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Blue-collar work

And in case you wonder - coding for the Ancient Savo project has been nice, inspiring and good. I've managed to implement at least some new features each week, keeping the progress steady. The small January crowd-funding campaign was successful, meeting all of my goals: We got a dedicated team for development-phase testing and feedback, I got some morale boost, and also enough of financial support to nudge me one step further in the path of becoming a full-time indie developer. Yes, I'm doing the starving artist stuff, and that is all fine. That also means that I'll maintain some of my odd jobs to gain monthly income, but just reserving enough time to work on my own coding.

I don't know how many of you are also regularly following the UnReal World discussion forums. For I've been thinking about one particular discussion on the forums, which was related to the Ancient Savo project, and me being low on income. I'm not going into details of that discussion (for it had a lot of interesting or peculiar point, and each of them would require an in-depth reply if I'd wish to properly address those themes). Here I will only touch one of the assumptions expressed in the said thread. It was about me not applying for a full-time job, for instead I chose to focus on my own indie coding even if that would mean being low on income. And then a forum member expressed an interpretation that me not applying for a full-time work is most likely because I don't want to see myself as a part of a group of humans working together for a common goal - that instead I wish to see myself as a separate individual, something like an Atlas Shrugged, an isolated island of individual projects. Huh. To me that seems like making quite a lot of assumptions based on rather little evidence - which, if you ask me, is a rather clumsy practice, and sets a lousy example for others. Personally, instead of making quick and strong assumptions about other people I often prefer to ask them questions, just to make sure I have understood correctly. And also, when we just spam our own assumptions we learn nothing new, we just repeat our own ready-made thoughts. But when we ask questions and especially when we apply the magic method of listening, we might indeed learn something new, to hear something we haven't thought of before. Although, the person making that assumption also wrote: "Now, what I hear you implying (correct me if I'm wrong about that)" - which kind of a is a way of asking a question. And it was me who didn't reply to her question, for I was slightly overwhelmed by a feeling of being faced by a stream of strong assumptions which had very little to do with my personality, and I felt that trying to reply all of those assumptions would take too much time, would be totally off-topic considering that thread (which was about plans to crowd-fund the making of Ancient Savo).

Okay, but this is the way my mind works - sometimes those questions remain lingering in my mind, and I might feel like writing that longer reply, just for a general level of thoughts (as I suspect the person who asked the question isn't a regular reader of my blog.) So, this isn't that much a reply to her, but more like general thoughts, sparked by the question: Does Erkka see himself as a separate individual who prefers to pursue his isolated personal projects, not willing to take responsibility for common goals shared with other people? Or how does Erkka see the philosophical or moral justification of choosing this or that way?"

So let's see some of the odd jobs I did in 2020 to sustain myself. I was coding custom office solutions for a nearby milling company. I was doing massage for people with aching shoulders. I was doing some simple lumberjack work for a nearby farmer who didn't have enough time nor workforce to do the task. I spent a week renovating a nearby house, for the previous owners were selling the house and wanted some spots fixed (for that particular task I charged only 50% of the ordinary rate, effectively giving 50% discount for the people selling the house. For I know them in person, I knew that they weren't selling the house for too high price, and I wanted to participate in the process - to help a new family to find a nice house for themselves, and to help my remote friends to sell their old house.) Then I've been helping some of my elder neighbours without billing them, just for the good will. And decided not to apply for State-granted covid-relief money, because actually I wasn't that low on work, I kept on picking up those additional work opportunities. All of that helped me pay the ordinary bills, but then there were some unexpected extra costs, which drove me to a dire financial situation.

OK, this is my work history for 2020. Does it look like decisions made by a person who cares about his own projects more than other people? Decisions taken by a person who doesn't feel a sense of responsibility towards his fellow human beings? Uh oh. To me it seems that I am low on money, not because I've made irresponsible decisions on wasting my money, but exactly because I've preferred to help people in need, to participate, to provide for my neighbourhood. For me there is a higher value in those things, more than money can count. And that, even when I don't feel particularly deep or close bonds with this or that neighbour; I might disagree with them on some stuff, I might feel that I don't want to share all of my personal thoughts with all of my neighbours, yet I feel that we are here together, people living in this corner of rural Finland, and our lives are better if we all help each other. That is the kind of a world I want to live in, but instead of preaching that to others I prefer just to do it, to make it true in my mundane daily little decisions. And I'd guess this is more or less evident for anyone who has read even some of my blog posts.

Then, what about not applying for a full-time job as a programmer? Because I felt that I've already been postponing my own projects for too long, too many times I've already chosen another job opportunities instead of staying true to my inner visions. Is that the isolated individualist ego speaking? Someone, who wants to make a computer game of their own? I don't know, but somehow I have a feeling that a computer game is essentially about other people enjoying it. Something one does for an audience to experience. A modern way of telling a story. A way of being together with a lot of people all around the world. The solitude process of coding a game feels just that much more meaningful if there are other people playing and enjoying the game. If I look at the way I've felt my own feelings, it is that choosing a stable income for myself would've meant postponing the game, ie. making the audience wait longer and longer simply because I selfishly wish to secure my own financial situation before making games for other people to play. Applying a full-time programmer job in some company would've meant me spending more time coding stuff I have no personal relationship with; me coding stuff someone else could've been coding as well. But when it comes to my own indie game ideas, or Enormous Elk projects, my personality, my skills, my experience, my insights, my friendship with Sami and my relations with you - the readers, the players, the followers, the internet friends - that matters and makes me a personal person having unique personal relationships with another persons. Hey, I want to be together with you, having some common projects, common stories, common experiences shared with you. I want to make indie games.

This is the way I feel and the way I see it. Now, there is a reason why I felt like coupling this blog post with the other post of today. For there was this idea of human tendency to see two major alternatives, and to form some sort of rivalry between those alternatives, and then to make the decision a logical "either / or" - so "if you are not a member of our group, then you must be a member of the opposing group. If you are not a member of our group, I assume you don't share any of the qualities we value in our group, but you have opposing values. When we value collective effort, you must be valuing individualistic personal projects. Simple as that, isn't it?" - and, well, if you ask me, the answer is no. No, it isn't simple like that. First of all, there is not just two alternatives, but a lot of different variations, combinations, and alternative ways of mapping the entire moral or philosophical ground. And there hardly is a valid reason to assume that people could be neatly divided into separate groups with opposing ideologies. Also, I'd guess most of the people who have been following my blog remember who I tend to stress the fact how we all share so many things in common; we miss our loved ones when they are away, we feel hungry when low on food, we feel joy when celebrating together with others, we wish well for the next generation etc. (or at least, most of us do. And if someone doesn't share one of those themes, it doesn't mean they are some totally different eerie monsters; it is entirely possible to share 80% of common themes and be 20% different, and yet feel mostly connected to the collective Breathe of Life circulating in The Biosphere of Planet Earth).

Hehe, well, enough of me repeating stuff I've already written so many times in this blog. Let me conclude this post with a story which sparked me to write this;

Yesterday I got a message from the nearby milling company. Their office main printer had stopped co-operating, and they asked if I could come to fix it. I already had some other plans for the day, but figured out that I can postpone most of them. The printer is connected to their WLAN, so I started by re-configuring the printer wlan settings, then proceeded to check their router settings. I'm not so very skilled in that kind of stuff, but my guess is that there was some unnecessary complicated stuff in the router settings, which sometimes made it so that the printer thought it is connected to the LAN, but no other device could see the printer. So I adjusted the router settings, restarted the hardware and also re-installed printer drivers on their office computers. The basic stuff of "hey, let's restart everything and maybe they start to work again!", and it worked, again. While I was doing that I also head that one of their regular workers is having a scheduled time off, and another is on sick leave, and that leaves them struggling with some blue-collar work. "What do you have for tomorrow?" asked the boss of the company. My neighbours in need of help - by now you probably can guess what was my reply. I postponed my other plans and freed up time to help them.

So, today I was working for eight hours, mostly just removing bolts, disassembling stuff, climbing up ladders and other metal structures and riding a lift to reach hardware which was installed on the ceiling. In so many ways I love doing these odd jobs, breaking a routine is a refreshment for the mind and the body. And sometimes I also think that this is one example of not fitting people in neatly defined boxes; I have academic background, and some basics skills in blue-collar work, I'm willing to crawl in dust disassembling heavy machinery, and I also enjoy focused discussions in academic philosophy. I have been living in this world for so many years that it is some sort of a cultural shock for me if I see that some people still have those old-fashioned stereotypical assumptions of "if you are that, then you can't be this". The heck we can, we can broaden our perspectives, broaden our skills, we can participate in a wide variety of stuff, and have different ways of belonging to a community. And that is the way I like it, the way of using a screw-driver when working with screws, and using a hammer when working with nails.

I think for "blue-collar" in Finnish we say "overalls work", for it is the kind of work you wear overalls for.
I think for "blue-collar" in Finnish we say "overalls work", for it is the kind of work you wear overalls for.
tags: 
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philosophy
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Comments

Also, making time to follow one's creative passions only enlivens the whole energetic field of the community, even if the creative enterprise is a solitary one. Well said!

Clementine

Indeed! If we imagine human societies as networks of pipelines where water (or creative energies, or the force of life) flows, then if this or that piece of pipe gets stuck, it surely will affect a whole region of the network. So, to unstuck oneself is also to help the whole community, contributing towards the free and healthy flow of energies. Or, that is what I think, but I always tend to think that the boundary between "me" and "the other stuff out there" is just an imaginary one, for deep down we are all connected, we are all one. I don't know but I'd guess it is because of this kind of philosophical views why I personally find it hard to wrap my mind around the idea of a human being thinking of oneself as a separate island of autonomous self-contained projects.

When you wrote "deep down we are all connected" it seemed clear to me why some people might fail to see that. In order to see the "deep down" of ourselves, one needs to care for his/her own thoughts and needs. So one can get stuck there, maybe indefinitely. It is also so much easier to divide something rather than to connect. If we do not spend time with ourselves in our own mind, we will fail to see the connection anyway and find the easiest, least resistance way.

Oh, thanks for your comment! I feel that you're clarifying something which I often express in all too vague and careless manner =)

For me this idea of "we are all connected" has been self-evident since my late teenage years, and around those times the realization was something like a spiritual experience, where I could feel the tectonic plates of my mind shifting, so that suddenly I was able to grasp new concepts which before appeared incomprehensible to me. And, indeed, if a mind is alien with the idea of oneness, then probably a no amount of rational reasoning is going to clarify the idea of oneness. So, sure - the actual meaning of "we are all connected" lies deep down in ones own mind - and if someone, deep down, feels oneself as an isolated, separate, self-contained entity, then I'm not here to convince them otherwise. For me these are not matters of belief, not a matter of dogma. But more like matter of personal deep spiritual experience, and we can't force those on other people. That's why I try to remind myself to stay humble, so that I'm quick to accept if it seems that my writings appear bogus to some another person.

This, of course, is a big topic and would probably deserve a blog post or a series of posts to take a deeper look. So in this comment I conclude by saying that I like the way you mention "It is [...] easier to divide something rather than to connect". Indeed! Sometimes I'm tempted to use metaphors of evolution and brain; a big part of our brain has evolved to make quick distinctions, to divide, to spot boundaries, to determine who is "us" and who is "them" - ie. whom you can rely on when the situation gets dire. So we might easily feel that making divisions is not only easy, but also necessary for the very survival, and the idea of letting go of that habit sounds silly and dangerous. But, luckily enough, we also have this innate ability to remember how we are all connected. Seen from that perspective the cognitive habit of making distinctions appears as a good tool we can use for a specific purpose, but we don't need to stick with it as an Theory of Everything =)

This is amazing to know about you. I could definitely hang out with someone like you and I hope you continue to be the wonderful and thoughtful person you are.

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