This Blog is Going into Hibernation
It's been delightful, folks
2022 Was an incredible year for me, along multiple dimensions.
The Cincinnati Bengals won their first playoff game in over 30 years, the same day my third child was born. My Dad’s neurological disease progressed to the point that he was transferred to the Memory unit where his mother spent her last days, and then he passed away in late October. His death came towards the tail end of the interview process I began in late august, and picked up in earnest after being laid off from Snap.
I took one call with a recruiter for a startup, outside the hospital, after a visit with my Dad. People on wheelchairs, pushed by their loved ones, witnessed as I asked the engineering manager, “Am I going to be able to take my kids to the park and not worry about the phone ringing saying I need to come in now to fix something?”
He said, “thanks for the honesty, maybe this place isn’t for you.”
I am finding that this practice of speaking honestly about what I want and where I’m at - it’s working. I am finding that trusting the world to be reasonable, to have a place for me, to allow me to be me myself without reservation - it’s working for me. I am finding that having an unreasonable expectation that things will be OK, is working for me.
It’s a prediction that keeps being met with 100% reliability in part because if I decide things are OK with me, nobody can tell me I’m wrong.
I have enough degrees of freedom that I can choose whether or not the Turing machine that is my brain computing my beliefs halts in an accepting state, or whether it keeps rattling on, emitting smoke and steam and worries and fears, burning calories and dumping waste as it attempts to control this wonderful, beautiful, terrifying, impossibly magical object outside of me.
I can choose whether to view the world as a prison, or a womb.
I can choose to accept the state of the world, whatever it is.
This doesn’t mean bad things have stopped happening to me. They seem to happen all the more frequently! But they don’t bother me as much. And man, that is something.
I Have Learned I Will Not Save The World
After that phone call, I went back into the hospital, and watched the technicians x-ray my Dad.
I tried my best to imagine that I could consciously redirect the incoming beams of x-ray energy such that they would heal his broken DNA, repair his epigenome, and cause him to get up out of that hospital bed and walk once more, I prayed and wanted and wished as hard as I could and I begged whoever is responsible for enforcing the laws of physics, please, I’ll do anything, I just want my Dad to live, I will be responsible and pay the price for all the evil that this been done in the world if you will just make my Dad get up out of that bed, and if the guy who ostensibly did this says so, I’ll tell everyone he did it. Please. Let me talk with my Dad once more. Please. Let him know his grandchildren and let them know him. Please don’t take him from me.
But my Dad still died.
Yet my experience of his death was healing in a way that underscored my newfound belief that without death, suffering, and unpredictability, the universe is a substantially worse place.
A funeral is an obscene amount of attention to pay to any one person who is still alive, all in one go. It’s impossible to do someone justice by attempting to see their entire life as a whole, if they aren’t already dead. It’s freeing to know that I don’t really want to save the world, and more freeing to realize that the world doesn’t need me to save it.
I Have Learned That I am Limited
I am also coming to accept that I am so limited, that simply being the kind of dad I want to be is at odds with being the kind of son I want to be.
It was far easier to give up dreams of being Investor-Philosopher-King of the world, than it was to give up my dream of being the kind of man who is always, without fault, present and patient with his kids, a man who never loses his temper and doesn’t spend once second whining and feeling sorry for himself.
This constraint is true even if I remove work from the question because, say, I’ve gotten laid off with a generous severance package and I’ve secured a job offer but don’t need to start right away.
I’m simply far, far too limited to be the kind of person I wanted to be, in as many domains as I was trying to be that person. It’s humbling, but freeing, to accept this conclusion. It is freeing to no longer feel the need to struggle against constraints which are obviously real, even if they all have small amounts of give in them.
The inner tyrant has seen the data, and has abdicated his throne, for a position as an influencer / cheerleader on my physiology’s equivalent of nostr. What remains is of a distributed biological republic, each sacred drive and noble endeavor in a relationship of mutual respect with the others, none desiring, or attempting to dominate.
This Post is Long and Poorly Formatted So That Only Those Interested Will Read
One of those dimensions, in which my life grew richer, more detailed, more exciting, more fun, more impactful - was my hobby as a writer. I’ve written compulsively for years; what started as a journal became a blog which went through a series of half-hearted moves throughout the years, effectively because I never cared about building a brand or a business or an identity so much as my ability to put words down into a form that others would look at the words and say things to me about those words.
What was I looking for? I had thought it was attention and validation. But what I’ve come to learn is that I just wanted to get closer to the truth, like a man climbing a tree to see a celebrity up close, just for one second.
In 2022 I realized that blogging was acting as a selection filter on my own beliefs. Trying to express beliefs to others, trying to convince them to take my worldview, ended up changing my worldview a lot. I won’t say I’m broken of this desire to convince others to see it my may. I have learned that it’s not a good use of my time, but self restraint is much harder than just avoiding situations where temptation lives in the first place.
Being “a guy who writes on the internet” is a ton of work. I only have so much time. So many hours in the day. The days I drop into a trance and stream words out from my soul to my fingertips - those days are ones I’m more likely to be distracted at home.
Taking the time to polish the words, make the arguments more cogent - that has been useful in me figuring out what it is that I believe. It’s been useful in cognitive evolution. But now i’ve got a belief system that works for me, and the real work is in making myself live this wonderfully good news that I’ve come to embrace: I am OK, no matter what. If I orient myself with truth, I have a consistent ‘towards’ relationship with reality itself.
You might say i’ve obtained sufficient “worldview/organism” fit that I want to scale up my operation of that worldview, which means taking a page from the much maligned Booker T Washington and casting my bucket down around me.
Plus I started a new job in a heavily regulated industry and they asked me not to blog. This is never something I’d have considered on my own, but I’ve learned that the more I trust the world to take care of me, the better things go.
Given this newfound practice of accepting whatever life throws my way, I’ve decided to chop off this portion of my identity and see what new thing grows in its place.
I leave you, then, when something I wrote just over 14 years ago, when I was younger and, in some ways, wiser:
“What we need, however, more than great men, is good men, men who do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Men who get up every morning to go to work, who pay their taxes and give back to their communities in the small ways that they can, and who set excellent examples for their children. Given the choice between being a great man with a flawed personal life, and a good man who never accomplishes anything ‘of note’ in the world at large, I will choose to be a good man any time.”
I still want to be a great man. But I’m not yet a good enough man to be comfortable spending the time i’m spending trying to make an impact on others. I’ll be selfish and focus on my family and my job for a few years and see what comes of it.
I just want to express that this blog has SERIOUSLY improved my own well-being! In particular the post "The Way You Think About Value is Making You Miserable". (In fact "well-being" seems like an understatement, it's more like "fantastic-being", "wondrous-being", "extraordinary-being"...)
You've helped me internalize how much we should appreciate our circumstances in life, and actually turn that appreciation into practice. I've taken to heart and put into practice your lessons like "I constantly enumerate the goodness of the world around me" and "My default utility gradient is +173,000 Terrawatts" and my emotional states have not only become much, much, much more positive, but more controllable as well.
I've got some visualizations that I hope you enjoy. The main one is that I now consider myself a "cloudwalker" - where ground is "neutral emotion towards present moment", underground is "negative emotion towards present moment", and the sky is "positive emotion towards present moment", I find myself walking in the clouds much more often than not - and not just in the clouds, but HIGH in the clouds, supported by the bliss of extreme gratitude.
One exercise is to LOOK AROUND THE ROOM and simply imagine how many different people's hands went into creating all the objects we have. Try it! Just look at each object around you one-by-one and at least start to imagine how many people have contributed to bringing it to you. It's positively mind-boggling how much effort has been expended to bring us the comforts we are surrounded with. So I take time to appreciate that! I call this exercise "Many Hands Push Us To Heaven", with the visualization that if you ever need a boost up into the sky to become a "cloudwalker", just look around the room and imagine all those countless hands of the countless people who have contributed to our affluence pushing us up in the air so we can walk among the clouds.
An outward-facing exercise is "Dancing Into the Clouds", which is a public display of joy and exuberance that jolts other people out of their previous mental state and puts a smile on their face. Imagine someone playfully dancing in public, full-on stupid grin on their face, encouraging onlookers (without pressure or even words) to join into the silly fun. The visualization is that the cloudwalker comes down to the surface to pull surface-dwellers up into the clouds.
These thoughts are still developing (your blog post that inspired them is only a couple months old) but I just wanted to let you know that I've really gotten a lot out of them! Everyday activities like walking to the store, making food, really everything, can become rapturously sublime celebrations of the circumstances we find ourselves in. So, thanks!!!!!!!!!
So glad I discovered you before you left the stage for however long it will be! I wish you all the best with the next phase of your life, and thanks for your departing monologue, which happens to be just what I needed to read today.