Monday, January 23, 2012

I am really inspired. This has happened before.

This is part of a work in progress; I have a lot of ideas floating around and I'd like to track their progression over time.

Tourism is boring me. You can read more about that on my travel blog if you like. The thing is, I'm just not inclined to go see more buildings or natural sites or, hell, wonders of the world. Nor even to find the best coffee or beer.

I feel like I've just been consuming. Consuming food and drinks, consuming experiences. Traveling around the world to find the best experiences to consume.

Now, let me be clear that I don't see any moral wrong in this; I just see it as unfulfilling. I don't think that being The Best at consuming (either as a gourmet or as No Impact Man) will lead me to a life that I am satisfied with. Consuming seems to be just one part of life.

I've felt like this before at least once: after coming back from Maastricht. My five months there were some of the most carefree and debaucherous (though, really, still not very debaucherous) of my life. I got so fed up with consuming and excited about coming back and getting things done. What happened? I immediately made a few really productive changes to my life. Before I left, in December 2006, I was living in a basement, grumbling about academic and extracurricular commitments, bored with work and eating too much GoLean Crunch and soy milk. After I returned and made these changes, in August 2007, I was enjoying classes, drawing cartoons, living in an awesome orange room in a house owned by one of my best friends, beginning a great new relationship, researching fervently in a new lab, committing myself selectively to extracurriculars, and listening to The Knife. It was one of the best half-years of my life.

Let's (royal we) do this again. Let's begin a new career in a new town. But let's do it even better this time. Now that I know a bit more about how life works, perhaps I can recreate my life with a bit more wisdom. What are the parts to a fulfilling life, and how can I make those easy to achieve? I'll start with a "wish list" of floaty ideas, and see if I can then boil them down into concrete things to do.

- career, sure. Think I've spent enough time on this one. Grad school will be a challenge, and hopefully also a joy, but either way it'll be unpredictable enough that I don't know how to optimize it yet.
- eating right: some ideas include only buying food that cannot be immediately eaten, committing to three square meals and no snacks, or cultivating the joy of hunger that I've been working on. A less likely but still neat idea is refined-sugar teetotaling.
- exercising right: first, I will ride bikes everywhere, as usual. Second, though, I think just biking is not enough. I think I would like to do something else, something to work on all the parts of the body besides cardiovascular health and leg strength. I would like to fight people, like wrestling, because fighting requires strength and balance, and is fun. Perhaps the closest real-world analogue to this is a martial art? If so, which one? Finally, some yoga might help too.
- mental and spiritual health. Keep on meditating. Go on retreat sometimes. Do not lose the urge to get enlightened, and mindfully monitor the rest of my life, changing stuff if necessary.
- healthy social group. I've always been working on this. One thing that will help is the new less-judgmental attitude I'm developing. Maybe I should entertain more? I like throwing parties and hosting small gatherings; maybe I should invite more people more often with a cause. Some ideas include an album listening deal (like a film club but you listen to an album instead) and this creative circle thing I've tossed about but never done.
- dating. I should dedicate some energy to this.
- creating. As posted a couple posts ago, I think this is healthy, and I don't do it much. Also this. My current whim is that I want to start making some designs. Probably digital. Maybe try something like a Wacom tablet to do some drawing? Also, code more. This is very floaty, but I do want to find some time for, y'know, "hey, what if I could write a script to run my refrigerator for me?"
- serendipity. Make 20% of my life surprises that I don't like, so I keep growing. This feels like a cross-cutting concern, a way to do things instead of something else to do, and I don't know how to do it.
- listening to new music. I still like doing this, and it doesn't seem to fit anywhere else.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why do the best things remind me of video games?

I'll be going through Angkor Wat or Hampi or something, and I'll think "this is like a scene from Myst or Riven." My standard of excellence for instrumental music is the soundtrack from Final Fantasy games. Even a really good story is like one from a video game plot.

Why is this? It's like I've imprinted on old RPG's and puzzle games (FFVI, FFVII, FFX, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Baldur's Gate I/II, Diablo II, King's Quest V-VII, Loom). Playing one of these games is like watching a movie 20 times, so after that I'm really invested in the story and characters. Plus, I bet the interaction has something to do with it. I don't think most critics in their right mind would take Chrono Trigger over The Godfather, but I would. Strange!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Wait, wasn't this a blog about all sorts of Buddhism just a couple months ago?

Maybe. I am still meditating, but not as much or as effectively as I was in September or October. The biggest reason is continued travel. Something different happens every day, and I have a lot of things that I must plan, so the likelihood of a free half hour to meditate is lower, and when it happens my mind is super full.

But I'm still on "half an hour most days", so there is hope. And while I'm not attaining any bhumis, jhanas, or other mental fireworks, I think I am noticing some subtle changes. Like my crazy day zipping around Bangalore to satisfy the whims of a few bureaucratic babus, when I really noticed my anxiety and frustration and didn't fight it all too much.

My mind is changing for the better! I could even tell a pretty good story about my life turning a corner. I feel like I've been cutting things out of my life, removing responsibilities, physical things, even relationships, to pare things down to a quite minimal life. Right now I don't really have to do much ever, and I would be pretty okay if I lost everything except my backpack.

But minimalism is not enough! Cut everything out, and then what? I used to think I wanted to create something big. Then I thought, naw, you only want to create something big if you're insecure and you want to be famous. But I think there's a difference. You only want to be famous if you're insecure and you want to be famous. You can dedicate yourself to creating something big, or something good, in an inspired, energizing way, rather than a sapping, fame-seeking way.

Here's hoping I can. Simplifying and cutting things out is easy; creating and building is the hard part. Ram asked me and Nicole what 2012 would be; maybe it's the year I start creating.

Related: creating is good, because "when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create."
Also maybe related: in the past, I might have looked at this list and thought "geez, look at holier-than-thou here telling me all this impossible stuff to do." Now I'm kind of inspired.