Alright, well I am convinced that nobody close enough to this group to care actually reads my blog, so I can write freely. This is in the style of most of my personal posts: a reflective narrative. I don’t know why I told you that.
The Two-Day Tragedy
Last Tuesday my fellow musician and friend Devon opened for the Andreas Kapsalis Trio, a fantastic band, at a local coffee house. Tuesday is the night of GameDev, and in particular we were playing Werewolf, one of my favorite games. But I thought I could miss out on some of my friends to support another one of my friends, since it was far more likely important to Devon that I was there than to GameDev. And also Devon is a pretty freaking talented musician, and I love listening to his stuff.
It was a great show all around. The whole “The Moment” band came to hear him, and we scheduled a jam session for the following night. It was about 11:00 at night at this point.
Nolan offered me a ride home and we started packing up, buying Andreas Kapsalis CDs, doddling around. A (quite cute) girl there kept looking at me and smiling as we were shuffling about. I decided to follow her outside, and I made a joking comment on whatever conversation she and her friend were having. She immediately asked “do you want some pizza?” To the half-confused look on my face, she clarified that they were going to a restaurant to grab some pizza and she was inviting me.
Great! I went with them, texting Nolan a short blurb about ditching him. The pizza place was closed, but the four of us meanwhile had a really fun walk up and down the mall. Her name is Jesse. In search of food, Jesse, Joshua and I (we lost #4: Gabriel) headed to silvermine subs for some sandwitches.
The three of us proceeded to talk until 3:00, while it became clear that Jesse liked me quite a bit, and not so much Joshua (who was “courting” her). People get really funny (read: annoying) when they feel themselves losing hold of the situation. Do I do that? Am I that obvious?
We stepped outside as silvermine closed, Joshua continued to talk about how great he was as Jesse and I rolled our eyes at each other. Eventually he left and Jesse and I walked together for the intersection of our paths home. She was cute, intelligent, and really fun to be around.
I walked the remainder of the way home, about two miles, with a big smile on my face. At the very least, this will get my mind off of Karen.
The jam session on Wednesday was cancelled because musicians are flakes (surprise!). Looking for something to do, I texted Jesse to see if she wanted to hang out. ”Sure!” It took a while to get the logistics organized, but we eventually met for pizza at the place we were planning to go the previous day. We had a reasonably good time, until we headed to the coffee shop where we met and who was there but our old friend Joshua. He predictably clinged on to us for the rest of the night, which was a bit of a downer.
But that is not the downer. The downer was that I found out Jesse had just gotten out of a year-long relationship in a rather violent manner, and she was pretty sensitive about it. Everything reminded her of him. At one point she got really quiet and just stood there. Jumping at the opportunity, Joshua hugged her for about two minutes to comfort her (this did not work – it clearly made her uncomfortable). He went off briefly to make a phone call or something.
While he was out, she and I just stood there. I stood ten feet away from her, arms across my chest – to protect it. Silence thickly padded the space between us, lasting hundreds of heartbeats.
In a voice that I could hardly hear myself, slow as each second, I asked, “It feels like you want some time by yourself. Should I go?”
“If you want to,” she said with tears in her voice.
“I don’t … really … want to go, but … … but, you know what I’m <mumble>”
“It’s up to you.”
More time struggled to pass in the silence.
“Well, okay, have a nice night,” I whispered uneasily.
“So you’re going?”
I sighed. ”Yeah. See you around?” as I looked up into her eyes.
“Yeah. Keep in contact.”
We smiled at each other, and I began the six mile walk home. Hardly one hundred steps later, I began regretting my decision to leave. I sent an apologetic text message – impulsive fingers are a weakness of mine – walked indecisively in circles for a while, and finally decided to continue home. It was cold. I called a cab, and curled up in a little ball while I waited for it.
When I got home, I searched for a movie to match my mood. Requiem for a Dream, that’ll hit the spot.
I haven’t seen Jesse again. Much as I liked her, I don’t want to be in that kind of situation – it’s a replay of last year with Stephanie, when I futilely hung on much longer.
A New Old Friend
On Thursday, Karen came over to prepare for the CU International Halloween party she was hosting at our house (since it has a nice yard). Just as a way of hanging out with her, I helped her prepare some things, chatting about this and that. We searched for traditional Halloween recipes to show the international students, put up lights, cobwebs, and jack-o-lanterns. I could feel her love for this party: she really wanted to make it a great American experience for the foreigners. I was compelled to sympathize: we shopped together, cooked together, brianstormed together. I cared as much about the party as she did.
That night after she had gone home, my impuslive fingers instant messaged her: “hey — I just wanted to say, you’re turning out to be a pretty great friend. :-)”
“aww thank you =)”
She came back the following day to continue, and I continued. At 6:00 when the party started, she ran off to the bathroom for half an hour to prepare her costume, when there was still much to be done. I picked up the slack, doing everything I could to ensure that our guests had a good time at my own expense. I have never done this at any party before. When she came out, I continued, as she did this and that and interacted with the guests.
By the end of the night when most of the guest-guests had left and mostly just our little social group was left over, I just sat by the wall, exhausted. I could see it in Karen’s eyes: she loved the party, and she appreciated what I did for it. A feeling of selfless euphoria engulfed me.
We grew a lot closer over those two days. I feel trusted now. Today she came over to “clean” – we did a little, but mostly we just hung out most the day, joined by two other friends later on.
I feel very different about her. Previously infatuated, my feeling has become something much closer to a genuine love, like how I feel about Karlin. But it did not replace my infatuation, just bosonically superposed it. It sums to a tragic, emotionally confusing dilemma. I love her like – I don’t know how to say it – like Karlin, like my closest friend. I want her to be happy and comfortable at all costs. But also, I look into her eyes and my heart rate triples and my body floods with an incredible relaxing tonic. I want to barely touch her hand with all the love in my soul, I want to kiss her, I want to roll around on the floor with her.
At least as far as history speaks, these two desires are at odds with each other. I have the impression she thinks of me now as a close friend, but not more. I know in my heart that my first desire – my concern for her life irrespective of my own – wins if the two must duke it out. But I beg them not to.
The F Word
I hate thinking about The Future. I am present tense. I can’t see any reasonable resolution that ends happily for me. She is in my dreams, and I am happy while I sleep. Reality slaps me sober in the morning. I think of her and I smile. Then I think of myself and I stop. It is God’s pavlovian Buddhist training.
The end of this story is where I become a great musician. When I crawl heartbroken into my cave, fingers a-blasing. That is the upside of music. Emotions, both euphoric and dismal, are fuel. The greater their number and strength, the more beautiful the art they power. If its divine duality didn’t bless me, the imbalance in my life would drive me insane.
I am having such a good time out here in Antwerp, I decided to stay another week. Actually this decision was not so much related to the city as to the project, but the city ain’t bad either.
Anygma moved me from the bed & breakfast I was staying at last week to an apartment they had rented for some of our art director’s students. The students haven’t arrived yet (I kind of want them to have, since it’s a bit lonely/boring). As I complained last time, I haven’t had a way to plug in my laptop, so my computer use has been constrained to work. Today I thought I would go into town and get a power converter.
Almost everybody here can speak English, but where’s the fun in that? I figure I will learn more Flemish if I don’t have something to fall back on. So as I was going into town I resolved not to talk to anybody in English. Navigating the tram system to get downtown was pretty easy—all the trains are numbered and color-coded.
Downtown was a huge, wide street with shops on either side and thousands of people walking around. It looked like a carnival. That illusion was amplified by waffle and ice cream stands on the street corners (I got a waffle covered with chocolate ice cream and fudge sauce—delicious!). However, other than the high density of people, it was all quite familiar. I found a large electronics store and grabbed the adapter, and went to stand in line to buy it. A woman who worked there babbled something in Flemish to me and pointed to another line. I knew she was saying that this one was about to close or something and I should wait in the other one.
It’s pretty interesting how much I can comprehend without understanding a word of Flemish. Communication is much more than words.
After I bought the converter, I got lost in town. I knew I was going to Groenplaats, so I asked a woman on the street, “Groenplaats?” and pointed my fingers back and forth, and she pointed me in the right direction. I walked a bit that way and didn’t find it, and that’s when my plan was foiled! I did the same thing to a guy tending a shop, and he gave me directions in Flemish. To the blank stare on my face he responded “do you speak English?”. I shook my head confusedly. “Well what do you speak normally?” Daft! He got me! In my embarrassment I responded “I speak English but I’m trying not to!” He gave me English directions… darn.
And now I am safely back at the apartment, using my computer (hooray!), able to call people with Skype (hooray!).
It’s still fun being out here. A bit tiring, but great fun. The Anygma project is amazingly cool, Conal Elliott has opened my eyes to a new approach to software design (well, maybe not totally new, but he pushed me into the pool that I was dipping my toes into). The rest of the team is smart, competent, and open-minded, and great fun to work with. The food is absolutely delicious, the strangers are kind and helpful, there are many beautiful women to look at. My adolescent reservations about moving out here are now shadowed by my excitement for this place.
Woo! This is post #500!
Recently I had the realization that I don’t want to be a professional programmer. I just made a commitment to program professionally for a while in Belgium, in Haskell, doing FRP (yeah, pretty freaking awesome!), and I’m not about to bail on that. But after that job has run its course, I suspect I won’t be wanting another one.
It’s not because I don’t like programming anymore. Programming is still a wonderful way to keep my mind agile, and I like it very much. Creating or learning a new abstraction requires head-breaking leaps, it’s exciting to master a new concept, and I still feel passionately about the future of programming languages (particularly the completely yet-unrealized potential of dependent types). But such are the pursuits of an academic, not a professional.
When I started college, I wanted to be a professor. It didn’t take long to realize that my work ethic was not insane enough to be a professor. Nevertheless, every semester since my sophomore year I was a TA. I skipped around teaching physics, calculus, and computer science. I was good at it and I loved doing it. It was a delightful sanctuary from the stress of studenthood.
After the fall semester of 2006, I became fed up with school’s bullshit (in fact, an elective voice class of all things was the one to push me over the edge—it’s a long story) and intended to take a year-long hiatus from school to work at NetDevil, a local game studio. That I did, quitting the job seven months later due to the ridiculous “crunch time” (read: mandatory unpaid overtime) policies.
And here we are, mid 2008 and I have not resumed school, and the next year does not expect my return.
It’s unclear what happens next. Maybe I spend a year in Belgium as a programmer, maybe longer. But after that, I don’t know. However, teaching looks to be in my future. And looking back on all my teaching experience in college, there is one thing that will always stand out: physics.
Physics is miraculous to teach. The subject’s depth and beauty has made a zealous atheist like me reconsider God’s nonexistence (converting me, if you will, into an agnostic :-). There is nothing more pleasing than being in the presence of a student who asks question after question as he begins to behold the mathematical masterpiece (except perhaps seeing more of the masterpiece yourself, which students have helped me to do!). I witnessed this with two or three students each semester.
Students come into physics often with a truckload of preconceptions about how the world works. This differs from mathematics and computer science, where the most prominent preconception is that they will not understand (a difficult one to work with). Physics also differs from those two subjects in that the tools to disprove themselves are placed right under the students’ noses. I have experienced the moving, haunting situation where I predicted the outcome of a physical situation and then observed it go down completely unlike I expected. To help a student with a misconception, you don’t tell them they’re wrong, you help them devise an experiment to disprove themselves.
Talking about it excites me, it makes me remember and long for that experience. I can see myself, even with my restless, wandering soul, doing that for the rest of my life. But there is a brief international diversion to explore first, it seems.
Flow is my cat. She’s more like a person to me today than ever before.
Originally Flow belonged to Namaste, and now that he has moved away it’s unclear who the owner is. It’s almost like she belongs to this house.
I had my music program open on my computer and was about to start writing a song when Flow walked onto the couch next to me. She put her paws on my lap and lay down. Normally I would have pet her a few times and continued working.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a particular girl recently. Today I fantasized, what if that girl had sat down close next to me and rest her head on my shoulder? I wouldn’t simply hug her and go back to working; she just asked me for some affection!
So instead of seeing “that’s a cat”, I interpreted Flow’s actions as I would a human’s. I closed my computer and sat next to her, petting her softly and listening to her purr. I felt close to her, like she was my friend and she understood me. At the least, I understood her.
A comment arrived a few minutes ago asking for details of the life flux I mentioned in passing here. I was messing with my blog and had to restore from backup, so I lost the original comment. Sorry, whoever you were.
Back in December a message arrived on haskell-cafe announcing a Haskell job opportunity in Belgium, a startup called Anygma developing some FRP stuff. I idly replied, saying that I was a student interested in working part-time remotely from Colorado. It was worth checking out, but didn’t mean much.
A few months pass.
My dad was dropping me off at my house after we saw “In Bruges” (a very entertaining movie, by the way) with my mom (who was in town from Hawaii). The two of us were sitting in his truck when the Belgium job came up, presumably because of the location of the movie. He convinced me that even if the job isn’t that great, the opportunity to move away from my home town, especially to Europe, is one that shouldn’t be missed. I was feeling particularly distant from my friends at the time, Eric (of SNW) had just fled to Argentina, Karlin and I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen each other in months, I had become disinterested in continuing my math major. All my attachments seemed to have vanished just in time for this opportunity.
I stepped out of the truck and went in my front door. I remember having to go to the bathroom, but instead of that I turned on my computer and hastily prepared my resume. I was excited but also hurrying, as if the job would vanish if I didn’t finish in an hour. I sent my resume in together with an informal cover letter explaining my situation and my change of heart.
I received an enthusiastic reply the very next day, and we began corresponding about the project, logistics, etc.
But, c’est la vie, I acquired some new attachments.
My roommate just started dating a girl he met in the university open source group. A few weeks ago I met a friend of hers named Karen, a graduate student of Classics (Latin literature). She has one among the sharpest tongues I have ever heard, almost as though every utterance of hers were a little poem. We both maintain a deep but friendly eye contact when talking to each other, and we can align to the same wavelength very quickly, in a manner of speaking. To sum up a long schmaltzy series of compliments, I have not so admired someone since—well let’s say since my middle school crush, accounting for emotional subjectivity :-).
Unfortunately she started seeing a friend of hers just (seriously, like the previous day) before I met her. Notwithstanding, she has got my emotions all tumbling around, which inspires me to compose music. She’s the reason for the symphonic poem I posted last week, and the next one coming up in the series that I have been working on for a few hours a day. Whatever happens with life, I hope not to lose contact with her, because this one’s special. I just may not end up dating her. I could live with that.
Woman: attachment no. 1. Friends: attachment no. 2. I have been really enjoying being with my friends lately; not Namaste and Jude so much as the more remote nerdy crowd (Jessa, Daniel, Stirling, Richard). It’s possible that that’s a consequence of my moving away though, that I’m appreciating my friends more and vice versa.
Last weekend Anygma flew me out to San Francisco for an “interview” of sorts, which doubled as a visit to my good friend Max. I wish I could give the details of why I had an interview for a job in Belgium in San Francisco, but I am under NDA. :-)
The interview was… interesting. Peter obviously knows what he’s doing, because he made me seriously consider whether I wanted to be working in the software industry. If I do, then Anygma is where I ought to work; it is so amazingly close to my interests and philosophy that I would be a complete idiot to turn it down (unless I thought the management were incompetent, which I don’t). But it seems inescapable that developing a piece of software is at least 80% polish, and polishing is what I don’t like doing much. I’m more a mathematician than an engineer: I like to ask “why” rather than “how”. Other than that huge blow, the interview went well.
I spent 4/20 with Max, and we had a good jam session with his band. I brought home a disoriented feeling, questioning my life plans.
It didn’t help that when I got home Namaste had returned from a sort of “vision quest”, where he abandoned everything he owned and drove up to live in the wilderness. Long story short: Turns out he wasn’t quite prepared (we all knew that) and was mostly helping his impulsive friend. He plans to prepare for the next year and go back.
When he described the experience to me, it almost shook my world out of its socket (which would be awesome I know, but I don’t think I’m ready for that). Inspired by a quote from one of my musical influences, John Medeski, I seriously considered becoming a full-time musician for a while as a new experience.
But after talking with some friends and a little simmering, I abruptly realized that I would be a fool to turn down the job. I cannot predict what it would be like at all, and I love working in Haskell no matter what I’m doing. Two days ago I sent Peter an email expressing that I’m still interested.
Present day. Present time. Aahahahaha.
And I haven’t heard back yet.
This is the fun part. Having committed myself emotionally to a new life, and now wondering whether it’s just fantasy.
I’m just sitting here waiting, blogging about my personal life. Waiting for any word from Belgium, composing music and thinking about Karen, afraid to start any technical projects for fear that I will abandon my composition, generally not having any idea what I’m doing. It feels very different from how I am used to living my life.
I’m giving a guest lecture on Haskell to the Principles of Programming Languages class at CU tomorrow. That’s pretty exciting.
This is a personal entry, by the way. I found myself censoring my posts for a while to just technical issues in order to build a base of readers. But then this blog completely lost its therapeutic properties, so I’m going to censor my censorship a bit.
My roommates Jude and Namaste were sitting in Namaste’s room checking out gametap, and I was sitting there watching them play some games for a while. I wasn’t really interested in playing those games—I’ve found myself less interested in games lately—I just wanted to sit there and be around people.
That proving pretty uninteresting because there isn’t that much idle socialization in games, I decided to go for a walk. I bundled up and began walking through the dark to a nearby park. Halfway there, I just stopped on the sidewalk and stood there, noticing myself feeling incredibly lonely. Loneliness… is not an intense emotion. It’s subtle, and you just feel kind of empty and tired. It doesn’t make you cry, it just sits there, omnipresent, reducing your enjoyment of life.
I started walking again and started talking to myself, which is one of the strongest ways I have of working through issues. Except this isn’t an issue which was very well suited to my self-talking therapy. All my life I’ve learned to speak using the meta model, precisely, mathematically, nailing down in a sentence exactly what I’m talking about. And emotions aren’t like that. They’re vague constructions, floating around in various forms, not necessarily caused by any particular phenomenon, not really solvable with a simple proof.
“I’m lonely.” That was productive.
I reached the park and found the exact middle. I knelt down right there and curled up into a little ball. I tried to concentrate the emotion, but it didn’t really work. I feigned a few meditative tactics, obviously to no avail (you can’t feign meditation and have it work!). And by work I mean have the way I’m feeling change at all, better or worse. Like I said, loneliness just sits there in the corner of the room with its notebook, quietly judging you as you become more and more desperate. If it interacted with you any more then that, it would serve to make you less lonely, which would defeat its purpose.
Who are my friends? Previously I just wanted a girl, but that might have just been the gut response to my relationships with my friends weakening. I have two groups of friends, gamers and musicians. I’m having trouble connecting with my gamer friends because I’m gradually losing interest in games, for whatever reason. I’ve never really built friendships with the musicians I know, because we get together and play music and go home, essentially. There’s a musical connection there, which is strong and interesting, but it lacks some of the more human elements. One exception is Nolan, who I have a pretty good friendship with. But I don’t see him much.
Nolan was really really good at bringing his band together as a family. I could learn a few things from him.
Everyone else just brushes me off when my life isn’t going smoothly. I probably would do the same to them. It’s hard to get out of my own head; if I’m working on a programming project or a composition, I don’t want to be bothered with the details of somebody else’s life. You need a really good connection with somebody to be able to talk openly about your problems. It’s been a few years since I’ve cared about someone enough to stop anything I’m doing in order to really listen to what they had to say. That’s pretty sad.
Just as I was arriving home, I started to feel something like a very energized anger. I ran as fast as I could for the fast 50 yards home or so, walked in the house, and with energy pounding at my hands and through my body, found I had nothing to do with it. If nobody was home I would scream at the top of my lungs… but I’m too self-conscious for that.
Much as I want to be unrestricted and act on my impulses, when I know that the worst consequences possible are a little embarrassment, I can’t bring myself to do that. Each time I suppress my impulses, the next time the impulse will be stronger and so will the impulse to suppress it. It’s like going insane by holding on too tightly to my sanity.
I’m just lost. I don’t know where to go next.
The Saturday before yesterday, I attended a LAN party at my friend Ian’s house. I didn’t end up playing any games though, because when I got there everybody was playing DotA, which I’m not too fond of. Instead I just did some programming. Then, to my surprise, two girls walked in the front door. At a LAN party? How… odd. Turns out they weren’t there for the games (of course); one of them, named Jessie, was Ian’s roommate.
They were chatting among the other desperate gamers, and I overheard that the other, Stephanie, was a violist. So I started up a conversation with her, talking about various classical music subjects and generally being excited that I met someone I could talk to about that, especially a woman. And she was really cute too :-). After playing a Beethoven piece (sonata no. 17, 3rd movement) on the piano for her, she asked if I would play a Frank Bridge piano quintet with her and some friends. We talked for some time, probably an hour and a half, before she gave me her email address and went home.
I emailed her on Sunday, having forgotten the name of the piece, asking her what it was and saying I’d be delighted to play. I also asked her out. Tuesday came with no response. Uncertain whether I had written down her email address correctly, unwilling to resort to tactics such as calling Ian to ask Jessie for her number, unwilling to give up, I fired off another email asking for a response. Probably not a great move in retrospect (but I really didn’t have any other options… which is what this post is about); she wrote back describing a situation which I don’t want to make public, essentially that she couldn’t go out for me, at least for a while. That’s okay, I’ll never turn down a chance to be friends with a good musician, and if there’s a possibility that that could turn into a relationship in the future, that’s good too. She gave the impression that she didn’t know me well enough to be interested or disinterested, which I believe. She also said:
Just to let you know for future endeavors, try not to bug a girl too much, if they want to hang out with you they will do something about it, I promise.
A few weeks back I also looked on craigslist personals, and set up a couple of dates, both of which didn’t end up happening for various stupid reasons. I never talked to the girls again, because I had never met them, maybe I wouldn’t like them, and also I didn’t want to bug them or anything.
I’m completely tired of not talking for the sake of giving people “space”! It’s just an excuse to forget about me. I haven’t emailed Karlin in two months for that reason, and she hasn’t attempted to contact me. I gave the craigslist girls space and we’ve never talked again. Stephanie and I got a conversation going (a fairly awkward one…), and I was the last person to say something, three days ago. If I give her space, she’ll never talk to me again.
Let’s look at the options. (1) give space => never talk again. (2) bug with email => annoy girl but possibly actually continue conversation. If my assumptions are correct, probabilistic analysis gives (1) a 0% chance of me ever seeing her again, and (2) about a 10% chance. Obviously (2) is the superior option.
Hmm, maybe she’s just lying about not knowing me well enough to be interested or disinterested. I know her well enough to be interested. Good conversation + cute + musician. I mean… come on.
Fuck space. If she’s forgotten about me, I’ll make her remember. If she doesn’t want to talk, she can ignore my second email (I won’t send a third) or she can tell me to fuck off (the latter is preferable actually). I’m not going to let this one just fade off anticlimactically into thin air for some stupid space argument. I’ve always hated songs that fade out at the end.
Going off to live in a new place often causes you to redefine yourself as a person: to break down old bad habits and replace them with new, more productive patterns. Then when you come back, the old bad habits kick right back in again and all that work you put in to redefine yourself is put aside.
Well, I’ve never lived anywhere but here in Boulder (I lived for a year in Maryland when I was 5, but that doesn’t really count). But I figuratively went off to a new place when I started CU, and then again when I went to work at NetDevil. You could see traces of a hard-working, responsible person coming out. In school, I went to class all the time and worked hard; during work, I went every day and did my job well (but didn’t want to work any more that I already was, which is why I left).
Now I’ve come back; I am not enrolled in school and I’m unemployed. I have loads of spare time on my hands again. And just as expected, I’ve rebuilt my old bad habits…
… For some definition of “bad”. Now I have a chance to look back on the last few years. What have I done that I’m proud of?
- Got good grades in school.
- Made two or three computer games.
- Wrote two songs.
- Started a band.
#4 I did after I took my scholastic hiatus but before I was employed. But I don’t want to say “it doesn’t count”, because it still could have been the school environment that influenced me to do that. Regardless, this all pales in comparison to my old, bad habits:
- God bad grades in school.
- Made one computer game per month, approximately.
- Wrote two songs per month.
- Learned a new challenging piano piece every month.
- Became well-known as a contributor in the Perl community.
Looking back, my bad habit of learning is much faster than the new, responsible habit of learning, because my bad habit is to learn by myself at my own level and speed, and my new habit was to learn at the rate others were teaching me.
In summary, I like my bad habits much better. I enjoy myself more, I’m more satisfied with my creative output, and I’m always well-rested. While a student or employed, I’m usually fatigued from working as well as being ill-rested (as a byproduct of trying to be creative), and my creative output is pitifully small. Over the past week after my return from my vacation (which I took promptly after quitting NetDevil), I saw my old rate of creativity completely revitalized, more than it has been in years.
At some point I learned not to waste time: to use idle time and energy to learn and to create. And I love that about myself. That’s what allows me to become excellent at whatever I do; “hard work” is not what does it. The mind works best when it is free to experiment—without deadlines and without stress.
But I have a bit of an internal conflict—conflicting fears even. I fear that if I stay with my bad habits then I will never “get anywhere”. My goal was to get a PhD and become a professor. But I also fear that as a PhD student and as a professor—or whatever I end up doing—I would keep my responsible habits and be dissatisfied with my creative work.
I think I can disarm the first one, though. What is “getting somewhere”? There are a lot of professors who make major contributions to their fields, but there are a lot of professors who don’t. Someone in the math department once commented that for the majority of math dissertations, the number of readers is roughly proportional to the number of authors. The other part of “getting somewhere” is making money, but my skills (which, mind, I have developed thus far on my bad habits) can definitely do that for me when I need it.
As far as I can tell, the only thing I am missing by not taking the school route is colleagues, who can indeed help me learn faster and bring me to more advanced levels. But it’s not that I can’t find such people elsewhere; I certainly had no trouble in the Perl community. I think I will still contribute to mathematics and computer science even if I stopped formal education right now.
It looks like I just argued to myself that there’s no need for school anymore. That’s a frightening prospect because it’s been on my radar to go to graduate school for so long. In particular, Karlin’s parents have been highly influential in my life and I respect them very much, and they are quite keen on my finishing a bachelors and persuing a graduate degree. As far as I have convinced myself, though, I would actually cripple myself by going back to school and not taking things at my own pace. This may be the time to devise a nonstandard lifestyle on which I can support myself and have the freedom I need. I have been considering starting a rehearsal studio business…
Dilemmas aside, I’m very happy that my bad habits have returned to me.
… but when I pulled on one of those threads, I unravelled the tapestry of my life.
— Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek TNG, “Tapestry”
I just got back from a camping trip with Jude, Paul, Travis, and Cami. Jude left the house again, and Namaste, who had been home all weekend, just stared at me. This is a usual occurrence; he does it just to fuck with me, to make me self-conscious. We got to talking about his philosophy of immediacy and nonpermanence, the best way to describe it being “if I die right now, will I die happy?” (to be clear, the philosophy is not about thinking about whether you’re going to die all the time, it’s just a quick way to describe it).
In some of the fidgety silence within the conversation, he said “you want to do something right now, but you’re not doing it”. I immediately just lay my head back and relaxed. That is what I wanted to do, but, as I said to him later, it doesn’t feel like doing anything (but it is). This got me into a meditative state of mind that he first introduced to me. The way I describe it is, say you’re on a walk (or doing something—anything really). Turn off your conscious mind: if you feel a pull to the left, go left; if you feel like stopping and sitting in the bushes, stop and sit in the bushes. Whenever you hear yourself censoring your own behavior for whatever reason—I shouldn’t go to Wendy’s because they don’t have very good food there—just shut it up. Don’t listen to it. Don’t necessary do the opposite (actually in Namaste’s version he would do the opposite), just don’t listen to it and do what you feel anyway.
We continued talking in bursts with long silences in between. Namaste said “I don’t feel like talking to you anymore” (this was not offensive in the least in the context of the philosophy), and I said “I feel like going to Snarfs”. So I got up and glanced at my computer, about to compulsively check my email, then caught myself and continued on to snarfs without looking at my mail.
But I couldn’t avoid the fact that I was already in this somewhat meditative state of mind, so I ended up going on a pattern break walk.
I’ll just describe the walk, interspersing the realizations I had as they came up.
Less than a minute after I started walking, I, for whatever reason (there are no reasons on such a walk), thought about Karlin. I closed my eyes and visualized some of the mundane wonderful experiences we have. I pictured her sitting at her computer as I first arrive at her house and touch her shoulders. I pictured us cuddling on the couch after her parents have gone to bed watching some entertaining B-movie. And immediately a huge smile came across my face.
At this point, I started walking left toward Snarfs, and my thought process went something like: “Maybe I should go right. No maybe I should go left because I usually go right here. No maybe I should go right because that was the first thing that came to my mind.” Finding myself in this loop, I just sat down on the grass right where I was.
At this point I noticed the immense smile on my face and the great feeling I had. There is an NLP technique for perception where you establish a strong rapport with someone and right after you do just notice how you feel. Name it, but don’t give it a name like “anger” or “frustration”, just give it a unique name that doesn’t have meaning for you. That way you don’t distort it with your own previous conceptions about what that word means. So I did that: I called the smile and the feeling “flunderclap”. It was essentially the kind of permanent smile that comes up when a date is going really well. I would call it “love”, but that has way too many other meanings. So it was just “flunderclap”.
I suddenly felt like walking again. I got up and started walking.
It was during this next walk that I really started “voomphing” in a sense. I remembered Namaste’s recent article where he talked about the sort of experience I was having now. This was a touching article and had a big effect on me. I then realized that the main reason it had an effect on me is because I had an emotional investment in Jenn (who is moving away, um, tomorrow :-( ). But it was unexpectedly enlightening rather than jealousifying. I understood that the reason I was doing this walk right now was because of that post.
And then the image of the hikes I did with Jenn enter my mind, together with the idea that she’s moving away. The thought crosses my mind that that was Jenn’s whole purpose in my life, to get me emotionally invested, so Namaste’s article would have an impact on me, so I would do this walk, right now. I’m not saying anything like “everything has a purpose”, or its opposite, I’m just noticing that strong sensation of the events and people in my life meshing together. In particular, I felt Jenn just vanish from my thoughts, a complete release of what I had invested in her.
I’m closer to SubWay now (I was still looking for a place to eat, you know) than Snarfs, and I feel like lying down again. But I’m on a sidewalk next to some bushes. What do I do? That’s right, lie down in the bushes. I had some fun playing with my brain, trying to completely decorrelate all my senses: my hand feeling one of the thorny branches, my eyes looking off into the sky, my ears hearing the cars going by on a nearby street, my nose smelling the green air around the bushes. I just lay there staring off into space for at least five minutes, people walking by (I found myself wondering if someone would stop to see if I was okay) and all.
I immediately felt an urge to start walking back the way I came. At this point my hands started moving as if I were playing the piano, and an elaborate tune started flowing through my body and out my mouth. Usually I’d just let it go for a little while and then stop because I got caught up in something else. But now that there was nothing else to get caught up in, I just kept going, hearing it more and more vividly, my fingers playing along with it.
And during this the largest ephiphany came to me. With working at NetDevil, worrying about doing well in school, feeling bad that Karlin forgot my birthday, getting emotionally caught up in Jenn, even playing in my wonderful improv band, worrying about having enough sleep to function the next day, worrying about my health, I had lost who I was. I was entangled with the usual stresses and pressures of life, living tomorrow by tomorrow rather than today by today. I had forgotton that I am a passionate composer, and that Karlin is an incredibly important and bright part of my life (meanwhile the flunderclap comes back). All the while I kept singing and playing my tune.
I have stopped composing because I know that composing a song is at the very least a six hour investment for me, and I usually get inspired at about 10 at night, and I don’t want to be tired for work the next day, so I shut it down. I have associated the word Karlin with my feelings of hurt and abandonment that I recently felt, and forgotten who she was as a person and as my friend.
I continued the rest of the walk with my open mind and going where I felt. It led me to a fancy Indian restaurant, “The Royal Peacock”, where I comfortably ate alone (I generally have a huge anxiety about eating in a nice restaurant alone). I closed my eyes and moved my hand across the menu, opened my eyes and read the name of the dish under my finger. That was what I was going to have. It happened to be a spicy dish with plenty cilantro, my most hated seasoning, but I ate it anyway and it was pretty good actually. Instead of focusing on how much I hate cilantro, I just appreciated the flavors of the meal, finished after an hour, and walked home.
All along my way home I felt the tapestry of my life reravelling, bonding with itself, defining who I am as a person. I saw everything coming together, from the mention of cilantro earlier and my experience just then, to my reminding Namaste of his meditation, causing him to remind me of his meditation. I feel wonderful right now, as if I know exactly what I’m doing with no relation to any sort of logical plan.
And I did remember to anchor flunderclap when it came up. :-)
Yesterday, Namaste introduced me to Derren Brown (here are three interesting videos), a “magician”, I guess. I watched videos off of TVLinks and Google video for all of six hours (stayed up till 5am, ugh, and I’m a workin’ man), and became dramatically inspired by him and interested in Neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis.
I have been practicing mirroring all day to make it more natural to me, and learning about eye movements and brain activation and observing those together with linguistic patterns to find out people’s preferred representation. It is a very interesting experience, so closely people watching.
Tonight, I thought I would try something on myself. I put on a bath to candlelight (something I don’t normally do—I prefer “sensory deprivation” baths) for a good relaxing mood. The bath water was almost too hot, but not quite. I sat in the bath for a little while just relaxing, and then I sat up against the back of the tub, so that my back was touching the cold wall. My posture generally isn’t very good, so I had to tense up some back muscles to keep my back and head up there.
Then I slowly went down my body parts and felt what they were experiencing, and then releasing any tension in them. I started with my forehead, then my eyes, then my nose, mouth, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, hands, chest, you get the picture. I spent probably 60 seconds or so on each one (just an indication of the pace, of course I wasn’t timing it) except my shoulders, which I spent much more time on because it was difficult to relax them. After a few attempts, I was sitting up straight with my back muscles (along with much of my upper body) relaxed. That felt good.
After reaching my feet, I just let my body do whatever it wanted. It flopped around, first bending forward putting my hair in the water. I think I leaned forward more than I ever have; I’m not terribly limber in that part of the back. I had to override when I got water in my nostrils. I sat up straight (keeping my eyes closed and still focusing on my senses). Then I bent to the right, my head completely relaxed against the right wall. I was essentially a ragdoll. I just basked in this for ten minutes or so.
Here’s the interesting part. I let myself bend down until my nostrils were almost in the water again, completely relaxed. I folded my hands together and pressed down on my knuckles quite hard. I did this because it is something I don’t normally do—it’s not an ordinary gesture. I held it for about four seconds and then released, and then sitting up straight again after I released. I said aloud “you’re awake”, opened my eyes wide, stood up and stretched.
I sat back down in the bath, allowed myself to relax a bit again and let my head flop around. It wasn’t nearly as floppy as before I stood up though, it was just vaguely relaxed. There was a little tension in my shoulders. I then recalled my anchor (folding my hands and pressing), and to my dismay nothing happened. I had anchored that state, why didn’t I re-enter? After about four seconds I released my hands.
Right after I released my hands it happened: my body wilted into the bathtub, my butt sliding all the way to the middle, my head swooning to the left resting on the left edge of the tub, the tension in my shoulders completely gone. I was incredibly happy and excited that my anchor worked! And still I could barely move my body. It wasn’t so much as a “try to sit back up and unable to” thing, but rather my mind kept pre-empting any attempts of sitting back up. I would think to myself “okay, sit back up” and then instantly after that, almost interrupting-like, I would think to myself “nah”. My body stayed completely relaxed and it was a wonderful, euphoric feeling. Only after I said aloud to myself “time to get up, you’re awake” was I able to convince myself to sit back up straight.
I recalled the anchor two more times just to experience it again. It was exactly the same each time. I didn’t spend so long in the relaxed state the next two times because I was too excited to see if it would work yet another time. And still, I couldn’t get up until I said something aloud.
I got out of the bath with a huge smile on my face and told Namaste about the experience. As I was describing it, I made anchor gesture with my hands and pressed. I felt myself relax a little; it wasn’t a total body relaxation like in the bath, but it was there a little. Environmental factors have a big impact, as in, it may not work very well if I’m not sitting in the dark in warm water. It could also be that my concious mind overrode and prevented me from collapsing on the floor in front of Namaste.
I’m about to go to bed. I’m going to lie down, recall the anchor, and see how long my conciousness lasts after that.
What a remarkable experience!