September 26, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

I think I've worked out the inherent problem with blogging now...tone. Having spent only the last few weeks actually doing any blogging I am unpracticed in composing a post in such a way as to convey my proper tone of voice (which any good writer will tell you they spend a great deal of time doing) in the composition. My last post received feedback only in one form: pity.  Now, perhaps I am reading the tone wrong, but so far the only feedback I have gotten comes off as a pat on the head and a hug becausee "the other boys and girls were mean to me".  While I'm deeply touched that people are willing to leap to my defense and give me such sincere reassurances, it was not my intention to draw them. 

Reading it over again with my feedback in mind, the post does read somewhat like a list of personal complaints regarding a perceived social slight directed at me, personally.  And to that end, I see why there would be either pity or "get over yourself" laced throughout the feedback.  This, however, was my failing as the author.  My purpose in these little rants is not to get personal feedback regarding my problems, but rather to draw attention to and begin discussions of larger issues that I find personally important.  I don't need to be reassured that I'm "ok" even though some people think I'm weird.  If I did, I could hardly leave my apartment in the morning, since I do very little to hide my oddities from those around me.  I don't feel ashamed of anything I do or think, nor do I feel personally slighted by the opinions of those who don't subscribe to my particular brand of thinking.  I actually feel the world is better off for it, since an entire planet consisting of people who think and act like myself would be both boring and really, REALLY, obnoxious.  But what this amonts to is that I would prefer not to go down a path of simple reinforcement of my own ideas.  My ego swells quite well all on its own. 

So going forward, I will do my best to compose these posts in a more "clinical" way (with a twist, as I'll discuss momentarily) so as to avoid this kind of coddling.  Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate that so many of you support my "me-ness", but it's not what I want this blog to be about.  Shameless self promotion makes up a good 75-80% of my daily activities anyway.  I want this blog to be a place to voice some concerns and ideas that I have and get some more discussions going about the role of those ideas/concerns in the big picture and at the level of our own lives. 

Which brings me nicely to the reason for the composition of my previous post (and the aforementioned twist): I don't believe it is possible to objectively deliver any statments with meaning.  Since objectivity requires us to be removed emotionally and experientially from the topic, I don't think it's reasonable to expect any complex issue to be truly objective (lookin' at you, TV pundits). So, I used myself as the example of my post to demonstrate this very principle.  The nature of escapist behavior requires us to put a great deal of subjective experience and value into something, so no discussion of escapism is really possible (to my way of thinking anyway) if you try to examine it from the outside.  Oh sure, you'll get a few interesing points about the kinds of behaviors typically associated with escapism, but you won't get to the meat of the issue by trying to remove yourself from the experience.  The whole point of escapism is to experience something outside of "objective reality" as "reality", so I used my own experiences to illustrate those points. 

Where I fell short, however, was in failing to realize that doing so can come off as a cry for help or acceptance on the part of the author.  I don't want to sound like I'm whining and I don't want my readers to feel like they need to console me whenever I talk about a large-scale social issue that affects me personally.  I had hoped to draw commentary related to the relationship other people have with their brand of escapism and to see if others had encountered these issues from other perspectives.  The world of ideas is only as good as its diversity, so I hope that going forward, we can continue this little think-tank discussions in a more academic and yet personal fashion.

As always, your comments are welcome; make 'em count.

September 16, 2011

In Defense of Escapism

Ok, so I'm supposed to go to sleep and get over the stomach virus that has been ravaging my god-and-gastric-juice forsaken digestive system, but I can't sleep.  So I thought I'd share some thoughts with you, my readers, that you might have something to think about. 

Having gotten some very supportive feedback about my rather indulgent manner of blogging, I thought I'd keep up it up and get to the point quickly this time:

Reality sucks.

I don't just mean it sucks in the sense that it's sometimes unpleasant.  I mean it sucks in that the situation of reality is, generally speaking, pretty damn grim.  Shall I list the reasons?  Our leaders tend to be self-obsessed idiots; our idols and pop-icons are usually morons with nothing substantive to contribute; no one has thought of a better, more reliable, less brutal system of economics than capitalism (don't even start, econ-people...I'm not willing to go into it now); and there are no dragons.  Yeah, you read that right: NO GODSDMAN DRAGONS.  Seriously...fuck this place.

This brings me nicely to the topic of my title: Escapism.  It's no secret that I love the realm of the fantastic.  Anyone who's spent more than a minute around me or in my apartment can instantly see that escapism is my drug of choice (more on that in a minute).  Since the reality of the world is so damn bleak, I turn to the realms of unreality to enjoy myself.  I do it with books, movies, tv, games, cosplay, and even just being in my apartment.  You see, I'm into this so deeply, that much of my life is spent narrating a sci/fi fantasy tale that I'm currently just enacting.  Chores like scrubbing my bathtub become much more tolerable when I tell myself I'm maintaining my rejuvination tank so that I can regrow my damaged technorganic components should they take damage while out on patrol.  See?  Doesn't that already sound more fun than the reality of scrubbing soap scum off of cheap porcelain?  Of course it does!  That's why escapism exists in the first place.

Quick caveat: I'm well aware that I have to live in reality...and I do.  I take my work seriously, I function in day to day life, and I don't talk to people like they're part of my fantasy.  But in the privacy of my own head, I can do as I damn well please. Right then, that's out of the way...back to the important part.

I encounter a lot of resistance to the world of escapism, both online and in person from people who claim that escapism is self-defeating or even delusional.  They say that people who devote so much time and energy to something that doesn't exist and never will are just wasting their lives and are missing out on the good things in life.  I have several problems with this line of thinking.  First off, it's definitely self-defeating and delusional if you're unable to leave the fantasy and join reality from time to time, so to that I can only respond: everything in moderation.  But that leads nicely into my real problem: What does moderation mean in this case?  Is it delusional to prefer to think of my winter coats as my Thermal Armor Shell?  Does it matter if that's how I choose to see it?  Or is it only delusional for me to express this out-loud? You'd probably never have known that if I didn't just reveal it. Where's the line? 

I don't insist that others follow my path in this regard.  I don't call someone else's coat Thermal Armor if I know they won't receive it well.  And even if I did, what's the big deal?  Isn't this sort of thing harmless? Children do this all the time and everyone thinks its cute.  Why isn't it cute (read: fun) once you cross some arbitrary line of "adulthood"?  Why do we stop playing pretend after a while?  I for one, never have.  You call it a TV; I call it my Primary View-Screen monitor.  You call it my computer; I call it The Hive Queen.  You say it's my cell phone; I call her Synapse, and she's my personal AI assistant who helps me manage my own personal network (think J.A.R.V.I.S. and Tony Stark), which I call the Hive Mind.  You know him as Tai, the Greeen Iguana; I know him as Tai the Perequian Tree Dragon (A combination of Peruvian and Equadorian - his pedigree by my best estimates). None of this is so "real" to me that I lose myself completely to the fantasy and stop functioning, but it makes the mundanity enjoyable.  As I said in my previous post, isn't enjoyment the whole damn point?  What is worth living for except the things you enjoy? 

The other argument I referenced earlier was one that says that these people "miss out" on the good things in life.  Well, if the reality they're framed in isn't good enough, why not spruce it up?  I'm just a little bit happier coming home to The Lair than I am to apartment 3A.  I don't think it's good to ignore reality, but that's a different thing from escapism.  Escapism is good for the soul.  It allows us to be and feel more than the plain truth of the situation would ever or could ever allow.  Ever daydream about winning the lotto, or getting to throw out the opening pitch, or move to Europe? Did you ever believe in Santa Claus? Escapism.  It gives us something to aspire to and something to be inspired by.  It doesn't even matter that it's not real.  I want to move one day, but I won't just move to a bigger place.  I'll be relocating my Hive Cluster to a new staging ground.  Why?  Because, with childlike abandon, I can.

And to those who would read all this and say "he needs to get a reality check and grow up", I will say only this: there's already a word for those that think escape is bad, dangerous, or undesirable - jailor. 

I was a happy child; I see no reason to stop being one.

As always, your comments are welcome.

End of Line.

September 10, 2011

For Love of the 'Con

Let me begin by saying that I suck at blogging.  I never really know what to say, I'm awful at making time to do these posts, and I'm not sure what kinds of things make good Blog-posts.  But, since this is my blog, I feel there's nothing wrong with a little indulgence, so on to the topic at hand: DragonCon.

I love DragonCon.  It's my favorite cultural event of the year and the only weekend I always look forward to. I love pretty much everything about it from the costumes, to the artists and panelists, to the merchant booths, but what I especially love about DragonCon is just how huge it has become.  I don't mean physically (although I admit that it's pretty cool to see it consuming more and more hotel real-estate each year), I mean how inclusive it has managed to be.  Being part of the "core audience" for DragonCon (sci-fi/fantasist with a soft spot for "geek culture") I fully expected to feel right at home at Con each year that I went.  With so many like-minded people around, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who feels outcast or isolated.  However, I'm always pleasantly surprised to see that there's actually an enormous diversity of mindsets at Con.  Not only that, but they all seem to get along anyway.

As an example of what I'm talking about, I'll share with you an example from this year's convention. I was sitting at a table in the food court, waiting for some panel or other, when I heard a conversation at the next table that fascinated me.  It took place between two Con-goers, one was a conservative, and very religious Southern Baptist in his mid-late 50's, and the other was an atheistic phsyics grad-student somwhere in his late 20's.  Ordinarily, you'd probably expect these two to be arguing to the death about something-or-other, and indeed they were; they were arguing about the best way to make Con more inclusive.
The baptist gentleman was making his case for why God wants everyone to love one another and how in particular there should be a sort of "mutual understanding" among geek culture that we're all the same regardless of specific interests.  The atheistic physicist was making a similar case, but was saying that rather than using same-ness, we simply acknowledge those differences as something to unify us; basically that we should use the "we're all different" obesrvation as the unifying principle.  Regardless of who's argument you personally find more appealing (and the joke of it is that their arguments were the same anyway), the fact that these two very different and often antagonistic kinds of people could sit together without any animosity having a discussion of how to make everyone feel loved is a truly remarkable thing. 

This then, is the essence of why I love DragonCon.  It is my firm belief that events like this have the capacity to do real good.  I've lately been having discussions of why sports-fans and "nerd" fans are really the same things applied to different source material, and places like DragonCon seem to further that point.  In the same weekend I saw people from Star Trek conversing with Link from the Legend of Zelda and the Sailor Scouts about Doctor Who.  This kind of diversity of fandoms is all built on the very universal human desire to have a good time doing things you like.  And before anyone brings it up, I also saw people in Braves jersies walking the convention halls with people in Jedi robes sharing their fondness for having a good time with nothing coming between them.

The people that say that their fandom is somehow better or that they like something for the "right reasons" are doing nothing but creating biggotry of an even more ridiculous type.  I love the things I love.  I love sharing my love of those things with anyone willing to listen.  I'm also willing to listen to someone explain their love of something to me.  I may never like or understand it, but that's no reason for condemnation.  In a world where a guy weilding a lightsaber can have a duel with a guy holding the Elder Wand, there's no room for those who would exclude others from something meant to be enjoyed. 

There is no wrong way to love something.  There's nothing that it is wrong to love.  Just enjoy and let enjoy.

As always, your comments are welcome. 

Take care, all.