shopkins

For some of us humans — mostly the introverts, I'm sure of it — we dig holes, jump in one, and proceed to try and climb our way back out of it. For if there were no holes, no jobs we hated but did anyways — nothing to make us miserable — we could just amble down the sidewalk wearing nothing but a grin. You'd look up at the sky and trees around you and your only thought would be, “Wow. This is great.” You'd think, “I'm alive, this is wonderful,” and maybe “Look at all the things I can do! I can climb a tree or run or stop or breathe through my nose.” And you'd be happy.

Most of the time we are probably happy but don't realize it. Because anyone who has been so happy that they can no longer ignore it knows what happens once it is realized. The thoughts of tomorrow suddenly show up, or the futile stretching and grasping for this feeling begins — the hope to just keep it forever. The incessant use of the internationally-known phrase “I love you” is this hope. Happiness, like the heart or the entire human body, doesn't maintain its original manifestation forever.

I want to live. I don't want to end up old with a crusty heart, solidified from my younger years of carousing, largely in pointless fashion and to pass the time. I'm not very old but also not young. At this point, it's clear the world isn't going to naturally provide the environment that I need to live how I want. It's not for the world to do, I know. At least, now I do.

It's up to me. To put myself in that environment. To make that environment. To make decisions and to stay true to them. I want to live how I want and no one is going to make that happen for me.

I've lived with a sort of malaise recently. I haven't been able to put my finger on what's really wrong.

It could be less sleep. It could be little time for reflection. It could be the season.

I get up, go to work, come home, mess around on the internet. There's an unending list of chores to do, but I save them for another day. I just want to feel like things are going right and be excited to go through my days, but I haven't felt like this.

I'm a big believer in “mind over matter,” so when I started noticing how persistent this shitty feeling was, I tried changing things.

I thought about past times when I felt on top of the world. I thought about what life was like then; what I did and thought about every day. But this only made things worse because my next thought was, well now it can't be that way, or I've drank too much over the past few years to have those kind of insights anymore. And I have to make money. I have to go to work every day. I have to do chores. I alone am responsible for what I do and how my life goes now, so I need to take charge.

I've also seen myself get fatter over the past few years, getting squishy in the midsection, and finally decided to do something about it. It's something, right? So I started biking to work again, even though I have to ride on busy roads with all the drivers speeding and texting, rushing to get to work before everyone else, and ride up huge hills (though the way down is always nice). I also started working out — lifting weights, because it's relaxing. And I've changed my diet as best I can, going for protein over carbs, and keeping beer out of the house as an added barrier to my most favorite source of weight gain.

These things have started taking up more of my day, especially since deciding to work out on my lunch break. I feel like maybe I'm doing something wrong by not sitting at my desk for as much as my daily 8-hour session as possible, but I also look at it this way: when you have a splinter in your foot, your body bugs you with pain to make you pay attention. My thinking is that a mild depression (or whatever the hell it is) might be a mental splinter, a signal from my body making sure I address things before it goes in any deeper.

I'm lucky enough to not get harassed too much while I stretch the boundaries of my boss's expectations. But still, sometimes figuring out exactly what's going wrong, and reflecting on your own actions and hopes is a prerequisite for doing your job well. The “good life” certainly means different things to different people, and I certainly have it good by society's standards. But right now there's a disconnect with my own values that I need to fix before I can go back to making society happy. Hopefully a few small changes is what it takes.

Last night I had my first lucid dream in a while.

In some dark city bar I'd had the memory of being in before (but never saw before in my dream), I walked in to find the keyboard/piano that I'd left there the night before was destroyed.

I'd left it there so people could enjoy it and play on it (I guess I'd thought they wanted it). And now it was destroyed — keys missing, parts missing, a hole where all the high keys had been. I freaked out.

Then I tried to play something while some drunk people on the other end of the bar caroused on, uncaring about my material loss. I realized it was missing all the keys I needed to play anything I knew, and an apparent drinking friend came over to survey the damage and not really say anything.

Then I realized: usually I wake up after something like bad this happens — I realize I was dreaming all this time, and wave of relief hits me knowing nothing has changed. “I must be dreaming,” I tell my silent friend, without giving it much more thought. “I can do anything.”

I walked to the front of the bar and said, mostly to myself, “Watch!”

I thought about floating up into the air, and then I did. The drunkards in the corner swung around to see what was going on, and I started to descend slightly as I thought about what else I wanted to do, and the world faded to gray.

Next I was on top of a hill among infinite grassy, rolling hills. I decided to fly again, and hovered, though with more apparent weight this time. But what about people? Could I spend more time with that girl I only knew for a few days? I thought for a while, and sunk slowly back down to the ground.

A few more landscapes faded in and out until I was close to her, in some dimly-lit building, somewhere — maybe that dive bar in Lancaster — like a blend between my nights out with Alice, and her—Camille's—face. Then time started flying by, cutting from us in one place to another, like jumping between memories. We were with friends; traveling; on a boat; in a bedroom; then I started to lose track.

I quickly lost my lucidity and slowly began to wake up, with the last full “memory” of us lingering on my now-conscious brain. Then it faded away for good.

I was probably 8 when it first happened. I had an ordinary dream about walking into the garage at my parent's house — nothing amiss; something I do regularly — and I stepped on my uncle Charlie's toe. I continued walking into the garage, and the dream ended.

A few months later my parents had the family over. Most of my dad's brothers and sisters still live near the Baltimore suburb where I grew up, so this was a common occurrence. At some point between building paper airplanes or playing video games with my cousins, I came upstairs to the kitchen and headed for the garage to get a Coke. The door was already open, and my uncle Charlie was standing near it having a conversation with someone out in the garage. I saw him standing there, but accidentally stepped on his toe as I crossed the threshold — “Ow! Watch it, bud.”

I grabbed a Coke from the fridge as the strangeness of what just happened hit me — was that really the same dream I had?


I wouldn't have another one of these occurrences for a few years, when they started to happen more frequently and came in myriad forms. There were still the tiny ordinary dreams that would happen later and I'd get the unsettling sensation of having just done something in the exact same way I'd already done it in the past.

One dream opened to me running fast on my parent's front yard towards some giant green, or maybe yellow, ball. I leaped, saw the trees and the sky scroll down my vision, and then the dream was over. Some time after that, my sister had brought home a me-sized giraffe-spotted ball from the toy store. My friends and I took it out in the yard to roll it around, jump on it ass-first and bounce off of it into the grass. Then from a dare or simple one-upmanship, I ran towards the ball, jumped, and bounced feet-first off of it. I did a half-flip in the air and landed straight on top of my head, blacking out for a moment.

Analyzing this now, it seems these premonitions were of important early lessons: watch out for people's feet; don't jump feet-first on a giant bouncy ball.

Other times, I would wake up some mornings with a single song in my head, for example. Later in the day it might play on my MP3 player (big deal) — or it might be blaring out the windows of a car outside passing by.

As I started getting involved with girls, they would occasionally show up in these premonitions. One notable time was on the annual family beach trip one year, when I met an older girl — an aloof 20 year old who took a (requited) liking to me. Our fling initially developed over that week at the beach, and the night after meeting, I started having dreams about tiny sparse moments with her.

In a dream at the beginning of the week, we stood in the dark hallway of her rented beach house and she motioned for me to follow her to the bedroom she and her friend were sleeping in. Enamored with this cool, smart older girl, the dream stuck in my mind for the following days. And having seen enough deja vu's in the past, I hoped it was simply fated to happen, and I was just lucky enough to get a glimpse of it ahead of time.

But we know that's not how it works.

Whatever the explanation for seeing “future” events, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: fate is not written in the stars, but in our bodies. And, obviously, I won't get invited into a girl's room simply because I dreamt it, but because of corporeal actions that would eventually prompt her to invite me into her room.

I learned a lot about fate that week. In certain past times sitting in a basement getting high, I seriously worried about fate; that some giant force is pulling my strings and I have to just accept and go along with it, powerless to change the various outcomes.

But of course that's bullshit.

Anything can be retroactively analyzed and said to be fate. Right now, I might say I was fated to write the words you're reading — and I'd be right, at this point. But it was only the series of actions performed in the first place that led me to this moment. To, at birth, say, “I'm fated to write a blog post about premonitions!” doesn't make any sense, because waiting around for that “fate” to happen to you is like waiting for the earth to move one step towards you, instead of you ever taking a step forward. It simply won't happen without your input.

Near the end of that week at the beach, as I started to get lazy and “let” things happen, I saw this. In the end I didn't get invited to her room, but I did end up in the same dark hallway at the same doorway with a kiss and a smile “goodnight.”


Throughout the various phases of my life, I've realized the significance of these reality-dreams. I always sought to understand why, like when considering notions of fate, and what, as in, what is time?, and also how, as in how do I get these dreams?

Various other humans like Alan Watts would back up my current notion of time, which is essentially that there is none. Not in the common way we think of it, at least. Our perception of time is a limited spotlight on the timeline of events in the universe, which we call “now.” Depending on your adherence to eastern philosophy, that spotlight can range from a tiny laser point (“now is just a moment;” more past memories and future expectations) to a wide light spreading far over what many westerners call “the past” and “the future” (though this is a severe simplification). I have to believe the latter, because it's the only explanation for being able to dream so vividly of “future” events.

I also noticed something this week, after temporarily picking up smoking again. I haven't seen many realized premonitions in the past several years, and I've wondered why. Compared to my teenage years and early twenties I drink more beer, smoke a lot less pot and no usually no cigarettes; so maybe more depressants and less stimulants have to do with it. Maybe a lack of sleep from working and getting up at the same time 5 days a week. Maybe my mental state from pursuing currency every day. I'm not sure.

But today I woke up with a song in my head. Alone in the house, I walked around singing it. I sat down at my desk to write something and played my shuffled 5,000-song music library, and on the third track, heard the song. Earlier in the week, I also had 3 incredibly tiny deja vu's, so small I can't even recall what the moments were. But it is always striking enough when it happens to make you note it. I'm curious if a certain part of my brain is responsible for these dreams, and if nicotine activates it. These occurrences are oddly comforting, like smacking me in the face with the reminder that there's more to see and less that's obvious. It seems the world is full of mysteries, most right in our faces. The way we see them is never obvious, but when we do, they're always in ways we never would've imagined.

I used to be a smoker. Both my parents smoked (they know best). And by the time I was 17 it still looked cool.

I often think about whether I'd take an impeccable health record over the straying times indulged in drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and carousing. In relation to the healthy prescription of our times, I ironically had a lot of experiences that outweigh the detriments. In college — just a year into my full-time smoking career — I met many of my friends over a cigarette; one of them became my best. It made a lot of sense, but I also had “forever” to live.

Perhaps it depends on your personality and constitution. I've always been about human connections and the moment over conventional wisdom. And so when I accept conventional wisdom: buying a house and getting a steady 9-5 job, I get a lot of cognitive dissonance. I'm used to rowdy socializing and staying up if I've met a particularly interesting human being on any given night. I'm used to sleeping in to continue the natural rhythm of my life if I need it.

But it's largely incompatible with conventional adult life.


There also comes a time, like now for me at the tender age of 32, when I'm still in a stage of discovery. Stability is the enemy of exploration, and thus I instinctively reject any signs of it despite being subsumed by it.

Allow me to get existential for a second, but this gets down to what your meaning of life is: do you want to play one of the many arcade games life offers? Perhaps Career Pinball Mania! Or maybe Just Getting By: Part II. Society and the American Dream are not hospitable towards individual goals of upsetting the norm, being honestly imaginative, or discovering new ways of thought. It's like we can't continue on such a path until we've started to prove everyone wrong — and to get there we must already be obstinate enough to defy convention.


You also don't see many revolutionaries adhering to the “livestrong” philosophy. I think it comes down to this:

you and you alone are responsible for the world you want to see. No one else will enact it without your influence. We all have an element of revolution in us, but there are some of us that feel it strong enough to act upon it. If you are one, you are obligated to do so. Without you, there is no change. There is only conventional wisdom and more of the same. You must show that it's okay to act on what you want. That we can all form the world we want and ultimately end up working towards a world we can all live in, content that we've built it ourselves, instead of at the hands of some nameless King or Lord of the land. This is the goal of any self-aware human, creature, and being of this world.

Commonly when you release a new product, the first question you get is: Well how is this different from X? Many founders jump on the defensive, explaining how great their product is in the limited context of how it compares to X.

But your response will never sound as good. Because if the question is phrased with this “what makes you so great?” attitude, you can never prove that your product is truly better than X. The interrogator has already formed an opinion about the product, and there's little chance you'll change their worldview with a pithy marketing statement.

So how do you respond?

You explain your product's core greatness, but for everyone else in the room — largely disregarding X, and maybe with a bit of contempt for the interrogator and X. If you're going to win anyone over to your new product, you can't logically explain its differentiating factors. Many people have irrational attachments to the products they use every day, and are generally hostile towards new ideas that force them to rethink all their decisions. You have to show that your product is great on your terms and simultaneously make people question their current choices.

Remember the reason your product exists. Look to why you started it in the beginning. And don't take shit from people who say, “Well this is basically X.” It's not your fault they aren't open to new things in the world — but you do have the power to enlighten them.

For good measure, I've added Write.as to Dead Yet?.

Just a quick test of Write.as.

I like the simplicity. The writing interface is super minimalist and I'm not shoehorned into any particular format for my posts (though I am a bit for the blog format). I wonder if there's a way to officially title posts...

It's obvious there's still work to do here, but I like what I see so far.