Hey, Future Self

In the process of giving most of my stuff away I came across a pile of old journals.  My first thought was to throw them out.

"Are you sure? They're your journals and you might want to keep them", my friend told me. I figured I would read through them later and throw them out afterwards. That night I read them.

They date back at least 10 years and are a hilarious collection of diatribes and rants, the kind that haunt the mind of a young immature man.  It can be summed up as a perpetual existential crisis brought about by an inability to connect with other people.  Best of all it bordered on psychosis and was one of the stranger journals I've ever read — several times I would write "Hey future self…" and lambaste myself through time.  The past yelling at his own future; I'm not even sure what to make of that.

One particular page jumped out at me. It was different in that it was one of the few positive entries and it reflected nicely my current state of mind. So, here it is, my views on today from 10 years ago:

This is quite nice. I'm sitting on a white wire-frame bench across the street form my apartment complex.  It's tucked underneath the world near an old office building.  There are bright white lamps illuminating this page.

All that I could ever want right now is a pen and paper.  There's nothing else I need.  Life truly is so full of beauty, so full of wonderment, so many things to fill you with happiness. How could I have ever been so blind?  To be so depressed… not to see… to experience this?!

No one wants this to be heaven, they all imagine something better.  Yet everything they imagine, everything they dream and hope for is right here, right now, every minute of every day.

I just asked myself, "where do you want to go?"  And all I could do is laugh.  I could die right now.  I have everything I want: my pen and paper.  Everything else I could want is always with me.  A pen and paper are all that I need. I want to make this moment one of the few moments that mark my life.  The moment that symbolizes a time of perfect fulfillment.  It wasn't a mountain to climb, money to earn or a car to drive.  It was my pen and paper.  The tools to immortalize this moment.

How can I even ask what the meaning of life is?  It's right in front of my face!  Do I ask what the meaning of a bench is when I sit down?  Do I need to think about the meaning of my pen and my paper when I write?  Why then do I ponder the meaning of life when I live?

How many times have we realized this and how many times have we forgotten?

Maybe it takes a movie or maybe it takes your demise, but we all learn the meaning to this existence.  We knew it when we were born and we probably know it as we die.  It's just that time in between where we can't seem to remember.  We won't let ourselves know what seems to be the most basic truth.

Some see life as continuous torture until you die; some see life as filled with powers beyond them; some see life in the eyes of ignorance. Right now I see life in the eyes of a humbled soul in an eternal moment of beautiful completion.

Wireless Duffel Bag

Wireless, adjective, having no wire; network with no physical connection
Duffel Bag, noun, a large, cylindrical bag for carrying personal belongings

If there were an impending disaster near your home and you were forced to evacuate, what would you take with you? What possessions matter most?

Looking around at your belongings, would you ask yourself why you own what you own? Do you own things that help you live your life? Do you own things that remind you of past joys? In that state of crisis when one has to determine what really matters, we quickly realize what is important.

If you live your life as I do, as so many other people live, you surround yourself with your life — bathing in the constant reminders of past and current inspiration. Some for entertainment, some for pleasure, some for business. Your belongings often reflect the life you have lived; the outward expression of your perception of reality. In those moments where you breathe in the experience of your world, the adornments in your home shine with life.

But life is not a picture, it is not static, it continuously moves. And it does so whether you are aware of it or not.

So what happens to the possessions that once sparkled with life that now gather dust? The books once read that sit on calm shelves, never to be disturbed — never to be experienced? We become curators to the remnants of our past; dusting the shelves of lifeless relics holding only to faint memories that these things were once important.

Do you re-read the books in your house? Do you re-watch all of the movies? Are the toys played with? And the guitars?

I found in my house a tub of Lego’s and it had not been touched in years. This tub had been moved with me from place to place sort of following me around as if hoping to be used. There’s a sort of sadness to Lego’s going unbuilt. As a child I escaped into imaginary worlds reflected outwardly in those toy building blocks. But looking at the tub of unused Lego’s, it was like a muse with no artist.


What do you need to be happy? And what do you need to experience the most from life fulfilling your desires?

I would propose you need only two things: one is the necessities to sustain your existence, the other are the tools to live out your desires.

The essential things to sustain your life! You need food, shelter, perhaps clothes… Think of the things you take with you when traveling.

I have realized I need clothes, toiletries, a bed, a bathroom, and food. When traveling you find the food as you go, and the astute traveler knows that a bed and bathroom can be found as needed on any journey. So you pack only the clothes and toiletries that you’ll need for your journey, the rest you will acquire as you travel. And of course, the lighter you pack, the more you can do and experience while you are traveling.

In order to carry these things, the most perfect luggage is the Duffel Bag! It’s light, simple, and will hold your clothes and toiletries as you move about the world. The necessities of life can fit in a Duffel Bag and go with you anywhere! And toiletries are easy to pick up as you go, so don’t worry when the TSA throws them out (it’s happened to me more times than I can remember).

The necessities keep you alive, but you need more to really live! This is different for everyone. For some, this might be entirely minimalistic: a pad of paper and a pen, the book you’re currently reading, a laptop, a phone, etc.

What I’ve realized in traveling and needing to work remotely, everything that I personally need to really live can also fit in that same Duffel Bag! Given a good laptop with wireless Internet access and a phone, I can work. I can’t read too many books at once so I rarely ever need more than a few books at any one point in time. Art and photography supplies have been drastically reduced as I have moved to digital.

And that giant CD and DVD collection? Pick your modern alternative (currently, I’m going with Last.fm and Netflix).

In trying to make sure all of my computers from the home to the office have access to the same files I store everything online (including version-control so I can track any edits and changes); I also do this to ensure that if one of the machines crashes then I won’t lose important documents. I got to a point where all I needed was a modern computer (Mac, Windows, or Unix) and I’m easily up and running with personal and professional work. No one computer is a necessity, they are all just tools.

If this “Information Age” can do anything for you, it is to unbound you from that traditional way of life where you would need shelves full of reference materials and supplies. Unbound and wireless to live your life without being trapped in offices or studios. The information age studio can be by design, and perfectly mobile.

Live your Life

In a sort of life experiment, I decided to get rid of most of my possessions. If all I really needed to fully live and enjoy my life was so simple then I should be able to not only continue doing all of the things I do but to actually do more.

It was tricky; our minds race to think of the time and money invested into these possessions. How can we just “give them away?” Remember: the past value is not the present value — and for possessions unused, the present value becomes a negative debt against the priceless time you have to live your life!

If you are to surround yourself with anything, it should be the in-progress life and not the past.

With that in mind I kept a bed to sleep on, a desk to work on, a camera, a computer, art supplies, and an iPhone (of course). And in this information age I have combined the computer and the entertainment center to provide me a fully integrated music, movie, television, and computing environment — which I must admit is much nicer than running cables around the house. So I am making no sacrifice even in my laziest moments where I lounge around watching television. I can draw on my Wacom tablet staring at a cinema display in the comfort of my home or I can take it with me in my wireless Duffel Bag.

Give Away

I’m going to be giving away most of my stuff and if anyone needs any of the following then please let me know as you’ll likely be able to bargain me to zero if you have a good use :) Update: the house is becoming a beautiful mess!

full-size red couch + chaise lounge loveseat
full-size tan couch (extremely comfortable)
futon (full size)
TVs (a 32, 27, 20, all good condition)
TV stands
bookshelves (5-6 tall black and 1 short)
kitchen stuff (dishes, silverware, etc)
black rug
green rug
armoire (with mirrored doors)
large corner desk
small office desk
desk chairs
computers, computers, computers
lots of electronics and AV stuff
tub full of Legos!
comics (~1500 I think)
glass-top kitchen table
bar stools (wood, leather seats, 2 tall, 2 short)
various lamps
various kitsch
books, books, and more books

A lot of this will find its way to Craigslist and/or the Salvation army — there’s a lot more random stuff lying around that I didn’t mention so please ask if you’re looking for something specific.

The Doors of Perception

"The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend."
Aldous Huxley – Doors of Perception

I remember vividly a specific moment riding on a school bus when I was young. Sitting alone in the uncomfortable green bench seat and staring absentmindedly at the rear view mirror. I was cold on a warm day. A depression sank into my soul where at that moment I felt the life leave my body. It was a state of complete sadness. As if my mind let go of my body. Death would have been more welcome, it was a state I can only describe as 'nothingness'. It felt as if I was fading out of existence.

What happened next I cannot adequately describe. Like a reflex my brain lit up with unfamiliar images resulting in a sensation I can only describe as my mind snapping back to my body. The sadness was still there, but it wasn't complete — in that brief moment I saw a future without pain, without emptiness, a world by design. I don't really believe in angels but I like to believe that someone wonderful in this world connected with me out of time and space in that one moment of beautiful rescue. I'm such an idealist.

That memory has been crystallized in my head for most of my life. Thinking about it always resulted in sadness, but also a cause for appreciation that I was able to see at that early age the life I live today.

I thought about this more, and I realized that my life changed over time in a way that was by design. Freeing myself from the trappings of a deluded reality opened the doors. I realized that even those painful memories (crystallized they may be) are my own perceptions. I was not aware of how I chose to experience the world, to see the bus, to feel the uncomfortable seat, and to let myself drown in depression; I was only aware of my perceived reality. Since that childhood reality left no hope or reason to exist, my mind faded itself out of existence. Perhaps in that disconnected state I opened the door just briefly.

As a test, I decided that if anything I'm saying has any merit, then my own memories are as much my design as my reality.  So I experimented, I took my mind back to that bus and I tried something different. I adjusted the lights, I adjusted the pace of time, and viewed the scene from third person. I changed none of the events, only the perceptions. The "truth" was preserved but I found I could easily sway myself to any emotion (happy, sadness, anger, pleasure, even apathy) just by changing the subtleties of the perceptions.  My own memories seem to be by design and under my conscious control. This whole time I've been choosing sadness…

It's quite a strange feeling to recognize that all of your memories can be adjusted any way you see fit; completely changing your past and present reality. I settled my memory of the bus as a comical one where I brightened the lights, and sped up time just enough so that all the children (including me) just seemed ridiculous wobbling around in that silly yellow bus.

Anonymous Crowd

I cannot prove for certain that this world is real. My every breath and every action is done with certainty that what I see and feel around me is in fact real.  But still there remains that lingering doubt — that some mask has been pulled over my eyes.

The consistency of my experiences seem to convey the certainty of my existence — but often the incongruence of what I see paints a different story.
Why is that in a crowd, I feel a lonely solace?

I stopped today to take this picture. I watched the crowd bustling through the pier looking every direction but up, oddly missing the majesty of light in the sky above them. A surreal dance of clouds and blue that seemed to bleed into the earth itself.

We walk in haste, seeing only what we want to see as life explodes around us in a beauty that defies words. I wish to embrace those around me, to share in the experience, but often find instead that I am just another face in the anonymous crowd.

Being Understood

As everyone is making resolutions I realize I have neglected myself and my own resolutions for the new year.  I guess when one makes resolutions on a continuous basis it’s strange to think this activity is exclusive to a new year. That said, it is as good a time as any to think about who we are and who we want to be.  After all, we are who we choose to be.

I personally advocate that a resolution (new years or not) should be a positive addition to life rather than a negative subtraction.  I would never resolve to loose weight, stop eating unhealthy food, or whatever nonsense. Instead I would resolve to eat more, drink more, and love life more — add to your life and never take away from it.  You'll find you won't have time for the negative things when you fill your life with positive things.

This year, or rather at this moment, I have only one resolution and it involves understanding.

Sometimes we are not understood. Actually, most of the time we are not understood. Being understood is like wishing for perfection. With the right amount time and pressure one may work towards the ideal of understanding — but as we are imperfect beings with imperfect minds and imperfect speech, we will never be fully understood.

We shape our world with every action, slowly carving our mark into existence. If the world were a perfect place there would be no need for our existence or our continuous actions. While I cannot resolve to be perfectly understood, I resolve to work steadily towards being understood.

This will require me to be more open, more mindful, and to steadily improve upon my interactions with others. My happiness relies not on whether I am meeting my ideals, but on my continuous improvement towards those ideals.