December 5, 2012

What Makes Life Meaningful.

My friend M in October asked that question and I wrote her an email about it:
About a year ago, I went through a 6 months long, or more, existential crisis and so I've had lots of time to think about everything surrounding this.

My deal was that I felt like I should be happier than I really was and was basically in a funk and dissatisfied with things in general. I would think that a lot of people would say their kids make life meaningful and as someone who is still leaning towards not having kids, extrapolating from that is the general devotion and focusing your life and energy on a specific thing. It's not enough to have hobbies/activities that are fun, friends/family that you have good relationships with and love, or a job that is fulfilling on one level or another. All those things are important of course, but it's the passion and devotion to one or more of those specific things that I think make life meaningful. And you really have to take a step back instead of coasting through all of those things to evaluate how they impact how you feel about life. All too often people just hang out or slog through activities just because it's the next thing on their schedule instead of being like, I'm here, present in this moment.

Honestly, I haven't made that many changes to my life but kind of gradually, I just don't feel the same angst and being shut in a box that I had previously. Some of the changes that I did make were really insignificant but were perceptions that I had about myself and that other people had about me that I no longer wanted associated so closely. Like, Feiya is someone who doesn't like scary/depressing movies. I have a whole list of movies in that genre to watch now and have successfully watched several of them and surprisingly have watched a lot of suggested depressing movies already. Feiya doesn't like to drink her coffee black and hates whiskey. After several months of only drinking whiskey drinks and only drinking my coffee black, I've changed that. I think those little things helped me realize that I don't have to follow a script and that if I really don't want to do something, like have kids, it's okay, I can make those decisions. There's no actual red tape binding me from doing that.

But I guess that goes into more, what makes life enjoyable than meaningful. And from reading Maus and watching Life is Beautiful, Holocaust survivors are still able to find meaning in life, but I think that it would have to be a combination of small things, like seeing the blue sky, and big things, like I survived another day despite it all. I think one of the pitfalls that discourages someone from finding meaning in life is looking too far into the future, which is completely unknown and changable, and boxing themselves into a fantasy or predicament and no longer being able to see what's in front of them or believe that alternate futures exist.

July 2, 2012

On Being Busy

Of course you should only do things that you're interested in. But what if your interests are so wide and varied and the number of people to have meaningful experiences with are constantly growing? What is life, if not a series of things to do and people to see?

A recent quote I saw from a friend on Facebook: "No one looks back at their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep." But, another friend posted today "I regret every night I don't get normal sleep." And Zen/Buddhist teachings are all about simplicity in life and knowing peace through doing nothing. But let's also not forget: carpe diem.

I think one thing they can all agree on is that life is short. This was suddenly brought to my attention today when a coworker stopped by my desk to warn me about an event I'm going to on the 4th of July. A woman that I admired and liked at work was diagnosed with brain cancer about a year ago. I haven't seen her since but the event (it's supposed to be a party but every time I say that I feel squeamish and a liar) is probably the last time I'll see her alive. The warning was to mentally prepare myself for how much the cancer has taken its toll. I have never seen a cancer patient. She's in her early 40s. Not married, no kids. Her sister quit her job to be a caretaker.

Living life to its fullest means something different to everyone. There's definitely no one right way to be. Only you can decide if you're wasting your life and probably one of the worst things you can do is try to live someone else's life.

Which brings me back to the original question: how busy is too busy? When are you living life and when is it that you're just going through the motions? What do you need in order to fully appreciate all that you're experiencing? Life is also a series of stages, maybe some are full of action and others full of standing still. It's safe to say that I am in motion and it's hard to slow down. But am I hurtling towards the ground or flying up and away from it? I think some more empirical data points are needed. Either way, I'm enjoying myself, exploring and keeping my eyes wide open.

June 14, 2012

Blogging Instead of Sleeping

Updates...still going through that existential crisis. Have made good progress in scary/depressing movie-watching but so far it's not working. In fact, most of the time I'm mostly just disappointed. I want to figure out whatever it is that needs figuring out because right now I feel like I'm in a holding pattern limbo. I'm doing everything that I feel like I would be doing normally but it's just not the same.

Mostly my problem is this: I. Don't. Know. What. I. Want.

Well, I mean, I want to be happy and content obviously. So I guess really, my problem is that I don't know what I want out of my life. I kind of feel like I need to get deeply involved in something, care about something, but at the same time, maybe that's just wanting to pile on the distractions, bury this issue with busyness. But then again, I think it would be a way to focus on the here and now and maybe it's easier to achieve happiness moment to moment than it is as an overall "my life is making me happy".

Lately, the thought of sloughing off everything and starting again new, fresh, invisible, keeps on popping up but I'm pretty sure huge life changes like that will turn out to be less than ideal later on...the whole 80/20 thing. But, all these smallish changes that I have been making point towards wanting to be a different person. Am I happy with the person that I've built up over the years? With this image of myself that other people see me as? Have I been trying to fit in so much that I've lost track of what makes me, me? Yes, probably to that last one.

I know I'm still clinging to the hope that something will fit into place and I can get this "resolved" sooner rather than later. Because this is horrible and unstable and confusing for probably everyone. And I am still trying to live life, but I feel handicapped. I don't think it's gotten worse, but a day in the sun out in the park isn't going to hardly put a chink in this.

Life is what you make of it right? I feel like for the first time I am consciously trying to do this "life" thing.

May 9, 2012


So I had a really nice long chat last night with a friend, M, about life and stuff and he's lending me two philosophy books to help me along. Who would have thought that philosophy had so much relevance and practical application in every day life?

I am in general, pretty happy overall, and probably just need to re-evaulate what I find valuable in life. Taking a step back to make sure I'm doing things for the right reasons also seems like a good idea. Now to just find time in my schedule to do so :P

May 8, 2012

Existential Crisis

So I finally have everything I've been pining after and waiting for, but frustratingly, I'm not as happy and content as I expected I would be. Life is great, I'm doing everything I want, but I still feel strangely unfulfilled.

Z says it's likely because I have no long term goals.

And I can't think of any.

I live experience to experience but the Big Picture? What's supposed to be after this? Is the next logical long term goal to prepare to have kids/be a good parent?

I might have a few hours on Saturday, so if it's a nice day out, maybe I'll find a nice warm spot of shade or quiet coffee shop and mull over life and what I want to get out of it Big Picture-wise. The thing is, I've been having this feeling for probably at least a year now. At first I thought it was because I'm not as creative as I used to be, but those little hobbies weren't really engaging enough for me to focus all my energy on. Also, I'm still under the delusion that I'm going to be someone important.

After reading the Wiki entry on Existentialism, which makes me feel like I've been misusing it my whole life, there are a lot of books/movies that are some of my favorites. Fight Club is one of my top three movies. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is one of my favorite plays, as is Antigone (though the one by Sophocles). The last time I saw Ros & Guil performed, it threw me for a loop and in retrospect, it was probably due to the fact that I recognized the cold meaninglessness of existence and that resonated with me and this issue that I've been putting off, rather than just being a sad tragicomedy.

Things that I am currently lacking that make it difficult for me to find meaning in my life:
  • Ambition - for my career, my creative outlets, leadership roles.
  • Obsession - I'm interested in a lot of things, but not obsessed with any.
  • Motivation - I don't feel pulled in any direction, and beyond feeling blah, there's also the tiny thought of what if what I come up with involves a huge change?
You'd really think after so many hundreds of years of human existence, someone would have come up something to help. A quick Google search for "Resolving an Existential Crisis" comes up with this:
Which was at least entertaining to read, and then a 24 Step WikiHelp, which was ridiculous.
I could try some other search terms but probably everything out there is crap. And really, why wouldn't it be? Each person's crisis is deeply personal. I just feel like I'm going to start thinking in circles, so it'd be nice to have some "think outside of the box" prompts. This will likely require multi-mulling sessions so I'm not expecting to figure anything out any time soon, but I am going to try.

May 5, 2012

Schlepping Around Sigil

*Crack, Hiss*
The sound of several sunrods being activated fills the air and the light catches everyone momentarily off guard. Malek squints down at his handful of sunrods and shrugs, "Sorry, automatic reaction."
They look around, but before the rest of The Gray Hand has a chance to identify the room and what is in it, Kalavich throws down an empty keg, which splinters all over the ground, and burps loudly. He blinks a few times, "That's some mighty fine ale. Also, sorry about the splinters, automatic reaction."

As they make their way out of the storage room, they find themselves in a downright friendly tavern, complete with a portly bartender slowly polishing a glass mug. After a quick look around, they leave and when they step outside, they realize that the tavern is right in the middle of the crater where their tower used to be. Malek decides to go back into the tavern and have a little chat with the owner, while everyone else* makes a visit to Bahamut's temple to see if Vygcarraash's god might be able to help with his resurrection.
*Note: Yes, we split the party and it was fine! NO ONE DIED!

"Give me your finest."
The bartender looked up from polishing the mug and nodded. A few moments later, a cold mug of frothy ale slid across the bar.Malek took a taste and raised his eyebrows slightly with surprised appreciation, "Not bad. Not bad at all."
The bartender grinned and said proudly, "Brewed it myself. All the ingredients are local."
Malek took a moment to enjoy his ale and casually looked around the tavern, "Nice place you got here. How'd you come by it, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Strangest thing, there used to be a fearsome tower here and then one day it up and disappeared, leaving the crater you see outside. After the appropriate amount of time, I went and got the paperwork done to have this tavern built and have been here ever since. That was, oh, about a year ago or so."
They sat in silence for a few moments and then Malek slowly looked up and said, "So it was all legal as far as you know."
"Yup, as far as I know."
"I heard there was a tough group of adventurers that owned that tower. What happened to them?"
He furrowed his brow, "Yeah, yeah, what were they called...Billy, you're good at names, help me out here."
"The Black Palm?"
"Yeah, that sounds about right."
Malek took a long drink of the ale. "Actually, if I recall correctly, it was The Gray Hand. I heard they're pretty dangerous and bloodthirsty. Not someone you want to get on the bad side of, if you get what I mean."
The bartender looked solemn, "Well, I know I'm taking my chances, but a man's gotta make a living the best way he knows how."
As he finished his ale, he tossed some coins on the bar. The bartender's eyes widened at the hefty tip.
"Say stranger, how would you like your picture to be on my wall?"
Malek looked surprised but grinned amicably.
As he left the tavern, he wryly shook his head at his change in attitude and with a final glance at the tavern, set off to join up with the rest of The Gray Hand.


Inadia, Ctharyan, and Kalavich stood outside of Bahamut's temple after having spoken to their lead Priest, an elderly female Dragonborn by the name Taleya. She confirmed their suspicion that the resurrection problems were not just confined to the Underdark but were being experienced in Sigil as well. She told them of a time, several hundred years ago, when something similar happened and it was found out to be linked to Orcus and his followers.

It was decided that Ctharyan would infiltrate one of Orcus' temples while Inadia and Kalavich waited at the Old Wives Inn and listen in on the gossip around town.

A few minutes after Inadia and Kalavich got their drinks, Malek joined them. They heard talk about how the markets were doing well, that The Lady of Pain was holding an event next month and how some guy named Jack was successfully resurrected, a rarity these days.

As they were finishing up their third drink, Ctharyan appears at their table and places a tightly wrapped bundle on the table. No one blinks an eye at his sudden appearance, having expected it for the last 10 minutes.

"What happened? It usually doesn't take you this long to steal the clothes off someone's back."
"We ordered you some ale, but I drank it when you didn't show up. And then I ordered another one and drank that for good measure."
" that bundle dripping blood?"
The lull that followed caused everyone to suddenly notice that Vealkarion was no longer with them. When the hell had that happened...and why had no one noticed until then? Everyone shrugged uneasily but since there was nothing they could do, they put it out of their minds.

Ctharyan regaled them with what happened after they had separated:
"I found a perfect mark and tailed him for several blocks until he turned into a particularly dark alley. I was above him on the rooftop of course, but when I jumped to tackle him, I misjudged the air density here..."
He coughs furtively and takes a long draft.
"Anyway, he's startled and starts acting weird and chanting. The second he starts waving his hands around though, I knew shit was going down. So I cut off his hands. Then I took his clothes."

Dead silence. Then suddenly Malek starts laughing, "Oh man, that's good. I didn't think you had it in you. So what, you just left him in the alley to bleed out? That's rich."Kalavich and Inadia just shrug, "Well, I guess we'd better get a few rooms so you can clean up those clothes. Tomorrow, we should go look for sending stones so we can keep on contact before you go traipsing around Orcus' temple."

The next day, Malek goes to visit a tailor without the rest of the group's knowledge. Though he initially finds a mediocre tailor, he befriends the tailor and ends up writing a book about the history and influence of tailors in Sigil. Later on, he meets Artimus, the most renowned tailor in Sigil and in exchange for a copy of the book, he agrees to custom tailor new cloaks for The Gray Hand.

Ctharyan and Kalavich find a shop called the Drooping Eye that sells sending stones. Its dingy exterior makes its extremely sketchy interior even more fitting. After some negotiation, they walk out with six sending stones. The catch? They must be embedded into the flesh.

This announcement, when made to the rest of the group was met with incredulous groans but everyone resigned themselves to being stuck (hopefully) with a matchbook sized stone. Ctharyan puts his on his chest, right above his heart, Inadia puts hers on her left upper arm, while Malek puts his on his left forearm. And finally, Kalavich slaps his on his lower left gut.

The next day, Ctharyan, wearing the follower of Orcus' clothes, goes boldly into a temple of Orcus. After passing through the second set of doors, the stolen clothes disappear and the door is locked. The only thing in the room is a bubbling fountain of blood. After much discussion between the rest of The Gray Hand, Ctharyan decides the only course of action is to leave some of his blood in the fountain of Orcus and hope for the best. After saying a quick prayer to his god, Sehanin, he cuts himself and a few drops fall into the fountain. The good news is he manages to make it out alive and with some journals in tow. The bad news is that he's seriously tainted and cannot be cleansed at the moment.

The journals reveal that Orcus might not be behind the continued failed resurrections. Inadia decides to visit the arcane universities in Sigil and speak with experts in resurrections. 

With the knowledge that the best arcanists were working on gathering more information, The Gray Hand reluctantly tookVygcarraash's hand and tightly wrapped it and placed it carefully in a bag of holding. They decided to set their sights on regaining their air ship and thus ventured back into the Material Realm.

April 23, 2012

The Aftermath: So We Have the Tower...Now What?

The Gray Hand managed to successfully reclaim their tower, but at what cost?

In the wreckage of what used to be their tastefully dark and menacing tower, Inadia had Vealkarion with his bright Elven eyes scour the rooms for reagents. He found more than what was needed to perform the Raise Dead ritual on Vygcarraash.

The motions to prepare for the 8 hour long ritual were by now rote and required only cursory glances at her spellbook. As she settled down to raise Vygcarraash from the dead using only his dried, leathery hand, Mo-mo flitted about excitedly, making sure everything was just as it should be. It had been a long time since he had been able to have a friendly conversation in Draconic and he was looking forward to having a nice long chat about all things dragon.

8 Hours Pass...

"...I summon you Vygcarraash to rise from your rest and rejoin the living. Your time among us has not ended and with the power of the Raven Queen, I compel you to draw breath. Rise!"

Suddenly there was a blinding flash and Inadia felt the shockwave of power rock her body and she blacked out. A while later, she slowly regained consciousness and opened her eyes, dread filling her core, and saw nothing more than the pitiful hand still laying unmoving in front of her. She got up slowly, wincing at the stiffness in her joints. As she looked around, meeting the eyes of the rest of the Gray Hand, their faces clouded as one with concern and dismay as she shook her head and stepped aside.

As they stood around all that was left of Vygcarraash, it was decided that the best course of action would be to return to Sigil and seek help and answers from more powerful wizards that specialized in resurrections.

With the tower freshly regained, they were loathe to lose it again, but they did not have the means to attempt to move it back to Sigil. They needed a way to get back to the tower, so with hopeful hearts they went to the top of the tower to inspect the teleportation portal that should have been installed before the tower's abduction.

Unfortunately, the portal was not functional. After Inadia inspected the portal and deemed it unfit for their use, she looked up and noticed with her darkvision a heat signature to the east.

With their options dwindling, they decided to scout it out. Inadia summoned Phantom Steeds and they rode in relative gaiety. They told stories of their blunders, hilarious now in retrospect, partly to ward off the gloomy, suffocating darkness that pressed in around them but mostly because The Gray Hand was always most cheerful on the road heading towards the unknown.

5 Hours later...

"Ho, who goes there?" A disembodied voice calls out of the darkness, followed a minute later by a stocky gnome in a guard uniform.

Five battle weary and gore splattered adventurers turned towards the gnome. Astride shadowy beasts that snorted impatiently and pawed at the ground yet left no trace, they were an impressive sight to behold, yet the gnome seemed to take no notice of their intense stare. They appeared relaxed, but were ready to fly into a murderous rampage at a moment's notice.

Malek dismounted and walked to a respectful distance from the gnome. He explained the situation and asked for directions to establishments that might be able to help them in their plight.

The gnome, whose name was Gnocnoc, after giving them the once over, was curt in his reply but pointed them towards the city of Hoosther.

When The Gray Hand reached the city gates, they were stopped by the city guards, but when they mentioned being sent there by Gnocnoc, the gates were quickly opened to them. They found their way to Yunaan, the city's head Arcanist.

Fortunately, he was very interested in their plight and agreed to help them try to fix the portal in exchange for being able to study Ctharyan's teleporting ability.

With that taken care of, The Gray Hand wandered the city streets and stopped at Yoarmaum, a classic dive bar tavern, which served delicious fried Umberhulk. After months of Everlasting Provisions, the taste of a freshly cooked meal was a refreshing change. They ordered some of it to go, to eat on the trek back to the tower.

Once back at their tower, they attempted to clean the place up a bit in anticipation of the arrival of Yunaan and his assistants, but quickly realized it was a task far beyond what they could handle in the amount of time given. By the time Yunaan arrived, they had barely finished clearing a narrow path through the piles of dead bodies.

Ctharyan was meditating outside when he heard the familiar shutter-opening sound of a portal being opened. A muted white arch formed in front of his eyes and as ornate gates smoothly opened, Yunaan stepped out, followed by half a dozen assistants all holding clipboards with a vaguely harassed look about them. An Arcane Gate from the city to the front door of the tower was nearly unheard of, yet Yunaan shrugged it off as a matter of course. If one were to look closely however, you could detect the barely restrained glee at being given the opportunity to try out the long distance Arcane Gate and thinly veiled pride at its success.

Ctharyan ushered the gnomes in, teleporting ahead of them, causing a chorus of ooo's and ahhh's in a successful attempt to divert their attention from the tacky and blood-drenched surroundings.

The next several hours were spent trying to keep out of the gnomes' way. They rushed about the portal, sprinkling powder here, chanting there, occasionally licking some bit of rock and constantly scribbling down notes on their clipboards.

Meanwhile, Yunaan sat at a table with the rest of The Gray Hand, sipping some watered down fey wine, and discussing other business. Occasionally he glanced up and yelled shockingly obscene curses at his assistants, causing them to scamper about with even more fervor than before. The Gray Hand asked about the possibility of keeping the Arcane Gate open for an extended amount of time, as well as the need to hire cleaners and workers to help put the tower into a tolerable state. As night fell, The Gray Hand offered Yunaan a room in the tower to stay and he spent half the night up with Ctharyan, testing his abilities and marveling at the sleek way he could blink in and out of existence. The next morning, before Yunaan went back to Hoosther for more supplies and to round up some workers, Ctharyan brought up, as an afterthought, whether he might know of anyone who could help them with Vygcarraash's resurrection problem.

Yunaan grew thoughtful and solemnly said, "We too have had unexplainable failed resurrections; it happens seemingly at random and we have been unable to control or predict which ones will fail. If we discover any information that may be of use to you, I will be sure to pass it on."

For the next several months, Yunaan and his team worked tirelessly on the portal. There were also always a stream of gnomes bustling about the tower, one day scrubbing away at the wraith stains on the walls, the next at the inch of dried blood that caked the floor from wall to wall in many of the rooms. It took them two days to haul away all of the bodies but every once in a while, a gnome worker would sniff the air and follow the stench to a rotting body that had been missed. The bones of the great dragon were evacuated, cleaned, and labeled in hopes that one day they might be reassembled in memory of its glorious life and death.

The Gray Hand became regulars at Yoarmaum, sampling all of the dishes but agreeing at the end that the fried Umberhulk was still their favorite. They could be found on most nights buying rounds of ale for everyone at the tavern and regaling them with tales of their travels and conquests.

Finally though, after several months of hard work, Yunaan announced that the portal had been completed with some experimental enhancements included. As thanks, The Gray Hand gifted the tower to the city of Hoosther and had Yunaan promise to keep their things for them until such a time that they could come back for them. They took with them Vygcarraash's hand and a few prized possessions and then set the portal for Sigil and stepped through.

Right before they entered Sigil, in the Inbetween, each member of The Gray Hand sensed a Vygcarraash-like presence, bellowing in the way only Dragonborns can. As they stumbled through the portal, everyone instinctively knew everyone else had also felt the same thing. They looked at each other silently, vowing to get to the bottom of this mystery and resurrect their fallen comrade.

March 11, 2012


So I just came across this: The Art of Manliness

 I haven't read any of the articles, but I'm not quite sure what to think. Is this insulting or cool, or both? What do gay men think about it? Do butch lesbians secretly or not so secretly read it?

 I consequently wondered if there was a female version, and lo and behold: That IT Girl

The world still struggles with the concept of gender roles and how much is nature vs nurture. I think that before anyone jumps to name calling and becomes all righteously indignant, they should just view them as self-help guides and anyone should be allowed to read articles from either one at their leisure and interest without having to deal with the concept of that's a girly thing or that's for men. Masculinity and femininity should be on a spectrum like sexuality.

February 4, 2012

Lack of Hair

I buzzed my head. It's been a week now.

So, why? A lot of people have been asking and yes, of course there's a form answer that I give, but I suppose digging deeper is what blog posts are supposed to be for right? Speaking of that, this blog has descended into into just another "read about my silly life" exercise. *shakes head* Guess that's a topic for another day.

Also, why didn't I tell hardly anyone that I was going to do it? The first one is easy, I wanted a change. Buzzing my head was attractive in many ways and not permanent. I can wear all the hats I want now! All the time! No hat hair! Wind? No problem! No more annoying hair to get in my face and stuck to my lips. So yes okay, maybe all of these changes (see previous blog posts...) are starting to make it look a little like I'm having a late-twenties life crisis, but so far, a pretty benign one wouldn't you say? I feel restless and vaguely dissatisfied, though I can't pinpoint if there's anything I could change or do that would fix it. I guess part of the problem is that I had a very clear, distinct goal in life for a last few years and now I don't. All of these changes are short-term goals that I've actually more or less already achieved (yay for achievements). Obviously I have no idea what long-term goal I want to pursue so now I'm just floundering around jumping from one thing to the next. This is how most people do life yes?

Okay back to the main topic at hand, so I only told less people than I can count on one hand. Part of it was that I didn't want to deal with people trying to talk me out of it. Another part of it was that I really wanted to see the look on people's faces! Unfortunately that didn't pan out as well as I'd hoped. I saw quite a few people the day after the buzz, but so far, barely anyone from my core friend group. You'd think I'd organize something so I could see everyone but frankly I'm a little tired of organizing things at the moment. It's one thing to be able to count on people to be excited about the things you organize and another to hope that they'll be excited and then have the wind in your plans' proverbial sails sucked out by their apathy. Okay fine, not everyone is into everything that I'm into, but fuck, isn't that what friends are supposed to be for? Be interested in the same things and do stuff with you? So that's certainly a major let-down. I guess I could have kept it to myself and off the interwebs until I saw them, but I felt like I was starting to cross the fine line of it becoming some sort of weird secret.

How do I like it so far? Everything is crunchy. And the back of my neck feels cold. But so far I like it a lot more than I thought I would. I think I will definitely keep this super short length for a while and buy more hats. Certainly a cute fedora is in my future :)