It's that time of the year/quarter/day/hour — I really don't track these up and down cycles — another time of life that usually ends with me reading through Ecclesiastes in a single sitting and then knowing again this is normal, it's okay, and resting in that…at least for a time.
This time, like most times, it's about time. Here I have it, never enough but always more than I know what I'm to do with. What to do with the time I've been given? What should be on my "bucket list"? The sun sets, the sun rises, and what was the meaning of life again?
I'm always behind on my bucket list, and it always makes me feel guilty. When the guilt gets to a certain point, I shirk some other responsibilities, catch up a little, and then spend the next few months trying to catch up back up on sleep and/or finances.
Q. Why am I here?
It doesn't help at all when a friend writes:
The thing you’re really passionate about. It’s distracting you completely right now. It keeps you up, wakes you up, and catches you daydreaming in between the rude interruptions of real life. … There is something you truly want to do—and guaranteed if you fish around your heart long enough, that calling is there.
…but then also asks:
Why do you want to do what you want to do?
Because I don't know. There's a lot I just want to do.
Here is a sampling of projects that are currently severely constrained by time and money
- writing a book
- reading many many books
- making photos, making music
- more useful apps that people like
- a decentralized internet of things
- helping specify meaningful open standards
- raise an entire pizza on my property (just once)
- …while still having evenings and weekends to spend with the family
I really care about doing all those things because
Let's dissect the first one.
PeerPouch is what I've been calling my (slow and way too careful) work to add magical "it just works" WebRTC support to PouchDB. Why? It'd be cool if app developers could easily use PouchDB's masterless replication over the direct connection WebRTC can provide between two "normal" (non-server) computers. Why? I'd like to help reverse the trend of users sharing all their personal data with money-motivated "too big to fail" corporations. Why? It's better for power to be distributed among smaller semi-autonomous entities than to be centralized. Why? The technologies/societies we design should be robust against individual failures or malignancies. Why? "Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!"
So does PeerPouch matter?
Well, I don't believe it actually does. I don't believe humanity will save itself from its own pride, and certainly not via some nerdish network architecture or leaked top secrets or crazy crypto currency; I believe God's already finished with his design to lift us out of our fall. So if you believe PeerPouch is our only hope, write me a check; deep down I keep dabbling at it only because it's enjoyable.
Speaking of enjoyable, I want to harvest everything I need to make pizza off of my own land someday. Why? The oil and salt and flour for the crust are impractical to produce at a small scale, but the result would be worth it. Why? Growing the ingredients will deepen our appreciation for this common food we eat, which is more valuable than the purely practical aspects of having food on the table. Why? A meal should be enjoyable. Why? "Go, drink your wine with a merry heart…" I dunno, you ask to many questions, kid.
So does pizza matter? Certainly a lot less than PeerPouch matters — one can hope?!
Probing within myself for "whats" and "whys" generally tends to be this unproductive. There's a lot I really want to do, with no real reason I can ever find. It could be because these things just look fun when I see others do them well. It could be because I'm addicted to learning, and doing is the best way to learn. It could be because I crave affirmation that I am valuable.
Valuable at a big — perhaps even cosmic — scale!
No, seriously. I've built a lot of things, they were fun and I did learn alot and I was still unhappy last night because
well I was basically complaining that because I'm bad at visual design and can't really afford my own taste in it, people seem to overlook all the hard work I've done. If everything I do looks stupid and pointless how will the world ever realize how brilliant and important <del>it is</del><ins>I am</ins>.
And so, I do recommend Adam's article — go read it now if you skipped the first link — and I agree that there is something to just doing.
It's against that "just do it" sense though, especially the "just" (i.e. "only") focus of the doing, that I would gently digress from his advice.
I've got a long list of things I've found I really love doing. And I do them…occasionally, on the side, when I can. I hate halfway I hate settling I hate excuses I hate bursting forth in "blubbering apology to my dreams for not living them". But
I've tried "doing" full time. I try "doing" part time. I'd love to "just do" I'd love to live the dream every week every day every minute. Excuses, however, are real. They are each "absolutely a giant pile of bullshit" but they are all my giant piles of bullshits. Piles which I have been given — alongside my glorious snowflakey passions — and they are real. More real than dreams. If I do not tend these piles, they do not compost. (If they do not compost, they ain't just gonna disappear neither.)
Even after I turn these shit stacks into fertile soil, I have to haul it away just to make room for the next. More soil, more cows, more manure…the sun rises, the sun sets. More of the now-greying snowbank of dreams melts away.
And that's okay. If you, like me, feel like me (Hello, me!) know that that's okay.
That's life. Enjoy it.
Enjoy life. Whenever, however you can.
It may go well, it may go poorly. Sometimes Mother Teresa wins the medal in front of everyone, sometimes the medal gets melted down behind closed doors to help some 1% get 1%er, sometimes they're both in the wrong intersection at the wrong time.
You may shoot for the moon and end up sipping martinis with the stars. You may instead find yourself with another hole in your foot.
Sometimes life is hard, more often than not my dreams remain dreams or at best re-appear as someone else's successes.
But they were always dreams, never commandments. I cannot earn God's favor. Not by übermensching my strange and nerdy passions into success, not by dourly donating my very last beautiful dream to the food bank. I'll keep trying, I'll keep doing, but I've been given only a broad calling and I've been given only one specific guarantee.
"Go, eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do." — Ecclesiastes 9:7