Your choice of challenges

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Hello from sunny Kalajoki! My wife and I are in this little agrarian town because she is retaking a few of her Finnish high school exams, which requires her to go back to where she grew up to do so. She’s retaking her exams in English and math, after a ~6 month Anki-based training regimen we put her through. I think she’ll do extremely well, and I’m immensely proud of her.

As for moi, I have the good fortune of a very understanding boss, who allowed me to work remotely for this week. (I already get 3/5 days remote, but one of the exams was scheduled on one of our in-office days - one of the many perks of working in tech.) And so now I’m looking out the window of our Airbnb, at the clear blue sky and the yellowing sunlight and the green spruce trees and the blood red branches of a bush I remember walking past so many times when we used to live here, and thinking about challenges.

The world offers no shortage of challenges to all of us. The variety of what we’re allowed to take on is bewildering, beyond what nature was capable of providing for a very long time. When you look at the natural ecosystem what you see is an inherently unstable, but learning system - one which slowly converges in on hard dependence on the few things which stay constant. Old growth forests come to depend on the few trees which have lived for thousands of years there, content to assume they will live for thousands more; this stability in turn depends upon the sun waking up and circumambulating our globe once a day, upon the soil staying clean and detoxified. All the critters of the forest, with their exponentially more ephemeral lives, learn to accept these as constants – or as good as constant for ones with such short lives.

Humans turn this into an anomaly, by virtue of our long lives and will to power. Our intellects have allowed us to slowly but surely reconfigure everything in our environment to the point where we can truly go anywhere, and take anything on, and it all feels meaningless to the great mass of people who think this means it is equally okay to take nothing on. How strange!

After taking on the challenge of getting an elite education in the West, I decided to take on a quite different challenge - that of relocating myself to Northern Europe, learning to brave the cold, learning to speak the strange Finnish language. Sometimes I wonder to myself why I took all this on in the first place - I could surely make more money elsewhere, right?

But these challenges are the ones I chose. At some level, that has to trade off against financial concerns.