The Third Letter From The Hot Air Ballooner
My dear friend,
I couldn’t sleep well last night. I’m being eaten alive by fear. What if someone below holed my air balloon with a rifle? What if an airplane T-boned my hot air balloon? What if the air balloon’s machinery broke down mid-flight, and I had to haplessly swim in the tumultuous ocean below me? Oh my!
My mind keeps on creating fearful imaginings of what might happen. Fear, anxiety, and paranoia is my constant companion, and it’s making me not enjoying this trip as much. If I arrived at the pinnacle of the Himalayas in fear, did I really win?
—The Hot Air Ballooner
The Killer Feature Of Pen And Paper Is Boredom
One night, as I was writing, my laptop suddenly froze. Goddamit, I said to myself. So, I took a piece of paper and scribbled things down. For me, that turned out to be a significant accident.
The internet contains an infinite stream of newness—it killed boredom. When I hop on the internet, I’m dragged left and right by this and that—memes, tribal wars, news, cat videos, conspiracy theories, notifications, and all the cool, shiny objects.
Pen and paper provides a feature that internet-connected computers can’t: boredom. There’s no search bar to type on, there’s no notification that taps my shoulder. It’s just me—completely alone—doing my thing.
“C’mon, why am I not asleep yet?” you ask yourself. You can see your wife sleeping peacefully beside you; you’ve been staring at the ceiling for hours.
You hate work, but you gotta work; your boss is a dick, but you gotta swallow it. “After all, I got mortgage to pay and mouths to feed,” you always say. Sometimes you wonder why your life is the way it is, but you quickly brush it aside; when you were young, you felt like a conqueror, but now, you’ve accepted your eternal slavery.
Since you were a small child, you were forced to follow rules—“do this, then do that; you should get this, then get that.” There wasn’t even a single person in your life that didn’t tell you what to do—your parents, your aunts, your uncles, your spiritual figures, your neighbors, your parents’ friends, and even your parents’ friends’ friends. “Well, since these adults are telling me what to do, they must know what they’re talking about, right?” you innocently said. You did the schools, you did the cubicles; you did the this, you did the that; you chased things you were told to chase, and avoided things you were told to avoid. You sacrificed your own personal happiness to satisfy all the rules that were shoved down your throat, and this life is what you get? There’s maybe a decade left for you to live—two, at most. Now what.
“Honey, can’t sleep again?” your wife whispers in your ear.
It’s 5.55 AM.
“Ugh… I guess I’ll take a jog,” you say to her.
Imagine not having to worry about money until the day you die. Fly anywhere, sleep anytime, eat anything; no alarm, no schedule, no boss to please, no colleagues to argue with; do whatever, whenever, without spending a nanosecond worrying about money.
Colloquially, this is known as Fuck You Money. Another way to call it is lifetime runway. Runway is the amount of time you can live—pay the bills, put food on the table, buy luxuries—without working. Now imagine having a lifetime amount of runway.
What could possibly be more important than having this?
An Abandoned Apartment
Spiral stairs, undecorated / cement walls, unpainted
Vacant rooms, without windows / lonely balconies, no people
Green fields, many plants / white clouds, different shapes
Chirping birds, three of them / talking humans, there are none
As I write these, I’m inside an abandoned apartment. I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of awe, and no amount of words—or even pictures—can capture this feeling. The gentle breeze has been caressing my face since I arrived here. The sun is setting down: it’s hiding behind a thick cloud, and I can see few rays passing through. This cement ground I’m sitting on is quite warm. I was lying on it few minutes ago, and I could see the open sky with clouds gliding peacefully. There are four dried rain puddles, and their color is a mixture of green and brown—perhaps they were puddles of dirt and moss.
There’s no one here; I can hear birds chirping.
A physical sanctuary beyond compare.
A tank full of water, seventy-eight holes. One hole patched, six holes appears. This is how I feel.
I’m starting to wonder why I’m chasing success. I keep saying to myself that I want to be successful, and have money, and have this, and have that. But is that what I truly want? I feel like a pretender, on stage, dancing like a puppet. Maybe—just maybe—success is merely a way to patch my deep-seated insecurities. And, of course, one hole patched, six holes appear.
A tank full of water, seventy-eight holes…
(Replace the word “success” with “relationship” and “money” with “love,” and this writing will still be true.)
Are You A Fungible Human?
fungible: (especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind. —dictionary.com
Imagine three sacks of rice imbued with the ability to speak. The first says, I am the best; the second says, No, I’m the best, because I smell better when cooked; the third says, No, no, no, I’m the best because my color is clearer. Who cares what these sacks of rice say? They’re fungible commodities—they taste (almost) the same, they look (almost) the same, they smell (almost) the same.
Humans are non-fungible, but made fungible by society. We all have unique talents; we all see things differently. But everything is stamped out by society’s propaganda. What’s the result? Fungible humans.
Look around. What do you find? There are many groups, and in each group, the members are saying, thinking, creating, and doing the same things. They dress the same way, they talk the same way; they like the same things, they hate the same things. Each group has sucked the uniqueness out of its members, and they became “sacks of rice.”
We weren’t meant to be fungible automatons.
Things You Wouldn’t Say On Your Deathbed
There are two tubes plugged to your left arm. The doctor said that it’s necessary to keep you going. You can barely move your finger, yet your mind is still chattering.
“I wish I wasted more time on that shit job I hated,” you say to yourself. “I wish I worked like a mule so I could completely ignore my loved ones; I wish I spent more time caring what others think, and made myself a miserable wreck by trying to please everyone; I wish had more debt so I could spend decades of my life trying to repay it by being a wage slave; I wish I endlessly tortured myself by being anxious about everything.”
The Reaper is walking towards you. His scythe is ready. You are not.
“Please, no, no, no. Please. I wish I ha—”
For all my life, I wanted to be like others—professional gamers, startup founders, talented musicians, brilliant programmers, and even buff bodybuilders. I was a mediocre human doing mediocre things. When I looked on the screens, there were world-class individuals doing amazing things, and I couldn’t help but compare myself to them. I also tried to become my peers: many of my high school peers were good at basketball, and I tried so hard to become like them. But I couldn’t. I was the kid whom no one wanted on their team, and even when I got picked, no one passed me the ball—instead of being a player, I was running around the court like a useless meatbag.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was like a monkey trying to win a swimming race. All the people I compared myself with were amazing at their own thing, and I was deriving my self-worth by how good I was at their thing. That’s crazy! That realization was the genesis of a story I wrote months ago: The Story Of Powie And Coatl, which I still reread once in a while.
The Person You Like Being Around With Makes You Feel Free, Not Happy
There are few people I genuinely like to be around with, and they have one similar trait: they make me feel free. I don’t need to fake anything; I don’t feel tense around them. On the other hand, there are freedom restrictors: Their presence tenses me up, and being around them feels like walking on eggshells—I need to be careful in what I say and do. Usually, freedom restrictors are needy, high-conflict people who take things too seriously.
There are people out there whom you can have symbiotic relationships with. You make them happy by being yourself; they make you happy by being themselves. Why bother with high-conflict people?