“The Prison, Into Which We Doom Ourselves”

“‘What do you wish to see first?’ asked the abbe.” The Count of Monte Cristo

I haven’t posted much about my mental health journey of late. Mainly because for the time being it’s been more about observing and mulling than speaking.

But here’s a nutshell update: (1) a med change from an antidepressant that was also a stimulant (bad for anxiety); and (2) the realization that I’ve depended too much on employer/employee relationship for a gauge of success. The fact is, my work speaks for itself, not a company’s pay scale or willingness to share its profits.

It doesn’t take much of a look at human history to recognize the typically unhealthy relationship between business and its employees, companies and their “human resources,” owners and their hirelings, bosses and their workers. (The very word “boss” leaves a bad taste in our mouths: hence “bossy.”)

My work speaks for itself. I’ve poured heart and soul into it all, never stinting. Why the hell I’ve craved a pat on the head from whoever signed the paycheck is a shame.

In part, this change in perspective was jostled by a citation from Ursula K. Le Guin, herself paraphrasing J.R.R Tolkein, concerning escapism and the “real world.”

To quote Tolkein’s actual words, “I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. … Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

And Le Guin’s continuation, “If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? The moneylenders, the knownothings, the authoritarians have us all in prison; if we value the freedom of the mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can.”

Part of my imprisonment has been an Evangelical upbringing that castigated “America’s sinful preoccupation with fun.” Church and State so often work hand in hand to support one another in this regard. And State itself is, to quote John Dewey, “the shadow cast on society by big business.”

I believe that in the long run, an Internet full of art and achievement will change that. In part, my own escapism has lately been the wealth of art, music, and laughter I find online. The amazing things we “common folk” share with one another. That, and the open source movements that sidestep business profits simply to help one another. I believe that these will outpace and outlast the tyrants and warmongers raining destruction down upon us to maintain the status quo.

In any case, I feel a little freer today than I have before. Here’s wishing the same for you.

[P.S. My misuse of Wordsworth’s words in my title is intentional. I’d say “Nuns fret not” foreshadows his hidebound future as Poet Laureate.]

Love’s Illusions

Jennifer says there are songs she likes whose lyrics she’s never paid attention to. I adore my spouse, but how is that even possible?

Not hearing the lyrics is like eating a PB&J without noticing whether it’s marmalade or strawberry preserves. Worse, it’s like eating a PB&J and not even noticing the peanut butter.

Or like hearing a song and not noticing the music.

I wake up with the lyrics of songs from decades ago stuck in my head. Today it’s this one.

Retooling My Post-Musk Bio

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One benefit (seriously) of the shift from Musk’s Twitter has been rethinking my bio on social media.

To this point, that bio has been a pitch for my self-published games, ending with a tongue-in-cheek, boat-rocking “Vegan gun owner.”

And I’ll be honest, the RPG designs in particular have been exceptional. (If that sounds arrogant, remember that I’m in the habit of saying the same about work by other designers.) D6xD6 and Bookmark HP RPG especially have a simplicity on the surface that belies the carefully crafted mechanics beneath. I’m gambling my Origins award for Dragon Dice on that opinion.

But social justice issues, especially the “Black Lives Matter” movement, are more important. To quote Salman Rushdie, “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”

I’m trying to capture all of that in the new bio: credentials, then passions, then gratitude.

“I’m a ‘retired,’ award-winning hobby game designer & author. Passionate about social justice, games, & poetry. A one man, best-selling, bucket-list self-publisher. Honored to play any part in other people’s fun!”

Walking the line between passion and arrogance is a difficult task. At times I’ve stumbled and stepped on toes, and I carry that guilt with me. At other times, when it comes to social justice, I step on toes intentionally, in the spirit of Rushdie’s quote.

Every writer’s work requires confidence, a belief in oneself, though few writers enjoy self-promotion. I certainly don’t. Nor do I “enjoy” confrontation.

But I tell you the truth as best I see it. About cruelty. And about human kindness. About suffering. And about joy. At my age, I’m aware that sometimes my efforts have changed lives, just as other writers have changed mine. I’m grateful for both.

And I love you. Here’s wishing you the very best today and always.

Les

A Father Explains Why TV Shows Get Canceled

A FATHER EXPLAINS WHY TV SHOWS GET CANCELED

At first, my boy, they’re always fascinating.
Each fresh new face conceals a mystery,
an undiscovered personality,
which we spend every week anticipating.

Then, even once the novelty’s abating,
there’s comfort in familiarity.
At each old joke, we chuckle faithfully
(our sense of humor undiscriminating).

And when, at last, the sameness becomes grating
(or worse, begins to spread a dull ennui),
it’s best to terminate them gracefully,
before their antics grow humiliating.

So now you know why God invented death, son.
(Though we can always hope for syndication.)

—Lester Smith, 2007