What If My Life Were Just Beginning Now?
I'm 51 years old and have gained a lot of wisdom over the years. From understanding my likes and dislikes and the role of major events in my life, to recognizing the importance of financial security, I have learned a lot. I regret not taking up Python sooner, and I'm grateful for the opportunities Unix has given me. Despite the ups and downs, I wouldn't change my path and am content with how things have turned out. Read my blog post to learn more about my journey and
Gaining Wisdom Through Life's Journey: Reflections on My 51 Years of Experience
By Michael Levin
Friday, May 6, 2022
So what if your life were just beginning? What if you could start over knowing what you know now? How would things be different? Knowing your essential vibe now such as you do? Well first of all, I think what I know now would be an awesome friggin’ starting point. I’m happy with myself, knowing my likes and dislikes, general abilities, preference in people to be around. That sounds like a list:
- It’s important to get to know ones’ own “essential vibe”… something determined by chance genetics… you as a “blank slate” raw material stuff. It’s not easy to really know because by the time you’re aware there is such a thing, you’re already a very different you.
- Coming to grips with circumstances of one’s birth and childhood… it’s all just more chance, beyond your control. A 2nd random hand dealt from the deck, such as it were.
- Realizing the role of major events in your life of shaping you, especially during the “coming-of-age” years (between 6 and 12), becoming a meta-being, God-like in creativity, subject to peer-pressure and parental expectations, and predisposed towards embitterment. This is the time of Alice, Dorothy Gale, Harry dotter and Princess Nell.
- Piss. Understanding what pissing matches are and how they come from insecurity and jealousy. Jealousy-motivated attacks and how to survive them. Entanglement and non-entanglement. How the “let-it-fizzle” strategy is best with pissers.
- The price of getting all of the above-point wrong: Snap! Snap goes the will-power. Breaking. Being broken like a horse. Being ridden like a horse for the rest of your life and not knowing there’s anything wrong.
- Tricks to maintain a deep-inner self nobody but you knows or has any business knowing. Doing this while still an integrated being, without dissociation.
- Knowing the difference between isolation, town, village, city, metropolis, world-class anchor-cities and meccas.
- Different strokes for different folks. And that’s fine. It takes all kinds.
- Understanding the big-man-on-campus, Alpha-to-Omega, hiding of the original omega, reading undercurrents and understanding community lies. The Bible and all the misinterpretation of the Bible. Other such stories and the eternal recurring stories of Gilgamesh and such.
- The lies and biases of language. The imperfection of tools in general, but how that’s a perfect statement about life itself, and contains love-worthy bits.
- How most of the things that will anger you are indeed things to learn and internalize, but not to obsess over. You can only live your own life, and it’s not a very long one at that.
- In fact, it’s only 10 rotations around the sun for each of your fingers, and that’s if you’re lucky.
- Projection! The first thing someone complains about will tell you all about their self-image and insecurities. Those who make a living calling others narcissists are themselves narcissists… always. Sometimes it’s understandable because you have to become like someone to survive them. It’s possible to recover.
- You have to condition your own mind to be the way you like it to be. This mostly means knowing what releases the neurotransmitter chemicals into your blood that causes you to have the behavior you want to have.
- For that above point, you have to get enough sleep and keep yourself hydrated.
- Things go in cycles. Don’t be scared to go on a roller coaster ride. Just be sure it’s a roller coaster where the odds favor your survival.
- Engage in life. Entangle. Get the best (for you) out of life. But then cut the fuckers off who intend you harm. Surround yourself with good people.
- Simplicity rises from complexity pushed-around in just such a way that it only just appears simple. Nuance and subtlety matter much more than they’re given credit. People who write off nuance are lying motherfuckers who don’t really understand what they’re doing or themselves.
Yup. That about sums it up at first pass. Yeah, I’m fifty-one years old. Yup, this is hard-won shit just rattled off-the-cuff in under an hour. We all have sort of internal agents working for us in our heads.
Read SciFi. Read Non-Fiction. Both are valuable and not all of equal value. Non-fiction is often more fictional than scifi. At least science-fiction doesn’t lie about lying. There are classics not to be missed in both categories. Not everything is (or has to be) dystopian. The most important SciFi to read is Ian M. Banks The Culture series because it is shows you how badass the optimistic good guys can be.
So how would things be different knowing all of the above? I would no longer covet becoming one of the high-tech empire-building bro’s. In my time it was of course Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. There could not be a more iconic Yin/Yang pair. Yin’s invent. Yangs copy and optimize. Clear, no? And neither path of empire-building necessarily leads to happiness. I mean sure, material comfort. But Jobs died unnecessarily in his sixties, and that’s f’d up. Bill Gates softened a bit in his old-age, but isn’t free. He can’t just go places and do things without carrying around a reality-distortion-field. That’s f’d up too. Freedom in life is nice.
Financial security in life by saving young and deferring so many good things in life is pretty f’d-up too because it keeps you from really trying hard and striving. While I probably should have saved better, I’m much happier with my internalized abilities that can’t be taken away from me and can actually help me survive when dropped into almost any situation than I would be with some number on a screen. It seems to me that the perfect life would consist of:
- Living several places and having several vocations, sampling a lot.
- Testing the boundaries of your abilities without a safety-net. “Check” who you are.
- Don’t do all of the above for “too long” or you won’t enjoy the things about life that you’ve come to know are your favorites.
- Switch from an exploratory mode to a more enjoying-it-all mode from 1/3 to half-way through your life.
- Dial-up the loveworthy bits and dial-down the hateful bits.
So again, how would I do things differently if I had to do it all over again?
I don’t think I would. The love-worthy bits I’ve discovered is the love-of-tools and their spontaneous expert use. And the tools I fell in love with have been maturing right along with me, and if I were solipsistic about it, would think for me.
Perhaps I would have taken up vim circa 1996 when I first started to encounter it. I was 26 years old living in Philadelphia working at Scala Multimedia, a Commodore Computers spin-off, but I despised with a passion the person who suggested I do so. He’s one of the people I had to unfortunately become like to contend with. I’m still getting over it, but it did sort of battle-harden me.
I didn’t take up vim again until I moved to New York City and Microsoft Active Server Pages (those files with a .asp extension) went out of style along with the editors designed to edit them. 2009. I was 40 years old. A kid was on the way. I knew that the next text-editor I took up was going to be the last one I seriously took up in my life. I still will tackle emacs one day, but I’m sure to enable vim-mode.
Tool preference is another case of nuance and subtlety mattering. All those people who play down the importance of your language choice are either naturally very multi-lingual (which is a thing) or they’re liars or deeply un-self-aware. A halfling won’t do very well with a 2-handed sword and a knight in armor isn’t going to wield nunchucks all too smoothly. The fact that the pairing of self and tools doesn’t make a difference, the “Turing complete” argument that any language can do everything another language can do, so language choice doesn’t matter will do you harm. And it’s even worse that the first thing you learn is going to deeply predispose you. Don’t learn BASIC first.
That leads us to Linux and git. I’m on the fence with git. After 15 years, I still really just use it for personal infinite undo on my own projects, and backing up my code on Github. I’m not big on the collaboration features, just like I don’t collaborate on my writing. Coding is a form of self-expression and git for me is keeping my art safe. So I’m neither here nor there. I would probably have preferred Mercurial (hg) to become the unchallenged winning distributed version control system due to its being native Python, allowing for cool integration and easier fast-forward/rewind of your undos and SQL-like searching through the history of your code. But so what? A dvcs system is a dvcs. Linux, though. That’s another case enitrely.
Unix, which Linux is based on, was invented on the year I was born (the above-motioned meant-to-be for-me solipsism which I completely don’t believe). I could hardly take it up popping out of the womb, but hey. It was there. It was invented less than 50-miles away, in fact Pompton Plains New Jersey as I was. The Bell Labs facility where Unix was invented is right near there. It may be an anthropomorphic effect, but again, providence much? Unix was the formalization of interoperable operating systems, which made information tech a viable generalized technology tool (instead of a lifetime of specialization type of tool).
So if I were to do it all over differently, I wouldn’t want to give up all the stars aligning just-so. I’m still alive today. On other paths, I might not be. I earn well and love what I do. On other paths, neither of those things are necessarily true. And although my relationships have been hit-or-miss over the years, whose haven’t. I don’t think I’d trade my life for any other. If I were to do it all over again, I would be quite happy taking the exact same path.