This is not intended to be a statement of beliefs. Nor is it meant to be a comprehensive biography. I don't have the time or space here to explain even half of the important things that have happened to me over the course of my life, so I'm not even going to try. Instead, I intend this to be something in the middle - something more akin to an explanation. Or more likely, perhaps just a rant… an excessively long rant… a very excessively long rant…
This is an attempt at an explanation of how I came here to Hatrack. Furthermore, this is an explanation of Tresopax – me! Well, actually, Tresopax is a mask. I wear it. I’m wearing it now. It sits in my collection of masks – the student mask, the child mask, the friend mask, the coworker mask, and so on. In the end, I think what I truly am is mainly a collection of masks. In fact, that’s the way I see it with everybody. Like actors in a theater, everybody plays out their roles. I do not mean to say that we are fake. Some people are, but I think for the most part people are quite true to themselves. But the thing is, our true self is simply those masks that we attach ourselves to with all our passion and soul. And that gets me thinking: What masks are true for me? In fact, that’s the question underlying all of this. Who am I?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I'll start with my childhood. I remember my childhood as being quite happy. In fact, I remember it as being especially sunny. I suspect it was really pretty similar to your average childhood. I was fortunate enough to have loving parents who, though not wealthy, were well enough off. They're probably most responsible for who I've become. I also had two younger brothers, and I spent a good deal of my time with them. We lived in a good neighborhood that seemed to have a sense of community. I have always been quite shy, but I nevertheless had a number of close friends to talk to there. They were the group of youngsters who lived nearby in my neighborhood. We were not joined by any similarity beyond that, but it seemed to be enough. It seemed to me at the time that we were the sort of friends that would remain that way forever – though I later found that to be a mistaken assumption.
We used to play sports - all different sorts of games. My competitive nature and trash talking today derives in a large part from that time, I think. My friends were the athletic sort, somewhat unlike me. I was usually expected to be the smart-but-unathletic one, the one picked later when selecting teams for whatever game happened to be going on that day. Over time, I began to take on the role of the underdog – the truth was, I was usually better than I appeared, as I played as much as they did. That role seems to have stuck with me through today, and I've always kind of enjoyed it. Anyways, that was how it seemed like I spent my free time in those days.
There was also another game of interest that we played, though. We used to make-believe and pretend we were characters from the comic books and TV shows we loved. This is not a particularly unusual thing for kids, I think. Most kids I knew did it. But the interesting thing was that over time, our make-believe began to evolve into something more complex. We began to act out stories invented by ourselves with our characters, who became increasingly unique. And one of my good friends and I began to take on the role of directors for the little game, with the others following our lead. We developed the story and the events that would occur. It grew into a saga of sorts, as each time we played the game we would start where we left off before, continuing the story, inventing a whole world. Interestingly, I was ALWAYS the bad guy. Everyone else would fight over who gets to be the hero, but not me. I found that the heroes would rather dull and uniform, that the villains were the ones who were complex and interesting. I think this is an interesting note because I find it foreshadowing future opinions of mine about understanding evil people…
We eventually grew out of that game. But, by this I don’t necessarily mean we lost interest. It was more the way children grow up and realize there are certain things they are supposed to be doing and certain things they aren’t, and go ahead and follow the norm whether they really would like to or not. I say this because the world we created remained in the back of my mind. On occasion, I would imagine how to continue the story from where we left off. There it stayed for a while, in the back of my imagination.
Of course, life in those days was not all fun and games. There was also school, where I fell into a very different crowd than at home. Whereas my friends at home were those who you might consider the “popular” crowd (if such a thing exists in elementary school), my friends at school were pretty much the future geeks. I was cast in the “outside” bunch, and was treated accordingly. My school was wimpy compared with some stories I have heard from those in more violent areas, but I can say that for a while I was made a good bit unhappy by the tormenting of some of my peers.
The thing was, I developed a very different way of dealing with this than most of my friends. I’m not sure whether it was my parents, my religion, or the television that I watched that got the idea into my head, but I (in a very memorable moment in second or third grade I think) decided that the best course of action was to look at things from the perspective of the kids who taunted me. Somehow, I began to see how making fun of me would be funny if I was someone on the outside, watching. And I began laughing at the jokes directed at me (which they found to be a funny reaction – “Why is he laughing at himself? Don’t you realize they just made fun of you?”) But this became a philosophy of sorts for me, and seemed to work without fail. The things that used to bother me didn’t seem too bad all of a sudden, and once the others realized I felt that way, they moved on to more sensitive people to try and get reactions. It became a central idea of mine –and I rarely got angry after those days.
But soon enough, other things began occupying my mind. I was in sixth grade (we are flying through my life now), and suddenly I realized I was on the verge of not being a kid anymore (or so I thought.) I’m not sure where exactly to draw the line, but somewhere around there began the first stage of my life – the innocent stage – and the beginning of the second one. I was becoming a person who thought about the future - even worried about it. I was becoming practical and realistic, and learned words like "impossible". I found myself confronted with the revelation that I was going to middle school, and things like grades would start mattering soon, with my future at stake.
It was also the time when I got thrown into a different class of kids, when it seemed like we were all being separated out into various distinct paths. I was thrown onto the GT track, meaning I was supposed to be one of those achiever types. And once in middle school, I lived that sort of life. I worried about grades and how well I did in class, thinking these things would shape my future.
The problem with this was that it increasingly cut me off from my oldest friends, who had been placed on other tracks. They took different classes and I saw less and less of them. Instead I was increasingly involved with my “school friends,” but never to the point of ever getting too close to any of them. In general, I ended up somewhere between the cliques, not truly in any of them, but connected to a bunch of them. This is quite important, I think, as I began to define myself in those terms. To this day, I continue to think of myself as someone who does not belong in any role, but that instead is capable of switching between many different ones. I continue to think of myself as not defined by any one view of the world, but rather as someone who can (and must?) jump from one to another. Understand that and you’ll go a long way to understanding me. But back to the story…
High School. It was not a particularly great time for me. In fact, by that point, I think I was living a pretty dull life. I spent a lot of time doing schoolwork. I enjoyed watching cartoons on TV, playing basketball in a youth league after school, and rather loved playing computers games like Civ and SimCity back then when those things were pretty new to me. Occasionally I stayed after school for some clubs, which I loathed, but participated in anyways for the sake of putting it in my college applications. I never went to parties, dances, or mass social activities if I could avoid it. I had friends, but I didn’t see them that often outside of school. I went to church every week, as I had ever since I had been confirmed and had decided I should, but I never was really involved.
I never read books if I didn’t have to – English classes in middle and high school had taught me quite clearly that books were useless except to the rare few who are amused by the original use of language. That was for those “artistic” sorts of people – a category I was quite sure did not include me. I favored math and science, and prided myself on reasoning and logic. That was me then – a rational guy I thought. A practical guy. No time for silliness.
And as the years progressed I began to turn my thoughts to my future even more. Where to go to college? What to major in? The answer was always an ambiguous shrug, but I was planning for a career in business. It seemed to be the right choice, as it didn’t require extra schooling and promised tons of money. I was good at numbers, so I figured accounting or finance was the right track for me. It was the easy track – the beaten track – the track I love. Or so I thought then.
Enter my senior year. Most people go into a senior slump around that time, but not me. For some reason I wanted a 4.0 GPA, and I was ever so close to it. Problem was, in order for me to get it, I had to take three AP classes, and get straight A’s – something I’d never done. But I was strangely determined and as a consequence my senior year was my hardest. That’s me – the achiever type. I had come a long way from when I was first put on that path, and I thought I was succeeding at it.
Only problem was, something was missing. Remember those old friends of mine, the ones who I had become friends for no other reason that they lived near me, and who I used to play all sorts of games with during my childhood? Well, they were in another group, slipping away from me despite my efforts to avoid it. And I had maintained my role as a guy between the cliques – sort of in many, but not really in any. I had friends, but I realized none were close – I realized all of them would be quickly lost upon graduation. I was lonely.
Finally, it began to make sense to me. I knew why I was intent on getting that 4.0. Why I was so bothered by the lack of close friends all of a sudden. Why was I stressed out. It was regret. As my high school career came to a close, I came to the conclusion that I had wasted it. But more than that, I questioned my future. It was almost there and in that new light, it seemed bleak. I mean…. the real world? Life as an accountant? Something in my practical world of those days had gone wrong. I think it may be a familiar question to you all: What is the purpose of it all? It did not seem all that purposeful at the moment.
As a side note, there was another shift of thinking that occurred around that time. I was sitting in class, watching a video about the discovery of the laws of physics and my mind was wandering as usual. I was trying to imagine what it had to be like in the days when people believed the church was always right, and how they possibly could not have realized the fault in their thinking. And then a thought occurred to me – it seemed likely that we too have flawed thinking like that – that we are probably acting like fools too and don’t even realize it. I wondered what it is that we are overconfident in…. science? It was a new state of mind for me. I had always questioned things like religion, but stuff I learned in school? I was supposed to trust that. Perhaps not…
Crisis. I’m the sort of person who is difficult to see through. I typically always appear happy – people have said I am always smiling. But that is not exactly the truth, and it certainly was not the truth back then. The truth was, I was worried. I was going through what one might call an identity crisis of sorts.
And then I graduated. That was fun. It even included a party. Then that part of life was over.
Soon afterwards, I made what turned out to be a significant choice. I was looking for a job that summer, in hopes of getting some money to pay for college. The problem was, I had started too late and nobody wanted to hire for just a little over a month. So, I decided not to work that summer and just sit around being lazy. And as a result I was bored, with plenty of time and little to do. But I did have questions I wanted to figure out the answers to. I wanted to know what I was supposed to do with my life… what the purpose of it was…. I decided that if I wasn’t doing anything else, I would dedicate my summer to figuring it out.
Never underestimate the power of time just for thinking, people.
At some point early on, I came up with the idea of writing. I realized that it was impossible to figure anything out just by thinking about it. I had to write it down. I wanted to organize my thoughts. In the end I wanted a manifesto of sorts. I wanted to know what I was all about. That was my first plan – to write essays on whatever topics I felt like – a journal of sorts. That plan failed quickly. I found I lacked the motivation to write, or at least was unable to write directly to myself without any outside input. The idea remained in my head though, and would later gather my interest in a certain other activity…
Meanwhile, I was left wondering how to find answers. The idea came from a teacher in the previous year that had inspired me, although I did not know it at the time. I took AP Spanish Literature my senior year. If you’ll recall, I told you earlier that I hated reading in those days. Well, I did, but this teacher treated literature in a way I had not encountered before. Perhaps it was because it was Spanish and we could not appreciate the way the authors could play around with words, but she focused on the story itself and how we can relate to it, rather than the author’s linguistic skills. At some point I got the idea that a good book might not just be a bunch of literary devices, but also a way of thinking about life. And that class reminded me of the story making games we used to play way back in elementary school – those games where we invented made-up worlds, whose ridiculous plotlines I would imagine and direct. The truth is, that world never ceased to exist in my mind. Occasionally I would go back to it and imagine some new twist or some new character to put in the world. And that class reminded me of it, and reminded me of the fun that stories could be.
So, that following summer I considered reading something for fun – something I hadn’t really done for many years, aside from a few non-fiction things. Fortunately, I had a few things sitting on my desk that had been given as gifts to me that I could start on. The first was the Lord of the Rings, which my good friend had given to me on my birthday. The other was Ender’s Game, given to me by my cousin over a year previously for Christmas, with the statement that he loved and that he thought I would too. Both seemed like silly books to start with by the covers. One had geeky-looking creatures on the covers and looked like one of those ridiculous fantasy novels you might see at the library. The other just had a spaceship – obviously a cliché star-trekish sci-fi novel. They had sat on my desk for quite a long time, but I finally decided to give them a chance. I decided to try out Ender’s Game. This where the story gets interesting.
At the point I did something quite unusual – I decided to read the introduction. Previously I would have ignored an introduction and skipped straight to the real story, but this time I had questions to answer and I was curious to hear what an author had to say about his book. Instead, I think I got a bit more than that…
quote: “Why else do we read fiction, anyway? Not to be impressed by somebody’s dazzling language – or at least I hope that’s not our reason. I think most of us, anyway, read these stories that we know are not “true” because we’re hungry for another kind of truth: The mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those life-communities that define our own identity, and the most specific truth of all: our own self-story. Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about ourself.” -Orson Scott Card, Introduction to Ender’s Game
Was he talking about me? It certainly seemed that way.
He was correct, too, at least about Ender’s Game. It WAS about human nature. It WAS about me. And it most certainly was not about dazzling language. To me Ender’s Game is about a conflict – the conflict of Valentine’s comforting, kindly idealism and Peter’s harsh, selfish realism. It is the story of a boy a cruel world, a world that wants to chew him up and spit him out, all the while using him. The question is, can he find happiness in it, and would he have to sacrifice success and the world itself to do so? It’s an incredible story, and the reason is it has an incredible central character – one that really spoke to me.
However, I must add that I hated the ending with passion. It solved the conflict of the war between man and bugger, but it didn’t solve the conflict I thought was most important. Could Ender find happiness and a resolution to his internal conflict with Peter? It seemed impossible, and yet as the main character he had try. But he did not. Instead he flies away from his troubles, far away where he would not have to confront Peter. To me, it was as if Frodo had been whisked off over the seas where Sauron could never touch him, instead of having to go into Mordor to resolve everything. Why do I add this to my little story here? Because the reason I hated it was not because it was a bad ending. Rather, it was not the perfect ending, and I felt I could do better. Actually, I wanted to do better.
I wanted to try my own hand at writing a story. I remembered back to the childhood days when we acted out our imaginary little stories. I remembered how ever since I had occasionally mentally brought back the fantastical worlds we had invented and imagined, to ponder over what might have happened next. I got the idea into my head that I should write a conclusion to that world. It helped that I was beginning to read Lord of the Rings at the time (which probably stands as my second favorite story, right after Ender’s Game – how ironic that they were sitting on my desk all that time and I, judging them my their cover, never even suspected they could be really good.) The heroes would be children – in part inspired by Ender, in part because I had invented the characters as a child, and in part because I view children as more heroic than adults for some reason. So, I set off to write their story.
I quickly got distracted, however. This was partially because I didn’t know (and still do not know) how to write a good story. But more importantly, I became concerned with the significance of the story. Ever since Ender’s Game I had looked at stories I enjoyed differently – looking for their significance to me. My own seemed to carry a lot of personal significance, and I felt I could not go on without understanding it. Soon enough I figured out what it was – I was answering my own questions in story form. What is the meaning of life? What is right and wrong? Somehow, and perhaps this is the case with everyone, stories were connected with philosophy in my mind. Characters were not just characters but views of the world, and vice versa. This connection has persisted with me ever since.
This marked an important change of direction for me, or at least for my thinking. Instead of being practical, scientific, and rational, my thoughts were drifting towards the liberal arts and idealism. That would become a theme over the next few years of my life, I think. You might call it an identity crisis, or the resolution of one. I was shifting paths.
Back to reality, though. If this all has given you impressions about how I acted in those days, don’t let it. As I said in the beginning, I have lots of masks, and it isn’t so easy to change them just because you change. I was my normal goofy self, just as much as usual in those days. I sat around that summer doing whatever…
Soon enough, it was off to college. I’m a worrisome person as it is, but that just totally freaked me out. I mean, college! Predictably, most of my old friends where somewhat left behind, and I didn’t speak to any of them much after that. I was randomly assigned to live with a number of other students, just like everyone else, which seemed a worrisome situation to me at first.
But guess what? It was all good. As it turned out, the 10 of us became very good friends early on. It was the sort of friendship I hadn’t had in years, largely because of the fact that we lived together and saw each other every day. But more than that, I think the situation we were put in is a bit like the group of launchies that Ender became close to. Each of us faced a new and unfamiliar situation – that common problem united us. I think the colleges do this intentionally, and truthfully I think those who had roommates picked out from their old schools missed out.
And then there was classes… at the time, my plan was still to go straight into business, and I was taking largely the prerequisites for the commerce school here at UVA. One class stood out though, and was probably one of the few indicates of the change in thinking that had occurred to me over the same – I decided to take Introduction to Philosophy. My questions had not been solved over the summer and they didn’t go away when I got to school. Philosophy sounded like the sort of class where I might find answers.
One other new thing was music. I have no CDs and up through high school the only music I heard was when I occasionally listened to the radio. But when I got to college my roommate began downloading music on my computer – something brand new at the time. So I began listening more to it too, and I found a value in it that I had not expected to find. This goes along with my discovery of literature over the summer, I suppose. Back in those more “practical” days of high school, I had never paid attention to the arts – or matters of the soul in general. But something had changed that.
And then there was the internet. I got e-mail for the first time. I got AIM for the first time. I started “surfing” for fun for the first time. As a matter of fact, one of the first things I looked up on the web was that book that had so fascinated me the previous summer. I remember coming across a peculiar piece of information – that OSC liked Civilization. This might not sound peculiar to you, but the fact is that that was a game that fascinated me too, and I found it for some reason interesting that an author I liked would also like the same video games as me. So, I looked a little further into this Card character and eventually found my way to a website called Hatrack River. It was an interesting place – it even had a forum where people debated politics. I considered returning to it in the future, but forgot about it shortly after that.
That year was one of the best years of my life. I had a break from worrying about my future for the moment, I had good friends that I got to do everything with, and I was being introduced to a whole world of new ideas – a familiar college experience, I imagine.
Time passed. Things happened – many fun, some not. I was happy. Eventually though (skipping ahead because this little story is dragging on now) the year ended. And that folks, was a problem…. After making these new friends and learning so much I had to return home, and found a less-than-great existence there that summer. It turned out that the few friends I still was in contact with from high school were not around that summer for various reasons. None of the people I had met in college lived in the area. I had little to do, it seemed. Plus, as I was running out of money to pay for college, I got a job working as assistant manager at the local Blockbuster. It turned out to be plenty of hours but doing something I despised and something that stressed me out more than it should have. So, I would work, sleep, eat, and sit around looking for something fun to do. It was not a terrible existence, but it seemed pretty meaningless, as if I was just droning on, waiting for school to start up again, wasting away the summer. And it left me with too much time for idle thought, once again…
In that time all the questions and new ideas I had had over the past year swirled in my head. I felt like I had to figure it out…. I had to organize them… I had to figure out what I should be doing with my life. It felt so much like it was just slipping away in some wrong direction. What did those feelings mean? Was it normal? Isn’t this sort of stuff adolescent thinking? Is there anything I could do to fix things? And what about this frickin story of mine… the one I had imagined but couldn’t seem to actually write? Why did my mind keep drifting back to that? And what about God? Why did he put everyone through this? Why couldn’t life be simple…. the questions were all tied together, and I thought about them alone in my room listening to the music that I had only recently discovered the value in.
But I found myself somewhere else… returning to that strange forum on the internet that I had visited once before. Actually, it was the young writers’ forum. I don’t know if I felt connected to the site because it was that author’s work that had partially marked the initiation of all this, or what. I just knew that there were some interesting things said on that forum… about some of the topics that I was thinking about, myself. Of course, I never posted myself, as I didn’t trust random people on the internet. Who knows who they could be. I did read their stuff, though. I was a lurker.
As time progressed, answers seemed to be working their way forward – part in story form, part in thoughts. Finally I came to… well, something – almost like a flash one day. I don’t think I could describe it to you here or ever. Sometime later though, in one of my most existential moods I wrote the following rather ridiculous mini-story as a reflection of those days. At the time I wrote it I did not expect to share it, but I figure, why not if I’m saying all this other stuff?
quote: In the face of a thousand futures, sprawled out before him, each more terrifying than the last, a dream from long ago once arose. Arisen from a fountain of truth, from the rediscovery of a world beyond the real, it sought new life. A seed of light, a hope long thought extinguished – it shattered the solid foundation, it split his destiny in two. The light and the dark, the true and the True, the happy and the heroic clashed. In a soul with no right to such fears, a new thread was born, a new child of the mind. Confused and unnerved, he found himself on a cliff, overlooking endless paths through the endless cloudy forests. On and on, seemingly forever, until fading into the darkness of the storm clouds on the horizon. The clouds swirled and wove through the sky, and as they passed, every few moments, a golden ray of light would escape through, piercing the darkness below, revealing a nature so wondrous that no human being would ever fully appreciate it. He wished the light would fall upon him, if only for a moment, but the clouds moved on their own, and they seem to thicken even as he watched. As he wished he felt a chill over him, as his former self once again approached, alive but broken. It lay back in the shadows, rising from the ground, drawing ever closer as if to once again entrap him. The boy – he was just a boy in those days – stepped back, closer to the drop behind him onto the forests below. His bright white robe rustled in the cool breeze of the night. “You are a mere fantasy,” spoke his former self from the shadows, “You are a childish dream that takes itself too seriously. I am real, and you cannot forsake me.” “No,” he stammered, “no… but I remember…another time.” “Memories from long ago, of dreams that can never be realized, of heroes that will never exist. You are lost and confused today. We had a plan…don’t give up on it now. Not when we are so close to happiness. Turn back now before we lose everything we have gained.” “But this isn’t the way. I’m not happy. I’m not even me, really.” “Who are you then, if not me? Who can you ever be?” “I will be who I want to be!” “You cannot! You know as well as I what you will become. You’ll be one of the multitudes of fools, chasing impossible dreams to their graves. Is that what you want – to become an idealist? You know where that will lead you. The wall of reality is taller than you, and you know it. Waste your life away climbing and you’ll end it with nothing….” “You just want me to be afraid. I need to be stronger than that.” “But you ARE afraid, my boy. And you are not stronger than that, whatever you say. We both know it.” His shadowy gray arms reached out to touch him, but the boy in white pulled back, back to the sharp drop behind him. With nowhere to go, he fell to his knees, but would not cry. He would think… But the shadow would not relent. “Now is the time to be firm once again. Now is not the time for silly doubts and foolish dreams. We could be happy. We could be successful. Things could be just like they always have been, just like everyone else. It is our place…. But no. You have to go off and have some sort of crisis of self. Have you ever stopped and considered how cliché that is? How a million other people just like you, no better, no worse, have done the exact same thing? You think you are special? Ha! What have you ever done? And don’t tell me I’m the bad guy because I’m the one being real - because I’m the one not making silly hopes out to be the deep and all-important meaning of life - because I’m not overdramatizing things so insignificant in this world that they merit little more than a glance. This is your fantasy, my boy, and don’t blame me for it. End this now.” “No… you don’t understand. I just can’t be happy like that. I could be more, just by staying true, just by returning to the things I once understood but have only now rediscovered.” “Naïveté… you believe because you desire. But you know it isn’t true.” In frustration the boy gripped his shining silver sword tighter, realizing for the first time it was in his hand. The thought of slicing his foe in two crossed his mind, yet he knew it wouldn’t stop him. He knew there was little that could… And yet, by twist of fate or subconscious desire, it was then that a golden beam shined down upon the clifftop. It lit up the moss covered soil, the blue-violet blossoms that covered the rocks, the stony texture of the granite foundation that pierced into the earth below, with roots as deep as time itself. It shone across the face of the shadow that haunted him, and in his eyes he could see his own reflection. It was bright and hopeful, for the first time in recent memory. It was the reflection of an even older age, of a time when things were simple, and the world was smaller. It was a time when the golden sunlight warmed his young cheeks, before he had become what he had become. And as he stared into it, he realized that that simplicity had been within from the beginning, and that he was what it had become in the face of reason. He saw his life spread out as a single silvery thread, broken into three distinct parts. And then he realized the sword in his hand was not a sword at all. It glowed with the brilliance of the sun’s light, and as he swung it through the air, it cut through the truth smoothly. And there, behind it, were a trillion threads, all interweaving, all interconnecting, all working together in perfect random symmetry, glowing with the one true light. All at once the pattern was clear, even though it was too complex to comprehend. He understood the point. It was beautiful. Too beautiful. So beautiful. It was all the lives of the world, and the threads of the paths they had and would take. He closed his eyes, and felt the wind across his skin. The smooth wind. That was beautiful too. But he knew the beauty was but a reflection of his own thread, and the weavings of the world. Slowly it faded, with the calming of the wind. And once again the dark gray hand of his former self reached out. But this time he stepped back, falling to let the air catch him. It carried him away on the wind, into the darkness of the night towards the horizon. He knew his fears remained, destined to return, until his final battle. Yet, his memories and hopes protected him. And on he flew, into the twilight, knowing that he would never be the same.
Uh… yeah. Anyways, I started being a little happier for some reason, but I was still confused on what I had figured out. And so, an old idea came to mind, in conjunction with new ones…. I remembered my old plan of writing essays to try to figure out what I believed in. But, instead of writing them to myself, I would write them on the Hatrack River Forum. That way I could hear what other people thought. I chose the adult forum rather than the young writer’s forum, as the age limit just barely eliminated me from that category. I took on the name “Tresopax” to refer, not just to me, but rather to the new set of ideas that I was exploring – my newfound strange idealism – the thoughtful side of me that I didn’t dare show too fully in every-day life. “Sopax” was originally derived from “Sophos” and “Pax” meaning “wise” and “peace.” (I later discovered it might also be interpreted as a form of “sopor” meaning “having the capacity to put one to sleep”.) “Tres” came from the name of one particular character in that story of mine - Trey. I intended the name to express seriousness (hence the Latin origin stuff), but I also was mocking myself in a way in making it sound almost like some sort of cliché fantasy’s character. It seemed a good name. I began with the intention of never getting to know people at Hatrack– as I still didn’t trust random people on the internet, and I knew that if I got to know people I would have increasing difficulty in stating what I truly believe (because I would begin worrying about what they thought of me.) I intended to do my exploration, concluding with a final post entitled “Tresopax Manifesto,” in which I would state what I had learned about myself and then exit. That was the plan.
For my first post, I wrote the following in response to Tom: (Please note that I do apologize for all of my future stupidity, which may or may not include some of this thread, depending on your opinion)
quote: Hello there. This is my first post here so let me apologize in advance for anything stupid I might (and inevitably will) say in the future.
It seems to me that the real question here is about suffering. Why would God have us suffer at all if he was all-powerful and completely good? He could make a world where we are always happy and never suffer. However, I have a problem with defining happiness as the ultimate ends that can never morally be denied.
Happiness is merely a goal that God has given to us. There are other such goals. Knowledge is another good example. Sometimes we seek knowledge that will make us unhappy and sometimes we must give someone knowledge that will make them unhappy. The real question is “Are these goals really valuable?” Is the purpose of life to be happy? Is it to find the truth? I believe it is not.
The true value of this life that God has given us is the attempt to achieve these goals. It is the journey that matters. So what if God just gave us these things? He could tell us exactly what to do to be happy or he could just waive his hand and make us inherently happy. But then there would be no journey. The fact is that we need ignorance and suffering for there to be any point to life. Otherwise we would just sit around and be happy forever.
The value of a game is not success but rather the attempt to achieve success. A game where you always win is pointless and has no value.
To use an earlier example, life is like a test where you are given a textbook (experience) and only one chance. All the other students claim to have the real answer key but each one has different answers. The only thing the teacher really wants is for you to read the textbook and attempt the test. Passing the test has no value in of itself. He is grading on effort.
The obvious response to this is: God cannot be good if he put us in a game where we suffer.
My response is simple. Go find some soma. I’m sure science will someday invent some drug that will give us pleasure 24 hours a day. We won’t even have to think. We could just sit and be happy. Is this a valuable life? What if you could do it for all eternity? Would that make it any better?
Okay, so that’s the origin story of Tresopax, seen through the eyes of my crazy little mind. I’m sorry that it was so long... just like my regular posts, it kinda got drawn out once I started writing. I’m also sorry that I didn’t have time to mention a lot of the more tangible details of my life. I left out so much – my birth, my most embarrassing moments (yeah, good idea not to include that ), my relationship with my church, the suicide of a friend, and so on… In fact, I’ve left out almost everything! Thirdly, I’m afraid I may have given the wrong impression of myself. I’m neither really this serious nor as sad as I may sound. In fact, most people describe me as goofy and constantly happy – some have even gone so far as to say that I‘m never serious. And, despite the fact that I spend a good deal of this thread talking existential craziness about my search for meaning, I don’t really sit around all day and think about that. That’s a different level of thought – the sort that comes around sometimes, but also the sort that drove me here to Hatrack. Goofy would be a much more accurate description of me - seriously.
So, what was the point of this anyway? I’m not entirely sure. I wanted to explain how I got here and why I said some of what I do. I wanted a Tresopax Manifesto of some sort, although I failed in my attempts to figure out what I hoped to over these years. I have not found a set of truths about the world and myself that I could completely believe - I have come to the conclusion that the moment I decide on such a set I would be wrong.
Truthfully, my life has been pretty boring and easy when compared to some of yours. The truth is, if I just wrote about the events of my life, I’d have little to say. I was born, I lived an average childhood, I went to school, I did the normal sort of stuff, I went to college, and here I am. I have faced no really big problems, at least relative to some people I know in the world. I was not born rich, but I was not born poor either. I have not faced any severe accidents, mental illnesses, serious diseases, etc. I had parents I loved and who loved me. I have been very lucky. I have no excuse to be unhappy. My only great problem is myself, I think. And I can’t figure out how to defeat myself. I’m still wondering about those same questions that I was four years ago. I still can’t figure out what to do with my life. What’s more…there is a sense that Tresopax is losing the battle here. I find that I’m writing fewer posts with intention of figuring things out, and more about politics or other ‘practical’ matters with the intention of convincing others of my opinions. I’m facing graduation into a real world and I can’t seem to figure out how to make it gel with the Tresopax in me. In fact, I came THIS close to having Xaposert symbolically kill off Tresopax at the end of this post.
But I will not. In fact, I plan to stay at Hatrack a good while longer. The truth is, after thinking about it, Tresopax has not been killed off by the other sides of me, despite the fact that they remain in conflict. I worry that he someday may be, as the dreaming and idealism in many people seems to fade as they grow older. But, for now, he will remain. The fact remains that I think I am much better off than before he came around – before I came to Hatrack. Back then I was headed for a life that would not have satisfied me. Now I’m as lost as ever, but at least I know it and I know why, and I have hope that someday Tresopax and Xaposert might be in agreement again. Hatrack has helped me in that struggle and I’d like to thank you all for that. I have failed in my original plan to stay detached from this place and have made good friends here (which does, in fact, make it more difficult to be open.) That makes me happy. I realize I can be a strange guy with strange ideas and a strange way of trying to get them across. I realize sometimes I can be downright stupid, or just annoying. Thanks for helping anyway, and thanks to those who actually read all the way to this point in my rant here.
quote: "Not all discussions are about changing others' minds. Some are about discovering your own mind." –Me (August 28, 2000)
quote: "Happiness, to me, is being able to, just for a moment, become someone I only dream about... myself." –Psycluded
quote: "Life should be shared. Life should be appreciated. Money shouldn't cost so much." –Thor
I don't know why I feel so strongly about it, but I'm very, very glad that you decided not to destroy Tres Maybe I just love the duality of all things...kind of like the ideas in your first post. What would Xap be without Tres?
Anyway, very nice post. I'm impressed by your self-awareness.
And I liked the story you wrote... it really spoke to me
Congrats on 4000!
[edited for using the word "really" a bit excessively]
Cool post, Tres! I read the whole thing. I'm so glad Tresopax is still alive, too. I think of him as you. Doesn't the person who asks "Who am I?" have to be the real you?
I just started marvelling, just now, at what an odd thing it is that hatrack has changed so many people so much. What has it done to us? For me, I think it's made me more idealistic and worldsaving, more loving and open, more playful with new and strange ideas. But maybe what it actually does is just free us be more ourselves than ever we were before.
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It's funny that as I read through your post I kept thinking that your life story sounds quite similar to my own. Maybe at my next landmark post I'll just cut and paste
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I found the manifesto entrancing. Beautiful, interesting writing. I believe in Tresopax more than in Xaposert. But then we never got Xap's story. Give us more.
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Of course you like Tresopax better. Heck, even I like him better than me. That's because he's the idealist. It sounds good, but can he really live that way? That's what I would ask. I'm not sure he can. Reality is like that - it places limitations on you that you cannot go past regardless of how hard you want to. The fact remains that, for all his words here at Hatrack and all his thoughts, what has it gotten us? Today we remain in the same dilemma we were years ago - confused about what we should do with our lives. And despite what Tres wants and says, we remain on the worn path that we've always really been on.
Tresopax says that the reason he came to Hatrack was to discover himself. I might offer an alternative explanation though... that he is at Hatrack in an attempt to hide from himself - from his reality. Here he can say what he wants to say, regardless of how far off of reality it is. He can invent this new mask to fulfill his desire to be someone different from himself - someone who really does want to save the world and all that nice stuff, rather than someone who merely dreams about the idea but is too afraid to actually ever risk anything himself. How can we be so sure that Tresopax is his true self as he seems to think, and not just what he wishes to be. Perhaps deep down I am his true self, if not his most immediate conscious ideas - the doubt and the acknowledgement of reality underneath all that.
Heh.... this whole argue-with-myself thing is just too fun, at least for me. You guys should really try it.
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Anyways... I'm glad some of you guys liked my post. Looking back at the length, I'm really impressed that anyone would care enough to really read it all. Thanks - I really mean it. It was somewhat difficult to write all that, and even more difficult to get the nerve to put it on the internet where anyone could read it. I'm glad it was worth it.
And Anne Kate, I agree to an extent about the effects of Hatrack (although, as illustrated by Xap above, I suppose I do have doubts about the real-life effect of it too.) What IS certain is that I've changed over the past three years, and at least some of that is as a result of Hatrack. I like to think it was for the better.
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Tres, I think you are one of the most complex and interesting people on this forum. And one of the best people to have around from my own standpoint. You know how to abstract away from practicalities and reach the ideas that (whether people like it or not) are central to whatever topic is under discussion.
We don't always agree, obviously, especially where God, ethics and the mind are concerned. But you have a true philosopher's sensibility. That's why I was sorry to hear you'd decided not to go to grad school for philosophy, and why I hope you will one day -- I'd enjoy having you as a colleague.
Before listening to Xaposert I may have hoped that he would disappear leaving us with just Tresopax. But now I don't think so. I think that if he is your connection with reality he has a vital role. While Tresopax looks off into the horizon and focuses on the ultimate destination Xaposert can make sure that he doesn't trip on the little obstacles right under is nose.
I guess what I hope is that Xaposert can be Tresopax' servant rather than his replacement or destroyer. After all, he admits to loving Tresopax. And his main concerns seem to be about whether or not Tresopax can survive in the real world. The answer may be a booming "YES," and a qualifying, "with the help of his faithful servant Xaposert."
But if Xaposert becomes the master I don't think that either Tresopax or Xaposert will be satisfied.
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Destineer, I do intend to make you tell me how philosophy grad school is you know. I may still do it or something related... although either way, I will continue to think of myself as a philosopher I think. I view it as a mindset rather than a body of knowledge.
Bebe, I think you may be right... hmmmm....
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