Thursday, 1 October 2020

My subscribers discuss leading a meaningful life (vs. playing video games).


[Eisel is] pretty generous with what is meaningful vs. what’s meaningless. Video gaming is a particularly meaningless activity that’s addictive which wastes many hours that could have been spent doing literally anything else constructive.

I think his critique of hardcore gamers is so powerful because he doesn’t have a default alternative “meaningful” activity to propose: the question of what is meaningful is left as an exercise for the reader (or watcher).

I don’t think Eisel would balk at my saying that household chores like dishwashing, dusting, sweeping, making your bed, &c., are all much more constructive than spending the same amount of time playing games, even though these activities are really not meaningful at all per se.

I think the short answer is this: almost anything is more meaningful than gaming, but what’s most meaningful for a particular person will vary, based on this person’s goals, aspirations, talents, dispositions, &c.



At least we know that playing video games will make you a lot worse as a person, with nothing or very little to gain. With intellectual pursuits, in subtle ways they're likely to change you for the better, but in a profound sense, you may fall short. Disappointment is possible, perhaps it is even likely. There is a big risk to intellectual pursuits and that's why I'm struggling to determine why I should read X book or study X subject because I don't know if it will take me anywhere. I don't know if i'll have any real use for it. It's all well and good being an expert in X but what's your real use for it, what difference can you make with that knowledge? If no one in your life cares about it and if you can only get jobs that have nothing to do with it, then what is the point? Whether it's learning about history, or politics, or psychology, or learning a language. My question would be, do I have to go to university and have a job in mind in order for my studies to be worthwhile? If anyone has any ideas, by all means let me and others know. I'm sure when others ask the question "what do you mean by meaningful?", they probably have these dilemmas in mind, too.


I can relate @OneLifeTX3 . If you were a serious alcoholic and you cease to be one, it's a nice thing but you merely become on par with everyone else. Now you just have a better opportunity to do something good (whatever that would mean to you). You're still accountable to procrastination or worst investing all your time that is in one way or another ultimately meaningless/flawed.



[Eisel's] sense of what is meaningful has seemingly shifted throughout his life and with some subjects it's easier to understand why he stopped studying them. He has lived in various places and has studied plenty of different subjects and languages. The big questions would be, what has it done for @a-bas-le-ciel (Youtube name)? What has all that study amounted to? More knowledge, yes, but why is more knowledge intrinsically a good thing?


He talks about personal transformation, both good and bad: “the reward is being who I am.”


Yeah, i've seen a lot of his videos. I remember him talking about the downsides and him admitting to regret.

I think what i'm struggling with is, if what you pursue in life, in this case it's an intellectual pursuit, can't lead to a career and doesn't lead to you making an impact in many other people's lives, then what is the point? If it's knowledge that only really impacts and changes you but no one else cares about, then what? Where does that leave you? Sure you can find people online to talk to - but there is a risk it is an endeavour that'll lead to isolation and frustration. I'm speaking only of independent, solitary learning, the type that Eisel has described before. I look at my own life, surely any intellectual pursuits I take on ought to lead to a university degree, and then hopefully lead to a job. I can understand how that would be a good ambition and there is a clear path, with clear intentions. It'd be better than what i'm doing now, probably. With language learning, i'm sure there're more options than just the university to job pipeline and that is something that i'm considering.


[Henry Alex:]

Let's clean up the definition of "meaning" here. Unlike you seem to be implying, I don't consider meaning and happiness or enjoyment to be the same thing or even to necessarily be concomitant. In fact, you'll find that meaningful things are arduous and cause significant discomfort. So what's meaning?

I take meaning to be the pursuit of an objectively better world. Something feels meaningful if someone considers it to achieve something positive beyond their own subjective experience. The hypothetical trainwatcher may enjoy his hobby, but I think would be mistaken to call it "meaningful," as his definition for meaning and lasting enjoyment would be the same.

The Taliban fighters find it meaningful (by my definition) to engage in the form of jihad which they do. It's not easy for them to engage in those conflicts, they'd probably get more enjoyment from Netflix, but jihad is part of a pursuit for a better world. We'll agree that they're not making the world better, but worse. Hence their subjective interpretation regarding the meaning of their lives is flawed at a very fundamental level. 

It's possible, by my definition of meaning therefore, to judge the life of another person and determine whether or not it's meaningful in the same way we would in the Taliban fighter's situation. There is a lot of nuance of course. 

In Eisel's case, if his work did or would have reasonably led to positive change in the world, then to an observer who embraces my definition of meaning, his work was meaningful, regardless of how much Cambodia means to the observer.


[Henry Alex:]

like I said, the word "meaning," much like "morality," has been highly abstracted. 

I think people are looking for how they fit into the grand scheme of things. A role to play in the world that would make their lives significant bro something outside of themselves. 

The reason atheists are often associated with a meaningless life is because they appear to no longer have this thing outside of themselves. 

Meaning gets distorted, I think, by  its correlation with the feeling of fulfillment that comes with living a meaningful life. 

Reverence, achievement, and discomfort can induce this feeling. For example, people who wake up at 5am to jog get a feeling of fulfillment from the activity. Same goes for those pursuing personal wealth and those playing a hero in a video game. But with maturity, reality does set in. People go through life crises as a result of realising that what has given them a sense of fulfillment all along has just been a smokescreen to a life devoid of meaning. They haven't played any important role in society to bring good to it. 

You'll see videos recommending to people to quit social media and gaming in exchange for "meeting people," "starting a side hustle," "spending time with family," and dressing these things in meaning. While they produce a feeling of fulfillment in the person engaging in them, these activities do not necessarily contribute positively to something greater. Highlight the part where I say that meaningful things induce a feeling of fulfillment, and are usually concomitant with reverence, achievement, and discomfort (RAD). Hence people take other things producing RAD to be meaningful.


Re: "I think his critique of hardcore gamers is so powerful because he doesn’t have a default alternative “meaningful” activity to propose: the question of what is meaningful is left as an exercise for the reader (or watcher)."

In general, the next step of the conversation relates to "What kind of person do you want to be?", and then "How is the work you're doing (the choices you're making as to how you spend your finite time) fashioning you into a different person, perhaps NOT the kind of person you'd want to be?"

I think this adumbrates the positive sense of a meaningful life for most people, without narrowing it down overmuch.  If I had a conversation with someone who truly, truly, didn't want to do anything with their lives aside from bench-press 350 pounds, sleep with about 100 good-looking women, and be dead by age 45, then this "methodology" would yield strange results.

However, the vast majority of people start supplying their own guidelines for a meaningful life even if you just iterate this much.

Re: "I don’t think Eisel would balk at my saying that household chores like dishwashing, dusting, sweeping, making your bed, &c., are all much more constructive than spending the same amount of time playing games, even though these activities are really not meaningful at all per se."

You could phrase this as, "I want to be the kind of person who can run his own household, take care of his own apartment, and not rely on other people (nor pay other people) to do these things for me…" --i.e., this sort of thing is captured under the broader "doing work that equates to the kind of person I'd want to be/become" category, even if it isn't within the "meaningful" category (and that's debatable of course: some people might well count washing the dishes as meaningful).

[Johnny Christ:]

i honestly think i have met at least a few people who would like to see them selves as great rather than doing great things  the reason ive asked all the questions is because i honestly think to relentlessly mock and call the grown men playing video games would be more helpful than asking who do you want to be, how can you achieve this

i only recently turned 18 i used to play video games and when me and my friends would play against grown men if you started being salty we would ask them like why are you wasting your time playing kids games

and often if you asked them why you not off starting a family or something there would be great shame in their voice in reply


Re: "In my experience having quit playing video games, I just spend more time watching Youtube videos now, browsing twitter, having long phone calls with people. Yes, many of the videos I watch are politically related and are intellectually stimulating, but even if these activities are marginally better, it's easy to kid myself and act superior just because i've dumped video games, which lets say for the sake of this argument, are the ultimate waste of time."

I have to say, honestly, watching the news (or even low quality political commentary ("news commentary"), like TYT) really is significantly more meaningful than playing any video game: the accumulation of what you'd learn over a few months or a few years is significant… even if, really, you're just listening to lazily researched crap from TYT, complaining about Donald Trump's refugee policies, etc.

I often listen to that kind of crap while lifting weights, etc., but as the hours add up, the information adds up, and your own thoughts are circling around interesting issues, you're coming to interesting conclusions of your own, enriching-and-informing your life in a way that Mario Galaxy & Mario Odyssey never possibly could.

It's a useful contrast, frankly: like, "this isn't researching the cure for cancer, BUT STILL… compared to video games…" it's a meaningful contrast.


True. I think the reason I’m so self critical is because I’m nowhere near the person I could be. Nor am I sure what I want to do with my life. I find reading books to be a chore, yet watching videos to be easy. I could be reading everyday, yet I almost always pick watching political commentators & your videos over picking up books. I know there is so much more depth to books & that is something that, over time, I hope I will embrace rather than shun.


Re: "With intellectual pursuits, in subtle ways they're likely to change you for the better, but in a profound sense, you may fall short."

Dude… last night, before I fell asleep, I was recalling how to bargain/haggle in Laotian, Thai and Cambodian…

And, right now, honestly, I CANNOT remember that vocabulary for Chinese.

My intellectual pursuits DID NOT work out the way I'd wanted them to in life --not even remotely close to "the worst case scenario".  I worked so hard in Laotian only to end up being treated like shit by university professors at UVic, and being a beginner again in another language (with a whole lot of worse situations along the way)…


Nobody could/would say that my time would have been better spent speedrunning Mario 64, Mario Galaxy, etc., during those years.  However little benefit and however much damage those intellectual pursuits did to me… STILL.


[Replying to Henry Alex, re: work.]

In these videos, sometimes I put more emphasis on the "work" aspect, and sometimes less.  My recent video (of just a few days ago) talking about Buddhism and why someone would (or would not) move to Thailand, etc., put the emphasis entirely on "work" --much less emphasis on the outcomes of the work, much less on the question of meaning-vs.-meaninglessness.


[Replying to Johnny Christ.]

Re: " i honestly think to relentlessly mock and call the grown men playing video games would be more helpful than asking who do you want to be, how can you achieve this"

I am open to the possibility that there is real value in satire, comedy, mockery, ridicule, etc. -- including political value, and value in spurring people to commit to making a personal change.

Making people aware of something they were unaware of, making people feel ashamed of something they hadn't even thought to feel ashamed of before, etc. -- these things (accomplished through satire, etc.) do indeed have weight.  And I've certainly tried, in my small way, to change the world through mockery in the past (mostly mockery within the vegan movement… but still, the "methodology" isn't so much different from what you've described).

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Applying for a very humble job with the local city council.

To the administrators and elected officials at __________,

My involvement in municipal politics began when I was still a university student in Toronto: I started attending and participating in city council plenary sessions, and my name's appearance on the hansard was, for many years, the first search result that popped up when my name was put into google.

My reasons for studying political science at that time, my reasons for volunteering at city hall, and my reasons for applying for this job, right now, have always been to make the positive difference that I can make: most members of my generation are preoccupied with grandiose fantasies of political change on a huge scale, or in faraway places (there is, for example, always more interest in Syria and Afghanistan than there is in municipal politics).

What I learned, as a teenager, was that focussing your energy and effort on the difference that you CAN make is much more important than the differences you CANNOT make (however inspirational or grand).

In the years since my youthful attempts to make the world a better place in Toronto, I've lived and worked all over the world, before settling in Victoria (where I returned to university at UVic), and I've lent my efforts to a variety of political and charitable causes (from Cambodia to Saskatachewan, in brief).

I understand that I may be overqualified for this position (that only requires a high school education, etc.), but I'm volunteering for it with the same sincere interest in the positive difference I can make, on however humble a scale, here and now.

Eisel Mazard (Mr.)

Thursday, 27 August 2020

You cannot learn from snow: you learn from walking in other men's footsteps in the snow.


Alec:  Why is handwriting such an important skill to you? Isn't handwriting almost obsolete?

Eisel Mazard:  Is it better by means of the hand to train the mind, or by means of the mind to train the hand?  People will readily admit that there is no training of the hand without training of the mind; but they are eager to imagine they can train the mind without the training of the hand.  You cannot learn from snow: you learn from walking in other men's footsteps in the snow.  These are the footsteps.

Monday, 24 August 2020

A brief Q&A on my (stated) alienation from Canadian culture.

[Question from a viewer:] Why do you feel more connected to a poverty-stricken country like Cambodia, rather than your birthplace, Canada, when you share next to nothing with the inhabitants of said poverty-stricken country? (language, culture, beliefs about a better society etc.)

What makes you think, that you wouldn't develop a kind of resentment towards the people and culture of Cambodia, similar to that, which you have for Canada, if you tried to get involved in their political processes? ————— [My reply.] Switzerland is not built on genocide. Canada is. Canada has a third-rate imitation of European culture, painted over the failure of British Empire colonization —and the "success" of British Empire slavery and genocide. That's not what Switzerland is, that's not remotely comparable to the historical forces (and cultural accumulation) that produced Swiss culture as it now is. You can repeat this paragraph with "Laos" instead of "Switzerland".
[Yes, BTW, I made that graphic and posted it as part of the reply.]

[This Q&A arose in response to the following video that briefly (and bluntly) states that I'm extremely alienated from Canadian culture, political institutions & society:]

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Love is a way of living with other people, not a way of living FOR other people.

This is the denouement to my old video (that I can't believe anyone finds controversial… it's only two minutes long!), "When your gf dumps you because you're not vegan."  Link:

Books I'm reading, and books I'm NOT reading…

A peculiar snapshot: I have very little time to read (in English)… and the tension of feeling that I ought to be studying Chinese (if not French, also) with all available time is symbolized, to some extent, in that first image, above.