Last night I dreamt that I was lost in the two dimensional world of Super Mario Brothers. In fact, it was more like a gentle, really boring nightmare.
I was standing on the blocky red-bricked path, spying the pixelated small green hills in the distance below the blue sky dotted with stationary white clouds.
I needed to complete the level, but as I moved forward I found that there was nothing to jump over, no coins to grab, nothing threatening me. And, there was no end.
In Super Mario Bros., there is only one direction: forwards. On and on I went, not a Goomba or mushroom in sight. I first got bored, then frustrated, then anxious.
This morning I sat groggily over a cup of tea reflecting on my nocturnal adventure.
I love Nintendo, you see, and the dream was so colourful and vivid it should have been a delight. Yet the fun had been sucked out of it.
My mind quickly shifted to the day ahead. Once I finished my tea I checked my work emails and, for a second, I felt anxious and slightly upset at seeing a new problem to solve.
But, after brooding on it for a while, I came to realise that the problem is not the problem. The problem is how I think about problems.
I work fast. People like that about me, generally. I get 'problems' off my plate, and people are happy to get a quick result. Once completed, I feel a sense of relief.
That is until a new problem comes along and the whole process repeats.
The faulty thinking here is that I seem to search for the moment when I solve one problem and then no other problems approach.
Except, that moment will never come, and I should hope it stays that way.
Life is a series of 'problems', of puzzles to solve. Once you smash one Goomba another one is just around the corner - that's progress.
Super Mario Bros. doesn't work without the challenges. It's not Mario that makes the game great, it's the challenges he encounters.
Likewise with any story, it just doesn't work without some kind of friction. Life, work, stories, games... They cannot and should not work any other way.
"The essence of reality is scarcity. There isn't enough love in the world, enough food, enough justice, enough time in life. To gain any sense of satisfaction in our life we must go in to heady conflict with the forces of scarcity. To be alive is to be in perpetual conflict at one or all three levels of our lives.” - Jean-Paul Sartre
So, note to self: slow down and enjoy the problems as best I can. Play life like Mario plays his.