Iâ€™ve picked up Sarah Susankaâ€™s The Not So Big Life again. (My wife absconded with it for a few weeks, as she was trying to figure out her own life-direction.) One of her first exercises is to ask the reader to write down significant events in their life, i.e. â€œthe ones that moved you to tears, filled you with awe, or made you feel that your heart was going to explode.â€ The idea (I presume) is that by recalling specific times when you were moved, the seeker will see patterns in what inspires them, and be able to identify those essential things that makes their life worth living.
I realize, in retrospect, that snagging domain registration info for cold-calling was not my own novel invention, nor was it ethically advisable or even sound business. But these were the Wild West days of the internet, and my bosses encouraged audacious forays in marketing and sales, and it seemed so . . . clever. I was, as Joe Pierce would say, â€œseized by the ideaâ€: I could do this. I . . . could do this. I started working that evening. I was so excited I worked all night. By dawn I had kludgy little process that had seized a couple hundred names and phone numbers, and I was still basking in my first Programmerâ€™s High.
Years later, talking with other programmers, I found they were all seduced by similar experiences. â€œItâ€™s like being a magician,â€ said Mark Uland, an accomplished programmer who developed the first virtual reality software for the personal computer. â€œYou string together the right commands, and suddenly you can make the computer do impossible things, all because of you. Itâ€™s a feeling of power, of control. Nothing else in the universe â€“ not people, not things â€“ ever obeyed you as completely as the computer did. That why you do it. Thatâ€™s why we all do it.â€
And itâ€™s not just programmers . . . artists, too, report the feeling of security and creative power when ensconced in their private sketchpad worlds. Itâ€™s the joy of lining up all the dominos, and then making them all fall down, just as you had planned it, with the slightest touch of your hand. It is the stereotypically masculine intellectual pleasure â€“ I think, therefore I control the World.
Oddly enough, I donâ€™t see this and other Programming Highs as a sign of my lifeâ€™s vocation and destiny. It is pleasant, ego-enhancing, exciting, addictive, and capable of inducing obsessive attention . . . and yet, I do not find it to be terribly meaningful, any more than I would find a particularly good video game meaningful. Programming is Fun . . . but writing, in itâ€™s finer moments . . . ahh, that can induce Joy.