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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Secular Sunday: Father's Day 2018

longer now without a dad
then i ever spent with one

M. C. Escher, 'Eye', 1946

I forgive my father and possibly, more importantly, I forgive myself for my own emotions on the matter of his death and his own failings as a parent (& my failings as a son).

Even if/when we accept that the parent is a fallible human 'just like us', something that is part of becoming an adult, as we do with the surrounding grown-up environs that we now inhabit, even if, we still have a greater idea to conquer/over-write/subsume/erase and that is the parent as a divine creator. The parent as literal god figure.

This might seem foolish to you, you might think that this description of a belief towards one's parents hardly fits for you or your relationship, but I would beg you to reconsider, because it is already built into how most of the world sees itself and how it prioritises the family. Each and every human society believes that their distinct experience of family is unique and hold more universal truth than any other cultures, and at the crux of this belief is typically the idolisation of the parent.

That our existence might not have been part of god's plan, that we might not have really been expected or truly wanted or were anything other than social pressure upon the incurious minds that birthed us, is not something we likely consider, but we should.

In either becoming or considering being a parent ourselves we should remember that our step into the unknown is what all other parents, including our own, have done before us. In accepting our weakness as one whose decision is guided more by hope than by anything certain, we should also welcome this chaotic mystery that life brings.

The desire to make the god's plan personal is the desire to narrativise our own existence as something ordained and with significance, whether this is by the idolisation of the parent or through actual religious fervour, both are a creation, a sham. Are we ready for what the rejection of this perspective might bring?

It involves our compassionate acceptance not only of our parents as flawed, but of our self, of our own choices as not being either truly individual or truly given. We are the paradox of consciousness and the result is not to deny this, or to seek a transfer to some other authority, but it is our responsibility to care.

I miss you dad. I love you. Happy father's day.

FMM 1944-1996

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Quotes worth saving (22): Daniel Keyes 'Flowers for Algernon'

This is a beautiful melancholy novel, which only just about counts as a genre novel, a science fiction.

by Daniel Keyes
SF Masterworks
2002 this edition
1966 original publication

Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often a search for knowledge drives out the search for love. This is something else I've discovered for myself very recently. I present it to you as a hypothesis: Intelligence without the ability to give and receive affection leads to mental and moral breakdown, to neurosis, and possibly even psychosis. And I say that the mind absorbed in and involved in itself as a self-centered end, to the exclusion of human relationships, can only lead to violence and pain. (p.173)

Daniel Keyes (1927-2014)

This was the way we loved, until the night became a silent day. And as I lay there with her I could see how important physical love was, how necessary it was for us to be in each other's arms, giving and taking. The universe was exploding, each particle away from the next, hurtling us into dark and lonely space, eternally tearing us away from each other - child out of the womb, friend away from friend, moving from each other, each through his own pathway toward the goal-box of solitary death.
But this was the counterweight, the act of binding and holding. As when men to keep from being swept overboard in the storm clutch at each other's hands to resist being torn apart, so our bodies fused a link in the human chain that kept us from being swept into nothing. (p.205)

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Love is the Law (5): Infinite Rewards

Yesterday, I spoke about the inherent withering of any structure, system, or substance.

The thing is, it's not true of everything.

Love requires constant rejuvenation to exist.

In Loving I am constantly seeing again, reconfiguring, aligning myself with another.

My Love for/with JJ continues. It is not static. As that beautiful immortal Ursula Le Guin wrote:

Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.

When I see her now, I do not see our relationship of the past, I do not look with nostalgia, I see anew.

Each day refreshes, each exchange deepens our connection.

Yes, these human relationships can falter, can weaken, can fall into entropy.

It requires work on our part; to take responsibility, to show weakness, to open one's self.

But, the effort isn't harder, the rewards aren't lessened.

Love is not the atrophying of some past peak, now slowly spiralling down.

It springs eternal.

Love is the forever we were promised.

'Time defeated by Hope and Beauty' by Simon Vouet (1627)

Monday, 11 June 2018

Melancholy Mondays: Diminishing Returns

Can't help but feel that physically I've passed the point of no return. That I'm never going to suddenly develop into a startling muscular figure, or become the long-distance runner that I never properly trained for. I can still maintain a certain standard of physical fitness and try to keep the beer belly bulge at bay, but it's only going to get harder and take more work. Exercise that will take longer to recover from, with a body that is less flexible and resistant than it was before.

Mentally, they say that your intellectual peak can come much later, post-forty certainly, but it's also true that certain things have got harder. That my memory, previously almost faultless, is now rather defective and the possibility that I might completely forget something is more of a regular occurrence than I'd ever considered. It's frightening and more than a little embarrassing to find yourself with no memory. "I have no recollection," after all, is the statement of liar. Certainly as used by politicians, celebrities, and other criminals.

All life works towards a downward spiral. Eventually, the effort put in is not met by the active response. More has to be expended to reach what was easier to accomplish before. All things weaken, age, diminish, and finally perish. There is no eternal reoccurrence, no perpetual motion. Some things just take longer to die.

We might consider large-scale collaborative endeavours, such as Science, as somehow excluded from this basic law of entropy, but consider Civilisations. Why do they 'fail', perhaps entropy is absolute. The scientific method itself seems to accept a potential replacement with a 'better' system.

The epigenetic clock is ticking...

'The Seer' Giorgio de Chirico

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Game Day: LeCraft - Fantasy Combat

Almost all RPGs are focused entirely upon combat, even the ones were there is an attempt to develop internal politics and other non-violent means of conflict resolution, still the inevitable fighting mechanic forms the central core of the game and must be detailed. As these are games and as players are conditioned to play to win, so the swiftest resolution is always with combat and a few dice rolls, "bang bang, you're dead"... "but I built my character with debating skills"... "my character has an M14 rifle and shoots your character in the brain stem. Game over."

Perhaps it's simply the fact that RPGs have developed from war games, perhaps it's the way we play games, perhaps it's our violent natures.

In any case I can imagine that a game or story that did not involve either actual violence (action) or the threat of violence (horror) to be dismissed as 'boring' or 'not realistic'. Let's be clear though, my game/story world is not a passifist utopia.


Not to remove the reality of violence, instead as a story mechanic it's use should not be without danger or consequence, the use of violence is rarely a solution, as it merely creates the potential for other worse situations. The cycle of violence, revenge, permanent injury, the loss of one's identity to that of a corrupt 'other place' (cf. Lynch). Much like magick is this world's literal depiction of the corruption of power, of influence, so that violence here should also be extreme with the possibility of perma-death (what other kind should we think of?), of physical damage (although fixable by magick, this too lends itself to risk), or of mental-spiritual damage, leading to becoming feral, a lesser animalistic being. 

That is, if we consider violence as an animal instict and therefore basic or innate, should it be feared or controlled or denied or embraced?

 Perhaps something we should watch for is the trivilising of this attitude, or the domestication or even the gamification of violence. This is because it can help manufacture the idea that this is what we really are. It makes the assumption through it's repeated use in games and stories that violence is basic is innate is true to what we are. The argument of its inescapability meaning that we must embrace this lust for violence, but this sadistic pleasure in causing pain, in 'getting back', in solution (because surely when they are all dead there can be no more problems), is a social construct, it is the argument of authoritarianism, of Fascism, of the sociopath.

The animal does not love violence.

Innate does not mean always, it is appropriate only with the context. The hawk does not kill without 'reason'.

So, this isn't to disparage those that enjoy the combat aspect of their games. Indeed, as I said, it's obviously a key component for most games for a reason. Might I suggest that it is because it is more directly emotive and more easily generalisable for a wider audience. What I wish to develop is that idea of combat in games being more than just a few 'exciting' dice rolls, I want it to be something that players are actually apprehensive of.

In stories this 'realism' of combat can be described to convey the physicality, the danger, and so forth, but it is unlikely the writer will be as literally descriptive as players in a role-playing game. Indeed, the 'shot-for-shot' description of a conflict from a rpg into a story would be incredibly dull. However, something a rpg can convey is complex multitude of instant decisions that one might make during a fight (albeit they think over these choices for far longer and can strategise).

Dice-rolling mediated by additional factors (skill, environment, equipment) does a reasonable job of depicting the potential randomness of violent confrontation, but due to the gamifying of the event this introduces a level of agency and control to the situation that is inauthentic.

Simply put, it is not random or final enough. The only time I can recall something 'real' occuring in a rpg was the old-style D&D that I first played aged twelve. At first level your character had 1D4 of hit points if a thief or a magic-user. Most basic weapons and animals do 1D6 damage (arrows, clubs, spears and short swords) meaning that you have a reasonably high likelihood of dying in one hit. Even fighters, whose whole class focus is fairly obvious, only start with 1D8 of hit points (although this can modified up to +3 with bonuses), which means that several good hits will kill pretty much every first level character. Also, despite resurrection being possible in D&D this comes with a gold value (hurray for fantasy capitalism, there is no escape) meaning that again first level or low level characters can not afford it and must offer their services for repayment (useful as a plot hook, often exploited).

However, unfortunately, if your characters survive long enough they get to the point were this one-hit-kill possiblity is utterly removed, indeed, at high levels a single player character can overpower entire armies. Note: There is the possibility of high-level spells killing, 'disintegrating', characters but by this point characters are normally able to raise the dead themselves. Making death not the end, but instead a minor and temporary inconvenience.