Less and less with each passing month.
Practically speaking? Because there is an inverse relationship between how much fun something is to how much someone will pay you to do it.
There is this theory I read about once.
Or perhaps I compiled from various bits of reading.
Either way, the theory is mostly gibberish and you should definitely not take it as fact, or assume that I believe a word of it. But does occasionally strike me as interesting and do tend to find myself meanderingly thinking about it on the rare occasions whenever something triggers the thought of it in my mind.
Simply stated that theory is that from each our own perspective we are as close to immortal as our frail little bodies will allow. We don’t die until we have no other choice but to, when the universe is backed into a corner and there is no parallel universe to accommodate our perception.
I’ll understand if you click away now, but if you are feeling adventurous keep reading.
This theory, more complexly, and with a bit more nuance, goes something like this: our universe (or more precisely, our multiverse) is made up of a countless number of parallel universes. Not alternate dimensions. Not frightening parallel realities with bug-eyed monsters, laser battles and Donald Trump as president — oh, wait — I digress — but rather like roots spreading from a tree, or capillaries branching from a vein, billions, trillions, googolplexes of little branching, writhing, ever-creeping tendrils of universes splitting off every time the opportunity arises.
These opportunities, much like choices in a choose-your-own-adventure novel, can be mundane — or they can be hugely flux-inducing.
Often, those tendrils wind, twist, merge themselves back together because the choices are so mundane as to have literally zero consequence on anything, like when a photon of light bends left around a point or when it bends right. Sure, sometimes that matters, but it happens so frequently and has so little impact that those branching tendrils almost immediately merge back together and the universes collapse back into a single narrative.
Narrative. Now there’s a more interesting way of thinking about it. A story. A thread of perception, cause and effect, one event following logically after another event: a narrative. Choices shape and change the narrative, but there is always a single thread of narrative that your mind follows through the duration of your life. And often the change in the narrative of the universe you are perceiving has no impact and the story goes on uninterrupted. But there is always a single thread that you follow and when you reach the last page of that story, that will be the story of you — but, wait: probably only from your perspective.
So back to the idea of immortality. I know it sounds completely nuts, and it mostly is, but follow along with the theory for a few more minutes. The theory isn’t trying to claim that you can live forever, nor is it claiming that you’re invincible. It’s basically saying this: somewhere, in the vast mishmash, tangled collection of billions of parallel universes that make up the multiverse that swirls around you and each and every person, there is almost always a narrative that continues on with you in it. There is one for everyone. And when I reach the end of my life and you reach the end of your life those narratives will not only be completely different because we lived different lives, but they will be completely different because our perception of the narrative will have taken the optimal, most self-preserving path possible to the furthest reached of that narrative thread. My universe isn’t your universe isn’t…
So, while an occasion or an event or a decision in your perception of the multiverse may occasionally render your existence incompatible with 99.999% of those universe narratives, and while the rest of us might trek merrily on through any of those 99.999% and be sad that you won’t be continuing with us, should such an event occur your perception, or what you might otherwise call your consciousness and your mind and your self, will desperately lurch out and grab onto one of the remaining 0.001% and, well — you’ll blink, feel the rush of adrenaline, take a deep breath and your life goes on… and maybe you’ll have a story to tell.
Confused? Well, perhaps a concrete example will help.
Let’s say for example you’re driving to work on a quiet Thursday morning. The roads are a little slippery. The sun hasn’t quite climbed over the horizon. The streets are pretty dark and the air has that brisk chill that you’d expect for an early December day. You follow the route you follow every day, a pre-dawn commute that is almost always uneventful.
And then, say, someone in a silver SUV who is sitting stopped at the red light of an intersection makes a decision to take his foot of the brakes even though he still has a red light. The universe branches: in one branch he’s still paused behind the stop line, while in the other he has incomprehensibly lurched into the middle of the intersection.
Now say you’re the driver of the vehicle approaching on the green.
And let’s, for sake of clarity, say you’re driving a newer model black pickup truck, travelling at the speed limit and heeding an appropriate amount of attention to the road.
At about the same time the universe had split off to accommodate the two narratives of the SUV driver, your multiverse was also frothing with decision tendrils: there were universes where you had reached to change the channel on the radio, a list of realities where you’d looked into the rearview mirror and reacted in certain ways, a couple narrative threads where you’d extended a little too far scraping your windows that morning and your back was sore thus impeding your reaction time, and one where someone chose just that moment to send an email and, while you’d never actually reach for your phone you had forgotten to mute the notifications and the ‘ding’ notification distracted you for just a mere few milliseconds. In 99.999% of those parallel threads of universal narratives, you were just distracted enough that milliseconds counted for a lot in the hundred or so milliseconds of time between when you noticed the SUV in the intersection, slammed on your brakes, skidded to a stop and then noted that you were within inches of adding an SUV hood ornament to your truck.
In this example, in 99.999% of the parallel universes, there are an uncomfortably large number of universes where either the driver of the truck or the driver of the SUV would have found their continued existence in those universes incompatible with the narrative. Universes where the milliseconds of reaction time overflowed and the inches of gap were instead translated into impact velocities. And in this theory, some –many even– of those universes are still out there, weaving through the ether, going along, advancing through a split off narrative where one or two of the participants have ceased to be participants. In this theory, running parallel to the narrative that, say, you’re reading this essay, there are sad friends and family of either or both of those hypothetical drivers.
According to this theory in that busy, flux-inducing span of interweaving, branching, breaking parallel universes, the consciousnesses the two participants leaped over to the optimal path, followed the narrative that was most compatible, the choice with the best hope of immortality. Unnoticed, of course. Nothing extraordinary. Just a turn down the best tendril of reality. A blink, a feeling of the rush of adrenaline while they each took a deep breath — and two lives goes on with a story to tell about how they almost had a life altering collision that morning.
The universe is a strange place.
Elon Musk told me so.
I certainly don’t think it’s divinely bestowed…
I don’t really believe in absolutes, so I would suggest there are many “wrong” things that could possibly be justified based on a larger perspective. Damn moral philosophy!
Another wacky installment of Head over Feets: Tall tales of tops, toes other training tautologies. Alternating Fridays.
To my great shock and surprise, it turned out that the dualists were right. Partially right. Or, at the very least they were on the right path, aimed in the general direction of being correct and running there at respectable and steady pace. After all, I’d personally accepted something of solipsistic approach to the universe: in assuming that reality wasn’t really provable beyond the confines of my own head, I thought that I could get on with my day and not worry about what I couldn’t perceive. It was metaphysically confusing, sure, and not much of topic for a family barbecue over beers, but important to think about occasionally.
I think. A guy’s gotta have a philosophy, right?
Yet there was my brain shouting obscenities at my feet… and my feet were shouting back.
Dualism be damned. This was a full-on personality disorder of a different order. It was a good thing that the disturbances only manifested while I was out running.
Truthfully, it was herein that I questioned my own sanity.
For the first week I ignored the voices. All of them. Nog, as I discovered to be the moniker of some independent faction of my brain, was usually contented and silenced by the distraction of Green Day tunes pumping through the headphones, and could easily find it in himself to overlook the pattering barrage of complaints being lobbed upwards from my feet. But not always. As it was, Links, my left foot, was not an intellectual champion by any measure and his contribution to the occasional bickering was easily brushed off, the same way one might scuff out an annoying little pebble from where it got wedged in the tread of a shoe. But Plod was a different matter entirely. He was more of an over-tightened lace, and just the type of disruption that if left ignored could leave one limping and numb. For the first week I resisted interfering in their debates and disputes, and I ignored it all.
Truthfully, it was herein that I questioned my own sanity, pondering the effects of hearing one’s own feet flabbergasted, fatigued and frustrated by the philosophies of a procrastinating and heedless head. But, I digress.
Then, in the second week I made the mistake of acknowledging the outbursts.
Really, it was more of an offhand scolding: the same type of peace brokering a dad-type-guy might lend to, say, a playground situation wherein while it wasn’t his kids throwing sand at each other, someone else’s kids were. Bullies were observed to be picking on other kids, and also where the possibility for innocent bystander involvement motivates the aforementioned father-figure to partake in the barking of few pointed syllables of control from the parents gallery. A “hey, kids!” lobbed merely as a warning shot. It was that sort of acknowledgement but between my head and my feet, and then I panicked and hot-potatoed that situation to a higher authority, letting the implications hang in the air as I ran on down the trail.
I prefer to think of it more akin to a regrouping.
Oddly enough, I think my acknowledgement of the bickering surprised them just as much as it had surprised me to hear it. All three of them retreated.
Thus, the third week was pleasant again and running and mostly quiet, too. But just mostly. Their retreat wasn’t complete and in retrospect I prefer to think of it more akin to a regrouping. Links and Plod would whisper at each other on our walk-breaks, and Nog seemed to be brooding and barely containing his own onslaught of verbal abuse, huffs and grumbles escaping as discontented jumbles of incomprehensible syllables with growing frequency.
By the end of the fourth week I was almost certain the uneasy peace was at an end, but it wasn’t until I’d stepped off the familiar asphalt and descended into a well-tread (though unofficial) trail alongside the local creek that the dam burst –in of all ironic places– as I was contemplating the possibility of tip-toeing across a makeshift log dam-come-bridge provided and maintained courtesy a busy neighbourhood beaver.
I’d stopped my watch, pulled out my phone to snap a photo of the trail for the obvious electronic bragging rights involved with the challenge, and then there I paused for a long, contemplative moment. I was standing with my left toe mere inches from the edge of the gurgling chaos of the narrow stream, flowing along in bubbling contemplation of its winding journey. The soft gusts of morning wind rustled the newly budding trees and a flock of small birds alighted from where they’d gathered near the gnarled, bare arms of a ready-to-topple birch. My nature-trailed detour had led to what was essentially a dead-end, dependent on my willingness to wet my toes on water splashing over the dam of course, but for that brief moment alone it had been worth every uneven step. I paused to consider my next one.
But the sigh had not come from me. It had come from the direction of my feet.
“Those shoes aren’t waterproof, you know that right?”
And then Plod, my right foot, broke the uneasy peace treaty and snarled. “Those shoes aren’t waterproof, you know that right?”
“Afraid of getting wet now are we?” Nog snarled, and scoffed a deriding kind of laugh that I’d heard many times previous. “I’d soak you both if it were up to me. I can smell you all the way up here.”
“Shut up, head.” Links retorted. “Just shut up.”
“Good one.” Nog replied. “Soak him first.”
I said nothing but instead stepped cautiously back from the stream. A few minutes later I was sprinting back home.
…to be continued.
I’ve been working (and reinventing an old idea I had) on a weird sort of running slash fiction slash philosophical essay for a few weeks. I’m going to start posting them later today or tomorrow. Probably tomorrow. Stay tuned.
There are days when I’m a determinist and consider our lives complex, but completely and absolutely set. And then there are days when I can wrap my head around the amplification by our consciousnesses of improbabilistic events implied by quantum physics, and I say.. hey, maybe yeah.
Mostly, I don’t. But working in an IT-related field, I tend to think any software “running reality” would have a lot more bugs.
In many ways “being happy” is an illusion. You may have noticed that I’ve been following along with that yet-another-internet-meme called #100happydays wherein you tweet or write or update your status with 100 things that make you feel happy over 100 days. Though some might be inclined to superficially argue the point, usually I’m not one to jump on the internet meme bandwagon. Well, I’ll concede that I do… occasionally… but when I do it’s with purpose. See, I’ve had a couple good years. Happy years. And then it’s been punctuated by a couple rotten months. Or… then… well, at some point in your life you realize that happiness is not an event or a goal or an achievement that you obtain. It is not an object. It is not contained in something. It is not granted, given, bought, won, or found. Happiness by those definitions is an illusion, and like any illusion something that might tease you from a distance, but something that will be impossible to acquire by chasing it. Instead, I think this #100happydays has a deeper point: happiness, whatever happiness is, can only be measured as a state of mind. You have happiness in retrospect, by pausing for a moment out of your hour, day, or year to say: “Yeah…. that was good.” And that’s all there is. So, why not embrace it?
Boggled? Puzzled? Confused? Read this page first: Philosophy, Etc.
VOICES OF THE DIALOGUE
X0R, being the narrator and recorder of the dialogue, with NOGGAMEMNON, who rests atop the shoulders and can gaze upon the path, and both LINKS and PLODICUS, being brothers, opposite but equal whose view is naught but closer to grounded. Herein, a dialogue between the voices on the merits or weaknesses of focus, attention, and diversion.
A dog barks from behind a fence and in the ethereal winter’s pale light, washed evenly across the brisk morning landscape, the dusting of the previous evenings snow-fall hints at a textured layer of ice slicking the asphalt below. The air moves in intermittent gusts of swirling chill, dashing the remnant flakes into a cold fury that rustles the bare branches of a nearby copse in a coloratura-flora of suburban sound. And from the shuffle and crunch of rubber soles upon the path a question breaks the harmonies of the run.
SCENE: Glavering Upon a Colloquy of Distraction
LINKS : Does our game strike your fancy on this cool morning or would the view of this rare daylight adventure lure your focus towards the sights and sounds of an illuminated landscape? How is it then, friend Noggamemnon? Have you considered the questions posed upon our moonlit jaunt now a few days past?
NOGGAMEMNON : I have. And such I am ready. Go on with it then. I await your enlightenment.
LINKS : As simply as that then, you suppose? I am not an instructor, let me first assert. This is a discussion leading us down an unmapped trail, dear Nog. Be at least clear upon that point.
NOGGAMEMNON : I merely imply that your lead is invaluable here. Take no offence upon your soles, friends. In fact, if boldness on my part is what you were hoping for let me then suggest that the pondering that has flexed my neurons these last lingering days has plodded upon the course of those self-same ideas for which we had proved wanting for discussion, namely the distraction and dis-focus of the mind.
PLODICUS : You mean to tell us that plugging your ears with the gnashing beat of electronic-powered music was supposedly, what? Research? Bah!
LINKS: What my brother means to say…
NOGGAMEMNON : I know what he means and I don’t contest, actually. It was exactly that.
NOGGAMEMNON : Listen or listening. We mean to chat eloquent on the ideas of wavering attention so what better form should that take than practical experience? It is my own such that for more than a generation and since the advent of portable electronics that those swift of foot and even-pacing have — as you say — plugged their ears with a distraction of the audio form. Music? Yes. Narrative yammering? Most likely. I would assure you this is not an anomaly.
X0R : Excuse my interruption. I don’t mean to take sides, but alas, here would concur. It seems from my own observations that there exists a small but significant commercial industry devoted to the manufacture of audio toys and accessories, which if I’m not mistaken are specifically designed and marketed to be carried and used discretely and efficiently while running.
PLODICUS : Eye-pawd? Bloo-too-dental-mumble-mumble…
LINKS: Hush, brother. Yes… fine then, Nog, your point is granted. I will admit that I too have noticed such toys dangling and adorning the ears of your fellow jog-abouts, and I suppose it worthy that our discussion blossom from such a starting point. That said, their existence does neither automatically presume nor positively assert their value. What have you to say there?
NOGGAMEMNON : Fair enough.
LINKS : My own point being — asserted, in fact — is that I question the value of distraction. I do not abide that distraction is necessary or necessarily a gainful state of engagement on the course.
NOGGAMEMNON : For you two… or for me?
LINKS : Equality or equity? What is the difference?
NOGGAMEMNON : Ah. Well, then here is the true rub of the question. Value of anything most probably, surely, looms large in equation of fulfilment of purpose, correct? I will gladly admit that your own role is more profoundingly and poundingly physical than my own. You step lively upon the path and are wont for even a moment of reprieve from the pace. A misstep or a wrong-footed break from the rhythm of the run would surely trip the progress that on a day such as this, for example, would land innocent X0R upon the ground and plant me snout-first into a snow-bank. My purpose, on the other hand, is far more one of tactical observation. I view the trail from a loftier vantage, a point upon which you’ve made no qualms about jostling, but a vantage that serves precisely the purpose for which it was evolved. That is to say, I see the trail while you trod it.
LINKS : And to your distraction? Your habits of waning attentions?
NOGGAMEMNON : Is that your perception?
PLODICUS : You don’t pay it. We do.
NOGGAMEMNON : Oh, but I do pay it. I pay my attentions full heed, or at least when and how they are required.
LINKS : Tell us.
NOGGAMEMNON : Listen friends, for this could be the pivot on which my points are likely to turn your hearts. Let’s talk first of the very notion of focus and attention. I ask you now this: what is it that you consider to be an affirmation of my focus upon the material reality that would balance the equitable realization of my due unto the trail? By that, let me ask you more plainly why you feel so cheated by my inevitable push to avert my attentiveness towards the immaterial?
PLODICUS : ‘Cause it isn’t fair.
LINKS : Nor really balanced. As you said yourself just then, perhaps it is only that we wont of a desire for reprieve and the more casual notion towards this effort as seemingly befits you. Again I tell you, I question the value of distraction. We work, while you play.
NOGGAMEMNON : Then your assumptions are incorrect. Plain wrong, in fact I say. Think now about focus and what it means to your goodly selves pattering in rhythm along a snow-laden trail. Each step is an affirmation of your job, no? Each step a operation of mechanical action that is a physical manifestation of X0R’s movement along real trajectories and vectors parallel to the ground. Decisions are made in a moment and the impact of impact is felt as a shivering shock and within an instant of rebounding energy with barely a moment to consider and process the result before a repeat is required.
LINKS : It is our lot.
NOGGAMEMNON : True. I give nod to your efforts. I nod because my own efforts are stretched along a parallel course but drawn upon much longer, lingering intervals. On occasion I get recompense for my patience, but often I cannot know the success of my decisions for much longer. Each operation of tactical decisiveness may result in an impact that can last in time-spans from mere seconds to bountiful minutes of airy decisions, and this can take it’s toll to be sure.
LINKS : Let me paraphrase your claim such that my dimwitted brother might continue to follow your convoluted conjecture. Is it so simple to claim that because we are so routinely and regularly affirmed by the step-by-step patter of soles on asphalt but that the rebuttal of your own decisions is locked out of step with their consequence, that you are more entitled to distraction?
PLODICUS : That isn’t fair, is it?
NOGGAMEMNON : You are drawing your own conclusions from my position. We are here to discuss the value of distraction not the entitlement of it to any one party, my friends. Let’s not forget the purpose of our discussion, after all. You suggested the point yourself not but a few moments ago and I will rephrase that to make certain we are all of us clear. The question is asked so: does distraction benefit a run?
LINKS : And you assert that it does then, I take it?
NOGGAMEMNON : I do. And the foundation of my claim lays firmly in the tactical and scattered nature of my roll in the effort.
LINKS : But to argue that it is a benefit for your focus to wane distractedly from that job is the crux of the matter, correct?
NOGGAMEMNON : Let me continue my claim by adding another element onto our map. Let us forget the fairness of it. Let us forgo the illusion of equitable roles. Let us no longer dismay upon who does what and how much effort is asserted. It is true. You both, Links and Plodicus, are the foundation upon which our journey is borne, I concede that and do not wish to remove any glory you derive therein. Instead, let me explain to you the notion of my experience and perceptions from atop these shoulders.
LINKS : I am a little hesitant, but go on.
NOGGAMEMNON : Running is a balance between we three, no? The two of you represent the physical nature of the effort, honouring endurance and strength and a push through the inevitable and unavoidable forces of sheer physics, forces such as gravity and inertia and turbulence and even the slip-and-slide of a snow-covered walk. Conversely, I hold in for the mental nature of the effort, pulling for patience and perseverance and a push through the unavoidable natures of the wandering attentions of the mind and the weight of inevitable boredom that looms around each bend on the path. Boredom is my gravity, the weight upon my very core that pulls me to ground and grounds to my last steps of endurance.
PLODICUS : Are you telling us you’re bored?
NOGGAMEMNON : Please don’t over-simplify my friend, but… in a manner of speaking, well, it is an idle threat that adorns my efforts. Boredom for the mind is as inevitable yet unpredictable as the wind is for the body. Sometimes it swirls as if nothing more than a gentle gust in shuddering draughts. Occasionally it pushes hard from a single direction in a constant blow that drives one forward in one direction and halts progress in the opposite. Boredom, like wind, can be expected but never controlled, managed but rarely avoided. One’s best hope on a blustery day is to run directly into the wind for the outbound push and let it work to the advantage on the return journey, and many similar metaphors and connections could surely be drawn for boredom and the mind.
X0R : He’s got a point.
NOGGAMEMNON : Thank you, X0R. But to clarify, it is not that boredom is completely unexpected. Unlike the wind, it is my burden to know the exact moments when boredom might weigh heaviest upon me. It is unpredictable and foreseeable all at once.
LINKS : You are talking about the time gaps, no?
NOGGAMEMNON : I am glad that I am making some headway then. Yes, indeed. Those same gaps. Those time-spans between tactical turns and step-wise leaps, the choice of a swerve or a leap, the opting towards North versus West or the route tracking that leads into a far-flung loop back towards home, the choices that fill spaces from mere seconds to bountiful minutes drifting, wafting, billowing between airy decision-trees and optional avenues, roads oft followed but rarely repeated in exact pacing or plodding. Those gaps are where the compounding effects of boredom push through the focus and wear down the patience and perseverance that would otherwise drive the run towards a kind of glorious eternity.
LINKS : You are suggesting that if it wasn’t for boredom that we… could run forever?
NOGGAMEMNON : Well, perhaps but I could. But… no. I fail to hold out that much hope for the physical demands such an effort would contrive to enact, even on me. You have your own constraints, my friends, and though such topics should be settled on another day I simply reiterate my notion and ideal that running is a balance between we three. And my role in that balance is nearly always put off by the burden that is insurmountable boredom.
LINKS : Thus distraction becomes your chosen remedy?
NOGGAMEMNON : It is not a cure, to be certain. Distraction is but one elixir to ease the symptoms for a brief while. After all, do you not have rubberised soles to shield you from the onslaught of rough pavement and cold snow? Do you not pull taught your laces to avoid the clutch of gravity upon your shoes? I’ve never grieved you of these conveniences, have I?
PLODICUS : I think you just did.
LINKS : No, brother. He is making a point and we will both of us grant him that.
PURITY OF PERCEPTION, dialogues between the voices on distraction and the role of perception, abstraction, experience, imagination and hope.