November 21, 2005

"Wasting" Time

As I was growing up, I had a common and perennial struggle with my parents regarding the subject of what exactly counted as "too much" video game playing. I know I'm not alone ... most children of my generation experienced this. I think probably every generation does, with some other pastime. I suppose in the past it was outdoor games and fishing and novel-reading and such in the golden days of yesteryear. However, it seems to me that video-game playing is viewed by responsible adults as being a particularly pernicious waste of time ... that and watching television. My parents (my father in particular) would have been much happier had I devoted my playtime to sports and "outdoorsy" kinds of things. They were regarded as being morally superior to video game playing (which itself might be considered marginally preferable to the watching of television).

I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now. I like playing video games, thanks very much, and watching TV is fun too. It's more than a simple matter of preference (my father prefers physical sports, I prefer the construction and ruling of fantasy empires); adults and generally responsible people make the case that playing video games is moral decadence. Certainly there are worse things, and they tolerate the playing of games, but I'm sure their vision of an ideal world doesn't include video games. They see video games as perhaps a necessary and relatively minor evil, but evil nonetheless.

And, let's face it, they can make a strong case. I estimate that thousands of hours of my time have been spent playing such games ... spent rearranging 1's and 0's in a computer's memory that were promptly lost forever when the power was shut off and the disk wiped. I've seen video games eat people's lives, functioning as an all-absorbing black hole that swallows a person whole. And what do I have to show for it? At least with physical outdoor games, you get a lot of exercise and wind up with a healthier and fitter body. And team sports can build character ... at least, so my father firmly believed :). Certainly I've gained a few things ... a huge storehouse of facts and strategies and trivia that's necessary to play some my games really well. I imagine my fingers are swifter to react than they would be otherwise, and I've gotten to do a lot of imaginary things that were quite awesome ... things like ruling a country, fleet, planet, and saving the galaxy and blasting storm-troopers to smithereens and building awesome weapons. And I had a lot of fun. If I were into multi-player games, I could even make a case that I've gotten some of that "team-building" experience my parents were so in favor of.

"But it wasn't real(TM)"

DIE, DIE, DIE!!! So bloody what? It was an approximation of real. My parents would have been reasonably happy to see me building forts and clubhouses, and those aren't real either. I think the problem is that parents have a "feeling," something somewhere deep inside them, that says that there's something inherently better in manipulating the physical world instead of the electronic one. I would be more scornful if I didn't have the same feeling myself. I blame my parents and culture for infecting me with the ridiculous notion. :)

Actually, I suppose there's something to the notion. If you work with the "real world", I suppose you're closer to working with what God made; when you work with the electronic world, you're working with something man made. Also, the "real world" is ... well, real. It's there when you don't want it to be, and your ability to do with it what you please is circumscribed. (Though, on that score, so is your ability to manipulate video games).

I think the feeling is linked to our conviction that time ought to be spent well. Personally, I've never liked this notion, as it makes me feel as if every single instant of life ought to spent in ceaseless busyness, a notion I find exhausting and demoralizing. I suppose the eager proponent of such a life might point out that we aren't expected to spend every minute working ... some moments need to be spent resting. Yes ... so that we can get more work done! If we could work without getting tired, such a philosophy would work ceaselessly forever. And I hate the idea. My reaction to it strikes me as a little childish, and think there's a lot of truth in that. I've always hated the fact that the world seems to want nothing but work, work, work all the time. I want to play but the world is geared to make me work. I've always felt that the world is trying to make me stop playing and start working.

Ecclesiastes is such a great book; it provides me with a ringing answer to give to the world's insistence on busyness. "MEANINGLESS!" I cry in a booming voice. "MEANINGLESS! Everything is meaningless. Your ceaseless strivings are meaningless and empty." In some ways, this "fact" strikes me as freeing, not damning. It means it's ok to play. It's ok to play, because work isn't necessarily "better." Unfortunately, the New Testament comes in and screws up Ecclesiastes by saying that work "for the Lord" isn't meaningless, that death isn't the end, that our work can earn eternal rewards (and our lack thereof can have eternal consequences). Damn it! Now, once again, the cruel logic of the universe closes in on me, trying to snare me into the trap of the eternal (or at least life-long) rat race. (Though, if that was the case, I swear I'll play video games for millennia in heaven, just to spite the inner compulsion.) How strange that the doctrine of eternal life and reward can be such terrible news.

My training immediately rebukes the thought. "It just makes you face up to the fact that you need to grow up and get to work!" it says most forcefully.

But I'm not finished yet. True, deeds can have eternal reward that really matters (and, actually, this gets around nihilism as well, which is a problem with Ecclesiastes alone). But they must be deeds done for Him. And I know enough to know that the deeds of the lifelong busybody are not guaranteed to all be worthwhile. Nope, it's not enough to teach Sunday School or become a pastor or missionary ... even those deeds are not guaranteed to win reward. The deeds that count are the ones done in accordance with His will. And when you dutifully try to find His will for everything and try to spend every minute busy ... you lost sight of His will. Then you have to go looking for Him again. And sometimes you find Him fishing. Or playing video games.

Yes, work matters. I know it does. And I'm ok with that ... as long as play matters, too. As long as it's ok to play. Not just a concession to the weakness of man (stupid man, can't work all the time. If only he were stronger), but as a built-in truth. And I'm convinced that's the way the world really works.

Posted by Leatherwood at 09:40 PM
This post has been classified as ""

November 04, 2005

*Snort of Derision*

I took the test again, trying to be a little more extreme in my opions, less wishy-washy (choosing more extreme options). I was fairly convinced this would show my true right-wing colors (that I'm conviced I possess somewhere). And this is the result. Heh.

You are a

Social Moderate
(55% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(43% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test
Posted by Leatherwood at 09:11 PM
This post has been classified as "Public Address"

I Love Star Wars ... But Why?

I love the Star Wars movies. Have since the first time I saw them (1995, when I was twelve years old). I'd heard seen a couple of things relating to Star Wars before that, but it was my first real exposure. My family bought the re-mastered original version (not the Special Edition), so I know that Greedo did not shoot first. :) The movies I saw started with a little advertising jingle that still sends tingles down my spine:

For those who remember ... for those who will never forget ... and for a whole new generation who will experience it for the very first time. (my memory of the next line is blurred because I can't quite trace all the action sequences that went across the screen that that point ... a common failing of my otherwise excellent memory for movies. When a whole lot of disjointed images flash for awhile, my internal recorder shuts off, it seems) Now, the entire trilogy, digitally mastered in THX for the ultimate in sound ... and picture quality. This will be your last chance to own the original version of Star Wars --- the George Lucas masterpiece that launched the Star Wars trilogy. The Force is forever ... for all generations. The original Star Wars trilogy on video ... one last time.

I figured it was a good idea to post that quote, even though I know that most of you reading it are rolling your eyes at me. After all, what's the point of quoting an advertising jingle for an outdated set of movies? The point is that I deeply loved those movies. That I think I still love those movies. And I intend to muse about why this is so.

The trouble is that I'm not sure what it is that I love in them. The acting in the films varies for downright terrible (Mark Hamil in the later films become almost catatonic) to quite excellent (Harrison Ford, of course). The special effects are quite good ... even today, they don't really detract from the movie. You can still (to a large extent) suspend disbelief when watching the movies ... the fact that it is a movie doesn't intrude into your notice very often, and that is good. But special effects alone do not make a movie (as many cynics would be quick to say regarding the latest three). Star Wars has magic, and not just for me. It's something of a cultural phenomenon in the United States (I'm not sure about the rest of the world).

Part of the original charm of Star Wars comes from the time it was introduced ( A New Hope came out in 1977). The seventies were a positively ghastly time for movies. My characterization (admittedly over-broad and certainly biased) is that you can define a seventies movie as follows --- the good guys aren't really good, the bad guys aren't really bad, and everybody dies. I hate seventies movies.

Star Wars is different. The heroes are good, the villains are evil, the good guys win and the bad guys lose, and not everybody dies. I think this was a huge factor in the initial success of Star Wars.

But why it should continue to resonate is harder to nail down. There are lots of movies around these days with genuine good guys and genuine bad guys where the good guys genuinely win. But none of them are Star Wars, or anything like it.

I think that there isn't really enough room in our hearts for more than a few excellent movies. So whichever one we see first is probably going to take first place forever against all comers. Perhaps the reason I love Star Wars so much is because I saw it first when I was young and impressionable. Maybe we humans have something like a duckling's "imprinting" ... the first good movie we see is our favorite forever.

That isn't the whole story either, though. After all, I saw Lord of the Rings quite a bit later in my life, and yet it ranks close behind Star Wars in my love. A really good movie, I think, can always have a shot at taking a special place in our hearts.

If you're reading this thinking that we're not getting anywhere in solving the mystery of why Daniel Leatherwood likes Star Wars so much, you're right. We're not. But I think there's something to that ... the idea that we usually don't have a good reason for loving the things we love. And I'm ok with that fact ... more than that, I think that it is right and good.

Taking a far more serious subject than my love of Star Wars (and there aren't many of those), why do I love my wife the way that I do? Of course, I have some reasons for that ... she's a lovely lady, she's cheerful, she smiles at me, she's wonderful to hug, she almost never complains, she loves me back ... I have lots of reasons, but none of them is a "killer". And part of it is imprinting ... she's almost the first girl I ever knew, and certainly was one of the first girls to show an interest in me. Yet there's more to it than that.

You could almost say that love doesn't need a why. It doesn't need a reason. You could say that love is primary, not incidental. Yet if we stop here, the thought voices itself that, in that case, love is meaningless. If love has no reason, than my statement "I love Star Wars" is a content-less expression. Mere babble. (A conclusion the more cynical among you may have already reached.) This thought produces an angry reaction from me ... the sort of reaction that tells me my conclusion is false. An angry reaction from myself is a heuristic I use to determine when my conclusion doesn't fit the world I believe in. This, of course, does not necessarily invalidate my conclusion. But it's something like a compiler error ... either your program or the compiler is at fault, and it's probably your program.

An additional statement helps understand that my saying "I love Star Wars" is non-content-free. I can also add, "I consider Star Wars worth loving." I invest time, energy, and emotions into those movies. If I myself have significance, then my love of Star Wars also has significance. Which means that it is important whether Star Wars is actually any good or not. It may be good or bad that I love Star Wars, but it cannot be neutral or meaningless unless I am also meaningless. A bit of myself is bound into that film.

Posted by Leatherwood at 08:27 PM
This post has been classified as ""
Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict
Valid CSS!