you must be weary from all that travel. would you like some chai while you're here? - engineer, founder reallyconfused.co, data science trell, gsoc '18 cloud-cv.

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creation, consumption and reflection

Hello there, winter is setting in, I hope it's treating you well. This too shall gently pass. What do I know about winter, there's no winter where I'm from, but you know what the greats say - it's when you're in a room, and you're freezing your balls off, and you're miserable, it's then that the best creative works come to you. Well, at least that's how I rationalize anything miserable that happens to me - "this will pay off big-time, man"!

Well, today I'd like to do some word vomit here about something that has been brooding in my mind. I write. Like I write a ton, but I don't generally release it anywhere over the fear of losing my job. Maybe I should release it and lose my job, it could be an interesting experience. But for this particular essay, I had this intense push from from the little voice inside that said "you need to let other people read this". I don't know why.

What is this about? Well, you probably have a gist after reading the title. It's about two things. The first is my thoughts on creation, consumption and reflection. And the second is what you uncover after you embrace and balance all the three. Imagine these three things to be a knob on a radio. Instead of a radio, we have a human. Some people have the consumption knob on the maximum and the other knobs turned low - it could be consumption of content, videos, long-form articles, books. Some people have the creation knob while ignoring the other two - these are workaholics. The modern world doesn't want us to turn up the reflection knob. It's bad for business. I know I barely did it. I was too busy consuming and creating. If you miss the last part, the former two lacks meaning.

The second thing I wanted to address was my delusions about me feeling there's something wrong and missing with the world around me. Maybe it's just the kali-yuga? When you step foot outside you can feel deep inside that things are not what it's supposed to be. That something is wrong somewhere. That there's some disconnect between what we are inside and how the system is on the outside. Well, I'm not a "dystopia guy". I love the world and the people in it. I'm close friends with some larger than life people and I love every second of it. I believe we'll fix all our wrongs and build a better world but that comes after we realize what's missing from it. We need to understand the nature of it before we fix it.

Well, I can't put a label on it but it's just a feeling in me. I've personally tried to ignore this feeling of "something missing" for a while, I've tried to cover it up by consumption. Distractions like work, content, people, alcohol and parties. All these helped me not look in that direction. I don't know if I'm alone in feeling this and the constant dreadful feeling that you might be running away from it and coping instead of pursuing the truth.

See, if you're expecting me to tell you what's missing from the world in this essay, then you can stop reading now. I can't. I don't even have the slightest clue. I just have the feeling that something is missing. What I wanted to share was the strategy that kind of feels like would let me uncover what's missing. Maybe in 10 years? 20? How did I come across this strategy? Well, let's just say it has to do a lot with meeting a sage, an Italian in the metaverse, a rude bald guy and Buddhism. Well, the strategy is basically how I tuned the three knobs. These three operational modes of human beings - creation, consumption and reflection when they are not in balance. If it's not balanced, we stop seeing the world for what it is. Truths that are hidden in plain sight. Why is it not balanced by default? I suspect a lot of it has to do with the fact that the world is optimized around money, rather than personal well-being. If it was personal well-being and fulfilment, we'd have these answers and we would've integrated them into our lives. It's not a tough answer too. The ancients had it and embodied it. How do you uncover that secret and apply it to the mess that is modern life?

Consumption

It's tiring, man. Mindless consumption tires you and makes you a zombie. What is the first thing that you do when you wake up? I'll tell you what I used to do. I turn off the alarm and turn on the internet on the phone. This starts a chain reaction of events. With that one small move, I've set the course for the entire day. When I turn on the data, I get notifications from social media. When I get notifications, I either get sucked into Instagram or WhatsApp. This happens before you even get out of your bed. Imagine doing this day after day for years. Then the next 30 minutes you're caught in this never-ending loop of mindless distraction and consumption. This according to me is the worst kind of consumption because it's out of your control. It's in the control of the big-tech co that just hijacked your mind through clever machine learning. It's like cigarettes in the 50s. They thought this shit was healthy. We don't have regulations for machine learning, yet.

These apps that you go to, don't have you as their interest in their mind. It's all about them and making money but they'd like to make you think that they think and care about you. How many times have you ignored the total time spent on Instagram because you'd feel guilty after looking at it?

Instagram Time

You go into these apps and look at the shiny colours of personal messages, story replies, likes and boom - dopamine hit. Addiction. First thing in the morning. Then you scroll down, start watching reels. If you're on WhatsApp, you catch up on the group messages and somewhere along the line you realize "fuck, I have responsibilities in the real world, I need to get my ass up". You take this tiny silicon piece of glowing shit into the loo and your eyes are on this. Your eyes are not observing the surroundings. You're not a spatial being anymore.

Well, the person I just described was me maybe like a couple of months ago till I made a deliberate decision to not do it. Nah. I'm not going to let Zuckerberg hijack my mind. Last week I only spent 10 minutes on Instagram, yay to me. Technology is a double-edged sword. You can build a billion-dollar business from a remote rural village in a third world country and the same technology can make your brain go to a pulp if you're not careful enough. You need to take agency and get the upper hand. I can't completely cut Instagram off because I have friends and I like memes. My Instagram explore is still the funniest place because it knows my taste (cough greentexts, cough). Also nurturing human relationships in the second year of the plague is one of the ways we have to bring light to our worlds so I stick to using Instagram web every other day and I don't have the app on the phone. Life is good.

Well, my point is that I consume too much, I think we all do in one way or the other. We don't need to watch 2 hours of reels. Imagine what you could do if you take that time back? Well in short after five months of travelling I did take that time back I feel spectacular. I put this extra two hours into reading. The list was long, and boy am I glad. Taking back control and getting in touch with the self was the first step to uncovering the "something missing". It's not just instagram. I started regulating the amount of long-form essay consumption, Reddit, Youtube, Spotify. What is the point of any content if you can't extract value out of it and apply it to your life? If it's for entertainment - do you feel refreshed after you consume it? Do you feel refreshed after scrolling Instagram? No. So I started sticking to books.

Creation

A great man I know once told me "Aim for the impossible, not for the possible-but-hard. Most things that excite people are possible but hard." and just after that I was like "Fuck yeah, I'm going to find the impossible so I can achieve it". In my mind, this is more of a feeling than a thought, I feel that on my path to find the impossible, I'll also uncover the "something missing" that we addressed in the first part of this essay. It feels to me like it's the same journey. In this journey, like any journey, you get one lesson, but it's the only lesson that you will ever need. It could even be the same thing - the "something missing" could be the impossible dream that I don't yet have or it's tied in some way.

The scroll of truth

Creation is important and it's creativity that fuels creation. If you're overwhelmed by consumption, how will you find the time to create? Imagine a beautiful building, and what comes into your mind? Maybe the Taj Mahal or the Colosseum but it's never the Burj Khalifa. The world needs creativity more than ever and we need to create beautiful things. It's embedded in us even though the modern world tries to distract us from true creation and more into the "manufacturing" kind of capitalistic creation. It needs to be cultivated because it's an integral part of who we are as human beings. It could be you cooking your breakfast and deciding to go a bit off-recipe by mixing that ingredient you never used (don't know if this is real, I don't really cook). It could be you putting on your clothes in the morning and this feeling of trying something new and a bit different comes in and you decide to do it. For me, it lies in computers. I like to code and make things. Participate in digital culture. Write. Make things online. Lose money with crypto.

I ask myself where does this feeling, this drive to do something new, this thing called creativity come from? Hang with me here because I'm aware I might lose readers here. I think that it comes from a "higher plane". A place beyond rationality and the material world. This place could be deep within our minds. Heck, we know more about the universe than how our mind works. I think psychedelics are something that gives us a peek into that plane if you use it recreationally. A lot of people abuse it. So we've established that creativity comes from a place called the "higher plane". This place is a place of abundance. It's beyond what me or you or what Elon Musk has done. You can tap into it if your spirits are good, a lot of people have tapped into it and created wonders in our history. You just need to be in touch with yourself. You can increase the amount you get from this place with practice but you can never have the whole.

So we've established that the "higher plane" is where creativity comes from. If there's a place, and then there's a way to get there, right? Yes. I like to use the analogy of a bridge. You use this bridge to get there, take things and bring them into the real world. That beautiful piece of code you wrote. The poem that accidentally materialized on paper. The paragraph that just flowed. The tune that you started humming. The new pattern that you discovered when drawing. You need to constantly use the bridge otherwise it degrades and rots away. You need to maintain it. I'll tell you, it's hard work. Imagine for a moment you don't do it. This bridge will rust and get destroyed. Of course, psychedelics are short-cut but abusing psychedelics means you get stuck in the higher plane, even jump off from the bridge, and that's not what you want. The best balance is when you take creativity from the higher plane and exercise it in real-life. Build things of meaning. Enrich the life of the people around you.

Look around you. Look at the number of people who had that bridge destroyed because they neglected it or got too busy with other things. You neglect it and you forget it exists. It's a delicate thing that needs to be nurtured and when you see the people who stopped using it, you can feel it. I think that my resolve is much stronger to protect the bridge I have with my life. The bridge can be built back if you lose it, of course. It just takes effort. It's easier when you're young. Harder when you're older and rigidity seeps into your personality.

You can lose this bridge. You forget to use and exercise it because you're busy participating in other people's rigid systems. It could be you going for masters and losing the best years of your creative young life trying to make it in a foreign system hence neglecting the self. It could be because you lose yourself in a shitty job and you forget how to use this bridge. It could be that you get into a toxic relationship that doesn't let your mind wander where it wants to go because your mind has been hijacked by negativity. One thing I'm confident about is the fact that I will protect this bridge with my life. Everything else is secondary. Everything.

Maybe I'll link this part from Joe Rogan and Chuck Palahniuk's interview

Chuck: "You gotta sacrifice something’s to get a greater understanding of what it is. In almost all cultures it's believed that we're born with a genie, demon, guardian angel or a spirit. It's a spirit that has a destiny for us. If we sacrifice time and effort into developing this gift. The spirit will remain with us and keep us safe for our entire life. If we don't accept our gifts and if we don't live into our destiny and then the spirit becomes malevolent. It becomes something that haunts us and destroys us, destroys our entire household. The ancient Greeks called it the Lemur. It's about sacrificing or dedicating, devoting a certain amount of time and energy to fulfil that destiny. At some age you realize you gotta sacrifice your life for something, I decided to sacrifice it for writing."

Joe: So do you feel like you're in service of this gift?

Chuck: Always. It's not a negative thing. It is complete dedication.

For me it's technology. Because it's something I'm good at. What are you sacrificing your life for?

Reflection

Now we come to one that we do the least. Reflection. I'm not saying don't consume. I'm saying consume in moderation because the system is built in such a way that they don't want you to think and reflect. Every day I wake up, I go to the loo without my phone and I set there like a miserable fuck alone with my thoughts. I started meditating for 30 minutes and the first five minutes, it's excruciatingly painful. I go for a 30-minute walk without my phone and it just feels weird at the start. But once you get through that pain threshold, things start taking beauty of their own. You read the ingredients of the shampoo. Oh, there are 4 different kinds of birds that sing in the morning? There are three types of plants that sting you.

People see this long-haired weird guy go into the bushes (That's how I get to the paddy fields a bit far away from where I'm staying now) so that I can have acres just to myself with nature. Just me, nature, and good old thoughts. I told the people that I'm going to have a smoke. It's easier than saying I'm going to "reflect on the nature of reality".

Recently it was raining and I was fearing that I was losing myself in "creation", I was spending 10 hours a day programming and I COULDN'T miss my walk. I decided to go barefoot in the rain to feel the ground to be more grounded. After that particular incident, the people stopped saying hi whenever I walk by. Maybe it's better this way?

When was the last time you got bored? Like genuinely bored? And you thought of something interesting to do and you did it? I can remember instances as a child when I came up with some crazy ideas because I was bored. Once I took a big teddy bear and threw it into the well to see if it floats. It did. FOR SCIENCE! This was the primary reason I got my ass whooped by my dad as a child. It was also how I discovered that electric cars run on motors and that magnets are these sticky things that only stick to certain materials without glue before I knew what magnets were.

It's through reflection that I decided that I wanted to pursue the impossible. Comfort can be a prison. It's also through reflection that I decided I want to flow like water while having the conviction of a stone. How do you adapt to the new world while you ignore conventions but have enough conviction to not lose yourself in the chaos and new order? It's hard to walk the line. How do you participate in crypto and degeneracy while maintaining enough sanity to know that "yo, this seems like a scam and I shouldn't put my money and time into it".

When you just consume and create and you forget to reflect you lose agency over your life. Your life becomes a series of reactions to the events that happen to you. Your life is out of your control. You're emotional to the things on your feed, to the things that your peers do, to what your parents tell you. Do you want to be an animal without agency over its life that merely reacts to things? The Buddhists call it the animal realm or were it the hungry ghost realm? I'm not sure. As you can see I haven't been taking my Buddhist lessons seriously. You're not machines built for consumption. Your potential is unlimited. You have infinite paths to take and you're going to go for the most common ones?

It's important to reflect on your day. What are the things and moments you cherish, that you're truly grateful about? What are the relationships that make your life feel meaningful? How do you convey to those people that their mere existence is a reason for you to be happy that there are things out there that are pure, and full of beauty? There are things to do that are meaningful and can improve the life of your fellow humans. Gestures of kindness. In a way, I feel that everything in this silicon piece of glowing shit that we call phones feels like it's designed to not look at this fact and rejoice! Look at all we have and we've done. Food at the tip of our fingertips with a click! Poverty is at an all-time low. People aren't commodities. Relationships aren't follow requests. Things can be built that genuinely subverts outdated systems. Look at bitcoin.

I know that this essay was all over the place. There was a start but no end. More questions than answers. Well, if I find the answers, I will be letting you know. This is less of an essay and more like a declaration of a quest. A quest that I'm ready to sacrifice my life to. It's like the moment when Frodo left the Shire to destroy the ring of power.

“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”

- The Two Towers

I'm declaring that I'm leaving on a quest, there is no turning back now. The road is long and I should leave soon.

Maybe the next time you go to the loo, remember to forget your phone?

I will see you soon.

a. s.