My Case for the Simulation Argument

Preface / Author note:

I wrote this three years ago; however, it was never properly published, until now. 

In 2015 my world view was becoming far less ethereal and far more grounded in the pragmatic realities of science and technology; however, this suited me. I was writing a lot of code at the time (nothing too l33t, just front end stack), and I was fascinated by the singularity and futurism. Soon my new gods Sagan and Degrasse Tyson, were joined by Kurzweil and others; however, it was Nick Bostrom’s The Simulation Argument that would change my spiritual life.

Put forth in plain-speak – as I have come to understand it – the Simulation Argument is the idea (hypothesis) that we are living in a computer simulation, that reality itself is akin to a computer program.

Wait, what?

If the idea is new to you, it’s likely to sound like we are living in The Matrix — which isn’t a terrible metaphor, but it isn’t a great one either.

Allow me to explain it [my conception of the Simulation Argument] as I have to friends:

Remember the first Atari?

Image from PC World, January 2013: “Atari files for bankruptcy, but it’s not ‘game over’”

We all know how basic games like Pong and Pacman were; now, think of the newest iteration of the gaming console, the Playstation Four:

Now, I want you to imagine the gaming console in twenty or thirty more years. Full neural immersion. Not just virtual reality, but reality indistinguishable from our own.

Scientists (Bostrom, Musk, et al.) believe that it’s going to be possible to simulate reality. Based on that hypothesis, it’s more likely than not that this is also a simulation, and that there are more simulated worlds than real worlds.

This is where you, the reader, may be thinking: put the bong down man. Only, this isn’t a half-baked concept. The Simulation Argument has gained major traction, both for and against; however, my purpose isn’t to dissect something that has been better explained by those smarter than myself. I merely want to explain what gave me a sense that yes, there might be a god, a great programmer in the sky.

For, if this is a simulation, then so many things would make sense for me, which otherwise do not in a purely natural world, but I must restate that I do not wish to try and explain things outside of my expertise, which math and science certainly are; however, I find solace in the knowing that some of the world’s smartest minds can arrive at answers I cannot, but nonetheless answers which solve very important questions, because philosophically humans have always sought to understand life — to understand their place in the universe. That’s really what this is a question of: what am I? Am I a mass of nerves, or am I something that might stretch beyond the physical universe? Is my soul in the cloud?

When I learned of the Simulation Argument and interpreted it as a personal paradigm for the nature of life and as an intelligent and compelling case for the existence of a god or godlike entity, I felt changed, I felt renewed; I felt that maybe the universe wasn’t so impartial and that maybe I could influence my fate more than I previously thought. Just maybe, life wasn’t fated for us to pass from the cradle to grave with a bit of luck and suffering in-between. Maybe magical things could happen. Maybe I could design my own user-experience in life. Maybe things like love, luck, The Law of Attraction, and other concepts fewer and fewer people seem to believe in today, are real. For me, it came down to the existence of free-will, a sense of profound possibility.

It’s this sense of profound possibility that comprises my present day definition of what it means for me to be religious. For, to believe in god as I conceive of the concept, is to believe in serendipity, in happy accidents, in the things my non-belief in (prior to learning of the Simulation Argument) had prevented me from experiencing. My atheism, my lack of faith in something beyond biological organisms, excluded the possibilities of me having a soul, of me having a rich inner world. When I was an atheist, my inner world was dead: it did not exist.

Nick Bostrom wasn’t the only individual who opened up the doors to my believing in a god. Around the same time I became interested in Bostrom’s work I began delving into the work of Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung, who believed that man needs religion, and the nature of the psyche is innately religious.

Jung had described my problem, prior to adopting a “religious outlook on life”:
…Among all my patients in the second half of life — that is to say, over thirty-five — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost what the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook. This of course has nothing whatever to do with a particular creed or membership of a church.

It was the Simulation Argument, an argument for the possibility of intelligent design, which made it possible for me to adopt a religious outlook on life. Once I had done this, I could believe in what Jung coined “synchronicity”.

Jung’s concept of synchronicity is the idea of meaningful coincidences and the connection between psyche and matter (the inner and the outer world). Jung called it, “An acausal connecting principle.”

Without a religious outlook on life, such a thing would be mere superstition, rather than within the realm of reality, for a religious outlook gives one a grander sense of reality — a theosophy — a belief in mystical insight into our lives and our destinies; a belief in the power of our own intuition and our own intention.

Whatever we wish to call it, however we choose to describe it, it speaks of a coordinating agency of limitless scope and finite subtlety, whereby all the coincidences and connections of the world coalesce in a grand design, within which our dreams are possible (Provided humankind does not rob us of them ex: The Holocaust, wars, murder).

Seen this way, synchronicity, serendipity, kismet, chance, divine will, all present themselves within the people, messages, signs, and lessons we can find if we are looking for them; however, if we don’t believe in them: none are possible.

Postscript: 

Elon Musk gives impossible odds for us living in “base reality“.

The Importance of Mindfulness and The Connection Between Mindfulness and Meditation

If I would have tried to conjure up an impression of mindfulness in my head a couple years ago I would have imagined an affluent woman in her sixties, drinking tea and looking out over her oceanfront view, with a warm and contented look on her face.

Today, I’ve come to know better. Mindfulness isn’t some far off, esoteric destination only available to those who meditate and live on a higher plane. No, mindfulness is simply the practice of observing yourself and consciously focusing on your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Wikipedia defines mindfulness as the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…

Now, the interesting thing about this [this definition] is that I personally came to understand and know mindfulness not as a result of study, but as a result of practicing meditation. And when I began meditating, I did not even know this was going to happen. I wanted inner peace. And meditation helped me connect to that – but more importantly, I became aware that there was something within me more still than my thoughts, and I became aware of what it felt like to transcend that [my thoughts and feelings].

As a result, I became more self-aware. I realized when my feelings were making me feel poorly. I began to automatically notice on walks when I wasn’t being attentive to myself – when I was out of touch with the present moment. And I would focus on my breath, and I would return to that stillness. And I would feel better. I felt better because I could stop identifying with whatever I was thinking or feeling, and I could check back in with myself, with the eternal part of my soul that’s always present and connected – whether my mind is or not.

Mind you (pardon the pun), I’ve never read a book on mindfulness. And I have a lot of work to do to improve on this practice – namely, I need to not only practice the awareness of my body, thoughts, and feelings – but I need to consciously choose to practice the intentional non-judgement, and acceptance of these sensations – because for me personally, I typically go straight into self-talk, and other cognitive behavioral practices so that I can “optimize” how I feel. And while I don’t think this is a terrible thing to do, I think the act of acceptance and non-judgmental awareness will help me let go of some of these [less positive] feelings with greater ease.

So, this morning I wanted to look into mindfulness and I watched handful of videos, the best of which I have included below for you, my dear reader.

Sam Harris: Mindfulness is Powerful

This is an important video to watch, because aside from Sam Harris describing the purpose and value of mindfulness, he asserts that mindfulness should not be viewed as a religious experience, but rather as a bridge we can use to close the gap that exists between science and spirituality. I think disconnecting meditation from Buddhism makes it more approachable and less seemingly unobtainable. The power to transcend ourselves is truly within us all.

…the sense of self that we all carry around from day to day is an illusion. And cutting through that illusion I think is actually more important than stress reduction or any of the other conventional benefits that are accurately ascribed to mindfulness.

The enemy of mindfulness and really of any meditation practice is being lost in thought, is to be thinking without knowing that you’re thinking. Now the problem is not thoughts themselves. We need to think. We need to think to do almost anything that makes us human – to reason, to plan, to have social relationships, to do science. Thinking is indispensable to us but most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. And this automaticity is a kind of scrim thrown over at the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves, we’re judging others, we’re worrying about the future, we’re regretting the past, we’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. And much of this self-talk is unpleasant and diminishing our happiness in every moment. And so meditation is a tool for cutting through that.


Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain’s Default Mode with Meditation

Dead on. Selected quotes and citations follow:

There was a study out of Harvard that showed that short, daily doses of meditation can literally grow the grey matter areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness. and compassion and shrink the grey matter associated with stress. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

There was also a study out of Yale that looked at what’s called the default mode network of the brain, it’s a connected series of brain regions that are active during most of our waking hours, when we’re doing that thing that human beings do all the time, which is obsessing about ourselves, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, doing anything but being focused on what’s happening right now. Meditators not only turn off the default mode network of their brain while they’re meditating but even when they’re not meditating. In other words, meditators are setting a new default mode. And what’s that default mode? They’re focused on what’s happening right now.

From an article on the study out of Yale:

“Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years,” Brewer said. “Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”

And finally, Dan Harris’ closing words on happiness as a controllable choice:

The common assumption that we have – and it may be subconscious – is that our happiness really depends on external factors: how was our childhood, have we won the lottery recently, did we marry well, did we marry at all – but in fact, meditation suggests that happiness is actually a skill, something you can train, just as you train your body in the gym – it’s a self-generated thing, and that’s a really radical notion. It doesn’t mean that external circumstances aren’t going to impact your happiness – it doesn’t mean that you are not going to be subject to the vagaries of an impermanent, entropic universe – it just means you are going to be able to navigate this with a little more ease.


Chade-Meng Tan, on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence: 5 Lessons

If you want to learn more in depth on mindfulness, I suggest watching this full talk, but Cade-Meng Tan, delivered to an audience at Google, but at least watch from 24:12 to 31:50

If you do not wish to watch those seven minutes, here are my five takeaways from that portion of Chade-Meng Tan’s talk.

The Ability to Turn Emotions Off

There are a couple of very useful things, and they’re so useful that the degree of self-awareness that you can gain can create profound changes in your life. The first example is that if you’re able to perceive an emotion the moment it is arising, that gives you the power to turn it off if you want to. It gives you choice. Therefore, you have a choice of, “Hmm, I feel anger rising. Should I be angry or should I be not?” You can choose. I mean, there are situations where I chose to be angry, and because I was getting ripped off [to be purposefully assertive]. I figured the best reaction is to put that out to other people. And the situations where you’re “Nah, I don’t want to be angry, especially since she’s my boss. Let’s turn it off.” So you have a choice. The first thing, already, this is life-changing. If you have to ability to turn off anger. Already, it changes your life.

How Self-Awareness and Emotional Awareness Translates into Self-Knowledge, and Opportunity

Another example is that if you have a lot of strong self-awareness, emotional awareness, the emotional awareness translates into self-assessment. You get to know yourself a bit better. You get to know your resources. This is what I’m good at, this is what I’m bad at. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. This is what I really like to do, this is what makes me happy, and so on. And the effect of that is that once you are able to figure out, quote on quote your “deepest values and motivations”, then you know what opportunities to look out for. If you did not have the insight, the opportunity would just come and go. However, because you had the insight, you catch the opportunity when it’s there. Therefore, you’re always successful. And then people will think you’re very lucky. I mean, you’re lucky, but at the same time, you’re there to catch your opportunities and you’re able to catch opportunities because you have deep knowledge of self.

Making the Shift from Existential to Experiential

There’s a third one, which is even more profound, which is this: if you experience an emotion, we like to think that our emotions are existential experiences. What does that mean? We like to think the emotion itself, is us. And it reflects in the language that you use. For example, we say, “I am angry. I am sad. I am happy.” So the emotion becomes me. I become the emotion. However, as the power of your mind, the sharpness of mind, your resolution, your vividness becomes stronger over time. You discover something about a process of emotion and then you read an emotion in a very subtle way that has a profound change in your life. And that profound change is this: is going from existential to experiential, which means going from “I am angry” to “I’m experiencing anger. I’m experiencing happiness, or sadness, or whatever.” What does that change? Now it changes from “I am this, this is me” to “My mind is like a sky.” Then emotions are the clouds occupying the mind, but they’re not the mind. So that’s a powerful shift.

Separating Emotion into a Physiological Experience – Changing Your Perception

But wait, it gets better. The way it gets better, which is – there is another step you can go. As your attention becomes even more refined, you discover something else, beyond being experiential. You discover that the process of emotion, the experience of emotion is physiological. You experience emotions in the body. Every emotion has a bodily correlate. And then you discover something. You discover that painful emotions are not that different from painful feelings in the body. For example, I hurt my hand. Ow! And then I know this is pain, I know this is unpleasant, but the pain is not me. It is a sensation in my body. Having that perception changes everything. Because it’s not me, I can do things about it. I can take Tylenol. I can massage. I can put in ice. Or I can ignore it. Or I can experience it mindfully. Or I can just eat ice cream and forget all about it. And so on. There are things I can do because this experience is not me.

Using Mindfulness to Practice the Habit [intention] of Loving Kindness

The first habit that is very conducive to being socially skillful is the habit of kindness, or loving-kindness. That is a habit of looking at any human being, anyone you’ve never met before. Looking at any human being, my first thought is, “I want this person to be happy.” I want this person to be happy: that’s just it. Already, you can imagine if you have that mental habit coming effortlessly, it changes everything. You go into a meeting room; you look at everybody, you think, “I want all these people to be happy.” It reflects unconsciously in your body, your face, your language, your tone of voice, your facial expression. Because it reflects unconsciously, it’s picked up unconsciously by the other person. Their feeling, their perception is, “I like this person. I don’t know why. This Meng guy, I really like him. Maybe it’s his good looks. I don’t know.” [laughter] But it’s not just the good looks, it’s because I’m wishing for this person to be happy. I want Tara to be happy, and Tara can sense it unconsciously. In a situation like meetings and so on, if you have that mental habit all the time, people want to work with you. Then you find yourself becoming successful. You’re not clear why. But it’s this; it’s just simple things like that.

Note: You should read Chade-Meng Tan’s book Search Inside Yourself, I will be!


Start Your Own Mindfulness Practice

The following three videos will allow you to practice what mindfulness feels like. Start with the first and build up to the third. As you learn what this feels like, you’ll be able to do each without a video guide; although, I am still a big fan of practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.

The Quick Mindful Check in

5 Min Mindfulness Check in

Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Napoleon Hill: Outwitting The Devil

Update: Jan 2017 – just going to leave this here: 

https://www.google.com/amp/paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-untold-story-of-napoleon-hill-the-greatest-self-he-1789385645/amp?client=safari

– Not to detract from the man’s work, but the above read was eye opening to say the least. Take what you will with a grain of salt, the entry below included.


tl;dr – I am incredibly excited about this discovery. I am buzzing with excitement. The 1938 manuscript Outwitting The Devil was released in 2011 and having come across it this evening, I cannot get enough. Scroll to the bottom for embedded audio.

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In my youth I first read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich, and I think I can trace a lot of my success in the years since back to that crucial stone in my path.

This evening, I came across something pretty awesome while watching youtube videos. And when I say awesome, I mean really awesome. I’m excited about this. I’m excited for anything that sparks a light within me capable of extinguishing fear, doubt, and worry.

What I came across was an audio version of an obscure Napoleon Hill manuscript, titled: Outwitting The Devil.

As the audio tells, the book was written in 1938, but wasn’t released for more than seventy-two years. Mind you, Think and Grow Rich has sold over 70 million copies worldwide – so why was this manuscript locked away for the better part of a century?

Wikipedia explains:

Just after the release of Think and Grow Rich in 1937, Hill began writing Outwitting the Devil as an explanation of why some were still seeing failure after following all of the steps in Think and Grow Rich. His wife, Annie Lou, did not want the book published because of the role the Devil played in it. When Hill died in 1970, the manuscript went in the possession of Annie Lou, who died in 1984. After her death, the manuscript went into the hands of Dr. Charles Johnson, who was Annie Lou’s nephew and president of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. While Dr. Johnson believed the book’s message to be powerful, his wife, Frankie Johnson, shared Annie Lou’s feelings and told Dr. Johnson that she did not want the manuscript published while she was alive. After Frankie’s death, Dr. Johnson passed the manuscript to Don Green, CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Sharon Lechter was then asked to edit the manuscript, and after several years of annotations and reviews, it was released in June, 2011.

While I am only one hour into the six hour audio, I’ve already gathered that the manuscript has an almost Jungian mythological quality to it – and this too would have likely made Napoleon Hill seem a quack had it been released during his lifetime.

And let me state, I enjoyed Think and Grow Rich, but compared to this, it’s a snoozer. Outwitting The Devil exceeds every expectation I could have had for it. The author [Hill] tells a story of his inner psyche and is at times vulnerable and human in ways he was not in Think and Grow Rich. The audio contains numerous passages that strike me as profound, and listening to it feels almost like a meditation, and leaves me with the same feeling I got reading Steinbeck for the first time when I was 12. It’s captivating.

In Outwitting The Devil I find a narrative written in sometimes beautiful prose, which goes far deeper than the superficial pseudo science and monotony of most self-help books – classics included.

Here’s a sample passage:

During my quarter century of research into the causes of success and failure I have discovered many principles of truth, which have been helpful to me and to others, but nothing I have observed has impressed me more than the discovery that every great leader of the past whose record I have examined was beset by difficulties and met with temporary defeat before arriving… this would seem to justify the conclusion that infinite intelligence has a plan, or a law, by which it hurdles men over many obstacles before giving them the privilege of leadership or the opportunity to render useful service in a noteworthy fashion. 

Now, I would not wish to again be subjected to those experiences through which I passed during that fateful Christmas eve in 1923, and since on that eventful evening when I walked around the schoolhouse in West Virginia and fought that terrible battle with fear, but all the wealth in the world would not induce me to divest myself of the knowledge I have gained from those experiences. 

Faith has a new meaning to me.

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

As someone who is interested in both philosophy and psychology, I absolutely love this material. As one Amazon review says of the recently released manuscript “It isn’t new age to me, but old age, and science and thought is [sic] just catching up”.

But Outwitting the Devil is not just about a philosophy of living or the psychology of fear and success – it’s also about spirituality, and contrary to the title – it’s more about the devil within yourself than it is about the existence of an evil deity.

As an aside: Personally, I do not believe in a devil, or a hell (beyond the one we are capable of creating on earth for ourselves) – but I’m glad I did not let the seemingly religious title put me off. The devil is merely a metaphor, and this is not a work of religious zealotry.

Listening to this, I am nothing short of enthralled. Easily one of my new favorite works of non-fiction.

Note, pay little mind to the Sharon Lechter woman narrating on occasion, many Amazon reviewers loathed her contribution and feel it added her own neo-conservative beliefs to an otherwise flawless work. I’m more than half-inclined to agree. 

Without further ado – I present to you:

Edit: When you reach the section where Hill ‘interviews the devil’, be prepared for a thrill! It’s as dramatic and Shakespearean as anything I have ever heard. Damn, this is good!!! What I wouldn’t give to see this made into a play…

Edit 2: it’s 1:25 am, listening to in bed, not sure I’ll be able to sleep! It’s increasingly clear why Hill’s family did not want this released. In one passage the Devil character warns that this book ‘if published the book would be banned from public schools’ and that Hill himself ‘would be hated’. Hill goes directly after both public schools and organized religion as pillars that ‘strip people of their ability to think for themselves’. Pretty unreal stuff to listen too. Hill unplugged from the Matrix back in 1938.

Update: I’ve published a follow up entry to this with lessons and notes.

Denzel Washington: “You Already Have it, Claim it.”

For a time I didn’t believe in that spiritual spark, the one that fuels discoveries like this – and finding things like this, or rather – them finding me, was a rare occurrence; however, today I am back in the good graces of the universe, and my relationship with providence, with that spark which I call G-d, is once again a healthy one – a relationship of possibilities. As a result, that spark is continually presenting itself to me in the form of the right signs, messages, people, and lessons. I just can’t come across something like this at this time in my life and not feel a kind of humbling, awe inspiring gratitude. I wish the same for you my dear reader. Enjoy.

Note: There is a lot of good stuff in here. Certainly worth watching a few times, or saving to watch again in the future.

On Self-Control: Do Yourself a Favor and Watch This Video

Update: 10/17/14

I’ve posted a follow-up entry to this on self-mastery that covers both self-control and self-discipline. If you’re interested in self-control and self-mastery, I highly advise you read it.

Finding this video is almost a bit uncanny because the creator literally references the very same concepts I came to know through meditation. These include the idea of our inner and our outer world, and the model of higher vs. lower consciousness. In addition to these paradigms, the video is focused on one of the core pillars of stoicism – self-control. I just can’t help but feel the forces of serendipity at work here.

And I recognize the internet has made self-help videos a dime a dozen and most of us are inundated with ‘experts’ on a daily basis – but this video is on point.

To paraphrase – I watch lot of videos – and most aren’t worth sharing. This is. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

I’ll certainly be watching more videos from this gentleman and revisiting this very often.

Edit: Wow, look at what the video’s creator has released…unreal that this is available for free. I’m tempted to set aside time everyday to watch his videos and go through his Blueprint.

‘Self-Talk is the Conversation You Have in Your Head’ & Expectations vs. Beliefs

As I get more into CBT, Self-Talk, and Stoicism, the line between philosophy and psychology is becoming more and more blurred – and I like that, because I’m coming across some amazing stuff that really can’t fit into one single bucket.

This relatively obscure video is golden – I might watch it everyday. It’s so simple in it’s message, yet so powerful.

It’s a great reminder on the power of expectations, rather than just ‘beliefs’.

To further kick your mind into expectation mode, lie down and do the following guided meditation, which focuses on creating positive expectations within your psyche.

Nothing. Stardust. The Illusion of Thought and the Nature of Reality.

Last night – just before writing this, I went for late stroll at about 1:30 am to a secluded beach where I sometimes sit under the stars and listen to music. The reason I went there was because an arbitrary stressor had upset me and I needed to change the channel in my brain to something more calming.

I am not one to stew on things these days without taking conscious action to alleviate my stress (breathe, focus on how I want to feel in that moment, meditate, go for a walk, run, hike, gym, focus on gratitude, or listen to calming music). Particularly since my “awakening” – because it was then when I learned that inner peace was absolutely real and that I could find it in the midst of any situation because it was within me and MORE powerful than fear or any other opposing emotion or feeling. (Note: feelings are how we react to things, emotions are how we feel.)

This awakening has been wonderful in empowering me to actively alter my state when my inner peace has come under the siege of stress, worry, or fear. Effectively it’s enabled me to use better coping mechanisms because I know they are capable of delivering me from the lowest valleys of my most negative thoughts and feelings.

As was the case last night. After a short while sitting on the sand and doing some light breath meditation (approx 10 mins), the initial stressor had subsided completely. From there I walked over to a still burning fire and watched it burn, staring into the pulsing glow of the red hot embers. Then I climbed up to a place I like to sit, listened to this and started thinking. Blissful for a time.

But the blissful feeling of having alleviated my stress didn’t last long.

For, I soon found myself faced an actual truth: the truth that part of the change that characterizes life is the internal changes we are constantly being subjected to by virtue of being thinking and feeling human beings.

We’re on this ride, and happiness is never a permanent feeling. We’re at the mercy of circumstance and emotions, and really, life’s this roller coaster of feelings that bounce us around like a pinball at times. Part of the day you might have an argument with someone you love and be upset, later you might worry about something coming up and feel anxious, then later you might relax and laugh, which is a nice respite – but what you really desire is inner peace that lasts and sustained freedom from anxiety, worry, and depression.

And in thinking about the transient nature of happiness and inner peace, I felt frustrated that the temporary stressors in my life had the power to so easily rob me of my highest value / most important core desired feeling (inner peace).

Why is that? Why does life get in the way of this quest for lasting inner peace?

I suppose because I allow it – because there is this perpetual flowing of thoughts and the ebb and flow of feelings and emotions that come and go in waves – and I’ve decided to let these illusory things become rule my reality.

This concept of an illusory reality – a thought centered reality – is a central theme in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that while reality itself is real, how we perceive it and think about it is illusory. This ignorance, in living within the illusions of the thought world, is what leads to suffering.

Then if thought is illusory, what is this reality we cling so dearly to?

While on a sunset hike yesterday, I came across a beautiful spiderweb. In pausing to admire it, I was struck with a brief moment of zen awareness.

In the grand scheme of life, the impact of this spider’s existence on my city was akin to the impact of my own existence on the universe. His web and my life were both temporary yet here now. And perhaps, the web meant to the spider what my life meant to me; both of us clinging onto our respective existences out of the instinctual fear of their inevitable destruction.

Dust in the wind. Yet, we hold onto that dust because it’s solid, and we cry and scream and whimper and shout as if it all really is forever. But it’s just a spiderweb to the universe.

So, what does this mean? Are we just nothing – infinitesimal dust in the end?

Sure, perhaps. But we’re not just any regular old dust.

Allow famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain:

So, now that you know what you are made of, it’s time to put your existence within the context of the existence of the earth as a whole. For this, we’ll turn to another hero of mine – Carl Sagan. His narration of the legendary excerpt from his book Pale Blue Dot, which was spurred by the famous photograph of the same title, is an all time favorite of mine.

Enjoy some excellent animation as Sagan explains the earth in a way you may never forget:

So, where do we go from here. We’re as fleeting as a spiderweb, made from stardust, and on this pale blue dot. How do we reconcile with this reality of nothingness, with the fact that we’re meaningless to the universe?

Since, my heroes have been doing such a good job so far, let’s let philosopher Alan Watts discuss reconciling with this reality of nothingness. I’ll be damned if this isn’t the one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever heard. (If you’re not in a rush, watch this first – before the video below.)

Well, if you’ve watched each of these videos and come this far then I hope I’ve fucked with your entire concept of reality enough to put your life into a more rational and healthy context than you previously held.

It’s pretty special to me that my journey has led me to such parallel ideas on the fundamental nature of reality. Perhaps those individuals (my heroes) arrived at complimentary viewpoints because what they are talking about is completely true. I’m being a little bit aloof here because I want these truths to set in for you.

And before any of my heroes wrote or spoke their words, a writer (and Zen kind of guy) named Jack Kerouac immortalized a similar, but different viewpoint in a 1957 letter to his ex wife, (his first wife), which was used as the script for this epic hipster short by high-end Spanish/Italian bicycle company Dosnoventa:

In a way, the words of Kerouac are very much detailing a similar kind of zen realization as the spiderweb moment I had while on my hike.

The narratives of the Buddhists, deGrasse Tyson, Sagan, Watts, and Kerouac on the nature of our existence, the world, and reality are all essentially cohesive narratives of the spiderweb story.

Life is but stardust. A temporary glistening in the sun. All stress, worry, dilemma, fear – it’s just an illusory experience veiled in this thing called thought that we accept as absolute reality, but in the end it’s all false. Our lives will disappear eventually – just like the spiderweb melts in a single rainfall. Poof. Gone. And what are we so fucking stressed and worried for?

We’re okay.

Feeling down? That’s okay too.

Stressed out? That’s okay too. It’s all okay. It’s all ecstasy inside as Kerouac said.

We float on, no matter the day to day experiences and how they effect us. Whether pleasant or pushing the boundaries of our tolerances – the constant changes in our day to day feelings do nothing to alter the basic truth that we are alive regardless of whether we are happy 100% of the time or not. We float on and the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck either way.

It’s up to us.

p.s. I did just recently say that Eckhart Tolle was full of it, but this video from actor Jim Carey, makes me think it’s time for me to read The Power of Now again:


“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

– Lao Tzu

Atomic Tom: Music Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

Music Makes the Heart Grow Stronger, from the Brooklyn based Atomic Tom. The integrity of the song speaks for itself. Enjoy it.

p.s. I have a feeling that the combination of Saturn Returning for my 29th year and the emergence of daily meditation into my life is ushering in a very prolific time for my writing, so I hope my subscribers enjoy the ride – if not, feel free to unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of my auto-generated emails.

Four Favorite Films

Having just had the sublime pleasure of watching Shawshank Redemption for the first time in my adult life, I immediately knew it would forever be one of my favorite films.

There are exactly three other movies which occupy an equally special place in my heart. So special that they feel as if they are an intangible part of my identity somehow; an intrinsic piece of the meaning and inspiration that drives me to create the story of my own life.

Some remind me to turn left, some remind me to turn right in life. They all remind me to just keep going.

Here is a piece of each.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Based on The Alexandre Dumas Novel written in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is the kind of movie that I want to go back in time just to watch again for the first time.

I would provide the trailer; however, the full film is available on Youtube and a trailer just wouldn’t do it justice. Enjoy.

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Vanilla Sky

This movie is like a piece of art to me. Based on the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky is like watching a music video – it’s simply beautiful.

Here is a scene that just chills my spine.

(incls spoilers;)

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The Great Gatsby

What can I say, whether in book form or in either of the novel’s onscreen iterations, The Great Gatsby is a jazzy, yet raw piece that tells a story that we can all learn from in some way.

Here is a creative redux trailer for the original Gatsby film, starring Robert Redford.

And a tribute to Baz Luhrman’s Gatsby – featuring one of the soundtrack’s highlights.

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Shawshank Redemption

There’s nothing I can say about this movie. It’s perfect.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6hB3S9bIaco

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