On Highway 420
IntroThis post is now over 8 years late. There are a lot of things I have not done, that should have been done.
It was the end of summer 2009, maybe fall had started, I can't quit remember. We were on highway 420. It was a clear, sunny day - beautiful. There was the three of us, my Mom, Sister, and I.
It was quiet in the van, no one was speaking. I was looking around at the clear, blue sky. The wisps of clouds. The traffic. Lots of people walking on the sidewalks. It was still tourist season, nearing the end. The crowds were only beginning to dwindle.
The 420 is a short strip of highway in Niagara Falls that connects the Rainbow bridge with the main highway - the QEW.
Locals often use it as a shortcut in town, which is what we were doing. My sister and I were taking Mom to the doctors office downtown.
It was not even a year since my Mom was diagnosed with cirrohsis as a complication from diabetes.
Her condition had deteriorated rapidly. This appointment was not like the others. I knew, I could tell.
Trying to WinIn the early 2000's I was a man on a mission. I was in full positive-mindset you-can-win-at-anything mode. I had turned my life around a lot. Still work to be done, still insecurities & social gaffs; but the path to betterment was working and slowly these shortcomings were going away. I felt 10 feet tall, that I could do anything. I was really doing well.
There was an older dream of mine - full aritificial general intelligence. I had shelved it, but with arrogance jumped right back into working on it. I became obsessed and driven. It started to warp me. I became a recluse, increasingly unable to relate to people and have normal, proper interactions. Injuries started piling up at the gym. I doubled down and kept going, I wanted this done.
Then the realization came how big the project was. I could not just plow through this. The resources required for AGI, for something non-trivial and fully productive, was huge. With my tunnel vision I could not have the open mind to see options.
I crashed. Burn-out. I went down, and because I was so obsessed I had burned bridges and had no fallback. I had previously broken up with my girlfriend before I started. So I had no girl in my life. Because I was 'mister winner', I thought marriage was for fools while I could indulge in free sex. I bought into that idea. And because I started getting warped in my head and success was derailed I just couldn't get a girl.
It wasn't just that. It turns out that whole idea of the 'power of positive thinking', of a 'winner mindset', doesn't really deal with issues. It doesn't actually properly fix things inside. I thought it did - I was wrong.
So here I was a failure, the proverbial loser living in his parents basement, with no girl and no prospects. I started studying finance as a way out. This was in mid 2006, a year later the global financial crisis would hit full force. Just in time to learn enough to understand the disaster in all its glory.
Day to day events started confirming the warnings I was reading from multiple sources - this was going to be bad. And at the same time 'doomer porn' was all over the net - peak everything. Society was going to crash and real life events was confirming more and more of it. So if some of these warnings are true, then maybe the others are too.
I was already in a bad place and then this. Going from bad to worse. There was a certain thrill, a certain excitement while preparing for TEOTWAWKI. One of many acronyms I learned from the survivalists online whom now became my only social contacts. But the anxiety and fear was only increasing. I was in a really, really bad place. And then Mom happened.
MomIf I was to describe my Mom in one sentence, it would be as a big ball of love and joy. Everything was right about her. I see that now. I see now that she was the anchor in our Family, that she was the one bringing so much goodness into my life. The best thing that I was given in this life. I cannot overstate this. And now even that was being taken away from me.
This was a time of complete terror for me. I think I aged several years in those months.
There was nothing left. I was a dead man. That was me, a dead man going down the highway. I was just in the waiting queue. Killing myself was not so much a deliberative act, as just simply finishing off what was already the case.
AbyssWhat is important for me is to describe what this was like, what I experienced. Looking at the bustle of life around me as an outsider, as one of the dead looking over people going about their way.
I had a realization. I felt that a protective layer, a psychological 'skin' had been pulled away and I was exposed. I saw the futility of life, of existence. All these people were fooled. Thinking that this life mattered, that the contents of their lives and what had their attention was important. A delusion.
This is the important part to convey, that skin that was pulled away was a protective delusion - or perhaps better called the source of our protective delusions. All the things we experience and care about and invest so much of ourselves in - these are the delusions. My state, what I suspect most people think of as a compromised state was anything but.
I expect most people reading this will think I was not in my right mind, I had a deficit in judgement and sound thinking. I can't say strongly enough - NO. It is the exact opposite, and I am fully convinced to this day. It is completely the other way around. It is all of us, all living a 'normal' life who are living in a delusion.
This protective skin, this delusion, is with us from our earliest memories and we live inside it all our lives. Well, potentially all our lives. When something happens like what happened with me, our eyes are opened for the first time. This is the abyss. I trust that the abyss that any deep thinkers are referring to is one and the same.
How to tell someone of such a different mind set what this is like? I was looking at that blue, sunny sky over the 420 when I was looking at the abyss. There was nothing supernatural. As I said, just a pulling away of this protective skin. I will say two things to describe the abyss:
1. It is utterly invincible
2. It does not exist
A confusion of our language, to use a noun, the 'abyss'. What 'it' is, is the experience of annihilation. What is realized is that this life is a sick joke. The sickest joke there is, and that is all it is. Everything gets annihilated.
Do we get an extension? Can we take out the library book longer? Sure, we can cross the great filter, re-engineer ourselves to live indefinitely. Spread throughout the Cosmos, live on for billions of years. That's like an eternity, except that it isn't.
Any number approaches zero as n approaches infinity. Then the heat death - the stars go out one by one, the sky becomes black, more and more memories are lost, forgotten forever. All the peoples throughout the universe dissappear one by one, until the last person remains - slowly forgetting everything, all of time, all that ever happened. Quiet, alone. And then nothing.
Humanity always has lived and will dissappear on the edge of the abyss. Our protective delusion, our skin, keeps us from knowing this.
We are all an abomination, we should not be. We need to die, and die quickly, as an act of mercy. End this horror. This is what is true.
So much of what people do now seems silly. Trying to be important, signalling to each other this or that. Knowing this, the most outrageous, the most galling, the greatest act of rebellious audacity is for a man and a woman to come together, here at the edge of the abyss, and purposely bring another life into being. And even more outrageous, to willingly love and sacrifice without limit...
The greatest acts of defiance, of audacity, of outrage, is to purposely sacrifice to make this life good and beautiful. To say in word and in deed that this life has unlimited meaning and value. That it is worth it.
There is are no other acts that anyone can ever do that compares to these. All the rest of humanities achievements pale in comparison.
EndI was at the end. My Mom was soon to die, and so was I. What was my final act? Against the abyss I was impotent, there was nothing for me to do, I was nothing, except my last words. How do I conclude my life?
In the midst of my decision to complete the process of dying, something else happened to me. Against the horror of the abyss, something came from inside me. With all life at an end, with my Mom soon to die, what was my last act? How do I end this?
From within me, from my heart, came the only thing I could say, with an overwhelming flood of emotion, with all of my heart
I said Thank You
Against hopelessness, meaninglessness,
Against the realization this life is an abomination,
From the bottom of my heart
Instead of rage, instead of resentment
Despite all the ugly things of this life
Despite all that went wrong
Despite all the loss
For all the Beautiful things I have been given
For all the Love
For all the Joys
Over time the protective skin started growing back. I could actually feel it happen. I slowly started to care about the things of this world and life started to feel more like it did. But I have never forgotten that time - I will never be able to.
The effects of those days have slowly continued in me. That Thank You is my mission in life. I am now on the side of the rebels. We are not just after Eternity, but the most Triumphant Eternity. The magnitude of the response needs to match the magnitude of the fight. The trade needs to be in-kind.
I Love You Mom, I always will.