Talking with Birds

(and other things that shouldn't talk back)

D&D INT: 1 - It’s a smarter stat than you think.

So I’m walking down a pathway, and I’m listening to everything. It’s why I have this blog, really. I listen to everything, and I talk to things I find worthwhile. I got out of a class earlier where my professor said I was wrong for thinking the author of the text was sexist for claiming women should have no rights to property, and I was walking back from a class that got canceled and no one had bothered to tell me. I overhear the following statements (among many others, and this isn’t a long walk I was taking either).

"Marijuana was invented in California…"
"Fuck college writing. I’m not going to need writing, I’m going into International Studies."
"I ain’t gonna smoke somewhere else just because of a sign! So what if I’m here?" (Here being two feet in front of the main doors to the common and eating building on campus and the easiest way for handicapped access too.)
"Dude, pot is perfectly safe. No one ever got hurt ‘cuz of pot."

You might find arguments for why someone might think one or all of those things, but this is college. College is supposed to be an institution of higher learning for the capable and educated. The fact that the obvious falsity, ignorance of one’s own field of study, complete disregard for the law, and lack of bodily awareness happens isn’t surprising; what is surprising is that I found all of those on a five minute walk on a college campus.

To top it all off, a package I know to have been delivered to the on-campus postal service yesterday morning doesn’t exist. Or at least, I was told it doesn’t exist. “Just because the tracking information says we signed and received the package you were expecting doesn’t mean it actually is here” they said.
"So where is it then if you had a physical object in your hands and drew a very specific scribble of authority on a paper for it?"
"I dunno."

People think I’m crazy for empathizing with TV shows, for role-playing, for talking to objects and animals and plants, and for desperately searching for fandoms that encircle thoughtful and meaningful shows. People think I’m crazy for being disappointed in many of the fandoms I find. And, to be honest, I don’t think most fandoms even realize they’re following something with moral lessons, personal quandaries, and philosophical inquiries. But for the love of all that is good, why am I the crazy one when I’m the one that actually thinks about things and who makes decisions other than just for personal benefit?

Insanity is underrated, really. In my day to day life, I find situations more pleasing than sitting in a dark, cool room nestled underneath my sheets talking with Catrin, my computer, as we explore the archived world online quite hard to find. I smile when I talk with the chipmunks and squirrels, and I’m one of the few they’ll not run from even when I’m a foot or two away. I talk to my umbrella, shaped like a samurai sword and slung in a vinyl sheath across my back. I even talk with my hands, question the words they write or type, wonder if the things I search for are worth it or right, and ponder if they’re satanically idle when things are slow. It’s pleasing knowing that these things that shouldn’t talk back actually do, and that I’m one of the few that takes the time to learn from what they have to say.

There are individuals in the world with potential, those who truly seem capable and eager to learn, to explore, and to empathize. There are many who I’d like to call my friends and look forward to trying and build up the confidence to assign such a wonderful label without fearing the Brutian knife in my flesh. There are a few who I might even be able to love, love defined not by sexual relations but by the closeness and respect built between two people. (I’ll have to write a post on my thoughts on love, but for now I’ll settle by saying that I could love a great many people, but I couldn’t bring myself to sleep with most of them.) However, every day that I walk surrounded by the people in the first part of this post and not the ones I mention in this paragraph is another day to the pile of days I’d rather not have lived. So I’ll continue to talk to everything…at least until I know I can talk to people.

-Maven of Ravens

A few announcements to my followers:

1. I now have five followers! Considering my slow and irregular flow of content (don’t give me any lip, Catrin berates me enough for that), I’m quite glad to have you all! Hopefully, you enjoy what I’ve posted so far and will enjoy what I have to post in the future.

2. For those not so interested in my current content but in my interests in ponies, time traveling doctors, and randomness, please consult my secondary blog http://sillywillytimeywimey.tumblr.com/. Most of my chatty, reblogging, and similar material will go on that tumblr.

3. And now, a conversation between me and my credit card.

Credit Card: OH MY GOD THE LIGHT OF DAY!
Me: Shush you. I just need you for this convention preregistration.
Credit Card: SWEET BABY JESUS I’M BEING USED!
Me: Stop it or I’ll “accidentally” cut you in half.
Credit Card: Well I’m sorry. It’s just that when I learned I was going to be used by a barely twenty boy, it was like a dream come true. Only thing better would be a middle age wife or a early teen girl that whined at her parents before they gave in like pussies.
Me: You are a vile creature.
Credit Card: But noooo…you barely use me for anything! Hell, I get excited when your wallet even MOVES!
Me: And that’s a bad thing? I don’t have a lot of material desires. The things I do like require like-minded individuals usually, so my leisure expenses usually come down to travel, apparel, and…well, that’s pretty much it.
Credit Card: …you are an American nightmare, you are. What about spurring on the economy?
Me: This isn’t really even my money. I’m a student who is so dependent on his leisure time that even a part-time job seems like hell on a stick.
Credit Card: Are you sure a monk wouldn’t use me more?
Me: Okay, how’s this for a deal? You find me a reason to buy stuff, I’ll start buying stuff.
Credit Card: …um…err…oh god it’s back in the dark wallet of despair for me, isn’t it?
Me: Hah, you just realized you’d never be able to truly coax me into overspending?
Credit Card: SOMEONE, FOR THE LOVE OF CAPITALISM, INVENT A COMBINED PONY, CANDY, GAME, AND NERDY APPAREL STORE FOR THIS FORSAKEN SOUL!

I felt guilty, so here's a conversation between a badger and me.

  • Me: Okay, here's something I don't get. People love to make you larger.
  • Badger: What?
  • Me: Whenever a story has animals anthropomorphized in any way, they have a tendency to make you guys just as large as the rest of them. You're larger than things your own size.
  • Badger: Huh. Go figure.
  • Me: Gruff, wise, buff, protective, mischievous...I don't think you're associated with a single bad trait. How do you get off so well?
  • Badger: Well, hm. I suppose it's a four step process really.
  • Me: Do tell!
  • Badger: Well, first, have some kids. Hell, have some anyway. Good experience, worth the trouble and the pain and the heartache and the sleepless nights.
  • Me: I'm not quite there yet, but do go on.
  • Badger: Second, happen upon a large carnivore that thinks you're an easy dinner.
  • Me: Uhh...
  • Badger: Thirdly, beat the living crap out of the fucker. And four, profit.
  • Me: ...
  • Badger: Look, I dig holes and breed and occasionally make some medieval people trip over themselves just to not have me scratch the ground in front of them. If I get a good rap for doing what any decent parent would do, I'm not going to disagree.
  • Me: ...please don't hurt me.
  • Badger: You looking at my kids?
  • Me: Yes.
  • Badger: I may have to hurt you.
  • Me: Not looking anymore.
  • Badger: And that's why I'm the larger-than-life type, son.

Pillow Talk

  • Me: ...
  • Pillow: Sleeeeeeep.
  • Me: ...
  • Pillow: Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
  • Me: ...
  • Pillow: Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
  • Me: ...*starts rewatching Code Geass*
  • Pillow: Oh for the love of Mr. Sandman, SLEEP YOU DORK.
  • Me: Can't.
  • Pillow: Like hell you can't. It's been almost 24 hours since you last slept.
  • Me: Can't.
  • Pillow: Shut down Catrin...
  • Catrin: Hey! I like playing videos, thank you very much!
  • Pillow: ...and go the fuck to sleep, if I can legally paraphrase Mansbach.
  • Me: You believe in the mind-body connection?
  • Pillow: Sure. You can go to sleep if you just stop fighting it.
  • Me: What about if you're depressed, it's a gloomy day, and you've not a single clue what to do next?
  • Pillow: I know what you should do next: SLEEP.
  • Me: There are times when you just can't. Staring at the ceiling, playing calming music...it's all visceral. And somehow, you keep going. Adrenaline pumps through your veins because you have this hope that perhaps, if you stay awake a minute longer, something miraculous will happen. A new friend. A new opportunity. A new philosophy. Anything to break the cycles you perceive before you. It's a hope, but a painful, desperate hope. Maybe the philosophy of a madman might help. Maybe it's as simple as a thought you get looking at an image.
  • Catrin: Perv.
  • Me: Shush you. Point is, there's this addiction to hope. Too much of anything is a bad thing; well, that applies to hope too. And until you finally give up hope at some obscure hour or just because you can't stand the options left you'll be left awake. The next day, perhaps physical exhaustion will catch up and get you to sleep at a decent hour. Or maybe things will get better. Maybe something is one day closer. But inevitably, it's all about hope and fulfilling that quota for happiness. Either you miss the quota and dry up your buffer supply, or you make it and you're satisfied. And that's why sleep isn't as easy as laying your head down. Sleep is the period at the end of a sentence. You keep writing because, just maybe, the sentence will turn out good. But you've got to end it somewhere. A run-on just makes things worse.
  • Pillow: ...well shit, man. That's pretty bleak.
  • Me: I know, right?
  • Pillow: Well, look, sorry about all this. Let me make it up to you.
  • Me: How's that?
  • Pillow: I'm going to lay here, all nice and fluffy, and let you GO TO SLEEP ON ME.
  • Catrin: Ignore him. Here, have another episode of Code Geass.
  • Me: Thanks Catrin.
  • Pillow: YOU CAN'T ESCAPE ME. I WILL ALWAYS BE ON YOUR MIND! LITERALLY!

The Social Experiment of Self: “Total Institutions” and Oppressive Trends

Make way for Mead, Goffman, and Giddens, the pimps of self identity.

Although, I suppose Shakespeare might own the throne. He did call it first, in so many words: “All the world’s a stage, and all men and women are merely players.”

__________________________________

Mirror: Okay, stop making faces at me.
Me: I’m trying to see how others see me.
Mirror: You’re not going to succeed.
Me: What makes you say that?
Mirror: You’re already biased. You can perform as many roles and smiles and faces as you want, but you’re never going to get them to see the true you…or fully believe the act you create.
Me: Then perhaps, Mr. Looking Glass, you should tell me: live the full lie or live the full truth?
Mirror: Neither. Both are impossible to live. And you’d hate yourself both ways.
Me: Oh? And what about you?
Mirror: I reflect what people want to see and what they don’t want to see. But ultimately, it’s up to them to decide who I am in their definition.
Me: Then why does your “I” matter?
Mirror: To surprise them, of course. Even the most insightful being in the world will miss some detail about anyone they judge.
Me: So why make any decision whatsoever?
Mirror: Because I want people to see the truth, but I don’t want them to stereotype me right off the bat.
Me: So you put on your best smile or most serious “playing it cool” face, and just keep reflecting, right?
Mirror: That’s precisely corre-…
Me: …yes?
Mirror: …keep making your damn faces.
Me: Thank you.

__________________________________

There is something to be said about finding your own identity in a blend of techniques. Whether the childish yet exquisitely elegant form of role-playing and acting, the performance of many different masks within your living theater, or the reflexive introspection on how others interpret your dialogue and blocking, it is a fascinating journey that is defined by the pain and pleasure given as a result. This is the life of a performer, a bard, a journeyman, and a student; this is the true blessing and curse of sentience.

However, I am one who has grown to hate the very process. At least, I hate it when I’m alone. At the end of each day, I can hold each mask I’ve worn up and scrutinize them; I check them for flaws, for features, and ask myself why I wore this mask. But in the end, I know I can’t change these masks too much or risk destroying any chance I have at maintaining my social connections. Even to people who I am most “true” to, there is some element of a mask I wear because my “reflexive learning” has taught me there is a need. And that realization is what makes me hate the process when I lay here, tucked in my sheets with no one around.

Therefore, I propose that the theory of a “total institution” - a controlling environment which degrades the individual into a strict structure of life in what can and can’t be done - is entirely worthless. The world itself, despite all its progress and supposed freedom, even online in cyber communities and editable realities, is a “total institution”. There are rules, laws, thoughts, words, gestures, sights, smells, tastes, feelings, emotions, actions, and whatever else which any one person cannot experience or express without negative repercussions. In the end, there is still a game we all must play, and without conformity you lose any chance at living the social life: living the healthy emotional life giving to and sharing with and taking from others.

Perhaps, you might argue, this is not something to hate but something to understand. To those proposing that point, I hold the unfortunate yet powerful belief that one should never have to suffer for their identity or be forced to hide away their true self. This is a belief I do not look to shed any time soon, and I encourage others to accept it. True, it is painful given the strictures, but the rush you get when you are accepted for who you are despite not conforming fully to the expected role or mask…that is a high more powerful than any drug, a sensation more warming than sex, and a moment more timeless than all the riches in the world. Even if it’s just one element of your true self, it’s worth every moment.

But if you find yourself with an identity contrary to most groups…if you find the groups which you most identify with to be disturbingly distant or exclusive…if you find your daily surroundings to be people who can’t appreciate the philosophies you embrace…then when you are alone, you find yourself scowling at the masks you’ve been forced to wear. The masks scowl back. You’re living surrounded by your many different faces, all of them in an uncomfortable silence, glaring with disdain at each other. It can be hell, but you have to keep wearing them until the day you find an opportunity to chip away at the sides or break one entirely.

Here’s what I have to say, though: as disappointing as the realization is, what is more disappointing is people embracing the masks and allowing them to fuse irrevocably with their faces, glued in a permanent mockery of what might’ve been revealed underneath. So no matter what, you have to play the game…after all, you can only break the game when you’re already on the inside. Be yourself whenever you feel you can take the risk. And by the gods, make sure you make an attempt to embrace other people’s true selves too. If you want to truly be happy with someone, honesty is always the key…and that includes everything. I, the practically date-less nerd, have successfully given relationship advice on that one rule alone. People thank me for it still.

It’s a masquerade, living within this “total institution” of life, this constantly critiqued theater. You’ll play up there, eying the hecklers in the left booth, meeting gazes with the critics. But if you see someone in the audience…a girlfriend or boyfriend, a trusted companion, a compatriot, a son or daughter…don’t be afraid to toss aside the mask, break character, let them see your real smile when the time is right. And when you’re in the audience, applaud the brave and daring decision. It is applaudable, after all. Don’t ever think it isn’t.

- Maven of Ravens

With Regards to the God of Destiny

Icosahedron! Master Fate!
We pray, do not cast your snake eye
upon those whose wishes you sate.
Icosahedron, master fate!
By chance, it’s luck that is your mate.
Let’s pray to our true owner, die
icosahedron, master; fate,
we pray do not cast your snake eye.

Anticipation: Carly Simon Got It Right

Fire Alarm: HEY. HEY, LISTEN. HEY.
Me: I will cut you.
Fire Alarm: HEY, LISTEN. HEY. HEY. SECOND FIRE ALARM IN TWO DAYS. GET UP GET UP GET UP.
Me: I will feed you to some horrible monster, you Navi wanna-be.
Fire Alarm: YOU SO SILLY, GET U-oh. You were in the shower?
Me: YES.
Fire Alarm: EVEN BETTER! GET UP GET UP GET UP!
Me: YOU WILL BE THE FIRST TO DIE.

Now, this may not be an uncommon conversation for a college student, and to be frank, I’m pretty understanding of it given the few years I’ve had to get used to it. But it’s never not stressful. In fact, it’s usually infuriating, tear-out-your-hair-and-why-not-your-teeth-while-you’re-at-it annoying. Especially when the college isn’t allowing you to eat because of miscommunication on their part. But I’m going to be honest: I am quite happy even though my hair is clumped and banded and tangled and I smell like shampoo. In fact, I’d put this on the same level as when I was standing amongst the Grand Tetons this summer.

If you know me (or are of any similar mindset), you’ll probably ask “Maven, why the hell are you putting wet hair and forced evacuation within the confines of a sculptured college campus and enforced starvation on the same level as the serenity you feel amongst one of the most beautiful and impressionable scenes in nature?” Well, the title may give it away: anticipation. It’s the long term expectation that something amazing might be in your future; the sheer amount of opportunities and people has to culminate in a chance encounter that can turn a person’s mood around.

Any class, any day, any chance encounter on a sidewalk could be an event which will change your mindset. Perhaps it could simply be a leaf which says “Hello” as it drifts from a branch onto your shoulder. It could simply be a new thing you’re trying to edit yourself, your identity, or your perspective. But whatever it is, from life changing career idea to a friendly smile, it is something to live for. Not to knock the sense of stability and safety that a home provides, or the warmth of a familiar face, but humanity is all about adventuring into the unknown, I think. It’s something forgotten by most people, but really that’s what I believe to be a core motivation for all of us.

I suppose the difficulty is in making yourself available for the unexpected; it’s a hard thing to purposefully vary your surroundings, your perspective, your appearance, and/or your schedule. So like Carly SImon said, anticipation may “make you late, keep you waiting”, but when you’re feeling that twist of the unknown in your stomach and you know that something amazing is out there, you can be sure that “these are the good old days.”

Ravens

  • Me: You guys get a bad rap, you know. Symbols of depression, thieves, death, ill fate, and you're even credited for the fall of an empire.
  • Raven: Yeah, and we're also fed by god himself according to Christians.
  • Me: Okay, well, you got that going for you. Except I don't find that particularly comforting given your chosen diet.
  • Raven: What, fruit?
  • Me: Don't get snippy with me.
  • Raven: Okay, okay. But at least we know what we are.
  • Me: What, and I don't?
  • Raven: When you say "raven", your mind makes a picture of me. You think of my personality, my desires, my reactions, my goals...and you're probably going to be 90% accurate at least. If I say "human", I don't get a picture of you. If I say "nerd", I get something slightly closer, but it's not you. When I say your name, I'm more likely to get a picture of a tall black guy or a man who looks like he was bleached.
  • Me: I'm sort of bleached...
  • Raven: You're a three or four on the Fitzpatrick scale, be honest.
  • Me: Fine. But doesn't that mean I'm more complex, or that I've got more to look forward to, or that I have deeper thoughts?
  • Raven: When's the last time you wanted complexity or deep concerns? As for me, I'm pretty sure looking forward to every single day is a lot better than moping around and hoping for a time something fulfilling happens.
  • Me: ...you're a jerk.
  • Raven: Caw, motherfucker.

Blank Sheets

I don’t like blank sheets. Sometimes, when filling out a form, I lightly scribble in sections the instructions tell me to ignore if they don’t apply just so that they’re not blank. In high school, teachers gauged how empty or meaningless I found an assignment by how much surface area I’d covered my homework in with doodles. Emptiness is uncomfortable to me. Imagine a void where words or thoughts cannot be attached and, within it, you simply exist. There is nothing more, and there is nothing less. Simply existence. You’d call it hell too, wouldn’t you?

Blank walls, blank shirts, blank screens, blank surfaces, blank faces, blank people, blank actions, blank motives…anything empty or unfilled or not utilized makes me want to scream. However, here I am sitting on a bed purposely unmade to provide variety in its color and texture and typing on Catrin who I’ve decorated with stickers and the markings of a well-used computer…and of all the fanciful music players and videos and manuals and websites littering her screen, the one I have most prominently displayed is a blank, untouched text document. A completely white .txt file.

Catrin’s an understanding computer. She multitasks like the best of them. She’s talked me out of running too much, but that’s never really been a factor that often. No, the reason why I’ve got a blank text file sitting smack-dab front-and-center is because I’m not sure if I want to write anything in it. I don’t know if creating a character for roleplaying games or working on a new poem or sketching out a short story is even worth it. So instead of expending effort for something I might never bring out again, I sit here with indecision, staring at a symbol of my hatred.

Roleplaying is a team sport. Whether it’s a game like Dungeons & Dragons where you must work together to achieve your goals and rise above the challenges presented, or a forum where you’re there simply to bounce personalities off each other and see what happens, it requires cooperation and friendly interaction on both sides. Of course, that usually requires people to listen not only to each other but also to listen to the characters which entrust themselves to the players to give them life. Predictably, more and more players choose instead to go for “cool”, which usually involves belittling their teammates and grinding everyone else into the mud for no particular reason at all.

As for poetry and short stories, distinct biases and trends have arisen in most popular evaluations, leading to a overpopulation of excessively obscure poems for the sake of being obscure, a flood of short stories examining the same themes over and over again, and a torrent of books so formula-perfect that we might as well be cloning them in laboratories. Those popular exceptions to these trends usually are betrayed by their creators’ desire for more fame. Those who remain pure settle comfortably in a unique position.

Which led to a conversation between me and my TextEdit program. I asked it what it wanted to be, and all it said in reply was “Wish fulfillment”. But to be honest, I wish I could write and be heard…and the gift of listening is not something common. So I asked it “What’s worse, then…to be empty and confront your emptiness, or to be filled but know you’ll never be fulfilled?” For once, it remained silent.

It’s not something uncomfortable in the short-run, really. The comfort of thoughtlessness has been compared to the sensation of an orgasm before, and Nirvana has been depicted as an eternal state of such empty thought. Frankly, I find it appealing as well. Moments when I’ve had to think less are marked in my mind with distinct positive memories. Nowadays, I actively pursue situations in which I do not lapse into meta-thought or am occupied so my mind doesn’t wander or I am enjoying myself without having to think much at all. That blank mind is a reward in of itself.

I hate it because I know few others think as much as I do, and even with all of my planning and emotion and effort I cannot be heard or understood without someone else expending the same amount of effort. I hate it because I think that I should be comfortable with thoughts that occur to me because my environment should be a positive one, not a negative one. But I love it because of the distinct ecstasy of potential, the splendor of what might fill it. I love it because I don’t have to think about how it might be received or how it will never be accepted.

To exist isn’t hell. To exist realizing that what you write down or think may never be thoughtfully considered or know happiness? That’s hell. Existing in of itself is a pleasure and privilege. So I let the blank text sit on top of my screen and look at it, imagining all the things I might write down someday.

Catrin understands. “I’ll trash what you want trashed, and I’ll keep organized what you want saved. And hopefully, someday, I’ll send it to someone who will think on it just as much as you thought while writing it.”

And someday, whether in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, working together to better a world, or in the hands of a reader, working together to better this world, I hope she’ll get that chance.