Monday, June 24, 2013

Coming To My Senses

Obviously posting here has tapered off quite a bit, from every other day to once a week or less, but at the same time I have been writing regularly in my paper journal almost everyday. Mostly it's just notes from what I'm reading, interesting quotes, and stuff to look up later in greater depth, but lately, or at least ever since I started a new paper journal in May, I've been combining my reading notes with personal diary entries in the same place, and gradually refining my system of organization.

Anyway, I've decided that in light of the fact that I've been writing more frequently in my paper journal, and have had nothing to say here, I figured that I would occasionally post something from my handwritten journal, and that is what I thought I'd do here now. I wrote it last month while sitting out on the patio sometime after ten o'clock at night on the 23rd of May, and divided it into 6 parts here for improved clarity.

Transcribed Journal Entry Dated 23 May 2013

Part 1 

Lately I have been having a very hard time finding a book worth reading. I've checked out dozens of books over the last couple of weeks, and most went back without being read. I'd read a few pages, even as much as 50 pages into it, only to slam the book shut, dismissing it as a waste of my time.

A book I was reading earlier today, which I started yesterday, Coming To Our Senses, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, about mindfulness meditation. It was over 500 pages long, and I read the first 50 or 60 pages, something like that, and that is when I suppose I came to my senses that the author used way too many words to get their point across, that everything they said in 50 pages could have easily been said in 10. It felt like a lot of feel good airy fairy new age rainbow family save-the-world-with-kindness crap. I have a low tolerance for self-help guru bullshit. Even that Zen Habits guy is irritating to me, because it has that same tone, sort of like spirituality and simple living advice intended for an elementary school audience, where everyone has this goofy grin on their face, sitting in their magic circle, sharing hugs and feel good stories before nap time, like f*cking Sesame Street for adults.

I've become rather disgusted with the people I read online, almost as much as the people on TV, but not being able to find a good book to read, that I actually enjoy reading has left me in the slumps.

Part 2 

What shall I do with myself if I haven't anything to read? If I haven't anything to read, and I haven't anything to blog about, and it's too hot to go outside, what the hell am I going to do with myself? Should I just focus on making a lot of money, finding as much work as possible to pass the time, working 60 plus hours a week, 12 plus hour days, nothing but working, manual labor, stocking, cashiering, answering phones, typing, etc. etc. until my mind goes numb?

Have you ever had a mind numbing job? I feel somewhat resentful towards people that never had to do manual labor, that never had to work for minimum wage, who didn't get their first paying job until after College - straight from school to a high paid professional job, never having worked for shit wages around shit people. Shit people, what are they? Oh you know, the people who live to get wasted, to think as little as possible, and when not working all time is devoted to finding sources of pleasure at the expense of consciousness. The objective is mindlessness, filling up every second of your time with activities that distract you from reality.

I guess it's the same for people who play a lot of video games. The majority of video games are just as mindless of an activity as getting drunk. It can be fun, yes, but it doesn't really add any lasting value to your life, other than passing the time in an artificially induced state of consciousness resembling sleep.

Part 3 

I used to play video games. I had an old Atari 2600 way back in the early 80's, but that was really basic, the games weren't very realistic or absorbing. In the 5th grade, I befriended a computer nerd, well actually his older brother was the computer wiz who eventually went on to MIT, but he had all the latest computer gadgets, and games from the 80's like Bard's Tale, King's Quest, I forget all the titles, but eventually he ended up getting a Nintendo Entertainment Center, was the first person I knew to get one, and I often came over to his house to play it with him, games like Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, Metroid,  Ninja Gaiden, Mike Tyson's Knockout. Eventually I knew about five friends who had a NES, with different games, so I was able to play a lot of them without ever actually owning an NES of my own.

Finally when Christmas came around, probably around the age of 12 or 13, instead of getting an NES I asked for a Sega Master System, and then a year or two later I got the Sega Genesis. I chose Sega over Nintendo because at the time the graphics were better, but I was the only one I knew among my friends and cousins who had one, everyone else had the Nintendo, so I was sort of the odd one out. Problem was is that although Sega's graphics were better, Nintendo had better games, and more to choose from. But that didn't matter so much, because my parents weren't very wealthy, I hardly had any games, and rarely ever got new ones, maybe only about two or three a year, whereas my wealthier friends seemed to get a new game every month. So I was very selective about the games I asked for, carefully researching them, reading the video game reviews, strategically looking for games that offered the most amount of game-play for the money, and two of my favorite games I had were Phantasy Star 1 and Phantasy Star 2. They were role-playing games offering hundreds of hours of game play. I played it all the time, really got sucked into it. RPG's were my favorite genre, but Sega hardly released any new RPG's, so as time went by not having any new games to play I gradually stopped playing, and by the time I entered the 9th grade I didn't play video games at all, other than occasionally dropping a few quarters at the arcade while hanging out at the mall.

Part 4 

It wasn't until my mid 20's - I forget exactly how old I was, but maybe around 25, that I started playing video games again. I bought a Sega Dreamcast, and soon after that I got an Xbox, and got into playing a lot of video games for a couple of years, and also played a few games on my laptop, but by my 30th birthday I would say that other than playing poker and a few other simple browser based games like word games and cards I had pretty much stopped playing video games, at least nothing like before. When I used to play RPG's and First-Person-Shooters it was like entering another world, it really sucked you in. The last RPG I obsessively played, as in spending 12 hours or more playing it on my days off from work, was The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. But one day, sometime in my upper twenties, probably around the time that I discovered blogging, ironically enough,  I decided I had had enough of it, saw it as a totally nonconstructive activity. It felt like I was wasting my life playing video games.

So I stopped, sold all of my games and consoles, and have had no desire to play those kind of games since. I'm completely off it.

Part 5 

A lot of people, usually people who are themselves video game addicts and looking for anything to justify or defend their habit as being good, try to defend video games saying that they are stimulating to creativity, and that they also help with issues of depression or loneliness. But I myself, as an ex-video game addict, consider most of it - especially RPG's and First-Person-Shooters, the kind of games that really pull you in to the story, that are more realistic, that are like escaping into an alternate dream world - as a huge waste of time.

I decided, upon having this realization, seeing that I had spent thousands of hours playing games with absolutely nothing to show for it - that I did not become smarter, kinder, richer, stronger, or more prosperous, that I did not become a more knowledgeable person as a result of playing all these games - I realized that it was all for nothing. Even if it was fun at the time, it was a lot like dreaming, like chasing shadows, indulging in illusions as if they were facts, I figured I would be better off reading books. Even reading fiction would be more valuable than playing video games, because there is more to be learned from them, as far as improving verbal fluency, vocabulary, insights into human psychology, and basic facts about the world.

Part 6

Well anyway, I decided that from that point forward instead of playing video games I would read books. I've always read books, but when I was playing video games I spent more time doing that than reading. Now, I read maybe 30 or 50 books a year, and before I read just a few.

So I went from obsessively playing video games to obsessively reading books, but reading books felt like a more constructive use of time, not just about acquiring more information and better information, but improving my literacy, my vocabulary, and to some extent my communication skills. That the more I read, the more I'll learn, and the smarter I'll become. And I don't get that from playing video games.

I suppose there is probably nothing wrong with playing video games, per se, but there is only so much time in the day, and any time spent playing video games means there is less time available for doing other things that are potentially much more useful. It all comes down to what you want to do, of what you wish to accomplish, and how you wish to use your time. Personally I see video games as being pretty much equal to watching television. It's okay in moderation, but spending several hundred hours doing it is probably not going to help you build a better life for yourself. You'd be better of reading a book, exercising, or going for a walk.