Friday, February 27, 2015

Role-Playing Games

So, I have this hobby... It involves rolling dice.

There are some people who believe it is Satanic. Most people think it's incredibly nerdy. But as a person who has played role-playing games for over ten years now, I am standing before you (figuratively, because this is the internet) and saying that both of those views are incredibly wrong and harmful to society. I believe that everyone should be involved in role-playing games (and that parents should really be pushing their kids into it), and I'll show you a few reasons why. But before I do that, I should probably explain what role-playing games (RPGs) are.

I like to explain it to people like this: RPGs are a perfect mix between an interactive storytelling experience and a board game. You want to tell a story with some friends, and the game sets up the rules to make that experience as fun as possible. The rules help you to be creative and come up against interesting challenges to make the game worthwhile. Otherwise the story would be boring, because it would be so easy to win.

Now, there are a lot of different RPGs out there. Hundreds in fact. The classic Dungeons & Dragons, of course, lets you play as warriors, wizards, priests, thieves, and a host of other things in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world in which you fight demons and dragons and go on numerous adventures in an attempt to make your character better and get rich. One of my personal favorites: The Hero System, is an incredibly diverse rule system that allows you to control every facet of character creation through the assignment of points, and as such, allows you to play in any genre imaginable with any sort of weird powers or gadgets imaginable.

Now that you have a basic idea what RPGs are, here are a few of the reasons why I think everyone should play them:

Social Interaction. Role-playing games are an incredibly social experience, and you get to know people really well when you have to work together to defeat that massive dragon that you just stumbled across. You learn social skills playing this game: conversational skills, teamwork, leadership, and so on.

Creativity. If you have ever played a role-playing game, you know what I'm talking about. There is something about the freedoms (coupled with the constraints) of an RPG that gets your mind working. You combine things you didn't think would work together before. You try new things in an attempt to solve your current problem. And that is creativity at its finest. As a player, you learn how to get into the mind of a character and make them unique. As a gamemaster (the storyteller who controls everything except the players' characters), you learn how to build a story, build a world, build an entire universe that you can play with.

Education. You learn so much through playing role-playing games. Most of the big words I know I've learned through reading books (mostly fantasy books) and playing role-playing games. Those game manuals have complicated words, man! And not only that, you learn acting skills, improvisational skills, and a host of other things that are invaluable later in life. RPGs encourage you to be creative, to have fun, and to learn.

And that is why I will always play them, and I will encourage my future kids to play them. They help you. They're fun. They're creative outlets. And I wouldn't be the person I am today without them.

Oh, and to all the people who say D&D is Satanic... Please, do your research. Don't just judge without context. I'm sure there are weird people out there who are already involved in that sort of thing and then put weird mystical stuff into their D&D sessions...but most people don't. And you shouldn't be blaming RPGs anyway, since they aren't responsible for that kind of thing. Satan is.

So, I'll raise a glass of orange juice and toast you, Mr. Gary Gygax (rest in peace), for paving the way for the rest of us to roll dice.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The People Who Forgive Me

I'd like to acknowledge all of the people who put up with me. The people who have to deal with every stupid mistake I make, and yet continue to love me and cherish me despite my flaws. I love you all so much, and I can't begin to thank you enough for the grace you've shown me. I'm not a good person--I mess up daily, saying things I don't mean, saying things I do mean but that should never have come out of my mouth, doing things that hurt other people deeply--and yet these select few people have decided that I am worth it. They see a potential in me that I have trouble ever seeing in myself, and that, more than anything else, is what keeps me going day after day. I thank God for those people. I don't know what I'd do without them.

And of course, I thank God for His own amazing grace and forgiveness in my life. He, more than anyone else, has such a right to just hate me, to wipe me off the face of the Earth, to want to have nothing to do with me because of my continued disobedience and selfishness in the face of his unending mercy. And yet with every mistake, with every step in the wrong direction, His love is the same for me. He continues to cherish me as an adopted son in His kingdom, and I have no response worthy enough for that kind of great, unfailing love. The best I can do is try as hard as I can to put on my red shoes and walk in the way He has called me to walk, sing in the way He wants to me sing, and live in the way I will honor Him by living.

There is nothing I have ever done to deserve even the slightest bit of grace or mercy in my life, not when you compare it with my ever-present failings. And yet, I am forgiven by those that I love. And I am so grateful. Here's to the people that forgive me. The God that has forgiven me. I hope you know that I will always try to do the very best I can to make up for the love and grace you've shown me. And if any of the people in my life ever fall down, fail in their own way, just know that I will be there to pick you up. I owe you that much at least. I will love you right back, and I'll forgive you like you've forgiven me.

Like He has forgiven us.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Ways We Experience Music

I find it endlessly interesting the different ways people experience music. We're all just so different. Some people listen to classical music when they want to be de-stressed, others (such as my brother, Connor) listen to hard rock. When I listen to hard rock, I feel determined to accomplish things, but my brother and a lot of my other friends listen to it, as I said above, to calm themselves down. They described it as letting the music be angry and stressed for them so they didn't have to be.

Again, I find this so interesting.

Also, with the way people transition to different types of music: I hop from band to band and go through a phase where that's all I listen to--usually new music that I've found on NoiseTrade or something--and really get to know that music until I find a new artist to love and move on to that. This keeps me feeling refreshed in terms of music, and though I'll always come back and listen to songs from the bands I love (especially in playlists that are themed, like a love song playlist), I often get tired of some artists and can't listen to any of their music for a while. Sometimes the bands I switch to will be old bands I haven't listened to in a while, and then I listen to them almost as if for the first time, because it's been so long and I've been filling my head with so many other songs.

Others that I know find it harder to switch to new music. They'll listen to the same music they've always listened to on shuffle all the time, and they have to be in a certain mood to invest in a new song. Once they do, they'll add it to their list of music they like and shuffle it all together.

This goes into what I just love about living--finding out how people operate, discovering their interests, tastes, how they view the world, how they experience things. It's one of my absolute favorite things to do--get to know people on a personal level. Understand where they're coming from, how they got there, and what they strive for.

And music is such a dynamic thing in most of our can tell a lot about how a person experiences music. If you want to, leave a comment or two about different ways you experience music! When you're feeling a specific emotion, you listen to ...what? And so on. I'd love to read them :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Three Rabbis

This is a fantastic section from the book I'm reading right now by Orson Scott Card, "Speaker For The Dead". It is an epigraph at the beginning of one of the later chapters, a writing by a Christian leader in the far-future science fiction setting Mr. Card has dreamed up. I thought it was rather poignant, so I decided to share it. 

“A Great Rabbi stands, teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife's adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death.

There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine - a Speaker for the Dead - has told me of two other Rabbis that faced the same situation. Those are the ones I'm going to tell you.

The Rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. 'Is there any man here,' he says to them, 'who has not desired another man's wife, another woman's husband?'
They murmur and say, 'We all know the desire, but Rabbi, none of us has acted on it.'

The Rabbi says, 'Then kneel down and give thanks that God has made you strong.' He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, 'Tell the Lord Magistrate who saved his mistress, then he'll know I am his loyal servant.'

So the woman lives because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.

Another Rabbi. Another city. He goes to her and stops the mob as in the other story and says, 'Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.'

The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. ‘Someday,’ they think, ‘I may be like this woman. And I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her as I wish to be treated.’

As they opened their hands and let their stones fall to the ground, the Rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head and throws it straight down with all his might. It crushes her skull and dashes her brain among the cobblestones. ‘Nor am I without sins,’ he says to the people, ‘but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead – and our city with it.’

So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis and when they veer too far they die. Only one Rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation.

So of course, we killed him."