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We Now Rejoin Real Life, Already in Progress


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Posted (edited)

Well, reviewing my purchasing history on Steam - which doesn't include my purchases on EA, Ubisoft, and Epic Games - was good and bad.

It was good in that I was able to reconstruct more of my history with gaming, part of my current effort to reconstruct and come to terms with the entire history of my marriage and the earlier trajectory of my career. That's really been helping me a lot, and has bolstered my resolve to recapture the promise of the early years of my professional life.

It was bad in that it reminded me of all the games I'd played, and how and why I had enjoyed them, how I was bowled over by the great leaps in technology since that old vector-graphics dungeon-crawler I played back in the 1980s. They were immersive! They were dynamic! Sometimes, they were just gorgeous, with the play of light through trees, a vault of blue sky . . .

But, really, if I want that again, I just have to look out my back windows as the sun is rising, or walk out my front door as the sun is going down. If I want adventure and striking landscapes, it's a short drive up into the Appalachians from here; the Great Smokey Mountains are just a 3-hour drive away. In fact, one end of the Appalachian Trail is not very far from where I live.

If I want a stunning vault of blue sky, I just have to go home to the American Midwest.

(The sound design is really astounding in the real world, isn't it? The Foley effects are always on-point.)

And If I want to be in a relationship with someone, again, I'll have to do more than complete a few side missions and pass a few speech checks. At minimum, I'll have to be able to give someone my full attention without part of me jonesing for a hit of that ol' dopamine. That, and I need to be worthy of attention in return.

Anyway, all of this got caught up in my dreams. I have not in the past dreamed of games, nor even had dreams inspired directly by games. Last night, though, I had a nostalgia dream for that open-world exploration/survival game into which I've sunk the equivalent of 4.8 months. Later on, closer to dawn, I dreamed I met someone extraordinary - intelligent, sensitive, kind, stunningly beautiful - and there was a spark, a possibility.

I woke up feeling hopeful.

Edited by Zeno
some word-smithing and typo-hunting
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Posted (edited)

The Key Log

More than a century ago, lumberjacks in the Great North Woods of the upper Midwest in the United States, would cut down huge pine trees, strip them of their branches, and send them floating down rivers in huge "timber rafts" to lumber mills downstream. (This is the context in which the legends of Paul Bunyan arose, the giant woodsman with his trusty giant blue ox, Babe.)

Once in a while, logs would get snagged on some obstacle, more logs would get snagged on them, and so on. Without swift action by the log drivers (or "river pigs"), logs would continue to snag until the river was blocked by a massive tangle of tree trunks: a logjam.

These were extremely dangerous, as you could imagine, to anyone just downstream. Just imagine a jumbled mass of tree trunks suddenly breaking loose and rushing toward you . . .

The log drivers would be on the lookout for the formation of a jam and try to release the snagged timber before the jam became too large. They would quickly try to identify the "key log", the one piece of timber that, if removed - by main force or with dynamite if necessary - would set the timber raft moving again.

In other contexts, I've seen 'key log' used metaphorically for the one thing you would need to change to bring about a cascade of further changes in a positive direction. The mid-twentieth-century forester and writer Aldo Leopold appeals to that metaphor in his hope for the development of a "land ethic" in the final pages of A Sand County Almanac. (If you have any interest in environmental values and environmental policy, that's a book you should read as soon as possible.)

I was thinking about this again, this morning, as a way of summing up a line of thinking that developed all through the day, yesterday. Through my adult life, I have developed a number of bad habits, many of them stemming from a sometimes overt tension between my marriage and my professional aspirations, many of them associated with the coming of the Internet and the always-online fire-hose of comforting distraction it could provide. As my marriage disintegrated and I found myself trapped in the wreckage of it, I turned more and more to electronic distraction just to numb myself to the pain and the shame of it.

The result seems like a massive jumble of bad habits and the traces of bad decisions, along with a massive jumble of stuff in my household, all of which needs to be cleared away if I am to move forward into whatever is left of my life on this Earth.

It seemed to me that I should start with gaming.

I must have the eye and the instincts of a "river pig", though, as I think gaming was the key log. Reconstructing my history in this journal and in my own private thoughts, after I'd set aside gaming and gotten rid of my graphics card, and talking with my kids over dinner about our shared history in this household, has allowed all the old bad habits to come to light so I could name their names and let them go.

I thought I was setting out to quit gaming, to free up some time and maybe restore some of my ability to pay attention. I didn't realize I would be resetting my entire way of being in the world.

Edited by Zeno
accuracy, word-smithing
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One more thought, in addition to the previous entry.

There's a sense in which my gaming habit was a symptom of a deeper disorder more than it was a disorder in its own right. This has led me to wonder if, once the jam has cleared and I am well established in a new kind of life, I might be able to play some games without relapsing.

The answer right now is: I don't know, and it's far too soon to be making that call. I have to become well established in new habits, first!

Actually, I'm quite skeptical that such a thing would be possible, and I hope I would by then also have other, better things to engage my attention, preferably in company with others.

Still, if I could ever get to the point that I could spend a pleasant hour or two in a game once in a while, on a quiet Saturday night, say, and then set it aside for days or weeks or months after that, it might not be such a bad thing.

It will be at least a year, probably more than that, before I'd be willing to even try such a thing. You know, around the time it will be possible to buy a new graphics card without taking out a second mortgage.

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7 hours ago, Zeno said:

The Key Log

More than a century ago, lumberjacks in the Great North Woods of the upper Midwest in the United States, would cut down huge pine trees, strip them of their branches, and send them floating down rivers in huge "timber rafts" to lumber mills downstream. (This is the context in which the legends of Paul Bunyan arose, the giant woodsman with his trusty giant blue ox, Babe.)

Once in a while, logs would get snagged on some obstacle, more logs would get snagged on them, and so on. Without swift action by the log drivers (or "river pigs"), logs would continue to snag until the river was blocked by massive tangle of tree trunks: a logjam.

These were extremely dangerous, as you could imagine, to anyone just downstream. Just imagine a jumbled mass of tree trunks suddenly breaking loose and rushing toward you . . .

The log drivers would be on the lookout for the formation of a jam and try to release the snagged timber before the jam became too large. They would quickly try to identify the "key log", the one piece of timber that, if removed - by main force or with dynamite if necessary - would set the timber raft moving again.

In other contexts, I've seen 'key log' used metaphorically for the one thing you would need to change to bring about a cascade of further changes in a positive direction. The mid-twentieth-century forester and writer Aldo Leopold appeals to that metaphor in his hope for the development of a "land ethic" in the final pages of A Sand County Almanac. (If you have any interest in environmental values and environmental policy, that's a book you should read as soon as possible.)

I was thinking about this again, this morning, as a way of summing up a line of thinking that developed all through the day, yesterday. Through my adult life, I have developed a number of bad habits, many of them stemming from a sometimes overt tension between my marriage and my professional aspirations, many of them associated with the coming of the Internet and the always-online fire-hose of comforting distraction it could provide. As my marriage disintegrated and I found myself trapped in the wreckage of it, I turned more and more to electronic distraction just to numb myself to the pain and the shame of it.

The result seems like a massive jumble of bad habits and the traces of bad decisions, along with a massive jumble of stuff in my household, all of which needs to be cleared away if I am to move forward into whatever is left of my life on this Earth.

It seemed to me that I should start with gaming.

I must have the eye and the instincts of a "river pig", though, as I think gaming was the key log. Reconstructing my history in this journal and in my own private thoughts, after I'd set aside gaming and gotten rid of my graphics card, and talking with my kids over dinner about our shared history in this household, has allowed all the old bad habits to come to light so I could name their names and let them go.

I thought I was setting out to quit gaming, to free up some time and maybe restore some of my ability to pay attention. I didn't realize I would be resetting my entire way of being in the world.

That analogy was really cool. Thats great you are able to have reflected more upon the roots and causes that perhaps are more underlying to your gaming experience. It makes me think of digging deeper into my own life to find that “key log.” Thank you for sharing and all the best.

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Posted (edited)

Quick update:

I now have the case, motherboard, and memory for my computer downgrade, but the CPU is still somewhere out on the Pacific and will likely not get here for another couple of weeks. That's all right, though, as I'm getting by with the ancient graphics card I found in the closet.

Meanwhile, I received the money from the sale of my RTX 2080Ti graphics card, which does just about cover the cost of the downgrade. I'm also making arrangements to sell off some other old hardware that's sitting around, which can only help my budget.

I spent a couple of hours today cleaning and organizing my bedroom, which included the tricky, irksome, and slightly dangerous task of removing part of a very large and heavy piece of furniture.

(To make a long story short, it's a "captain's bed" with a platform supported by two long, low chests of drawers, attached back-to-back underneath so there are drawers along the two sides of the bed. There were "wings" coming out from the headboard to support side-tables with drawers; one of those side tables had broken off . . . about eight years ago. I needed to remove the side-table on the other side, then remove the supporting structure on both sides, but that involved detaching the platform from the supports and sliding it down so I could get behind the headboard. Then I had to push the platform back, lining up the holes for the screws that attach it to the supports - all of this while a large, heavy mattress leans up against the wall.)

For eight years I didn't want to bother with all the fuss of dealing with that task. Today I had time, so I bothered.

My room looks and feels much better now, and the bedding is almost done in the dryer.

I baked a loaf of cinnamon-swirl sourdough bread this morning. Tonight I'm making chili con carne with ancho peppers.

Edited by Zeno
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Posted (edited)

Sometimes it's good to find out you were wrong about something.

In particular, I've discovered that the CPU I ordered was not, in fact, crossing the Pacific by ship. Rather, it had been delayed in a shipping facility in Asia until it could be flown across. It seems to have arrived on this continent, now, so I may have some hope of seeing it this week!

Edited by Zeno
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Posted (edited)

My new trophy display:

1969283822_TrophyShelf.thumb.jpg.63979a775e495658a20f971b72338d9b.jpg

On the top shelf are books I've finished reading since I quit gaming; on the lower shelf are books I have lined up to read, not including books I'll be reading for my ongoing research projects (for work). Not shown are three books I'm currently reading: Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Phenomenology of Dance (for research), Isaiah Berlin, Liberty (for my side-interest in political philosophy), and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars (for the adventure of it).

My goal is to fill the top shelf by the end of summer. I don't think that will be a problem.

One interesting shift in my habits of attention: I now have a growing wish list of books I'd like to read. It's a diverse and strange list, some of which may seem random. For example, in looking up a few things for my post on the metaphor of a 'key log', I came across a history of folktales about Paul Bunyan; that's now on the list. Since so much of Saint-Exupery's book is set in North Africa, I now want to go back and reread Albert Camus' The Plague, which has other obvious connections to ongoing world events.

Edited by Zeno
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Posted (edited)

I'm not sure when last I listened to music while working around the house. It's been a few years, a good habit lost in the frenzy of bad habits.

I've started deep-cleaning my home office, and this is the sort of thing I've had playing in the background:

Darol Anger is a phenomenally gifted post-bluegrass fiddler; I was lucky to be able to take a week-long workshop with him, a few years ago. For this recording, he invited four talented young musicians over to his house to jam and record. "Farewell to Trion" is an old-time tune by a fiddler from Alabama; he wrote after being laid off from his job at a mill in the town of Trion, Georgia.

Edited by Zeno
added notes on the recording
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Posted (edited)

Spring Cleaning

One thing I didn't say about yesterday's housework is that my initial intention was just to wash the bedding. But then I got annoyed by the ugly piece of wood sticking out from the side of the bed, and noticed the dust along the baseboards, and fell into just over two hours of steady work until the room was in order and clean.

I even vacuumed the blades of the ceiling fan.

Today, I intended to clear my desk and sort some papers, mostly in preparation for building and setting up my new desktop PC, I hope by next weekend. I ended up working for about five hours straight, until all the drawers in my small cabinet were organized, the filing was done, the books were all arranged on the shelves, and every surface I could reach had been vacuumed . . . including some of the walls!

At one point, about midway through, I was overcome by melancholy, thinking of all the wasted opportunity not just of the past few years, when I was lost in gaming-world, but in the years before that in my increasingly toxic marriage.

I kept working, though, and as things came into order again I saw the room had been transformed . . . and so, in some small way, had I. Spring cleaning, this year, is not only a chance to clean my house, but to make it my house, to be lived in on my terms. Oddly, as my house comes into order, my mind comes into a new kind of order.

The melancholy is still lurking around the edges, though, and I think it may be connected with the fact that the world I'm entering now is unfamiliar, and I have a powerful sense of time passing, of old days being left behind, of nostalgia and regret and loss. My work involved letting go of things, overturning the comfortable familiarity of my surroundings, however cluttered and dysfunctional they may have been, and it hurt some.

But I also have a sense of renewal, of expanding possibilities.

These are things I would have been incapable of feeling or of working through when I was gaming myself into numbness.

Sure, there wasn't so much pain or regret, but there also wasn't much hope, either.

Edited by Zeno
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I've been on the site for about two weeks now. Gaming mostly seems to be part of a long-ago past, at this point, something I used to do in an entirely different era. I do occasionally snap through the frame into gamer-world, but it seems so much less appealing, now; it barely amounts to a temptation.

It does help that I got rid of my graphics card, so that I didn't revert to gaming when the pull of gamer-world was stronger; I have not one shred of regret for doing that.

I'm wondering, though, whether I'm at the limits of what I can do with this journal, other than to check in once in a while to document the new directions I'm going in. Over these past few days, I've come to understand that my attachment to gaming was more a symptom than a source of my troubles. Going after the sources may be work for my own innermost privacy, and for support structures focused on recovering from divorce and on overcoming challenges in professional life.

Still, I'm grateful for this site and this forum, and for all of you, for helping me to get the "key log" pried loose so I can move on.

So, after this, I'll post occasional updates, and I'll check the forum now and again to see if I can be of help to anyone.

Until then, be well.

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That's good of you to say, @Theresa. Thanks.

I've had a very good week, since last I posted to this journal. I kept to my new habit of writing for at least two hours every morning on weekdays, the result of which was a complete draft of a journal article I've been meaning to write for over a year. It's actually the revision of a shorter paper I presented at a conference in The Time Before the Plague, but I still needed steady focus and an ongoing effort to coax it into something like a final form.

I've also done more to clean/organize/reclaim my household, and had long conversations with my kids over dinner about our shared history. We have taken to referring to them as "family therapy" sessions, and each one brings some new revelation about how we each experienced the decline and fall of a 26-year marriage.

One idea that has taken root, this week, is that I have been focusing in on those projects and hopes from my past that are worth holding on to - my academic work, helping my kids to launch into the world, cooking and baking, music and dance - and paring away everything else.

I'm remembering how much I loved to read, even when I was a kid, and now I have both the time and the place - not to mention shelves full of books I meant to read along the way - to devour one book after the other. I'm still working my way through Isaiah Berlin's Liberty in the evenings - kind of geeking out on his vision of a pluralistic, open society on (classical) liberal principles - but have moved on to Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle for bedtime reading.

I've also been playing fiddle more, and joining in Friday-night remote dance-related events from my local community and sometimes one up in the D.C. area. Yesterday there was also a special online event sponsored by a national organization devoted to music and dance honoring the life and legacy of a New England fiddler, dance caller, and dance organizer, who has been stricken with ALS after a lifetime of drawing people together to dance and make music. Imagine a Zoom meeting with nearly 700 unique connections, many of which would have included more than one participant/viewer. It was very moving, and a reminder of a kind of connection and community that is very rare in the present day, kept alive in little corners, here and there.

Today, I went out to a park where my local dance group was holding an unofficial get together, including a jam session. The music-making wasn't the most satisfying ever, but I got to play music with other human beings, in person, sitting in the shade along the margins of woodlands on a perfect spring day.

I haven't been quite so productive this weekend, though. I've spent a little more time than I should watching random videos on YouTube. I think that's all right, though. I'll aim to hit my stride tomorrow morning, when I sit down to write, again.

Oh, and one quick update: I'm still waiting for the CPU for my computer downgrade. It cleared import control/customs early in the week, but there seems to be an ongoing delay in the hand-off from the international shipper to the postal service, which will handle the "last mile" and eventual delivery. So, maybe this week?

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