June 3rd, 2013

Not long ago (in fact, within the hour) I received an invitation to a teaching seminar. I won’t be teaching anything, not in the traditional way, for at least a year, but the invitation is there along with the workshops my department recommends and mandates I attend.

My department.

I belong to it. I am part of it. After two years floundering in a sea of purposelessness, I somehow found my way into a thing that wanted to keep me. I’ve spent less than a day with these people, in these buildings, and yet already the possessive pronoun emerges.

I continue to struggle with the notion that I am shortly going to be walking past young people who respect me for my status and take for granted that I did something Important to earn it. I imagine myself standing in front of a lecture hall with an uncomfortable tie and chuckle at the thought of “if you could only see me as I was on June 3rd, 2013, wearing yesterday’s dirty white t-shirt, hair sticking out like one electrocuted, drinking ice cold coffee and hitting send on an email to my adviser admitting that I had no concept of what being a graduate student was really going to look like.”

The truth is that even from the dark and drafty confines of my parents’ basement I have found ways to inspire people younger and older through my words and my voice and my explanations. It confounds me that that’s possible, but they have assured me of it, and the best I can do is stumble forward in the hopes that I keep doing that, and learn how to do it more frequently and efficiently. Perhaps that’s what feels so good about the path I’m on: not that I’ve found a place that makes me feel important, but that I’ve been given an opportunity through that place to make a lot of other people feel important; not that I get to learn, but that I get to play a part in the learning of others.

I sometimes get sheepish when I explain to people that I’m going to be studying video games. I don’t know why that is. In my gut I hate the sheepishness but it remains nonetheless. I’m not apologetic, per se, but at the same time I feel like I’m expected to be. Yet video games are a synthesis of play and narrative, and it’s hard to say which is more ancient in the history of humanity. It seems that we have forever been telling stories and using play to help us do so. It’s in our blood. Something has driven us, as a culture, to this new way of doing something very old. The chance to pursue answers to that question — why games? — thrills me.

Sometime this week I will be registering for my first barrage of graduate level coursework. It sounds like I’ll be undertaking an independent study as well…hitting the ground running, as it were. And then next week, I will do as I do every summer: watch E3 with bated breath. Except this time my anticipation will not simply be that of one who plays games, but of one whose life is to be irrevocably tied to them, for better or worse.

Here’s hoping for the best.

Inertia

An object at rest will remain at rest until an outside force acts upon it.
A lazy bum will remain lazy unless something makes him change.

Long before any physics class, I understood Newton’s First Law of Motion. It was at work in the fingers that futilely tried to resist it by hitting a snooze button on my alarm clock every morning. It was in the the pockets of my gym shorts every day we had to do laps. It was the ink in every deduction off every paper I turned in late due to sheer procrastination. It was the Deadly Sin called Sloth. Newton’s First Law also says bodies at motion remain in motion. I’ll have to take his word for it; I’ve never been one to move.

I spoke recently of being ill beyond the confines of physical health. We’re all sick, of course, the kind of sickness Jesus claimed to have come to cure. Our sin weighs us down whether we acknowledge it or not. And the wages of sin is death, regardless of which sin. It’s inaccurate to call any sin more deadly than another.

The thing is, they’re all tied together. Pride goeth before a great many things that can be considered falling. It tells us that we deserve to be catered to, that we deserve the best of everything, that our happiness is the ultimate goal, that in fact pursuing happiness directly will result in achieving it.

And so we eat more than we should, and we are gluttons.
And so we become lethargic through our gluttony, and become slothful.
And so we become bored in our slothfulness, and our minds wander.
They wander to women, and we are lustful.
They wander to riches, and we are greedy.
They wander to wrongs, and we are hateful.
If we are not too slothful, we act out in wrath; else we kill our brothers in our minds.
Sometimes we even hate ourselves. This too is pride.

I have been at rest for far too long, and that is really all it comes down to. Without external forces to put me in motion, I have grown still, and in that stillness I have wallowed, and bid darkness come to me. They say with great power comes great responsibility — and by “they,” I mean Uncle Ben and Jesus (Luke 12:48).

For all its flaws (and they are manifold), Spider-Man 3 did one thing well: it showed how quickly one can be polluted, and how dangerous that pollution can be when it happens in one who’s gifted. I can’t fly or leap over buildings, but my imagination is incredibly potent. It’s been my gift, but lately I’ve allowed it to be my curse. If idle hands are the devil’s playthings, an idle imagination is the devil himself. You know the expression “things you can’t unsee?” When something is crafted by the mind’s eye, its capacity to stay and scar is multiplied to the nth degree. The things I most wish I could have never seen are things that I myself dreamed up.

This terrifying degradation is most tragic because it’s entirely preventable. Happily, it’s also reversible. The magnitude of the evil I’ve imagined points clearly to the magnitude of good I’m capable of imagining. The stories unfit for others’ eyes promise different stories, fit for all. Images, now burned, speak of uplifting artistry as yet untapped.

Inactivity has led me to the depths of darkness.
Activity, then, is the path I’ll take to the heights of light.

At least, that’s the plan (well, the plan comes in my next post). But the thing is, as of this moment, I’m still a body at rest, fighting against inertia. Whatever I propose to change all that won’t happen absent the outside force acting upon me. If there’s ever been such a thing as a “self-starter,” I’m certainly not it.

Prayer is first, for prayer seeks the First Mover to move me, the force that overcame the ultimate inertia and forced nonexistence to become existence. But short of saying “prayer is insufficient of itself,” I’d love more…direct assistance. The activity I plan to engage in to bring myself back to life will be much easier (and, more importantly — for this isn’t about ease — much more beneficial) if it is a social endeavor. Expect something less vague in the days to come.