Category Archives: My goals

How Can I Improve The Wise Sloth?

In 2017, The Wise Sloth blog turned 10 years old. I celebrated its birthday by moving it to a new domain provider and totally renovating the layout and structure. Unfortunately, this required me to ask my E-mail subscribers to resubscribe because I couldn’t export/import their E-mail addresses. Only about half renewed, which gave me a sad face at first, but I realized I probably just culled out people who stopped reading anyway. Now they won’t be bothered with notifications anymore, and I know how many dedicated fans I have. So thank you for sticking with me. I appreciate every one of you.

I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve been working tirelessly on creating the ultimate story plot formula engine by breaking down popular movies and analyzing and comparing their component parts. I’m creating a tool that will allow anyone to easily write a story as well-structured as Avatar. More importantly, it will allow you to easily explain how to accomplish a goal, which will allow you to teach people how to accomplish goals. If everyone could write professional quality screenplays that teach useful information, it could end the intellectual drought in Hollywood.

 

Sheets of paper taped together and laid out across the floor containing my movie plot break downs

Movie Plot Break Downs I wrote and am analyzing

 

I’m still dedicated to writing blogs, and I want to give my 1,900 super fans exactly what you all want. It would hurt my soul if any of you left because you’re not finding what you’re looking for. So let’s help each other. Tell me what you like most/least about my posts. Do you like my essays, comics, or lists best? What are your most/least favorite topics I talk about? Are there any general or specific topics or issues I haven’t covered that you want to hear my perspective on? What would you like me to write more/less about? Is there anything else I can do to improve your Wise Sloth experience?

If you’ve never commented, now is the perfect time to join the tribe and leave your mark. Post a comment below letting me and your fellow sloths know what you think about this experience we’re all sharing.

To help jog your memory, here’s a list of the topics I’ve written about with links to lists of those blogs:

  1. Autobiographical posts
  2. Saving the World
  3. Sex, Dating, and Relationships
  4. Self-Help
  5. Philosophy
  6. Religion
  7. The U.S. Military and Police
  8. American Politics
  9. Education
  10. Economics
  11. Writing and Creativity
  12. Comics
  13. American Pop Culture
  14. Tweets

Again, thank you, everyone, for reading. I love you.

 

 

 

Travis Haan

The Wise Sloth


How You Can Help The Wise Sloth Enlightentainment Revolution

I’ve received a number of E-mails from readers saying, “I love your writing, and I agree with your assessment of modern life. You do a good job of articulating how the system is designed to screw the poor and destroy the planet. The stuff you say about religion and philosophy are lucid and inspiring. Plus, I think it’s awesome how you want to start a secular monastery where intellectuals can escape the rat race to devote their lives to producing important work. What can I do to help?”

I’m not lazy or presumptuous enough to ask strangers to do my work for me, but since people keep asking, and I really could use the help, I made a list of tasks I need assistance with.

If you’d like to talk in more detail about how you can help me help others, then please E-mail me using the form on my Contact Page. Thank you.

1: Find me an eccentric multi-millionaire philanthropist/collector

My life plan is to write until I earn enough money selling books to afford to build a self-sustainable, profitable, equitable monastery and publishing house that focuses on producing useful, enlightening works. I plan on giving away the blueprints and business plans so anyone can set up their own sustainable community tailored to their definition of utopia. It will take me either ten years or one millionaire to reach this goal. If you know anyone who is rich enough to spend $7 million on a painting to brighten their foyer, convince them to give me $1 million for the joy of watching me try to save the world. I will be a better conversation piece than any painting, and I’ll give the donor and the referer a piece of my own original art, plus one of my personal ideation notebooks, which will be collectors’ items one day if I get famous enough. The sooner I have the money to start building, the sooner the value of those items will start appreciating.

2: Tell people about my work

If you feel my work is worth reading, it’s worth sharing. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool. So please tell all your friends to check out The Wise Sloth, but if you only tell one person, make it the most powerful, influential person you know. Tell them if they like my work, to share it with the most powerful, influential person they know. They may not give me $1 million, but we’ll be inspiring the people with the most power to change the world.

3: Share my posts on social media

If you believe my posts articulate important ideas worth spreading, then share your favorite ones on social media. I have almost 600, so if you want to go the extra mile, you could post one of my blogs a week until you get bored. Facebook and Twitter are good places to share, but Reddit is best. It has the largest, broadest audience, and links generate clicks even after getting buried by new content. Often times, links in the comment section of a popular post will get more clicks than links posted as stand-alone submissions.

I’m not asking for a spam brigade. Flooding Reddit with my links will do more damage to my brand than good. Posting one link every week or month in a relevant forum will get our message out and keep it in the public consciousness.

4: Tell media personalities and outlets about my work

There are millions of bloggers, vloggers, hosts, columnists, djs, and human interest writers looking for compelling people and controversial topics to talk about. If you know someone who works for a media company that writes/talks about the same topics as me, please speak to them or send an E-mail to the company encouraging them to cover my work. This will help get my messages out and improve my search engine ranking when high-quality media sites link to my blog. Below is a sample of my posts with high social interest value.

Note: I have a scratchy, cracky voice from a lifetime of hard living. So I’m not interested in doing live interviews, but I’ll do what I can for anyone who asks.

5: Start your own blog and link it to mine. 

If you think similarly to me, and you believe articulating our ideas and observations will help society, then you should think about starting your own enlightentainment blog. If you already have a blog that doesn’t focus on exploring the most important problems in life, you should think about upgrading your content.

If your work is relevant enough to mine, I’ll cross-post/link your work in return. Even without linking to each other’s sites, two blogs are more influential than one.

6: Edit my blogs.

I’ve been writing blogs at a racing pace for nine years. Most of that time was during a dark, alcoholic period of my life. My work has improved consistently, but there are still grammatical errors and poorly worded sentences scattered around. Every few years, I’ll go through all my essays and touch them up, but they need to be edited by a new set of eyes, and I don’t have the money to pay for it. So if you’re a good writer in need of practice, and you’re not interested in creating your own blog, I’ll accept your help and give you attribution if you want it. You don’t have to edit every page. Every little bit helps. Even if you just see a typo on one of my posts, leave a comment letting me know.

7: Create infographics based on my blogs.

I write a lot of lists that summarize big ideas in short bursts, but they’re still essays that take five minutes to read, which is an eternity on the internet. My lists could be easily condensed and splashed across a jpg with pictures and designs. These would be much easier to read and share. If you give me attribution, you can make infographics of my lists. I keep my rights to my work, and you take complete ownership of your rendition. If you send me a link to your work, I’ll post it on my site and share it on social media. Below is a sample of my lists. You can easily spot more on my table of contents.

8: Record my blogs in audio format.

I am eager to work with a voice actor or vlogger to make audio and/or video recordings of my blogs. If you let me use your recordings on my website, and you give me attribution, you can post the content on your website or Youtube channel and keep whatever ad revenue or value it brings to your site. You don’t have to pay me any royalties. You could make an entire podcast of nothing but you reading my blogs and sell it wherever/however you sell podcasts and keep all the money. You own the rights to your rendition, and I retain the rights to the original work.

If you record every blog from one of the chapters in my table of contents, we can publish/sell an audiobook through Amazon ACX, which will automatically split the profits between us.

9: Write your own fiction using my prompts and templates.

If you’re an aspiring fiction writer who wants to pen edifying stories, but you don’t know what or how to write, you can use my free story prompts and formula plot templates to get started. This doesn’t help me directly, but you’ll be educating society, which will make my life easier in the long run.

Free Story Prompts
Screenwriting for Movies
Screenwriting for TV
Short Story Templates

10: Make and share Wise Sloth Twitter fortune cookie E-card memes. 

I’m in the process of taking all my best Tweets and putting them on jpg images that can be shared on Twitter, Pinterest, and other image sharing social media sites. I’ve already finished converting two sets of Tweets, “Happiness and Sadness,” and “Fulfillment, Purpose, and Meaning” and posted them on Flickr. You can share those now, but I have a few hundred more that need to be copied/pasted into the jpg template below. If you want to do that for me, I’ll draw you a picture.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but you’re only partly doing it for me. You’re also doing it for anyone the cards teach wisdom to, plus everyone who will get to use the parable formula plot templates I’ll have time to finish making if I’m not distracted by this mechanical task.

If/when you finish making these, just post them on a photo sharing site like Pinterest, and I’ll cross-post them to my social media sites. Then we can share them and encourage others to do the same.

Tweets by @the_wise_sloth

11: Transcribe my comics into screenplay format

You can find a list of all my comics by following the link below. Some of the pages already have transcripts, but they’re not in screenplay format. I need all of my comics transcribed into properly formatted screenplays. This can be done relatively easily using a screenwriting program like Celtx. If someone could do this for me, it would help the cause tremendously and may set someone else up for success when they film your scripts.

12: Produce plays, movies, or internet skits based on my comics.

Once I have screenplays of all my comics, I’m going to post them for public consumption on thewisesloth.com. They’re not free domain, but if you’d like to make theatrical plays, movies, or Youtube skits, I will most likely let you use them for free. If you want to do a one-off show at a community theater or open mic night, you don’t even need to ask permission. Until then, imagine these comics performed on the stage or screen:

Comics fit for the stage or Youtube skits:
Comics fit for sitcoms or movies:

13: Illustrate my stories and re-illustrate my comics.

My comics are made using stock photo cutouts. They’re good enough to get the idea across, but the art is noticeably monotonous. I would like to work with an artist to re-illustrate the comics above and the stories listed below. If you give me attribution and I keep my original rights, you can keep the rights to your revision and sell it however and wherever you want. I’ll post your work on my site and/or put up links to your store and site.

14: Translate my works into other languages.

If you transcribe my blogs into a language other than English, and give me attribution, I will give you the rights to self-publish your version and keep all the profits. You can translate the chapters from my table of contents into books or pick and choose blogs to make your own compilation. If you have a working relationship with a foreign publisher and would like to publish through them, they can offer me a contract.

15: Create and sell or give away Wise Sloth merchandise

I’ve caught several people stealing my logo and selling Wise Sloth coffee mugs and buttons on sites like Cafepress and Zazzle, but I never reported them or contacted the sellers. The way I see it, I’m helping them make money at no cost to me, and they’re spreading my brand at no cost to them. The more that happens, the more it helps everyone. If you want to sell bumper stickers, T-shirts, magnets, or any other widget with my logo on it, you have my permission as long as you don’t try to claim copyright ownership/authorship of the image or brand name.

If you have more time and disposable income than you know what to do with, it would be a huge favor to me if you print a bunch of Wise Sloth stickers, magnets, buttons, cards, and clothing, and then give it all away for free however you want.

16: Create Wise Sloth inspired products

You have my blessing to create your own original artwork modifying my logo, quoting my words, or spinning off my comics, royalty-free. Make your own quirky coffee mugs and posters with a sloth and a quote or list from my site. If you create anything inspired by The Wise Sloth, let me know so I can put up a link to your product.

17: Create some new logos for me to use and give away.

It would be very useful to me if I had some more Wise Sloth logo images, banners, and promotional illustrations. I don’t have any specifics in mind, just whatever your heart tells you to make. If you’ll give me some images for free, I will give you attribution and create a page where anyone can download/copy them and use however they like. So we can all share in the benefits of your work and spread the love.

18: Make a fan fiction generator program.

I’m currently working on several formula plot templates that a skilled programmer could easily turn into story writing software. I would like to do this and give my first couple of versions away for free. If you would like to work with me on this project, you can start by taking my break down of the plot to Avatar and create a program that lets users create their own Avatar fan fiction story by changing the names of all the characters, locations, and resources. My break down has all the variables already listed and identified in the story. So all you need to do is put the text in a program and put in find/replace functions. Then we can tinker with the wording and presentation. Copyright laws prevent us from being able to make any money from this program. We can only give it away for free, and the top of the first screen needs to include the text, “For satirical and educational purposes only.”

If you’re a super skilled, Adderall fueled programmer who likes to push the limits and doesn’t need a lot of supervision, you can make a program that replaces the variables of 14 iconic movies at once using my master spreadsheet of movies I’ve deconstructed. We can’t sell this program either, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.

19: Build my perpetual motion machine designs.

Back in high school, I came up with a few designs for perpetual motion machines. They shouldn’t work, but maybe you could make them work. If nothing else, they may be fun to build. I’ll draw you a picture if you build one just so I can see my idea brought to life. The designs are free domain. So you can sell models as novelty decorations if you want. If you do, send me a link to your store, because I’ll buy one of each.


My Quest To Find The Meaning Of Life

The cover of my book, "Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life"

Over the course of 10 years, I wrote a book on the meaning of life titled “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.” I didn’t do it to get rich quick, or because God told me to or because I’m the smartest person alive. My motives came from somewhere much more down to Earth. To understand why I wrote this book, you need to know the whole story.

I’ve always been an introvert, predisposed to working alone on long projects, and I’ve always loved puzzles. At the age of seventeen, I made a conscious decision to make a hobby out of solving difficult logic puzzles for the fun and challenge of it. Originally, this consisted of completing puzzle books, which I did with varying levels of success. That got boring quickly though because I was just rearranging words, letters, and numbers, which felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve real problems that had useful implications for myself and hopefully the rest of society.

The first big challenge I picked was creating a perpetual motion machine. Although I failed to build a working perpetual motion machine, I don’t count the quest as a failure, because it provided me hundreds of hours of entertainment and valuable problem-solving practice. When that thought-experiment had run its course I started looking for a new one. It wasn’t long before the question of the meaning of life caught my attention.

The challenge started out as a game, but the more I thought about it, the more seriously I took the question. I considered myself a responsible person who followed all the rules and lived a successful life by modern society’s standards, but could I say for certain I knew the meaning of life? No. So could I honestly be sure I was fulfilling it? No. I was just expecting I’d nail it by chance; I was leaving it up to chance whether or not I validated my existence or wasted it in vain. For the first time, it struck me that the meaning of life might not be a novelty riddle after all. It might be a matter of life and death. In fact, it might even be a matter of eternal life and death… and that wasn’t even the worst part.

What shook me even more profoundly was the realization that if I didn’t know the meaning of life then I couldn’t teach my future children what it is or how to fulfill it. I was leaving their fate up to chance as well. How could I do that in good conscience?

To my surprise, I found I wasn’t playing a game any longer. I was waffling at a crossroad in life. Should I go down that rabbit hole or find a way to write these thoughts off and get back to my routine, comfortable life? I didn’t have to second guess myself for very long. Regardless of anything else, the bottom line was I was planning on becoming a parent, and I had a responsibility to my unborn children. A father’s job is to teach his children how to make the most out of life, and since I didn’t know the meaning of life I didn’t have an end goal to teach my children how to accomplish. I was going to have to find some kind of answer to the meaning of life so I could teach my descendants everything needed to know to have the best chance at validating their existence and making the most out of life.

Being a child myself at the time, I had no idea where to begin answering such an enigmatic question, but I knew history was full of people much smarter than me. I assumed/hoped one of them had already figured it out. So I started making trips to the library and bookstores hunting for the book the master wrote his/her revelation down in.

Some of the things I read had promise, but without exception, they were all flawed in one way or another. Most of the self-help books were oversimplified and based on emotion more than logic. You could sum up most of them in the phrases, “The meaning of life is a good cup of coffee.” Or “Love everybody.” Nice sentiments but vague to the point of being useless.

The books written by self-proclaimed spiritual gurus tended to ramble incoherently and not be based on any kind of evidence whatsoever. The authors just said, “This is the answer,” and expected the reader to accept their mystical conclusions without asking for any logical or empirical proof.

As for Western philosophy… I know I could get crucified for saying this, but I would describe most of what I read as nine parts academic masturbation and one part insight. For all the amazing and useless things I read, I never found a systematic, logical, empirically valid explanation of the meaning of life.

And then there are the world’s religious books. The first problem they pose is that most of them claimed to be the final truth on life and state it is foolish, arrogant, or outright immoral to question them let alone believe in any other belief system. So even if I quit searching for the meaning of life and bet my soul on any religion, I would still be committing blasphemy according to multiple other self-proclaimed holy books. This concerned me deeply because I don’t want to go to Hell. If blasphemy is immoral, then I don’t want to commit it, but we’re all in a no-win situation. In the end, I figured if you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you may as well do your best.

All things being blasphemy, the way I chose to commit it was to put all the religious books I could find to the test of empirical and logical truth. Without exception, they all contained historical and scientific errors, textual problems, absurdities, contradictions, and incoherent moral codes. Hundreds of thousands of books have been written about each religion, attempting to explain their mysteries. But Occam’s Razor can explain all of them in one sentence: All the religions humans have created are mythologies.

If that’s true, it creates as many questions as it answers. How was the universe created? What defines ethics? Is life meaningless, or is the purpose of life simply beyond the grasp of human intelligence?

The last question bothered me the most. If it really was true that we can never know the meaning of life then that would mean we have one, but can never sure if we’re succeeding at it. Does that mean we were never meant to fulfill it? Would that mean, for all practical purposes, life has no meaning? Are our lives nothing more than pieces in a cosmic game of Periwinkles? Are we not important?

My inability to answer any of these questions drove me to existential depression. I tried to act like nothing was wrong and continued going to work and socialize with friends but found it hard to be enthusiastic about anything since it seemed nothing we did mattered in the long run.

Walking through my tiny corner of the universe, I couldn’t shake my suspicions that it would be absurd for life to exist without a purpose. Surely there had to be a reason why such a complex universe full of complex living beings existed. So as I went through the motions of life I continued to think about and observe the world around me hoping to find the clues I’d missed.

On my way to work in the mornings I passed by a large oak tree, and I’d often stop to stare at it and ask myself, “What are you doing there Mr. Tree?” One day I was studying Mr. Tree when I found the clue I was looking for. The tree contained patterns. The branches weren’t geometrically organized, but there was a pattern to how trees in general look. Then I looked down at myself and found patterns in my body. We can recognize humans from other animals because our structure follows the same pattern. Skeletons follow patterns. Heredity follows patterns. Biology is all about patterns. For that matter, so is the rest of nature: gravitational pull, chemical reactions, and mathematical equations. These all behave according to patterns which reflect phenomenally elegant order in the universe.

It would be illogical to assume that everything in the universe behaves according to predictable patterns, but life (and all the patterns it contains) came into existence on accident. It’s no more an accident for life to exist than it is for water to freeze. The universe was meticulously designed to produce living beings. The immeasurable level of detail in the design of the universe isn’t an accident.

Atoms, molecules, solar systems, and DNA are so ingeniously designed that I can’t discount the possibility an intelligent God created them. If that’s true, then why does God let bad things happen? Does/should God answer prayers? How do you learn about an absentee God of science? Do you even need to know God, or were we put here to do something else?

I wanted to explore these questions, but a voice in the back of my head kept asking, what if I’m wrong about religion, and there really is an angry, jealous God?  If I ever claimed to figure out life for myself, would I be punished? Would I go to hell? Were humans not meant to think for themselves? Why would God create children who aren’t supposed to think for themselves?

With or without God, is it still impossible (or at least too difficult) for humans to figure out? If the question can be answered, who’s smart enough to do it? Could I do it or should I leave it to the professionals? But who are the professionals? What would make someone qualified/disqualified to find the meaning of life anyway? Do you need a doctorate degree, a Nobel Prize, membership in a high IQ club, or at least published book under your belt before you’re certified to… ask questions?

I lost sleep asking myself these questions. I knew if nobody else had life figured out, then I’d have to do it on my own, but I didn’t think I could or should for all the reasons stated above. But then again, not trying was as good as suicide…and in the case of my potential offspring I was responsible for, manslaughter. This infuriated me. I kept telling myself, “This is insanity. It doesn’t make any sense.” Then, after a long night of tossing and turning in bed, I finally let myself admit the simple and obvious truth of the matter. It was insanity. It didn’t make any sense because it was illogical.

There may or may not be a God. We’re all just stranded in this big, elegant universe. We’re so lost we don’t even know how lost we are. If God’s out there, we’re left on our own to sink or swim. We don’t know the difference between right and wrong or if there is one. There is no instruction book. All we can do is figure out life for ourselves.

Whether we know or will admit it, everyone does this. We look at everything around us and come to our own conclusions. So I said, “To Hell with taboos,” and made a decision to consciously do what I’d already been doing all along. I’d figure out my own systematic, logical explanation of the meaning of life. The point wasn’t to create a book to publish. It was to create my own personal guidebook to life.

Having decided that, I turned my attention to the enormous task of figuring out where the hell to begin. Ask yourself, “What is the first thing you need to do to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” That’s a riddle within an impossible riddle. When I posed it to myself, I felt completely dumbfounded, but in that boggled, fuzzy state of mind I had a moment of horse-sense clarity. I realized if you want to answer any question, you need a step-by-step guide to answering questions.

So I went back to the library and the bookstores and read a stack of books on logic and problem-solving. I learned a lot of useful things from those books, but I didn’t find the streamlined guide to answering questions I was looking for. So I looked back over everything I had learned about thinking and boiled it down to a neat list.

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Gather data
  3. Identify the variables you have.
  4. Identify the variables you don’t have.
  5. Sort the data.
  6. Apply formulas.
  7. Ask sub-questions.
  8. Question your answer.
  9. Apply the solution.

I spent years applying these steps to the question of the meaning of life and piecing my conclusions together in this book. I included a detailed breakdown of my method of problem-solving in Chapter 14 since everything you’ll ever do in life will be the product of questions you’ve asked yourself. No matter what the meaning of life is, it involves problem-solving since everything does.

If you read “Why” you’ll see how I applied these steps to the question of the meaning of life. If you just want to know the final conclusion I came to, read the next paragraph for the spoiler:

Regardless of whether or not God or an afterlife exists, or even if there’s no meaning to life at all, the most logical thing a living being can do with their brief time here is fulfill their potential. If that sounds anticlimactic, it’s because the most interesting part of the question, “What is the meaning of life?” isn’t “what,” it’s “why.”

This book isn’t the final answer on life. God didn’t reveal it to me. It’s just the conclusions I’ve come to that I base my life around. If you read my book and find even a single sentence lacking I hope you don’t dismiss all my observations and conclusions. Takes what you find to be true, and leave what you don’t. If you have a better answer, the world needs it. I need it. The way I’ll measure the success of my book isn’t by how many people believe me but by how many I inspire to ask questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

The Meaning of Life
My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)

My Quest To Find Enlightenment

Drawing of a gear with an Om in the center

Everyone has heard of enlightenment, but most people don’t care enough about the topic to study or practice it and probably couldn’t even give you a coherent definition of the word. I’m not a genius or a spiritual guru. I’m a poor white trash kid from Texas, but I spent thousands of hours studying and thinking about enlightenment, and I came to some novel conclusions. In order to fully appreciate their meaning, you need to understand why and how I tried to teach myself enlightenment in the first place.

I have an identical twin brother, and we were born two months premature. My twin was born healthy, but my heart was underdeveloped. So I spent most of the first year of my life in and out of the hospital surviving a series of near-death experiences. These factors forced me to be lucidly conscious of my mortality and the surrealness of existence for long as I can remember.

I believe the sensory deprivation I experienced in the hospital during the formative weeks of my development wired my brain to adapt to solitude, stillness, and quiet. This may be where my INTP personality type comes from. Either way, I’ve always been an introvert who enjoys spending time alone thinking, writing and working on long, tedious projects. So my temperament and life situation predisposed me to ponder philosophical questions.

I wasn’t raised rich, with every education opportunity money could buy, but the small Texas towns I lived in had old-fashioned, strict, rigorous schools. So I received a solid understanding of science, history, English and critical thinking skills. I was also put in “gifted and talented” classes from the third grade where I was encouraged to think outside the box. These two education styles shaped how I approach philosophical questions.

Growing up in the Bible Belt, I took Christianity for granted, but I didn’t really practice it until high school when I made a conscious decision to accept Jesus as my savior and devote my life to being a Christian. Then I applied all my skill sets to prove the Bible to be the true word of God, but within a year I found so much evidence that the Bible is mythology, I wrote a book on it.

After losing my faith I plunged into existential despair and read as many religion/philosophy/self-help books as I could, searching for new insights into the riddle of life. I found the ancient Eastern religions and philosophies like Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism the most interesting.

The concept of enlightenment, in particular, appealed to me. I already knew enlightenment existed, but my deconversion gave me new motivation to take it seriously. I’d lost the need for faith or salvation, but I still needed a purpose to strive for, and enlightenment made the perfect substitute. It offered a way to become more than I am without having to surrender my life to a mythological deity invented by a primitive tribe to justify their culture.

When I was a Christian, I reasoned that if connecting with God was the best thing we could do, then we should do it. Now I reasoned that if a man has the potential to reach a higher state of mind, then he should, not because God commanded us to, but because it offers the most benefit to the individual. The cost/benefit analysis simply adds up.

I wanted to make the most of my life on a personal level, and I wanted to justify my existence on a philosophical level. To be completely honest, I also thought achieving enlightenment might give me some kind of superpowers. So I approached the study of enlightenment with childlike enthusiasm. To my surprise, my zeal dissipated into disillusionment as I found at least five holes in traditional theories of enlightenment:

1. There’s no agreed upon definition of what enlightenment is.

Hindus, Buddhists, Zen Buddhists, New Age gurus and thousands of other groups have different definitions of enlightenment and instructions to achieve it. There’s no test you can use to prove which definition or methodology is the true one. Ultimately, it’s all one big pile of stuff people made up. Some schools of thought claim enlightenment can’t be labeled or bottled, because that’s the point. It’s beyond words. That idea is vague to the point of being useless. If it does mean something, skeptics can’t disprove whatever it means, but proponents still can’t prove it’s true or disprove anyone else’s theories either.

2. You can’t prove a higher state of mind exists at all

10,000 years of religion and 200 years of psychology have proven if you commit your mind to connecting with Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, a higher level of consciousness, a parallel universe or Elvis, eventually you’ll find something that feels real to you.

There’s no scientific evidence that a spiritual-level higher state of consciousness exists at all, and the burden of proof doesn’t lay on the skeptic to disprove its existence. The burden of proof lies on the self-proclaimed gurus of the world to prove their “higher” state of mind isn’t just a subjective experience that satisfies their subconscious desires, but it’s impossible for them to do that. So their personal testimonies are hearsay.

3. Every self-proclaimed authoritative source contains evidence of lack of authority

Any Hindu Yogi will agree that you can’t put Om in a test tube, but when you look at Hinduism on a whole you’ll find text-book signs of mythology such as an oppressive caste system, astrology, scientifically unsupported statements about the nature of the universe and animistic deities. New Age books on enlightenment are just as baseless. When a belief system contains inconsistencies, absurdities, and culturally relative idiosyncrasies, it casts doubt on its authority on any subject.

The authority of a book doesn’t come from who wrote it, how long it has been around, or how many people believe it. Its authority comes from how rigorously its conclusions have been vetted. If you want to learn about the human mind, then study psychology, not mythology.

4. It’s unlikely that our design is flawed

Some theories of enlightenment claim your average state of mind is inherently flawed, and enlightenment is achieved by eliminating or escaping your base state. Advocates of this school of thought point to stress and crime as evidence that we need to eliminate some part of ourselves. Being a self-loathing Christian, I latched onto this idea quickly and held onto it for a while, but studying astronomy and anatomy led me to the conclusion that it takes less faith to assume our minds work correctly than it does to assume our minds are cosmically/spiritually flawed.

I don’t know if there’s an intelligent creator, or if the universe came into existence by random chance. I don’t know why or how humans came into existence, but I do know that the universe is designed to behave very specifically and elegantly. Subatomic particles, atoms, molecules and solar systems are ingeniously structured to snap together in powerful and predictable ways.

It can be no more of an accident that humans exist in this universe than it is for stars or planets. The amount of forward-thinking it would take to design a universe that can rearrange itself from nothing, into to an expanding gas cloud, that condensed itself into rotating galaxies full of planets that sprouted sentient beings is staggering.

The complexity of the human body is magnitudes greater than the complexity of the planet that germinated us. Our bones and muscles are a series of levers, counter-levers, and pulleys that are positioned to anticipate the need to use opposing forces to create a system of tensegrity that can hold a body upright and perform acrobatics. Humans beings are still years away from designing a robot that can move as nimbly as a human. We’re even farther away from creating a computer anywhere near as powerful as the human brain. We don’t fully understand how the human brain works, but so far we haven’t found anything arbitrary about its design or functions.

If water is supposed to freeze at 32 degrees Celsius and light is supposed to travel at 186,000 miles per second, then the human brain is probably supposed to do exactly what it has been meticulously designed to do by a force infinitely more “intelligent” than a hermit who probably can’t even tell you what the pancreas does.

5. I can’t make a categorical imperative out of devoting one’s life to meditation

If everyone who has ever existed, spent their entire lives meditating in monasteries, we would never have discovered the Periodic Table of Elements. We’d be fighting wolves with clubs and entertaining ourselves around the campfire by making up fantastic, mythological theories to explain what lightning, wind, and the sun are. That’s not the perfection of the human experience. That’s a wasted opportunity.

My conclusion

I can’t tell you what enlightenment is, or if it even exists. I have a theory that I try to apply to my life. It could be wrong in all or part. Take what you can from it. Leave the rest.

Enlightenment is like love. It’s a feeling, a state of mind, and an action at all once. You can be in love and actively love someone. You can’t put your finger on it, but everyone’s lives have been revolving around this intangible force for as long as humans have existed. There’s no definitive book on love, but millions of books have been written about it.

Love is a feeling of attraction between people. Enlightenment is the feeling of existing. It’s how it feels to be awake and conscious of your own individuality. The experience of being you is mind-fuckingly fluid. You slip in and out of states of consciousness constantly. In a single day, you can experience sleeping, waking up, rushing, resting, fearing, loving, fighting, reminiscing, meditating, obsessing, planning, daydreaming, problem-solving, memorizing, fantasizing, hating, hurting, regretting, celebrating, hungering, and giving up.

Each of these states of mind exists because our brains evolved to use them to solve real-world problems. Devoting your life to holding onto or letting go of any one of these is throwing the baby out with the bathwater and sabotaging your opportunity to fulfill your all-around potential. The key to experiencing the most ideal reality is to master every facet of your mind and become the best You that you can be. Through fulfilling your potential, you’ll achieve as much clarity as humans are designed to achieve. You won’t become a higher form of life. You’ll just be more mature, which is profound enough.

You are your reality. Everything you experience is defined by what’s in your head. In order to live in the best mind-space, you need to do at least 7 things:

1. Learn science.

The universe is a big, scary place, but we can study nature and figure out why things happen. Having a basic understanding of science will give you more peace of mind than turning your brain off and ignoring the mysteries of the universe.

Science also gives us the power to create reliable shelters, warm clothing, mass-produced food, medicine, and spaceships. These luxuries empower people to live more comfortable, meaningful lives than sitting on a mountain training your mind to ignore the cold.

With understanding comes peace and empowerment. Ignorance confuses and disempowers us. So if you want to maximize your mind, the first thing you need to do is learn science.

2. Learn problem-solving skills.

Everything you ever do will require you to solve problems. The better you are at solving problems, the better you’ll be at navigating life. The weaker your problem-solving skills are, the less control you’ll have over your life. The more you master the art of problem-solving, the more effortlessly you can stride past the obstacles that stand between you and your goals. This is a far more effective way of achieving peace of mind than clearing your mind and convincing yourself that your problems don’t exist.

3. Learn psychology.

You are your mind. If you ever hope to cope with your existence, let alone maximize the experience of being you, then you need to understand how your mind works. Studying psychology will teach you why you have so many different states of mind and how to control them. Mastering your mind will bring you more peace and fulfillment than denying it.

4. Define and refine yourself.

The universe doesn’t need us. We don’t serve any practical purpose outside of ourselves. Nothing would be lost if we disappeared. Yet the universe went through almost 14 billion years of trouble rearranging itself to create the conditions necessary to create us. If we were supposed to be nothing, then the universe would have made us nothing. I believe throwing away your identity defeats the purpose of existing in the first place. I believe you’re here to be you.

Studying science, problem solving and psychology give you the toolsets to accomplish whatever goals you have. The morality of an action is determined by how much it helps/hinders life achieve the most important goal, and the most important goal is to become the best you that you can be. To do that, you need to define who you are, who you want to be, and then create/execute a plan to improve yourself.

5. Meditate and smell the roses.

Psychology classes can prepare you to be yourself, but the world off-campus is a brutal place full of idiots and sociopaths with agendas. You’ll be pulled in every direction, and every aspect of your mind will be put to the test. If you never spend any time in solitude, focusing your mind inward, exploring and feeling what it is to be you, then the world will force its definition of you onto your mind.

You don’t always have to sit in a quiet room and clear your mind to feel at one with the universe. You can find moments during the daily grind to stop and smell the roses or to take a deep breath and just be. Schedule time in the evening to stop and marvel at the stars.

If the drama of life is too overwhelming, then turn your mind off for 15 minutes to experience the peace that comes from quietly being one with the universe. Once you’ve centered yourself, pick yourself back up and resume your quest with renewed focus.

6.  Do what you love.

Existence isn’t just something you passively experience. It’s something you do. Being a unique individual isn’t only accomplished solely by sitting in a room exploring the space behind your eyes. It’s something you do. The way you actively “be” yourself, is by doing what you love.

Doing what you love will bring you more peace and fulfillment than suppressing your passions. Those passions aren’t unnatural. Nature put them there. Nature gave you the freedom to express, enjoy and validate yourself through doing the things you love. If you’re not doing them, then you’re just letting life pass you by.

7. Love.

Solitude is an important tool in the quest to refine yourself, but if you were meant to be alone, then you would have been the only person to ever exist. If you want a transcendental experience that is more real and powerful than words can describe, then host a dinner party at your house and invite all the most important people in your life. The joy you’ll experience while communing with your loved ones will bring you closer to “God” than cutting yourself off from the world.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
How to Think Like a Genius

My Quest To Build A Perpetual Motion Machine

“A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, as it would violate the first or second law of thermodynamics.”

Despite the fact that it’s impossible to build a perpetual motion machine, many have tried, and all have failed, including me. This is the story of how and why I attempted the impossible.

Two events happened when I was seventeen years old that led to my decision, but in order to understand why those events mattered, you should know a little bit about me. The Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator says I have an INTP personality, and while that test isn’t perfect, it gives a pretty accurate description of me:

“INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities. Their weaknesses include poor organization, insensitivity to social niceties, and a tendency to get lost in abstractions. “

I’ve been that way my entire life, and like many other INTPs, I’ve also always had an affinity for puzzles. Growing up I was fascinated by riddles, chess, crossword puzzles, magicians, and Celtic knots.  So when I walked into my high school Economics class one day and noticed some student had left a print out of a chain-mail E-mail on the chalkboard tray that contained a logic problem the E-mail claimed only 5% of the population was smart enough to answer, I greedily stole the paper and took it home with me. It took me five hours to solve the problem, and to be honest, I got a little conceited over my victory until I realized I was naive enough to believe statistics in a chain mail.

The puzzle was hard, but it wasn’t that hard. This made me want to know what my limits really were. So I bought a bunch of puzzle books and worked my way through them with varying levels of success, but after a while they all got boring. I was just rearranging words, shapes, and numbers.  My actions felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve a really hard puzzle just for the fun of it and to test myself, but I wanted to do something that mattered.

This is the state of mind I was in when the second event occurred. I was sitting on the living room floor drawing while my father flipped through the television stations. He stopped it on PBS, which was playing the first episode of Stephen Hawking’s Universe. I watched in awe as Professor Hawking’s sci-fi voice took me on a tour of the evolution of scientific innovation. He amazed me with tales of scientific geniuses who had the ambition and audacity to solve the fundamental riddles of the universe. I’d heard of Galileo and Isaac Newton before, but until then I hadn’t put them on my list of personal heroes.

I watched the rest of the series as PBS slowly aired them. Then I went to the mall and bought the series on VHS with money I’d earned working as a projectionist at a small town, three-screen movie theater.  Every time I watched the tapes I understood a little bit more, but that just made me realize how little I really knew. I wanted to solve unsolved mysteries, but I knew I was never going to solve the problems cosmologists are working on today. Even if I could, I hate math. I wished I could have been born in Copernicus’s time. Back then a clever fellow could make historic discoveries with a few lenses and mirrors without using much math. By the time I was born all the easiest scientific questions had already been answered.

Feeling discouraged, I did some Google searches for unsolved scientific problems and stumbled across an article on perpetual motion. It hooked me immediately. Here was a real-world logic problem that could have a profound potential impact on humanity as well as my self-worth.

I bookmarked every site on the internet that even mentioned perpetual motion, and almost every one of them stated, with varying degrees of belligerency, that anyone who attempts to build a perpetual motion machine is stupid. I understood the reasoning behind the warnings, but they’re a little short-sighted.

Would these same critics ridicule anyone who attempted to solve the world’s hardest crossword puzzle? Time enjoyed is never time wasted. There’s no reason to judge people who want to try to solve theoretical logic puzzles, even when that entails building a useless machine. There are far worse hobbies a person could have, like trolling aspiring inventors on the internet. I knew from the beginning there was at least a 99.99% chance I’d fail, but the worst possible outcome is all my efforts would only amount to me having fun and practicing my thinking skills. If anyone laughed at me for that, then that’s their problem.

After ignoring the Internet’s warnings, I set a goal to design a machine that isn’t a true perpetual motion machine; it would break down eventually, but it would generate enough electricity in its lifetime to make the cost/benefit analysis of building it add up.  The problem with this goal is that it means the machine would have to generate more energy than it uses, which is even more impossible than building a machine that can run without losing energy.

These facts didn’t intimidate me because I learned the secret to solving impossible problems from Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek: Cheat.

If I couldn’t beat the rules, I would just work around them. Instead of building a machine that runs on its own power indefinitely, I would power it with a relatively inexhaustible energy source like gravity, buoyancy or magnetism. I hoped I could direct them in a novel way that tricks them into behaving counter-intuitively yet technically sound. These are my designs:

Design for a perpetual motion machine that pulls a metal ball up a ramp with a magnet and drops the ball in a hole that returns it to its starting point

My first idea used magnetism and gravity to pull a metal ball up a ramp. Just before reaching the magnet it would fall down a hole, and roll down a ramp back to its starting point and repeat the process. This idea probably wouldn’t work, because the magnet would just pull the ball over the hole.

Design for a modified ball/ramp/magnet perpetual motion machine in which the ball hits a lever, which pushes the magnet away, breaking the pull.

I thought you might be able to solve that problem by attaching a mechanism that uses the force of the ball to push a lever that either moves the head of the magnet away or pushes the ball away from the magnet, allowing the ball to fall down the hole.

Design for a perpetual motion machine with a piston that is pulled up by a magnet. The piston has a dongle that pushes the magnet away when the piston gets close, causing it to fall to its starting point.

If that concept worked, you could replace the ramp with a vertical shaft and replace the ball with a piston.

Design for a perpetual motion machine that has a train of rolling down a long, winding spiral, pulling its tail behind it.

Magnets wear out eventually though. So I came up with a design that only uses gravity as the power source: Attach wheels to ten identical rolling weights that basically look like trolley cars. Connect each trolley with identical length strings so they’re all connected in a circle. Put the trolley chain on a long, winding ramp that they roll down. At the bottom of the ramp is a steep vertical slope that leads back to the top of the ramp. The idea is that as long as more trolley cars are rolling downhill, pulling the car behind them, than there are trolley cars being lifted from the end back to the beginning, then the descending cars should lift the ascending cars.

Design for a perpetual motion machine using a train of underwater buoys pulling themselves up a long, triangular shaped ramp to be pulled back down a shorter path.

One problem with the trolley car idea is that it creates a lot of friction. I hypothesized I could improve the idea by turning it upside down and submerging it in water. Instead of using weighted trolleys, connect a ring of hollow buoys following a long, winding path up to a steep decline, where they would be pulled down to their point of origin by the higher number of rising buoys.

Design for a perpetual motion machine using a wheel of magnets pushing away from each other.

I wanted to come up with a design that involved a spinning wheel since that would make it easier to generate electricity. So I drew plans for a wheel with angled magnets that repel off other magnets anchored outside the wheel. I bought a hamster wheel and $100 worth of magnets and proved that this idea doesn’t work. The force from the external magnet that pushes one internal magnet away will prevent the next incoming internal magnet from passing the field of the external magnet.

The wheel could spin if you could turn the magnets off until they’re in position to repel. You could create this effect easily using electromagnets, but that would use more electricity than it produces. The wheel might spin if you could block the magnetic field until the magnets are in the position to repel, but I don’t know of any material that blocks magnetic fields.  The wheel might also spin if the magnetic fields could be redirected with ferromagnetic metal or you used a mechanism to push the external magnet away until the internal magnet is in place to be repelled.

Design for a perpetual motion machine involving a wheel with two ramps that guide balls in the spokes so that more are pushing down/counterclockwise than clockwise.

Even if those plans did work, they still used magnets. It would be better to have a wheel that’s powered just by gravity. In order for weights in a wheel to spin the wheel indefinitely, there would have to be more weights pushing counterclockwise than clockwise. I hoped that could be achieved through the use of two ramps.

At the age of nineteen, I tried building this wheel using paper and straws. It didn’t work. So I took the spokes out of a bicycle and replaced them with cardboard rectangles and golf balls. The balls kept getting stuck and bouncing away until the cardboard bent. So I bought two Erector Sets and made a more stable wheel. I never could get the weights to stay on track.

Having spent hundreds of dollars and hours, I finally decided I didn’t have the engineering skills to build anything. To this day, I still can’t put Ikea furniture together without it being wobbly and crooked. So I gave up trying to build a perpetual motion machine and got on with my life. I’ve thought about paying someone to construct my designs, and I would, but I’m not convinced any of these designs would actually work. Someday when I’m old and have more disposable income, I may pay someone to build all of them so I can decorate my foyer with them.

Even if they don’t work, they would make interesting steampunk decorations. They’d be good conversation starters. You’re welcome to use and profit from my perpetual motion machine designs in any way you want, free of charge.  They’re free domain.

P.S.

My quest for meaningful puzzles didn’t end when I quit working on my perpetual motion machine. In fact, part of why I lost interest is because I had moved on to the next puzzle: the meaning of life.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

My Vision for A Secular, Intellectual Monastery

On my “About” page I state that my long-term goal is to build an intellectual monastery. I’ve written a few blogs and comics explaining why I believe we can cure a lot of major world problems by using the monastic community model on a large scale.  You may be wondering why someone would spend so much time thinking about monasteries. This is the story of how and why I did.

I was born an introvert, which predisposes me to want to be left alone in a quiet place, and I’ve come to believe that the events of the first few months of my life predisposed me to the solitary life even more. I spent that time in an incubator in a hospital preparing for, receiving and recovering from heart surgery resulting from the premature birth of me and my identical twin brother. During that time, pretty much the only human contact I received was from a sweet, elderly nurse hovering above me. So my brain adapted to isolation and minimal sensory stimulation.

I showed up to life late and didn’t want to come out of my shell. So I let my identical twin brother speak for me until our parents caught on and made me go to speech therapy. I knew how to speak. The twin studies my brother and I went through showed we had above-average language comprehension. I just didn’t want to get involved with the drama of life. On the first day of kindergarten, I froze in the doorway to my classroom while all the other students stared at me.

As an adult, I’m a completely well-adjusted, functioning member of society. I spend as much time in crowds as anybody else. I can be the life of the party if I need to. I’ve competed in public speaking competitions and managed a computer help desk in a war zone. I’m good at being social. I just need to get away from the crowds and be alone to recharge my batteries more than the average introvert, and I still can’t watch Imax movies or go to theme parks, because all the commotion and sensory overload gives me a splitting headache and wears me out.

People are born all over the introversion/extroversion scale, and there’s no wrong place to be. That diversity is one of humanity’s greatest strengths. We need to understand our personal nature so we can adapt to it. I enjoy being introverted, and I take advantage of the perks it gives me, like the patience to write books and draw intricate pictures.

Back in elementary school, before I was old enough to articulate all of that, I’d daydream about escaping the daily commotion and living in a tree house in the woods. I wanted an orchard of different trees, and I’d build walkways between them and just never leave the canopy.

When I learned about monasteries in middle school history class, I was hooked immediately. I filled notebooks with floor sketches of monasteries and castles, plotted on grid paper.

But living in a castle wasn’t an option in South Texas. I was stuck in suburbia, which is a never-ending cycle of duties, rules, and drama. In high school, I romanticized about living in an insane asylum. As long as I wasn’t forced to take pills that turned me into a zombie, I could walk around in my pajamas, work on my hobbies and have three hot meals a day. It would be the perfect life.

Unfortunately, I’m too mentally healthy to qualify for a free meal. So in my early twenties, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and spent four years stationed in Europe… to my surprise. While I was there I did as much traveling as I could afford and got to see a lot of ancient communal living quarters, which inspired me to study up on the places I couldn’t go.

The history of Europe’s monasteries is set to the backdrop of the history of Europe itself, which is an almost never-ending saga of wars, famines, diseases and economic oppression. Monasteries weren’t immune to these forces, but they were insulated from the worst of it because they were self-sufficient. The monks had everything they needed and barely had to work part-time. Meanwhile, the peasants outside the walls were being used as slave labor and not earning enough to survive. Everyone should be as lucky as the monks, and if everybody had lived like the monks to begin with, most of Europe’s bloodshed and misery never would have happened.

I left Europe and the Air Force in my mid-twenties convinced that a monastery would be the best place in the world for me. So I scoured the internet to see what was available and was unsurprised to find they were almost all religious. This is a deal breaker for me because I believe religions are mythologies, and I don’t want to spend my life dancing around a mythology.

Even if I could play nice, most religious monasteries don’t accept heretics. The ones that do still tend to have schedules and rituals that are an unacceptable waste of time to me. The ones that give you the most freedom cost the most money. There are still a few that will let you stay for free, but you can’t stay long term.

As the internet grew I found more monasteries, but never one that was feasible for me. So I got on with my normal life, commuting back and forth between a house I didn’t own and a job I didn’t like. The longer I lived and worked in suburbia, the more fed up I got with the rat race, and the more time I spent escaping to my ideal monastery in my imagination.

After years of fretting, one day I got fed up and decided that if I could create a monastery in my head, then I could create it in the world. After all, I have opposable thumbs, bipedal legs, and a brain. There’s nothing I can’t do if I work on it long enough. So I threw down the gauntlet and said to myself, “That’s where I want to be. If nobody else has built it yet, then I’ll just build it myself.”So I researched how much it would cost to build a monastery, and I found that it would be at least $500,000 if I hired contractors to do it using standard construction methods. Since I didn’t have any money at all, I researched alternative building materials and floor plans to lower costs. I filled notebooks with sketches and notes until I settled on a circular design using sandbag walls.

Design for modular, pyramid shaped monastery rooms that minimize building materials needed Design for an underground monastery consisting of camper trailers with connected rooms Design for a crescent shaped monastery with a ring of underground camper trailersDrawing of a glass greenhouse shaped like a cathedral Drawing of an Airstream trailer in a hollow, man-made hobbit hill

Circular monastery design

Using the circular floor plan, I only need to build half for it to be functional. I could build that for $250,000 and finish the rest later.

That’s the plan. Now I just need the money. There are a lot of ways I could earn $250,000, and I’ve considered them all. In the end, I chose to meet my goal by writing. Some people would say that’s risky, but it’s what I enjoy doing, and it’s what I’d be doing if I lived in a monastery. This way, if I never get my dream home, at least I’ll have done the other thing I wanted to do.

While I’m writing towards my goal, I’m always thinking about new designs and business plans. Monasteries can be easily modified to suit different purposes, and with enough money, I would build multiple versions, but my ideal monastery, the one I’m going to build first, would operate like a long-stay working hostel for the gifted.

Tenants stay for three months to a year. They work part-time for the monastery, and that covers 100% of their room and board. There are no other schedules or rules, but each tenant has to be actively working on a creative project that has significant value to humanity. The monastery will also host retreats and workshops, and there will be a pay-by-donation campground at the edge of the property to generate passive income.

That’s what I’m working towards and why you can always expect new content on The Wise Sloth. If you want to see some random guy on the internet build an intellectual monastery, here’s how you can help.

  • If you’re an eccentric millionaire who can afford to give an eccentric pauper $250,000 just to see what happens, click the Donate button below.
  • If you know an eccentric millionaire who would give a guy like me $250,000 just to see what happens, then send them the link to this blog.
  • If you want to donate a few thousand dollars, I would invest that money in editing my E-books and putting them into print so I can earn $250,000.

Click to donate via PayPal

I’m not going to nickel and dime my way to building this. I’m very grateful to anyone who wants to throw me tip money to show your support, but I would encourage you to give that to The Khan Academy instead. I may never get my monastery, but they’re providing free online education to the world. The world won’t change until it’s educated.  Every nickel and dime they get makes the world less stupid, and that can’t come quick enough.

Khan Academy logo (Click to donate to the Khan Academy)

In lieu of a donation, you can tell your friends about the Wise Sloth and share your favorite Wise Sloth blog on social media. If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending your time with me. You can look forward to seeing more thought-provoking posts on The Wise Sloth, and eventually, you’ll get to watch me build my monastery.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

Why Do I Write The Wise Sloth Blog?

Note: This explanation goes into the major life events that led to the creation of The Wise Sloth. If you want the short answer, scroll down and read the last four paragraphs.

The motivation for me to write The Wise Sloth probably started in the first year of my life. I was born prematurely because I have an identical twin brother. He was healthy, but my heart wasn’t done developing. So I had to spend the first few months of my life in an incubator until I was strong enough to survive heart surgery. Over the course of the ordeal, I flat-lined seven times. After the surgery, I was still in and out of the hospital for the next year with pneumonia.

San Marcos, Texas 1984

By the age of six, I had been told a million times how lucky I was to be alive, and since I was raised in the deeply religious state of Texas, I was also told God must have a very special plan for me. Being 6 years old, I believed what I adults told me and often wondered what important mission God must have gone through so much trouble to keep me alive to accomplish. Eventually, I stopped believing God had a plan for me, but I still always carried a sense of responsibility to do something valuable with my life.

My parents divorced when I was six-years-old, and my two brothers and I spent the rest of our childhoods bouncing back and forth between houses, which were on opposite sides of Texas. Our parents were always working and always stressed. So I had very little supervision, and what discipline I got consisted mostly of screaming and spankings. By the age of eight, I started becoming aware nobody was going to teach me how to become a mature, responsible, self-actualized adult. The only way it was ever going to happen was if I taught myself.

I did well in school, but I wasn’t top of my class. I made my first “C” on my report card in middle school when I stopped hanging out with nerds and started hanging out with the bad kids who smoked cigarettes and shoplifted. I made my first “F” my freshman year in high school when I started hanging out with kids who smoked marijuana and stole whatever wasn’t bolted down. I took a lot of drugs in those days and lost my mind a little bit. I couldn’t remember what normal was supposed to feel like, and I would constantly ask myself what reality is.

I started carrying a notebook with me to draw and collect quotes in. Pretty quickly, I started writing my own quips and then essays. The more notebooks I filled up, the less they included pictures and quotes, and the more they included questions and essays. I still carry a notebook with me everywhere I go and write down ideas and sketch out blogs in them. I call them my “ideation notebooks.”

Trippy drawing of myself that I did on the margin of my class notes in high school.

Paris, Texas 2015

At the age of seventeen, I took a larger dose of hallucinogens than I was used to and spent the night talking to God. The next day I threw away my cigarettes and started reading the Bible. Later that year I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church, and my notebooks began to fill up with religious questions and observations. I was particularly obsessed with the question of the meaning of life. I felt paranoid that I would die without being able to say for sure that I made the most out of life, and I wanted to know for sure that I gave my future children the best life advice possible.

So I made a conscious decision to actively and systematically try to figure out life, meaning, maturity, responsibility, and self-actualization to the best of my ability. To streamline the process I created a systematic method of problem-solving based on basic math principles and the scientific method.

After graduating high school I attended a Baptist university where I studied the Bible and social sciences. I hoped to apply my systematic method of problem-solving to the Bible and create the perfect argument for Christianity. However, I barely had to scratch the surface of Genesis before it became undeniably obvious that the Bible is a simple and blatant work of primitive mythology.

By the end of my first year in university, I lost my faith, left school and started drinking and using drugs again. After taking a year out of life to do backbreaking manual labor with felons and immigrants, I joined the Air Force as a computer technician. Working with computers helped me hone my problem-solving skills, and being in the military allowed me to see the world and find new questions and answers that I would never have been exposed to living in small-town Texas. It also gave me time to consolidate my philosophies into a treatise on the meaning of life.

I had only been at my first duty station for a few months before September 11th happened. I watched the planes hit the Twin Towers on the television in my First Sergeant’s office while he handed me disciplinary paperwork for failing my room inspection. I wrote a rebuttal, but it fell on deaf ears. Over the next six years, I watched the American military tear the Middle East apart. I asked everyone in any position of authority I could why we invaded Iraq, and I never got a straight answer. So I started looking for one on my own. The more I analyzed the situation the more I lost faith in our mission. The only explanation that made any sense was that destabilizing the Middle East wasn’t an accident. It was the point.

Photo of me in my Air Force uniform taken at Ali Al Salem Air Base in 2004. I'm pale as a ghost.

Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait 2004

The last few years I was in the military I took night classes studying psychology, which led me to the conclusion that the military is a cult. I left the military full of guilt and shame at a time when it was viciously taboo in American culture to criticize the military or the preeminence of America.

Around the time I left the military one of my brothers was building a huge following blogging on MySpace under the screen name, “The Mad Goat.” He looked like he was having fun, and people were listening to the things he had to say, even it was just belligerent, drunken stories with dubious moral lessons at the end. So I started vomiting my drunken, belligerent viewpoints on MySpace as well. I copied the formula for my brother’s screen name, “The” + “adjective” + “animal”  and chose “The Wise Sloth” because I aspire to be wise, and I make an art form out of laziness.

The quality of my writing was awful. I had no business writing or expecting anyone to pay attention to my drivel, but a few people did, and that fueled my desire to keep going. Around 2008, MySpace basically died as everyone migrated to Facebook. At that point, my brother stopped blogging and got on with his real life. I started a WordPress blog and copied over the few decent posts I’d written. Unfortunately, I lost 99% of my readership and had to build a new audience without the advantage of having a social networking platform built right into my blogging platform.

I decided to keep blogging for several reasons. First, my blog is an extension of my journals, where I catalog my own observations about life as I struggle to get it all figured out for myself. The fact that The Wise Sloth is public is an added bonus. I know there are a lot of people asking the same questions as me. If I can help them find answers quicker, I may be able to help make the world a better place for both of us.

Sometimes I choose my blog topics based on what I think my readers would benefit from or what would increase traffic to my site. My essays on sexual positions and techniques accomplish both of those goals.  Blogging also gives me a pulpit to speak about subjects that don’t get enough attention, like the fact that the U.S. Military is a cult, Christianity is mythology, capitalism is the root of most of the world’s problems, and locally sustainable communities are the solution to most of those problems.

As I write enough posts on a subject, I’m compiling them into books. I’ve made a few hundred dollars off The Wise Sloth from book sales and donations, which is a horrible return on investment considering that I’ve put thousands of hours of work into it, but that doesn’t bother me. I would still do it if I won the lottery and never had to worry about money again, and I’d still be writing if I knew for a fact that I’d never make any money off of it.

Having said that, I do want to make money from blogging, but I’m consciously playing the long game here. As long as I never stop blogging, it’s only a matter of time before I write enough books or create enough viral content to raise serious money. When that happens I’ll be able to fulfill my ultimate goal of building a secular, intellectual monastery. In the meantime, I’ll be playing my little humble part in raising awareness of important issues. Whenever I die, I’ll leave something behind that will hopefully in some way justify my existence. Then all the work my doctors (and possibly God) put into keeping me alive when I was a baby won’t have been in vain. Or maybe all of my irreverent, vulgar words will be nothing but a huge disappointment, but at least I’ll have had fun writing them.

Photo of me taken in Colorado in 2015 holding a 40 ounce coffee mug

Denver, Colorado 2014

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Blogging
My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

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