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Choose Life

Memento Mori! Remember you will die!

I’m getting my ass cheeks clapped for the umpteenth time on super smash bros ultimate. Having a 1v1 with my bro, from back in NZ. In spite of how it may sound, this is not a good feeling. I just keep losing.

My temperature is exponentially increasing. I’m on the verge of critical mass, about to spontaneously combust into a nuclear explosion hitherto only rivaled by the end of world war 2. I’m absolutely fucking fuming. Don’t you know who I am universe? How could this happen to me! A great bloke like me!?! I exclaim through clenched teeth, cursing all of existence, barely resisting the urge to launch my head directly through my TV screen.

And then for a brief moment it all hits me: I’m a madman, yes; A sore loser, for sure; Have the emotional regulation capability of a mildly retarded 2 year old, abso-fucken-lutely. Salt levels = off the charts. Mhm all of these things but perhaps most importantly, I’m losing not because I’m inherently “a loser”, but because (and I’m going to change tenses here, due to that whole “speaking things into existence” idea, elaboration incoming later) I was unwilling to do what it takes to win.

This may prompt one to ask the deeply probing question “what is hashtag winning then?” Legendary samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, has our answer: “When you know the way broadly, you can see it in all things.” A closely related more modern aphorism is “how you do one thing is how you do everything.” Winning isn’t just about results, winning is an attitude, a (sometimes foolhardy) belief that no matter what happens, ultimately you will be OK. That’s right, my attitude drives results, not the other way around (ideally).

interlude…

The Gnostics taught that a fallen god, Yaldabaoth, The Demiurge, created this imperfect hellhole of a planet that we call earth. Mainline Christianity had it all wrong this whole time. The jealous genocidal God of the old testament was the bad guy. Lucifer was just trying to help us all out by sharing the knowledge of the gods, the knowledge of good and evil. This basic understanding of what is desirable and what isn’t will help me on my mythical journey to stop being triggered by video games 😂

We live in The Black Iron Prison, that’s Philip K. Dick’s update on the old Gnostic legend. The Wachowski’s called the same concept The Matrix. It’s the idea that “we’re strangers in a strange land.” We feel out of place because we don’t belong here. This is not our true home. A broken god made it, and he and his minions, robots in some versions, Archons (and shape-shifting reptilian humanoids) in other tellings, are harvesting our energies for some malevolent purpose.

Sounds pretty shit don’t you think? But if you have your finger on the pulse of our zeitgeist you’d be hard pressed to find a belief system that better reflects our current culture.

Oh. Whoops, I’m projecting again. The first step is admitting that you have a problem 😉 My reticence toward adopting a winning attitude is due to being flustered by the fact that I’m actually here (even after some 40 odd years it still shocks me). Coming to terms with reality is a hard pill to swallow. Life as they say is suffering. Wouldn’t things have been easier if I just stayed put in the void? Why be something when I could have been nothing? Having failed on that account I could have made a wonderful Gnostic instead. “There’s no place like home” and this sure as hell ain’t it.

And so there we have it. The bedrock of my former philosophy a deep and abiding “fuck no!” delivered back to an at best cold and uncaring (but possibly malevolent) universe. I don’t want to play this game. That’s why I can’t win. “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”” My resentment towards the suffering endemic to life has rendered me impotent at times. I’ve gotta put in effort? I can’t just have things go my way? Wow universe, you suck! It hurts, it really does so I’m going to limit my participation level to extremely half-arsed: living a life of “quiet desperation.”

However, this is where the story gets juicy. Of course the aforementioned word “former” implies a change of heart. I’ve partaken of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. Thanks Lucifer. I’ll use Gnosticism to transcend to another paradigm. The tree of knowledge is helping me to understand, if nothing else, myself just a little bit better. If there is a point to all this, that’s a worthwhile one in my estimation. “Know thyself.”

I’m a product of my environment. We all are, and as such we’re prone to a negativity bias. It’s a natural bi-product of being a hairless bipedal hominid. The well worn story is that if an ancestor heard some rustling in the bushes and they assumed it was just the wind and it turned out to be a sabertooth tiger they’d be in big trouble. Better to mistake the wind for a predator and be though a fool than vice versa and be dead. I call this residual evolutionary pessimism. All the neurotic paranoids survived and now here we are. It’s a useful instinct to prevent us from dying but not so good if you actually want to feel alive (“all men die,but not all men truly live” ~Mel Gibson).

Back to gaming. I pretty much give up. What’s the fucking point? And that’s when the magic happens. Apathy is a dangerous pathway through to enlightenment, but somehow this time, relaxing into oblivion actually allowed the space for something special to happen. I just start doing what I’m doing. And then I’m playing much better. I’m attuned to what’s actually happening. I’m in the zone.

Do I win? fuck no. Well I may have taken a couple of games. That’s not the point though. Winning is an attitude. Winning is saying “Yes!”” to life. Flow is what happens when your skill level rises to the level of pressure placed on it by your environment. This is a rare feeling (for me). Scarcity I’m told is what makes something valuable. Having something to lose adds genuine stakes to whatever the fuck the phantasmagoria is. Bring on those sabretooth tigers! Memento Mori! If I’m living in a gnostic world the challenge it presents will keep things interesting if I have the balls to get involved.

This is the kind of wisdom that you’re privy to while getting destroyed at smash bros and subsequently questioning everything that you’ve ever held dear. Gradual cultivation, sudden insight! Thanks Sakurai!!! (the game’s designer) At this level, it all comes down to a choice. I’ve tried the strategy of depression, ennui and basically wishing that I was somewhere else. It didn’t really help. I was still alive. As long as that’s the case then participation is still a possibility.

If you had the choice, wouldn’t you choose to enjoy the journey? Now on some level I must have enjoyed being somewhere between being miserable to disengaged. But ultimately it was a hollow feeling, a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was one. Those are the decisions that I kept making, the habits that I kept building. I can choose differently though. That’s the change that’s starting to happen (the machine elves helped plant the seed, but that’s a story for another day). Not knowing is where all the fun (and horror) is. Saying yes regardless of the outcome is a tough choice, but a rewarding one. That’s my new experiment: I choose life.

That’s what playing super smash bros taught me.