Nothing Definitive is an enlightenment blog by Sam Shadow (SMSHDW).
Nothing Definitive is an enlightenment blog by Sam Shadow (SMSHDW).
Last updated: 2018-04-17
This post contains my suspicions and observations about society in 2018. They are not necessarily true or accurate. They are just a sampling of thoughts that occurred to me while reading the news or studying various topics online. You may disagree, that’s ok.
It’s not about the moment and making spontaneous decisions, it’s about planning for the future. For example, in this moment, as I try to fall asleep, I could listen to music. If I chose Radiohead my future would be different than if I chose Daft Punk. This is because my brain chemistry would react differently to the different styles of music and thus different thoughts would emerge and lead me down a different cognitive paths. As a result, the innumerable decisions I’ve made and not made, large and small, to reach this point could never be fully realized. There are just too many options to manage, even in a single day or a single hour. Instead, it’s about programming yourself to utilize tools and discipline to continuously shape your future. Your momentary self should almost be on autopilot attempting to achieve the strategic goals the other side of your mind is planning for. This means you need to understand yourself and learn methods to manage the chemistry and situations that arise each day and alter them in your favor. It’s a long game of carefully crafted statistical choices which means the sooner you start the better you may fare later in life. The other way I’ve imagined it is like a radial menu from the “Sims” video game franchise. Each moment has a menu available to it with a myriad of options to choose from. You tend to choose the ones that are most similar to past decisions or most comfortable to you, but the others are available if you’re feeling daring or adventurous. And who knows what other realities could exist if you started to choose the other options. That’s where this goes off the rails and you realize how insignificant your decision-making powers might be. Have you ever made a truly conscious decision before? And even if you have, it may be one decision out of hundreds or thousands made in a day. Is that even significant? Does that really affect the outcome in any meaningful way? That’s why it may be more about long-term strategy than momentary decision-making because developing mental tools shapes the statistical outcomes over time. Instead of trying to manage the unmanageable mass of decisions immediately in front of you, you can rely on more abstract systems to make those decisions for you. Then you can spend your conscious effort improving those tools so that as situations arise you make the right, productive, and principled decision.
Additional note: I came to this conclusion after auditing my own decisions throughout many days over the past couple years. There seems to be decisions I make that are automated, but not with any strategic foresight applied to them. They are relics from my past life that don’t really benefit me in any way. They’re bad habits or laziness or just unaware actions that could be replaced with something more useful. To understand this, I think you need to reflect on your actions and pay close attention to the things you do during the day and consider alternatives that might be more efficient, more kind, more courteous, more productive, and just better overall. Also, to clarify the Sims reference, you can search Google Images for “sims radial menu” to get a visual of what I’m talking about. I imagine that this menu pops up at any significant decision-making moment and if you intercept your normal thought process you can make a different decision before your automated self clicks the button that is most expected or comfortable. This can help break patterns of bad behavior and reveal new insights about other options you might never consider otherwise.
Ok, I’m talking through the problem and it just occurred to me that maybe the strategy of defining precise objectives isn’t the answer. Maybe it should be about defining routines based around universal constants. Things that never change. Projects and objectives should NOT be part of the strategy at all. Consistent routine should be entirely about when you wake, what you eat, what order you do your basic necessities in, etc. and have no reference to goals. Those only fit in when you have free time between these other activities. You’re basically building a foundation upon which only the strongest, universal elements are constructed. The things that won’t change now or in the future and won’t change even if you do. Everything else lives inside it, but is not a part of the structure. That way you can be both consistent and dynamic. Don’t worry about anything else, just basic consistency.
During the day we live inside a comfortable blue bubble, but at night things are revealed for what they are. The vast darkness of space, the dark nightmare that surrounds us, the dangers that lurk within.
There is nothing more to discuss, just a firm resolve forward into silence. Executing on task after task in a futile effort to fill a nameless void. Ceaselessly, until the end of time.
Somewhere, deep in a dark place, a solitary statue stirs and a crack forms down its side…
The more I learn the more I understand why people work so hard to succeed. It’s because we all start so far away from any meaningful end game. Each insight takes me one step forward rationally, but it feels like a net loss because my position on the game board becomes more clear. It’s almost as if the more I learn the further backwards I find myself. It’s an interesting dilemma because I can’t go back and willing ignorance isn’t an option. Moving forward increases my intelligence and allows me to see reality more clearly, but it paints a much bleaker picture overall. I wonder if there is a way to negate the effect of moving backwards by somehow accurately pinpointing your position on the game board so new insights only felt like a step forward?
Logic, rationality, philosophy, and science. These pursuits construct tools inside your mind for interpreting reality. It then becomes less an aimless struggle for self-awareness and more about cultivating good decisions over a long stretch of time. A game of statistics that’s less focused on you as an individual and more on navigating an external game board. How do you maximize your successes? What direction are you traveling in? Knowing who you are is still important, but maybe you are equally defined by the path forward as by the path behind.
Being thoughtful and labeled as someone who thinks about others is yet another calculation. There are 24 hours in a day, you sleep on average 8 of them, you spend another 10-12 working, at school, or tending to necessities. That leaves 4-6 hours each day that you can customize to your liking. Those 4-6 precious hours are yours to spend however you wish and those who are more selfish spend a higher percentage of them thinking about themselves and their own endeavors. Let’s say the average person spends 5% of their time thinking about others in some meaningful way while a selfish person spends 1%. Let’s then average 4-6 hours to 5 and convert it to minutes = 300 minutes. At 5% that is 15 minutes per day that the average person goes out of their way to really think about another person’s well-being and ways they could help improve it. 1% would be 3 minutes. Someone who is “thoughtful” might adjust that percentage to 10% and spend 30 minutes per day thinking about others. The point is, we go about our days not reflecting on how we really spend our time, and even less on adjusting them to reach our goals. This thought process could be applied to many different things. For awhile, I conducted an experiment using Toggl where I tracked every minute of my day for weeks. It revealed new insights about how I really spend my time and, as a result, who I really am.
Last night I made popcorn and brought it into my room. My dog Ellie followed eagerly as I picked up the first kernel. An automatic thought entered my mind which said, “don’t give it to her, you need to take the first bite.” It was a subtle sign of dominance. I am the pack leader and I must prove it by eating first. It was embarrassing. I handed her the first bite and said an audible, “fuck you” to myself. There’s probably a logical reason why this trigger exists, but is it necessary in the modern world? It was remarkably subtle and made me wonder how many little loops like this I miss on a regular basis. I’d imagine it affects my relationships with people too. Automatic responses that modify how people see me and I have no strategic control over it. I have been able to catch some of them though by asking simple, obvious questions like: what am I doing right now? Why am I doing it? And are there alternative options I’m not considering? It takes skill and regular practice to answer them in a useful way, but can help reveal even the most subtle of automatic behaviors.