July 2nd, 2022 The path of Monastic Code Machine By Jeffrey M. Barber

Ever since I was in sixth grade, I’ve been drawn to the machine like a moth to the flame. Last year, I turned 40 and am trying to stay retired from big tech. There are things that I miss like helping engineers blow past their limits, and there is the intoxication of massive scale. There are plenty things that I don’t miss which is why I recently completed six rounds of ketamine infusions which has been a fantastic introduction of psychedelics.

I am still processing the experiences. From being launched into outer space, meeting Darth Vader, seeing the entire multiverse as mathematical relationships, experiencing death while feeling truly loved, and a massive planar field of folding numbers in an intergalactic game of Sudoku. I have much to process and ponder, but I would say that I had a spiritual experience which shakes the mechanics of my mind. Life is a gift not be squandered via nihilism nor cynicism.

Purpose is the antidote to many of the challenges we face, and I have much to write about the revelations as I sort them out as I process things. However, it feels like purpose is hard in this construct of a world. We all know that things feel dire, but they have also never been better. There are, of course, setbacks and injustices that happen. The hard question then is how to personalize and find one’s purpose? What is your purpose?

Well, there is folly in pursuing hedonism as it gets old surprisingly fast, so that’s no good. In a similar vein, materialism is a disappointment. As awful as this sounds, luxury also gets boring. There is the important question of what is one willing to endure? Alternatively framed, what are you willing to suffer? As I reflect on this, I’ve concluded that I exist with the divine purpose of bringing beauty into the world. Beauty and elegance require tremendous suffering because having taste is expensive.

Since time is the ultimate currency, the embodiment of what I feel inspired to dedicate my time towards is this platform. Perhaps there is folly in seeing beauty in technical infrastructure, but why is that? Why can’t software inspire awe like a bridge? Taking a boat under the golden gate bridge was inspiring, so why can’t software? Adama is my cathedral which I’m toiling on and within. It is my divine purpose.

Here is where it is natural to feel some awkwardness.

Perhaps, this dedication to technology is foolish as it feels wrong and the path of the wayward engineer. Much of the world is dedicated to the fetish of commercial success, and this focus is well placed given the demands to survive. For too many people, survival is hard enough. I have been gifted with many things which I am immensely grateful for. I have the intelligence and curiosity which is just right for being a world-class engineer, and I’ve had the good fortune to be around people that can leverage my skills.

I’ve always been a monk with the machine doing my good work, and people just happen to notice and invite me along. Give me a computer and time, and the divinity within me will produce code. I feel that I must continue this path not because it has worked for me in the past, but because it is authentic to who I am. I code for the sake of coding. Ars-gratia-artis!.

So, here I toil and build an infrastructure platform alone. At present, I must suffer the solitude of my work since I’m not sure how to explain it properly. I’m not sure how to find collaborators. A number of VPs at Meta have rejected my ideas. I have many communication challenges ahead which I’m tackling via this blog. I’ll continue to refine my thinking through the writing process. It’s hard, but I believe my cathedral is worth the pain. I’m delighted with the trickle of feedback that I get via email.

This is an unorthodox approach to life, but one deep thing that I’ve learned is that there is no “right” way to do life. There are plenty of ways to do life “wrong”, but no absolute “right” way. Life is messy. We really only have the present moment to find joy. Finding joy requires overcoming a lifetime of conditioning that ranks success over failure. In a sense, it seems prudent to detach from the outcome. I’m fortunate that I find joy from writing code. As long as I can write code, I’ll find joy.

Detaching from an outcome is hard for a cacophony of reasons, and the hardest criticism is the nature of wasting ones’ life? But, what does that even mean? What does it mean to you? These questions are paramount because they can lead to nihilism. The cure, in many ways, is faith. I have faith in technology, and I believe in the technology of the web to connect us. I have faith in myself.

My purpose is to build Adama as a good work for the universe. I will continue to think, ponder, write code, and repeat. The ultimate outcome is how I spend each day achieving a balance between the good work, self care, and loving my wife.