It’s my understanding that the Universe is ordered according to two fundamental principles: Chaos, and Entropy.
Chaos these days is often considered to be the lack of Order, or even Order’s antagonist. Though originally, the Ancient Greeks who coined the term considered it a dark formlessness from which all life originated.
Entropy, taken to it’s logical conclusion, is also formlessness. Though the grey, bland, everything is perfectly mixed and homogenized kind of formlessness.
Life as we’re experiencing it right now exists between these two extremes of formlessness, in what I consider a paradoxical third extreme. There’s no word for it other than Life itself.
There’s no balance to be obtained here, except in how you experience it, if you even want it, sometimes it’s more fun to embrace the extremities. There’s no order to be found except what you impose upon it, and the laws of physics, but even those are questionable at the right levels, under the right circumstances. And there’s only as much entropy as what you allow to seep in.
As a living, sentient, experiencing being, you’re free, allowed, ENCOURAGED to live. That’s why there’s no meaning to life. That’s because you have to infuse Life with that Meaning yourself. Otherwise you’re not living, you’re barely surviving—you’re formless yourself.
Regarding what we want in life, it’s far easier to make excuses than time.
One time, perhaps a year or two after I met my wife, I had a dream about Death. In my dream I walked forward atop a grassy hill. Perpendicular to me walked Death herself. She was made of nothing but bones, and wore a translucent grey hooded robe. Against her blew a terrible wind that was felt only by the Reaper and a red flag tied to the top of her scythe. I didn’t stop walking, Death didn’t stop marching, and we crossed paths — I walked through Death. It was an experience that I can only describe as getting splashed with cold water on the inside. After, we stopped and looked at each other. Her skull was something like that of a horse’s, she is a Horseman, after all.
During my waking life I was deep in the throes of my own inadequacies, crazy with fear and anger and responsibility, desperately clawing my way from hell. In that dream moment, while I stared into the eyes of the Reaper, a question occurred to me. While I knew the answer before I spoke, I asked of Death the only question I had:
"Will I die a good death?"
"That’s up to you." she replied.
And with that she turned and flew up into the air towards Mount Olympus (it was a dream, after all, and I suppose that makes her name Thanatos). Knowing, somehow, that this was a dream I challenged it and deliberately looked away, expecting her and the dream to be gone when I looked back. Instead, I saw her flying still, and so to me it was more than just a regular dream.
Even so, I woke up, and since then I worked hard to right my wrongness so that when I die I can do so peacefully. Now, after many years of hard truths and hard work I can die knowing that I’m not a horrible monster, and I’m not a horrible person.
I’ve got a lot left to do though, and so my question has evolved a little since then.
"Will I live a good life?" I ask myself.
"That’s up to you."
Once, I cried all the way home from school to an empty house, stood in the kitchen with a carving knife pressed against my stomach. The point was hard, and hurt, but I lacked the conviction to push it all the way in. I cried for fifteen minutes until I finally put the thing back.
Many nights I laid in bed crying myself to sleep. I’d press the pillow down upon my face to keep my parents from hearing me, and then I’d hold it down as hard as I could, hoping it would suffocate me.
Later, I fantasized about taking the car keys late at night and sitting in the garage while the rumbling engines put me to sleep. I had heard of someone in my town doing that years before and the peacefulness of it attracted me.
One day, in grade seven chemistry class, my teacher unlocked a special cupboard and pulled out a dozen or so bottles of what was obviously something that kids weren’t supposed to play with. Cyanide…one of them held cyanide. The bottle was about the size of a bottle of model paint. I held it in my hand a long time and starred at it. I wondered if it was enough to kill me. It wasn’t totally full, but people took cyanide pills so it might be enough. But how stupid would I have looked if it wasn’t enough and I ended up having to come back to class and face everyone who already hated me as the dumbass who was such a failure he couldn’t even kill himself.
Then, years later, so many years that some people might have mistaken me for a well adjusted adult, I ran out of weed after being high every day for a few months. It wasn’t doing for me what it used to so I decided that it was time once again for a break. The withdrawal was torturous, and I was a week into it. My job review was coming up. A moment where I would be deliberately judged by my superiors. An affair which, for a child who’s primary authority figure, his father, was also his biggest bully, would have been anxiety inducing under relatively calm circumstances. The fear of being judged dredged up all of my failures. I was a terrible husband, a cruel father, I was the monster I hated. Surely they would see that and dispose of me like the trash I was. My awfulness weighed unbearably upon me.
I could not stop stabbing myself in the chest. I hated myself. I was worthless. I was evil. I was garbage. Over and over my right hand plunged a knife through my sternum. Over and over, the knife plunged into my chest, destroying my heart. I could not stop the vision. I wanted to, but I couldn’t stop fantasizing about it in all it’s bloody horror. And when, in a fleeting moment, I did banish the thought my mind said “fine, let’s blow a fucking hole in your head instead!” and now my right hand held a gun and my brains were painting the walls.
I cried uncontrollably, huddled in the fetal position on my bed. I could not stop, but I did feel thankful for the wonderful woman who sat by my side and held me throughout it. I was powerless to my own self hate and depression, but her love shone through.
Life is scary and hard. Either you can run from it, meekly, and stay in your desk and work for other people and trade your time and your soul for some semblance of stability and comfort. Or you can step out into the wind and fire and cast your lot with the rest of the world.
It takes courage. It takes determination. It takes conviction. To succeed.
But I feel it’s worth it.
How you live your life is entirely up to you. I wouldn’t expect my way of living to fit you, and I’m sure your way won’t fit me. We’re different people. That’s cool.
When you mix two things into which people invest deeply — their work and their life — you’re bound to find some strong opinions. It’s also easy to get bogged down in those opinions and have arguments quickly devolve into religious debates. I’d like to avoid that.
Whatever choices you’ve made about how to live your life and do your work are fine with me. You were free to make the choices you did, and you’re free to change them now. Learn to love the choices you’ve made, or change them and shut the fuck up.
Sure, I write code for money (one of several skills) and what I do is just a job to me, but that’s because I’ve learned the hard way. I used to put a lot more passion into my job and found that believing the job is anything more than just a job is a great way lose my sanity and wreck my health.
So, I gave all my fucks up. Since then I’ve become a better developer because I’m not obsessed with my work. I can be objective about it and what makes it successful. I’m OK with being wrong. I learned to let go more, which helps me learn more new things. It’s alright to be reasonable.
A problem with branding a person as a 501 Developer is that it undermines the fact that just because they’re not in the office it doesn’t mean they’re not working. It’s the simple matter of having a lot to care about in life and the complex matter of balancing it all.
For me, even though I arrive at 9 and leave at 5 every day (rare exceptions, and the odd weekend for a crazy deadline notwithstanding) I’m working the entire rest of the day. I have a wife and a family that deserve my love and attention because there’s no fucking way I’m going to be one of those people who regrets on their deathbed how little time they spent with their family. Even with all that I give them it’s never enough. I’m usually up before everyone else in the house, and I’m always the last to go to bed. Coming in at 9 and leaving at 5 is not a matter of laziness, it’s a matter of having several responsibilities, of which my day job is only one.
Demeaning someone with the accusation of a lack of dedication because they’re responsible is insane and abusive. If you willingly work 50, 60, or even 90 fucking hours a week and then proceed to flaunt that I would immediately be suspicious. Why are you overcompensating? Are you really happy? I’d also question your ability to value your time and the time of others. Can you balance priorities? Honestly?
Working long and hard is not sustainable, nor healthy. You have to learn to work smart and apply yourself effectively. That’s called wisdom.
More is never better. Smarter is better. Better is better.
We are software developers who take pride in our work but choose not to be wholly defined by it. To us it is just a job, but we still do it well.
What the fuck is this shit? “Unforgivable Heresy”?! Working sane hours, being glad you can, talking about it, and hoping others do the same, is heresy?
Even as you read this, thousands of tech workers at Facebook, Google, Zynga and elsewhere are playing the Sandberg card! And when I say “thousands,” I mean none. Because no one who’s putting in 50 or 60+ hours because they’re afraid not to is going to stick out their neck and demand their lives back from the tech jobs that consume them or the venture capitalists who get wealthy on the backs of overworked and stressed-out technology employees. Not in this shaky economy.
This shaky economy? Tech is fucking booming. The people who willingly submit themselves to such unreasonable work hours are willingly accepting a legalized form of slavery upon themselves.
While I think Chris Nerney is trying to sound cute about it all, the entire article feels like an attack against Sheryl and people who work smart and try to be parents. Regardless, nobody will even read beyond the headline and the article is going to do more harm than good, validating the very fears and greeds that he barely points out.
For all the talk of ideas and inspiration in the technology world, those are just sparks. The real engines driving Silicon Valley are fear and greed: The fear of workers who are afraid to be seen as less than psychotically loyal to the company, and the greed of top executives and venture capitalists who see workers as replaceable cogs in a vast money-making machine.
I’m not disagreeing with that point, but it’s buried under a ton of hubris against a success woman and mother, whom I’m guessing he’s jealous of.
Chris, rethink your take.
The world and its people change all the time, everyday, in ways no one will ever completely predict. Keep up, or shut up.
Also, remember to let things go. That’s how you keep up, and that’s how you keep sane.
The Moth Presents Anthony Griffith: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.