Now, if you are familiar with Evangelion at all, or even if you know what the Lance of Longinus is, you are probably wondering WHO THE HELL considers this any sort of romantic symbol. I mean, really. WTF?
It's been thirteen years now. Every year about this time I become out of sorts. I wouldn't call it depressed really because I like to save that word for the times I feel like carving my own heart out of my chest and eating it. It's more of a generalized malaise. Even if work is busy I can't bring anything worthwhile to bear on it. I bow out of social commitments. I lay around the house thinking of all the things I need to do but I don't do any of them. One glorious spring day after another comes and goes but no yard work is done and no flowers are picked. The dogs look from me to their leashes on the wall in that expectant way dogs have but eventually they give up and go back to sleep. I half-heartedly play WoW or Fallout or solitaire but I'm restless and nothing satisfies me. I toss books aside after a few pages and pace the house. I'm not hungry but I eat too much anyways. The alcohol consumption is steady and determined but I get nothing from it. It's the only time of year that I ever seriously consider getting a therapist. It comes on slowly, always, and I always wonder why without really caring about the answer.
And then, on this day, I wake up and remember.
My father was not a perfect man. He had a bit of a temper and some issues with alcohol. There were some years when he put my family through a lot of pain and worry. Much like myself, I imagine. When I was little he worked the traditional middle-class 9-5, M-F job and it was stressful and horrible and he had an ulcer and nearly died. This seemed to waken something in him and he changed. I wouldn't really call him happy-go-lucky but he definitely stopped sweating the small things. In some sort of massive karma-dump he got a better position in his company, one he thrived in, and he was promoted several times and suddenly we had money and time for leisure and a bigger house and a nicer car. It was if the American dream finally decided to come live in my house. I will never forget the day he drove home in his brand new Cadillac company car. He'd always wanted a Caddie; for most of his life it was the symbol that you'd finally made it big. He loved that car. Eventually he had to make a choice between the job and the car and doing the right thing and he chose the right thing. I will probably never really understand how much that cost him. He never worked again and that did something to his self-esteem and there were some bad years.
Except. Karma has this way with things. I have a little sister, much younger than me, and because he was at home my father got to raise her. All of the rest of us were raised by my mother while my dad did the daily grind. He was always there in the evenings and weekends, he did dad stuff with us, we went camping and fishing and the like, but my mom did all the day to day stuff: getting us ready for school, making our lunches, supervising chores, discipline. So when he retired and my mom went back to work he was Mr. Mom. And he loved it. Absolutely loved it. Loved the challenges, loved watching her grow up, he even loved picking up after her. I know that's the truth because he told me. He didn't live to see her graduate from college, never met the awesome man she married, never knew the smart, beautiful, accomplished young woman she became. But I know how proud he would be of her. And he should be. He did a really good job raising her.
When I got the phone call that morning, that he'd collapsed and gone into surgery, I flew back home as soon as I could get a flight. They told us they'd got all the cancer, that with a bit of chemo everything would be fine. Eight months later he was dead. On May 11, 2000.
This isn't grief. That raw wound closed long ago. It is just an emptiness inside me and I know it won't ever go away.
But I'll be OK tomorrow. That always happens too.
"I didn’t have time to think about it. Everyone started shooting, everyone except the woman. She huddled on the ground, her hands over her head, rocking back and forth. I killed all the men in the room, one by one. One man by the fireplace only had a pistol. Was he her husband? Was he a cop? He’s dead now. I walked over to the woman and looked at her. She whimpered and did not get up; she just kept shaking. I saw a plate of oranges on a nearby table and I ate them, for a health boost, while I stared at her. Then I thought about how weird it must be to watch a man murder everyone in your house and then stand over you eating two of your oranges while you cry. I felt like an asshole." --Maddy Myers
Many years ago I played a game called Fallout. It took me awhile to get into it but now I consider it one of the best games I ever played. It wasn't particularly exciting in terms of its graphics but it had something no other game I'd played thus far had. It had...consequences. The games I played in those days (Heretic, Tomb Raider, Half-Life, etc.) were not overly complicated. My objectives were clear. The path was straight. Collateral damage was part of the fun. In Fallout, although I had an objective, the wasteland itself kept intruding. Survivors clamored for my aid. Small villages needed a hero or at least someone to clear out mutants so they could trade. People needed saving. All of these things were incidental to the main quest line and in fact could be safely ignored. However, there was a catch. Completing quests, failing to complete them, or completing alternate options (helping one town instead of the other for instance) opened some gameplay options and completely closed off others. Ignoring people had consequences and so did helping them. The things I did mattered. I remember on Christmas day I finished the game. I defeated the super mutants; I saved my Vault. For this, for seeing too much of the world, for changing too much, I was rewarded with exile. I walked off alone into the wasteland and a short video displayed my accomplishments and my failures. One failure in particular.
I don't remember all the details but it was something like this. A little settlement of peaceful vegetarians asked me to negotiate a truce for them with a neighboring village. When I got to the neighboring village I was sneaking around checking it out when I accidentally hit the key that fired my weapon. Since I had someone highlighted I basically shot them and the entire town turned hostile and attacked me. I killed...well, I killed everone. I went back to the vegetarian village, apologized, and went on my way. So in the cut scene I watched the little vegetarians get over-run by mutants or raiders (or some such bad guys) because the other village, which would have entered into a defense agreement with them, wasn’t there anymore. Had they lived, the vegetarians would have brought peace and harmony to that little corner of the apocalypse, but they all died because of an accident and because I was too lazy to reload the game. I don’t know how many years ago that was but I still feel bad about it.
Now I’m up to Fallout 3 and...well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Let’s face it, most of the games we play are nothing like reality. As Myers points out in the linked article even people whose job it is to shoot guns just don’t do it that often. Certainly few of us can run willy nilly through the population with guns blazing. Games are escapist fantasies wherein we are powerful and freed of normal internal and external controls. We can be as bad as we wanna be. There are no consequences. That’s what we want and that’s what we expect. Everyone we shoot is bad and we know that precisely because we are shooting them. Besides, games that reward not shooting the other guy would probably be pretty boring.
But what of a game like Fallout, where how you play the game irrevocably changes the game you play? In most games you either can’t kill a quest giver or they just respawn. In Fallout you can kill anyone. Or you can not kill anyone. You can be as good or as evil as you like. If you don’t kill a bad guy then he might wipe out a town where a quest originates. If you insult someone they may never speak to you again. Brokering a peaceful agreement between warring factions might end with them joining forces to crush some other faction. The point is, you have to identify the bad guys and the problem is, you don’t know. And you won’t know until it’s too late to fix it. Everything you do is a choice. Everything you do matters. If you are not careful you can paralyze yourself with the fear of not doing the right thing. Or of doing the right thing and having it go bad. You can fret yourself into indecision and then, when you do decide, you can torment yourself with endless second guessing.
It might be just a game but as far as I can tell It’s just like life.
I’m really not sure how I feel about that.
--my online friend Aethelread, musing about turning 40
(he's another one of those posters who is not like me at all, yet is so much like me sometimes it's scary...)
Then I run across this on the goddamn Huffington Post Facebook page: "So tragic. Keeping all in our thoughts and prayers."
And I just...I dunno...blew a gasket.
Here's a clue, you sad self-absorbed jackasses. The real tragedy is that those people were in that factory making your clothes. For $38 a month. They were in that hell-hole because their corporate masters determined that putting designer jeans on your privileged ass was more important than their lives. These people you never see and don't give a rat's ass about until they are buried under rubble live lives of poverty and despair unimaginable to me so that you can have cheap clothes. And now that they are dead you want to pray for them. You pathetic hypocritical bastards.
Fuck the lot of you.
Are you leaving?
Yeah, it’s enough. I saw you one last time…
(and incidentally the first poem I can ever remember reading and copying out so I'd never forget it)
From The Raw Story
You will note that the articles says "suspects". So these people they are taking potshots at from helicopters haven't actually been convicted of any crime. Thank you Texas for reminding me yet again how totally fucked up you are.