Imaginary conversations

There’s a shared balcony in my building where I smoke in the evenings. Sometimes, I imagine myself telling my feelings to someone, my worries about leaving and restarting. ‘Like, I just feel like I’m floating around with no real purpose nor direction. But I can’t stop either because I would feel more hopeless, so the solution is to continue pushing forward, somewhere, anywhere. But everyone else seems to have decelerated, people seem to have been able to find what makes them happy. I still have no fucking idea. I don’t have a place that I can call home nor a place to return to. How do you deal with it?’

The few lights in the alley down in the street are feeble and too weak to light up the streets, let alone our faces. Their features are lit through their cigarette tips, when they take a particular long drag. There’s a silence because there’s no real answer.

‘You just get used to it.’

I never saw them sad, but just now a flicker in their eyes seems to hint to a certain melancholy. I never really saw them in any manner because I don’t actually know this figure of my imagination bar from the times I am alone and creative enough. But in the imaginary, they are a cheerful and positive person – a reflection of what I wish I were, or I wish I had beside me.

‘I don’t want to be alone’, I’d blurt out pathetically. ‘It’s pathetic, I know, but I want someone to stay with me, forever. I never thought I wanted this, but then I realised no one really knows who I am. I convinced everyone I am something else and I skipped town or pushed away those who could see past my farce. Is there something inherently broken about me? No, sorry, this is stupid, I don’t believe it – rationally – I mean, there’s no–‘

The warm of their hand on mine would be enough to keep me connected. The power of people is often underrated in my representation of the world. My eyes swell up.

It’s going to be okay.‘ I think, looking at the darkness below.

I found the meaning of life (click bait much)

For the past two weeks I have been in a confused depressed haze. What do I want to make my life about?, I asked myself over and over again. The more people I conversed with, the more suggestions I got, but I knew that none of these were yet what I desired: wealth, happiness, a family, a good life, a prestigious job. No. Fuck that.

I sat today at my desk, defeated and depressed, asking myself the same question again: What do I want to make of my life? What is my “legacy” – for the lack of a better word? I thought that again it would be a futile search – like all these days I kept failing.

Then I distracted myself reading a paper on belief propagation. Reaching section 4, it hit me, suddenly, like an ocean wave crashing on the shore, I figured the meaning of my life. And it was so fucking obvious, I guess I overlooked it for so long.

It’s hookers and cocaine.

No, just kidding, it’s creating things. It is basically taking building blocks and making something new or interesting. Hopefully, the creation of useful stuff, solutions or artistic objects.

By now, I have figured out already that I am nowhere smart enough to come up with paradigm shifting ideas in physics nor prove anything groundbreaking in mathematics, but maybe I’m just bright enough to understand or extend some theory and apply it to solve problems in various fields.

From a technical perspective, my ultimate goal is to be able to solve every problem I deem interesting to be solved. At last, my apparent random walk in learning and working starts making a bit of sense. I think I gathered a good set of tools to pursue this goal.

So what do I (a person with zero authority in the matter) think it’s useful to fulfill such goal?

  • Mathematics to describe the world, for example, understanding of odes and pdes (modelling of physical world). Probability and statistics (to deal with uncertainty. e.g. (most) measurements of the world have some inherent noise due to the measurement device, so measurements should be interpreted as a random variable with a certain probability distribution.)
  • Computing, in particular, programming and high performance computing (solving things computationally, in particular, the ability to translate complex models into a computable program, the ability to deal with a lot of data and the ability to compute things within a tractable timeframe.)
  • Ability to read about a particular field/problem and to break it down into formal concepts

On math and the mundane

I firmly reject the idea of destiny – but it’s hard to believe all this was by chance.

 

*

 

There are crowds and crowds of people standing around as we try to make our way through the other side of the city. Züri Fäscht is a festival that occurs every 3 years. Around 10 pm fireworks rip through the skies to the beat of pop music and, like radiative colourful Xanax, everybody quiets down and observes these explosions. I heard someone say that it’s estimated that around 2 million people will have been in Zürich this weekend – that’s almost 7x the amount of people living in this city, usually.

We make our way through the static crowd because we have no interest in these fireworks though. In the most dense areas, as we push and shove these fleshy statues around us, I distract myself and think of percolation theory. It’s the study of diffusion of a medium through a pourous material – think of water passing through a sponge. These thoughts keep my mind occupied from the smell of weed, sweat and people.

We finally reach the destination we intended to reach, only to find our friends are long gone. Worth mentioning that double or triple number of phones trying to connect to the cellular networks inevitably lead to an overload and thus, the network is mostly down. Meanwhile, my friend got high and still wants to dance and I have been working non stop for two months, so I’ll take any social contact.

 

*

 

It’s 12:30 and it appears there is a second round of fireworks. I don’t understand the fascination people have with these events. Soon enough, the lights from the stands and carnival go out in anticipation of the upcoming show.

Everything quiets down briefly only to be interrupted by three explosions, and in a few seconds, the sky is full of colored lights, like a flaming huge golden dandelion.

I feel something.

As fireworks keep shooting up in the sky and blasting, colouring the sky and quickly vanishing, I imagine myself as one of these specks of light – quickly ebbing away, leaving only a small trace of smoke, which eventually diffuses. Is this a metaphor for human existence? The colours are so full, so beautiful, so violent that I feel tears forming in my eyes. Everything is dark and all eyes are carved in the sky, so I let them roll down. Life is so breathtakingly beautiful sometimes. I keep thinking I am over it and that I am ready to go – but then I catch a whiff of its perfume, a sight of its colour and I’m pulled back in – I’m again completely in love with life, trapped. Like a child that is overwhelmed with emotion, I am standing here, looking at this symphony of colours, teary eyed. Let these sparks be a memory of all those who existed, who have come and gone. There are so many of them and each individual one is just a bright tiny dot that eventually wanes off.

What if all my rebellion boils down to the fear of fading away, quietly, just like one of these lights?

work-in-progress fiction essays from ‘On math and the mundane.’

Stoic kind of break up

It has been a while since things got this heavy. I always knew there was an easy and quick fix to these lack of, or existence of overwhelming feelings but lately it has become the only option. I think I don’t have it in me – this love for life that I am often reminded others seem to have. Don’t get me wrong, everything is great. My life is great. I am probably happy.

But it’s not captivating. It has never been captivating. Art, mathematics, robotics and machine learning have been strong things which prevented me to think about the inevitable end. As long as I felt I could do something relevant, it was okay. However, my thoughts are currently consumed by reality. I can’t focus on the abstract or ideas. I am pulled from lines of code to thoughts about the mundane: people, myself, past occurrences. I am another sack of meat consuming resources unable to appreciate anything. I hate it. Reality is poisonous, and my lungs are filling up with it.

Somebody told me recently: ‘You should keep doing it as long as you are having fun. Otherwise, it’s a steep price to pay.’ On the topic of doing a PhD versus working in industry. Same goes for life tho, doesn’t it? The price is even higher. Combine the man hours that everybody has spent on you, all the shit you have used up, the years of therapy you might have, unwillingly, put people through. Everybody’s existence comes with a steep price. People often say suicide is a selfish action, but isn’t it staying here for the sake of it greedy?

I used to think, when I was younger, that all I needed was love. But I have actually been incredibly blessed throughout my life. I have met amazing people, great friends, people who truly loved me. I have too, loved people. I never though I would have been able to connect with so many people and feel such things. I have had so many opportunities and great things have happened. I am so grateful for everything and this is, in a way, what makes it so wasteful. In the end, there was always this lack of something – call it love for life or survival instinct. There’s no fix for this.

Last night I made the decision that I want to leave as soon as I am finished. I am done overstaying my welcome, let’s treat this as a work contract: implement a decent idea and go. No hard feelings. It will be a fun ride as long as it lasts.

Not a love story.

I get it. I get why people are – in one way or another – desperately searching for connections. I get it, why people do all sorts of crazy things for love. Life is so terribly lonely, boring and at times, unbearably unpleasant.

M asked me: Does it make you less lonely, when you sleep with them? Or does it make you feel more like a man? The moment you both are a simple connected object – are you less lonely then?

Her unfocused eyes – staring at me. We are intoxicated. Am I less lonely now?

I saw the girl at the pool, again. My calculations are probably correct – she had her period last week. Every four weeks or so, she disappears for a week. Otherwise, she’s always there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I slept with M again. She’s a nice girl. She thinks she knows too much. I think she’s still a kid. She thinks she ought to feel as much pain as possible – that this will numb her for the future – but I fear she will physically break. She falls in love with anyone who gives her attention. But hey, who am I to judge when it plays alright for me?

Her warm scalp against my palm – right after we merged into one – feels too hot. I don’t think I could ever love her – she feels too real. I would rather she left now.

The girl from the pool, thought. She’s an empty vessel, thin white skin. She could be anyone I want – smart, funny, innocent. I think I love her the more I see her, her mannerisms, the way she tip toes her way into the locker rooms, wrapped on her pink towel.

The moment I’m about to come, all sorts of thoughts scream in my mind: Sometimes I think I’m close to loving M. So close, so close… So… Close. Just one second more. But as I purge into her I am taken by a familiar feeling of disgust – like I can watch myself from the outside, and here I am, with a limp dick against her thigh, red faced, hovering over this girl I will never love.

Pathetic.

The existence beyond closed doors

In my home country there is not enough space to bury everyone. What is done in cemeteries is usually: either the defunct is buried for a limited amount of years (from 5 to 10) and afterwards the bones are moved to a shelf like structure for bones, or the defunct along with the coffin is directly put into a big drawer which stacks several of these drawers and remain there, undisturbed. A posh outdoors granite morgue, if you want.

Recently visited someone in one of these large drawers. In this corridor, there are about 250 of these slots. The door of the drawer is made of granite. Around 1.5 centimeters thick granite. There are 3 dark holes of around 4 centimeters diameter, which theoretically allow you to peep into the drawer. Inside lives a sealed coffin and inside that coffin, the remains of a human being.

For a few years, every now and then we buy some new flowers, clean the drawer’s door, look at the growing population of defunct people filling these drawers. We all know what is there, but I rarely think about what is really beyond those three black holes.

The realist part of me tells me, in a very blunt tone that there’s a mummified corpse beyond the door, the smell is probably nauseating, at best, and the environment bacteria ridden. But that’s not interesting. The interesting part is the 1.5 centimeters of granite with three holes can, in a way, erase the existence of whatever is beyond that closed door.

Like when we both close our doors after a long discussion, you ceased to exist as a person and only the contents of the conversation stay with me. To personify you, I have to consciously think about you closing your door, leaning your body against it, perhaps thinking about what I said or looking at your phone.

Mostly I go through life without thinking about what is behind closed doors. Thinking about it fucks with my brain. Rejecting solipsism seems obvious – but to hold the premise that other people are also complex conscious beings is not something which comes natural to me. When I start thinking about other people as real people, I start finding interactions less strange, to understand certain actions which can be lazily interpreted as pure evil or douchery.

 

Documented life I

122 unread messages.

The break from virtual world has its perks. Reality has an interesting spark that I often forget about. I remember once a friend explained to me why he loved Van Gogh – it’s because he saw and represented reality in such a delicious way.

Reality is delicious. I stumbled around in some city I was transiting and ended up in a burger joint, offside of some main road. I was alone, in the discomfort of not having physical nor virtual company. I ate looking at other tables, one with two old couples sharing a meal, one where two girls were knocking back some cocktails and a third one with 4 young adults. The old table was the most interesting one. Things were slower, they ate, drank wine, spoke calmly, without pretenses. Sometimes when I catch myself speaking in a group of people, all eyes carved on me, I feel suddenly embarassed: all the hand waving, describing a situation which is not that funny, my nasally voice and sentences punctuated by ‘like’s, trying too hard to deliver a weak punchline. Key part is ‘trying too hard’.

On my way here I sat next to a guy who was on Tinder up until the plane took off. I saw who he was accepting, his type – I wonder whether I was his type. Maybe if he’d look to his left he’d see me and we’d strike up a conversation, he’d tell me where he’s heading, I’d tell him where I’m heading, we’d complain about airplane food, make some small talk until some comment which is meant to be a joke sparks up a sobering conversation and discover we fear the same things; we might have discovered that reality is delicious. But I kept my headphones on and hummed to my familiar beats instead.