I raced over the Dutch dunes with my folding bike. The lack of gears made it hard work, luckily I had the energy to spare. This was the revival of my youthful self. For a moment I wasn’t an adult who got gradually numbed down by dreary routines, pointless tasks and distracting sideshows. Unleash The Mean Machine. While leaning over in the corners like an overly happy boy, I pretended to be Mr. Rossi. I got completely drenched, both within as outside my rain-gear since it was raining cats and dogs. Hang on a little longer, then this ‘Flying Pig’ can take a refreshing shower. Fate struck simultaneously with the popping thought: the rusted chain gave way. There was the bill of prolonged thrift and abusing equipment. It fitted perfectly into a setback-packed workday: unbearable customers, quarrels, overtime, lost items and now a long hike through the storm. Fine, this is just a minor inconvenience. Let’s enjoy the raw beauty of thunderstorm flashes, a full moon and the illuminated cloud formations. Through the pouring rain I walked home – in my case a dreary single bed within an anonymous dorm. Now that’s what one can call coming home…
That stable and imperturbable state of mind didn’t come out of the blue. Work, social life, hobbies, recreation: ‘the package’ was fairly balanced. That helps to feel comfortable in your own skin. But there was more to it than that. Deeper insights about my (in)abilities, ‘true self’ and what underlies it all gave me an iron self-confidence. I dissected myself with the precision of a surgeon. With great care it went on, step by step. That in itself wasn’t a novelty since introspection is my middle name. The added regularity, structure and candor was whats new. Every day I took a moment to reflect on the psyche. As if I was an outsider, I investigated how upbringing, education, employment and other forces from the (in)direct environment influence(d) my personal shaping. I looked at which cultural values, personal habits or social norms serve(d) me well or hinder me. I thought about what my identity, worldviews, (core) beliefs, motives, preferences, opinions, habits, obsessions, fears, desires, illusions, delusions, goals and the whole lot is based on. I wanted to know which strings pull my heart and which buttons are pressed in my head. Then I linked all the pieces on paper. This way I could make (yet undiscovered) connections and see other interpretations of life experiences. With these insights, I was able to suck away most of the obstructing slime of systematic misconceptions, slumbering obsessions, blind spots or limiting beliefs. Not that it provided total control or makes you perfect, far from it. It’s just a powerful tool to be in charge of your own life. This is the true power of self-awareness.
The metaphor of culture as a (dis)functional operating system really hits the nail on the head. It’s modifiable/updatable software that can maximize the efficiency of the underlying hardware – the unwritten homo sapiens, as to speak. Inspired I applied Terence McKenna’s ideas in my daily life. He’s right: ‘you’re not naked when you take off your clothes’. We still wear a lot in our nakedness. In style, the Introspection of the naked psyche continued while taking a shower. Feeling emotions, having an opinion or subconsciously reacting to (external) stimuli is just one layer of who we are. The underlying layers go deeper. In these depths, the highly personalized experience of reality can be extracted once you dig to them. Explanations are there to be brought up. It all sounds so logical and self-evident while this way of thinking is anything but widespread. Like so many, I didn’t get this from my teachers, mentors, supervisors, friends, relatives, (ex-)lovers or whoever. Either they didn’t see the necessity, didn’t know any better or were simply impotent. I too was part of it. It’s all easier said than done, especially when there’s no external help or sample to look from. Setting up such a system takes time, energy and some efforts. The trick of getting somewhere is simply starting somewhere. Even the most detailed blueprint starts with the first line or dot. I wrote down everything that came to mind, and gradually expanded and fine-tuned it. Thoughtful perseverance and monk’s patience results in true customization.
I browsed through my blueprint while lying on bed. This analysis of the operating system will come in handy. Not to create a perfect-looking e-Ben on social media, hell no. I took the responsibility that lies within each individual. Removing a number of bugs and rewriting some codes as a largely ‘written’ adult, that’s the objective. All the required information was collected and stored in my database. I simply gave an own twist to what’s slowly emerging from digital infancy: algorithms, artificial intelligence and other technology that’s gonna have far-reaching consequences. They call (‘neutral’/’objective’) data the new gold for good reasons. Data is money, knowledge and (concentration of) power. This coin has multiple sides. Some Black Mirror or Harari scenarios aren’t far-fetched at all. It’s already hard enough to do something sensible with the quick changes of today’s world. Even with proper general development, useful knowledge and a rich imagination, the near future remains shrouded by the fog of uncertainty.
Will subtle indoctrination, plausible misinformation and sophisticated manipulation of our ‘free will’ continue to be fine-tuned? I don’t know.
Maybe this corona crisis lets obsolete systems implode and causes a vacuum for other lifestyles or societal narratives to flourish? No idea.
Are we facing confusing times full of conflicting choices, interests, agendas or worldviews? I don’t know.
I lack the answers. But I do know that overkill is an enemy of the good. That’s why I’m critical about where to focus attention on, where I expose myself to. That’s why I swear on information-reduction. Quarantine isn’t available. All non-information on my hard drive will be detected and deleted. This operating system is equipped with a Firewall, virus scanner, VPN, pop-up blocker and multiple backups. Pull out all the stops for those delicate bits and chips. Nurture them, look after them. Self-knowledge, taking care of yourself and keep a clear head. That’s always useful, no matter which scenario of the future becomes real. True power? That lies in your own hands.
Know how your operating system works and take advantage of what society (still) has to offer.