Friday, December 30, 2011

Thoughts Focused Skyward

Aplogies for lack of fiction posting lately. I've not only been doing edits on one of my novels, I've also been rather ill and I've been off playing hero in the mystical land of Hyrule.  Yeah, I'm going to be kind of off until I finish "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword."  I had a marathon session of it today - it was helping me forget my body aches and stomach pain. 

Today, I ran into a cutscene that struck me as weirdly theological.  o_0

I mean, the Legend of Zelda games are secular in nature - they do borrow imagery and ideas from world religions and mythology, but Hyrule and surrouding territories, worlds and eras all have their own gods and demons and so forth, but playing today something struck me as being relatable to some of the theology disscussions I've been in online. Weird, I know. 

If you know anything about gaming, you know the Legend of Zelda series is a very popular series that defined and defines a lot of the tropes of fantasy-adventure videogames.  Not the absolute first - there's an Atari 2600 game called "Adventure" I can recommend to uber-retro gaming geeks who don't mind their protagonist being a (literal) square and can find a working 2600 or the Atari Gallery disc for PS2. (There are places online to play it, too).  Anyway, the Legend of Zelda -- if you've had a Nintendo system, you've probably played at least one of the games of the series - not as ubiqutious as Super Mario Bros., but most would say a lot deeper in storylines.  In any given game, you play a protagonist (officially) named Link who must help/save/rescue a girl named Zelda and keep the world from falling into darkness.  (Some exceptions - Majora's Mask, for example, puts Link in another world that he has to save from a falling moon and Zelda isn't involved except in a flashback).   Diffrent games in the series cover different eras with protagonists that are technically different people (unless you subscribe to "they're reincarnates"). 

There are other things that are common to the series, too, such as the Triforce - which is the cosmic keystone of the series - a set of three golden triangles that form a whole, representing Courage, Wisdom and Power in balance.  Various games in the series have explained them as a sort of residue of the divine - that which was left by the Three Golden Goddesses who created their world/universe. 

Zelda is actually a very religious series - but with its own religion. 

The Triforce, through the series, is something that, if whole, a person can touch and it will shape the world to their wishes.  Technically, it is a neutral entity, granting both good and evil wishes (but it seems like people with evil hearts never have hearts balanced enough to touch it without it fragmenting). 

Anyway, "Skyward Sword" is a "prequel to everything in the series so far" game that attempts to explain parts of the mythology of the land of Hyrule (where the series is set).  The game is mostly about the forging of the Master Sword (the ur-holy weapon of the series mythology).  Today, playing Link, I met up with Zelda during a cutscene that's kind of a spoiler (heard 'round the world in the fandom, so I probably wouldn't spoil anything by explaining it, anyway).  Zelda explained some mythological goings-on and the Triforce and how it has the power to bend reality and shape the world, an then she talked about how "The old gods created a device they could not use to give hope to mortals." 

And I had the thought:  "The gods (Goddesses) of Hyrule purposely left the Triforce in the hands of mortals to shape their own destiny - they themselves cannot use it.  Cool!" 

Which brings me to the theology disscussions I've read and sometimes gotten my dumb self into online.  I've met some people online who's "solution," as it were, to the "problem with pain" - is simply "What are YOU doing to help people?"  In other words, "What are you doing,  mortal, to shape reality?" 

A lot of people in certain circles talk about how in Judeo-Christian thought, God created Free Will and gave it to us to do with as we will (Free Will, after all) and how he cannot interfere with it / does not override it because while he could create a world without pain - it would make us all automotons unable to experience any actual courage, wisdom, power....

Something he himself (or her, herself, it, itself, however you define "God" ) created for mortals to use that he cannot interfere with....     

I'm not trying to get into a theological throw-down here.  Believe or don't believe what you want.  I'm merely saying that I saw a superficial resonance to discussions I see go on back and forth all the time online to the mythology of a videogame.  If I'm saying anything, I'm saying that the people at Nintendo either really do their homework when it comes to crafting mythology for this particular series and/or the writers stumbled upon something profound by accident.  (Probably the latter, or my reading "coolness" into where I want to read "coolness"). 

Or I've been in too many online disscussions about certain things and I'm spending way too much time with a Wiimote in my hand.  *Shrug.*    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Mulling over some things in my mind - from reading forums and blogs and having conversations.... I was struck with this random thought while doing the dishes.  I think I may put it in the mouth of a character someday, but I just wanted to capture it before it was lost and for some strange reason, I thought it was interesting enough to put on the Internet.

"A person is at their best when they are being more benevolent to others than they are to them.  Since we're mere mortals and hopelessly human, even the best of us tends to be very bad at this, but during those rare moments when we are practicing undeserved benevolence, we shine."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Of Monsters and Human Beings

Of Monsters and Human Beings

I got the new Legend of Zelda game as an early Christmas present and have been playing it.  I’m only at the first dungeon-crawl, but so far, Skyward Sword is pretty awesome.  I’m not sure I like the bird-flying so much; it’s hard for me to get a handle on.  Reminds me of the horse in Shadow of the Colossus, actually, and, of course, you have to jump off at just the right angle to hit whatever little sky-island you want to explore.  What I totally love about this game right now is the swordsmanship.  This is my first time playing a Wii (other than in-store displays) and the Motion Plus thing they have on the sword is meant to imitate the swinging of an actual sword.  Come on, Nintendo, keep pressing that technology and one day you will give us the Holosuite.  Watch your Star Trek and be inspired! 

Something interesting happened to me in the game that got me thinking about categorical-thinking.  I was moving Link (protagonist) around, cutting grass and flowers to find money and whoops, my sword hit an innocent butterfly.  It died, sending up a little ghost-graphic.  I didn’t know for sure what I’d hit so I purposefully targeted another butterfly and got the same graphic.  Then I was “I’m killing innocent butterflies! Aaaaw!”  In other games of the series, butterflies are present, but you cannot kill them (to my recollection).  You can get them to land on a stick or on Link if you stand really still… in this game, you can kill the buggers.   I felt remorseful over butterflies when I go and slaughter Keese (evil bats) and Moblins (goblin-beings) without a care at all. 

Of course, the “monster” creatures are always chaotic evil, right?  Not always.  Zelda games have a way of playing with that, having a few members of the “monster” races turn-loyalties. The very first game (8-bit debut title, the game I grew up with) features Moblins hiding in secret caves who will give you money if you promise to keep their help a secret.  Then you go back to slaughter their brethren on the surface who are throwing spears at you.  One of the games featured a Dark World in which some of the monsters had advice for you because they were transformed human beings who’d gotten trapped in the Dark World.  One of the games features a weird little “love affair” between a love-struck little girl and a Moblin who held her captive (one of the mini-quests is a love-letter delivery between them).  A friend who’s beaten Skyward Sword tells me that there’s a “good” monster in this game, too. 

Yet, most of them – I’m gonna have to set my sword to because they’re on the side of evil and want to kill me.  I won’t feel remorse for them like I did the stupid digital butterflies.  Because they’re monsters.

Which brings me to a statement I saw this morning in the Comments section of an article / eulogy I read online… Someone was telling the writer of the article that he needed to “become fully-human.”  It was a categorical attitude more than it was personal. It carried the implication that “all people of a certain stripe are not fully-human.”  I’ve seen this thrown around a lot, “fully-human,” “you need to do this/become like me to become a full human being.” 

It always bothers me – whatever side it comes from. I’ve seen this attitude thrown around by people who generally agree with me in a worldview as well as those who sharply disagree.  It seems like the first thing that some people go to is “the others are not fully-human.”  I find this hard to fathom because I think even people who are total jerks, even people who are brutal dictators and whatnot are human because, well… if you’ve got human DNA and a human brain, you’re a human.  Humans, at times, are beautiful creatures – we create art and go to the moon.  Sometimes, we are supremely messed-up creatures – inventing new ways to *dehumanize* and kill each other.    

Oh, I understand the impulse to label people as not-human.  I used it in one of my novels… I had my protagonists watching the hanging of a killer that one of them caught and when the killer was taunting him from the gallows (seeing how sensitive the boy was, that he was uncomfortable with the country’s idea of justice), the boy shot back “A man is not dying today!”  As I recall portraying it (I need to do a re-read), the kid said this as much to shield his own heart as anything.  (He didn’t like being responsible for a death, even that of a brutal murderer). 

I’ve known old Vietnam veterans who didn’t think of Asian people as full-humans.  “They’re all just gooks,” one of them said to me once when I was trying to explain anime to him in response to a question.  (Doesn’t matter that anime is of a different country… he had a racial category in his head).  I watched a Frontline special once about veterans of the Iraq war and their psychological issues upon returning to civilian life.  One young soldier told an interviewer that the people over there were all “just hadjis” to them, and not even the combatants.  It’s a kind of mentality that people under stress and surrounded by enemies develop to survive – and it seems to stay with some when the danger is over.  I can understand how it develops there.

But I’m dismayed when it develops in civilians that live in peaceful situations in free countries and on the physically-safe Internet rather than in combat-zones.  That “you need to become like me to become a full human being” thing disturbs me on the level of “If you don’t think I’m a full human being, what am I? An animal? An insect? A monster? Something worse?”  It leaves people (often entire categories thereof) open for abuse.  People who spew this garbage may not even realize what they are becoming, because, you know, they’re the ones that are “fully human” in their eyes.  

“Moblins” are easy to set your sword to.  Actual humans – not so much.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Graveyard of Dreams

Still going over editing one of my fantasy novels, Malarkey and Belinda.  I've always rather liked this rather depression-fueled passage.  In it, Malarkey the gryphon is given a vision by a mystic character, Merevus, who embodies "the memories of the world."  This scene is all about where most people's aspirations and ambitions wind up: 


Malarkey found himself outside, somewhere.  He bounded through the mist.  His wings felt heavy, their feathers dampened with dew.  He could not take flight.  This was so unlike the other visions Merevus had given him.  Those had been memories of the past, visions of bright sunlight, endless forests, gryphons soaring above deep canyons, the strange, early human explorers and colonists and their great metal birds with “Aers Crossworlds” etched on their sides. 

            In this place, the sky was not bright.  A deep purple brooded over the land.  The world was misty and the landscape was lined with twisted trees.  Markers of wood and stone were everywhere, the memorial markers of a cemetery. 

            Malarkey approached a great tree.  It appeared to be an ancient oak, twisted by decades of growing in the wind, its trunk thick and lumpy.  The gryphon stretched forth his right fore-claw and touched it.  The tree crumbled into gray ash, leaving behind a peculiar skeleton.  Beneath the now fallen ashen bark of the oak was a skeleton like that of an animal.  Bones like stripped bird-wings arched up into the sky as branches.  What remained of the tree’s trunk was a tangle of vertebrae and rib-bones, all colored a dingy gray-white. 

            Malarkey screeched and ran from it.  He’d never seen something quite so terrifying or utterly disturbing in his young life. That tree was so utterly unnatural.  The gryphon sped past gravestones as fast as his feet could carry him.  He wished he could fly.  His shoulders ached intensely whenever he tried to raise his heavy wings. 

            “Where am I?” he asked desperately.  He called into the air.  Everything around him was cold.  The ground was icy and so was the air.  Malarkey did not feel the cold in its full strength.  He was numb to the frigidity, but he knew, somehow, that this place was cold. 

            He caught a glimpse of the lettering on a gravestone.  It read: “A Great Singer of Songs.”  Another stone he ran past read: “Writer.”  Still another read: “Life in the Mountains.”

            “What is this?” Malarkey asked the wind.  “What sort of vision have I landed in? Where am I?”

            The voice of Merevus drifted over him.  “This is the Graveyard of Dreams.” 

            “What?” Malarkey replied. 

            The voice of the Keeper of Memories echoed off the gravestones and the strangely menacing trees, deep and strong.  “Many are the dreams of men and beasts,” it answered.  “Most dreams do not live for long.  Most dreams do not survive.”

            Malarkey slowed down.  He paced about the cemetery.  He was no longer afraid.  Instead, he was filled with an incredible sadness.  He looked over the gravestones and the carvings on the wooden markers.  The inscriptions were many names and they told many stories.

            “So many dreams,” Malarkey sighed, hanging his head.  Most of the dreams in the graveyard were human dreams, but it was clear from the inscriptions that some of them had been the dreams of beasts. 

            “Why are you showing me this, Merevus?”  Malarkey asked.  “This is terrible, seeing all these broken dreams.”

            The voice of Merevus sailed upon the wind again.  “They are not broken, merely unfulfilled.”

            “Still!” Malarkey protested, shouting into the wind that had grown progressively frigid, “Seeing all these dead dreams is terrible!”  I don’t understand your purpose in showing me this!” 

            The reply came slowly.  “Most dreams remain unfulfilled, especially the great ones,” the voice of Merevus intoned.  “You will see many dreams here.  Some are as large as changing the world.  Some are small, mere childhood fancies.  Much like humans and animals, they die for many reasons.  Some dreams die naturally.  They are dreams that remain unfulfilled, but, because a person changes, their desires and hopes change, thus their old dreams are not needed anymore.  Dreams that die naturally are replaced with other dreams.” 

            Merevus’ deep voice continued.  “Then, of course, there are dreams that are killed by the circumstances of the world or by interfering people.  The loss of these dreams can be as painful for their bearer as the loss of a friend by murder.  Then, of course, there are the dreams that are held onto for a long time before they die, dreams that die slow, lingering deaths.  Those that have such dreams, though determined to see them fulfilled, suffer as they watch their dreams fade or stay just beyond reach.  It is little wonder why some people choose to shatter their own dreams through self-destruction, rather than watch those dreams killed slowly by the world.  Still, Malarkey, look around you.”

            “I am looking around me.  Have you given me this vision to tell me to give up on my dreams?  Will I find my dreams in this graveyard?”

            “On the contrary, gryphon,” Merevus said.  “Although most dreams eventually die, they are still valuable and something to be treasured.  Even dreams that remain unfulfilled serve us as we have them.  Even people who never see their dreams come to light have hope while they have and hold onto them.  Dreams are what keep people going, striving, trying.  Sometimes, simply to try is enough, simply to hope.  Even dreams that die serve their bearer while they are alive.  They keep their bearer hoping, trying and alive.  It is not always a tragedy when dreams die, because those dreams gave the person who conceived them hope when they needed it.” 


Part of Chapter 14 in a book of 20 chapters.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Dark Thoughts

I've been thinking some dark things lately that - little philosophies I may put in my fiction.  I have no idea if they are formal Philosophy, they are just my own thoughts on the world. 

I got to thinking the other day about my place in the world - about everyone's place in the world and came to the conclusion that each and every one of us falls into three main categories in regards to the world.  1. To some people we are a precious jewel, a unique being to love and value (for most of us, this is our family, friends, partners... fans for some of us). 2. To most people we are nothing - a face in the crowd, money waiting to be harvested, a stick figure, a caricature, a Generic Human. 3. To some people, we are a mess to be cleaned up. 

The third one's not even necessarily personal - you can fall into number 2 and still be number 3 to some people by category, because they think the category you are in is simply a mess to be cleaned up. 

It doesn't matter who or what you are, either.  Even famous do-gooders fall under my adage of "Every hero is someone's villain."  Even some people who acknowledge the heroism of an individual will still see that one "flaw" about them that makes them essentially still a mess that needs to be cleaned up. 

Speaking of feeling like a mess, I've also been pondering what it might feel like to die lately.  Well, I actually ponder this all the time - I'm a rather morbid person.  There's a part of me that wonders, when I die, will I find out I was "right" in some way in regards to my beliefs on the subject or will I just drift away never knowing?  Either way, I hope I feel at peace about it, but I don't know if I will.  People say (perhaps because it's inevitable) that "it's okay" that it will feel okay when it happens, but what if it doesn't? What if I feel something like darkness closing in all around me that I cannot escape, no shot of peace or apathy to go with it? 

Some say that I shouldn't even have these thoughts because I identify as a Christian. (Any prospective literary agents, please don't run away from me because I admitted to that - I'm anything but stereotypical and I write secular). Still, there is some agnosticism to my faith.  I'm always considering that others might be right, even as I'm not ready to go over to their side.  Red-Rover, Red-Rover, I'm not listening, having too much fun on the swings...

Let's just say that I'm kind of jealous of people who say that the thought of utter oblivion / non-existence doesn't scare them.  It scares the poo outta me.  I cannot think of it as a long stretch of sleep or as "darkness."  I didn't experience "darkness" beyond that of my own eyelids when I was put under for surgery, after all - this is actually why I don't believe in "oblivion."  Even if the idea of Afterlife does wind up being a lie, I don't think the brain - an organ that processes "existence" is capable of processing "non-existence." It stands to reason for me that people don't "go into the dark" so much as they "experience their last moment" for what is to them, "eternity."  The idea of experiencing non-existence, to experience non-experience just kind of makes my brain-computer crash.  I just hope that if visions of Heaven are in my brain as I'm fading out, that it doesn't, in the end, mean that I am a weak person who lived a worthless life because I'm not seeing "darkness" like I "should." 

Sometimes, I think, whatever happens, whether I have a fate of Heaven, Hell, Oblivion or something else that it would be nice to not be a burden anymore - to stop being that "mess that needs to be cleaned up" for some people.  ,

I'm hanging on because I have people in the number 1 group and the hope that people that are prone to seeing people as categorical messes are full of crap.   

Perhaps as I hope for a better world, I can create better worlds through my fiction - but I never do that. All my worlds are as complicated as the one I know and have a touch of darkness.  A lot of what I write is very dark.  I suppose it's what I try to use to shine light on the darkness in our world, by showing it in exaggerated, fictional settings.

I'd like to live in a world where people didn't see each other as messes or disease - categorically or otherwise.