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Sunday, October 24, 1999

The Propane Wiz, Birthing Bananas, and the Un-Hierachy of Goals

Wiz came to fix the propane leak. He had a new valve in hand, but I wasn't convinced the tiny leak we saw from the valve could account for that much gas. While he had the system back on for a minute, I wanderred down stream on the side that I thought was leaking. "Say, what's that hissing noise?" I asked. "Oh, that's just the hot water." Hot water? Going where? Nowhere in this direction, and certainly not right now. So I zeroed in on the noise and started clearing leaves away... and found a huge section of pipe that was decomposed nearly to dirt, spewing out propane like an unlit blowtorch. So he replaced the valve, and we left that section of the gas line off, and everything is functional except the dryer.

The go game is progressing slowly. Garrett* has started fighting me for the large territory I had staked out in the middle.

Sera called us for brunch, but I'd just made poached eggs, soy sausage, and liliqo'i, so we set up dinner with her and Paul tomorrow.

Garrett* bought a couple of calling cards for us. $10 each, ostensibly 3.7 cents per minute. Fine print? 65 cents surcharge per call, and 3 minute minimum, which means these cards which are advertised as being good for over 200 minutes of calling are more realistically good for maybe eight to ten short calls. To top it off, these cards have decided the phone at this houes is a pay phone, which adds an additional 50 cents per call or so. Do the math.

We hacked down a banana tree that gave birth to no less than eighty bananas in the process. The ones on top are just starting to yellow. We've hung it under the eves.


While discussing the merits of laptop computer pointer devices:

Garrett*: "The clitormouse has sort of grown on me"

Me: "I won't ask where..."

We've determined that two weeks is the quanta of Xeno's parodox. It has become a running joke to say "two weeks!" whenever someone asks when something will be done.

I learned today that the dock workers (who are on strike because they want more money) earn between $55K and $150K a year.

Computers are intollerable. Netscape crashed and deleted a huge letter I had just written, *twice*. It crashed the first time when I hit "Save" (save in the drafts folder). The second time I just tried sending the letter direct without saving it first, and it crashed again, leaving no trace of my file once again.

It used to be good enough to just avoid Microsoft products. But now everyone feels they need to compete with Microsoft, so bugs are everywhere.

Here's part of a letter I wrote someone today:

You speak of greed, vanity, religion, and spirituality as if they are opposites, whereas I see them as all in the same class. They each promise to define value for you, and yet none is any more objective than the others.

We all begin with the most basic desires: to eat, to sleep, to laugh, to love, and so on. These are our true values, as superficial and simplistic as it may sound, to simply enjoy our time.

To satisfy these values, we must plan for the future, and for this we construct an elaborate hierarchy of goals. To eat next week, we must shop, and to shop we must earn money, and to earn money, we must work, and so on. And each of these has its own subgoals -- we need to drive to and from work, we need to gas the car, we need to open the car door and get out in order to gas the car... It all falls into a giant hierarchy, where as we complete each goal, we look one level up in the hierarchy to find out what to do next, which in turn may throw us back down the hierarchy a few levels, and so on. This is the way we work, subconsciously; it is a mechanism we take for granted, and use for absolutely everything we do.

Things go awry, however, when we loose track of why we're doing it all, when we try to look far enough ahead, or high enough in the hierarchy, that we reach the top and realize we don't know what comes next. And at that point, we invent god or spirituality, or we glorify whatever's on the top (wealth, power, social acceptance -- these are the often the most abstract elements in ones goal hierarchy) and treat them as ends of themselves.

But in truth, there is no objective top to the hierarchy -- it is not driven from the top down, but from the bottom up. We don't spend our days so we can accumulate wealth, we accumulate wealth so we can spend our days. Likewise, life is not a part of a greater spiritual journey. This is the journey right here.

Simplicity is the most beautiful of gems, and it is there for anyone who does not work to avoid it. Let go your complex views of life, and ask yourself simply: what do you enjoy, what makes you laugh, what makes you love? Attain these things, and if you must have a more complicated life, do it simply to better attain these things. That is all. Because that is all there is.


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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com