[<< | Prev | Index | Next | >>]

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Exponent Junkie

I mostly don't notice the roosters any more, but this knocking sound is something new--7am or so for the last few days, right outside my bedroom, though it may as well be inside since I keep my sliding glass doors wide open at night for fresh air. So this morning I snuck quietly down the ladder from my bed and peeked around the door frame to find a red-crested woodpecker mad at work on my garden trellis. Whack whack whack whack whack... scuttle around to a different angle... whack whack whack whack whack...

I managed to find my camera and get back without scaring him off, but couldn't get the camera trained and focused without being noticed, so no good photo. But he looked something like this although with a much redder and prominent crest than most of those pics imply.

So I climbed back into bed, snuggled into my warm comforter, and... whack whack whack whack! (Get your mind out of the gutter! And spare me the wood pecker puns.) Sigh.

The garden itself is doing ok. Not great, not terrible.

My Mac, on the other hand, is now completely dead. Won't boot, doesn't even try. I had to pull the power cord and battery just to turn the thing off, and now when I put the battery back in, the green sleep light comes on immediately. I've tried all the magic incantations I know, to no avail. I think it's a gonner. And with it, once and for all, my not-so-trusty-lately email client, Eudora. And worse yet, I now realize my entire email address book too. Fortunately my actual emails live elsewhere on the net via IMAP so I can reconstruct my addr book from there, by hand, one by one. Sigh.

So, dammit, I'm going to write my own email client. I've been urged not to by many more reasonable people, but well, George Bernard Shaw said it best: "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people."

Which brings me to the darker thoughts that actually made me sit down to write this entry.

Life is both so short and yet so tediously long.

With each passing year, we integrate the world on more and more abstract levels, the minutia becoming less and less surprising, and the true novelties relegated to ever grander scales (and thus further and further apart). So the time-line of consciousness is (potentially) exponential, yet the time-line of our physical existence is depressingly linear.

So there is this choice, to live a linear life (as most people do, by default) or strive for the exponential one, or to try to find some balance in the middle. But that balance is a hard one, between a linear and an exponential function with time itself pulled taught between the two. What if you had the choice between doing something today that you would enjoy, or starting something today that would take ten days but, in the end, bring you twice as much joy? Or a hundred days and thrice the joy? Or a thousand days and four times? Or possibly the rest of your life, and five times (if you didn't die first)?

Perhaps the healthy person just integrates it linearly, says ten days of unit joy is five times better than one shot of double-joy. But I think I'm a junky at heart. Fuck with all the inbetween time, I want that unparalleled experience, whatever the cost. And once I've had it, I want the next level up. I already know what it's like to have a nice day. Why do it twice? I'll give up the rest of my nice days in exchange for an amazing day. And then I'll give up the rest of those in exchange for a fucking amazing day. You get the idea.

I'm probably fucked in the head, aren't I.

So be it.

What got me thinking about this was my mind wandering earlier in the day to Cynthia's death, particularly the manner of it, trying to model in my head what it would be like to make that choice, to open the capsules one by one and mix them in the water, to wonder what it will be like when you drink it, how long it will take before you feel anything, and what you will feel. To know you are about to throw the off switch on your very existence, to purge your information once and for all from the universe, and to put a sharp and final end to all new experience. Do you take comfort in seeing your life as existing eternally in space-time, in that patch of the fabric of reality which you homesteaded with your identity, beginning here, ending there, but forever in between, like a painting in a never-ending gallery? Or do you simply know that in a few minutes, reality will have left you behind completely, and so you won't be there to care one way or the other--your existence, after all, is only important to you as long as it lasts, and not a moment longer.

And then the real question, the hard one: In that last minute of your life, what will you wish you had done differently? And even if you knew the answer to that, if you did things differently then would you find yourself wishing the opposite again at the end? Will you get there and go "damn, why did I work so hard, and for what?" or will you go "damn, why did I flit away my time frivolously when I could have experienced great things?"

The balance... it seems so obvious on the surface to seek a balance... But it's not so simple. Just surviving takes a notable percentage of your time, so sometimes postponing something by a day means postponing it by a week. Time is leveraged poorly that way, all the more precious a resource. And the linear days, they seem so weightless against the promise of something greater, so... been-there-done-that. Combine the two, and those linear days start looking awfully expensive, catapulting your grander goals off into the foggy distance, possibly even beyond your reach given the brevity of life and the unrelenting ravages of mental entropy.

So you, exponent junkie, sprinkle just a few of those linear days in here or there, for a little insurance against a sudden and unexpected death, toiling away most of your time toward an end you may or may not reach, and still you wonder daily: in the last minute of my life, what will I wish I had done differently?

[<< | Prev | Index | Next | >>]

Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com