Why Routines Set Us Up to Live in the Zone

I’m blogging so I don’t go on my phone and play chess. The robots in Westworld run loops every day, and I do too. Their loops are programmed by someone else, my loops are programmed (I hope) by me.

Sometimes I take a step back and look at my loops. The day is made up of a handful of them. Routines. There are bigger routines for the week, and the season, and the year. I live with them. We all do.

I don’t think I’ve actively created my loops. I think they’ve just come into existence naturally. They seem to form mostly utilitarian functions. I don’t think loops are good or bad for the most part, they’re just helpful so we can get shit done without having to spend lots of brain energy making decisions.

So maybe loops are a product of our brains going into a “decision-economy” mode, and allowing for some surplus mental power.

 

Surplus mental power, mmmmmmmmm.

The problem is I rarely spend my surplus mental power on anything useful. I sit the fuck down and play games on my phone is what I do. Like a lazy cunt. But sometimes when I do something NEW that I’ve never done before, that’s when shit is amazing. That’s when that extra brain energy gets SPENT instead of getting sucked out of my eyeballs by my phone screen.

Spending brain power on new things feels good. As we get older, we need to put more effort into seeking out and doing new shit. Kids don’t need to worry about this yet. Everything is new. I showed Isla a paper-thin sheet of ice today melting under a slow trickle of water from the tap and it blew her mind. The way the ice melted with a bit of water running over it blew my mind too, because I was looking at it with Isla and really paying attention. I’d never tried melting ice with water to make it look cool. It had all these holes like swiss cheese, and was spiky like antlers, and so thin it felt like it was barely there. It was amazing for a few seconds where the ice was in that insanely delicate stage, I’d turned off the water and the warmth of the air was still causing it to melt and change rapidly.

Another way I found “new” was cooking some dinners I’d never done before. Just following recipes that had awesome ratings online. You know how people talk about being in the “zone”? I was in the fucking zone, baby.

How you can tell you’re in the zone:

  1. You lose track of time.
  2. You are consumed with what you’re doing.
  3. You aren’t thinking about the past or the future. You’re PRESENT.
  4. You have that feeling that you’re in the fucking ZONE, bitches.

So I guess the moral of this blog post is to let your loops be loops, don’t get too worried about life being Groundhog Day. Just be the version of Bill Murray who gets in the zone and does a bunch of new things and learns how to play piano. Don’t be the version of Bill Murray who turns into an asshole and shits all over everyone because he’s fucking miserable. The difference between the two Bills is zonal positioning – one is fucking in, the other is fucking out.

 

 

 

 

Bonus Points if Your Kids Aren’t Torturing Small Animals

I just woke up from a dream where I was photoshopping a car while my grandparents were driving away in it. Both of them are gone now and it leaves an emptiness in me. I find myself forgetting that they’ve died. It will take a few years to adjust to it I think.

It’s easier to see what matters when someone dies. Work doesn’t matter, to me anyway. Maybe yours does. My work could disappear and someone else would fill in the gap.

To say I care about my work isn’t really true. I want it to be good, and I’m compelled to do a very good job – but my reasons for doing a good job aren’t very altruistic if you look closely at them. Business is just better when you do a really good job. More work comes, and there are fewer complications with quality work. I can charge more money because most of the time, I’m the best option on the table. But I’m not doing a good job because I care about it. I used to think I cared about it. I like the work, but that’s different. I like writing code, I care about my cat. You know what – I care about my clients too. But I don’t care about their projects. I don’t invest emotional attachment in the jobs themselves. And the clients I don’t care about, I don’t work for them. I tell them I’m too busy to do their work, and they move on. Things get horrible when I don’t care about the client.

But ya, my grandparents are dead.

Everything they’ve done is over, or at least to them it is. I don’t believe in the afterlife or that Grandpa’s up there looking down on me. And if there was an afterlife, he’d probably watch me once in a while but realize that I’m extremely boring most of the time, or doing things he probably doesn’t want to see haha!

The closest answer I have to thinking about death is that it makes me want to create life. The fact of my death coming makes me want to have more kids. The universe can be seen as battle of life vs cold dark nothingness, and it can be proposed that our job, as living things, is to fight to keep life going. The fun kind of fighting. Where you get to have sex.

Genghis Khan would agree with me here. So would daffodils and rats and even influenza virus. If I had to pick either a virus or nothing, I’d hope the virus lives on. At least it’s alive.

If you zoom out far enough, back away from the details of your reality, you’ll see that success can be measured as basically as you want. I sometimes look at successful parenting as: “Are your kids still alive?”

If you can answer “Yes” then you’re parenting successfully.

Bonus points if your kids aren’t fucked up and sad and torturing small animals. Extra bonus BONUS points if your kids have made their own kids. I think that’s part of why grandparents are so stoked on their grandchildren. The first grandchild means they didn’t fucking fail as parents. They made kids that were at least not too fucked up to attract a mate and have more kids.

I hope old fashioned families come back. It’s shitty that our choice today is “kids or a career” because who wants to be poor with a bunch of kids? Most of the people I know are delaying having kids because it’s the right financial decision. Get established in a career first, then have kids. I’m in that boat too. Lia and I were stable enough financially to have a baby before we decided to go for it. Not rich or anything, but not worrying about bills or food was enough security for us to say fuck it (literally).

You might think a kid would add meaning to your life. I used to think so too, but really what happens (at least for me) is the amount of “meaning” stays roughly the same – it all just transfers to the kid. Everything else loses meaning, and the kid sucks it all up. Even your marriage/partnership is in danger of losing meaning as it all transfers to the new baby. Lia and I are lucky in that we’re game to ride out the changes in our relationship. We’re flexible, and patient. We know we still love each other even when we don’t have time or energy to spend together the way we used to.

If you look at kids from an investing standpoint, the payoff is potentially huge. There’s the obvious emotional reward and fulfillment of watching a miniature version of yourself grow up. This assumes the kid isn’t a complete fuck up, in which case the investment is a horrible one. But in ideal circumstances, there’s also the security of having someone to look after your ass when you’re too fucking old and useless to hack it anymore. Or maybe robots will do it. Or maybe medical breakthroughs will make it so we don’t die.

Here’s a smart guy taking about us not dying:

So here’s the kicker: if medical technology is likely to bring us to a point where we can prevent aging, what does that mean for having children? According to this article at davidsuzuki.org, the earth can only sustain 200 million North Americans indefinitely (because our high-consumption lifestyles and profit-driven corporations suck up so many god damn resources). Last I checked, Canada + USA = about 330 million. This doesn’t include Japan or Australia which suck up resources just as hard as we do.

I interpret this as presenting would-be parents with two choices:

  1. If you want to have a big family: better get started soon. The need to limit global population growth is already here. It’s not unrealistic to expect to see something similar to China’s “One Child Per Family” policy take place within our lives, even as privileged Canadians.
  2. If you want to help the planet, don’t have any kids at all. Stop buying so much shit OR stop driving your car so much OR start sending even a small amount of money to Africa every month. I’m sending 2% of my annual pre-tax income and I haven’t noticed a difference in my quality of life at all. But you can bet those 400 kids that now have mosquito nets and aren’t getting fucking malaria can tell the difference! Go to http://www.charityscience.com/ and start sending money right now. ($6 prevents 2 kids from getting malaria for 1 year. If they don’t have malaria they can go to school. If they go to school their odds of getting out of poverty are exponentially higher. Source: Doing Good Better by William MacAskill.) If you actually sign up to send cash each month, say so in the comments below so we can peer-pressure more people into doing it. Any amount is infinitely better than nothing. We are the richest 1% on the planet. We can afford it.