Meaning, Life, and Happiness

and The Glad Game

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Maybe life is suffering. Maybe our existential dilemma is manifested by our station in life. Maybe, just maybe, we have to feel miserable in some way to know we are still alive. Is it then too far of a reach to think we all suffer the same degree?

To ask what is life in a non biological sense sort of begs the question what is the meaning of life? It seems age old and as far as I’ve ever known, nobody seems to have a clear answer. It seems to me that there is a logical error in asking this question, kind of like how you can’t divide by 0.* The question we should be asking is what is the meaning of my life? Can each and every person on Earth have an answer to that? …

From here, the question is succinct enough to convey the idea that each of us is, simply by existing, a part of a larger whole, yet it lies wide open for individual interpretation. What is the purpose of my life, the role my brain was molded for, the thing I’m meant to do? What is the legacy of my life, the thing that I’m known for, the impact I’ve made, the mark I have left, the decisions of others that I have influenced? What is the effect of my life, the impact I leave on my children, the change I have effected on the world, the difference I made? Destiny, perhaps? Meaning is the function that connects you to the world.

Given the meaning of one’s life is found, and life is lived to fulfill that meaning, does that in turn satisfy us? Can we be happy by simply living out our purpose? Does this ease the suffering of life? Surely, this isn’t the sole key to happiness in life? “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work again.” Isn’t that it?

Suppose you are fortunate enough to do what you enjoy doing and it somehow still doesn’t feel like work. You may have made peace with your self and your connection to the world, but any number of unfortunate fates await a person. Illnesses and traumas are inevitable, but merely an aside to the consequences of unfortunate connections and best intentions fallen by the wayside. What of happiness then? Can one find happiness in the worst of conditions, perhaps even if most of their life seems stricken by misfortune? What weight do we give the sufferings of life, when those in great suffering can find happiness in so many places and those of immense fortune cannot be happy for a moment?

What is happiness? Again, I think the common way of asking is inherently wrong. Happiness isn’t a thing, it’s how we feel when our mind is positively focused. Perhaps we should be asking, “Where is happiness?” This question prompts active search rather than passive pondering. Where do you find your happiness? That’s a question we can answer. Sure, there’s bucket lists and hobbies, friends and family. It’s easy to think of at least a couple answers to where you find your happiness. I had a friend in Colorado that would insist on playing The Glad Game. Simply take turns stating I’m glad that _ and fill in the blank with something that hasn’t already been used that day. Being as we did construction, it was sometimes modified to The Fucking Glad Game, especially after a few rounds! Nonetheless, it usually cut through the thickest clouds of misery and gave folks a reason to laugh. Maybe focusing on happiness for the sake of a game takes the pressure off of trying to think happy thoughts for the sake of being happy.

Money doesn’t buy happiness any more than love. It can only ease so much suffering. Maybe without financial stress, in a vehicle both sturdy to outside hazards and comforting to the rider, the other sufferings of life are more impacting.

I will wrap up my philosophical soap box speech with one last thought. Maybe what intrinsically ties together these concepts of life, meaning, and happiness is reason. What is the reason I live my life? What is the reason my life means what it does? What reason do I have to be happy? Maybe asking the right questions is the key to avoiding an existential crisis.

*Yes, I remember invoking L’Hopital’s Theorem to divide by an expression that simplifies to 0. Entirely beside my point though!

Life is Letting Go

and making room for the new

There’s been a box of papers getting kicked around, shuffled here, buried, moved there, and buried again. It was unlabeled and I hadn’t looked in it since I packed it up to move years ago. A few months ago, I pulled the box out in a furious cleaning effort.

First opening the box revealed magazines adorned with skin, which happened to also surprise my curious girlfriend. There were only a few, and truthfully much of the reason I keep them is for the simple nostalgia of the countries they were printed in. In any case, they made it to a proper location and the rest of the box has been collecting dust.

School stuff. After those few magazines, it was just folder after folder of schoolwork. I suppose I’m a bit off just for keeping all the hardbound door stops I needed through school. In the same vein, I had been keeping this box of my work because there might be something useful and worthy of saving. I don’t know why, but this morning just felt like the right time to dig through it.

I suppose after spending so many late nights and early mornings wrapping your head around these charts, it would make anyone just a bit disconnected from and unable to relate to the population at large. In the folder I found these, I also found all the work I did leading up to failing Solar Thermal Systems. That professor is still there, still teaching all the classes I would need to take to finish. I thought I had him figured out, and a small part of me wonders if he didn’t just dish the pain out to me because a little bird told him I thought I had him figured. I kept the chart, and tossed all the work into the box.

Then, there was that one condensed physics class I had to take at community college to be admitted to my engineering program. Wherever Jeff Berkeley is, I sure hope he isn’t torturing more undeserving students with his belittling and ranting. Sure, I passed with a B, but it was an ugly summer. It was a period of time where I was realizing my marriage was doomed, and I didn’t know a sober day until I stopped eating altogether in the stress of my initial severance. All of that, in the box.

Ah, yes. Engineering school, where you might sit and pontificate the possibility of actually jumping from a burning building onto a lower one! I did like this class, as hard as it was. I actually enjoyed the daily quizzes where the class all got a little bit of a mind blown by the inaccuracy of common assumptions about the physical world and Newton’s Laws. Turns out, it’s not just Chuck Norris that can do ‘Earth Downs’ instead of ‘push ups’! I kept the quizzes for future mental gum to chew on and the rest went ceremoniously into the box.

It went like this for a couple hours. There were tests, the Electronics midterm for example, which the entire class bombed so badly that the professor had no choice but to offer points back for corrected solutions. There was the motors class that started with 11 students, only to end with 4 of us even attempting the final and only half the test takers passing. I wasn’t one of them. In the box, headed for the trash like that whole course was from the first day.

I really had a talent for circuits, and did fairly well along the way despite the electronics courses to follow. There was the bridge build for statics. That was actually quite fun and the proud remains of it are still around somewhere. The electronics courses were rough. I really can’t bias an op amp to save my life! In the box because none of that has stopped me from making my own amplifiers from scratch any damn way.

Nearing the end of the pile, I started pondering just what qualities made for a good teacher. How do some of these professors give their students such a hard time yet leave them with such a positive perception afterwards? What makes others just come off as portentous jerks while they can’t even get their own facts straight to present them? I come to my calculus work. Oh, yes. There’s stone cold Thompson. The guy was a jerk and unforgiving, but in a clinical sort of way. His way of telling you that you failed was like a doctor writing a prescription. I did enjoy two courses with the local legend, though. At least, I left with a positive impression of the course. Looking back on the comments, I feel less impressed. He meant to be humorous, but at some point it gets to feeling like tests are nothing more than a ritualistic beating that you have to endure for the sake of the title.

Avoid creative math. Good advice that makes me shake my head at my father and all his ‘creative financing’. Turns out, you can’t just pretend an exponent is a base nor can you pretend debt is a credit.

However, I guess what does jive with me and my style is blunt force honesty. The math is all fancy with Greek letters and not logically incorrect, but the most valiant efforts are for naught if not executed correctly.

One Magical Day

…when I have money again

Sara in LaLa Land posted a bucket list and I thought I’d give mine a revamp!

Money doesn’t buy happiness, they say. Whoever they are, they apparently have too much of it if they can’t find happiness. I would frankly be stoked simply to pay all of my bills one month. However, one day when money and kids are not a hindrance, here’s a few things for my bucket list.

Snowboard the Alps. I grew up in Colorado near a legendary ski area. The powder was deep, some years the slopes would be open before Halloween, and some years would stay open past spring vacation. The west coast states, though I love living in the PNW, just don’t get that high altitude fluffy powder. I would also be happy getting some action in Alaska, though it just doesn’t have the same exotic appeal to it.

Fiji getaway. Simple enough. I just want to spend a week or two lazing around half naked and go diving in the reef. I started diving in Okinawa as an alternative to getting shit faced every weekend. Since then, I’ve enjoyed only a handful of dives in my adventures. I lost all my underwater photos in the course of life. I had a huge collection of ‘sea slugs’ photos. Sad, but it only means that one day I will have to go take more photos!

Take family to 6 Flags. Another one of those odd growing up things was being just close enough to Denver to feasibly make a day trip to Elitch Gardens. For most families, that is. I still to this day haven’t made it there. I did go to the one in LA a couple times while stationed at Pendleton. I mean, the fair rolls in with all the usual rides: the zipper, tilt a whirl, some version of centrifugal force ride where everyone is pasted to the wall, the swings… Okay, yay and stuff, but some of us have leaped off bridges and out of aircraft for fun. The Batman ride, now there’s some fun! I can’t wait until the kids are old enough that I can take them to enjoy all those things!

Speaking of thrills, man would I love to do what Dane Cook did on one comedy tour and fly a plane in a dogfight! Does that company still exist? It wasn’t exorbitantly expensive when I checked it out, and I would be stoked to have such an opportunity! I would probably still have a hard time finding someone to go with me. Not everyone has the stomach for that kind of physical upheaval!

Hot Air Balloon Ride. Simple as that. Just a peaceful, gentle excursion with lots of time to take in the sights. Skydiving is epic for the sight, but admittedly a scant few minutes is hardly worth the cost. The southwest is famous for ‘habbing’ and I always thought it would be just about the best excursion for a birthday or anniversary.

Romantic cruise ship getaway. Another one of those simple things. I suppose I could enjoy a Caribbean tour, as it would flow nicely with the minimal clothes theme for the ship bound part of the trip! However, I really don’t care for the heat, so Alaska has always sounded more appealing. Glaciers and northern lights are definitely more my flavor.

Yep, one day

It’s Always Something #006

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Well, I’ve been stressing for months about my car and ignoring twice daily phone calls. This week, I decided it was time to rip the band aid off and answer the phone. 

Tomorrow morning, I will drive my son to school in my lovely Volt and take the long way home… for the last time. It’s been a long time coming, and I have watched the train rolling down the tracks for weeks, feeling helplessly tied down.  

Every bill collector wants to know why we can’t pay. What on earth is so cataclysmic as to prevent us from coming up with at least some money at some point. I don’t have a clear answer. 

Months of struggling to pay even rent on time has forced me to wrap my poor flustered mind around inevitable homelessness. My face feels like it looks the part, too. I’ve never liked too much facial hair. I don’t like shaving daily, but a week is about as long as I can usually stand before I have to scrape it off. I haven’t shaved because I honestly can’t stand to look myself in the mirror. I don’t want the image of myself being a complete piece of shit on top of the feelings. 

Whatever. Here’s to ripping the band aid off and getting through the last of what’s to come. It really, truly can’t get much worse before it gets better now!

It’s Always Something #005

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

The negativity spiral. Some people think of it more linear, like a dark road you walk down, each step another ugly, degrading, demoralizing thought. The world is very cyclic by nature, so where it may seem we walk a straight path into darkness, there is indeed an ultimate point which we seem to be circling.

Anyway, I had a nightmare last Friday. Seems to be going around, judging by my feed. Mister had school, so I couldn’t just hide in bed like I really wanted. I got up, made my coffee, and joined the family at the table. Kim made breakfast and it looked good, but one challenging remark from the peanut gallery derailed my effort to convince myself to be hungry. So, without comment, I took my coffee and retreated to the bedroom. 

I felt like I actually had the fight that I just dreamt I had. There was nothing otherwise to complain about, I just felt beat up. After returning home from the school delivery, I got sucked into it. 

Kim asked me what was wrong. I told her I just felt shitty. She asked if it was her, or something she did. No, I just felt like crap. After more questioning, I told her I had a nightmare. I didn’t want to feed the negativity by adding details. I wanted to sit in silence and get my head right. 

She continued to pry. She explained that my being upset was upsetting her and wanted to know what was wrong. I tried my best to quarantine myself that morning, so being told that I failed to do so reinforced my negativity. She continued to ask what was wrong. 

The spiral. It ruined most of the day for us.

Ugh! Come the hell on, now! Of course, some thing is wrong! There are so many things wrong in my life right now, I can’t shake a hundred dollar bill at them all. If someone repeatedly asks for what’s wrong, I have an endless well of things to complain about. If you look for something to be a problem, you are going to find it. The only real problem is getting sucked into the negativity. 

Honestly…

There’s hardly a problem we have right now that can’t be completely solved with a liberal application of Go The Fuck To Work! 

If you stop and think negatively, there is always some damn thing. 

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

It was a wonder we made it through paying September’s rent. Since the kids went back to school, our schedule is less demanding but life has not been short of challenges. 

I lost a chunk of the last check that I put into my bank account. The state decided to draw against my account while the letter telling me so was en route to my mailbox. It sucks. I’m not surprised, but I am irritated. That’s another rant for another post, though. 

Then there was Back to School night at my son’s school. His mom reinforced over and over how important it was that I attend. Last year, I attended with both the kids. After we were settled and the presentation had begun, she strolled over with her mother and got our son stirred up. I ended up walking out straight away with not one, but two wailing kids. This year, she sat right next to our son and got him worked up announcing that her folks were planning their next visit. After that, she takes his hand and hustles off to deliberately cut me off. It’s my parenting time, but she was sure to enjoy every second of that hour and twenty minutes. Whatever. 

She does these little things that anyone on the outside wouldn’t notice, but are quite deliberately belittling. It’s no news that her folks are coming, they take their full 3 months every year to visit. They dump half as much money on that single visit alone that I’m likely to make all year. She announces it to get under my skin, knowing how much it must kill me that my parents can’t even collect themselves enough to be parents. That I’m now in a financial vacuum that even a respectable income can’t stop. 

I try not to let it get me, but Friday I could hardly make myself a coffee. I spent the entire morning trying to recover my sanity. The afternoon was really the healing part, having spent it with my son coloring. Really, I don’t know what I’d do sometimes without these moments of grounding. 

My girl spent the week recovering from falling on Hawthorne bridge, which happens to be a metal grid platform. She got out to help push a stalled car. Her feet gave out, whether because it was slippery or because she overworked her muscles, she isn’t sure. She did bruise up both knees, both hands, and her left eye.  Being the caring boyfriend I am, I took her to the doctor to be seen. All the while, what does it look like to everyone to see a girl with a black eye and seriously bruised wrists being followed by her boyfriend at the doctor’s office? Nothing I enjoy more than falling right into the stigma of abusive bastard by trying to do the right thing.

Add in the little monster being a little monster every morning trying to get her to school, and that pretty much rounds out last week. This week started off much better, but by the close of Monday I had a vehicle that wouldn’t start. Luckily, said vehicle is a 1994 model and it’s missing half its engine compartment trappings, so it made for an easy vehicle to work on, at least. Of course, it’s not my truck nor my money going into it, so there’s a judicial processes that goes along with getting it fixed. It doesn’t matter that I had the exact same model as a teenager that I basically fixed everything on by time I was done learning to drive. Even that I forgot to throw the clutch when starting one time and burned up my own starter. I grew up in the mountains and my mom liked to drive off with the parking brake engaged, therefore I leave it in gear. Kim grew up on flat land and her brake works, so has never before thought of needing to push the clutch when starting. We don’t need to say how many times it has happened to confidently say the starter is shot. I whipped out the nice new multi meter I was recently gifted, and poked around to confirm. However, any time a guy opens a hood on the side of the road, every asshole and his dog has to give you their analysis. Add in the fact that a starter costs a hundred bucks with the core charge (and so does an alternator or a battery) and it takes some phone calls to build confidence in buying said part! Nonetheless, after a bonk to the forehead, a trip to the Dr’s office for Kim, and a wade through traffic after a wreck in the hwy, Rosie turned right over! Whew, another week, another crisis dealt with. 

So, now that I’m a week behind in work, and have so many projects to try to tackle, I will probably be fairly absent in the blogosphere. I will at least keep up with my weekly followings, they’re a great bit of morning inspiration. A benefit to being on the west coast is that everyone has posted by time I wake up! 😴😄 Thank you all for sharing your talent, I will be back to posting again one day…