… is a thing I’m trying to focus on more. Some scattered thoughts about it:

Someone gave me a book on alchemy, and after rolling my eyes, I had a read. It was only like 50 pages. The first few pages are dedicated to explaining how alchemy isn’t really about “lead -> gold”; it’s about becoming a whole/purified/fulfilled human.

Chapter 2 is about what we do when we waste time. What we do for its own sake. Some kind of argument about how that is how we become divine. (Catholics, the author gives a shout out to the Mass as performed by monks for themselves. My opposition to the mass was always that there is no point. The monks would agree that there is no point, and yet that would be why they like doing it.)

Ok, well. I’ve been feeling a bit joyless recently, and so I guess it’s a good idea to tune into that part of the brain. Like, if you’re trying to learn to play music, or maybe to write music, you try to listen to what sounds right sometimes and amplify that. If you’re trying to be a good chef, you have to pay attention to what tastes right. You can’t really notice it if you’re not even listening or tasting. So I guess if you’re trying to exist in our modern world, you try to listen to what feels right.

One useful framing to me is, “would I do that again?” Like just looking out over the last minute or hour or day and say, “if I had a time machine and could go experience that again, would I?” If the answer is yes, then you just enjoyed something! (This sounds like the most basic thing in the world, maybe, but uh… I’m kind of an alien sometimes? This thought experiment helps me untangle things like “well… it’s good for me, I guess” or “well, I got paid” - if you’d go back in the time machine, and redo it for no other reason than to experience it again, that’s enjoyment! Everything else is a different thing!)

Anyway, it’s tough, though! Especially if you keep looking back and going “nope, not that; not that either; hmm, hasn’t been anything for the past few days really.” It’s like writing a bunch of bad music in a row, I guess, or tasting a bunch of bad food. You begin to doubt your ability to write/cook.

Some examples:

Video games, primarily Slay the Spire. I have enjoyed this quite a lot! However, two problems. One is that it gets me in this amped up achieving-things state. Another is that, if I lose, it gets me in this amped-up kinda angry state! The whole thing is usually a net positive, though, so I’d say I enjoy this.

Biking. This is a mixed bag. I enjoy going fast; sometimes it feels really nice. Sometimes I get nice endorphins too. Sometimes I see nice scenery. Sometimes it hurts a lot and I just want to get home. On the whole, I’d usually say I enjoy this.

Flitting through the internet. I … don’t know. Sometimes I love it, usually involving weird humor. Sometimes I’ll have wasted some time and feel kind of strung out.

Meditating. I’m starting to, sometimes, occasionally, enjoy this. It’s far from a thing I’m looking forward to, but I can see how it could become that.

Note that this is different from the question of “should I do X?” This is a separate question from “did I enjoy X?” Right now I’m just sharpening the enjoyment sense. More like “did that food taste good?” than “should I eat that food?”

Also note that there are a few levels of granularity. It might be worthwhile for me to notice, not just “did I enjoy this whole bike trip”, but “did I enjoy the last 5 minutes in the middle of this bike trip.”


Adam Jaffe -

I fully relate to much of this. When people talk about “figuring out who you are,” or whatever, I think a large part of that is figuring out what you actually enjoy, and how certain activities affect your mood. I’ve also realized that there’s stuff I thought I liked but don’t actually, and society also indoctrinates us into thinking we *should* like certain things. Just as an example, everybody seems to love hanging out at a pool/beach, relaxing and drinking; it’s like the default leisure activity. I’ve only realized fairly recently that I actually hate doing that and find it insanely boring.
I was in a terrible mood the other day and, after improv class, observed my mood hugely and dramatically improve. So, I guess I do really like improv!
Just keep continuing the process, I suppose, and don’t feel the need to repeat activities you don’t enjoy.

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