Exiting the Tunnel

An exorbitant amount of time has passed this year that I would like to take outside and bury in the yard. That said, this week has seen a marked change in my self-perception and how I approach the world every morning. Rather than dread every sunrise and mechanically getting through each day, I'm feeling the pull of creative endeavours. More than this, family time has become enjoyable again. Although the saying has been overused for decades, there is a light at the end of the tunnel …

Exiting the Tunnel

… and it's not an oncoming train.

Hopefully this is something that I can maintain for more than a handful of weeks as the seemingly endless cycle of self-inflicted burnout-depression-self-loathing after a couple of months of tossing candles into the fire1 really needs to stop. TO accomplish this, there will no longer be any months of the year where I put in 80 hours of OT at the day job. I'll "selfishly" use some of my personal time after 11:00pm to get in a nice power-walk around the neighbourhood. Heck, the podcatcher will also be allowed to have more than 3 spoken-word podcasts again2.

There is little point racing to burnout and there is little point to investing too much of myself into any project, be it personal or professional. Getting things done is important, but so is enjoying the process.


  1. Some people burn candles at both ends. Not me. I toss the whole thing into the fire as it gets the job done faster.

  2. I had unsubscribed from a lot of conversational shows because hearing people have adult conversations with each other, laughing and learning along the way, really frustrated me. I can imagine that people in solitary confinement do not like hearing other people's conversations after a while.

Too Nice to Lose

Early last week I made the decision to let the nice.social domain expire rather than pay $41.88 USD to renew it. This was part of my ongoing efforts to bring the annual costs of running the 10Centuries platform down to under $500 a year, which should be completely attainable. Social can operate from any URL — such as social.10centuries.org — so why obfuscate a 10C feature by using a domain that is named something entirely different? All this aside, it will come as no surprise to anyone that the annual renewal was paid less than 48 hours after expiration and everything changed back to the way it was just a few days prior. The cost savings will need to come from somewhere else.

Dark

For the better part of this year I've been struggling with some pretty dark thoughts. This is nothing new as "the voices of self-doubt" have plagued and taunted me for years but, since the start of the 2019 Christmas holidays, I've been battling the ruinous conceptions that can drain a person of all joy. Some would call this "depression". Others would call it "self-loathing". I call it "hell", as it is the embodiment of society's collective expectation of that metaphysical realm. June marks the six consecutive month where I've not gone more than a handful of hours without asking myself the same question: What's the third reason?

As people around the world rang in the start of another year, I was in bed trying to come up with the reasons I should see 2021. Two answers instantly sprang to mind:

  1. The boy needs a father.
  2. Nozomi needs a friend.

Try as I might, no valid third reason could be found. None of my work is so world-changing that I need to see it through to completion. I've lost touch with the vast majority of people I've interacted with over the years. And, if that isn't enough, my primary purpose at home seems to be earning money and being told "it's never enough" while simultaneously being admonished for working so many hours. While the boy and Nozomi are incredibly important to me, has their existence become the sole reason for continuing mine? Is it enough?

As we enter into the sixth month of the year the mind has presented numerous potential answers as the third reason, but one has become a little more prominent over the weeks as I think it through: I'm not coming back.

As a young person one of the questions I often struggled with was "Why would God give us only one chance to exist given the infinite possibilities that exist in the universe?" While in my teens I would sometimes hear people say something along the lines of "We must have known each other in a previous life" and this idea started to mingle with the first. The theory, in my mind anyway, was that there were likely a finite number of souls that are reincarnated infinitely to experience everything that life has to offer. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It's after we shed our corporal form that the memories and lessons learned from all the previous lives are once again revealed to us and we can reflect with other souls on the lives we've lived. When we are ready to try again, we re-enter the world and live another life with no knowledge of the previous ones.

This idea was reinforced over the years while reading thousands of works of fiction, some of which touched on the idea of an afterlife. Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt crystallised the low-resolution concept from my mind into something a little more concrete and it has remained my admittedly selfish hope for the last two decades: we are spirits within a family unit, and we come to earth in search of each other over and over, each time with a different set of tools at our disposal and challenges to overcome.

Why wouldn't we want to come back and try our hand at life again? Why would a just God allow one soul to be born wealthy beyond comprehension and another destitute beyond reason without the promise that next time might be better?

But what if there is no "next time"? If this is the only time that we have, then what justice is there in the universe? What valid reason is there to want to reach 100 years of age and live through the loss of personal sovereignty due to the debilitations brought on by advanced age? Extending the logic, what valid reason is there to do anything that results in what can only be described as a self-inflicted prison sentence? We may use different words, like career, mortgage, or responsibility, but a chain is a chain … be it physical or otherwise.

Over the years when I've tried to talk through these ideas with people the general response has been anger. Accusations of selfishness and attempts at guilting are common and wholly ineffective. When a person is in the doldrums of darkness, no amount of name calling, guilt-tripping, or blaming will result in a positive outcome. If anything, it will only add justifications and embolden a person to carry out an action that most would find reprehensible. For me, I have my void-sent writing to help think through issues. This post has been written and re-written a hundred times this year and thousands of times in my life. I know what needs to be done and I generally know how to do it. What I ask myself now is whether three reasons are enough to maintain it? Are two? Is one?

3653!

Nozomi gets to mark her 3,653rd day on the Earth today, meaning she's now ten years old!

Nozomi on the Hill

Nozomi was just 107 days old when she joined the family and she's calmed down quite a bit during the intervening 3,500 days. Despite her age, Nozomi continues to be a playful and energetic puppy, forever looking forward to her walks in the park, meal times, and any opportunity for tummy rubs. We became friends even before bringing her home from the pet shop and she's been by my side almost every day since. This past decade would have been completely different — and far more difficult — without her.

Happy birthday, Nozomi! Regardless of how many trips we make around the sun together, you'll always be a puppy to me.

This Again

Burnout

It seems either a serious case of burnout, depression, or WTFC1 has taken the wind out of my sails once again. The only thing I'm particularly interested in doing is reading. Anything that is even remotely creative gets no more than 30 minutes of good effort from me, and this isn't cool.

We're technically going into a 5-day weekend here in Japan. I've decided to work through the Golden Week holidays, but maybe it would be better to stay away from the day job until Thursday. A little recharge might be in order.


  1. Generally translated as "Who the fuck cares?". When this condition rears its head, everybody's problems look asinine and beneath contempt … because we live in a world that is full of magic and people are bitching and moaning about shit they could probably fix themselves with a single Google search.

Void and Without Form

Dreams can often inform us of something our subconscious mind is trying to present. In my early 20s, my dreams felt as though they were months or years long. I would wake up with the alarm, completely disoriented and unsure of what day it was. The dreams at this time consisted of me wandering a mostly empty world. This eventually gave way to years of insomnia, which later gave way to years of dreaming about work, which gave way to dreams that were incredibly loud. The dreams conjured up for the mind's eye recently, however, have been quite a bit different from the past themes1.

Similar to the wanderings that took place two decades ago, there are no other characters to interact with. In fact, there is literally nothing to interact with in my recent dreams. I am alone in a void where there is gravity, but nothing to stand on or fall towards. There is no light, but I can see myself. There is no sound beyond a very low hum, like the sound of a 60s era analog stereo projecting the current picked up by dirty connections on an idle record player. It is as if my mind has conjured up a representation of reality that took place before the Big Bang that created our universe.

Strange dreams are nothing new to anybody. Our subconscious creates all sorts of weird depictions of reality to help us parse and better understand the world around us. These dreams feel a bit different, like I'm expected to do something in the empty realm beyond listening to the background hum. Thinking this environment through, it's almost as though I'm being presented with chaos in its truest representation; a malleable substrate from which existence itself can be fabricated to banish entropy from our sight.

If this is even partially accurate, then the subconscious may be suggesting that I need to make something new. The question I'm most interested is knowing what should be created? Very little can be extracted from a void without a clear vision. Hopefully something can be revealed in the next couple of nights.


  1. Rarely do my dreams take place just once. When I have a dream, it's generally played again and again, with minor revisions, for weeks on end. For this reason, I can usually remember many of the dreams from over the years simply because they've been seen so many times.

גַּם זֶה יַעֲבֹר

An old story in Jewish folklore tells of an object that King Solomon asked for. This item would lift his spirits when they were low, and lower his spirits when they were too high. His people came back with a "magic ring" with the words גַּם זֶה יַעֲבֹר inscribed on the inside: Gam zeh ya'avor — This too shall pass.

The reasoning behind the request was a humble admission that even a wealthy, powerful, and wise king needed to be reminded that what we're experiencing right now, no matter how great or terrible, is ephemeral. When we're happy we hope it never ends. When we're miserable we think it will never end. However anything that begins will have an ending as this is the nature of all things.

People around the world are feeling a great deal of stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus and it's certainly no joke. The collateral damage that will result from the spread of this virus will be felt for years to come. However, this will pass. As a people, we will overcome the challenges that lie ahead. Our recorded history shows that we've lived through worse and come out stronger as a result. We owe it to the people who didn't make it to ensure the mistakes that allowed the planetary shutdown to take place are never repeated again.

This most certainly will pass. Let's not forget.

Finding the Format

Over the course of several months I’ve been reading through two books of the Bible, Exodus and Mathew specifically, as part of a reintroduction to studying these historical tomes of wisdom. More than two decades have passed since I last invested so much time into studying the word and there’s a great deal that I’m rediscovering along the way. While it’s not uncommon for me to consume an entire Star Trek novel in the span of a weekend, the Bible is different. Reading is done more deliberately, with regular pauses to think through the message of a particular passage. One of the things that I’ve chosen to do while reading is to write quick blog posts containing quotes and my thoughts as a means to think a little more intentionally about the content of the message. The format is essentially like a Quotation-style post but, rather than link to a website, the reference is to a specific point in a book. The writing has been invaluable, as it’s very easy to go back and expand on ideas. The one thing that I’d like to improve, though, is the format.

Presentation is incredibly important and, while it may not always be evident, I do invest a great deal of time into thinking about how words are displayed to a reader. Bible journalling is a personal enterprise but, even with zero readers beyond the author, how the text is laid out can encourage revisits to past notes. This could be particularly interesting for people who aim to review the Bible every year as it would allow for an evolution of notes to be collected around thought-provoking passages and verses. So with this in mind, I’ve been making notes and linking them to specific points in the Bible. There’s just one (immediate) problem: quoting different parts of the book does not lead to those different books, chapters, and verses.

Quotation posts on 10C point to a single web page as a means of indicating the source material for a post. The body of the post can contain additional links to other pages and resources. This is tricky to do with a book, though, as even the some of the more common digital representations of the Bible are presented in a manner that resembles a physical bound work rather than what it is: a self-referencing collection of stories. In order to take better digital notes I need a better presentation layer for the Bible, allowing for quotes to contain links to specific words.

While the current post types within 10C certainly get the job of displaying a completed post consisting of quotes and thoughts, they’re not quite what I’m looking for. Something more sophisticated is needed. The basic layout of the journal pages have been worked out, so what I need to do now is build a consistent format around the design and make journal writing simple enough that it doesn’t distract from the ultimate goal of the effort: to better understand the meaning behind the words our ancestors preserved and their relevance in our own life.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to just stick with pen and paper ….

Attenuation

For 583 consecutive days a post has been written and published on this site, a record for me in a number of ways as the only other tasks I've been able to consistently complete are related to being alive. However it might be time for a bit of a break to make time for other important things. There are books I'd like to read, important topics to study, and responsibilities to carry out. More than this, though, is the desire to avoid putting some of the more negative articles I've been writing online by mistake.

Writing plays an important part of my day. Through various writing exercises it's possible to develop a better understanding of a problem. Over the last few weeks a recurring theme has been forever present at the forefront of my thoughts and it's not at all helpful. Writing about it lets me analyse the why behind the problem so that possible solutions can be found. Not being able to finish the analysis because a less-morose post needs to be written and published just adds to the frustrations that have been accumulating recently.

There will still be posts when time permits, of course, but I'm not going to lose any sleep1 if a day is missed every once in a while.


  1. Sleep? Me? Never …

Indecipherable

When I started working from home on a full-time basis two years ago a number of colleagues were quite envious of the opportunity our employer made available to me. One of the primary reasons that I could spend my days at home rather than the office was because the majority of the people I was meeting with at the time were located in North America. This meant attending meetings between 9:00pm and 1:00am local time, when all of the schools are very much closed for the night. Managers also knew that there wouldn't be any question about whether I was working a full day or not. People would see updates to software, solutions to problems, and an absurd number of messages over Skype. Over time this allowed for a regular pattern to emerge where I could spend time with the boy in the mornings up until 10am, then work, then stop for lunch and an occasional afternoon walk1, then work, then dinner and family time, and finally a few more hours at the desk to finish off the day. It's a good cycle that works for everybody.

That said, nothing can be completely good forever. There is one thing that is sorely missed and I feel the lack of this is creating some comprehension issues: human interaction.

On a typical day I am at home for 22.5 hours. This allows for 90 minutes outside for Nozomi's two walks and the boy's morning trek around the neighbourhood. If I do have an opportunity to head out for an afternoon walk, then I can enjoy an extra 45 minutes to an hour outdoors. Aside from the people living in this house, I rarely have an opportunity to speak to anyone outside of meetings. There are occasional 5-minute conversations with neighbours but, thanks to the various "social distancing"2 policies in place, these are few and far between. Recently the most anyone can hope for is an おはようございます3 in the mornings when putting the trash out4. What this means is that for two years I've spent a diminishing amount of time around adults talking like an adult about adult things. Over the last year or so I've noticed that casual chit chat, whether it's in English or Japanese, has required a great deal more concentration just to keep up. When it's my turn to speak, I often grasp for words as though I've forgotten the name of objects or verbs to describe actions. It's bizarre. However, more than this, the problem seems to be bleeding into my reading comprehension as well. I simply don't understand what some people are trying to say on the first attempt … or the second … or the third.

Whether there is an actual correlation between these comprehension issues and lack of adult interaction is unclear, as I'm not a doctor. It does seem plausible, though. If I'm not using the communication and interaction skills learned over decades, then I could be losing them, no? The brain is like a muscle in that if we don't use certain aspects of it, the skills or abilities will atrophy to a certain extent.

My ability to understand language has not completely deteriorated, as evidenced by this very blog post, so all is not lost. The issue also does not seem to interfere as much with certain people that I'm familiar with. Perhaps this is just a natural thing that happens to people who do not leave the house often. Maybe this is an indicator of cabin fever or some other mental condition that comes about from isolation. Maybe it's all in my head and I'm overthinking something to the point where it becomes a self-inflicted hinderance. These hypotheses are nothing more than wild guesses in the dark. One thing is for certain, though: when it becomes socially acceptable to start talking to strangers again, I'll want to head outside and see how everyone is doing.


  1. Walks can happen only if the boy is napping and Reiko is home. That said, they've become much less frequent as a result of the COVID-19 issue and Reiko's fear of infection.

  2. The quotes are because I find the name silly. We already have perfectly good words for not going near other people, so why the new term?

  3. "Ohayō gozaimasu" ⇢ Good morning.

  4. There are some neighbours around here that are itching to have conversations with people, but there's always the concern that a local gossip will see the interaction and raise a stink … by having conversations with people.