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Wednesday October 08, 2003, 03:13

There is a struggle when I sit down at the computer when I don't really want to sit down at the computer wherein I start to think that what I really want to be doing is to be sitting on the couch with a remote in my hand, flipping channels one by one by one as the hours tick by until my head lolls off to the side, hits the pillow and I fall asleep to be awoken by the sun coming in and waking me up in the earlier parts of the day.

There is that struggle because I know that I don't want to be sitting in front of the television. Or rather, I do want to be sitting in front of the television but only because I am too lazy to start doing something else. The struggle exists because, in the silence that comes in the middle of the night, when the only sound comes from my computer (and my neighbor who has decided at this point to send a week's worth of garbage down the chute), there are an infinite opportunities to fail. The flip side of that coin is that there are an infinite opportunities to succeed as well, but who thinks like that?

The problem is that we all want to succeed. Or at least I want to succeed. And I want to be succeeding all of the time. I want every choice that I make to be the right one (note: the use of the abstract here is not necessarily masking some real opportunity that I would prefer not to share but is simply the manifestation of all thoughts occupying my mind this evening) and therefore never think of a correct choice as one that could have failed, that is, one that had an upside and a possible downside, but rather as the way things should always be or the only choice that could be made. If, then, I end up making a bad choice, I start to dwell. I start to think about this as a fundamental flaw in my own being, for if I had been the person I would ideally want myself to be (theoretically, ideally, etc) then I would not even have had the opportunity to make the bad choice and would have thus not had the option of failure (that is, I would not have failed because it would have been in my nature to fail, and if I am experiencing failure then I must, in fact, be flawed).

The solution, then, is to flip perceptions, and see everything as a possible failure. That way, any success will be met with the same disbelief as the possible failure set forth in the previous example, and will thus be dwelled upon and congratulated. Of course this sets up an entire persona based on failure, and who wants that, so we are back to the initial, potentially (inevitably) flawed individual.

The other, more practical, solution is to take the potential for failure and accept it as a facet of the otherwise perfect person. This would allow for failure without dwelling, and for success as the norm. This would lead to increased self-confidence (success as a baseline) with an acceptance of bumps along the way (nobody is perfect). This is what was like to call "fantasy." In "reality," success is expected and failure indicates weakness.

Enter the struggle. The silence brought forth in the night (though the neighbor is still taking frequent trips to the garbage chute, perhaps disposing of a body, or perhaps a backlog of the Sunday Times) leaves room for thinking. Thinking is generally frowned upon during the day, which is a time reserved primarily for the doing. This doing (otherwise known as "work"), while sometimes encompassing the act of thinking is not generally the sort of quiet introspection that comes about when one sits, bleary-eyed in a relatively quiet living room. Instead, it is more interested in results and is, in general, not interested in something that yields no tangible results (as thinking generally does).

Night (and it's brighter sibling Really Early Morning) offer an alternative. At night, while much of the rest of the world sleeps, those who remain awake and without alternative obligations (because, in fact, some people work at night, rather than during the day) are offered the freedom to just think without doing. This thinking can lead to a reflection and perhaps a realization, with the potential for some epiphany thrown in. But more likely than not, the thinking will just lead to more thinking, with little conclusion. This may seem to be an endless source of amusement, a never-ending gift of thought, but with the weight of all of the obligation to be working during the remaining part of the day, it is not surprising that the mind would want the opportunity to give it all a rest.

But as it was mentioned, the silence is a catalyst, and in the absence of any distraction, the mind begins to formulate thoughts, even against the wishes of one who would rather sit, empty-headed. Something is required to fill the void, to hold out against excessive thinking. The television offers enough input through enough sensory channels that thoughts are effectively prevented from taking hold, which would seem like the ideal solution.

The catch is the realization that what feels the best at a given moment may not actually be the best. Loud moving pictures that stave off thoughts may seem appealing at first, but once the value of the potential energy that is lost to television (or anything else that encourages lethargy) is considered, it seems almost a crime to allow it to go untapped. Fortunately, there is often enough time to consider the potential of a period of thinking weighed against the alternative of not-thinking that the former scenario is chosen as the occupying activity for a given period of time.

When fully considered, it seems there should be no struggle at all.

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