So after two really big poker blog posts I wanted to write about some stuff much more important to me that will probably appeal to a much smaller % of the people who read this.
I actually remember the first time I thought to myself "holy shit I exist." I think I was 6 or 7 or something and just watching TV, and I more or less thought to myself "the fact I exist, much less anything exist, is pretty damn mind blowing." I imagine most people have had a similar experience where they realize for just a glimpse how awesome life/existence is and there mind just fills up with excitement and awe. It still happens to me every once in a while when I'm trying to do something or learn something and I think "Wow I exist and I'm young and healthy and I have the freedom to do whatever I want. Why do I even think or care so much if I get some grade on some test or I win some pot playing poker?"
Now when I am thinking this way, I really like the way I look at the world and how I react to different situations. I call this being "conscious" in the sense that I am currently aware and thinking "I am Matthew Janda, I am healthy, and I have the free will to choose what decisions I make and what I do with my life." I compare this to how I usually auto-pilot through the day and more or less react how I feel I should react. If I run into traffic and I'm not "conscious" I will get annoyed like most people do and think "wow I run so bad figures there is traffic hot damn the government sucks at like everything nice job USA lets keep getting more and more into debt and destroy industries like poker while continuing to suck ass at things like transportation where if we had better roads our GDP would higher but blah blah blah." Nope, if I'm conscious, it's more or less "Alright well no big deal, this gives me 30 minutes to think about concept X which has been on my mind and a bit of traffic won't affect my life negatively in any meaningful way."
So where is the happy ending to me becoming self-aware and reaching enlightenment and no longer autopiloting my life? When did I start to embrace how lucky I am and how I have my health and live at a time with no wars so if a war does erupt in 40 years I won't be the guy saying "wow I took it all for granted when things were so good" like 99% of the population will be? Well, it hasn't happened, at least not yet. Staying conscious seems to burn an incredibly lot of energy for me. I cannot constantly think about how awesome my life is, how I have thousands of choices I can make which impact my life every day, etc. without becoming exhausted. It's gotten to the point where I'm able to do it a lot better now than I used to be, but it's still basically exhausting to constantly have your mind working. Instead it still feels like I get quick episodes where I'm more aware, thinking more clearly, and realizing things I take for granted the rest of the day. Those episodes happen more often now, but I still auto-pilot most of the day.
Now lets fast forward to how most of us actually live our lives. I am a huge, huge believer that the brain normalizes just about everything and it has to. Oddly enough I think the best example of this is seen just with our everyday entertaininment. I'm currently writing this on a new $1000 computer which runs insanely fast (built it last week) on a 27" 1920x1200 monitor. I've played a few matches of starcraft 2 since I got this thing, and the first game was amazing. I went from the lowest graphic settings to seeing super sharp super crisp images on the "ultra" setting and the computer running amazingly smooth. How many games did it take before my brain normalized that "this is how starcraft 2 is supposed to look?" About 3 games. Now if I'm not forcing myself to say "wow, look at how awesome this is and how cool it is that when I do have free time I get to play on such an awesome PC" then I forget how cool this new computer is and I'm back to thinking this is "default."
Look at how most super rich celebrities live and how screwed up some of their lives are. They basically can have whatever they want, and they've normalized everything (sex, good food, being able to travel wherever you want) so now they turn to drugs. Granted, sometimes that results in awesome songs like this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLvohMXgcBo&ob=av3e, but more frequently it results in them being extremely unhappy and often even suicide. These are the richest and most beautiful people in the world normalizing everything and ending up much less happy than when they started and that's insane.
Basically, I've come to the point where I think the key to happiness is walking the fine line where you allow your brain to normalize things the right amount. If you never normalize anything, you won't push yourself further and further. You'll be too happy making $40/hr at a pretty good job rather than trying to make $80/hr at a job you really like. You'll be too happy with the techonology of today and not push for the technology of tomorrow. When you're unsatisfied you'll try to fix what isn't making you happy and hopefully improve your current situation, which just isn't possible if you're always happy. If one knew for sure they'd stay happy with their current situation this would not be a problem, but unfortunately random variables (whether, diseases, aging etc) don't really make this possible.
Yet if your normalize everything your life starts to suck. Imagine the world without internet, running water, easy access to good food, safety, etc. We take all of that for granted and we keep wanting more and more. I get so pissed off when I see poor people whine about how shitty they have it when they have it much better right now than my grandparents did. My great grandfather was probably fist pumping when he first bought a refrigerator and I know my dad did a double fist pump when he got his first color TV, but nowadays people who have it way better just whine and whine. People in America love to whine about the "1%" of rich Americans, yet they don't give two shits about that fact that many of them are in the top 1% in the world. It is insane that they've normalized their lives and the technology around them so much that they have a huge sense of entitlement.
Cliffnotes: While it takes a ton of mental energy to focus on the bigger things and life and not just react from one situation to another, it is probably worth it to try to really appreciate how great many things are rather than just letting your brain normalize it. Pushing yourself to become better while still enjoying what you have is probably the closest recipe to happiness I've seen so far in my young life.