In an email I sent to a friend recently:
I hope you find “meaning.” …I think it goes back to that idea that maybe life is a game. You have to decide for yourself what the winning conditions are, and harder yet, the little power-ups and special items to unlock that will encourage you along the way.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about motivaton, the theory of games, and the meaning of life. I subscribe to the notion that we are alone in the universe (no god), and worse, we die alone (Donnie Darko’s epiphany). What that means is that we must live life by our own rules. What does that mean? Everything is trivial. It’s all an arbitrary circumstance that we find ourselves in and it’s a matter of priority as to what we do to pass the time.
I have a weird urge, like an OCD kid, I must do x after accomplishing y. Why? Because that leads to z and we all love z. It doesn’t matter what the variables are, but our actions are influenced by our values, which in turn are affected by our environment which is arbitrarily evolved into (for me at least) into a consumer-driven-capitalist-information-technological society. Where my ideas might eventually feed me. So, that’s why I do the things I do.
That’s why I want to share this idea of Life as a Game. It’s not a new theory, but it has been coming up. I recently watched this ted talk about it by Jane McGonigal. When I was younger, I wrote a blog post about how my mother explained to me that credibility was like lives in Sonic the Hedhog. That one day (soon, if I kept my behaviour up) I would run out of lives, and that’s like GAME OVER. It was a very salient analogy.
Some people don’t have that feeling when they do something wrong like they lost a life, a bit of credit. I can see the huge appeal of games because they visualize something that is going on in our existence. However, games aggrandize the player. You aren’t someone who got a high score on their math test, you are someone who saved Middle Earth using a magic bo-staff.
It helps me to remind myself of the grander game I am playing. It’s the trope: find happiness. I use tools I’ve found useful. Interestingly enough, all I can list are communciation devices: this blog, my art, jokes. Truly, I am playing a game that requires other people to like and share my ideas. This is the culture game.
The first step I would recommend in starting this game (because it is highly subjective) is to think about what tools you use, what tools you like using, tools you have found useful, etc. Then think about what these tools are best at doing. Extrapolate as to what game you are playing. After that, it’s up to you to find better tools and allies to help you achieve success. Winning (read: excelling at) the game you are playing will make you happy. The other stuff that will make you happy are bonus points for sure: the ideas of family, friends, charity, global connections, whatever, are good too. Collecting good deeds as if they are meaningless trinkets can be a dangerous game. Just ask Demetri Martin.
Having the right rules makes the game worth playing. This reminds me of a moral philosophy lecture where the teacher talked about Kant, reason and the good life. Kant advocated a kind of universalism, a philosophy that if used by everyone, would bring about the ultimate good life. (Kant talks about how cruelty and unfairness would be solved if everyone operated using categorical imperatives— very much over my head in terms of what I can discuss coherently.)
This is the interesting part. There are two kinds of universalism, embedded and abstract. What I would call the difference between feeling and knowing. Many people feel that one should not steal. They have an internal moral compass. Other’s don’t feel it, but they know what would happen if everyone stole and that would be bad for society. Essentially, there are many rules that people don’t have embedded into their being. It’s an abstract concept that they learn and then follow.
I think it’s easier to describe everything from an abstract perspective because frankly, I’m tired of this idea of “common sense.” It’s unspoken condensate from old wives tales and proverbs that have lost their bite. Sometimes I feel disconnected from the world. I think that autistic people feel similarly (autism can be very mild in some individuals).From what I’ve read about Asperger’s and autism in general, is that there is some kind of context filter missing. When autistic people interact, there’s less feeling. That’s why sometimes, an aspie needs to be told about emotions because they lack the ability to read between the lines. They rely on if-then algorithms that they have memorized, perhaps all to much like the classic “when a woman says she is ‘okay’ it means she is not.” (Not to be a sexist or anything.)
Life is nothing but algorithms (article). My conclusion is that highly motivated people learned how to program themselves. Highly motivated people have seen what they needed to get done and how they can design an atmosphere and a mindset to do it. They have rules they follow to achieve their ends and systematically streamlined their processes to be more efficient. They are in the programmer stage. (article) There are many articles about people making their own worlds, or at least their own niche. (This guy is the “kinetic king.”) So, what is the meaning of life? I’m not sure. But, it’s probably the shape of a magic mushroom or something. Whatever you need to keep going.