I don’t understand why people play video games with any type of grind. Whether it’s a grind to gain levels, gather items, or decorate a virtual space you can only enjoy from a couch. Isn’t there enough of that in real life?
I want video games for quick, fun, borderline surreal experiences I could never get in reality. Like fast-paced racing with crazy karts and items in Mario Kart Deluxe 8. Or wall-to-wall fighting in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Or spreading ink across a cityscape with a giant paintbrush in Splatoon 2. Or watching anime characters jump between a dystopian authoritarian hellscape and nuclear armageddon via time-traveling text messages in Steins;Gate Elite.
Call me a simple-minded or casual gamer if you want. I call myself someone who wants their escapist entertainment to be a real escape.
We are living through the coronavirus pandemic.
We are living in the moments that could define the country for years. Moments that will have potentially seismic shifts in culture and economics. Moments that future adults will parse apart in infinite ways. Moments that will become history people imagine living through. Moments they wish they could have experienced.
This pandemic makes me feel a lot. Knowing I’m living through moments add in some fascination. That spoonful of fascination makes the fear, anxiety, and bitterness go down easier.
One of the hardest changes for me to accept is when my passions change. All things change or end with time, and the activities we love most are no exception.
Maybe it’s tough due to how our mind responds to us pouring so much time, energy, and love into an activity. It starts believing its inherently meaningful and important. But when our passions shift, that means admitting we were wrong about its importance. How do we know that’s not also the case with the next passion? If we were wrong about one career path giving us meaning, how do we know this one is any different?
It means accepting how little control we have over much of our lives. Even with areas so intimate to our identity. That’s never easy.
The silver lining is knowing we can recognize when we find something more meaningful. Life may be chaotic and full of change, but that’s okay when we can trust our judgment to bring us somewhere a little better. Somewhere with a bit more passion than before.
We haven’t asked for the life we have. We didn’t ask for our identity and its advantages and disadvantages. We didn’t ask for the systems around us that keep those inequalities going. I don’t think we need to blame ourselves for their existence.
But when we learn of them, do we work to change or remove them? Do we strengthen them and worsen their effects? Do we accept them as the norm and enable their existence?
I think it’s fairer to judge, and even blame, people for how they answer those questions.
My new definition of freedom is pursuing what gives us meaning or purpose, regardless of the pain it brings or the pleasure it takes away.
This means only pursuing base pleasures like drugs and sex don’t make us free. People become chained to them the same way a prison chains them to a wall. The difference is the chains spring from ourselves and not others. It’s a lot harder to figure out they’re chains at all. Since they please us, they’re also tougher to escape.
Being free means fighting against external and internal forces trying to take it from us. To pull us into their journeys instead of us finding our own. For our reasons. Even if it makes us suffer more.
Next time someone talks about the importance of freedom, look for their invisible chains. Like if they chain themselves in front of a television for hours, or to other peoples’ bodies every night. Are they all that free?
Humans could learn a lot from how plants live.
- Don’t take more than you need
- Enjoy the sunlight
- Grow at a steady pace
- It’s okay to have roots, even when everyone else seems to be moving so fast
- If a wild animal eats you, take solace in being part of the circle of life
Most important, it’s normal when fruits or vegetables grow from your limbs.
This note is for people who see anger and criticism for aspects of today’s society. Instead of supporting it, they call it “disruptive” or “too angry.” I have a small history lesson for you.
During the civil rights movement, plenty of white moderates supported civil rights. But called people fighting for them “outside agitators.” Including Martin Luther King Junior. A New York Times article checks King’s past writing for his feelings on these white moderates. Part of the article summarizes it like so:
Whereas the “ill will” of the rabid segregationist was out in the open and could therefore be combated, the “shallow understanding from people of good will” threatened to enervate the civil rights movement into acceptance of an intolerable status quo. For King, moderation in the face of injustice might have been a worse problem than injustice itself.
The short version: these moderates understood issues in the abstract. But they never experienced the cruel effects firsthand. They say the status quo should change but have no desire to change it - often because they benefit even at others’ expense. So they dismiss any push to change the status quo as disruptive. Even if it’s for a cause they “support.”
Yes, these efforts are disruptive. By definition, one needs to disrupt a bad system to fix it. You need to tear out a broken pipe to put in a better on. Dismissing these efforts as “people only looking for attention” exposes one’s privilege fast. They never had to fight what so many others do each day.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Today I shall rant about books.
I gave “The Overton Window” a shot. I saw the author was Glenn Beck, the original political conspiracy theorist of my childhood. I saw the plot was a recycling of his usual ideas. I saw people giving me funny looks when I brought it home. I accepted all these things and tried to forget them as I read it like any other book.
I tried, I did. But I could not finish it. But I’m certain it wasn’t from my biases against this man. Instead, it was not a good book. It wasn’t good for many reasons, but I’ll focus on two big ones.
- The dialogue is too preachy. The dialogue so often reads like a broadcaster going through a block of text. Instead of reading like real people talking, as dialogue should. It takes the reader out of the story since it’s more like a sermon than a narrative. It makes the characters feel like idea outlets than actual people. The dialogue rarely drives change or development. It gives you a giant wall of ideas and expects you to accept it and keep going. That may work for a news broadcast, but not for fiction.
- It takes too long to get to the point. The book flap teases a massive, country-shattering event as the hook. The book then doesn’t reveal it until at least 45% into it. It should have happened at the 30% mark at the absolute latest. When a reader is getting bored waiting for the major plot events to happen, you’re doing fiction wrong. Bait and delays are never worth it.
I’m all for books having political views. I’ve read plenty along those lines along the spectrum. But I’m not for badly-written books.
A friend of mine has opinions on how asinine the American health insurance market is. They drove it home by imagining if the fire department worked the same way.
- While your house is on fire, you’d need to make sure the fire department you call covers that specific type of fire. If you live in an apartment, make sure they don’t only cover house fires!
- The fire department would only put out a certain percentage of the fire. Then they’d ask you to pay for the water they’d use to extinguish the rest. If you can’t afford it, you can either go bankrupt or watch your home burn down.
- After the tragedy is over, you’d get a bill asking you to pay the cost of the fire truck trip and the tools they used. Failure to do so means you’re on your own if another fire happens.
- Non-fire disasters would be terrible too. Say you’re stuck in an air vent or garbage chute. They’d refuse to get you out until they spend a few days confirming it’s covered by your plan.
If all that sounds absurd and terrifying, just imagine if we also needed insurance for the police department…
We can leave it to manga to make everyday things our body does into something badass.
Let’s take one of my favorites, Cells at Work: Code Black. One scene is, on its face, just someone getting gout. The make it compelling by mixing in existential crises, violent protests against a faceless and abusive ruling body (pun intended), and cries of despair to the heavens. All as it explains the basics of gout and its treatment.
There are times where, despite my love of manga, I struggle to love it. It’s mostly due to the high amount of smutty, fanservice content one sees. Especially when fanservice gets in the way of an otherwise good story and characters.
But then I read a manga chapter that almost always brings me to tears while talking about uric acid and colchicine. Moments like that remind me why manga is worth fighting for.
In Brave New World, Huxley draws many parallels between World State citizens and infants. There’s little to no gap between when they desire something and when they get it. This lets them go from pleasure to pleasure with no delay or real effort. There’s no need for self-control, so no one ever develops any. So they become slaves to desires and can’t pursue anything else.
I agree with the point Huxley made, but I think this is too unfair to toddlers. Toddlers have the potential for self-control and are raised to develop those skills over time. Meanwhile, in the novel, toddlers are conditioned through shocks, whispers, and…other activities.
I’d argue the citizens are more like animals, like cats or rats. At least toddlers have the potential to pursue meaning, and World State citizens don’t even have that. They’re also like rats since, whether it’s electrical brain stimulation or soma, they will indulge until it kills them.
At least World State citizens had stringent birth control to avoid the rats’ population growth rate. But they also don’t make babies in fetus jars on a slow-moving conveyor belt, so I’ll just call it even.
Every now and then I remember that at any moment, some uncontrollable or unpredictable event could upend my life and set me on an irreversible new path.
It could be something good. It could be a new job, a new partner, a new family, sudden superpowers, or getting whisked away to a secret society that maintains orders in society’s shadow.
Or it could be something bad. I could be thrown in poverty, important family and friends could die, I could lose limbs or senses in an accident, or be psychologically scarred for life by something like my apartment burning down.
All these bad possibilities make me want to chase lots of short-term pleasure. But if none of them do, I’d be destroying all the good long-term possibilities instead. I have surprisingly little knowledge or control over my future, and I need to make decisions for it all the time.
We are all in uncontrollable ships flying in the chaos of the universe with no idea where we’re headed, why we are, or when the ship will explode.
But at least we have peanut butter. That always helps.
One of the most important yet bitter lessons of adulthood I’ve found is this:
Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.
This quote tears me between “write more” and “don’t write unneeded things.” It brings up lots of stress, so I make the pill easier to swallow with some quote art.
When in doubt, add some good anime.
A common talking point in politics is along the lines of “give Americans their freedom and they’ll solve it all. Their productivity and motivation are just waiting to be let loose.”
To that I respond, seriously? From what I see, most are happy to put their extra time towards noise and distraction. There’s a time and place for those, I admit. But they’re taking up a lot more than I’d expect is needed. If people had more time, many would just put it towards those distractions.
It’s good to compare the books “1984” and “Brave New World” here. The former argued freedom must be taken by force. The latter argued people given so many pleasurable distractions willingly give up their freedom.
Which one is closer to most societies today?