May 172013

pinnochio teYeah, the Expansion is Existential Angst.

As far as I can tell, untold volumes have been written about Existential Angst, and no one is any closer to beating it. Are there any things we can say we’ve learned so far?


1. It’s not a fear of death. Indeed, some people seek out death as a release.

2. The most commonly expressed sentiment is that nothing seems to matter.

3. Thinking makes it worse. The common coping methods all seem to be ways to inhibit thinking and reducing opportunities for idle thought.

4. Particularly well-informed and intelligent people tend to do worse.

5. You can’t reason/motivate/will-power your way out of it.

6. Doing something makes it better, temporarily.


Let’s expand on #6. People often report that while they are actively doing something they feel temporary relief. Generally this has to be something engaging that requires effort. The greatest relief is felt when these activities are perceived to have a lasting effect on the world. Games and socialization wear off very quickly – eventually failing to elicit any relief at all. Cleaning a room will have minor effects. Painting a room or building a shelf (or writing a blog post) achieve more relief and for longer periods. Large projects (helping co-ordinate a convention) over long time periods (losing weight steadily for months) have great impacts. In short, the greater the impact upon the future, the more permanent the change – the stronger the effect.

Considering again #4… A greater appreciation of the world and the events that shape it leads to worse outcomes. We are taught that all sentient beings should be in our circle of concern, but then can do nothing to affect the overwhelming majority of them. Shit happens and what I do doesn’t matter.

I’m starting to suspect that the Final Boss is Learned Helplessness. And… it looks like I’m not the first person to think so. Unfortunately as far as I can tell there has been jack-all written about what tactics to use to beat him.

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