“A Person cannot be disabled, the technologies that exist are what is broken.” – Hugh Herr
I was still a small child, not even out of kindergarten when I determined “I was broken.” I believed deeply that something was greatly wrong with me, that my brain was wrong. I experienced and felt the world differently than others seemed to feel it. My maternal grandmother was a nurse and so she had a lot of medical books. I said, “When I grow up I’m going to become a neurologist so I can fix myself.” I read everything I could, psychology books, anatomy, encyclopedias, medical books, looking to find the pieces in my brain that weren’t right. Likewise I spent years in therapy trying to figure out what I could do to help me.
“In an insane world a sane man, must pretend to be insane”. – Alien Quadrilogy
Around the time I hit my preteens I began to wonder, maybe I’m not broken, maybe the rest of the world is broken. And so I set off on a mission to discover a medium I could use to help “save” the world. As a child I used fantasy and world-building to escape and cope with the painful reality of my tormented mind and youth. Fiction and writing were my ways to escape the pain of not only the outside world but of myself too; by age 16 I could fairly say that the fantasy world I lived in was so thick that any attempt to offer me glimpses of the real world would lead me in a mangled mess of tears and deeper withdrawal. All I knew about the real world was that the pain overridded the joy and that I could feel all of that pain so deeply as though what was happening in the world outside of me, was happening to me directly. I wanted to make that pain stop.
“Reality is broken and games can fix it.” – Jane Mcgonigal
I didn’t speak to other people much, but around highschool this all began to change and I slowly began to devise solutions for both healing myself and healing the world. One solution I had was to take my insights, and my fantasy worlds and turn them into games. Story centric games with RPG elements could be designed to heal our wounds, we could save the world, one person one ‘you’ at a time. That was my motto. I began studying programming and game development, and eventually went to college for this degree. While in college I discovered Jane Mcgonigal another person who had the same ideas that I did, except that she was already established as a Game Developer. To that end Zenratstudios was founded with games in mind, in turn my games were founded with stories in mind, a particular set of stories involving snake-haired women as Guardians. From my stories and elaborate worlds built was where my strategy for healing myself began.
So how Zenratstudios went from novels, to games, to guardian philosophies, monasteries, sustainability, economies and A.I? It’s easy. I viewed all these things as mediums as technology and technology as Tools. To me it didn’t matter whether I reached out to the world through novels, games, bots or society which to me was just some other medium – all that mattered was that I created a tool that could be used to make the world a better life. Going from the pages of the books, to virtual reality, to real life just seemed natural progression. And though it was easy to get swept up on the global meaning of “Save The World”, what it really meant, what it always meant was how to make my life better for me, how to “Heal myself” and like a candle, or butterfly effect help others without ever making it my goal.
Society as a tool
I’ve lived my whole life believing I am broken. I couldn’t fit into societies shoe, and so I’ve worked hard to build my own custom made shoes. What I’m realizing now is that the world I see is a reflection of me, and I have never been broken to begin with. Likewise the collective of individuals like me who make up society, aren’t broken either. It’s the technologies we have come to use and rely on that are broken. Society as an example is a tool and reflection of the collective, a collection of technologies on wheels a spoke working together to control resources and make our lives ‘easier’. Society as it is does not support any individual who does not fit into a predetermined cutout it has defined for us. Disabilities exist as part of societies failure to build a society of inclusion, not just through accommodations but through better design that supports the health of the people it contains.
I believe when we live in the right environment, one that supports and nourishes our well-being, as well as equips individuals with the tools they need, customized to fit their own unique set of challenges and strengths; everyone thrives and wins. In such a world, disabilities no longer exist because like the plants and the insects and the animals in nature, we all have a purpose to serve and all return value in some way through our byproducts, the waste we create. Whether we are breathing, relieving ourselves, or expending energy to get from A to B we are always giving something we’ve taken back to the universe in a new form. What we excrete can be transformed and utilized as part of the cycle we need to live.
There are No Utopias, No such Utopia Exists
Some people think this is utopian. A supportive environment where people’s financial, physical and emotional needs are met; but that’s a false truth. All utopias are dystopias; they don’t exist. A supportive environment isn’t one where everyone’s ‘needs’ are met, but instead where the conditions for meeting those needs are present and more accessible; it’s an environment where people’s basic security needs are met, freeing people to focus on developing the emotional and mental interpersonal communication and coping skills, the mindset required to resolve conflict, process information and make decisions, to heal and to grow, to love and freedom and build self-supporting communities much like a reciprocal roof or a circle; where no one angle holds the weight of the world on its shoulders. It sounds utopian but it doesn’t resolve our biggest problem ‘ourselves’. Such a resolution is no easy task and can take many lifetimes, let alone the one.
My guardian philosophy, was designed for my own personal needs. What this philosophy is for me, was born from my penchant for world-building and story creation. I wanted to be the architect of my own world, so I used my fantasy worlds to explore tough concepts I was struggling with, concepts that caused me great pain and distress; and from those concepts built a world that I wanted to make real. First to make real as a game, and then as a lifestyle I live today. My biggest challenge has been myself. Moving from dreamer mode to building mode. Coping with feelings of apathy, walls I put up to protect me from pain. Coping with a desire to withdraw and shut myself away from people who may not always have my best interests at heart; choosing to manipulate or hurt me for their own self-gain indifferent of what I do or don’t do. My challenge has been making an active choice to control the only thing I can control, myself, and to live with compassion and an open-heart, to give myself and others around me the freedom to explore themselves without guilt or shame whether it be by me to them, or them to me; to focus on me and only me and my healing. Of telling myself I am worthy and loveable, and breaking through this feeling of imposter syndrome, of failure.
Hindrances and Challenges
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree he will live his whole life believing he is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
Fear of failure is a double edged sword; because for me at least on the other side is a fear of success. What if I succeed? This feeling of, wanting to succeed and then being one step close to it and stepping back saying. “I’m not ready to succeed”, because I don’t always feel capable of handling alone what that success means for me. The truth is I just make this stuff up as I go along, I don’t know what I’m doing. At times I suffer from paralyzing doubt and inaction. I start a million interwoven projects. Stopping, starting, and pausing. For every 9 failures I have 1 success. With failures being lessons learned and gained.
To this end I’ve broken my goals into two Phases. Phase I: Micro “Personal” Sustainability & Phase II: Macro “Community” Sustainability. But there is an “Nth” phase, a root phase; and that’s where I’m at now. I’m waiting for my tools required for my project to arrive at my doorstep, reading and applying as much of the knowledge as I can about mushroom insulation, worm composting and basic construction. Trying to find ways to get rid of all this ‘excess’ stuff I have and don’t need to be truly zero waste and minimalist.
Getting Started and maintaining the momentum is only half the battle, the rest of it is all in my head. In truth, a large part of what I do to heal and work through the noise inside my head, is pain and conflict management. Pain – be it emotional or physical whether from feelings of abandonment and loss – from things and ideas I’ve attached myself to, become linked to the awareness that we are mortal, that we all die and that without access to resources which take the form of people, things and skills we can’t survive. We have an aversion in the form of pain and fear of anything that will threaten our ability to survive long enough to reproduce – and so my task in life has been managing the pain and discomfort I feel and pushing through it with an open heart and palm.
The Ongoing Path
An open palm in a nutshell is to hold the world in my hand not with a tight fist or closed palm squeezed over it, but with an open palm that gives that which I love around me room to breathe. It’s the basic idea that it’s not attachment that is bad for us, but what we are attached to instead. Attachment to the material vs. immaterial, attachment to fears and insecurities, to things beyond our control, vs. our attachment to things that we can always control without ever having to manipulate it. Our attachment to our connection to universal oneness, our commitment to healing and loving. Our attachments to a way of living that allows us to go from rigid and on guard to open and relaxed, able to respond to life’s challenges rather than react to them.
Learning how to love with an open more compassionate heart, to give others and myself freedom to be and explore myself in nonviolent ways comes easier when our pain is managed. So a lot of what I do is reigning in that pain and instinctive reactions to that pain to live with more of an open heart. The second part of what I do to handle myself is conflict management. The inner and external conflict that exists within me. The battle to give in to self-protective desires and instincts, to cling to ideals and ways of being that don’t serve me or others. Interpersonal conflict and internal conflict triggered by external behaviour, and the desire to runaway from it all.
I view each conflict as lessons, and lessons as infinite. These lessons or conflicts repeat themselves in my life until the lesson I am meant to learn from them resolves themselves. New lessons or conflicts arise that show me I still have more to learn. Because I believe there are no masters, there are no final destinations, the journey for wisdom and peace is an infinite work in progress; and the path one can take in resolving conflict can be towards the path of closed fist or open palm. One of ignorance or one of wisdom.
This is called Phase N, and it’s not a phase that will start and end but an ongoing process of starts and stops and maintenance. It’s funny because I have such great thoughts and strategies on how to live for myself, but practicing it and growing remains a work in progress. My awareness of what I need doesn’t seem to make me immune to being hindered by the challenges I have; and that’s why I spend a lot of time stopping and going and trying to maintain my growth instead of withering away. And while there is beauty in withering and death, like that of an autumn leaf; rebirth from the winter of death come spring…the type of death and rebirth I speak of is metaphorical. And so this is my journey. Phase N. Pushing through the muck for what appears to be an ongoing path made of eternity.