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Striving for a Virtuous Life


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I used gaming as a way to escape from reality: I still long for escape.

I'm paralyzed by the opportunity cost seemingly inherent to all matters in life. Everything, it seems, is judged for it's material value, and we must strive to capitalize as much as possible in this society or be deemed failures by ourselves and others. Under capitalism I am already and forever damaged; a mere peon. who's doomed to never realize his potential. This triggers the perfectionist in me: the more besmirched I become, the more I seek refuge, resulting in a vicious feedback loop.

But what can be done? Well, for one I've found it necessary to reject the tenants under which capitalism thrives on: happiness is not found in material wealth, nor in the adulation of others. We are all that we have in the end, and thus we cannot rely on anything external for our inner peace; accordingly, I now seek spiritual fulfillment and the attainment of great character in the service of others. I am not religious and thus am not compelled by divine favor or perdition, yet I strive for virtues that are both moral and spiritual: virtues such as prudence, temperance, fortitude, chastity, charity, humility, and benevolence.

Video games trigger the vices of gluttony and lust in me both, and so I have committed to quitting them. In seeking temperance I hope to get my perfectionist qualities under control, since they cannot logically co-exist. In seeking prudence, I aim to reduce screen time and use technology only when it is good and/or necessary.

There's still so much to be said regarding my immediate and future plans for realizing these ideas, but for now I must rest. Grandiosity of speech seems to have availed me of my consciousness.

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I've put together a basic list of activities to help guide me through these first 90 days. It's arranged in descending order, starting with those things that most closely adhere to my stated values. The list is further split into tiers, which are summarized thusly:

Top Lines: Wholly good and just pursuits.
Middle Lines: Activities that may trigger thoughts or urges relating to bottom line activities.
Bottom Lines: Activities that cannot be self-moderated, necessitating abstinence.
* Locate the heading "Practical Tools" in this guide published by the ITAA for more information regarding lines.

Top Lines

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning/Upkeep
  • Working
  • Exercise
  • Community service
  • Reading to learn (Scholarly texts, Philosophy, Language, Self-help, etc.)
  • Home decor

Middle Lines

  • Drawing
  • Programming
  • Web Development
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Traditional Games
  • Tabletop RPGs
  • Watching movies
  • Prudent internet use (School, Finance, Shopping, Health, Literary resources)
  • Masturbation

Bottom Lines

  • Pornography (It degrades its subjects and dehumanizes its audience. Human sexuality is not a commodity to be preyed upon.)
  • Video Games
  • Binging Youtube and other streamed content
  • All other forms of mindless web browsing
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These last few days have been turbulent. I submitted to my passions after reading the intro to the book "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Tim Harris, which says those who are successful ought to reject the mundane and seek a life of excitement and personal gratification; that we should chase after lofty goals at the expense of in the moment responsibility and fair play; to put in the minimum effort to achieve the greatest possible yield.

I'm still convinced that the capitalist ideal cannot bring happiness in the end. Yet prudence compels me to succeed under its rules, for it is the quickest method to freeing up time, which itself can be traded for wisdom. Currently I work a dead end job at a retail outlet that I merely endure, and before that I would attend college courses whose structure and course loads were always out of step with my pace and capacity for learning; either too fast or too slow. I find myself in a situation where I am utterly exhausted following the 40 hour workweek, with scant time to commit to the self-improvement which I require to get ahead; and my patience is at its end. That is why I immediately submitted myself to Tim Ferris's ideas and called off of work these past two days in a row.

I've worked so hard and saved, building up a somewhat respectable credit score as well as a 401k; but for what? It is a paltry sum in the grand scheme of things. When I crunch the numbers I can't even hope to cover half of my projected retirement costs, and that's at the lowest standard of living. Retirement, as I see it, shouldn't be the end goal of life anyways: I want to work and be active for as long as I'm able. I want to take that money - all of it - and dump into a business enterprise; to feel alive and have hope for the future, even if means risking it all. Even failing in such a venture would be far more spiritually uplifting than toiling at a job that I feel to be so below my station.

I have enough to live on for a little over a year; more if I choose to liquidate everything and live as frugally as possible. Now that I've rejected video games and other forms of mind-numbing leisure I feel more confident than ever that I can succeed. Everyone in my life may call me crazy for doing this: my parents, friends, co-workers, and superiors. I have to be prepared for that. It will be lonely and frightening, and there are sure to be moments of doubt and self-loathing. So be it.

This journal will serve as my sole means of accountability for now. If I ever find myself at the point of relapse I will reach out to someone; either here or at the ITAA.

And with that promise, I now start down the path of the self-employed.

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Another turbulent day goes by. I haven't pursued any of that which I aggrandized in my last post, for the entrepreneurial spirit has, for the most part, left me. Reflecting on my past woke me up to reality; that I posses no real expertise and few skills to leverage to my desired end. And so I find myself back at the grind.

I'm craving games and pornography more than I ever have during these past 47 days of sobriety. The onset of these feelings followed an uncomfortable confrontation at work earlier: I disturbed the peace by starting a policy war with HR regarding doctors notes; and although I was proven right in the end, it didn't exactly win me many friends.

My reaction to the situation was impulsive and inconsiderate, which I'm sad to admit is par for the course. I have a hard time controlling my emotions when I feel like I'm being singled out or retaliated against.

For these past few hours I've been cycling through thoughts of intense anger followed by regret. There's inner turmoil present that I cannot reconcile. The thought of having to face these same people again is making it hard to just let go of my emotions, and so they just fester and breed. Thus I seek to escape myself.

I hope that by writing this account I'm able to exhaust myself to the point of sleep. Instead of summarizing the negative, I'll end by saying that there are good things happening which I ought to be grateful for, such as:

  • The introduction of an education assistance program at work, which has no limits to how many degrees and certificates employees are allowed to take.
  • My loving mother, who always finds time for my calls.
  • My local boxing gym; by far the biggest contributor to my good health and improved sense of self-worth.
  • My continued commitment to self improvement, which has held strong even in the face of my apparent addiction.
Edited by Zubb
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Saying Goodbye to D&D
I quit serving as our group's D&D game master last night out of frustration: I simply threw my hands up and called it a night, with about 2 hours still remaining in the session.

The group kept insisting that I couldn't swap to a more cinematic combat style mid-fight, despite the outcome of the battle being quite obvious about three rounds in. In general the group has never respected my rulings as gm, including my latest request to defer all criticisms and complaints until the end of a session; to keep the game moving. I don't love the way I handled it, but I'm relieved that it's over.

SAGE 2021 (Sonic Amateur Games Expo)
In other news, I've been very tempted to make an abstinence exemption for an annual indie games showcase, SAGE.

In years past my friends and I would go through the virtual booths and play through all the demos together. As an aspiring creative I found it inspiring to see the collective efforts of the community, and enjoyed noting the progress of the various projects from year to year. It was a bittersweet gathering, reminding me of the bygone days of my own youth; of the jump to game development that I tried and failed to clear so many times.

Recently a friend has expressed interest in hosting the event and I'm finding it difficult to turn him down. I haven't had a reason to spend time with this particular friend recently, and this would be an opportunity to reconnect. There are only so many demos to play through, so it's unlikely to lead to a full relapse into binge gaming.

At the same time I understand that attending the event would break the terms of my abstinence as they're outlined currently. My desire to attend seems to have increased following the recent difficulties I've faced with regards to my other achievement based activities (D&D, work, etc.), which follows my well established pattern of using games to escape.

What Should I be Doing Instead?

  • I signed up for a 6 month web development certification program that starts in October: I should probably commit a few hours each day to brushing up on the basics, to help get into the daily habit of studying.
  • The variety in my self-prepared meals has been lacking lately. I need to find some new recipes so that I'm not just eating the same three things every day.
  • Finding a social activity that gets me out of my comfort zone. Church seems to jump out at me as a low committal choice that will have me mingling with the community at large. I'm not religious, but I feel that the seven virtues expounded about in Christianity are strong examples to live by.
  • Practicing charity and community outreach. My local e-waste recycling group isn't accepting volunteers at this time, so I've turned my attention to prison pen pal programs.

Stay strong everyone.

Edited by Zubb
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Visual Impairment and Screen Dependency
I am visually impaired by birth, with an effective corrected vision of 20/100 coupled with nystagmus. I actually have a physical dependency on screens and technology for the purposes of reading and writing, as they are unparalleled in their range of accessibility options and cost effectiveness.

I also enjoy video games and can play them just fine, albeit at a distance that I'm sure most others would find intolerable. Games were my primary means of developing hand eye coordination growing up, as a lack of steady depth perception made most sports impractical and unrewarding. They gave me confidence in my physical coordination and reassurance that I could excel at something independently, without aid or pity from others; thus an emotional dependency was formed that still persists today.

I'm 31 now; still slow to react and physically awkward in real life situations. Without a suitable device in hand I feel like my worth as a human being drops by about half, which may in fact be accurate given my blighted condition.

How can I cope with this? A life with no screens whatsoever would leave me gimped and unproductive, yet the addition of the screen brings with it a world of convenience bonded with temptations that I find difficult to resist. The answer, I believe, is to be diligent in setting up an offline environment with all the tools that I need for success, then severing ties with the Internet of Things for good. Yet to this day I have not gone about doing it. Let pity and shame besmirch this fool so that I may be moved to action.

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With regards to your vision impairment, perhaps you could consider how a blind man might act, or alternatives they would use. Such as learning Braille and/or listening to audio books as opposed to the use of screens.

I've read through your posts and I'm also considering religion, though I am not religious myself. I believe there still remains much wisdom in religious texts. Further, when I consider how religious communities act and speak amongst their peers, I feel they have a greater sense of community than I, as an atheist, have with even my own family. I long to have this sense of community, of peace, and of love.

I've followed your topic, and hope to read more of your progress as you post it. That I might follow in your steps.

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  • 5 months later...

It's been a while. I may have lost my way a bit, but I'm back with a renewed resolve to kick my maladaptive habits to the curb.

During my last abstinence challenge I petered out around the 59 day mark, despite seeing some remarkable personal development. I was having many more positive and meaningful social interactions with co-workers, and even outright strangers. My already well-tempered eating habits had improved with the addition of tastier home-cooked meals, and I was getting some serious reading done.

My mistake was definitely reintroducing the internet at too early a time, and for allowing my self control to give out. At first it was just for learning web development through a few carefully curated sites, then I started seeking out Wikipepdia articles on subjects like Philosophy and Religion, which quickly gave way to unmitigated use of search engines. At some point I conceded streaming sites as a "rare privilage", and it was all just downhill form there. For the last seven months I've been hitting all my old habits hard, particularly gaming and pornography, without sparing even a second thought for everything I was giving up. I've even let these fruitless rabbit holes distract me from an IT networking course that I'd signed up for through work, until eventually, perhaps inevitably, I was able to see the huge cracks that had formed via my own cognitive dissonance.

So I've abandoned the notion of the 90 day challenge; this time my goal is for life. No games and no pornography, full stop. I've said it before, but vices like these go against the very core of our being, whose most virtuous aspects are in creation and love. We aren't just harming ourselves with these indulgences either: we're selfishly denying others the opportunity to know us for who we really are; surrendering self control for just a few moments of empty gratification, all while tacitly permitting others to follow suit.

Internet and PC use are a must with my current educational goals, but I've found someone to help hold me accountable for the sites I visit and applications I use, at least during these first few months. I also have a friend group that I'm going to need to have a frank and honest discussion with, and possibly cut myself off from if they try to undermine my decision.

Edited by Zubb
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This is definitely one of those days that we should all be feeling a bit more introspective. I do not currently nor have I ever had a significant other, so I've been taking some time this evening to reflect upon why that is exactly.

It's essentially by choice for me. I've always been more of an introvert and find people hard to deal with at the best of times. My tendency to lead a life free of financial liability is probably not attractive for most long term partners either: I almost never want to eat out, invest in anything luxurious or unnecessary, and currently have no aspirations outside of living and learning independently in a small and manageable dwelling. (which I've successfully met as of now)

Children seem like such a blessing, but unfortunately I don't feel fit to serve as a strong role model just yet, nor do I have the means to provide for a family. I also have a bit of PTSD and hyper arousal from when I was abused as a child myself, which are dangerous qualities that a parent could easily pass on if they aren't careful. Despite this trauma I still maintain a strong desire for physical intimacy, especially as I get older.

It's a very complicated web of seemingly incompatible wants. Right now I'm going to continue focusing on staying game/pmo free and improving my lifestyle, and maybe eventually I'll feel well enough to start making myself available to others.

On 2/13/2022 at 1:51 PM, Zubb said:

I also have a friend group that I'm going to need to have a frank and honest discussion with, and possibly cut myself off from if they try to undermine my decision.

Getting back to it, my friends were not at all receptive to my arguments for leaving the Discord app behind, nor do they seem at all pleased with the fact that I canceled our regular get together this evening. I just needed some time to be alone with my thoughts on everything, including my lack of meaningful friendships that aren't steeped in media consumption and other regressive  hobbies. If it weren't for anime and games I don't even know what we'd talk about. At the same time we're very tight knit, and I'd hate for them to feel like I was abandoning them, but with the path I want to take I feel like I will end up outgrowing the relationship. Hard to say though.

This is my 2nd day without any games or algorithm surfing; it feels so refreshing to be in full control of my time again. I'm going to spend the rest of this evening replacing my current Windows installation with Linux, and more specifically Artix. Should be a fun learning experience.

Edited by Zubb
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Three days in and I find myself with a real hankering for fighting games. I miss the feeling of playing around with how different moves function based on their spacing, figuring out what can and can't combo, and grinding out execution; all while enjoying the tactile feedback provided by the joystick gate. I need to find other hobbies to fill this void, or I will surely be tempted into relapse.

Languages is one that struck me as almost being a direct parallel, sans the physical feedback. You start small by internalizing basic grammar concepts (game mechanics), gradually introduce vocabulary (moves/tech), and after allot of grinding you eventually reach a point where you can start combining them to do cool and interesting things. All this is to say that I've decided to take a stab at Latin. I want to be able to tap into ancient texts as a source of wisdom without having to rely on what's already been translated.

I already practice martial arts, which is obviously very similar in many ways as well. I think with these two outlets I should be more or less covered, at least as far as that one genre is concerned.

Edited by Zubb
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