Life is like a … what you answer will say a lot about you. Forest Gump thought life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.
To me, life is like a game of chess or maybe like a box of lego. I may not have all the pieces, but I am confident that I have a good number of them. I am mostly interested in the game itself; how it is played; not necessarily to play it but to understand how the pieces move. Acquiring duplicate pieces will not help me understand the game better. In fact they will most likely get in the way. This is similar to how acquiring more stuff or more experiences will not teach more more about how those experiences or how that stuff relates to each other or to me. I am interested in relations between facts, data, things, experiences; not the facts, data,… itself.
What is most interesting to me are patterns. Owning 12 sets of utensils instead of 2 or traveling to 30 places instead of 10 is unlikely to present me with more patterns. This becomes increasingly clear as you pick up more “data”. I reached the point of diminishing returns when it came to stuff when I was 25. I reached the point of diminishing returns when it came to travel when I was 29. At that point I discovered that the patterns did not change much and that each new piece of data fit my understanding pretty well already. I was no longer growing as a person and more accumulation would have done me no good.
I discovered the same thing with regards to my career when I was 32. The natural thing at that point was to take a familiar pattern and reapply it on another problem. I did not foresee myself repeating this process for the next 30 years and so I decided to do something else.
I like new patterns. It is thoroughly enjoyable to discover a new pattern. Conversely, I prefer to hand the application of the pattern over to someone else.
Unfortunately, there are not so many patterns around so at my age, or perhaps more accurately at my accumulated volume of patterns, finding a new pattern happens quite rarely just as if you have traveled to most of the world, there are few places to go to left.
If I can not discover them externally, I must generate them internally. This requires the brain to be relatively free from petty details (like career networking, promotions, lunch, that sort of stuff) and so it is hard to do this a grow as a person with a full time job insofar that the job requires use of the brain. A job where one can, for lack of better words, daydream is optimal.
The problem with generating patterns or ideas is that it can not be forced. Those who claim they can just sit down and be creative either know something I do not or they are simply not that creative. The brain must be “uploaded” and then left on its own. After a while, ideas then originate spontaneously. (The best way to bring them forth is usually to force the uploading to stop. I usually go to the bathroom and *bam* there’s an idea.).
After having generated a bunch of patterns, which is the hard part. The task becomes to analyze them. This is almost a purely mechanical process of exploring variations on a concept. I suppose for a person who enjoys experiences, this would be the equivalent of taking pictures from different angles.
This is what I enjoy the most. I also play a little “chess” on occasion, but it is not the part I enjoy the most. Understanding how the pieces move are sufficient for me. I will only command if there is an obvious lack of leadership. Otherwise I am happy to stand back and let others lead.
Not understanding the patterns means that one must compensate either by memorizing a lot of different chess positions (arrangements of pieces) and eventually be able to pick the right response to a given situation. Much opening theory is like that with predetermined responses. Without understanding one essentially becomes the data; what one has seen or what one owns.
There is another stage which is called enlightenment. I see enlightenment as reaching a meta-pattern-stage. Ordinarily, the pattern generator sees the data but and generates patterns, but “you” then analyze those patterns and choose one. The enlightened stage would remove this “you” part and make the analysis and choosing automatic as well. This means that it would no longer make sense to separate data/pattern/analysis/you but that the you simply becomes the correct response to the data, always. At this point thought or more specifically any sense of self has been removed. You see your response almost as a spectator and it becomes almost effortless.
I have only experienced this a couple of times, but I can see how some spend their entire life in pursuit of this stage. It is a rather remarkable feeling.
It is also pretty much a lost pursuit in the western world which is dominated by the pursuit of either stuff or experiences.