Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Postcards From My Childhood Part 12: The Maze

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"The child is the father of the man", they say. Surprisingly, I understood this even as a child. And so I willfully sent forward to my elder self some thoughts and images which I knew would be helpful, and which I suspected I'd otherwise forget.

To solve a maze, you don't need to visit every corridor and hit every dead end. Once you have the solution, the maze loses its interest. To dawdle in a solved maze makes no sense at all.

I recognized that people do, in fact, dawdle in solved mazes. And to some extent, it makes sense. You may have discovered the best dish on a menu, but lesser items might be delicious, as well. But there comes a moment when you've mined the value from a thing. Life is an adventure, and every dedicated adventurer learns to recognize that moment and to swiftly move on.

Here's the problem, which I didn't foresee as a kid:

If you develop an instinct for detecting this moment and moving on, things can hyperaccelerate. You find yourself learning and experiencing in lots of different realms in lots of different ways, perpetually thirsting for value and diversity (imagine a dog with his nose sticking out of a car window, hyperstimulated by the myriad passing scents).

But the unexpected truth is that it exhausts. You don't need to learn and experience absolutely everything (just as a maze solver needn't plumb every maze passage) to see clearly through, and to grok the underlying patterns. And value depletes shockingly quickly if you opt not to stick around for every single repetitive level of every video game.

The world is optimized for dawdlers who endlessly wander the same corridors. The world does not stand up to the scrutiny of those who resist
the cheap allure of the various Skinner boxes. God, it turns out, pads like a motherfucker.

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