Situation report

At the end of last year, I stated that I would spend 2022 on four Great Works. We’re about a quarter of the way through, so this is an update on where I stand in terms of both progress and the mental state that led me to make the original post.

The First Work

I’ve been on the job for almost a full year now, and I still wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day I get fired. So far, that hasn’t happened, and I’m amazed.

In the past three months, I’ve been toiling away at the “Alana” project, and it has finally begun to take shape. Instead of being a lone developer, I’m now the manager of a team that includes a second developer for the front-end, two designers, and a marketing team I have yet to meet. The site is getting built, and that’s largely because of me. However, if—and I stress “if” here—we make our launch date of April 26, it’ll be because everyone did their part.

This whole thing has been less a test of my abilities as a programmer, which I’ve honed over the past 30 years, than a test of me as a person. I’m not a manager. I never wanted to be. I’d rather just write code, but I don’t have that option in this case. And the code I am writing, in this case, is fairly straightforward. Probably the most invention I’ve done is actually in server configuration, of all things.

The Second Work

For the second work, I have until April 7 to submit my petition to be on the ballot. I’ve already launched my campaign site, though it’s still very much a work in progress. I also need to do all the legal necessities of running a campaign, like finance reports, and logistical things like getting signs.

I’m running as an independent, because I believe that political parties are the bane of liberty. That said, an independent representative will likely have to show support for one of the two sides to gain any traction. For me, there’s only one realistic option. A few years ago, I’d say you were crazy if you claimed that I’d find common cause with the Republican Party on anything, but they’re marginally less insane than the Democrats these days, and the people who actually do want a better future have joined their ranks. Therefore, if elected, I see no other choice than to caucus with the right side of the aisle.

Of course, that assumes I have a chance at getting elected at all, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. There is no Democrat candidate for House District 27, and no other independents have announced their intent to run. It would be a two-way race, but the incumbent is very much a “traditional” Republican: big business, big corruption, and nothing for the masses. My district includes a lot of rural and suburban people who are crying out for a populist candidate to represent them in Nashville. All the pieces are there. I just have to find a way to put them together.

The Third Work

My spiritual journey continues in fits and starts. I started The Weekly Technetic in January, and I’ve managed to keep it going at one post per week since. Those posts aren’t as long as some of the ones here at PPC, but I think they’re very…on point. They let me explore my thoughts in a way I really haven’t in a long time, and that has helped.

I still have big plans for technetism in 2022. I want first to flesh out the remaining areas where I feel it’s weakest, then find like-minded people who would be willing to share in the wisdom I truly believe I’ve stumbled upon. I also plan to finish, edit, and publish The Prison of Ignorance, so that some of this wisdom might outlive me.

The Fourth Work

Last on the list is ICONIC, which didn’t even have a name in the original post. Basically, the idea is to design a method of visual communication that can be sent to, and understood by, a hypothetical extraterrestrial species.

I have a rough sketch of the contents of a primer. First (and the only part I’ve actually written down thus far) is a mathematical introduction, defining symbols for numerals and the basic arithmetic operations. This alone would provide multiple facts about humans: that we are sapient, that we understand mathematics, that we have a positional number system of base 10, and so on.

Next comes a more thorough dive into math. Following that are definitions of chemistry, physics, and biology. All of these are intended to be self-contained and self-sustaining: at any point, a statement must depend only on what has come before. Like many other SETI enthusiasts, I begin with the hard sciences because they are the most universal.

Once I’m done with those, however, it gets much more difficult. I want to draw on my 20+ years of conlang design experience to create a kind of visual lingua franca. By illustrating and defining the concepts most vital to human communication, I believe we can devise a means to “talk” to another advanced species about most topics. It would be very rudimentary conversation in most cases, but that’s a start that most experts in the field don’t even consider possible.

The situation

In three months, I’ve made progress on all four of the Great Works. I’m glad I have. I finally feel like I’m doing something again, instead of merely waiting on things to happen. I even have a few side projects on top of these, like On the Stellar Sea, the Noctis OS, and a series of programming tutorials I really want to write.

The darker side of my original post, on the other hand, continues to gnaw at me. I still believe my days are numbered, and that the number is much lower than anyone expects. With each passing week, the world grows closer and closer to an all-out collapse. Forces beyond my control have more power over my life than I do. All along, that has been the source of my depression, and it will continue to affect me as long as I live.

In a sense, the Great Works were meant to substitute for the true life goals I felt were no longer achievable three months ago. They’re a pale imitation, I’ll admit, but they were all I had left. They were intended as a swansong, a last chance to make my mark on a world that couldn’t care less. I would like to believe that’s no longer the case.

But you know me. I’m not a believer. I need proof.

May I be deserving

For me, one of the hardest parts of depression to recognize and combat is the feeling that I’m just not good enough. This isn’t quite the same as Impostor Syndrome, which is more the feeling that others think I’m not as good as I claim. No, in this case, I’m the one questioning my ability, my prowess, and my worth.

I have had a few good things happen to me. I can’t deny that. The problem is, I don’t believe I deserve them, so I can’t accept them for what they are. I assume there’s an ulterior motive at work, or that something will happen to knock me back down to where I feel I belong. And the inevitable stumbles only reinforce that belief, proving (in my mind) that I was right all along.

In reality, I’m the CTO of what is potentially a billion-dollar company. My mere presence, according to investors, is worth eight figures. Next week, I’m going to be interviewing someone who may become the newest member of our dev team. In other words, someone who will do nothing but take pressure off of me.

In my mind, I’m a mediocre programmer with no formal training and a wandering mind, whose biggest software release was a recipe book app that racked up 20 sales over three years. No matter what my boss says—or how much he would prefer I call him something other than that—I constantly feel as if I’m one mistake or one missed deadline away from being fired.

In reality, I love and am loved by a woman who has been blessed with seemingly infinite patience. She understands me better than I ever have. She brightens my world, even as she expands it. Just seeing a text from her lifts my spirits and sets me at ease.

In my mind, I wonder how anyone could ever love me, and why, after all I’ve put her through, she hasn’t kicked me to the curb yet. She tells me there’s no one better for her, while I think she could throw a rock from her front door and hit a better man.

At my darkest times, I simply feel that I don’t deserve any of it. The love, the trust, the patience…what have I done to deserve it? Certainly nothing material. My biggest accomplishments of the last ten years in that department are a few novels that almost nobody outside my little circle has ever read, much less enjoyed. Mentally, I know I’m very high on the intelligence scale, but when have I had the chance to use that?

With everything happening in the world and nothing happening in my life, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that my time isn’t running out. I’m 38 years old. Since my birthday three months ago, I’ve often wondered whether I would make it to 40. On the worst days, though, I started wondering whether I wanted to. Whether it was worth going on when I knew in my heart that things weren’t getting any better than they are now. And, even if it was, whether I deserved it.

The great works

As I have stated, 2022 will be, in all likelihood, the last full year I’ll get to see. Thus, it may be my last chance to plan for something that could take a whole year.

I want to leave something behind, some proof that I created more than I destroyed. I want to make something that will outlive me. Since the most obvious and most honorable method of securing a man’s legacy is denied to me, I had to find something else. The end result is this: four Great Works.

These are longer-term projects that, in my opinion, have the best chance of enduring not only after 2022, but after I’m gone from this earth. They’re not easy. They’re not simple. And that’s the whole point.

The First Work

First among the works is the one I’m doing for, well, work. The platform is called Alana, named after my boss’s newborn daughter, Basically, think of it as a social network for car owners and buyers. You sign up through your local dealership or an invitation, and the first step is a kind of personality profile, the same as you’d find on, say, a dating site. After that, you get a set of vehicle models best matching your profile, and you get to like or dislike each of them until you’re left with only a few “top” matches. Then, you get to see actual inventory, and possibly even buy a new car online, if you’re so inclined.

That’s the gist of it. In truth, there are a lot of other things going on behind the scenes. And the list keeps on growing, because Brandon (the CEO) is at least my equal when it comes to off-the-wall ideas. But that’s one of the things I like most about him. That, and how he’s the kind of person who always encourages everyone around him to be their best. (He’s part of the reason why I consider my expiration date to be in the future, rather than the present.)

Alana could take forever. It’s open-ended, and there’s always something new to add. I’ve been working at it for over 2 months now, and I sometimes feel that I’ve made no progress whatsoever. Some of that comes from the very…fluid requirements of the project. Some stems from my lack of self-esteem. Beyond those, however, it’s just big. It’s the biggest software project I’ve ever developed, and the development is, for the time being, a one-man show.

If I can get this thing launched, and get all the main features working, I’ll consider it a success. Sure, I’d like it to go viral and become the Facebook/Instagram/Tinder/whatever of cars, but I’ll be happy just knowing that people are using it, that someone, somewhere, found exactly what they were looking for because of me.

The Second Work

I’ve already launched this one, but it needs far more content, and the “real” thing can’t start until 2022. To put it simply: I’m running for office. Specifically, I intend to be on the ballot for the Tennessee State House of Representatives, 27th District in the 2022 general election.

I’m an independent. I don’t want celebrity endorsements or help from PACs. In fact, I’d reject both of those without a second thought. What I want is to see this state (and, ideally, this country, but let’s start small) get back on the right track.

Tennessee has been leading the pack in a lot of good ways recently. We passed one of the toughest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation a few years back, allowing people to speak freely, without fear of lawsuits designed only to bankrupt them. In 2021, we outlawed the teaching in schools of Critical Race Theory, the anti-American and anti-Enlightenment doctrine that is so prevalent in the US today. We returned to Constitutional Carry, meaning that the 2nd Amendment actually exists here again. And only a few weeks ago, our governor signed into law a statewide ban on vaccine mandates, including the enforcement of federal mandates within the state.

Those are all great. They make Tennessee a shining beacon of liberty in a world plagued by tyranny. But I think we can do even better. I also think today’s partisan politics won’t let that happen, so that’s why I’m throwing my hat into the ring. If nothing else, I can set a better example through my words and actions.

The Third Work

Setting a better example is behind the third work, as well. Here, it’s not so much a political system as a philosophical one. I’ve mentioned “technetism” a few times in recent months, but I want to flesh out the concept in 2022.

At its core, technetism is nothing more than humanism divorced from the atheistic additions it has gathered. It’s almost impossible to find Christian humanists these days, but it’s certainly possible, in my view, to be a Christian technetist. The same goes for, say, Islam or Buddhism. Or even atheism, really. All that matters is that you see humanity as something to preserve, rather than destroy.

I have actually written a 20,000-word introductory monograph, called The Prison of Ignorance, which I would like to edit and publish in 2022. This, as I see it, becomes the first step in creating the “technetic” school of thought. There will also be an accompanying site, where I’ll talk in more depth about what the philosophy is, what it means, and how others can become a part of it. (In my wildest dreams, there’s even a technetism podcast. I’d planned to start that all the way back in April, but…well, you know.)

The Fourth Work

When I came up with the idea of Great Works, I promised myself that I wouldn’t include any of my books. There are too many of those, and they just aren’t great enough. Or that’s how I see it. None of my novels will ever be classics in the sense of Lord of the Rings or Ender’s Game. They won’t get turned into TV shows like The Expanse, much as I would love for that to happen. Except for the handful of extant copies, most of my stories will vanish once I’m gone, so I needed something else.

Well, there is something I could do. The Orphans of the Stars series has taken a turn in its fifth installment, and it has led me down the digression of SETI. Writing about humanity’s first (known) contact with an advanced alien species made me wonder what that would really be like. Not just the questions of what they look like, what they eat, and whether they would wonder the same about us, but the communication aspect. How do we communicate with people who aren’t even human?

I’ve been learning about that recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s possible, and in a way that so many of the “universal” messages don’t take into account. Most of those tend to focus on only one part of communication, one branch of knowledge. They’re fixated on math and physics, for example, or they worry too much about creating a functionally perfect system that ends up being useless for conveying information.

What we need is an interdisciplinary approach, something that combines mathematics and the hard sciences with linguistic, psychological, and even anthropological knowledge to create a more well-rounded method of communication. Something that represents human beings above all, emphasizing our intelligence and sentience while not getting bogged down in proving it.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’m willing to call that the fourth and final Great Work of 2022. Nothing in the world—nothing I can realistically achieve, rather—would make me happier than the knowledge that something I created has become an ambassador for mankind. And everyone needs a quixotic quest. Everyone needs a windmill to tilt at.

This can be mine, because I’ve spent 38 years reaching for things I can’t have, fantasizing about futures that will never be, wishing I could touch the stars in some way. There’s nobody better to try it, if you ask me.