Holy Days: My Time at MaxFunCon

I've been baptized in Malort, creativity, and kindness. This past weekend, Christy and I attended our third MaxFunCon. Each year I appreciate it more. 

Every MaxFunCon begins with a benediction. Well, it begins with check-in and a cocktail hour, but eventually we get around to officially kicking off the weekend. Since we use the word "benediction" I should point out that MaxFunCon is not a religious event. It's a celebration of all things awesome put on by the podcast baron, Jesse Thorn. However, despite its sometimes irreverent nature, MaxFunCon has gained the potency of a holy event, at least for me. It's a celebration of the human spirit; a reminder that people are good and joyful, that the world is mysterious and beautiful, and that a priest, Jeff Buckley, and my godless heart can share a hallelujah in equal measure.

Every year John Hodgman leads our group in a a few songs accompanied by his ukulele playing. The song, Surrounded by Friendshipis sung every year. I suppose it's the theme of the weekend. On the second year I attended, Hodgman introduced us to a song that I now sing near daily, as a sort of hymn. Resist the Tide, by Cynthia Hopkins has become so important to me that I have asked Christy to be certain it is played at my funeral. Oh, and this year Hodgman played We're in the Money while dressed as Ayn Rand. I did say MaxFun is about awesome.

A root personal concept in my life is the pseudoiterative. I plagiarized and adapted the idea from a Kim Stanley Robinson novel that I've mentioned once beforeThe idea is based in the surety and art of life's patterns and a desire to cultivate an awareness of both the repetitions and surprises of the present moment. MaxFunCon allows me a yearly appreciation of the pseudoiterative. The daily schedule is the same, but it's filled with new activities. I share time with friends I've come to know, while meeting new faces as well. It's a joyful experience that can be simultaneously frantic and meditative.

A rich life requires us to build meaning into whatever frame fortune gives us. Rituals, whether daily or yearly, are important to telling the story of ourselves to ourselves. For three years I've had the pleasure of partaking in MaxFunCon. I won't be there next year. My daughter is going to arrive soon and I'll be busy getting to know her. Maybe she'd be the perfect nine month old to visit Lake Arrowhead. Or maybe she hates nerds? I can't chance it.

I write this to document my love of MaxFunCon and to say goodbye for now. It's played a big role in my life, and my wife's. I'm glad my baby was able to hear everyone's singing in the womb. I hope I get to attend again. If not, I'll remain inspired to seek out and celebrate the creative things in life. I will also pick up a bottle of Malort next time I'm in Chicago.

Iteration or Something Like It

Habits begin to form at the very first repetition. After that there is a tropism toward repetition, for the patterns involved are defenses, bulwarks against time and despair...Of course there was no such thing as a true repetition of anything; ever since the pre-Socratics that had been clear, Heraclitus and his un-twice-steppable river and so on. So habits were not truly iterative, but pseudoiterative. The pattern of the day might be the same, in other words, but the individual events fulfilling the pattern were always a little bit different. Thus there was both pattern and surprise, and this was Wahram's desired state: to live in a pseudoiterative. But then also to live in a good pseudoiterative, an interesting one, the pattern constructed as a little work of art. 
-Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312

I'm working on a stoic daily routine. Exciting, I know. I guess I could say daily ritual and gain the patina of ancient spirituality that "ritual" implies, but I'm willing to stick with the less grandiose term. A routine is necessary if I'm ever going to build consistency into my view of the world around me, and stoicism is all about point-of-view.

I'm already a fan of a patterned day. I'm big on easing into the morning. Wake up, make breakfast, sip coffee, shave (slowly with a straight razor if I have the time), shower, drink more coffee while perusing Google News, etc... It shouldn't be that difficult to add some intentional meditation, a mantra, the sacrifice of a goat to Zeus (not actually a thing), or some other helpful device to keep my attention focused during the day.

Evenings are covered. The ancient stoics pretty consistently recommend retrospection at the end of the day. Before going to sleep, I can review how I used my hours. I can look at both my failures and my triumphs and seek to learn from them. I've practiced this on and off and found it helpful. It's calming and, when I wake up, I remember, "Hey, X got under my skin yesterday so I better be prepared if it happens again today."

My mornings are more up in the air. I usually remind myself of a Marcus Aurelius quote,

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.

Stoics are big on remembering that obstacles are going to be there whether you're prepared or not, so it's better to be prepared. I have a variety of other quotes stored in Evernote and I take time to review them as well. What I haven't decided is if I want to set aside fifteen minutes or half an hour just to center myself. Also, I have no idea how I would go about centering myself.

I opened with the Robinson quote because I love that view of life, the pseudoiterative. Like the character Wahram, I also want my day to be a little work of art. Stoicism gives me the tools I need to live that out. I just need to use them more consistently.