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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Counting Blessings

God has granted me many gifts.

I have two parents who take care of me. At my age, they'd be perfectly within their rights to kick me out, but they don't. My mother always goes out of her way to be nice to me and my siblings, because that's just the sort of person she is. I don't know if I could have had a nicer person for a mother. And I think my father's really cool, but don't tell him I said that. Both of them work hard each day to provide us with everything we need.

I have plenty of food. Not everyone in the world has even enough food to keep from being hungry, but comparatively I eat like an American. There's always enough pasta and bagels and all the sorts of cheese I'd want to put on them and Pringles and ice cream and chocolate and Nestea and even lasagna. My biggest problem food-wise is always feeling stuffed.

I have a computer which only breaks down every other day. Some people don't get to have computers at all, or have computers which never work. I should know- my sisters have trouble doing the most basic things on their computer almost every day, and that's a newer computer than my six-year-old relic. But this relic still works.

I have constant access to the internet, which in turn gives me access to as much entertainment as I could ever want. Lots of people have internet access but wouldn't know where to find stuff to do on it. So those people might not know how to keep themselves occupied for a day, but I could keep myself entertained forever. Heaven on earth, my friend. Heaven on earth.

I've got other systems on which to play games: Gamecube, Piano, GBA. I haven't forgotten that most people don't have access to any of those, but I can use any of the three whenever I want, for as long as I want.

I've got three friends: one a few doors away, one a few blocks away, and one a few neighborhoods away. All of them are perfectly willing to chat about random entertainment on Shabbat. So while there's still plenty of wasted time on Shabbat, and I still dread its coming, it's not nearly as intolerable as it used to be.

I have such a great cat. Many cats are either too unfriendly or too intrusive, but Pussy Willow is neither. And even though we let him out whenever he wants, he never gets himself hurt. Fudgie's also such a good little dog- very obedient, not hyper like many dogs I've seen.

I have a sister I can watch Lost and Heroes with. How cool is that? Granted it's not as good as it was a little while back when she was reading comics, and granted neither show is on TV right now. But still, that's cool. I know having stuff to do with sibling doesn't come for granted.

My other sister mostly leaves me alone lately.

I have no real obligations. Six days a week are fantastic. These are the best days of my life.

Yep, I have it good. The only thing missing is meaning, since there's no meaning in happiness and happiness is my life. I'm supposed to be consistently miserable, with my only refuge from the suffering being my work- that is, the work of a gamist. But here I am, happy as a cat, with nothing fit to complain about. Why on earth would God want me happy?! Am I just not meant to be a significant part of his creation? Or am I supposed to make myself miserable, to make up for the lack of external misery?

But enough worrying about God's lack of attention. I'm off to have some fun.



"Am I just not meant to be a significant part of his creation? Or am I supposed to make myself miserable, to make up for the lack of external misery?"
"So really, most of the things we look at as challenges to finding meaning in life are actually the real meaning in life. When evil people want to kill you because they're so different from you are, that's the appropriate time not to pray to God for help but to bless God for making such a beautiful world. The more diversity and tension there is, the more we see the brilliance of God's work. If there were no evil people in the world, there would be no point to the wise people's existence! With the evil people around, their lives have meaning. They go from people who sit around and be happy looking at their bright view of the world to people who get up outraged and yell "You're evil!" and aim for the teeth and try to stop the evil. That's movement. That's purpose."

Hm... the only meaning you see in life is misery and tension. You can relax - everything has a meaning, even you. Everyone wants to find a meaning, especially since man has the ability to do things other than just make a living. Otherwise you would be working for no reason at all. That's why you're bothered when you think about this.

What is the meaning in life?

In contrast to what you said in An Evil Statement, I think there is no meaning in progress. God doesn't sit and play games with us. Everything has a unique meaning just like your computer has a meaning and your games, and your chair all have an obvious meaning. Things God created have meaning too - to serve man. Only they're harder to see, and can only be proven by scientific knowledge. Some things - only God knows how they help people. Of course anyone can see, for example, the purpose of plants - to make fruit and vegetables for man to eat. Men need a whole ecosystem starting with plants, and on to animals.

What is man's purpose? Men do many things, from working fields to researching plants to making games. However, all of these jobs people have are only meant to satisfy man's existence and are no different from the tasks animals do. Therefore, the purpose of man is to do something that doesn't only continue man's existence - something that only man can do. These are the four choices (in a particular order):
(You can try to associate these with the 4 colors, but I can't find where popular culture and indifference fit here...)

<0) Having children and continuing the race - no meaning. This is what animals do.>

1) Many people think the meaning is to bring happiness to their lives, to enjoy life as much as possible, to get rich and buy everything that could make them happier - the perfection of the possession.

2) Others think the meaning is to become the best at something, to do everything to perfection, with the most efficiency - the perfection of the body.

3) Many think that it is their duty and meaning to help others, to make themselves better people and the world a better place - perfection of the ethics.

4) Some people think that the meaning is to learn everything they can, become great scholars and philosophers - the perfection of the knowledge.

In Judaism (according to the Rambam), the meaning is:
First - perfection of the ethics.
Second (but more important) - perfection of the knowledge, and the greatest of all wisdom is knowledge of God and His ways.

So - that's meaning, pick one!

..or I could just play videogames, which has much the same effect as all four of those "meanings". It gives you constant goals, so that when you achieve the goals you feel good about yourself.

You're looking at meaning from the perspective of the individual person, which isn't what I was talking about. I was talking about the real meaning of the world, that would be there whether or not you went searching for it.

God doesn't care if you're happy. Why should he? He also doesn't care if any part of you is "perfect". If he wanted perfection, he wouldn't have created life. (And the universe would be much more symmetrical.)

So if you put that into your own life, that's all well and good. You can get through the day and say "I've achieved my goal today.", and that'll make you all warm and fuzzy. But it's not like you understand why you're really here.

OK, I suppose you're right about most of that.

You are avoiding long-term goals by playing videogames. I didn't think of that kind of goal... I have a hard time believing it is satisfying. When you get through the day do you feel warm and fuzzy and say "I've achieved my goal today.", or do you feel bad and empty and say "What a waste!"? You must be playing them for some other long-term reason (maybe so you can talk about it in some forum). Or could you just not be thinking about it?

Anyways, I think God does care if you're happy, so he gave everyone the ability to make himself happy. For example, if you feel that you accomplished a goal, the natural reaction would be happiness. Likewise, conting blessings and realising how much God loves you and wants to make you happy can also make you happy.

Also, I disagree that God put us here giving a special purpose to everyone in His ultimate battle in vanquishing evil. God doesn't care if you revolutionize the gaming industry, save the world or bring liberty to the Jewish people. He doesn't need anyone specific to do that. You could do anything you want, there's no special task God chose for you. (Unless He spicifically gave you one.) If you want, go ahead and be a significant part of his creation, or just some nobody like most people. It doesn't really matter.

On the other hand, God doesn't care if you're perfect, but he does care how much you try. The reason God put you here is, in my opinion, because God is kind and He wanted to give you rewards in the world to come. (It wouldn't be a reward if you didn't earn it, would it?)

When did I ever say evil would (or should) be "vanquished"? You're making assumptions. I don't know for certain if God intends for evil to disappear. But I strongly suspect that he doesn't, since a world without evil would be so much simpler.

I only have one other thing to say: What you get out of videogames depends on how seriously you take them. If I manage one day to explore a new world, better my skills, overcome challenges and advance an engaging story, wow. That's a good day. It shouldn't surprise you at all to hear that that's the sort of day I'd like to live for.

If you were to approach a game as a time-waster, a casual habit, a light entertainment or a method of escape, you wouldn't get much out of it at all. Obviously. Though if I happen to be in the vicinity, seeing someone else enjoying the game just might make my day.

Gently nudging the direction back toward the actual content of the post: Today was a very good day. I played games on my own, I socialized both in person and on a forum, a younger friend of mine came over to play on the Wii, and I even got to play at acting a little. Plus I was irritated quite a bit. That's good too. This was a day to be thankful for.

Oh, and I played lots of music too. And even listened to music, which I almost never do! Wow, this really was a great day.

I guess I misunderstood you. You seem to be talking about why you're really here, and if you're meant to be a significant part of His creation. I see that as: God wants the world to be getting somewhere and He gives everyone a purpose in this world, a way to improve it and make it better. That is what I was opposing to by saying "Also, I disagree that God put us here giving a special purpose to everyone in His ultimate battle in vanquishing evil." etc.

I really didn't understand the last sentance "Or am I supposed to make myself miserable, to make up for the lack of external misery?". I thought you meant that you were miserable because you felt you had no meaning. Maybe you could explain this again.

"I only have one other thing to say: What you get out of videogames depends on how seriously you take them..."

I only want to add that the four categories of satisfying goals apply for everything someone does (that he didn't necessarily need to do), even if you didn't mean to be striving for perfection. For example take the things you did on Monday:
1) I entertained myself playing videogames
2) I improved my playing skills
3) I socialized
4) I learned about game making by playing this game
What determines someones "temperment" and therefore "meaning", is what one does most and what he means to get out of them.

I'm not miserable, and that clashes with my sense of how I ought to fit into the world.

Socializing has nothing to do with ethics. Socializing doesn't fit in with your list. Also, playing videogames isn't in any way "perfection of the possession". That's just the act of buying games and adding them to your collection.

I think some people could be poor, only averagely healthy, not particularly good at anything, selfish and uneducated, have very few kids, and still find enough "meaning" (in the sense of personal happiness, not real meaning) in their jobs and social circles to last a lifetime. So I don't think your list is valid.

The first "meaning" on the list is to enjoy life as much as possible. This includes getting everything that can make you happy, and using them to do whatever makes you happiest.

You're right, socializing has nothing to do with ethics. I guess in that case, it fits in 1 too because you do it for the sake of enjoyment.

I should probably clarify that this does not need to be done for one to find meaning, he only needs to have intention to do so for a certain reason:
1) To enjoy life
2) To improve skills
3) To help others
4) To improve knowledge
The "perfections" in the first comment are only the ideals (that those people aspire after subconsciously).


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