Sunday, May 07, 2017

 

Fantasy Faire 2017 Experiences

The first hint I got that this year would be different from last year's Faire came with the arguments inside myself over what to play. I had, over the previous year, made four playlists I thought were suitable. After my formal assignment notice came, I realized I didn't want to play any of them.

The second hint came with a very terse private message from Oldesoul, who is the chief of the Pawlice. This was an induction notice; I was now a member of the Fairelands Watch, with all the rights and so forth attending thereunto. "You been nice to da Mary," the note said in an apparent offer of explanation whose cryptic nature mystified both me and the person whom I thought to be "da Mary."

The third hint arrived more like an official messenger with a brass band. A few days before the  Faire opened I'd done some experiments that led to the creation of a set of textures I thought some people might find useful. I sent test versions to some friends, who liked the idea. I was in the process of polishing the kit as a Hunt gift when talk in the Fantasy Faire chat turned to when people would be able to load in their stores.
"If I had more than one product, I'd get a store," I said. My thought was mainly to support the Faire.
"What's your product?" I was asked by two people.
"A set of textures for covering a large area without repeats."
"You can set it up in my store."

No more hints were needed. We did load-in at the store on Tuesday and the Faire opened Thursday. From there I simple bounced along from event to event, actions two or three steps ahead of thought, each day of the Faire.

The journey started with falling into the water. This is typical of my Second Life experience, and was a good thing as Fairelands Junction is a subtle place that rewards closer looks.

(Click on the images to see full-sized versions)

Maybe it was that initial immersion. Or perhaps the party on Wednesday before the Faire opened. Or else just being around Murasaki, who makes mermaid tail textures and shared her store with me. I realized that mer-people are beautiful and graceful. Being of a strongly utilitarian bent I've tended to stay with the hominid form, for which most Second Life infrastructure has been designed. Well, this is Fantasy Faire. Anything is possible.



Fantasy Faire brings together people who make stuff, people who build things, people who like to immerse themselves in new places, and people who buy things. I don't need much in SL, but I did need this.


Fantasy Faire also brings out, not surprisingly, role-players. I'd heard vague rumors of this, and even seen areas where role-playing took place, but had no idea how to approach it. I'd not done any role-playing since a live Dungeons and Dragons campaign  in the early 1980s. At the Faire, role-play groups set up simplified storylines and invite passersby to join in. Curious, I went to one of these that was hosted by the Steelwood group and was standing on the sidelines. I had to be close enough to see local chat. One of them sent me a  private message: "Move in closer, please, so we can get you in the pictures." I never got around to taking pictures during this, but there are images on their blog.
Steelwood Role-play day 1

Having gotten my feet wet (instead of falling in, I was invited to the shallow end of the pool) I looked up some other RP events. Murassaki had told me about the Ynys Seamaide group, and their campaign was starting just when I was available. This was an interesting story, culminating in a ceremony to drive the Elder Beings back and purify the waters of the Spirit Pool.


Fairelanders also like a good party. And any party is good in the Fairelands. Anyone hosting one of these should be prepared to cater to varied needs.


The Faire runs... well, about a week and the two flanking weekends. Sort of. Much passion goes into the creation of this and it's hard to let go. My friend Tai'lahr organized a kind of sub-finale Star Dance. This had one of my favorite moments from the Faire. I'd bought Lindens to help the cause, and was down to my last 156. I said "I have 156 Lindens left. Who'll match me into the kiosk?" I tossed the last of my cash into the kiosk, and got 6 or 7 matches... some for far more than 156 Lindens.


That was the Tuesday after the Faire's nominal Sunday closing. Someone at the Lab kept forgetting to throw the switch. On Thursday I was working on inventory when a notice came out in the Fairelands chat that... well, a very serious planning meeting was taking place in The Rose.


The Fairelands faded into the Mists, eventually. Total contribution to the American Cancer Society: Over 9 million Lindens. Total contribution to people's hearts: incalculable.
--Ktahdn Vesuvino


Saturday, April 29, 2017

 

Why I Relay


In the application to be a DJ at Second Life's Fantasy Faire for Relay for Life, one question is "Why do you Relay?" It's a question that many people have written about. Their stories are highly varied.

I've never had a good answer for it. There have been no medical emergencies in my life. The answer I made on the application is "Everyone is touched by cancer," yet in my case the touch has been from a distance.

Placed among people who have strong and serious reasons to relay, my reason seems trivial. I relay because of the people.

(click the image to view full size)

When I joined Second Life in 2009 it was as an extension to another on-line community I'd known since 2005. I did pretty much the same things in SL that I had done in Uru, which were mostly connected to musical events such as the Silk Road Musical Journey. This became regular in the summer of 2013 when some friends and I started holding our Music Night event in SL.

Music Night got happened because one of the Uru people wanted to introduce a new neighborhood he'd made. He asked me to provide music for a grand opening. We cast no eye toward the future. At the end of that first Music Night, people said they would like a repeat so we did it again the next weekend, and 12 years later we're still doing it.

Music Night tends to ramble, both musically and conversationally. Occasionally something called "Fantasy Faire" would come up.
"Kt, you should apply to Fantasy Faire. Your music is perfect for it."
"Hmm? What's that?"
"It's a big event for RFL."
"RFL?"
"Relay for Life. American Cancer Society."
"I see."

I demurred. You see, I don't consider myself a "real" DJ. I'm just a man who likes music, and enjoys the sharing. One friend calls me a Musical Curator. I just went on with Music Night and special events like Waltz Nights at New Kadath.

One day I was talking with a friend. She mentioned running the Silk Road Musical Journey for a group called Mieville, in conjunction with their Silk Road Hunt. I agreed, and met some interesting people. Later on I did the Hunt, my first. A month or so after that I received an IM from the Mayor of Mieville, Perryn Peterson, asking if I could play some music for their Theme Dance because their regular DJ was having technical trouble. We moved Music Night to Mieville for the night and had a good time.

That was a "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." moment. I was on more people's maps now. I filled in at the Theme Dance a few more times, and then about a year later, Perryn asked me if I could take over for two or three months because their DJ wanted to try something else.
"Are you sure? You've heard what I play. Much different from what you usually have."
"You'll do fine."

So, I did. We moved Music Night from Saturday to Sunday so I could do the dance. Two months turned into three, into four.  At a town meeting, I asked "Are you content with what I'm doing with the Theme Dance? I'll keep going until you find a more suitable DJ."
"We're contented. Don't worry about it."

One can follow someone else's path for only so long before losing all interest. I made gradual, tentative forays away from the more typical rock music for the Theme Dance, mainly because I don't have much rock and I don't like repeating. I'd do my best to find music that fit the theme, and beyond that make the set harmonious. It, basically, turned into Music Night with dancing and they wanted me to continue.

That went on for a year or so. Talk at Music Night again turned to the Fantasy Faire.
"You really should apply, Kt. They need you there."
"Yes!"
"OK. I'll do it the next time I'm on."

The next time I logged on there was encouragement from one person, and a link to the application page from another. Well, I can take a hint; I stood up and applied for the 2016 Faire.

I'd never been to the Faire. The only big event I knew was Burn2, for which some friends built things.  After a while I got a notice saying I'd been accepted for a slot, along with the stream information. I started thinking about what to play.

The Faire opened and I went to take a look. Astonishing. And a Quest. I couldn't resist that. Along the way I ended up on the Fairechylde where most of the DJ activity happens.
"Zander, is there a time I can connect to the stream to make sure I have things set properly?"
"Sure. How about in 15 minutes? We don't have anyone at that time. Play until 7, if you want."
"Umm... OK." I'd been expecting a minute at some early hour. "No problem." Connecting went without trouble. I felt out of place but the show went on smoothly.

My formal set took place at the Serenity region, somehow, pretty much by hint and happy coincidence. It simply moved from idea to event without any hassle.

After Fantasy Faire ended, I heard about the Unmasking a Cure Medieval Faire. They had put out a call for DJs, so I signed up. After all, I was experienced now! I met more Relay people there, and heard about the upcoming Relay Weekend. As I walked around the Relay track, impressions gradually soaked in.

In all of the exhibits I saw about cancer, there was a direct, yet non-cynical, depiction of cancer and its effects. I'd worked long enough among cynics to become very tired of people who specialize in finding "clever" ways to cut things down. Here along the Relay track, people had worked together to build.

More that two roads diverge. We walk our own paths.. but we don't have to be alone. I relay because there's good company on the walk.


A note on the image: Alisaundra called for Mers to pose in Fantasy Faire's Opal Flight region for her Emblem Project. She posed us all and I couldn't resist getting a picture for myself. Here's a link to her Flickr page:
Photos of Alisaundra's Emblem Project: Mer

By Ktahdn Vesuvino
Edited and rewritten April 30


Friday, November 14, 2014

 

Toward Freedom XXXIV

Mistake

God, who made the universe and all of its life, looks at people and sees... what? For him, all of time and space are spread out under his gaze and feel.
    One day I was working on a sand sculpture. It was a busy day on the beach, and the place I'd chosen to build was right in the middle of the traffic. The sun was racing to the western sky and I had a sculpture to finish.
    "Are you going to leave that rough place inside there?" a man passing by asked.
    I looked at the place he indicated. "Yes."
    "You should clean that up."
    There was no time for a detailed answer. "It provides contrast. It stays that way." I went back to work.
    "I would have to smooth it out," the man said as he turned and walked away.
    "That's why I'm doing the sculpture, and you're walking," I thought.
    I do understand what he saw. My own training was in the same direction: one flaw in the middle of the almost-perfect shouts its presence. Much has been written about the intentional imperfection left in some craftsmanship. Concentrate on the mistakes, ignore what's right about something.
    Define "perfection," please. While you're thinking about that, I'll tell you about sand sculpture, at least as I practice it.
    The day begins with light, the most basic of requirements. I have to see what I'm doing.
    After light, there are sand and tide. High tide covers the good sand, so I start when the tide is dropping, and this has to happen early enough in the day that there's enough light to finish the sculpture. After I get my equipment to the building site, i spend a couple of hours building a pile of wet sand. The rest of the day goes into designing, carving, polishing, clean-up and base smoothing. When all of that is done I sign it.
    Like light, energy is a limited resource. A sculpture involves all of me: thinking, feeling, moving, and some very heavy lifting. Time and energy spent on one part of the sculpture can't be spent on another part.
    Design is essential. If the shape isn't beautiful, I'm not satisfied. The carving has to bring the design out. Polish removes ambiguities, unless the ambiguity is desired. The clues are subtle and surprising, and sometimes my hand is stayed to leave a happy accident.
    Ideally, sunlight, tide and energy all run out at about the same time, leaving just enough for me to get some photographs. The day's last act is to get home, something like 10 hours after I started.
    In the day's torrent of decisions there is much opportunity for mistakes. A slip of the carving tool, momentary distraction of a pelican flying by, a decision based on one idea that promptly proves to have been suboptimal for the design. In sand there is no taking it back; the mistake becomes part of the design unless it's the occasional fatal one that puts the whole sculpture on the ground.
    What is a "mistake?" Some are clear, written in lumps of sand scattered across the beach. Others are questionable; no sculpture comes out of the design cloud with more than a passing resemblance to the mental image. I can't model all of the details.
    So, the sculpture emerges from that design fog as a process along a winding path with many forks. Decide. Decide now, because the sun isn't waiting.
    Have you figured out what perfection is? Yes? Well, let me make it more complicated. Today's skills enable today's learning, but today's learning enables tomorrow's new skills. Today's sculpture might be perfect, but if I repeated it precisely would it still be perfect? Should I suppress the new learning in order to retain perfection?
    God never changes. "Be perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect." Fortunately, in Jesus I am perfect. He looks at me and sees not the flaws that everyone else points to, but his Son's perfection wrapped around my shattered soul.
    So, yes, I left the places inside the sculpture rough. Roughness does provide some contrast with the sculpture's smooth exterior. Roughness is also less obvious when it's shaded by the smooth panels outside. This is both a design decision and necessity; if I were to polish every surface equally I'd be here for three days.
    The key is in vision. Finding imperfection is easy. Everything has flaws. If you don't find flaws, change the standards so that flaws become apparent. This happens to all of us. I'd really like to break this habit and see as Jesus sees.
   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

 

Toward Freedom XXXIII

Loving Tyranny

"If you love me, do the things that I command you."
    "If you love me, you'll  buy a diamond ring for me."
    The statements are equivalent. Choose to love, choose to give up freedom. I'd like to think it doesn't have to be this way, but I'm swimming against a very strong current. I got tired a while back and quit trying.
    Of course, I couldn't discuss this with God. He is, after all, the one talking about love and commandments. There comes a time, however, when not asking the question hurts less than the damage done by imitating a rock inside a desolate garden. Waiting for the storm to pass is a survival strategy only when there's enough energy left at the end to stop being a rock. When rock becomes the default, well, years go by in there.
    For what? Why is survival so important? Don't go there, as a cliff is just beyond.
    I'm fascinated by God's techniques. It's best to be an invisible rock, because something about a rock invites the hammer. "Break you out of there. It'll be good for you." Look at the history of revolutions in our world and you'll see just how effective that tactic is. Force is met with more force until something breaks, and as soon as the broken one heals enough that side takes a hammer to the others. God's way doesn't involve a hammer; his is more the way of flowing water, sunlight and invitation. Maybe the invitation will be ignored. He doesn't give up. All it might take is a little more time.
    I could have saved a lot of time by asking God first. That means I'd have had to listen, and with ears tuned to the sound of a coming hammer I can't hear love. God doesn't quit. My resistance makes no change in his approach. He continues his movement and planning as if the outcome is certain. "There is no shadow of turning with you." But... I wasn't able to hear back then.
    Life continues. Cells divide and make energy. Blood flows, breath blows, fingernails grow, time passes. What happens in these times when it seems nothing is happening? Something changes. Truth becomes more visible, or audible, or sensible, maybe all three and more.
    I was in a half-dream, half-awake state and got to half-thinking about Jesus. "We love because he first loved us." And yet, he is Himself. No mistaking him for anyone else. Look at his encounters with people and there is no sign of him being anyone else and quite comfortable in being that. Enjoying, even.
    "If you love me, do the things that I command you." There is no lack of people willing to tell me what God commands me to do. What does God, Himself, say to me? "Don't quit. Please don't quit." More recently, "Please don't go back into that abyss." It's a short list, and these are things that I can do. With difficulty, at times, but still possible.
    Note how these are phrased: it's "don't do something." Rescue starts with stopping the destructive act: talked down from the bridge, letting go of the gun, stop walking toward the train. God knows that I react violently to any attempt at making things better, which is why what might be a garden looks more like a desert. Determined to be myself, I have a definition to maintain. Self-concept is everything. Lose that, I lose myself. I am This Way. Anything else is Not Me. Coming from a lifetime of being under assault it's not a surprising attitude.
    God's invitation continues, however, unchanged from the very first day. "I have come to set the captives free," and he is willing to teach them everything starting from first principles. No matter how long it takes. Eventually, even I with my determined self-determination, begin to see beyond my own assumptions and into what God offers.
    Tyranny is easy. Victim or victimizer, the roles are defined. What is my role with this God who offers much and works a very long plan to lead things to his conclusion? Do I just bob along in the river, or am I allowed to swim? Row? Water-ski? Skip? Tyranny is the habit I face. Its grip is surprisingly durable.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

 

Toward Freedom XXXII

Nothing, Nowhere, Nobody

Big locks on a strong door might as well be painted in day-glo orange, with an accompanying sign that reads "Valuable Stuff Inside." Save time and hand out engraved invitations to every thief, vandal and raider in the neighborhood. Big fancy tombs in Egypt were plundered before the concrete had set. The excavated materials landed on top of other tombs, hiding them so they could be dug up thousands of years later.
    Sparrows know better. There is nothing obvious about a sparrow. If you aren't strong enough to win the fight, then blend in. You can also use subterfuge: paint phony locks on a door, light it up, sprinkle some tidbits around inside. "Nothing unusual here," people will say, and then they'll leave.
    The real action is around the back. Nobody ever goes here. The grass grows thick, leaves gather in the corners, the windows are cobwebbed and dusty and the doors are all weathered wood with rust making it obvious that they haven't been opened. Just another forgotten alley. Putting guards here would be futile advertising. Nothing to see. Move along.
    Not everyone is a walker of the main routes. Some notice narrow branching paths. Like cats, they wander behind, under, inside, on top of, following their noses or whims. Some believe that anything not expressly allowed is forbidden. A curious nose might pursue a scent, nudge a door, and find that not only is there no guard but there's not even a latch. Others take the approach that if it's not locked, it's open to all.
    What do we do now? The nose is inside the door. Using force to push it out just increases the curiosity factor: what's in there that's being so obviously defended? The better answer is to cede the territory, absorb the blow, giving no obvious signs of alarm or distress. The curious nose finds only common plants, abandoned objects of no value, and turns around.
    Attritional filtering accounts for only so many. Truly persistent explorers push on against the defenses in depth, be these the Amazon jungle, Antarctic glaciers, or artful misdirection scattered about a garden. What remains attractive in such a place? I don't know, but it shouts "Failure!" at the top of a voice that is heard only by the sensitive. Maybe that voice acts as an attractant for some.
    The coco de mer, fallen from the tree into a hostile ocean, simply drifts, defenseless, tough and small enough to ignore the battering whims of the waves. It's easy to ignore. Eventually the storm subsides, the invader loses interest, and the hard kernel floats away.
    Once in a while there's an extra-persistent one, tapping on the hard nut. "Hello? Is there anyone home?"
    "Nope. Nobody here."
    Eventually... bloom, or die. There is no such thing as stasis. As big as the Indian Ocean is, the coco de mer is likely to wash up on a shore someplace. Bloom, or rot. Is there a way to reach inside, without using a rock? Without shattering the nut, which is the usual response to obvious defenses?
    Grow, or die. Those seem to be the choices. Growth is death, in a way; to a believer in stasis, change brings up all those cliches about caterpillars turning into butterflies. Does the caterpillar know what's going to happen as it makes a chrysalis? From the outside it appears to be following a program but no one can get inside its mind. Does it hurt? Does it experience the repeated disappointment of previous attempts to change that simply result in more battering between wave and stone? The caterpillar does it once for all. Humans die many times. The record of failure is long.
    Yet the heart keeps beating. Simple animal life. Metabolism, movement, mentation as the sun goes around. Stuck inside the nut is... what? A tree? A human? A butterfly?
    Who enters? Who can enter, when any attempt is seen as an attack? But... here's this little tendril, come through a tiny crack. The tendril brings life. It also brings change! Close the crack! It can't be closed; to do so is to die... again. Inevitable? The cost of closure is simply too high. I can't do it any more.
    Fold up. Let it happen to someone else. I'm not really here. Nobody home but a simulacrum made of habits and mirrors grown up around with weeds and dust. Cede ever more territory to the God of the Universe, but he will never touch me! Wait... he already has. Back and forth.
    The issue is forced, without force. Purely choice: stay with God, or turn my back on him. I know how that goes. With God in here, is there any room left for me? Do I have any right to my own soul? If I do, how do I express that? I never had that right; anything I discovered and enjoyed was likely to be taken away, so I learned to take it away from myself before someone else did it. When God entered I ceded everything to him, as per instructions. Given this lifeline I didn't ask questions.
    Of whom would I ask? I know all the church answers. Ask God? That's asking for trouble, like asking the man with a rock if he likes coconut. God, however, seems to have no self-interest. At least, he doesn't put his interests before those of his people.
    What of other seeming invaders? If they make it through three levels of defenses and are still interested, what can I do? I have no idea what of myself is inside the automation and shields. The only way to learn is to try being there, letting go of the programs and seeing what happens.

Friday, June 27, 2014

 

Toward Freedom XXXI

Pride

I initially turned to Jesus as an experiment. The only way to find truth is to seek it out and try things. The experiment was going pretty well, I think now, until I, though lack of knowledge and confidence, derailed it. Believing that I was actually talking to God, back then in 1971 and '72, became too hard to hold onto.
    What keeps anyone going in life? What kept me going was an idea both hazy and strong. There was more to the world I lived in than what anyone around me admitted to. Even when they went to church and dragged me along with them, the background assumption seemed to be that this was a social good more than something done through personal conviction. I steered clear, for many years, of complete reliance on rationality and answers built up like brick walls.
    Still, there are things I don't know, and I still have curiosity. This world uses rationality to build its things, beliefs, ideas, principles, and to figure out how things work. I took the concept in with the air I breathed, and sometimes it was useful; if you want to learn the principles of aerodynamics, for example, you can read books of knowledge. If you want to to build a small flying glider you have to use the principles. If you're in pursuit of beauty, as I was, the book principles are just the start. Can I make it work this way? Or this way? I could experiment.
    How does one experiment with God? As I came into more contact with churches after I became a Christian, my belief in having a conversation with God became harder to hold onto. Experience? Teaching?
    One of the lessons I learned so strongly that it became part of how I work is that I should blend in. This was the Achilles heel in my relationship with God. Blending in as a Christian means going by the Book as interpreted by a succession of preachers and teachers. They were always going on about self-sacrifice, preaching, proselytizing, reaching out. One showed one's love for God by doing these things. Not knowing any better, but feeling somewhat conflicted, I went along with it, not realizing at the time how well this connected with how I'd been raised.
    If I'd have been able to feel it, I would have known that God was very sad. He cares about people, and is hurt when they turn away, but there is little he can do besides wait and then take advantage of cracks in that rational wall when they develop. Cracks must; rationality is much too stiff to accommodate the differential motions and strains of life. No, however. I knew better. Build it strong, build it solid, to hold up under the weight of increasing years.
    God waited. When, in 2003, I turned back in his direction it was because I'd reached the end of my road. Rationality provided no motivation to keep living. God arranged a remarkable series of events that pushed me just hard enough to ask for help without going so far to pieces that I gave up entirely. I asked for his help.
    I didn't care very much what happened; my life was over, as I couldn't see anything beyond a month or so ahead, so how could it get worse? I was willing to try the absurd. At the time I didn't even hear the echoes of 1971.
    The good thing about knowing what doesn't work is that one doesn't need to try it again. I didn't even bother trying to make myself conform to the church's doctrines, and eventually this led to a parting of the ways. Throughout the ensuing 11 years I've been surprised by God's direction.
    For one thing, he hasn't shown any sign of wanting to wipe me out or break me by force. The walk is with my hand in  his, on a path that gets very strange at times, little by little building trust. After a while, new steps can be made, into even stranger places, trusting that the destination and result will be good.
    "He who loses his life for my sake will gain it," Jesus said. This verse is used to support self-sacrifice, abnegation, destructive humility and intentional suffering. Losing a life is easy. You can walk out of a window, you can sit down and wait for things to happen. What keeps people from giving up? There is, I think some kind of pride involved.
    God made us, as we are. We have pride in what we're doing, what we've done, who we are. We enjoy things. We feel pain, We get involved in things, and share our ideas, build things. From about year 1 the church has tried to control all of this, because the church grew out of human history that has very often been about control. Freedom is antithetical to control, so the men in charge do what they can to stamp it out and the church follows along. Anyone who wants to find real freedom has a lot of muck to wade through. Most of the muck equates to "If you put yourself into bondage with us, you'll find real freedom." Tell that to the ghosts of Jim Jone' followers.
    Religions prey upon those who have been taught that pride is a sin, without anyone ever talking about exactly what pride is. God also teaches that pride is a problem--look at the Pharisees--but he will also teach you what pride is, and what kinds of pride are a problem. Jesus certainly had no trouble respecting himself and his father enough to toss the moneylenders out of the temple.
    It's not an easy path, to walk toward truth. There are surprises around every corner.

Friday, May 16, 2014

 

Toward Freedom XXX

You don't need to go in there alone

It's a disorienting process, reading the history of the ancient world. Groups coalesce, become stronger, add more groups, become kingdoms. Changing conditions encourage movement into areas new to the arriving group but home for those already present; assimilation or displacement. Ideas move with the people.
    Is God really just an opinion carried about by empires, one more burden amidst the bundles attached to pack animals? I found myself somewhat adrift; why do I believe what I believe? Do I really believe it? I have always tried to sort facts from all the noise of life, but there's no scientific test of the existence of God, unless I conclude that my own unstably continued existence is proof of someone in this universe who cares more for my life than I do.
    In a discussion a few weeks back, some friends and I were talking about avatars in Second Life. I've tended to see my avatar there as just a place-holder, but more recently I've learned more about how to do things there and have made some adjustments to my avatar's appearance.
    Some people really go all out in customizing their appearance. In my real life I treat clothing as mainly a way to stay warm and protected from the sun. Beyond that, I just like color. None of this au curant beige or black, please. I do the same in Second Life, and have often marvelled at those who spend much time sculpting and dressing their avatars.
    My thinking spread out from that. In essence, I've lived as an avatar in real life, I thought, avoiding many of the interactive aspects of human life. I just wanted to be left alone. Encounters usually ended badly for me; the main defense I learned was to avoid and, if avoidance failed, give up as little as I could and then repair the damage later.
    As we discussed avatars and relationships I saw a hint of an abyss at my feet. My avoidance of things led to not learning about those things. How to get along with people, especially women. How to get along with myself. I'd stereotyped a lot of this, and ran on automatic habits. Freedom in the future was always in the future. Now it was right in front of me. I have to go there?
    Aloneness is how I do things. It's a state of mind. If I can't do something myself, I don't do it, as asking for help was always fraught with danger. Help usually devolved into the other taking over, and who was I to fight?
    It's the same for my relationship with the God who has picked me up several times. I let him patch me, and then I forge on alone. "God helps those who help themselves," after all, and that idea clings.
    Last year I started to get an impression that God wanted to join me on the walk. He wanted to comfort me on the long nights, help guide me through the confusion, hold my hand when I was scared. Being me, I said "That's nice" and then ran. Help is NEVER on my side; it's more the way large empires have wanted to "help" their smaller neighbors throughout history.
    Man encounters God, and man ceases to exist. Or... man encounters God, and God does something in that man's life. The man stays a man, becoming more able to make decisions that come from who he is rather than from habit. God allows mistakes but shines some light on the process, and the man slowly learns that here is help that's neither a demand nor an attempt at domination.
    It's hard to believe. Hence, the shakiness when presented with the waves of gods that come and go in world history. What differentiates one from another? For me, presence. I don't know who all those other gods were beyond their names and the facilities built for them. So far as I know any dying done in their name was done for the purported sake of the god's glory: people striving to be good enough. None of them made any attempt to approach people on their own terms. Only Jesus has shown real interest in people as they are. Only Jesus came to our world to walk with us.
    Where does belief come from? Is it just a chemical imbalance, changeable with the right injection? It can be shaken, and it can be destroyed, but before anything is done there is a belief that it can be done. I'm glad God has enough belief for the two of us.
   

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