0659 – make commitments to yourself and keep them

So I’m trying something new today. I slept later than I intended last night, so it’s now 1130am. I remember that the last thing I decided last night was that I should make writing my “first thing in the morning” task. And to do that, I realise that it’s necessary not just to start writing when I wake up, but also to avoid any possible distractions prior to it. I know that my primary distraction is the Internet. As I’m writing this, I know that I have new things on Facebook and Twitter just “waiting for me”. And I’m thinking now about how liberating it actually was when I was on holiday in India and I didn’t have to bother with those things at all. Social media is really a hell of a drug.

So we’re back in the territory of principles and preferences. Should I have to “deny themselves” (see how language is leaking meaning again?) something like social media in the morning? I don’t want to say that there’s a definitive answer, but hey – I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t turned off my wifi and then closed my Telegram app, I would be scrolling through a bunch of newsfeed right now. Once I’m already scrolling through Facebook, it’s pretty easy to then open another tab for reddit. And then I can spend hours on that stuff, which is how lots of my time just slips away.

This isn’t intrinsically a bad thing if that’s how I want to live my life. I think adding too much guilt and shame to some set of nations makes the problem worse because there’s some sort of subconscious rebellion going on. It’s okay to live one’s life just coasting along and checking Facebook and Reddit every so often. The thing is, it’s becoming clear to me that I can’t do that AND simultaneously develop a large body of work in a surprisingly short amount of time. If I spend my social media hours writing, I would’ve been done with this project by now and I would’ve moved on to the next stage in my writing path/trajectory. Wouldn’t that have been cool? I think so.

Here I find that I’m in the same sort of dilemma as I was as a student – if I had studied hard and diligently instead of picking around, I would have had life open up its opportunities to me. I could’ve travelled abroad to study, met all sorts of other interesting, driven people, and things would’ve been so different. I’m good at rationalising my current position and synthesising happiness. But I don’t think I want to continue using this skill set for the rest of my life. I don’t want to just invent stories after the fact about how things are really quite okay. Because I can already say now that life will be “really quite okay” no matter how it goes. I could end up in jail for some reckless accident and then spend the rest of my life reading and writing in jail and that would still be “unfortunate but quite okay”. If I lead a moderate family life – have a couple of children with my wife,continue working on my career path for the next 30 years without trying anything different or new, maybe just learn to cook a few more dishes, and read a few more books… that would be quite okay, too. I mean, there are lots of people who haven’t even made it as far as I have, getting killed at 17 or 19 or getting childhood cancer. Not everybody gets to live a full life like Lemmy or Lee Kuan Yew or Oliver Sacks or Daniel Dennett.

(I just felt myself tempted to open Facebook. But the wifi is off. Interesting catch. These things are pretty scary when you really get down to it.)

Now I’m thinking about how Oliver Sacks is no longer in this world. Prince and Lemmy and David Bowie. It’s an interesting thing, death. Michael Jackson has been dead for some time. Lee Kuan Yew has been dead for two years. if you enlisted into Singapore National Service on the day he died, you would have ORD’d a couple of days ago. Two years ago I was in Cebu with my friend Damien when we found out. Life definitely seems to move at a faster pace as you get older. Though maybe there are some variations. Time didn’t even really seem “real” when I was in primary school. I didn’t quite consider it. You had a birthday every year which was something you looked forward to, and new year’s, and holidays and such, but that seemed to be about it. As someone on reddit said – the Christmases you experienced from 6 to 12 were just pure happiness with no baggage, no guilt, no shame, no worries or cares, just magical. Something like that. But that isn’t something we should be yearning for (although we all probably secretly will – there’s a hero’s journey aspect to it, there’s a Freudian aspect to it.)

[2nd FB impulse]

It’s interesting how meta and recursive everything gets, and how challenging it is to ever come up with a set of points that adequately reflects this, without turning itself into a sludgey mess. I think it’s a challenge I would like to attempt to solve in my lifetime. Just for fun, out of curiosity. I do think it can be done with words. Or maybe in film, or animation. I need to watch that anime with the crazy cuts. Maybe I need to experiment with word vomits with crazy cuts. Which would be an interesting sort of ‘full circle’ – my early vomits were about me trying to talk about many different things to fill up the space. Along the way I tried to focus and stick to the matter at hand, which I think I’ve gotten reasonably decent at doing. And now I’m thinking about how I can bring up multiple things to talk about the same thing. It’s an evolution. I’m thinking of Dave Chappelle’s standup now, where he told multiple stories while also telling 4 little stories about the times he met OJ Simpson. It was just a clever, interesting bit of structure. One of the Ender’s Game sequels did that too, by using bits of a conversation between two characters as introductions to chapters. It makes me realise, as I’m writing this, that something seemingly straightforward and simple can be made interesting based on how you pace it, how you set it up, how you tell it. I don’t think I quite appreciated that enough as a creator. And it really reveals that even though I’ve spent so much time writing words, I haven’t spent any time telling stories at all. I should start doing standup. I should start doing video. And I should start writing shitty fiction.

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