Monday, November 22, 2004

Excerpt from an email sent to a friend yesterday

Right now I think that if I could get some kind of low-stress job coding four days a week and write free software in my spare time, I could be happy. I mean, why do I think I should do anything more anyway? It's because I have some belief, well-founded or not, in my abilities, and it would therefore be a waste to do something like that. But the vast majority of humanity doesn't use its talents to the utmost. They get jobs that pay the rent, put food on the table, and sometimes they buy little baubles and toys to keep themselves entertained. I could do that kind of job while hardly even trying. I could find some adequate woman (no need to be burningly, passionately in love; a comfortable and domestic sort of love would suffice for this purpose) and get married and raise a family. It would all be terribly easy. I've had every advantage --- I'm genetically gifted with intelligence and good health, and I come from a comfortable socioeconomic stratum of the most powerful nation on Earth, with all the educational and vocational opportunities that implies --- and the American dream, which for the vast majority of people suffering throughout all of history would have approximated paradise, would be trivial for me to attain. But here I am, sweating myself half-mad over a paper that, ultimately, may or may not advance the world's understanding of my abstruse field by some small increment. I add one more stone to the cathedral, because to do otherwise would be a waste. This is my life.

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