Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zen and the Art of Sci-Fi, Part II


Sounds gorgeous, doesn’t it? Fantastic, even.

I find all sorts of beautiful pictures online of peaceful homes meant to exhibit the embodiment of Zen: homes in calm neutral colors, where the minimal furniture is comfortable, serviceable, and matches the décor, with sparse art on the walls and a single orchid or maybe a bonsai tree on the end table.

Sometimes I look around my home and I wonder if I might be further along, spiritually speaking, if I gave my environment a bit of a makeover.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a house that looked like that? I wonder.

Except where would I hang my Iron Man poster?

Let’s see what sci-fi can teach us about our homes.

Meditate with me.


“The enemy’s gate is down.” - Ender Wiggin, Ender’s Game
Ender’s genius is that he looked at the same battle room as everyone else and saw it in a different way. What do you see when you look at your home?

When I see the beautifully decorated homes in the ladies' magazines, I agree that they look nice but I don't want to live there. I want to live in my own house with my own things.

I used to wish my house and my things looked like the magazine houses. I followed the advice in the magazine articles, but nothing worked. The sci-fi books everywhere, the entertainment center littered with games and peripherals, the anime wall scrolls – these things just don’t belong in decorating magazines.

The problem with my house, I thought, is that it looks like I live there.

But here’s the thing, guys: that’s not actually a problem. I do, in fact, live in my house. It is good and right and appropriate that my home look like I live there.

Pretend your home is the battle room and you are the prodigious child soldier. Is there actually something wrong with your home or are you letting an enemy magazine tell you what to do? Are you going to take that from them or are you going to fight back?


“There is no spoon.” - Creepy kid, The Matrix
I often catch myself thinking that, just maybe, if I get my home in order, the rest of my life will naturally fall into place. If I can just get the knack of a better home (and garden), I'll somehow magically sort out my childhood issues. If I had a fully stocked pantry with all the food organized into elegant glass jars, I would wake up tomorrow at my goal weight and never have to diet again. If I ever actually find the perfect living room set, I’ll find enough change in the cushions to balance my budget forever.

It’s not me, I want to think. It’s the house.

Oh, please.

I know it’s painful to admit, but it’s not the house. These limitations are all in my head. Maybe they’re in your head too? The truth is that even if I magically woke up tomorrow in one of those perfect homes with a sand garden and a tranquil pool of koi, I would still be disorganized. I wouldn’t remember to take care of the pool until the smell of rotting fish carcass became overpowering and I’d be sitting there in the stink wondering why I didn’t take the blue pill.

Instead of stressing over the state of your home, focus on the inner issues that are truly bugging you. Remember, it isn’t the house – er, that is, the spoon – that bends, it is only yourself.

Free your mind.


“Don’t blink.” - Ten, Doctor Who
We all know the feeling. You clean your house, it looks good, then you turn your back on it and when next you look around, your living room has become the gravitational center for all random chaos in the known universe. How the heck? When… just… what?

Two words: Weeping Angels. 

The unfinished projects, the unending laundry and vacuuming, the way there’s always more picking up to do no matter how much time you spend on it: they won’t kill you outright, but they’ll take your time, eat the years you would otherwise be living.

If there’s anything we’ve learned from Doctor Who, aside from an unnatural fear of statues, it’s that the inanimate objects can only get you when you take your eyes off them. The trick is to keep your eyes open. Yeah, life gets in the way, but if you only pay attention for like ten minutes a day, you can stay on top of this thing. A few minutes a day is the difference between well managed laundry and spending your whole weekend sorting clothes.

Just don’t blink.


Obviously, if they ever invent a colony ship to Mars, we’re not going to be able to take all of our stuff with us. We’ll have only the finest pared-down possessions in our Martian abodes. Advanced air filtration systems will clear the red dust from our homes as our robot servants spare us from mundane chores like dishes and laundry.

Our minds will be free to focus on deeper spiritual issues, and I promise at that time to write a more relevant article on Zen and the art of science fact.

Until then, continue to find Zen in the art of science fiction.

And maybe get a head start on paring down those possessions. It couldn’t hurt. 

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