Thursday, September 6, 2012

Busyness as Usual

At the beginning of the semester I have everything to do. And right now, a week in, is when it hits me: until December, I won't not be busy. Every second of every day, I've got something to do—something I could be doing. As I write this, I could be grading essays or working on my conference paper or finishing my gradebook or preparing for next week's classes or smoothing out Blackboard.

I'm wasting my time writing all this.

But no, I'm not. It's not because it's almost 2 am and past time when I can competently grade. It's not because this is a form of mental work and mental work is good. It's not so I can build up a body of blog posts or even for me to look back on when I'm feeling the squeeze at the first of next semester or next year.

I'm doing this because I want to, because I find it rewarding. Writing down my thoughts makes me feel good, right now, and feeling good, though it is a tautology, *makes me feel good*.

I'm not getting behind every second I sleep instead of grade. I'm not getting behind every time I watch an episode of Doctor Who instead of grade. I'll get my work done, but what makes me good at my job—if I am—is that I am human, and being human means caring about stuff, doing things because they make me feel good.

It also means not watching *another* episode of Doctor Who, or fussing with my gradebook instead of grading essays, let alone checking Twitter again. Tomorrow, I need to grade a bunch of essays. And really, I'll enjoy it, and feel better with it done than I did before. And then I'll work some more.

But right now, I wanted this time to write.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Minority

We know, because Jesus says so, that the only path to Heaven is a narrow one. This can only mean that the minority of humans will be in Heaven, and that the minority of humans at any given time will be faithful—do we expect that this minority is 49%, or much, much less?

In our society, in our world, majority rules. The government is run on elections more than inheritance or appointment, and the popular mob dominates culture, and so we faithful must always expect that the government will be outside us. Some governments value protecting minorities, but that's never something we or any other minority can depend on or put our trust in. We are aliens in a foreign land, our king ever-present but seemingly distant.

We are the minority in a sinful world; by very nature of a narrow path this is so. Luke 6 holds us to bless those who hold themselves as our enemies, not to gain power over them, to force them to obey in body but not in spirit, but rather to allow them to boss us around and dominate us, and to serve them lovingly. Our subservience is our mission technique; our oppressors are our mission field.

If we seek to be the majority instead of seeking to minoritize its members, we seek the trappings of this world and their impermanence. If we seek thrones rather than to serve at God's throne, we seek revolution and strife, not the peace of service—service as loved sons and daughters. We are salt and light, and salt and light are very small things, things that project their flavor, their radiance, far outward. That is our mission, our goal, our path in this lost world.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Adventures and Quests

One of the things that regularly irks me is the use of the word “adventure” in general culture, and roleplaying culture in particular. Yes, as a descriptivist, I admit that definitions change and that they’re ad hoc at best: if people at large use a word to mean X when I alone think it means Y, I’m wrong and they’re right, because words are not eternal, but only for shared meaning. Still. The original idea for adventure was caught up in the idea of randomness: it’s from the French  aventure, or “at random” or “by chance.” A knight on the Platonic ideal of an adventure mounts his horse and goads him on without touching the reins. Whatever happens, happens, and he surrenders control over the situation. When a person sets off on an adventure, he’s saying from the outset, “I have no idea what’s going to happen. In fact, I’m planning to make sure.”

By stark contrast, questing has a purpose. The most famous quest literature affords us, the quest for the Grail, has a set beginning, middle, and end. While an adventure is a serial story, a quest has the beginnings of something greater: a plot.

Both have their advantages, but again, I want to turn my attention to words and definitions, because I believe that this differentiation between adventure and quest—the de-synonymization—doesn’t limit us, but instead opens up our expression. Did you have a plan that turned out differently? That quest became an adventure. Did you just do whatever came into your head, only later realizing that it all linked together and set up a conclusion, not just an end? That adventure turned into a quest.

Through this terminology, we can even describe many smaller quests as part of a larger adventure through life, or many episodic adventures as part of a greater destined quest. When a person organizes a game (such as my friend Ian has been theorizing about), differentiating between the two is helpful. After all, if you want to set off into the unknown, or if you want to pursue a set goal, isn't it nice that we have specific words to mean each concept?