Question: A friend of mine recently recieved this email entirely out of the blue -- well, not entirely. Okay, she'd once long ago added her name to a pen-pal list and occasionally gets emails from it for people interested in chatting with her. But this one.. well. Read on:
Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2001 5:23 PM
Subject: A letter from a zealot
I seek to communicate in a unique way only. No standard chitchat and pretenses, no aimless discussions of the common topics. I will only accept perfection in everything I do. I do not tolerate what doesn't follow reason and logic; I do not accept other's views, beliefs and religions unless they can be proven. If that is not something you can handle then you will not want to communicate with me, just as I will have no reason to communicate with you.
Hmm. A little brusque, but nothing too frightening yet.
I chose you by random, and along with many others. Unless you truly feel there is a reason we should communicate, unless you are willing to devote effort and attention to our communication, and unless you will dedicate your life to the pursuit of finding life's purpose, don't even bother responding back.
To save both of us some time, I'll voice some concrete examples. First of all, if you believe in god, Jesus or any other religious junk, don't bother replying. Secondly, if you want to "chill out", "take it easy", or "enjoy life", then go ahead and waste your life doing that, there will be no point in writing back to me. And finally, if you have strong ties to this world, pointless goals you already set for yourself (like getting married, having a family, getting a certain job, writing a symphony, painting, or whatever), or things that you are tied to just because you "want them" or "like them" and can never see yourself giving them up or looking beyond them, then this will also lead nowhere.
Okay. No faith. No goals. 'Cause goals are bad. Gotcha.
I, and those like me, will be the next generation of humanity. We will be the ones to eventually replace it's present aimless existence, to build a new society that will have none of the faults or aimless "freedoms" of the present one, as the idea of "freedom" as it is defined today is the chain that binds us to a pointless existence that will lead nowhere.
Um ... I thought you didn't like goals, Ryan? Or is it just the 'pointless' goals, like painting or writing a symphony? So the next generation of humanity won't paint or make music? Sounds a little dry to me.
As of now the lives of the billions of people on this planet have no goal or purpose. But it is pointless to assume there is no purpose, and only through logic will there be any chance of us finding it.
I sense Mr. Spock is about to 'wax logical.' Hold onto yer hats.
I exist as an impartial, and impartial only. I know of no bias or preference, I know of no wants or needs. I feel emotions like every human and yet I have no desire to change anything about them, and I don't see the need to act because of them.
And yet, some emotion inspired this essay. What emotion would that be? Pride? Pride at what? Pride at being aimless? Oh ... wait ... not aimless. Ryan's going to change the world and be part of the new Artless Humanity.
I am only able to think objectively. I exist as nothing more then an instance of reason and intellect. I make decisions based only on that, and act only on that.
This piece being a fine example of Reason and Intellect. Please continue, Pinhead.
I have no ties, allegiances, bonds or attachments. There is no material possession, friend or acquaintance that means anything to me. There is nothing and no one that can be taken away from me that would matter. There are no activities that I want to do or that I would not be able to stop doing.
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you: Amoeba.
I have no regrets of anything I have ever done or not done, and I know I will not regret any actions I may take now. I do not believe in any moral codes or standards (there is no "right" or "wrong", just "logical" and "illogical", I have no objections to killing, suicide, theft, or just about anything, as long as the reason is logical), my thinking is pure and unconstrained.
Don't Bogart that bone, man. I'm trying to keep my thinking pure.
I will communicate toward a common goal, not for enjoyment, fun or to start a friendship. I intend to develop communication skills that no one has ever tried before. This communication would strive toward true understanding, not mindless social interactions. This would take effort on both sides, and thus I can only communicate with someone that will take our communication seriously and will try to devote the necessary effort to it. If that is not something you intend to do then our conversation will go nowhere.
Translation: Talk smart, or I'll take my Communication Ball and go home.
I will begin by telling you a bit about my personal background, so you can better understand who I am. I am 24 years old.
In eight years, maybe.
I grew up in Germany, and I was extremely shy from a young age. The only exceptions were my one closest friend whom I met in second grade, and my sister and parents. I was in a carefree social environment because my parents never gave me any chores or responsibilities. Other kids were told to go to church, play some sport, play some musical instrument, clean their rooms, and what not. If I wanted to try something like play a sport, I'd do it for a few weeks, then lose my interest and quit. No one told me I had to do anything.
It's truly a Brave New Age of Parenting, isn't it?
Even at school we basically just played around the whole time. I don't remember a single lecture in elementary school. Every day, we'd sit in a circle and each person would tell a story about what they did on the weekend or something. Except for me, because I was self-conscious, shy, fearful of all strangers, and didn't want to talk. But no one forced me to, so I didn't have to, and I chose not to (the worst grade one could get for oral communication was 'satisfactory'). The teachers were sometimes up to an hour late, so the boys would play soccer during that time. (I have no recollection of what the girls did.)
And a Brave New Age of Teaching, as well. This is what school is like in Germany? This is the country that was going to rule the world? Or was holistic teaching part of the treaty that ended the second World War?
My parents bought me anything I wanted. For example, my parents always bought me every single toy I wanted for Christmas, even if my list was quite long.
Hell, I'd be goalless too if everything I'd ever wanted was just handed to me.
My family loved me unconditionally, even if I acted in ways that nearly everyone would surely consider unacceptably rude or selfish.
Ever put a puppy into an abandoned refrigerator before? Or would that have been considered 'illogical?' What if you were really curious how long it would take a puppy to use up all that air?
For example, if I fought my sister physically, such as by pulling her hair, she never fought back, even though she was four years older and clearly much stronger. My sister, by the way, had a rather strict upbringing, because for some reason, my parents demanded a lot from her.
Maybe they wanted one of their children to grow up with goals. And a conscience.
About the only expectation my parents had for me was to excel academically, which I did automatically without any effort.
But of course.
My family moved to the US when I was eleven. That's when I had an ambition to become a great competitor. It didn't matter in what discipline, as long as it was a significant challenge. That was the time when I started to think about the world. Up until then, I had always assumed that I would be part of it. I believed that anything I didn't understand at the time would become clear to me once I grew older. I think I was around 13 when I realized that there were things about society that simply couldn't be logically justified.
Which is why, at age thirteen, I switched my brain to 'off' and began smoking crack. I didn't learn anything new after that time, but it made me feel really good about myself.
The example that I saw nearly every day was in my mathematics classes. How could people see nothing wrong with the blatantly inefficient scheme of having a teacher lecture in front of a group of students to teach mathematics? I knew enough about school, society, and mathematics that no matter what the facts were that I didn't know, there was simply no reasonable justification.
Math class is blatantly inefficient? Why? Forty-five minutes a day you couldn't spend in logical experimentation with mind-altering chemicals? What the hell is inefficient about math class?
I can't recollect very well the details of how my ideas developed from that point on ...
And don't we all wonder why?
... because ideas are all abstract, and I didn't write things down until I turned 19.
Oh. That's why. I thought it was ... never mind.
Also, because I had very little contact with people between the ages 11 and 20, I had not developed a language for communicating my ideas to people other than myself.
Isn't the point of language to communicate with others?
But it is clear that because of the time I devoted to competition, I thought a lot about the topic, and eventually came to realize that competitive principles apply to many more aspects of life then is usually realized.
For example, when two people talk or communicate to one another, there is surprisingly little understanding that occurs.
In your case, I absolutely believe that.
One of the basic reasons is that the ideas that we express essentially compete among themselves. They are selected for based on such factors as (1) how easily the mind can form an association to think of the idea, (2) how frequent the appropriate occasions are for expressing the idea once we think of it, (3) how much attention people give this idea (more attention means it gets reinforced in our minds, so we will think of the idea more frequently), or (4) how positive this attention is. This means that when we say something, the fact that the ideas that we express have competitive traits that make them easy to spread is a significant factor.
As opposed to the alternative, in which everyone will listen to every banal thought that comes out of your mouth.
Another significant fact I remember is that I viewed life as an ongoing journey or quest toward some purpose or end. I thought of every action and decision I made every minute of my life as potentially affecting the outcome or success of my journey. I clearly had this idea when I was in third grade because every week we were given a writing assignment, which was always the same: to write a story. In my third and fourth grade (it was a combined class because the idea was that third and fourth graders could learn from each other by being in the same class), we were only given weekly assignments instead of individual assignments because the idea was that we should learn to manage our time and decide when to do what ourselves.
Ah, don't you just love when my points prove themselves? Reread that last paragraph--on second thought, don't bother because there's no point to it.
So, I ended up writing extremely long stories about a mouse and his group of friends who were on a journey to explore space. I always ended the story with the line 'to be continued' because if there was an end, it would mean that the quest was over and that would take away the reason to continue living. I thought that ending a story was a pessimistic thing to do because it implied that the author had already figured out what there would be in the end. Clearly, as long as we are capable of doubting what we believe to be true, the ultimate end has not yet been attained. Saying, "now the journey is over" was unproductive to me because we should motivate ourselves to continue the journey, which is going on at this very minute, rather than entertain the idea of an end.
Which would explain why this letter just goes on and on. And on. It's as though I've started a journey ...
To engage in an activity simply for the fun of it did not make any sense to me. That was just a waste of time. Of course, all I did as a child was basically play around for fun, and I did not view that as a waste of time. If someone had told me that I was contradicting myself by assuming that everything had to be for a purpose, I would have thought that my desire to play was simply a human limitation.
... a quest that just doesn't end ...
As such, the wisest course of action was to try to train myself to achieve optimal productivity, and in my view this did not entail self-denial because self-denial could achieve the exact opposite effect of what I intended, which is to want irrelevant things even more than I presently did. Instead, the way to deal with irrelevant desires was to indulge in them to the point where I would be sick of it. Then, according to my theory, the problem was solved once and for all. I don't know at what age I came up with this way of thinking, but I know for a fact that I freely indulged in everything I wanted.
... please, God, teach this wordy-mother-fucker how to write the words, 'The End.' I can cope with an ending, even if it's pessimistic because it means I've stopping growing. I'm ready to stop growing. Please.
In Germany, I mostly played computer games or soccer in the garden with my best friend. Alone, I remember spending nearly all my time constructing spacecraft and space stations using Lego blocks. I did not read or listen to music. I did watch some TV, mostly American films translated into German, which were mostly action/adventure. Because of all the free time I had, I was often bored, feeling I wanted someone to play with. In the US, I did not make a new friend, and I remember feeling very lonely and depressed as a result.
You didn't make any new friends in the U.S.? I find that hard to believe.
Oh ... wait ... no I don't.
At the same time, I believed that using my ambition ...
... and determination ...
... I should be able to accomplish any goal I set for myself. The only activities I considered relevant and took seriously was training myself for various competitions.
Painting and music, bad. Karate good!
I remember feeling distraught because I hated doing things alone, but I spent all my time alone, and I blamed myself for not having the courage and determination to talk to and interact with others of my age.
At least you put the blame where it belonged.
I think I spent most of my free time agonizing over this for eight years. I don't really remember what I did in my free time, but I think I basically daydreamed the whole time about the future and the times when this period would be over.
We know how you spent that free time. Say ghaaaaaanjaaaaa. I knew that you could.
I felt extremely frustrated by the fact that I was unable to develop relationships with people, that they had something I did not. I blamed myself for not communicating what I felt and thought to others, and I felt that I was wasting away my time, when I could be using my time to accomplish something. The least I thought I could do was develop my competitive skills, since that did not necessarily involve interacting with others. But when trying to train myself for competitive events, I could not remain motivated for more then two or three weeks at a time, so this only added to the frustration I felt.
Ah ... there's that ambition and determination you were talking about. Please continue.
In high school, I pursued several individual sports, which were running, cycling, martial arts, and weight training. I would always focus on one and use the others for cross-training purposes.
Sometimes for two or three weeks, right in a row.
In hindsight, I see things differently because even if I had been able to emulate average or above-average communication skills, I doubt I would have been able to establish a relationship that was based on a common aim or objective, given that I do not consider fun, love, or happiness to be valid objectives in life.
Yeah. Fun, love, and happiness are overrated. I prefer drudgery, indifference, and sadness, myself.
I continued to view my lack of communication skills (especially verbal) as a severe handicap that was preventing me from pursuing productive goals up until recently. Right now, I regard it as a weakness, but I am not even sure it would be wise to try to overcome it. There has never been a period of time in my life when I would get up and expect to say more than a few words during the course of the entire day, but if circumstances change, I think it will not be difficult for me to adapt.
Given the length of this text, I don't think it would be difficult for you to become 'chatty.' However, I seriously doubt you'll have as much ease making anyone give a shit that you're talking.
I spend most of my free time today thinking and daydreaming.
I'll bet having no goals leaves plenty of time for that.
I usually try to think of ideas to communicate to the others in my organization.
You mean there's an organization for the Artless New Humanity? Do you have a web page? Is it black text on a white background with no pictures?
If I ever get tired, or need to take in information to help me think of something, I can read something, listen to music, watch TV, or engage in trivial conversation, but I do none of these things on a regular basis because the purpose is always to change my state of mind, when I feel that I'm becoming uncreative or mechanical.
How about going to a concert? Oh ... wait ... that's for shameless thrill-seekers like myself.
I'm open to anything that makes logical sense. In the last part of this e-mail, I will ask you some questions to test how resistant you are to thinking like everyone else.
Some Q&A from the New Humanity! Are you as excited as I am, Gentle Reader?
If you already have an essay or a web site that shows your way of thinking better than answering these questions would, just send me that instead.
Just make sure to end the essay with 'To be Continued ... '
(1) What is your view of religion and how did you derive it? What limitations do you see in a strictly scientific view of the world, and what is necessary to overcome those limitations?
Sadly, I think we share a religious view--which is almost enough to inspire me to go to church come Sunday. And the 'limitations of a strictly scientific world' ... you've illustrated that more clearly in this uncreative dirge of words than I ever could.
(2) How do the things that you do in your day to day life differ from the things that you'd like to be doing in your day to day life in the future?
In the future, my grandson will be running around the apartment making beautiful noise. And I'll be a wealthy author. But I won't give him everything he wants, for fear that he'll write an email just like this someday.
(3) What values, morals, principles, and codes of conduct are most important to you? What if someone is in your way, or somehow interfering in the goal you are pursuing, would you consider killing them, given there were no consequences?
Thou shalt not lie, cheat, steal, or kill. If attaining your goals involves one of these, then you aren't being creative enough in attaining your goals.
Not that this need worry you, as you have no goals.
(4) Do you prefer to follow your heart or your mind - why? Can you describe a time that you did something that went against your reason because of your heart? Did you regret doing it?
My heart told me not to read this entire thing. And yes, I'm regretting going against that instinct.
(5) Imagine that you are given the opportunity to live on an isolated island for five years with up to three people of your choice. Survival will be extremely easy on this island because you will be given plenty of food, shelter, and other necessities for life. The only difference is that you are isolated from the rest of humanity and have no technology. Would you go? Who would you take with you and how many would you take with you?
Why would anyone with a brain go? And why haven't you gone already?
(6) Who or what is so important to you that you can't live without it? What things or people truly matter to you in your life? Why?
If a deaf monk is clapping with one hand in the forest and no one's there to hear it and a tree falls on him, will a bear still shit in the woods?
(7) How do you justify doing something for fun or enjoyment?
How do I justify it? With big, big words that--clearly--you wouldn't possibly understand.
(8) Do you see that there is anything wrong with the way people act, or with the way our society exists? What exactly? Can you imagine how it could be changed?
Step One: taking away your keyboard.
Feel free to tell me or ask me anything at anytime. If you didn't like this message for some reason, you can always show me how to do it right by sending me a better one.
Showing you how to do it right ... okay, I'll give it a shot.
Love. Be loved. Get a day job. Get a hobby. Actively acknowledge that you aren't the only human being with ideas they feel are 'unique.'
Also, paint a picture and/or write a symphony.
Don't reply to the e-mail address <email address deleted> because I don't read any e-mail sent to that address.
To obtain the e-mail address for which I do read replies, visit this webpage. You will be asked to solve a puzzle to demonstrate your interest in writing to me:
It's a tricky little riddle on that page ... tricky if you're eight years old. Welcome to the New Humanity. It's ironic, because no one would want to write this guy anyway. Now, he has an excuse for an empty mailbox, i.e., "They couldn't solve that tricky, tricky riddle."
Now, my question is: What is the Truth about Ryan? Is he a sociopath, or just a guy who played sports badly in school? Should my friend go unplug his computer and dig a bunker?
Yes, I strongly suspect that he is a sociopath.
No, they shouldn't unplug their computer. How could they read my cool new Truth if their computer is unplugged?
No, they shouldn't dig a bunker. Lazy sociopaths aren't a danger to anyone, as Mayhem generally takes a whole lot of work.
The Truth about Ryan is that one day, he may grow up.
If not--oh well.
(Editor's Note: There's a sequel to this one, here: The Truth about the New Humaninty II. sca)