or useful could it be?
 
I think that I have less interest in big picture talk, but I’m saying that while I’m sitting at home on my laptop. When I’m given the chance to discuss it with a teenager – when younger people come to me with questions – I do leap at the opportunity to help out, to be useful. And maybe to preach a little. I suppose that’s what all older people do, to some degree. It’s a challenge to focus on them and to ask them questions and ask them what they think and what they What am I interested in, then?
 
I want to see things get done. I want to see things get built. I’m not so interested in the little details on a day to day basis. Maybe I’m being a little naive or I’m missing out on something – I’m sure that I haven’t completely run dry, that there’s always the possibility of somebody saying something or showing me something that blows my mind, that fills my heart, that makes me feel something magnificent. But I’m not so sure if I can get that out of reading a passage, or out of watching a video, or something like that… god this sounds so much more cynical than I want to be. But all of this is temporary I’m sure. What I’m trying to get at i that things need to change. The environment needs to change. There’s no point singing hippie kumbayah songs in a circle and hugging trees and whatnot and then going on to destroy the goddamn planet. Feelings are all very touching but THEN WHAT? What next? What happens next? What concrete things are going to happen, are going to change? How is the world going to be better? What gaping hole are we going to put into the ground?
 
I want more out of my life. So much more. I want to meet more people. I want to read new things. I want to learn new things. A while ago my big limiting factor was my inability to cook. Now I can cook. My next big limiting factor is the way I think about my time and money. I need to get good at scheduling. I need to get good at budgeting. I need to look at my money in a much more fine-grained way, the way I’ve learned to deal with chicken breasts and steaks and minced beef and tuna. I need to start spending money to build things that I want to build. I need to build out my blogs. I need to finish this word vomit project ASAP. I need to hire writers for the Statement blog. I need to do book reviews of LKY’s book and all the other civil servant books because goddamnit nobody else is doing it!
 
If I feel tired and bored and annoyed and frustrated with the world, it’s because of my lack of imagination, my lack of perspective, my lack of physical skill and technical know-how. I need to stop looking at cars going by and cross the fucking road. I need to Get Things Done goddamnit, one little thing at a time, one thing after another, more, more, more. I need to get addicted to that feeling. I need to measure my self-worth according to the amount of work that I ship – and I know that sounds a little bit workaholicy– I can balance that by also working out and socialising with people. I just want a bigger life. I feel like I’m ready for it. It just needs me to fucking burst everything open and just spill the paint everywhere, and then mess it up and get it wrong and then do it again and again and again. It’s always so easy to be excited as fuck in the middle of the night when it’s 1:17am. The challenge is to hold that excitement with you throughout the day. To be excited again and again. To excite yourself. To move fast and break things.

 

0645 – manage your psychology

Some of the best and most interesting conversations I’ve ever had have been with my boss, who has more experience and perspective than me. I find it helpful sometimes to reflect on the things he’s said that didn’t seem immediately obvious or intuitive to me. Off the top of my head, some of these ideas are…

  • “Maybe you should find new friends / hang out with better people.”
  • “What exactly are your desired end-states?”
  • “What’s stopping you from getting what you want? Why isn’t X happening?”
  • “Isn’t that entirely within your control?
  • “What is your system of doing things? Everybody has a system, whether they articulate it or not.”
  • “If you want to achieve great things, you have to become a person who insists that shit gets done.”
  • “The hardest thing is really managing your own psychology.”

I want to reflect on that last particular point. The way I think about it is this – every person has some amount of resource available to them. It’s a very limited resource – and as I get older I’m beginning to see how this resource is far scarcer than I ever let myself believe.

For over a decade, I’ve been buying into my own bullshit that I have a vast amount of energy just waiting to be unlocked, waiting to be tapped into. The longer I’m around, the longer it becomes clear that that just simply isn’t the case. There are vanishingly few magical days where I crank out hour after hour of incredibly productive work.

This is a painful and uncomfortable truth for me to internalize, and when I look back on my life I think it becomes obvious that I run away from this truth whenever I can. But I’m getting older and I’m getting tired of lying to myself, I’m getting tired of avoiding the truth. The quote from Ray Dalio comes to mind – success happens when you engage honestly with life’s truths, and failure happens when you avoid them. (Precise quote: success is a matter of accepting and successfully deal with the realities of your life.)

So a reality of my life is that things don’t get done unless I’m really focused, and I don’t have a lot of focus – if focus was a muscle, I’m incredibly unfit. I often feel like a fraud when I show up to work – I feel like I’m pretending to be somebody I’m not, like I’m wearing a mask. I’m faking my way through everything, saying and doing whatever it takes to just get through each interaction. And this is despite having one of the best working environments imaginable. I don’t want to get into too many details there except to emphasize that this is entirely on me, this is entirely a function of my weaknesses and failings and failures. And I don’t want to dwell on those, either – I want to focus on building strength and power.

I have made some breakthroughs in my life. They feel like they’re too few and far between, so I need to do them more. The most recent ones were with exercise and cooking, and in bits and pieces about being accountable and responsive at work. I’m still nowhere as high-functioning or as professional as I want to be. Okay, so what’s stopping me from doing that? It’s not a lack of knowledge. My mind is a junkyard of tonnes and tonnes of information, and I know how to search for the things that I want.

I think the #1 missing thing from my life is a sort of efficient central engine that keeps me on track. I alluded to this myself 4 years ago when I wrote “productivity apps fill buckets when they should be lighting fires” – my point there was that I wasn’t sufficiently lighting a fire under my own ass. A conversation I have with one of my friends over and over again is that I wish I had a peer that I really admired – not a mentor (though I suppose I could always use more of those), but a peer – something like a Lennon-McCartney, Axl-Slash, Tolkien-Lewis relationship. Somebody who would challenge me to be better, who I could challenge in turn. And I’m starting to think that maybe the reason I don’t have someone like that in my life is that I don’t meet the criteria. A great peer isn’t looking for someone she needs to prop up, she’s looking for someone she finds intrinsically inspiring. And so I need to become intrinsically inspiring. I need to manage my psychology well enough that I naturally have a fire inside my belly.

It’s a little bit sad to think about how much less idealistic I’ve become over the last 4-5 years, but those feelings are just feelings. I can wallow in them, or I can just acknowledge them and then use them to inform my next decisions. I’m still only 26 years old. I could still turn this ship around and have a great decade ahead of me. Sometimes I feel like I’m not going to live very long, like I’m going to die at 35 or 40 or something. I don’t know why I have that feeling, I just do. I feel this sense of urgency. There’s a strange thing about having a ton of urgency in your mind and yet simultaneously being totally still and totally distracted. It’s probably best exemplified by the phrase “deer in headlights”. That’s been me for 20 years and it just won’t do anymore. I have to cut that shit out. I’m going to finish up my vomit then I’m going to throw myself into just slashing through all of my tasks in my Todo list.

I need to manage my psychology. I need to be in charge of motivating myself, finding purpose, orienting myself, deciding what needs to happen next, getting things done and earning my own respect. Becoming proud of myself. I’m going to go for a run in about 45 minutes once I’m done with a few tasks. I have a good life, one of the better ones by far. I can do a lot better than I’m currently doing. I believe that to be true. But what I need to focus on is taking the next step. Lots and lots of little steps. I believe it.

 

0644 – be mindful of time and the little things

Time passes incredibly fast. I was at work earlier, and it was maybe 530pm. Next thing I knew, it was 7pm, then 730. And I left. I got home. Worked out in my home gym for a while. And then it’s 930pm. So I shower and prepare to go to bed. I thought maybe I ought to write a word vomit before I slept. Hopefully I’d have been able to be done by 1030 or 1045, and be asleep by 11pm. But now it’s 1159pm and I’m only just starting to write this.
Clearly, I’m incredibly time-blind. [1] My sense of time passing is completely mistaken, mislaid.
I find myself wandering through the bookshelves of my mind, running my fingers along the various books and essays I’ve read about the nature of time. The book that features most prominently is A Sideways Look At Time by Jay Griffiths. She spoke eloquently, at her own pace, about the ills and perils of man’s obsession with colonising time the same way he’s colonised space – and how we all live in tidy little demarcations – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. 9-5 jobs, 5 workdays a week, 10 days of leave a year. Public holidays that have become commercialised routines. Everything goes according to plan, everything is planned to bits, calendars are filled out in 15 minute intervals. The Earth itself is not precise enough for man, with its imperfect rotation requiring the addition of leap days and seconds every 4 years.
I’m not sure where I stand on this. I think there are a few points on a continuum [2]. At one end, we have a sort of total idleness and indifference to time, which few people ever really get to experience. Getting to that state either requires a sort of renouncement of everyday life – becoming a nomadic wanderer type, a wildling –or it requires (I think) having a substantial amount of resources. Fuck You Money. What that precise $ amount is, isn’t quite so clear. But when you get to that state, then yeah maybe you can really operate entirely on your own internal rhythm.
Internal rhythm. Now that’s a phrase I hadn’t thought about when I started writing this. I was just thinking, what is up with me? Why is time passing me by so quickly? Why is so little getting done, and why do I feel a little bit neurotic about it? I feel like I should be more productive, like I should carve up my time into little blocks and then get very specific things done in those little boxes.
And there’s a part of me that’s very against all of that. Like there’s a part of me with a death wish of some sort, wilfully just refusing to follow orders, to obey, trying to sabotage almost everything I do. Some literature has pointed out that this saboteur is really just fear, trying to maintain stasis, trying to keep things familiar, avoid anything challenging or difficult. And I know in my life that too much stasis is basically death. You can get too comfortable with any one thing, and too much comfort is also basically death. I need to get myself uncomfortable.
And yet at the same time I find myself feeling chronically, deeply, spiritually tired. So I gotta run through my checklist. How is my sleep? It’s okay, I think. How is my exercise? Ah, I haven’t been exercising as much as I should. So I hit the bench press earlier today, and I do feel better in a ‘deep physical way’ – I mean, under my skin, the engine seems to be purring. What about diet? I think I’m eating okay. I don’t think I’m drinking too much coffee. What about hydration? I’m drinking water, but probably not enough. What next? I need to be doing these vomits regularly and get them out of my system, because they’re cathartic. It doesn’t matter if I don’t reach the end-goal with tremendous perfection. I just need to get there, and then I can drop.
But gosh, I do think I need a bigger break. I think I need to get away from home and go somewhere else, maybe by myself. I took a break last year around Christmas-time, and I mostly spent it just lounging around the house for a week and a half. I didn’t get a lot done. A part of me regrets that, feeling like I wasted my time off. A part of me felt like lounging was precisely what I needed. But it’s been barely two months later and I’m already feeling lethargic and listless. I’ve gotten a lot better at dealing with lethargy and listlessness – I can function despite it – but I also think the point is to get to a state where I’m NOT lethargic and listless. Like, that’s just not how life should be.
The wife’s got 3.5 weeks left to go on her course, which involves both of us waking up really early and leaving home together, and neither of us having much energy to do things around the house when we get home. It does make me appreciate the amount of time and energy she spent every day just keeping shit in order – laundry and dishes alone can be massive timesinks. But they can also be time spent watching good videos or listening to good podcasts, so I’m not so sure.
What I do need – what I do remember thinking was – that it’s important to fix the little things. To be mindful, and to make changes to the small things that repeat themselves.
_____
[1] I’ve written about this before I’m sure, but lately I’ve been thinking it’s not so bad if I repeat myself. I’ve clearly developed a more coherent voice. I write with bolder, cleaner strokes now. It’s worth repeating myself if things get clearer, more succinct, more punchy.
[2] And as I write this I wonder about where the metaphor of a continuum comes from, where I inherited that, and what the alternative metaphors might’ve been.
 

0643 – greet death at the door

A friend’s father passed away earlier today. I talked about him getting cancer in word vomit 0010. This is word vomit 0642.  0010 was in December 2012. It’s now February 2017. The man battled cancer for 4 full years. I wasn’t close to him, but he was just one of those figures that’s sort of in the periphery of your life. I remember him as a man who was gracious, gentle and yet firm. He had a calming, grounding presence about him. He seemed to me to be a man who took care of business. I could respect that. It’s sad to think that he’s gone, but it’s also heartening to know that the love he put into the world still lives on in his loved ones. And even in me, in a small way.

I got the news when I was sitting at a table with my colleagues, laughing and having coffee together at the end of a work week. It was an interesting, jarring experience for me to be in those two places at once. To glance at my phone and consider the profound sadness that my friend must’ve been feeling at the loss of his father – how thoroughly his universe must have been shaking and bleeding around him – and then to look up and see the smiles and laughter on my friends’ faces. I chose to be still in that moment, to allow myself to be in both worlds at once. In life we are in death, all the time. We live in a social reality that hides this fact from us most of the time – unless we work in an emergency room, or a children’s hospital, or as first responders. I think about this every so often when I’m on my daily commute, crushed against hundreds of other people. Surely, in the course of my day, I walk past people who are ticking time-bombs. We are all ticking time-bombs, of course, but some have far less time on the clock than others. I wonder how many know it, I wonder how many don’t. I wonder how many people I’ve spoken to or made eye contact with who have died.

We’re all going to die. We’re all getting closer to death every single day. It doesn’t always feel like it. It’s so easy to be swept up in the currents of everyday life, to think that all sorts of little things are “important” when they’re really not. It’s really true – that one day you’re going to get a phone call that the most important person in your life has died, and on that day you’re going to realize how little anything actually matters. The only thing that truly, deeply matters is love. It’s that we treat each other with kindness and respect and grace and decency. And again, these things are easy to talk about when we’re in the mood for talking, when we’re giving sermons, preaching to the choir. It’s much harder to hold on to when everyday reality kicks your teeth in. [1]

I’m sure I’ve written about this several times over the course of these word vomits. The one that strongly comes to mind is when Lemmy Kilmister died, right before the wave of 2016 celebrity deaths that troubled so many people. I found myself reflecting and reminding myself – this is not a practice life. This is it. We’re live. We’re on air. Wherever you go, there you are. If you’re not here for this moment of your life, you’ve missed this moment of your life. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. There are couple of other vomits circling around the same ideas – 0538 – red in tooth and claw is about how civilization is sanitized and cleaned up in a way that isn’t representative of how death and decay is so much a part of life. And in 0637 – YOLO, I thought about how it would be a good idea to have some sort of regular tempo for reflecting and meditating on death, to think about the transience of all things.

I definitely feel like I don’t do that enough. I don’t slow down enough. And I don’t want to slow down simply because I think slowing down is a sexy, high-status thing to do – I want to slow down because I think it’ll help me appreciate life better, help me enjoy more out of life. I’m kind of hedonistic that way. I want to experience a wider, broader range of what life has to offer. 10 years of life should be different from 1 year of life repeated 10 times. I’ve already repeated myself 2-3 times in the past few years, I think. It’s very important to me that I start doing things differently, I start appreciating life from newer perspectives. My current configuration has gotten stale, and that itself is a sort of minor death – the body is alive, the heart is beating, the nerves are firing, but the soul is disengaged. And by soul I mean the deep subconscious, the dark, watery subconscious where most things are going on most of the time.

The end of a life is a sad thing. We the living live amidst death, constantly. If nothing else, we should use death as inspiration to live harder, live with great fury and intensity. Live, damn it. Live.

_____

[1] I’m thinking now about stories I’ve heard about stubborn old men who disown their children or family members to communicate disapproval, and then show up at their funerals as though that makes them ‘a good person’ in some way. Like they’re finally willing to bury the hatchet… now that the other person is dead! That won’t do. That reads like cowardice to me. If you’re going to be so petty as to ignore someone while they’re alive, then have the conviction to continue to ignore them upon their death. Making some sort of twisted exception for death (especially in view of others) doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you an opportunist. I suppose I would have less of a bad opinion of people like this if they went to the wake(s) in private, or at least avoided making any comments. But if you go to the funeral of someone you ostracized, and then have something to say… that’s pretty despicable.

 

0642 – callie’s world

So what do I know so far. We have Calliope, Talia. A peer of Callie who’s very different from her. And some sort of Tony Stark/Handsome Jack/Elon Musk type character, not sure if he’s the big bad. He runs some corporation that’s presumably exploitative… this corporation will probably be a proxy for Google, Amazon, Tesla, Shinra, Hyperion. This corporation needs to be different from the rest in order for the story to be interesting. It needs to do good things, it needs to be legitimately improving the world in some way. Maybe having just one corporation would be a little too simplistic.
 
Also need to think about the government. Natural resources. Religion. What do people believe? How are resources allocated? How developed is AI/magic? Maybe I need to learn from the corporation in Enders Game.
 
So Calliope starts out in some sort of boring suburban sort of setting, but something happens that makes her leave it. I don’t think I can kill her parents off; that would be too lazy. Maybe she’s raised by grandparents? Or if she’s raised by her parents… what are their expectations for her? What is the cultural raga she inherits?
 
Think about Final Fantasy. Cloud’s dad is never mentioned. He leaves his small town to join the army and become a SOLDIER. What happens to the protagonist from Lost Illusions? He borrows money from a friend, has a shitty relationship with his dad who low-key exploits him. But then he exploits his friend (brother in law?).
 
Terrangima- no mention of parents. Luke Skywalker’s adopted parents die in a town razing. Terra’s father was an Esper, her mother…? Died at childbirth? Died when the worlds got rifted apart?
 
What if the people in this world believed that God was a software engineer, or some sort of AI or programmer? “In the beginning there was the command line”… ah, Google says its Cryptonomicon. I should probably get around to reading that, so I don’t waste too much time trying to reinvent things that I can just adapt and remix.
 
What would be the name of the Musk character? Shall we give him a biblical name? That sounds fun. Bible character names for the evil folk. Solomon? David? Joshua? I’m thinking Solomon. There’s something semi-likeable about that name. I’ll probably also include folks like Elisha or Elijah, Jedediah, Obadiah, stuff like that. Maybe. We’ll see.
 
What else do I want to think about. Okay, so I have Callie, Talia, Solomon. Solomon might maybe have an annoying partner, associate or lackey named Saul.
 
What else? What about their respective families? And what about the peer of Callie that I haven’t figured out yet? I’m guessing that Callie generally has this sense of uncertainty, nervousness, doubt… somewhat Hamlet-ish in that regard. And so Callies friend would have to be someone oddly peaceful, oddly serene, seemingly a little naive, happy to ‘walk by faith and not by sight’. What would this person’s name be? I’d like a name that’s bordering on Muslim. In Ender’s Game, this character might’ve been Alai. Scrolling through a list of names, I quite like Afra. Maybe Ofra. Or Nawal, or Nawar. Salwa. Something a little bit subtle like that. But the character can’t be precisely Muslim, that would be a little too on the nose. They’re a little continental – I’m hearing words like Sufi and Rumi, even though I don’t really know those things / people very well.
 
Okay, we have a bunch of characters. What are the possible conflicts? Very often in stories the conflict is something that rises quite dramatically. Even in Harry Potter, in the first book, Voldemort has technically returned. There was an age of darkness before the start of the book, and we’re returning to it. In Mass Effect, it’s a routine mission and you find out that the end of the galaxy is pending. Something similar with Ender’s Game and the Contact wars. Star Trek was a series, and so we had a character just sort of… show up.
 
Okay, pause. I don’t actually need to get around to writing some major conflict driven novel from the get go. It’s tempting to go, oh yeah, this is my first novel, all done! But it would be much, much more sensible to write short stories. And short stories can be “star trek like”, or anime like – they don’t need to follow some epic existential risk type scenario; they can be filler episodes. And yeah maybe I should think about this like I’m writing for a TV show, or a weekly Medium series or something like that… something like Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles maybe? The Callie Chronicles? I don’t have to write everything around these same few characters. But I could start with one for each of them, and then see what crops up in each of those short stories. Or chapters, rather. A book is made up of chapters, and each chapter is supposed to be a near-standalone reading experience.
 
It’s very tempting to sort of sit down and write elaborate biographies for each character… but I’m pretty sure that that would be a bad idea, somehow. Rather I need to think of interesting situations to put them into. What would they be good at? What would they be bad at? What are they happy about, proud of, embarrassed by? And is there a different set of questions I should be asking each character? This is the interesting part where I get to figure out what my process is for making these characters more precise. They’re already sort of ‘in the ether’, having perhaps coalesced from the source material in my mind. And now I have to get to know them. I might be able to ask one to introduce herself to me, I might have to interrogate another. I might have to spy on one. I might have to chat up another. Each character will probably have a preferred context, a natural element. And it will be interesting to throw them out of it. I should apply the Pixar Storytelling rules / filter to come up with something interesting.p

 

0640 + 0641 – Calliope

Fiction.

Preamble:

I’ve known for a more-than-reasonable amount of time now that I want to be a writer. Writing is something that I’m pretty good at, and it’s something I can see myself working on for the rest of my life, thanklessly, for minimal reward and recognition. So that much is settled in my head. I’ve written over 600,000 words on this project alone, and I’d do it over and over again for the rest of my life for its own sake. I have clarity on this.

But now, moving forward. I know that I need to start writing works, rather than just verbalising my thoughts. This is an amusingly difficult transition for me, because I’ve spent so much time in my headvoice. It’s actually quite exhausting, and I have a feeling that once I’m able to make the switch, I will feel incredibly relieved.

Okay – so what I’m going to try to do moving forward – at least with this vomit and the next few, as far as I can tell – is to start sketching out characters, settings, contexts, plots. I need to remind myself strongly that none of this needs to be coherent, none of this needs to make sense. It can be everything all at once in all directions    . I just need to keep going until I catch something. So… this is it. This is where we dive in, like Ark in Terranigma jumping through the portal from the Underworld. This project transforms here, at 640.

There once was a girl. A lady. A woman. All and none of the above. Let’s call her Calliope.

World

Calliope was born to a boring family in a boring city on a boring planet.

This is a world that is most ways similar to Earth, but is presumably different in some ways that we don’t know yet. For one thing, the continents are different, and the nations and religions are different. If you’ve got myopia and you’re not wearing your glasses, it roughly looks the same.

I’m not quite sure if it’s a modern-technology world or if it’s a fantasy world yet. But either way – if it’s fantasy, the elements of magic are effectively a ‘metaphor’ for technology. The point is, the reader lives in a world with all sorts of cool technology, and I want to explore that. I want Calliope to grapple with making sense of her reality in its fragmentation, all the ways in which it trips through time. So I don’t think it’s going to be a Western, Wild West, frontier type situation. Calliope is going to have to deal with the fact that she basically lives in this world that claims it has a ton of freedom, but in reality it doesn’t really. There are glimpses of both Orwell and Huxley in this world, but it’s not quite as simple as either. Humanity has been domesticating itself in fits and starts.

What do I know about Calliope’s world? I know that it has a slightly grungy, cyberpunk element to it. But it can’t literally be cyberpunk, that would be boring. What would a cyberpunk fantasy world be like? Or rather, if something that was fundamentally cyberpunk in nature was written in fantasy, what would it be like? This is an interesting thing to explore perhaps in a separate vomit. What if we took some popular stories and then put them in very different settings? Star Wars is effectively The Hero’s Journey in Space. What would Game of Thrones be like if it were set in space? What would Ender’s Game be like if it were set in Magic?

Considerations:

Media – what’s the media like?

Food, eating habits, rituals

Education / child-rearing – what sort of childhood experience did Calliope have? Have we reformed schools yet? No, not quite. Standardised testing is still a thing. But by this point, most kids know that school is pretty much daycare. We can have a conversation about this. Lots of kids are running side-businesses, lots of girls are Instagram starlets.

Power – what does the world run on? Are we in the driverless electric car future yet? I think we can incorporate that, yeah. It’ll be nice to force people to read a world that’s slightly in the future. Something like 2050s future. Mostly clean power? Or is there some sort of underlying energy conspiracy? I think Calliope doesn’t need to worry about this…. but I should figure it out for the context of the story.

There will be messaging between people – texting. I don’t think we’ll have the neural interfaces yet. I don’t want this to get all Black-Mirror-y – the tech isn’t meant to be super noticeable. It’s got to be just slightly more futuristic than we’re used to. Will I use phrases like Uber, Google, etc? Maybe, but preferably not.

Calliope

Let’s figure out what makes her interesting.

What is it that makes a character interesting? The same thing that makes all things interesting: conflict.

I haven’t yet decided if she’s going to be The Protagonist. I think I’m just using this character as a starting point here to start building out a setting, a set of characters.

What is Calliope’s conflict?

She has desire in a world that doesn’t quite accept it. For a life of her own choosing. But she can’t have it.

Why not? Well obviously she lives in a man’s world, with men’s expectations and men’s desires. And what are those? Most simply- they want to fuck her. To possess her. To control her. To use her.

What are the not-so-obvious things about her conflict?

Calliope has an idiot father. An idiot brother. She went to idiot school and is expected to work for Idiots Inc. Yawn. A boring life.

To have an interesting life Calliope needs power. Primarily over herself and her immediate surroundings. This is a tremendous challenge.

What about Calliope’s personal curiosities and impulses? How would she live if she had absolute freedom?

What does Calliope want?

I think the main thing is that she feels listless and disconnected, like she was born in the wrong place or the wrong time, like she fell off some wagon she didn’t know about. This is a classic Ugly Duckling type trope, and the starting point of every angsty teen / YA thing. I’m not averse to starting with the trope, I just want to go somewhere differently.

The “Ordinary Day”

What is the thing that Calliope really wants, before the world smashed into her? (How does it smash into her?)

I can work with what I’m familiar with. Music, arts. But I think her wanting to be an artist might be a little too predictable. I think I’ll have her wanting to be a technologist. I had a glimpse of that myself when I was a child and I’d like to explore that through Calliope.

Things I know about Calliope

She’s experienced sexism, as all women invariably do.

She hasn’t experienced outright sexual assault – that would be a bit of a cliché for me to work with, and it’s not something I’m super good at. Rather, she has witnessed assault. She has had friends and peers that she enjoyed who suffered tremendously.

She’s funny. I don’t want her to be this brooding quiet type, like Bella or Anastasia. And she can’t be awfully serious. I think she has a sense of humour and gets in trouble for it. I’m thinking there’s a little bit of Fred/George in her.

At some point she’s going to comment about The Cool Girl, and the meta-problem to that.

She needs people to have conversations with, that’s how she thinks and figures stuff out.

She can’t understand people who feel strongly about things one way or another. This means that I’m going to have to introduce a character who feels very strongly about something, and they’re going to become some sort of interest / foil to her.

The Friend

Friendship – Calliope was bored and frustrated for most of her young life without quite having the vocabulary to articulate it. At some point she encountered someone else that she really admired. An older girl who seemed very much womanly. Brash, vulgar, cigarettes and alcohol. No tattoos though, because that would be too much of a stereotype. Crazy hair maybe. Some sort of Razorgirl. It would be interesting to contrast how Calliope’s friend gets portrayed compared to how Razorgirls are typically portrayed (Trinity from the Matrix, the silver-eyed girl from Neuromancer…).

For the time being maybe let’s use the name Thalia. Thalia was the goddess of festivity. I could spend a lot of time exploring the relationship between Calliope and Thalia. And I think my position here is that… the reader won’t know a lot about Thalia except through Calliope’s eyes. And through Calliope’s eyes, Thalia seemed like this wonderfully seductive escape from the drudgery of everyday life. Thalia was expressive, fun, larger than life. Bold. Confident. Aggressive. She seemed to know who she was, and she was probably the first person who treated Calliope like someone worthy of respect.

So Calliope would grow to idolize Thalia – not in a ridiculous, overblown, hero-worship way, but she’d just tag along. She was smart enough to know that she shouldn’t simply try to be like Thalia, but to be herself.

But eventually they ended up in conflict. There were times where Calliope would get on Thalia’s bad side, and Thalia could get really angry, really venomous. Maybe later on we’ll learn that Thalia had had a hard life, that she was some sort of oppressed minority maybe, subject to some sort of persecution – and so she became this slightly manic-depressive sort of person – very severe, very larger than life, capable of both incredibly kindness, softness, gentleness, and incredible cruelty. I really want the reader to appreciate that Thalia does things for Calliope that nobody else does, that Thalia does seem to provide care for Calliope that nobody else seems able to provide – at least in the Sector 7 Slum that Calliope lives in…

Huh. So that just introduced something about the setting. The sectors, of course, are from Final Fantasy 7. The city’s name was Midgard. If I’m going to be using names like Calliope and Thalia, then the Midgard equivalent should be Greek. Anyway I can figure out names later, I just need to move faster to kick up all the things that I want to kick up. It would be interesting to try and figure out why I thought about Sector 7. The point is that Calliope doesn’t have the support system that she needs in order to live her full life, to be her full person. I’m trying to think about what I’m trying to squeeze in here. I haven’t actually lived the street kid life, so I’m not sure if I can really do justice to Calliope being a street kid. Maybe Thalia is the street kid, and Calliope sort of comes from somewhere a little bit relatively sheltered but not too sheltered.

Ok I have to get to bed so let’s start listing out some questions that we’ll need to answer…

How is Calliope’s community organised? What role does race play in all of this? Because I think race is almost definitely going to come up. The fact that I’ve picked Greek names… I’m probably going to introduce characters of other races and religions. I might call it something else. The Greek name kids are the weirdos, the outcasts, at least slightly maybe. I’m just running with it here. There will be kids with Muslim-sounding names, there will be kids with Indian sounding names… I’ll try to avoid giving anybody traditional white names.

What is the world order? What is the maximum scale of everything? I probably shouldn’t try to force a limit… I won’t go beyond galactic, that’s for sure. Whatever happens, it happens within a single galaxy. Or does it? Lol. Let’s start with a human story on one planet, and if we want to get bigger and beyond that, we can later on, but not yet. This is like, say, Shepard’s backstory. I suppose I could do a “Calliope Shepard” fan fiction piece just to fiddle around and figure stuff out. But I don’t think Calliope is going to be a military figure. I don’t think she’s going to be working with guns or swords or things like that… is she? Is violence going to feature in this story? Yes, obviously. But what’s the law and order situation? How safe are people?

It’ll be impossible not to at least comment tangentially about the current state of Earth in 2017 – international relations, people being sheep and so on. I want my characters to be smart, like the characters in Ender’s Game. They have to make the best decisions they can, or at least try to.

[1] I specifically want to avoid a Star Wars type situation, where it’s obviously a Hero’s Journey, and it can’t be called ‘true sci-fi’ because the science doesn’t actually make much of a difference.  Perhaps I should list out my intended influences? Nope – that would be forcing it. I should just do what I’ve been doing – I wasn’t expecting Midgar to show up, but it did. So I should just keep going.

 

0639 – beware articulate misdiagnoses and the illusion of knowledge

I want to reflect on an exchange of comments that I had on Hacker News.

Here’s the context:

  1. Snap is about to IPO, and they’ve committed $2B over 5 years to paying for Google cloud infrastructure.
  2. The top comment on HN about this is that this is a really bad idea, and that Snap should build their own infrastructure instead. [1]
  3. Someone replied saying: “I love HN where a random person can tell a company their $2 billion plan on infrastructure is “a really bad move” with authority”
  4. A response to that was “to be fair, that company is run by these same ‘random persons’ that are commenting here.” It’s a subtle logical fallacy – just because people who run companies post in forums doesn’t mean that people who post in forums are qualified to comment about how to run a company.
  5. A response to my followup was, “the playing field is quite level, so we shouldn’t judge a comment on whether we recognize their username, but rather on quality of content.”
  6. My response to that comment (which I’ll basically expand on in the rest of this vomit)

The “I love HN” comment is ambiguous – you can interpret it in at least two ways. Reading it straight, it might say, “HN has really high-functioning random people who can speak with authority on $2b issues”. But I don’t think that’s the point. I think the point is – it’s funny how everyday people feel highly qualified to talk about things that probably involve far more complexity than they appreciate. [2]   It’s funny because they can feel qualified, look and sound qualified, but actually be utterly unqualified – and yet get all the upvotes, positive responses, write books on the subject, etc. etc.

I’ve been joking about this with my wife recently – for instance how so many men (and for some reason it’s almost always men) feel completely qualified to comment on sports. There was a particularly funny comment on YouTube somewhere, where a guy criticized an eagle (literally, the bird of prey) for making a bad decision. The response to that was, “Crazy? You’re the one criticizing a bird on the internet”. In this case it’s obviously funny – the guy is a guy, not an eagle, and he has obviously never done any eagle-ing himself, and the eagle obviously will never care about his opinion.

When it comes to sports, its a little less clear. Could an average person with a job in an unrelated field actually have an opinion on how to run a top tier football club better than its manager? Can football journalists, for that matter? Most broadly, can any person – let’s say highly motivated, good-intentioned, highly intelligent, etc – ever have any meaningful input on how some game should be played, if they don’t play it themselves?

Let’s use the example of a food critic. Let’s say she’s a really good home cook, so she knows her food. And maybe she’s run a moderately successful little restaurant of her own at some point. She’s also visited lots and lots of restaurants of all sizes, perhaps even more than the number of restaurants visited by the people running a bigger restaurant. Can she possibly have anything meaningful to say about how to run a Michelin-starred restaurant?

That’s a lopsided question. She could totally have some very good things to say. She might ask some of the most insightful questions, that most people don’t think about asking. If you’re a Michelin-starred restauranteur, you might enjoy reading what she has to say.

But here’s the catch – there’s a gap between what she knows (from having achieved herself, by operating in the space that she’s operated in), and what she thinks she knows (based on what she’s inferred from talking to people, from making observations, and so on). She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. And while she might be right 9 out of 10 times when talking about Michelin restaurants, there are going to be times where she’s completely, egregiously wrong without knowing it. And casual readers aren’t going to know. Mid-sized restauranteurs aren’t going to know. The only person who’s going to recognize that she’s wrong are the Michelin restauranteurs, and they’re probably too busy running their restaurants to sit down and write an articulate response about what she’s wrong about. [3]

Let me return to my point about the top comment criticizing Snap’s decision. I don’t know if Snap should or shouldn’t commit $2B to Google cloud infrastructure. But I think can be quite certain that anybody who hasn’t run a billion dollar tech company who has a strong opinion on why they should or shouldn’t… is probably misjudging the situation. [4]

What’s my conclusion here? How do I sum up all of this, what is my takeaway?

I think the first thing is recognizing that a person’s opinion can sound very persuasive but still be fundamentally misguided. “Armchairing decisions” can teach you to be very persuasive and win you a lot of likes, but it doesn’t actually mean that you know what you’re talking about. Beware the illusion of knowledge.

[1] In the responses, it’s interesting to learn that Netflix depends on AWS, Snap depends on Google, and FB and Google have their own data centers.

[2] I’m reminded of the response to when Drew Houston first shared Dropbox with HN – the 2nd highest comment said, “you can build it yourself quite trivially“. That comment was relatively nice. What about Newsweek claiming that the Internet was a short-lived fad? Newsweek is now Internet-only. What about the media claiming that Apple was going to fail in the 80s or 90s?

[3] Convoluting this even further is the fact that a Michelin restauranteur might not be particularly good at communicating his thoughts. He’ll probably be better than the average person, because anybody in a leadership role needs to get good at communicating, but his prose might not be as compelling and impressive as a food critic who’s spent decades getting good at writing.

[4] Here’s where it gets even more convoluted. Their reasoning could be wrong, but they might get lucky and make the right prediction. And even a person who’s actually run a billion dollar tech company might get it wrong by being overly fixated on his own experience. It begins to dawn on you that when it comes to the really difficult, gritty things about life, it’s tough for anybody to be right about anything!

Also:

1. A person can misjudge something, and yet incidentally achieve their desired end-state.
 
2. If there’s a substantial payday attached to that outcome, the human environment surrounding the person will celebrate them.
 
3. This means you really can’t trust most of what you read, including any of this. You have to really work carefully from first principles and be very rigorous about falsification.
 

0638 – seek a vision greater than your imagination can hold

I was going through my todo list and I saw an item that said “a vision for my life greater than my imagination can hold”. It was a phrase that I heard Oprah say when collecting some award, and it stuck with me for two reasons.

The first reason: It reminded me of a conversation that I had with the boss many months ago. I was reflecting on the idea that “everything is vague to a degree you do not realize until you attempt to make it precise”, and how there are two sides to that. The first side is painful – everything that you’re trying to do is more difficult than you realize, more painful than you realize, involves more steps than you realize, and so on.

The other side of the coin is that you don’t quite know the potential upside of things, either. Which brings me to the second reason.

The second reason: I have a post-it on my wall somewhere saying something along the lines of – the main reason I’m not living my life with great urgency is that I’m not able to sufficiently imagine all of the good that is NOT happening because of my lack of action. For example, there are people alive on this planet – and people who aren’t even alive yet – who I would absolutely love to be friends with. But I don’t know who they are. And they don’t know who I am. And one of the best ways to change that is to do work that I really love, to do work that I really admire. If I do the work, they will be the ones who encounter it. And my life would be enriched.

So the reason I’m not doing the work that I should be doing, with the intensity that I should be doing it, is a failure of imagination on my part. And this brings me back to Oprah’s words – “a vision for my life greater than my imagination can hold”. She framed it in religious terms. She said that she was talking to God, and asking that he use her as he saw fit, to make the best possible use of her life, for all the people who could benefit from it.

I want to feel the same way. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of a sort of self-loathing, self-frustration, self-annoyance, self- self- self-… and then it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It doesn’t really matter.

I’m thinking now of a bit from a Bill Burr standup routine – most of it was kind of blah, but the part that stuck with me was – he did a show in India, and at some point he saw a street child taking a shit between two parked cars, and then walking into the crowd. And street kids are a reality of this planet. Sex slavery and trafficking, and all sorts of hideous manners of abuse and destruction and damage and pain. Most of the time we block that stuff out and try not to think about it. I mean, every time I go to work I see all the foreign laborers in my country, men who are younger than me, men who made the decision my grandfather made – to seek a better life for themselves and for their descendants. I benefit from the decision that my grandfather made, which is why I’m here writing a blogpost on a wireless Magic keyboard rather than toiling in the rain. (It’s raining like a motherfucker right now, and I am safe in the home that I am paying for.)

And the point Bill Burr made was that so many of our problems are so trivial when you contrast it against the plight of street kids. And yet we get so self-obsessed, so self-focused, self-fixated, that our problems are the biggest and most pressing problems we can conceive of.

I’m thinking now I think of a PAP MP who said, when you help other people with their troubles, you actually become happier, because you realize that your troubles aren’t all that bad. Maybe I need more of that. I should probably volunteer more of my time. Here now I’m thinking of a blogpost – Adulthood is a Scary Horse – which said, if you don’t value your time, fine, but there’s someone else who would value your time more than you. So volunteer it. Offer it. It will lighten you.

I want to do more with my life. The core of that desire is selfish – I don’t want to live this small life that I’ve inherited, even though I know that millions – billions – would kill to swap places with me. I want to do more. I want to be more. A part of me wants recognition, wants validation. That part of things I think I can sort of meditate to deal with. Another part of me wants real significance – to do work that really matters. And of course in the grandest scheme of things nothing matters; I’m talking about within the context of a human life. I still go to bed every night thinking that my life isn’t quite what it ought to be, isn’t quite what it should be. I could be helping more people. I could be making more of a difference. I don’t think I desire obscene amounts of material wealth; but I’d like to unshackle myself from debt, and I’d like to be able to avoid the frustration of a daily commute. But I’m not entitled to that. I have to earn it. Yes, there are people out there who didn’t have to earn that freedom, but as I’ve seen for myself – there are children of billionaires who seem pretty damn miserable, at least some of the time.

I want to embody a vision that is greater than my imagination can hold. I know that for me this will involve some amount of working with the written word. Which is why I’m writing this word vomit. But that’s just a little bit of the picture. There’s a much bigger picture that, as I’ve said, I can’t even imagine. And it would make my life a marvellous adventure, rather than an ordeal.

I’m done with this vomit. I need to do at least 1 a day in order to meet my goal of finishing this project by the end of the year. It would be great if I could finish it sooner than that. On to the next task.

 

0637 – YOLO

For DC: “how can one best fulfill the saying live as if you might die tomorrow?”

I’m a very naughty fellow, so whenever anybody gives me some sort of directive I tend to quickly think of the most mischievous way to interpret it. And here it is for this one:

If I knew I were going to die tomorrow, I think the first thing I would do is probably get myself some drugs. I mean, you’re going to die, right? Some people say that using heroin is like lying to rest in the lap of God. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to go? The main thing keeping me from trying (apart from the fact that it is very, very illegal) is the knowledge that it’s very addictive / habit-forming, and that I had a tough enough time with cigarettes. [1] But an addiction is meaningless if you’re not going to wake up to see tomorrow.

Anyway – to answer the question directly. I don’t know. I think a lot of people throw the sentence around because it sounds really enlightened. It’s the sort of thing you’d say at a commencement speech at a prestigious university – Steve Jobs said something similar, and I’m sure like at least 30% of speakers say the same thing.

That said, I can think of a few instances in my life where I found myself thinking, “You know what, if I died now, I’d be alright with it.” Looking back, I realise I tend to think this when looking at good views, or when taking a long, leisurely walk. So maybe the answer is to take more walks.

There’s a lot of things that I still want to do before I die. And I know that I realistically won’t do them all. I won’t become a hotshot author AND a popular musician AND learn to code and build a killer app AND travel to all the cool countries in the world AND… you know it. I have to prioritise. And accept that most of the things just aren’t going to happen. Right now I’m thinking the thing that I really want to try is to put in as many points as I can into the “Author” skill tree. And that means writing as much as I can. A day when I write is better than a day when I don’t write. And there IS always a really satisfying feeling at the end of having written something, even if I know that as a whole what I wrote was pretty crappy. This particular vomit is maybe about 40-50% crap. But that’s okay, that happens, I just gotta keep going. Prolific is better than perfect.

That said, I also find it helpful to reflect on the people in my life who have already died. There was this kid from VS who died right after finishing his O levels, back when I was in JC. We dedicated a song to him at VS’s evening of music and drama. I knew a guy from TPJC named Daniel S, who had a heart condition. I think the fella always knew that his mortality was much more fragile than the rest of us. I didn’t know him that well, but I think he did seem more chill than most people, and he also did more random things – travel, etc. Maybe he knew that he didn’t have a lot of time, and so he didn’t care for stupid shit. Wayne Thunder died 10 freaking years ago. At the time he seemed like this wise, mature older guy. But how old was he then? Probably about 10 years older than me. So I’m now the age Wayne was when he died. I could die tomorrow. Who knows? Life is crazy like that.

Going back to the question again – is it actually possible to live like you’re going to die tomorrow, if you know you’re probably going to live at least 10, 20, 30 more years? I think there’s a part of our subconscious that knows the truth, and doesn’t really buy our bullshit when we try to bullshit ourselves. We will never be able to engage our lives with the same urgency as when we know we’re about to die. That’s just like, the physics of life.

What we CAN do, though, I think, is contemplate periodically. I think about once a month is a good tempo for this. At the end of every month, consider the fact that your ‘month-self’ has died. Whatever you had hoped to achieve, see, experience – if you fell short, you fell short, and you have to be okay with that. Have a little mental funeral for January self, and then look forward to February. I’m trying to do this, I think it’s helping. And by helping I mean – it’s helping me live a more intentional, present life.

Oh, out of sync but I just remembered a quote from reddit. Someone asked his boss how his boss was so chill all the time. And his boss said, I paraphrase, “Son, one day you’re going to receive a phone call that the most important person in your life is dying or dead. And in that moment you’re going to realise how little anything else matters.” I try to reflect on that fairly regularly.

So to recap – take long slow walks, reflect on the fallen, reflect on your own mortality.

Another mental image comes to mind – you know that scene in Toy Story 3, where all the toys are in the incinerator, panicking at their impending doom – and then they hold hands? We’re all in the incinerator, right now. Reach out to your loved ones. Hold hands.

[1] I was just thinking earlier today – I like cigarettes. I’ve stopped smoking for months on end multiple times. I think my longest stretch was about 9 months. In that time I felt well and truly free of cigarettes, and didn’t need them. After a while I didn’t even think about them. But there’s something beautiful and poignant about cigarettes, to me. Whenever I hear someone say something like, oh I used to smoke but you’re just poisoning yourself, it’s just ugly and terrible, why do you hate yourself, -insert ton of negative rhetoric here-, I get the point, but I also get suspicious. I just tune out a little whenever I hear anybody feeling too strongly about one thing or another. Like people talking about only the good or only the bad about something – say, their ex. Assuming they weren’t in some sort of abusive, manipulative situation – what does it say about their judgement? You know what I mean.