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Monthly Archives: December 2021

At the end of some years, there aren’t so very many words.  §

I’ve had this tradition of making a long, wordy post to end the year.

I’m running out of patience with my past self, and with words. Here are some things, and I think we can leave it after that:

  • There are way too many words in our society just now. A lot of talk—talk, talk, talk, words, words, words, most of it bullshit. I have come to realize that I’m as guilty of this as everyone else. We made ourselves these word-centric systems like social media and proceeded to fill them up. Mistake. The words have taken the place of actions, morals, decisions, understandings. It’s vapid. I’m vapid. We’re all vapid. Say less, do more.

  • On that front, I have had a terrible 2021 in most every way. But a lot of that is due to exactly the above—thinking I was doing a lot of things when in fact I was just saying a lot of things, like everyone. Which is ironic in my case because I don’t even have that many people to say things to. But the dark magic of our social media age is that you can blather on indefinitely to nobody at all and your circuits think you’re talking and mistake that for real stuff.

  • What I have learned since exiting the academy and getting divorced has become clear to me, and I think I can get it out in a bullet. Truth exists. Truth cannot be explained or detailed in words. Truth is suffering and suffering is meaning. Truth is not entirely material. Children are the only thing that matter. God likely exists, because hell clearly exists. Providing reasoned critiques of this in words is a loser’s game, like saying that apples are a pale imitation of television. Well, yes.

  • My resolutions for 2022 are simple: talk less and do things. It doesn’t even really matter all that much which things. Just things, and actual doing. Not talking about doing, not considering doing, not evaluating-the-possibility-of-doing-as-a-form-of-doing. Actual doing of things, offline, beyond symbolic culture—beyond words, beyond code, beyond images, beyond screens.

  • The world is going to get worse in 2022. And worse again in 2023 and then a whole lot worse in 2024.

  • Living in truth is not a mental thing. It’s a physical thing. Life is not a mental thing. It’s a physical thing. The only things that really matter are not mental things. They are physical things. In fact, mental things, too, are ultimately physical things—just an impoverished category of them.

  • The pope make a mistake on the Latin mass question. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.) But he has made a lot of mistakes.

  • Most of you are already trapped in the matrix, as I have been. Escape will not be easy, but unless I escape, 2022 will be as terrible as 2021.

  • In all these years, I have learned next to nothing. I have much—very, very much—to learn.

Happy new year.

The academics are fighting over crumbs while Ganon threatens Hyrule.  §

Every year since I-don’t-know-when I’ve done this “year-end post” thing.

It’s about time to start cooking mine up for this year I suppose. I’m not sure to refer back to previous years to get a flavor for what I have done in the past (because for the first time, instinct really just isn’t carrying me there) or whether to just wing it.

I guess I’ll find out over the next few days which wins.

— § —

Among the other things worth noting this year is that 2021 is the year that I started playing video games again. There were accidents and disasters and then we all got COVID and somewhere in the middle of it, as everyone was laid up and reeling, I noticed that my kids were playing this game on their Switch units that spoke to me somehow. I asked my son if I could mess around for a bit and before you know it, I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Like, a lot.

Throughout my COVID recovery and then the rest of fall I played it, without spoilers, until I finished the game and nearly all of the tasks. It is amazingly deep. It almost immediately joined this category of “gaming experiences that stick with me as life memories.” This category also includes:

  • Riven

  • Nethack

  • Pac-Man on Atari 2600 (used to play this with my dad)

  • Original 1980 Star Wars arcade (first serious video game experience)

Don’t get confused about this list, I’ve played a lot of games. As in, a lot. But most of it dates back to the ’90s and early ’00s and I haven’t really played anything since maybe 2011—that is, until the second half of this year.

— § —

I stopped gaming for two basic reasons:

  • Games were less and less fun and more and more just about polygons and FPS

  • Serious academics don’t play video games

I’m embarrassed to admit the second one, but I spent half my life swimming upstream against an army of people spread across the continent who said I’d never make it and that I wasn’t serious—and I was determined to prove them wrong.

I’m ultimately not sure whether I did or not… I did get my PhD and I was a professor for a time, which I think are the two things they meant I’d never accomplish. But at the same time, by 2021 I haven’t used my PhD for anything in ages and I haven’t been a professor for eight years. So did I make it or didn’t I? Hard to say.

What I can say is that I was absolutely tuned in to playing the “serious” academic game in which you are working hard to be “competitive” and to “embody” the role.

In practice this means pitched, highly political, often vitriolic and underhanded battles between aspiring academics and other aspiring academics, and between aspiring academics and other aspiring academics’ faculty advisors. The battles are all-encompassing and deeply bloody and brutal, and if you’re going to survive, you can’t be spending your time playing video games—you have to dedicate your whole self to survival and coming out on top.

The funny thing is that despite how seriously academics take these battles, and how convinced academics are that they are Very Important and that The Future of Humanity may rest on each one, in fact they are completely invisible to the real world.

The academics are fighting each other for supremacy over each other in the end, though they don’t realize it—not for anything in the real world.

In the real world, the global video game industry drives $350-$400 billion in sales every single year, just shy of the accumulated total endowments of the entire Ivy League put together.

In other words, all those people coming home from work and playing Breath of the Wild (which is, incidentally, the greatest video game I have ever played, hands down) are the real world; the academics who are sure they’re fighting The Important Battles in the Real World are, in fact, off in la-la land engaged with each other in battles that are entirely irrelevant to anything.

They’re like rats fighting each other in the basement crawlspace under a house. They’re battling each other to the death over spoils that must seem all-important to them (say, a bit of granola that fell down a furnace vent), but in fact the real action in the house is much larger and elsewhere, and is entirely unaware of the rats—and wouldn’t care to worry about them if it somehow did become aware.

— § —

Anyway, back to video games.

Post finishing Zelda, I was at a weird loose end. I’d acquired this Nintendo Switch and it seemed silly to use it just to play a single game and be done with it. So I hit the Nintendo e-Shop to see what else was on offer (and on sale) and came up with Hades, which I am continuing to play regularly. And now I’ve acquired another half dozen or so titles—whatever is on sale in the shop for $2-$4 in a given week.

So I guess I’m gaming again, at least by my measure. And I think I am enjoying it as much as I ever enjoyed academics—especially the part where I don’t feel guilty about it any longer. (Well, at least not in the same way.)

That’s the 2021 factoid for the night.

Cool is the first thing to go when you join the ranks of the sinners.  §

So I was having this chat with an old friend about how when we were younger, we were cool. Reckless and invincible and effortless and cool and everything was easy—everything. Yet somewhere along the way, we’d lost it.

And at first, for a day or so, I was thinking that this was because when you’re young you have nothing to lose, but as you get older, you do. You can’t afford to be devil-may-care any longer because the things that you do actually affect other people, and because it begins to matter whether a risk was a good risk or a bad risk, whether you’re up to the task or not. When you’re young, it’s easy to take on any challenge with a smirk, because nothing in particular is at stake.

I was ever-so-subtly wrong.

Tonight I realize that cool goes not when you have something to lose, but when you have lost. When you have suffered. When you have, in fact, let people down, failed at the task, had to face the consequences of your failures.

If you have any god damn brains when you’re older, you realize that cool is unbecoming. Swagger is unbecoming. Because by the time you reach middle age, if you’ve lived at all, you’ve also fucked up. People have paid the price. Things have gone wrong. You and others around you have suffered and suffered greatly for your sins and your conceits.

Once that’s hung around someone’s neck, it takes either an asshole or an idiot to swagger around like a pirate. Humility doesn’t come from the stakes. Humility comes from having lost it all, and indeed from having lost it all for others as well. Once you carry the weight of souls around with you, you can no longer slice through life like you own it because that would be ugly and because you bear that weight every day, everywhere you go.

That’s the transition from the cocky young guy to the quiet old guy. Both are equally capable, but the quiet old guy keeps his mouth shut. He knows that capability doesn’t count for shit; you’ve crushed people and things you loved and you’ll likely do it again before your life is done, no matter how capable you are, because those are the stakes, because that’s what happens.

He keeps his mouth shut and he does his job and he tells people younger than him that he hopes they win, even though by now he knows better.

That’s the generation gap. Young folk think older folk are cowards and idiots because young folk, contrary to what they imagine about themselves, are as pure as the driven snow.