Casting the Renew spell

I somehow managed to get into Stanford in 2011 as an adult transfer student after planning, to quote 27 year old me, “to get a scholarship to an ‘Ivy league’ school,” (later adapted to Ivy League or Ivy League-esque when I didn’t bother applying to any Ivy League schools) while attending Pikes Peak Community College in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado, with its earthy red hills and miles-long, well-curated hiking trails filled with painted flora and mostly fauna not currently being hunted.

I graduated March 23, 2015, and have since been making my way in the world. I forgot to write for a while because life was so hectic, but now the gates are starting to open again. (June 14, 2016)

Oh, and as to the title of this article, the Renew spell healed +35 or so hit points per tick in World of Warcraft, and a tick happened every three seconds.

Here is the opinion that started this blog. I have gently paraphrased it for the purpose of making me seem like I used to be more clever, which maybe means I’m still not that clever:

“Stanford is not Ivy League. I like it that way. It’s bizarre and non-hierarchical-ish and egalitarian-ish and the administration is like a hundred-tentacled cuddly, friendly octopus whose tendrils are departments wriggling to perform under the close scrutiny of US News and World Reports. And it makes me cringe to think about it sometimes because I’m weird and to me, big organizations look like uncomfortably towering monoliths and I sort of hate being under them. But I like Stanford.”

As for the rest of Stanford, it was obviously recently influenced by X-Men’s Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and I think it was Silicon Valley and probably LSD that made it that way. And I would say it is perfectly nerdy – and I suppose it’s the closest we can get. But there is definitely an aura of Los Angeles and/or high school to the social vibe. You have the pretty folks who hang out with the pretty folks, and the weird cult that is the band, and the stoners in their broccoli forest. But something about Silicon Valley has taken the surface judgment teeth out of the Los Angeles vibe.

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I felt like a very small, normal 8-legged octopus in Stanford, this institution full of Cthulhian beasts of yore with unpredictable appetites who seemed to have little in common with anyone I’d ever, for instance, worked in retail with, but who had seemingly virtuous behavior patterns in person.

Billionaires and their kids, or entourages, would roll substantially past in the hallway randomly. some European country or other’s Royalty’s visit would make it so your Philosophy of Neuroscience classroom had to relocate itself, and then you spot their Royal entourage anyway while floating, as an undergrad, insubstantially by, because your class gets rescheduled on the third floor of the same building. They are gracious, and allow your class to meander through their exit, security guards considering the students more furniture than threat. They are Royal security, they know what they’re looking for.

Fortunately, there are other curious ocean creature types as well at Stanford, and creatures of other terrain types as well. I got to meet and get to know some of them. We still know each other even after graduation! We can have animated conversations about super intense philosophical stuff in one moment, or heart to heart talks about our deepest insecurities the next, or share whatever joy happened in the next. In short, where before I had a broken family, at Stanford, I found a family of other exceptional people who had many similar problems and joys.

The tragedy of inequity is that there are people who have modern life mostly figured out. They are disciplined and have routines and often don’t have to work a day job, mostly being free to pursue their individual talents or interests. They generally don’t spend a lot of time on their phones. Many of these people are quite benevolent, and have a plan to do as much good with their money as possible. In their lives, the toils of the real world no longer involve day to day suffering, but a kind of frustrated-ness with the nature of human existence as it is today. Everyone else is suffering, how do we stop or minimize the damage? For these people, the instinct they must often avoid is the urge to create drama or arguments just to struggle against something, because life is so good and otherwise worry-free.

This urge to combat something, despite having life be mostly okay, can be healthily channeled, and many channel it into teaching, writing, or otherwise helping other people who have not yet experienced the joys and incredible pains of putting one’s brain through the process of philosophical enlightenment, to guide them along the path of being an agent in a universe full of more agents than a person can meet in a lifetime. I did the math on this: even if you met a person every second, you would not meet all the people before you died. You can’t even really meet 1/1000 of the people on Earth. Hell, you probably can’t even meet all the celebrities, photo op fees aside.

 

For the engineering mind who wants to save everyone as much time and money as possible, this frustrated situation provokes questions, design questions that ask why we live the way we live. Questions that probe the way we do things like food, and sleep, and mental health.

Why should humans, on average, need to spend so much of their time cooking, if they don’t want to? Why are vegetables so difficult to regularly add to our diets if we are cooking for one? Why isn’t there a general manual for food that will get you to lose weight if you’ve got X problem, or to build muscle if you’ve got Y problem, or improve focus if you’ve got Z problem? Why isn’t there a single automated fast food restaurant that sells ONLY balanced meals? Now that our society is trying to extend the bubble of self-actualization, you have a bunch of people who look outward and want to share knowledge with everyone else.

For the literary mind, this makes you want to write books that let people know they’re not alone, that let people know that someone understands, even if it seems like no one they’ve ever met understands.

Podcasters seem filled with both types of minds, and that’s where I’ve turned to recently. In podcasts, you get people like the guys who do Stuff You Should Know who explore and explain topics as diverse as bipolar disorder, grass, the other kind of grass, conspiracy theories, hypothermia therapy, the paleo diet, the Freemasons, etcetera. ReplyAll talks about the internet and what happens on the internet, and what happens off of the internet – because of the internet. And I’m so happy I don’t have to capitalize internet anymore.

In the end, because of Stanford, I happen to be surrounded by a too-large-for-my-entire-comfort number of extremely gracious and brilliant people. With these people, I have complicated and often difficult relationships, difficult in part because I have problems communicating my true intents and needs to other human beings. I could go down the rabbit hole as to why I would do this, but I prefer not to explore those depths right now, though I may in the future if I figure out how to do it without getting too dark for print.

If you are reading this, I thank you. If you have read my stuff before you read this, thank you very much indeed. That means you’ve read me at least twice already.

Talk to you soon. (June 14th, 2016)

 

PS: The falls is meant to be interpreted as a waterfall that produces clarity. I explain this more in a post on my Quora blog. I have a bunch of answers there that talk about what it was like at Stanford, and what I learned during my time there.

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