If “Life is what you make it”, what are we making it into?

Contemplation of the ancient and the new, all at once..

Every once and a while, I seem to sit up straight, cast off the blanket of “normal life”, and look around with fresh eyes. During those times, I start to wonder: “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?”

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not entirely unhappy with my life. I doubt this is any real sort of “mid-life crisis”-induced thinking. Granted, the phenomenon is common enough to be a cliché, and one of the most astonishing things one realizes about one’s life is how many of those are true, even without consciously being molded into them..

No, it’s not entirely about any form of dissatisfaction in life that I put that question to myself. Rather, it is the strange notion of “age” and “age appropriateness” which I’ve never entirely cottoned on to.

(Er.. “to which I’ve never entirely cottoned”? Let’s not let grammar get in the way of meaning, shall we?)

I’ve always felt that age was really just a label, and really not meaningful. When I was a kid, I got along better with adults than other kids. As an adult, I’ve always related to university-age “kids” better than contemporaries. I’ve always bristled at the notion that I had “to grow up” or “grow out of childish things”.

I don’t think I fall into the cliché of “man-boy” — I’m plenty mature. Actually, in some ways I think it’s the prime of my life: I’m old enough, mature enough and experienced enough to have self-control, reflection, insight, intelligence, appreciate hard work and so forth, yet still young enough to appreciate fun things and allow my mind and heart to wander. I don’t have the phenomenal disposable income someone of my age typically gets from work, but that’s less typical these days for the majority of people anyway.

I think I’m caught in the in-between generation, the generation that started when the world worked one way — let’s call that the standard model — and a brand-new way, which we’ll call the new model. Continue reading

Facing one’s limited Faces

Becoming someone else is hard.

I don’t mean changing who you actually are, but rather, the process of putting on a role, such as what an actor or a gamer does.

I’m not really an actor — I’ve done some audio drama and one stage play in high school — but I am a gamer. I love to game, but have a very hard time truly inhabiting a character. To do that requires, I think, a certain sense of empathy and imagination, which I have when I’m writing, but when it comes to gaming I’m often just a bit too tired to focus and summon that skill.

I should clarify for the newbs: when I say “gaming”, I’m not referring to video games, I’m referring to old-school, table-top, pen-and-paper, dice-and-character-sheets, game-master-and-players kind of gaming. I’ve been doing that since about 1991, playing in dozens of games — perhaps hundreds by now? I’ve probably run a dozen or two games, with varying success, and I’ve written game skeletons, fictions and even a few very bad game systems.

When I say “gaming”, I mean gaming.

And it’s hard to do.

At least for me.. Continue reading

Chestnuts roasting over an open memory

I don’t have a lot of rituals. I have a few patterns, like my morning routine, but they aren’t filled with any meaning. They are functional patterns, designed to take me from initial State A to End State B with an efficient number of steps, established through many years of practice and slow, gradual, mostly subconscious modification.

But tonight I picked up chestnuts. Honest-to-God, 100% edible, roastable-just-like-the-song chestnuts. And I will roast them, probably Thursday night, and I will eat them. And it will be ritual, a welcoming sign of the Christmas season approaching. Continue reading

Entangled Book Review: Spin State by Chris Moriarty

Spin State by Chris Moriarty

Spin State by Chris Moriarty

In the future, our brains will be merged near-seamlessly with computers…

This is the dream of an increasingly larger number of people, the nightmare of a vanishingly smaller number, and the unlikely possibility to the vast majority. For me, it’s all three, a statement of the desire to have magic-like powers as machines are finally transformed from external servants to entwined extensions. Machines are dumb tools, hard to use without training, inanimate or at best barely-intelligent materials with which we either communicate vaguely and clumsily, or we endure countless hours adapting our natural patterns and mental conditioning to accommodate the tyranny of atoms, the unyielding physical matter..

But the dream holds thus: we are entwined with the machines, they are extensions of our thoughts, able to respond with ease to what our true meanings are. We dream that we will not have to conform our internal, perfect visions through the crude medium of physical action or the crude linearity of vocalizations.

This is the dream of the integrated post-human, of the merged homo sapiens electronica, not a new idea but one which seems more visible now. We already extend our thoughts and memories and society out over the Web, that soup of information into which we pour our souls and drink deeply, sometimes intimately and sometimes with voyeuristic intention.

Right now, it seems embarrassingly primitive, sometimes. I’m communicating through words in a linear fashion, but behind these mad fingers and roiling brain is the perfect thought, uncrafted and raw but immediate and direct, perfect, and..

But wait? Is it perfect?

Is there nothing to be said of craft?

Is the miasma of my thoughts really better than the clarity of my words? Continue reading

How Do You Structure Your Life?

A mannequin's mechanical parts exposed. Seen at La Musée Des Automates, La Rochelle, France.

Man's Mechanics Exposed

How does life become complicated? Why does it happen? How do we fix it?

These questions occur to me once and a while. I’m not always lucid enough to remember just how complex life is — or perhaps I’m blithely unaware of it.

In either case, I think I prefer those times when it does occur to me, because it also highlights my own problematic patterns. And when a problematic pattern is highlighted, you can address it. Its visibility is its weakness, as you can change or slay that which you see.

In this case, there are a couple of patterns that come to mind. First, I have a great desire to learn things. Not quite everything, but certainly a substantial list of things. I’m constantly frustrated by my lack of knowledge of history, or the limits to my scientific understanding. Lumped in with this is the desire to explore those great works of fiction and philosophy that inform our society. Not knowing those means a break in the universe, a separation between the foundations of how the world is and the understanding of how it came to be.

Continue reading