Hey, I’m back. When I started this I told myself I’d try to write once a week, but here we are 8 weeks later! Translating notes full of nonsense to fluid writing is tough business. Anyways, wanted to share some recent thoughts with you friends below that have been on my mind. Talk soon, hopefully not in 8 more weeks.
The craziest thing to me is that we’re all sharing same world yet we each have our own unique realities. Our experiences (both past and present) shape our motivations, which in turn shape our perception of reality.
Imagine you’re driving around town and you suddenly become really hungry. What do you begin to notice? All the restaurants. In fact that’s arguably all you notice. Now imagine someone’s about to run out of gas, what do they notice?
These are two people, on the same road, sharing the same world, living two different realities.
In a not-so-subtle-yet-very-subtle way, our external world mirrors our internal world. It’s as if we each have our own filter or lens that we view the world through. We each have our own subjective reality, our own reflective bubble.
The examples above were very tangible, but it also happens in more indistinct, yet powerful ways in our interactions/relationships with people. Have you ever been in a bad mood and you get frustrated at every little thing someone does? That person hasn’t changed, but your perception of them has due to your internal state. Most of this is done subconsciously without realizing it, but we all run around in our little bubbles thinking everyone else sees what we see.
For me, as soon as I started to notice the above, I realized I gained the ability to “tinker” with my perception of reality. If my external reality - how I viewed the outside world - was being influenced so easily by factors out of my control, couldn’t I start to control it to some extent? And I’m not talking about “control” in terms of “let’s go get what we deserve! Vision boards!” I’m talking around something more fundamental, something more around your daily state of mind - how you perceive the world and everything in it, including yourself.
I started to playing around with that idea and ended up with a new perspective that not only gave me a deeper sense of empathy for people, but also shaped my internal world to be something “less serious.” We all take ourselves so seriously, and as a result, take life itself very seriously, yet we all go through the same shit and end up in the same place.
One perspective I’ve been playing around with lately is what I refer to as a “game perspective.” (This might already be a thing, idk). With a game perspective, everyone around you (including yourself) is playing a part. Controlling a character. And each character is taking themselves very seriously to accomplish their role in this game (life).
When you realize everyone is playing a character, in a way “acting,” then you begin to wonder who’s really behind the character, and that’s where the empathy and insight come from. That thought. Sitting in that thought.
That waiter that just served your drink? That’s not a waiter. What the fuck even is a waiter? A waiter is a character, a role. Their name is Jack, and at home they play another character, that of a father or maybe a son.
Now flip it back on yourself. What role are you playing? What character are you playing? It’s not easy to think about. Your character isn’t just your job. And having characters isn’t inherently negative, in fact I believe it’s human nature to juggle multiple identities. Your characters represent how you express yourself to the outside world, but the issue lies in whether that expression comes from an authentic place or not. That’s where people get caught. From your job, to your clothing, to the food you eat, to how you talk, to your friends, to who you marry, to the haircut you get, is that really YOU? Or is there someone more authentic behind the character?
Most of us spend our lives playing characters we never chose, or chose without much thought. The characters can be fun and enjoyable! There’s no reason to question the nature of your reality if you like your character, so you get lost in your character.
That is, until one day maybe you realize something’s missing, and you’re not sure what. I personally believe inauthentic characters will always reveal themselves as the “something’s missing” feeling (or a similar one) sooner or later. But at that point you might be stuck, for reasons varied. You’ve never sat to think, really think, who’s behind this character of mine?
In fact, since the day we’re born we learn how to be characters. As kids, our family and friends came to expect a certain version of ourselves. Most of us ended up conforming to a certain mold to meet expectations. We start out as rough balls of energy running around shooting girls with water guns and then our parents quite literally shape us into someone designed to thrive in society. That’s just the nature of the beast, that’s being human. But again, that’s not the issue. Trouble arises when we live 24/7 from that perspective and never stop to ask ourselves if this way of living, this person we were shaped to be, matches with our authentic selves or not.
Some of the most common death bed quotes usually revolve around authenticity, such as, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” or “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.”
I’m not implying we should all just stop playing our characters and venture out into some utopian fantasy to live our “true life,” because obviously that’s not realistic. Sometimes in order to even survive, we need our characters. All I’m saying is that most people never stop to think about the characters they are playing, and never try to influence how they are being played.
(Btw, want to experience characters in peak form? Go to a wine bar on a Friday night, alone, and listen, really listen, to all the first date conversations. Then tell me we’re not all insane).
Play the game, or let the game play you?
Unless you want to devote your life to that of a spiritual seeker, you will most likely fall back into the roles you play on a daily basis. Fully escaping those roles isn’t very realistic, but what you can do is start to use “tools” to remind yourself what’s important, to remind yourself of who’s behind this character and what game they are playing. As those reminders become stronger and more frequent, you can really start to play the game, not let it play you. Playing the game is liberating, letting the game play you is constricting. I’ve experimented with a bunch of different methods and found the below can help serve as those reminders:
Gain awareness. It helps to simply realize your characters (we all have ‘em). Meditation helps. Psychedelics too.
Be less reactive, be more observant. Really listen to people when they talk. Observe people as they go through life around you. Take a moment to yourself in the morning before you start reacting to what the day throws at you.
Meet new people, join new communities, have new conversations. I wrote about this previously, but I enjoying going to new towns as a “hack” to snap out of character.
If you’re going to play a role, have fun with it. Your entire identity does not to need to = your character.
Talk to Gen Z. They seem to understand the game better than anyone.
Be aware of how social media might be influencing your characters.
Social’s role in the game
Social platforms “give” us what we want, or more accurately tease us with what we want. It affects how we perceive ourselves and our reality, CONSTANTLY. It also helps cement a character of yours that you might be stuck playing. It makes it harder to step outside that role, harder to gain awareness. Instagram, for example, is quite literally character vs. character comparison. Show me yours, I’ll show you mine. Super smash bros.
The real question is if this is a fundamental trait of social media, or if social platforms or tools can exist that help you explore more authentic, experimental versions of yourself. In a way, all early stage social platforms are built for this. The ingredients are usually:
Ability to express a new side of yourself
Ability to meet new friends (and lovers)
Ability to have new conversations
Ability to join new communities
The issue is once social platforms hit a certain threshold, they lose the magic above. If somehow a platform could sustain the above, I think it could have a real impact on our day to day. All your little characters could converge into one epic MAIN CHARACTER playing the game of life.
I think TikTok is really unique in that sense. It actually allows for and even encourages authentic/experimental expression. Discord too. I just wonder if that’s inherent to the platform, or if that’s inherent to the people who define the culture on the platform (Gen Z).
Regardless, if you ignore the package it comes in, the type of authentic expression that’s happening on platforms like TikTok and Discord, with Gen Z driving the charge, I believe is indicative of what’s the come in the digital world.
So anyways, good luck discovering your characters and have fun with them when you do!! ✌️