Change and culture

So i suppose fair warning to my ‘readership’ this piece touches on issues of gender and culture and expresses views that some members on the left might find – regressive.

– The Brave Bothan

So today something happened – Certainly a thing that I didn’t find comfortable or endearing in the slightest; but I would like to put it here to provoke thought.

Annually the organisation that I work for hold a series of training seminars to ensure that employees are up to date on what management consider to be corporate culture for the firm. For the last half a decade or so these have necessarily included a section or two on gender and gender politics both within and without the workplace.  I attended one such seminar today – and was caught in one of the most uncomfortable intellectual and moral positions I have ever been in.

A senior executive was giving a seminar on gender perspectives – with the outcome being mostly advocating for an undefined increase in awareness of cis gender perspectives, which was annoying in and of itself. During the course of this seminar the executive shared an anecdote about a consultation with foreign nationals that the firm had been involved with. It was a shelter development project for impoverished peoples as part of a government sponsored aid program.

A design consultation session had been held with all the tribal elders of the region – who due to the region’s gender politics were all male. After the completion of the consultation session the firm built the shelters to specification. The flaws were apparent only after completion of the program – these shelters lacked a kitchen…

Corporate embarrassment aside – the executive at this point made the quip that if only one single woman had been involved with the planning process this glaring oversight surely would have been rectified…. as women inherently solve these types of domestic problems…..

My heart veritably broke.

Here was a senior executive member of the firm not only committing a correlation/ causation fallacy – which is embarrassing and horrific enough in and of itself – but ostensibly under the auspices of promoting gender equality she was committing such a fallacy without realizing the ways in which she was confirming negative gender stereotypes.

I honestly didn’t know what to do – Any attempt I could have made to publicly correct her concept of gender relations and roles would have only served to diminish the overall intent of the seminar. But failure to correct such regressive and patriarchal stereotypes would be to allow those values to suffuse the outcomes of the seminar.

I was caught – trapped but the desire not only to not rock the corporate boat and undermine a senior executive – but also completely and painfully aware that by saying nothing I was allowing a whole room full of people, representing all facets of the company, to take in and perhaps internalize and unknowingly regressive stereotype.

To my shame at the time of writing I stayed silent.

Despite realizing at the time what had been said and knowing it’s impact I couldn’t muster the courage to fight for the cause the way it ought to have been. I stayed silent – not wanting to undercut, however righteously and senior executive.

The gender stereotypes we have been raised with are insidious in the way they influence our thinking – even when we think to champion the cause we are subject to our own fallibility. I believe that the human giving the brief had every intention of championing a positive case for gender equality they just fell victim to ingrained concepts of gender roles.

I elected to join this human’s committee to try and  shape the way my organisation views and interacts with concepts of gender.

But this doesn’t make me feel better about my cowardice.

Our Inner Child

So recently I have found myself happily involved with rather a remarkable human. This person challenges me emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. They are in a great many way my equal or better and I have spent the last period of my life being rather enthralled by the everyday challenge of rising to this new level of potential they have helped define.

I still remember our first outing – a 6 hour stroll through the cultural district of my city. Exchanging banter and intellectual observations on arts from all eras. This has been rather the tone of the relationship thus far – one of intellectual curiosity and exchange.  It would be in all this – incredibly easier to lose touch with what I consider to be my more joyous side. Not that intellectualism doesn’t bring me joy in it’s own way (or else why would I write this blog for fun) but I do acknowledge that intellectualism can be quite dry at times – and those overly disposed to it’s use equally so. One of the things that I have most enjoyed about the company I have recently kept is the ability to lapse at will back and forth through both the joyously childish self and the more reserved intellectual self.

This has caused me to ponder on the importance of childish joy in the everyday.

I have pondered at length differences in people and particularly how we see them reflected in media. One of the key divisions this pondering ass fixed upon is the emergence of ‘gritty’ media as synonymous with adult media. This can be most easily seen in the tonal differences between ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’. In both cases the former is the more childishly joyous franchise and the latter the grittier franchise.

All 4 series continually deal with themes of heroism and sacrifice – they all cover off on an extensive range of human emotions; many of which are thoroughly within the negative range. All 4 shows seek to take their audiences on an emotional journey with the characters.

I have always found this to be accomplishable with Doctor Who and The Flash – but rarely so with Torchwood and Arrow. Despite many similarities in production values and target audiences the latter two franchise lack a critical element for me – the heart that childish joy brings to the more successful franchises.

It is in our most dire moments – when the stakes are the highest ( as they frequently are in all 4 series) that joy is the most useful and integral to my personal image of humanity. The fresh joy of our inner child – the dawning curiosity and inner laughter it finds in almost every new situation is what pulls us through our most trying times and helps bring light to even our bleakest moments.

Both the Flash and The Doctor manage to showcase this – in the case of The Doctor sometimes literally as a child – both series show us wisecracking heroes and casts who use humor to lighten the mood when everything else seems dire. Arrow and Torchwood, by comparison, feature an excess of brooding and melancholy.

This same dichotomy is more than likely behind the failure of the DCEU vs the Marvel EU. The former once again feeling like a largely humorless and gritty place whilst the latter manages to capture the elusive but very real and very very necessary childish inner joy that grounds our reality.

So next time you are facing a situation that seems a little more than you are capable of handling just remember the abiding value of joy –  you don’t need to laugh at your circumstances but I guarantee you that in no situation has all light gone from the world – you can always find something to laugh at, something to inspire a fresh sense of wonder in your heart. celebrate-954784_960_720

 

 

Vignettes Of Memory.

So this is a bit of a different one – well not all that different, in that it is an analysis of how a media piece has made me think/ affected my thinking – but it is the first foray we have had on this blog into my love of musical theatre. So I by no means count myself as an officionado of musical theatre but i certainly enjoy the atmosphere of a well staged musical and the things that the medium iOS specifically designed to be good at capturing – I.E. The very visceral styles of human emotion or bombastic larger than life characature of drama. 

One of the musicals I have come to later in life is Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last 5 Years’. I really do adore this piece for a great many aesthetic reasons. I love the choice to never have the two leads appear on stage together, I love the musical callbacks to some of theatre’s greatest hits in the composition, I love the self referential humour and the Tarantinoesque timeline. The thing I love most of all however is the really beautiful way the Musical invites us to think about the nature of memory and time. 

The presentation scene to scene of the musical alternates between the lead character’s perspectives. This from a structural standpoint allows the audience to see both halves of the story and the relationship it details but more importantly it acts as a method for seeing their titular 5 years pass. Magically despite the run time only being about 90-100 minutes it actually feels as if we have lived the whole 5 years with the characters. Both through incredibly clever writing that loops in on itself and shows how the things we love in people can inform the things we hate, or how our strengths are merely the reflections of our weaknesses, it highlights the paradigm of long term memory. We remember long tranches of time as vignettes.

Our moment to moment experience of life is gripping, visceral and totalising but when we remove ourselves and look backwards as the vastness of our own experience it all blends together and only those critical or truly remarkable moments stand out. Moments that become imbued with significance post-facto are brought to the fore and those that lose significance fade into obscurity. This is where ‘The Last 5 Years’ truly shines. It captures this pheminon perfectly. Both in the choice to include highlight moments that are clear in their significance – but also moments that as they occurred or soon thereafter would not likely have been of great importnace to either character and it is the end of the relationship and thus the foreshadowing nature of these moments that makes them important when reflecting back on the time as a whole.

Very few experiences in media feel this human, this alive and this real and it the way that they experience time along with the audience that really brings them to life and makes their pain and their joy palatable. 

When I reflect back over the progress I have made in my life and the mistakes I have made this type of vignette-vision is one of the saving graces of my existence. H.P Lovecraft said that we are only spared from madness by our inability to perceive the whole truth of our situation within the universe. To me this is what our memory is doing with vignette-vision it is bringing into focus only as much information as we need and is pertinent to allow us to learn, grow and move forward with purpose in our lives. 

Time makes fools of us all, remembering it as only as human can is something to be embraced. The fallibility of both our judgement and our memory is a well documented phenomenon and certainly not something that we should become enraged to see portrayed or fearful of. It is human – allow that to bring you comfort and contentment as you take the next step forward in your life – knowing that this too shall pass into vignettes memory to be fogging recalled when it is necessary. 

Gaming Life Lessons Vol. 3

So as a teenager I loved Dungeons and Dragons. Yep I was a straight up nerd, Magic The Gathering, D&D, Video Games, Books and Movies. My misspent youth really has given me  a breadth of media experience that is largely unparalleled within my peer group. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I will always have a soft spot of table top games. Board Games, Card Games and Miniatures – anything that gets a group of individuals into a space to interact and chew the fat, whilst the online space can do much the same with the use of voice comms there is just something about being physically collocated with the person who has just screwed you over with a move and being able to see the delight in his eyes as he does it or the feeling of triumph when your party overcomes a challenging encounter by working as a team.

For me the quintessential example of this is Dungeons and Dragons – I cannot count the hours I have spent huddled around tables with dice and a group of stalwart and adventurous mates. The real benefit of these types of experiences for me is the tangential learning opportunities they offer. There are two really big ones that have influenced the way I see and interact with the world.

The first is social skills – As such a hyper nerd it should come as no surprise that socializing hasn’t always been one of my strong suits. However now as an adult I have a very socially focused job that requires me to be able to instantly communicate with just about everyone I meet and I really do think my time with D&D and the people I shared that time with have played a large part in my success. So the wonderful thing about social D&D as organised through a store – is that it has to be all inclusive, the store wants customers. This results in a very, very eclectic group of players; particularly a very wide span of ages. In my earliest memories of playing D&D I was 15 and spending 10 -12 hours a week talking with people as old as 45 in my party. I learned a lot from these guys and gals. They became a surrogate family in a lot of way and helped me overcome my fears of interacting with people whose experiences differed from my own. They helped me calm down and get over a lot of my anger issues and more eccentric public behaviors. They really did teach me what it was to be a friend. That sense of community is often talked about in Australian culture ass only really existing around team sports but it is alive and well in hobby shops the country over and it is allowing those less athletically inclined children to achieve the same social conditioning as our future NRL superstars.

The second key thing I took away from my time with D&D was a sense of curiosity. I started playing D&D in 3.5 Edition. The source books for this edition of the game were rife with references to real life concepts of philosophy, cosmology and history. This lead to me, in an effort to learn more about the game, researching a spate of disparate topics as a child that were miles ahead of or outside my high school curriculum. This really did liberalize and round out my experience with education as a  young adult and has served me incredibly well all throughout my life to date.  The habit has also stuck – these years have endowed me with an ability I think of as ‘inspiration sense’ this is when I get the feeling whilst engaged in some media or another that the fictitious concept that is being employed has been directly inspired by elements form the real world. Whenever my ‘Inspiration Sense’  tingles I am compelled to go read more about the real world influences.

Moving into adulthood I have volunteered my time at local hobby shops to run their D&D nights. In the process of doing this I have seen dozens of people go through a similar journey to the one I have enjoyed. So I am fairly certain that the game and the way it is played has this effect on the majority and not just ‘edge cases’. It has been an absolute privilege to see autistic spectrum people truly come out of their shells in a safe environment and learn how to make friends and interact with people in a far more normalized fashion than one would expect of a D&D ‘nerd’.

For a game that has since it’s inception been met with scrutiny, mistrust and fear Dungeons and Dragons has had an amazingly transformative effect on the lives of many many children that would otherwise have done far worse or far less with their lives than what they have – because of the friends they made and lessons they learned around the table.  This is just a small look into my life and the way that D&D has helped me become the man I am.

Thank you D&D.

Overcoming The Past

So this week I was rather abruptly forced to consider my past in a way that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I have not always been as good a human as I currently am; self improvement is now a big part of my drive every day but there have been periods of my life where stagnation would be the most accurate way to describe my status.

In the course of taking what I thought was a positive adult step – trying to gain more control over my financial and professional life I was told I had an outstanding debt of $3.5K. It was, as you can imagine, rather a rude shock – made all the more embarrassing for being told to me in the first instance in a public arena. Long story cut short here – it was debt incurred by a partner, who I no longer have contact with, on a joint service, I negotiated it down to a more reasonable figure and paid the balance.

The learning point out of all this came for me when I was reflecting on the initial shock and incredulity with which I had viewed the revelation. It had seemed wildly unfair and completely ridiculous that I was being ‘punished’ for trying to take positive steps in my life. Which is rather a  juvenile way of conceiving of things really. The reality that I had to accept was that I had failed to take due care of my household affairs in the past and I was paying the piper in the present.

It was a bitter pill to swallow – and then I remembered Randy Pausch. This was a wall, not put here to stop me improving my life – but rather to force me to prove how badly I wanted if self improvement were easy; everyone would be doing it. So I grit my teeth an confronted the unsettling reality that despite not being directly responsible I had still failed and that I needed to overcome that failure and use it as a lesson. The two questions I asked myself here I learned from Brian Tracy – What did I do well? and What would I change next time?

So what did I do well? – I had been a good partner, helped provide for the household. What am I changing next time? – nothing new just adding fuel to my financial management fire

I think that by combining those two thinkers one reaches the perfect place to overcome past mistakes. The mistake itself can be recontextualized as merely a test of drive – which the current self is always up to the task of undertaking. Following this the ‘hot wash up’ question make sure that we really draw out the critical learning points.

The control we have over our experience of reality is one of the most powerful gifts we are ever given. Allowing external agencies to take that power away from us is all too easy to do and far too great a cost for anything. The trick is that we can take it back any time we want. By choosing to remain in control of the way we perceive and interact with the world we are choosing to be responsible for our emotional well being.

The key thing here really is about context and shifting perspectives. It is very easy to let the world seem far more frightening and imposing than it really is. Particularly when we find ourselves on the back foot in a new situation. However the world isn’t out to get us – it isn’t trying to do us favors either mind you. The world is largely indifferent to any of our struggles of woes and in that indifference we are free to make the best people we can out of ourselves. By allowing ourselves to see the opportunities for change and improvement rather than punishments imposed by an unfeeling world we really can get to a point where there is no wall we cannot scale.

Doctor Doctor Give Me The News 

So I absolutely adore this scene from The Zygon Inversion episode of New Doctor Who. I first saw it the weeknit first aired and I’ve since used it as a teaching tool for my team at work. The concept that those with true power those with true courage , can forgive – can break the chains of hate that bind us to conflict. 

Recently I read Clem Ford’s ‘Fight Like A Girl’. It was challenging but thoroughly worthwhile. I feel that I learned a fair amount of deffenrence to priveledge that I have previously slow to acknowledge. The thing I found consistently challenging throughout was Clem’s use of fairly aggressive language. She addresses her thoughts on why many men find the type of language she uses challenging and how defending politeness is merely a way of protecting the patriarchal system. 

In some ways I do agree with her – politeness and manners are inventions of the patriarchy, specifically the gentile class of the patriarchy. 

But forgiveness is not.

I acknowledge the right of feminists to be very angry at the patriarchy for suppressing them for so very long and in such horrific ways. But I haven’t yet been able to reconcile the votrioloc vocabulary with which some feminists address the world. 

It strikes me as The Doctor puts it as ‘just more cruelty’ now it’s certainly ‘cruelty’ that does make me sit upright and pay attention to what is being said. But I feel for entirely the wrong reasons. I listen because language of ranger and hate displays passion and rage and I do not wish to rub afoul of such violent emotions in anyone, regardless of gender. 

Language is a method of mediation as much as it is a tool of control. I think the way we choose to discuss our differences and our passions displays so much about us and how we want to be perceived.  

This is by no means an attack or cry for vocal feminists to reform their use of language – or a claim that I won’t listen to them if they don’t talk in a language that makes me comfortable. It is merely the suggestion that autocratic control of language is ‘cruelty’. 

It is equally cruel for a feminist to violently seize the language of a discourse and it is for a man to allow it to exist in purely patroarchally endorsed politeness. 

What we need to see in the world – on both sides of the gender divide. Is forgiveness – forgiveness for the sins of priveledge that so many men did nothing to help create or perpetuate and forgiveness of feminists and activits for their just anger at not even having the ability to control the terms by which their rights are discussed. 

This is a charged, primed and deadly issue I know – let’s just all calm down, and call The Doctor.

Pride Comes Before The Fall

Pride really gets wildly mixed representation. It is something that has caused me discomfort, emotionally and intellectually my entire life. We are simultaneously fed lines about ‘taking pride in our work/appearance/possessions’ and scolded for being ‘obsessive, narcissistic or materialistic’ for doing exactly these things. Now the easy wave of the hand answer is that all things in small amounts or in balance. Clearly the times when I have been chided for taking too much pride in something have been moments where I am lapsing into excess. But I call phooey on that. I am no longer comfortable accepting the judgement of others on these matters – so here is my thoughts on the complex nature and relationship of pride.

Two figures within media stand as glowing examples of the redemptive value of pride. Heath Ledger’s Sir William Thatcher and Vegeta, Prince of Saiyans. I certainly feel kinship with these characters and the way they interact with pride.

William gives up his freedom and his life for the sake of his pride. He refuses to bend to system that he knows is unjust and unfounded. He stand strong in the face of adversity and is ultimately rewarded for it. When at his lowest his king comes to him and delivers to him a knighthood almost entirely premised on his pride, his refusal to obey societal norms and social morays. “Your men love you, If I knew nothing else about you that would be enough. But you also tilt when you should withdraw, and that is Knightly too”  it is this that first premised my disagreement with those in my life who would tear down the value of pride. Movies are expensive affairs – and in this day and age made largely by committee. If a subject matter is central to a movie it because studios feel it will resonate with audiences. So when I see such bombastic representations of the value of pride  my chest swells and I feel enlivened and like I can achieve anything I choose to set my mind to. This is the secret value of pride for me it is pride that keeps me strong when I am weak. When I am at my lowest it is my pride that keeps me from the razor or the alcohol. It is the knowledge that deep down the strength is within me and that just because those around me choose to see it as narcissism or some other equally loathsome epithet it does not change the value or the nature of the emotion. Pride determines the people we choose to be – giving up on it because it is unattractive when we are strong means that it cannot be there to support us when we are weak.

The redemptive value of pride is something that I learned from Vegeta. Similarly when Vegeta is at his lowest he allows another being to grant him strength at the cost of his autonomy. When pushed to commit an act he cannot reconcile it is pride that allows Vegeta to take back his sense of self and the ability to be his own man. From here he goes on to sacrifice his life to save all those he loves. Pride being the last bastion of the self is a powerful theme that has always resonated with me. For many years self-effacement and self-hatred were methods of minimising pain. Not taking pride in myself and allowing the world to wash over me allowed me to live without pain – but also without purpose or a sense  of looking after myself. It is only through teaching myself the true value of pride that I found the strength to carry my head high and fight for my ideals. It is pride that allows me to put my thoughts up here in the public space and think that they are worth reading – that they might help others in some way small or large.

Pride is not some demon we must conquer or vice to be denied. Pride is a word, being carried around the world as we speak: associated with movements dedicated to the liberation of outspoken minorities; Black Pride, Gay Pride and Trans Pride. These movements are all sources of strength, resilience and empowerment for their members and those that share their ideals.  Pride is not something we should fear. Pride is an ally when we have no others, pride is the wall that we feel at our backs when the fighting is at it’s thickest.

So this is my challenge to you. The next time someone who wants to make you feel smaller than you are to tear away a small piece of you by calling you vain, narcissistic or proud – wear that title like the badge of honour it is. You are proud, you are strong – you have the courage and conviction to believe in the most fundamentally important of  all things -yourself.

What Time Is It?

ADVENTURE TIME!!!!!!!

I consider myself to be at least a reasonably outgoing fellow these days. I enjoy spending time doing stuff I’ve never done before and really getting in and experiencing everything life has to offer.  This is somewhat hampered by the fact that I am abjectly terrible at starting my own adventures. When left to my own devices I basically revert to my most introverted state and curl up and watch Netflix or similar. As soon as someone suggests a thing – I am at it like a bull at a gate. This phenomenon can cause those in my life no small amount of cognitive or emotional dissonance as the change can be quite jarring.

It took me sometime to realise I had this limitation. Prior to really understanding it I actually conceived myself to be far more of a shut in that I actually am. This lead me to shying away from some of the more adventurous or dynamic people in my life, because I thought i would ‘bring them down’ or some other self-deprecating stand in. I considered myself to be ‘just a nerd’.

The moment I started to realise I was ‘secretly’ quite in love with adventures came when a girlfriend of mine invited me geocaching. Now at the time I was working my way to 100% completion on, the then brand new, Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor so I had a viable alternative but I jumped at the opportunity to get out in the fresh air with good company.   Whilst we were traipsing all about the hills enjoying ourselves and getting properly sunburned and dehydrated  I began to ponder the importance of the moment I found myself in. I, a self confessed nerd boy, was actively engaging in adventurous outdoor activity and really loving it. I cast my mind back over my life and began to wonder if this woman was changing me….GASP!

When I really stopped to consider it it became rather obvious that she wasn’t – both of the significant partners I had been previously involved with had been outgoing and vivacious human-women-folk but somehow I had either forgotten, repressed or otherwise my absolute enjoyment of active and adventurous conduct. It boggled me then, as it does now from time to time, how poor I could/can be at self inspection and understanding. How inaccurate and negative my self talk can be when I let it run thoroughly unchallenged or unexamined.

This chain of inquiry also begot another – I began to consider this complimentary experience in terms of the time honored mantra : “Opposites Attract”. Now this seemed perfectly reasonable as an explanation on the day. But some years have passed since that moment and this and my feelings have become somewhat more nuanced. I have come to believe that giving oneself entirely over to the idea that opposites attract can lead you down very dangerous and ill suited pairings – I had a few. Thinking I was seeking adventure I began several involvements with humans that were clearly incredibly poorly suited partners. Similarly when reacting poorly to some of the more outlandish pairings I have attempted I have run into the arms or partners who, through their absolute similarity to me amplified all my worst qualities and became unchallenging or boring. I think perhaps a far healthier and more helpful way to seek out potential romantic partners is to remember”We are attracted to complimentary personalities”.

What I mean to say is – I am not a fantastic self-starter for adventures but one of the things I look for in a prospective partner is being good at just that. Not because it is the opposite of myself but rather because it a strength that compliments and ‘makes up for’ my weakness. Rather than fairly reductively searching for people that just don’t ‘look’ like ourselves I think it is far more helpful, and far emotionally healthier, to look for those individuals whose happiness is derived from similar pursuits but that go about it in different way and have slightly different strengths. To find someone who can teach us more about ourselves merely by experiencing their life as they otherwise would.

I think that if we adopt this slightly more nuanced outlook of complimentary pairing rather than similarity or opposite pairing we run far fewer risks of boredom, flatness or lack of compatibility and begin to enter a world where even if things don’t work out long term we can honestly say that we learned new things about ourselves by experiencing our weakness through the strengths of those that love us.

 

Truth And Unconditional Love

So parents, with few exceptions, love us unconditionally. This is likely the single most valuable resource a person is ever given, the unconditional love of another human being. Yet for so many people it is a squandered opportunity. Pride, fear and pain cause us to make poor choices in our relationships with our parents that prevent us from fully realising the benefit of this unique relationship.

It is strange for most of the people I interact with romantically to see me talk very frankly with my mother about my sexual experiences. However some time ago I realised that the one person in my life who was safest to talk to about my experiences and problems in my relationships was my mother and thus no subject matter is ‘off limits’. Her only agenda is to see me fulfilled and happy. Now admittedly she may have some notions about what preconditions my happiness and fulfillment need – but fortunately for me I have cultivated a respect in the relationship with my mother such that If I tell her I am happy in a pursuit she believes me earnestly.

This is an unmatched level of love in my entire life to date. No one else makes as excellent an emotional an intellectual sounding board as my mum. But in order to really, truly be able to utilise my relationship with my mother I have to tell her the truth. The whole, ugly and uncomfortable truth.

An author’s note here: I understand that for some people this role is not filled by a parent or at all. For me this role is filled in an unusual way and I am using Mother as a stand in term. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this has experienced the type of unconditional love that I am describing in this piece. If not I am tremendously sorry for how potentially challenging you might find this – feel free to skip the rest. 

We all have things we have done, sides of ourselves that we regret or find challenging but these facets and actions require no less inspection for the reactions they inspire in us, quite the opposite. These are the things that need the closest of inspections because they are the things we would seek to hide from everyone, including ourselves. These are the topics that a relationship predicated on unconditional love is best placed to help us work through an understand.

The best way to achieve this result is establish a truthful baseline. Take the bitter pill, bite the bullet, rip the band-aid off and just tell the whole truth bring all those ugly truths to light. For me this is was one of the hardest things I have done as an adult and so I understand that it might be initially repulsive as a suggestion – but I swear it pays dividends far beyond the emotional capitol invested.

Once you have achieved this it is far easier to maintain than it was to establish, even if only by pure virtue of volume, you can only really do one reprehensible thing at a time – and so will rarely if ever be called upon to reveal more than one new ‘failing’ at a time. Everyone is human and sometimes we might still through fear or pride conceal a new batch of facts because or one reason or another. I promise each time you reveal more of yourself to someone who loves you unconditionally you are welcomed back with love and forgiveness.

This truth baseline allows those who love us unconditionally to know us. The whole of us and thus when you go to them they know where you are at and can be empathetic and loving of the whole of you, not just the parts of you you choose to share. The ability to drop one’s facade and know that there will be no surprises, no shock, no horror is cathartic beyond measure. It also has the added benefit of allowing those who love us to have the longest possible time understanding us before being called upon to provide sage advice or act as a sounding board.

Referencing an earlier piece the late great Dr Randy Pausch advocated that a method to achieving success was to; ‘establish a good feedback loop an listen to it’.  I need to stress that the establishment of such an honest, caring and beautiful feedback loop is all in service of seeking true self betterment. My mother is the person who can help me confront truths that I am not yet willing to face on my own. With full knowledge of my most painful truths my mother can be counted on to know the demons that plague me as I describe new and challenging scenarios. With this feedback loop I can always safely count on at least one other human to be able to empathise with any new and seemingly insurmountable challenge I face no matter how dark or terrible it might be and for that I will always love my mother.

Gaming Life Lessons Vol.1

I want this to be the start of a series of pieces, likely published weekly, about the incredible life lessons that I have gleaned in my years as a gamer. Lessons that I feel only games could have taught me. I hope they bring some value to your life.

— The Brave Bothan

So something I have seen as a central part of myself since I was very young is gaming. The first game I ever played was Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and my  mum banned me from playing it after about two weeks because ‘it was to violent’. This negative response to my gaming would be common throughout my interactions to come – but with passion I would persevere.

Early on in my gaming years my parents relented to my constant whinges and gave me my first console, a Nintendo 64. I had been given a copy of the ‘A Bug’s Life’ movie tie in game and early on there was a mission describing one of the basic collectible items, feathers I believe, as being “Peppered throughout the land”. I thought that was a lovely description, so the next day in school (grade 2) I used it myself in a piece of written work we had to do. I remember my teacher being ecstatic and blown away by the language.  She called me remarkable and gifted. I told her I had just copied my game, feeling bad to receive so much attention for just copying some words, but she claimed that it didn’t matter where it had come from it was well above a grade 2 standard. This was the first time a can remember having a really positive sense of growth from video games.

At a number of points in my life since that time games really have taught me things, generally not quite as literally as in this first example. I have said before I think games are an amazing teaching tool and are uniquely placed to be a valuable and integral aid to developing our children if we embrace their potential.

One of the most valuable, and painful, lessons gaming has ever taught me came from World of Warcraft. Like I mentioned before my very first taste of gaming was crafted by the venerable Chirs Metzen so when I say I grew up with the Warcraft franchise I really do mean it. I devoured Warcraft(s) 1,2 and 3. Fortunately when Wow first launched I had a terrible internet connection and the aforementioned anti-Warcraft mum so was prevented from playing it.

Some years later I had moved out of home – it was late into WoW’s 3rd expansion when one of my oldest friends finally recruited me into the ranks of WoW devotee. I had played Dungeons and Dragons for many years with this friend and had since moved cities so it seemed to be a good way to continue our adventures together. It was; those first few months of discovering the massive and mesmerizing world of Azeroth were unforgettable. Hours and hours spent on Skype with my friends just achieving common goals and experiencing the world together created a warm and loving place for WoW in my heart.

I got into the hardcore side of the game and began raiding. Pushing the limits of what I could do. I barely noticed the startling ‘Time Played’ messages as I logged in each day. All I cared about was the accolades I was winning with my friends in the real and virtual worlds. They told me I was a natural, one of the best they’d ever played with. I sunk more and more of myself into that world. More and more of my life goals became centered on virtual achievements and virtual glory.

Sometime later, I got married. My wife and I had loved sharing gaming time together and she had even leveled a character in WoW with me and my friends. Unfortunately she was never as passionate about gaming as I was so she never quite got the hang of high end content.

I don’t know precisely when I woke up and realised I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror anymore. I had always been a rakish boy – but somewhere in the last 5 years I had stopped being rakish and started being blobbish. My wife still said I was gorgeous though, said she loved me – but the way she would ogle the muscular stars of vampire TV shows made me think that was more for my benefit than any representation of the truth. My mind was sharp as ever though – my fingers ennimbled from years of twitch gaming practice, I was at the height of my skills.

And then I realised that I was fat, my house was a mess, I was married to an abusive alcoholic (I promise I’ll tell that story another time but 2 sad posts in a row would set a bad image) and I had lost sight of my goals and values. I realised that I needed some balance.

I tried to achieve balance, I worked on my fitness and my marriage, my body could be saved unfortunately the same was not true of the marriage. Over the next few years I worked on all the things i’d let slip with my foray into WoW. Music, writing, fitness and more all returned to me. Occasionally I slipped back into the warm and comforting embrace of my various ‘toons’ but it was never quite the same – at the back of my head the unreality of it all always ate away at my enjoyment. I could never go back to Neverland.

The story above might lead you to believe I don’t like WoW or that I blame it for the choices I made whilst I was obsessing over it. I really don’t – to this day I count Warcraft among my first loves and still proudly display memorabilia of the franchise in my house. I still smile every time one of my friends begs me to come back and tank for them – or every time i relive a story of valor and achievement. I’m smiling ear to ear just writing this paragraph. I made the choice not to play WoW anymore becasue it was too difficult for me to balance high end content goals with the broader goals of my life – but I think that has more to do with the fact I set myself goals that take utter dedication to achieve and not a problem with WoW.

WoW taught me an incredibly powerful lesson about myself that I hadn’t quite yet understood. I am a hugely goal driven man and I can and do achieve everything I set my mind to. Weeks, months and years of grinding netted me mounts, titles and achievements in the virtual realm that made me enviable and beloved.  When I finally turned the focus and dedication that WoW had trained into me to my personal and professional spheres I attacked them with the same vigor and tenacity that had made me such a powerhouse at WoW. I thrived and achieved just as much in those areas as I previously had in Azeroth.

WoW taught me that with courage, a team of people you care about and steadfast dedication you can achieve great things. For that I will always be truly grateful.

For The Alliance!