0040 – main question, refactoring, writing

The main question that’s been on my mind for a few years really- apart from things like “how am I going to put food on the table”- is “what is the greatest good I can do in this world?” Which is a slightly glorified way of asking “what should I do with my life”, once you’ve accepted that the answer to that is “serve others”. So I’m really asking- how can I BEST serve others? I’m not looking for what feels best, I’m looking for what IS best.

I used to volunteer at prisons and it was remarkably fulfilling and soul-enriching. I went in there naively thinking I was gonna help them, ‘heal’ them- but really, they healed me- of aches and ailments I didn’t even know I had.

But would that have been the best use of my time? I don’t think that’s very likely. There’s a small chance that someone I helped might go on to play a role in something amazing but that doesn’t seem very likely. I don’t mean to put those guys down- just that there are surely other things to do, other ways I can reach out to people who would then be in a prime positron  to reach out to others in turn. Teachers do that I suppose. Every amazing teacher I’ve had deserves credit for any success I might ever be blessed with. So do the authors who’ve written books that inspire me. And what of the teachers that taught mine, and the inspirations of those whom inspired me in turn? Surely they deserve credit too. You quickly see how credit attribution is continuous rather than discrete. Everybody and nobody deserves credit for everything and nothing, in varying degrees.

That’s fine and all but how does that help me make a decision? I suppose I have to do what sets me on fire- better to be really really…

When you can’t do anything else you should just generate content and lay out everything in your head in front of you,  in words. At least,  that’s how I work. My mind has had lots of practice reading and writing and this may be what is best for me. Your mileage may vary.

My new favorite concept is refactoring. I first encountered it on venkatesh rao’s blog but I wasnt sure of what our meant specifically. I got the sense that it meant re-focused in some sense- which isn’t entirely wrong. It’s simply (and not so simply) the act of cutting the fat from something so that it becomes more refined, superior in its ability to achieve its intended purpose. I find this to be fundamental to art and expression, though it’s technically based in programming. It’s about elegance.

So I’ve been meaning to refactor my blog, my life. To get more value out of what I already have, simply by shaking it up and trying new arrangements. New systems.  New alignments. New ways of doing and being.

My other favourite concept is the desire path.

I believe I’ve spoken about this before.

I haven’t done a word vomit in a long long time so I let me get right to it and try to go through everything as fast as I can. I think some of the stress and neurosis I’ve been feeling has been from hiding certain things. Let me come out and say them.

I got married in December last year to my childhood sweetheart. It was a small,  simple affair- we got registered at Wheels and Weiners, which is a lovely little rock and roll diner at perak road, near sim lim Square and la selle. We did it primarily to buy a HDB flat, which we did- we got the keys in january.

I got employed by an awesome startup called ReferralCandy, the whole story is here. It’s absolutely awesome and I can’t imagine having a better job. I often feel like I don’t deserve it- like an imposter really- but I’m determined to grow into the person my founder believes I can be. When I look back on my life in a while, I believe that this job and this working environment are going to be a hugely significant element of my personal development.

We got a cat. We call her Sierra. I was never really big on animals, but my wife has wanted a cat since she was a child and this particular cat called out to me in some way. She followed us home twice so we took her in. It’s been an interesting learning experience doing research and asking fellow humans for advice.

She has a mind of her own and, for a period of time, was very eager to jump onto the ledge outside our window. We found ourselves grappling with parent-like dilemmas- we want her to be happy and free,  and we don’t want to limit her freedom, but we don’t want her to fall to her death either. She was pretty upset about it for a while but now seems pretty content to be a house cat as long as we feed her and clean her litter.

It’s a strange, humbling experience for me to have so much insight into another creature’s toilet habits, output volume, etc. I think it’s been good for me. She can get annoyingly noisy sometimes, but she can also be adorably affectionate.

It occurs to me that single children (or youngest children, like myself) who’ve never had pets may find parenthood startling. Being responsible for a pet feels like middle ground. We’re not planning to have kids but I can see how they might enrich your life. They give you new eyes.

We got to responsibility. I am an irresponsible person. Prior to now, I have never been a responsible person. I never learned. I never cared. I was never entrusted with anything important, and I was always forgiven for my indiscretions.

I’m not sure how best to talk about it. I don’t want to point fingers and blame the world for who I am today- though we all know that does play a significant part. I don’t want to be  fatalistic or pessimistic. I believe that I am capable of change, that I can act on myself. I have projects in my life now that I care about deeply, and my own Incompetence and irresponsibility is holding me back. This simply will not do. This is a demon that must be slain.

Let’s continue where I left off. I believe that the solution lies at least partially in meditation. I dont mean that to specifically refer to any particular practice or doctrine. I just mean that in a general principle sort of way. It’s like saying that you need to study- that doesn’t mean you need to go to a school,  but it’s also entirely possible for you to achieve that state in a school. So you shouldn’t write school off entirely- it could work for some people.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that you could learn math best by pursuing physics- and you could learn meditation (in the sense that I describe it- practiced focus) by running, or lifting weights, or writing. I think writing might be my salvation. So I just need to write more.

 

 

0039 – smartphone

I’ve turned into one of those people glued to their smartphones on the train. I just got my first smartphone a few days ago- a galaxy note 2. I’m determined not to play mindless games to pass time- rather, I’m going to spend my daily commute writing. That’s okay, right? I spent a week trying to be mindful and meditative during my commute but damn it’s hard, especially with the crowds and frequent stops. So it makes more sense to me to spend it reading or writing. That’s not so bad, right?

The main question that’s been on my mind for a few years really- apart from things like “how am I going to put food on the table”- is “what is the greatest good I can do in this world?” Which is a slightly glorified way of asking “what should I do with my life”, once you’ve accepted that the answer to that is “serve others”. So I’m really asking- how can I BEST serve others? I’m not looking for what feels best, I’m looking for what IS best.

I used to volunteer at prisons and it was remarkably fulfilling and soul-enriching. I went in there naively thinking I was gonna help them, ‘heal’ them- but really, they healed me- of aches and ailments I didn’t even know I had.

But would that have been the best use of my time? I don’t think that’s very likely. There’s a small chance that someone I helped might go on to play a role in something amazing but that doesn’t seem very likely. I don’t mean to put those guys down- just that there are surely other things to do, other ways I can reach out to people who would then be in a prime positron  to reach out to others in turn. Teachers do that I suppose. Every amazing teacher I’ve had deserves credit for any success I might ever be blessed with. So do the authors who’ve written books that inspire me. And what of the teachers that taught mine, and the inspirations of those whom inspired me in turn? Surely they deserve credit too. You quickly see how credit attribution is continuous rather than discrete. Everybody and nobody deserves credit for everything and nothing, in varying degrees.

That’s fine and all but how does that help me make a decision? I suppose I have to do what sets me on fire- better to be really really good at something good than be mediocre at something great.

I think it was Alain De botton who said that despair is often a matter of low blood sugar or something like that. I strongly related to that yesterday- it was a Sunday and I just felt so TIRED. I stayed having really negative thoughts. I started feeling angry, cheated, frustrated, shortchanged. I wanted time and space to myself, I wanted to relax, to unwind. But that wasn’t an option because there was work to be done, cleaning, grocery shipping to do. When does a guy just get to sit on his ass and zone out for a day?

And then inside my head I started being really unfair to her- was she saving all this stuff for me, didn’t she know how tired I must be from working- yeah I love my job but it’s still rough it’s still tough… and then I felt guilty because she was in that position so many times before and I was always the one bumming- and even then I’d rationalize that I was working on something important… times like these you call out to what some people call god and you ask- why am I like that? Why can’t I be a better person?

Time management is so so so important. Why is this a lesson that only begins to reveal its value when you’re in a position like this? Like learning the importance of swimming lessons only when you strangely find yourself in the deep end. At least it’s not like I’m dying of cancer or something. Well not as far as I know at least. But it hits me anyway. Nobody could have possibly told me that one day I world have the opportunity to pursue my dreams but I’d insult it because I’d stuck at time management. It’s sad, sobering, humbling. I suppose there’s no point asking why- or I’d be like the man who, being shot with a poisoned arrow, is frustrated and wants to know who shot him- instead of attempting to remedy the problem.

So I have a very real issue here that needs fixing. A part of me acknowledges this. The problem might be that the other part of me has much more practice and traction in gaining consensus in the swarm that is my mind. It uses cheaper tactics and appeals to base impulses. Interestingly there are parallels between this conflict and the one I perceive to be happening at a global scale. There’s a certain fractallian  here- the battle amongst men modelling after the battle within men and vice versa. Perhaps that’s why large epics are so compelling- not just because they’re epic with lots of power and majesty but because the battle for good and evil cuts through every man.

So here’s something exciting to contemplate, and it’s a matter of framing- I don’t have to become an international figure to confront demons- I can confront those within me. If the recursion is real- and I have faith that this is so because of the beautiful order of our universe- then conquering my own demons would be my first and most decisive step in confronting what I perceive as a global blight within humanity. Da vinci said we can have no dominion greater or lesser than over ourselves- and I feel like I understand that a little better now.

Going back to the feeling of despair- I managed to wash it away with a cold shower, some slightly meditative thinking and a reminder within myself to be grateful. I asked for the life I’m living, and I’m living it. Few in the world get such a luxury. I was overjoyed to be in such a position and that joy should not be diminished when the going gets tough.