Life With Toast

Green light, red light

The sharp refection of a downtown 'scraper's glass panels bounce off my closed left eye as I wait for the light to change. Click - for some reason I always hear a click in my mind - the light goes green and I go off. I already know my fate: I'm not going to make the next light. Yet I rush towards it, pedalling against the timer I see next to the blinking red hand on the corner. The car which was impatiently waiting to pass me, squeezes by and through the yellow light that I am forced to watch click red from several meters away.

I take the same route to and from work everyday. I'm learning which lights are run on timers and which aren't. The ride back from work in particular feels straight out of some version of groundhog day, with the San Francisco perma-temperate climate assuring me I have been here before. But have I? Jack from today and yesterday are pretty much the same, but also not. Yesterday I may have been occupied with whatever issue was going on at work, or today I may be fixated by a cheeseburger I plan on having later. Or I may be just taking in the sights and sometimes strange smells of the city. Regardless, the Jack experiencing the bike ride home today is not the same as the one yesterday nor the Jack of tomorrow. 

We set our lives by cycles, adapting to the climate, commute and circumstances through them. Without them, we are tormented, tossed, and torn to pieces. While dramatic, imagine eating and sleeping at completely random and unscheduled times. Cycles are boundaries in which nature sets its roots. The basis of our human cycles is repetition: The routes, the sights, the people, the thoughts. I'm barely into a work routine and I already see this so clearly. Or maybe because i'm starting I am aware of the patterns forming. In some commuting veterans I can see the metaphors in the faces on the train. He is the canyon carved by thousands of years of flowing water taking the path of least resistance. She is the tide to a moon that will rise once more. Like the gravitational pull of some large and mysterious body, our cycles can slowly drag us into an inevitable fiery end. Or they can remind us that the fundamental nature of mother nature is cyclical.

Indeed happiness, curiosity and suffering are the same as seasons, the forests, and the oceans. None of them persist unchanged, none of them are the exactly the same twice, and none of them exist without each other. That's the rules: No repeat button. It may seem like your spouse or partner is slowly turning into cement, or that your job never changes or the light will always turn red before you get there. However, fundamentally this cannot be true as uncertainty is constant. Human perception and human construction team up to wrap much of this uncertainty in nice shiny packages, like Christmas presents hiding a mess of circuit boards and plastic that make up their content beneath.

Incredibly, we've developed tools of great power that we can pronounce once rarified physical laws - if I drop a ball from my hand, gravity will take it to the ground at 9.8 m/s^2 - to be merely approximations. Evolutionarily, our brains need to process whether or not that shape in the dark is a lion is approaching. A rough shape, color, and sound are enough information to scare the shit out of our proverbial ancestor. Past our perceptual wrapping of the world, however, is uncertainty in it's purest form. More specifically, physicists have shown that you cannot know the exact location of the smallest bits of information we have observed. Think of a tiny cloud instead of a tiny point. Taking this up the elevator to the human scale, it's hard to say of it's impact on the brain and behavior (yet). But it does tell us this: that nothing is ever the same twice.

No matter how much we want the world to be certain and clean and cut into discrete pieces, it is not. While this may be scary on the surface, this fact can also be profoundly comforting. There is no pressure for perfection or certainty because it does not exist. You can never know why something happened because it can never be known in a literal sense. We have great approximates, but don't let that fool you into the burden of certainty. Yet we often do, and by doing so we carry the weight of every little action with us: Each of us a David with a personal Goliath strapped to our back. Why carry it? We have precious little conscious resources to start with, the last thing we need is to strain our attention with such fine grain control and analysis. So why not give up that desire for certainty and control?

You never had it in the first place.