Immortality Begins at Forty

I discovered something a couple of years ago: Almost all culture, old or new, is designed for consumption by people under 40. People between 40 and Ω (an indeterminate number defined as “really, just way too old”),  are primarily employed as meaning-makers for the under-40 set. This is because they are mostly good for nothing else, and on average not valuable enough themselves for society to invest meaning in.

Immortality

The only culture designed for people between 40 and Ω is prescription drug ads and unreadably dense literary novels. Between age Ω and ∅, the age at which you die, there is only funerary culture. That second link is to an app for managing your own death called Cake. Why cake? Your guess is as good as mine.

But there’s a plus side. Forty is when immortality begins.

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A very general life-stage map across civilizations and eras looks like this:

  • 0 to α: Achieve launch velocity
  • α to 40: Play culture!
  • 40 to Ω: Ah crap, I have to make shit up for others now?
  • Ω to ∅: Let them eat cake

The new number in the scheme above, α, is the age at which you achieve enough of a restless drive, via either increasing resentment (some sort of red pill) or cluelessness (some sort of blue pill), to play for meaning.

In the scheme above, 40 is the only roughly stable number. It exists as an approximately fixed point because it is an emergent outcome of history. It is reflected in the nature of humanity’s collective cultural archives, religions, sitcoms, ideologies, self-improvement plans, justifiably ageist 40-under-40 award schemes, weight-loss plans, and dating advice.

In case you hadn’t yet noticed, the few older archetypes and characters who do play a role in our collective cultural imagination tend to be unrealistically wise, healthy, evolved, and wondrously well-prepared for retirement. Unlike archetypes of youthful beauty and vigor, these are not meant to set unrealistic standards for older people to actually strive towards. It’s too late for them. They are meant to prevent young people from getting too distracted by their own future concerns to play the present-day meaning games the world needs them to play.

The other numbers can float, which means you can get extraordinarily fucked-up lives if (for instance), your α is higher than 40 or your Ω is under 40.

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If you’re lucky, the following set of inequalities will hold for you, and you will be able to experience that most precious of all things, a life lived forward in time:

0 < α: you have childhood innocence to lose

α < 40: you have enough value that society does culture to you

40 < Ω: there is enough time to take revenge for having had culture done to you

Ω < ∅: if you’re lucky, there will be time to rest and observe in peace

Some well-known fucked-up life scripts include:

Ω < α: Acting dead

α  > 40: Peter Pan

40 > 40: Has-been

40 < 40: Burnout

∅ < α: Died tragically and heroically young

∅ < ∅: Painful and unwanted life extension

Once society stops doing culture to you, and you’re on your own, immortality begins. The morning after your fortieth birthday, you experience the first day of the rest of time.

There is an obvious question that everybody should ask but nobody does: how would you know if you were immortal?

It is not enough to merely go through one or more death experiences, miraculously surviving each one. By virtue of living in 2016, you’ve probably already sailed through many infections and diseases that would have killed you a few hundred years ago. You’ve probably also committed what would have been capital crimes in ages past.

No, you begin to experience immortality the first time you recognize the transience of experiences you thought were permanent, and more subtly, the permanence of experiences you hoped were transient.

This recognition generally ruins culture for you, since culture is built around the game of a meaningful search for eternal truths, timeless values and changeless habits of prowess. And, it goes without saying, transcendence of the unpleasantly transient.

Time, of course, is the merciless slaughterer of all these infinitely qualified anchors of the meaning of life. Wait long enough, and every truth will crumble. Wait long enough, and every value will dissolve into moral ambiguity. Wait long enough, and every habit will decay, first into ritual, then into farce. Wait long enough, and every slain demon will rise again.

And then you will be free. Something almost nobody wants, but almost everyone is forced to endure past 40.

Unless you have kids, in which case you may be eligible for an extension.

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Forty years is not enough to specifically undermine every truth, value, and habit, but it is long enough to generally undermine the idea that there are non-transient truths, values, and habits. You’ve seen too many business cycles, too many political cycles, too many cultural cycles, too many saints and sinners trading places, to believe that this time a source of meaning will endure.

I’ll call any emotionally coherent collection of truths, values and habits meaning. The half-life of a representative basket of meaning is about twenty years, adjusting for purchasing power parity.

Forty is also the age at which point it stops being worth anyone’s while to manufacture and invest meaning in you. It is this drying up of supply — meaning, by virtue of its transience is a consumable — more than any maturation into nihilism, that triggers the shift into an immortal frame of mind.

What really drives home the visceral sense of the transience of all meaning is the realization, around forty, that not only is nobody going to supply you with comforting permanences anymore, but that you have to begin to repay a debt you did not realize you had incurred. You have to create meaning games for others to play. There are not many other jobs for the 40-to-Ω crowd.

Not only is it all meaning transient, it must all be manufactured by somebody.  Meaning doesn’t just happen. Civilization functions by putting the 40-to-Ω crowd to work, creating meaning games for the α-to-40 set to play.

Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Stock a lake with fish, and he’ll fish till he’s 40, at which point it’s generally not critical to anyone else that he continue to eat.

If you’re lucky, the meaning game you play in your α-to-40 years will have been designed by a tradition of not-entirely-malevolent 40-to-Ω sociopaths.

If you’re even luckier, the meaning games you help create for others in your 40-to-Ω will not be entirely bereft of kindness. This matters more for you than for the people who play your games.

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The transience of the seemingly permanent is well-recognized, even though Buddhists around the world work hard to mystify it. A word or two about the permanence of the seemingly transient.

There are many experiences we hope are transient. Experiences that threaten, and ultimately destroy, meaning. Experiences about which we say, this too shall pass. 

Generally they do. Unfortunately they also keep coming back. The causes change — today it is Zika, Trump and robots, yesterday it was the Spanish Flu, machine guns and George Wallace.

The transient experiences keep coming back, but the meanings they destroy don’t. Indeed, the permanence of transience is merely the negative space formed by the creative destruction of meaning. Change, as the saying goes, is the only constant.

This is a good thing.

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Culture is the necessary art of perpetuating the disturbing rumor that reality is meaningful. That beneath the pain and the pleasure, the cruelty and the compassion, the estranging and the connecting, the breaking and the making, the ugliness and the beauty, the losing and the winning, the dying and the living, there is Something More.™

Reality of course, is the bit that doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it. The meaning of reality, unfortunately, isn’t part of reality. And beyond reality, there is nothing more.

But with a little skill, it is possible to prevent most people from figuring this out until they have paid more in taxes and social security than they will demand back.

This is a good thing. And I am not being snarky. It is good that things are this way.

The way you perpetuate the rumor is by making meaning games. These come in many forms, besides the obvious ones like creating a religion or writing a poem. Like being a good middle manager, running for President, or announcing a daring plan to colonize Mars.

All fall into one of two patterns: redistributing meaning and creating new meaning. There is also a third category, accelerating the destruction of rotting meaning. But since rotting meaning self-destructs naturally anyway, there isn’t much demand for accelerating the process. Still, there’s a living to be made in shorting the meaning markets.

Redistributing meaning requires creating strongly escaped realities by sealing off inconveniently meaningless bits of reality. Things like religion fall into this category. By shifting Significance from Some Things to Some Other Things, redistribution can manufacture a new signal from old noise, and motivate the restlessness and motion the world requires of the α to 40 set.  It may not be very useful motion (indeed the motion is usually circular), but it creates liquidity in the meaning economy.

Creating new meaning means disturbing the universe. By sciencing the shit out of it, as we have discussed several times before. This does not directly create either meaning or meaning games. In fact, given the fundamentally nihilistic character of sciencing shit, the core activity threatens meaning more than it creates meaning.

But for those standing far enough away that they can Fucking Love Science! instead of actually doing science, disturbing the universe creates pleasantly disturbing rumors that J. Alfred Prufrock  actually had an overwhelming question. One to which he could have discovered the answer if only he’d had the courage to disturb the universe. A fucking lovely answer.

The grim truth is not that there is no profoundly satisfying answer. The grim truth is that there is no overwhelming question. Poor Alfred just wasn’t very good at turning 40.

Redistributing meaning or creating meaning. You’re either an art history major, or you can science the shit out of things. There is no middle.

This way of talking about meaning is similar to how we talk about money. You might conclude from this that if you seek meaning, you will also make money. This is exactly wrong. You have to make meaning games, which is exactly the opposite sort of activity.

Being exactly wrong is actually a useful thing to be. It’s the next best thing to being right. You can get to right by flipping exactly wrong. Flipping somewhat wrong merely makes you somewhat wrong in a new way.

To seek meaning is to believe in truth before virtue, virtue before beauty, beauty before creation, creation before victory. This is the honor code of meaning-seeking. If you follow this code perfectly, you will make exactly no money.

I was dumb enough in my twenties to try to follow this code perfectly. Fortunately for my solvency, I am not very good at following instructions, and a succession of mid-life crises and crashes ensured my survival.

But it is important that you don’t stop believing in this code too early. That’s a recipe for a fucked-up life. It is also important that you don’t continue believing in this code too long. That’s also a recipe for a fucked-up life.

You must stop believing in this code exactly when you are ready to begin immortality. When your own appetite for meaning is satiated, and you are ready to start making meaning games for others. When you’re ready to play god for your own amusement.

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Here is how you disturb the universe to make meaning. It isn’t pretty, and there’s a reason most who are able to do it on a grand scale are above forty.

Winning before making. This is survival.

Making before beauty. This is perpetuation.

Beauty before virtue. This is leadership.

Virtue before truth. This is realism.

To win you may need to do destructive, ugly, vicious, and false things.

Then, to create, you may need to do ugly, vicious, and false things.

To make your creations endure, so they don’t go away when you stop  believing in them, you may need to do beautiful, vicious, and false things.

Then, you may need to do beautiful, virtuous, and false things to create happiness.

And finally, you may choose to seek truth. This is an optional, meaningless, and essentially solitary activity. Something the immortal and free may choose to do, to entertain themselves in the amusement park that is the part of eternity that does not go away when you stop believing in it.

About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. I love your new post-40 persona so much.

  2. Awesome article! Keep going!

  3. Shaw’s Back to Methuselah is about this.

  4. But isn’t there a third way, other than redistributing or creating? The way of the curmudgeon. I find that as I approach my mid-fifties all too aware of “reality” as it really is, I just get angry and want to shout, “Hey, you damn kids, get off my lawn!” at the sub-40 y.o. set. So, most of my energy isn’t spent in trying to create or redistribute meaning; it is devoted to suppressing stress-inducing and socially-inappropriate hostility lest I experience an early “null state” from blowback should I actually express it. Am I somehow misreading your analysis? Is drinking the bitter, bitter haterade really a form of redistributing meaning? (BTW welcome to the dark side post 40.)

    • :) Curmudgeons are just lovable meaning-creating characters. The induce meaning games simply by existing. “Get off my lawn” is a great proto-game.

  5. This is excellent!

  6. If given the assignment of a synopsis of all of Vonnegut’s writing before the age 60, this article would earn an A+.

  7. Dustin Miller says:

    Great post. Seems you’ve recovered from a crash and found the meaning afterwards. Also seems you’ve created a meaningful game for Sarah and Tiago. Their latest posts are really strong and remind me of vintage Venkat!

    Any other meaningful games you’re working on?

  8. Nice post! You don’t look 40. But then 40 is the new 30.

    • 5-year old photo, plus I look about about 5 years younger than I am :D

      • MrJoshua says:

        I suspect this can lead to the ` 40 > 40: Has-been` life fuck-up that I may be running afoul of at 46. If one seems and is treated much younger for much longer.

  9. “30 Rock” touches on similar ideas in its more optimistic moments.

  10. In marketing literally every single brand is trying to court “Millennials” (a nebulous group aged about 18-30) . It’s hammered to death, and recognized as cliche, yet perdures. There is a good stat that of the new cars (Kia Soul, etc) created specifically to court young drivers, the majority are actually bought by older drivers. And there is an interesting perspective here: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2015/11/demographic-cleansing-of-ad-industry.html

    With so much purchasing power left in the over-40 crowd, how does that mesh with your idea that culture is produced for the under-40?

    • A lot of 40+ purchasing power is devoted to kids, mortgage, saving for retirement. 22-40 have less income, but more of it is discretionary.

      And once you get old enough, it gets less and less discretionary, and more and more fixed. Until you’re at retirement with healthcare being the big one.

      • I think this is true mostly for the wealthy and the educated classes. In this country only 27% have a bachelor’s degree , 8.9% have a master’s ad 1.2 Phd or beyond. They follow your above scenario Venkatesh Rao. For the rest healthcare is always the big one. Yes, it gets worse , especially for the lower middle classes at retirement/old age what ever off the usefulness grid. People now are rarely done with the kid thing by 40. They are just starting. They have kids in their 30s or even 40s. YIKES

    • I’ve had a similar realisation. I’ve just turned 40 and have been slowly realising for a while that the world I engaged with as a younger person was mostly manufactured by marketers.

      This was a hollow feeling at first, but it also provides a level of oversight unavailable to me previously and I find that I can engage more authentically with the world around me. I feel a little sad it took this long for me to get here.

      • Is it marketers of just everyone? So much of the “morality” and “social norms” seem to come from a place deeper than marketers , unless you are including marketers of the religious and other reality formers in that term ? Also academic seems to have a huge finger , maybe even a whole hand in that pot, that seems largely invisible to members of the Academic class–and no I am not an anti intellectual, but I find that academics tend (no not ALL of them) to have serious blindspots to the realities that the underclass lives in except for in terms of making studies o being helpers. I am 65 and find the most diversity in this country to be rural/ urban and class- and no I am not a Marxist.

        • I find looking for evolutionary advantages to the group and individual explain most meaning. Life seeks to perpetuate life. Humans and many other of our fellow critters are social beings who rely on the group for support to perpetuate life. Virtue enables trust and reliability that is the glue of a society, without which it all goes to hell and life flounders. I am grounded in science, BUT my heart says there’s more.

  11. What matters? It matters. I matter. No one matters. May as well enjoy the ride.

  12. Michael Vassar says:

    Funny, seeking truth then virtue then beauty then creation then victory always works out monetarily for me. It seems to me that it doesn’t work for people because they either forget to seek virtue second or they get spooked and try to compromise.

  13. I thought people over 40 were supposed to seek/produce meaning by being grandparents.

    There’s also a relatively recent move for older people to seek/produce meaning by being athletic.

    Venkatesh, if you haven’t written something about the cultural meaning of athleticism, I hope you do.

    • I hate hate hate being a grandmother. DOn’t tell my children that, and I don’t hate the kid, but the idea of having to take care of another person who is boring as hell for any period of time to prove (again after motherhood, and aging parenthood taking care of them to death) and sick and ill spouse care? FUCK THAT. That terrifies me. I do however love to ski. It isn’t athleticism so much as the freedom found in blowing down a mountain alone in the wind. I never skied at all until I was maybe 42–I had my kids late 38 so I sucked. Now at 65 I am great. I ski double black diamonds and extreme terrain. I see it as another way for me to also blow off any cultural meaning. To me it is like being shit faced drunk and loaded on pain pills, that is the “meaning” in it. I think sometimes people who do not have an inclination towards the physical shit, see it in other ways. And of course there are the competitive ones, mostly men as I see it in skiing as women have babies and that fucks it all up– are idiots but mostly they drop dead anyway. But yeah the think it has meaning and gives them a way to keep playing the game that was laid out for them. Being somebody who never had the qualifications for marginal game participation with out a ton of faking it (badly) I just fly.

      • Thank you for sharing the grandmother thing. Hard thing to admit to in most societies, but I think it’s valuable when people are willing to be honest about these th9ngs on occassi0n.

        • Yes , one way ticket to Pariahville. And the sad part is that if what you built your life around was the home, kids and tradition, if you run off with somebody who wants to have fun? You lose and the grandparent who is now being lovely grandpa, gets to be the good guy–that fits in with the meaning reality-while being a woman first – a real human with real needs–does not. So you get to be “the bad guy” on the meaning game chart and lose the only thing that you were allowed to build. I think we need to push forward the meaning thing from where I stand, because it is really sexist in nature right now. People really do not like woman. They are either frumpy or cougars, or as you said in the article, choosing to age “gracefully into wise chrone” YUK. So wasting away again in Pariahville is probably in my future as my current boyfriend is a 39 year old artist. (And no I am not Tina Turner , Jennifer Lopez, Cher, or anywhere near that. I am a woman in need of a neck lift and a grand mommy make over. So what reality is that?

  14. I am 65, and yeah, it is different than 55 , and different than 40. Having never satisfied any of the qualifiers, I have spent my life only too aware of the game scenario and it was bothersome and life ruining to an extent to have to see it like a grid over everything I ever did. Now at 65 I agree, I am now as close to immortal as it is going to get for me. I see the grid, I can chose to walk through the grid but I still am aware that the grid can do bad things to me and mine. So even though I am let go, I see my children caught in it and my grand child. I don’t think people who are caught in it are any more fortunate than those spit out by it. The so called fucked up lives of say the live fast die young crowd , or in line with your other piece, I guess those who chose to puke because they take the ride even though their DNA doesn’t allow for a consciousness of that sort of motion/acceleration are sort of happy enough in their own fucked up way too. I think the real kick in the ass comes in when you are aware of the grid, not a part of the grid, and you have children, who some how miraculously play the game so easily. Then what? You have two choices. Stuff yourself back in and try not to puke, or be the bastard who tells them Santa Claus is a fraud and that it is daddy on the roof with the sleigh bells not Rudolf.But I am just an undereducated maniac, trying to make it to the finish line with a sex life and my kids intact. To all you younger folks trying to play the game? Good fucking luck. Oh yeah it was great reading this. Made me laugh out loud almost the whole way through. so thanks.

  15. As meaning appears more and more manufactured, my tendency seems to be to “accelerating the destruction of rotting meaning”. I guess I still find meaning in that.
    Also, making money before entailed me participating in meaning games without being aware of it. Clueless?

  16. Annie Sauter says:

    “This is a good thing. And I am not being snarky. It is good that things are this way.”

    I would argue that it is a good thing ONLY for some people– not people as a whole really. And i am not being snarky either.

    • Jackson B. says:

      Nah, it’s a good thing in general. The alternative would be not some acceptance of reality and love and stuff, but emptiness and suicidal tendencies at 20.

      • Annie Sauter says:

        Jackson B
        So what? I mean emptiness is a reality too. I don’t really see why the game–that only really works for a select few is really ” a good thing”. Because it isn’t really a choice whether you can accept being in the grid or not. Anyone who believes it is a choice, obviously has that choice. The grid made me feel even more suicidal at 20 for instance, as it did many of my friends. If you are aware of it, it is a form of suicide to even succumb to it.

  17. Great article!

    I’m curious. In your opinion, what’s the best way to approach accelerating the destruction of decaying meaning? It seems like it could be dangerous if attempted too early. Or in such a way that it sheds too much light on how meaning-decay is a repeating process.

    • Humor/mockery ( not science, which is deeply engaged with establishing order and truth ) is probably the greatest offender of meaning and this may be its own meaning: no sufficiently complicated structure ( like language or culture ) which won’t support its own tools to deal with its decay. However it might create yet another filterbubble which encapsulates the meaning others seek to destroy. That’s possibly why culture is a local thing – that whose characteristics don’t extend to the whole space.

      • Kay, thanks for the response. I had some thoughts based off of what you said. Sorry if it seems too scatter-brained.

        I’m inclined to agree, I think trying to destroy meaning with rationality will probably take a person the way of Socrates. Humor and mockery are probably the best tools…along with creating the impression of mysticism. I find this unfortunate because I don’t think I’m all that funny.

        However, I do think, if you can time it right, there’s an opportunity to push meaning out the door that’s already on its way out. That’s probably been the role of the successful iconoclasts throughout history (or is successful iconoclasm just the inevitable “self-destruction of rotting meaning” that Venkat(esh) referred to, not necessarily the accelerant; I’m confused again…).

        I like what you said about humor/mockery having their own, countercultural meaning. I think mysticism/spirituality also have their own countercultural meaning. That seems important. If you want to destroy meaning, you have to be able to provide new meaning in its place. People abhor “meaning vacuums”. It’s like the Devil said in “The Brothers Karamazov” -> “there must be events”

        I want to make sure I understand the rest of what you were saying. Are you saying that humor/mockery create their own protected filterbubbles of meaning (cynicism, etc.) or that all complicated structures do?

        • “People abhor a meaning vacuum” Not quite a t-shirt or garden plaque, but a win quote take-away koan for me. thank you!

  18. Taylor says:

    You’re definitely getting funnier :). Thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks as always. Now, back to having culture done to me.

  19. Enjoyed your article.
    To quote recently departed Prince, “act your age, not your shoe size”.
    As someone >40 creating a reality for others is still a big challenge.

  20. Brendan says:

    The association between cake and death is almost certainly from the game Portal, in which your character is pushed by an autocratic AI to solve a series of puzzles, while being promised that once through the puzzles, “there will be cake.” After the puzzles, though, your character is escorted to an incinerator. Note, this game is also the source of the meme, “The cake is a lie”, which refers to a series of cryptic messages discovered before the incinerator scene. In any case, that’s the cake/death connection, and, as you say, it’s culture created for the under-40 crowd.

    • Jackson B. says:

      The same notion exists for centuries as the “pie in the sky”.

      There are even songs about it (including the “cake is a lie” part), e.g. a 70s one (there are even some from early 20th century, like from Joe Hill, blues versions, etc):

      Well they tell me of a pie up in the sky
      Waiting for me when I die
      But between the day you’re born and when you die
      They never seem to hear even your cry

    • Thanks, that’s good to know. Never played that and it struck me as a bizarre name.

  21. Joel Berman says:

    I am 69. Barely working, but so busy I do not know how I ever had time to work. I feel great. I am having fun. Life is good. I am enjoying Ω.

  22. love it

  23. Walter Janus says:

    I’m a millennial twentysomething who has recently come to believe in creation before everything. The happiest people I know are the people who create things. You are creating things by writing this blog. But creating things with cultural impact (with any degree / by any measure of significance) is not restricted to folks 40 and over (or 30 and over), which is a fairly obvious fact.

    A couple questions for you:
    1. Is “40” in this post intended as “stdev=0” or an objective line in the sand?
    2. What happens when Ω < 40?

    If the answer to 1 is what I think it is, the post would probably be stronger if you began with the explanation and later symbolized the concept as 40 for rhetorical purposes. Or at least link to your Learning to Fly post for newer readers.

  24. Mezzo Cammin By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Half of my life is gone, and I have let
    The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
    The aspiration of my youth, to build
    Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
    Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
    Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
    But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
    Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
    Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
    Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—
    A city in the twilight dim and vast,
    With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—
    And hear above me on the autumnal blast
    The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

    • Midlife crisis, what car did you get?
      Consume and be happy:)
      Any Hobbies?
      Apart from the blog. Physical.

  25. DJCargopants says:

    This article hit me in the face, striking on an itch that’s been bugging me for a while, now.

    Not sure it makes sense to go into too much detail about the particulars of my life that motivate me to ask this question, so I hope it will suffice to say I’m an 20something entrepreneur. Did a lot of political organizing before becoming disillusioned by all of that stuff. Started a successful DIY (read, “underground,” or “authentic”) arts/culture organization in my area while becoming disillusioned with politics, only to become severely disillusioned with that, two years later. The organization still exists and is a powerful meaning creator for the newbies it brings in. It was defintitely a big meaning creator for me and others while I was participating in it (like a hand of meaning drawing another hand of meaning, which drew that hand).

    Now, I’m selling a startup to my employer (a non-evil sociopath, who seems to see the sociopath spark in me…I hope?). I can feel myself constantly trying to get to “the core of it all,” and I can’t quite tell if it’s an intellectual drive toward an annihilation/collapse of “meaning.” In any case, this search seems to be to the amusement/benefit of my employer as it seems to make me good at my work. However, I worry that if I get to the Real, I’ll lose Everything™ I love about my work. Even worse, a big part of me feels I’ve started playing in meaning-making games too early, and have put myself on a path toward the fucked-up.

    Is there anyway you could provide some clarifying examples of the fucked-up?

    • Annie Sauter says:

      I am 65 and I love what you wrote. When my friend and I were about 13 we started calling the making meaning up games them and the essential center of meaningless/ what is “it”. Of course that was in the 60s when leading a life like you have lead was more common. We had other names for the steps you have taken but the path was very similar. I truly believe that it is okay. I think you will be fine. I see people who did that who are now in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, who are living fine without having to do any of it. They (we) sort of see it the same way we always saw it, as we never really bought into the meaning making game reality for very long. 20 something no matter how mature and experienced is just young. Do what speaks to you and don’t worry about it. I am living happily if admittedly being on the edge of chaos in a realilyless meaning and I am not a sociopath. I am weird. But I don’t have zero feelings and i don’t want to hurt people. I just want to live in what I see as “it: which apparently is unacceptable to mots people–that freedom that the author speaks of–some of us do want it. It is very very scary, but then some of us are not averse to scary. SO live and love well. So what if you are fucked up.

  26. This was so good…Thank you for writing it.

  27. Dean Kakridas says:

    Best thing I’ve read in a long time. Fresh and honest to the bone.

  28. “That second link is to an app for managing your own death called Cake. Why cake? Your guess is as good as mine.”

    Maybe the developer is an Eddie Izzard (or Lee Hazlewood) fan?

    “Cause, ‘Cake or death’? That’s a pretty easy question. Anyone could answer that.” […]

  29. Fucking awesome when read at the right time!

    Specially interesting connection between half life and purchasing power parity.
    The few people to whom I see culture being created for who are over 45 here at silicon valley are also rich. And I mean rich with a B.

    I myself have often noticed how when some of my poorest friends had to invert the meaning pyramid during early college, then medium wealth right after, but I and a few lucky ones could switch Reais for US dollars, fly away and postpone our time in the economy of meaning consumers.

    At 29 never having 9-5 I’ve certainly travelled and read and traversed more meaning games than most 40, but the primate wanderlust is still strong still because hormones.

    At least when playing RPGs I used to be the master, when playing NGOs I used to be the “founder and CEO”, which indicates to me that at some point, when all these early onset midlife crises I’ve been having are done, I’ll comfortably adapt to creating meaning games, and comfortably coast my immortal years.

    Here’s hoping.

  30. I definitely have an a that is much higher than forty

    • So do I. Much higher than 40 40 I think is for people who totally lived by the reality meaning rules.

  31. Finding meaning in meaning making. Can I just die? ;)

    • Annie Sauter says:

      yeah, I wonder that too, but I am 65 and have no interest in the future. It seems so contrived and circular anyway. I just want to live fast now, and die when I die. I mean obviously live fast die young leave a good looking corpse is out of the question now, but I want to live fast now. I feel much more hurried than in the middle years. I don’t want to waste time on illness and children who don’t give a shit really, or men who are boring and want a stable life. I want to live to make up for all the years I was , well the way Sylvia Plath felt when she baked herself.

  32. “But it is important that you don’t stop believing in this code too early. That’s a recipe for a fucked-up life. It is also important that you don’t continue believing in this code too long. That’s also a recipe for a fucked-up life.”

    Now you tell me??!! -_-

  33. Jeff Engel says:

    This is some of the best stuff people will ever read. Protect this article. It’s a rosetta stone.

  34. Francesca says:

    Loved this. Beautiful. It also got me to laugh out loud multiple times, which is something most words on a screen can’t do.