In My Friend’s Story, I’m the NPC to Their High Level Bard

Note: ‘NPC’ means ‘non-player character’ in a video or tabletop game which is contrasted with PC or ‘Player Character’ the avatar of a real person in a game world.

 

I have a friend, let’s call them the bard. The bard is kind, enthusiastic, and playful. They talk a lot about how much our friendship means to them, have given some wonderful gifts, and we’ve had some great times together. And yet, there’s a something there that frustrates me… a way in which this friendship feels unsatisfying that is difficult to wrap in word and explain.

And I think I’ve finally realized what it is: to my friend the bard, I’m an NPC. An NPC they’re fond of certainly, but like all NPCs there is a way in which I’m not truly real. Oh, certainly, the bard will act like I’m real; when they’re interested we’ll go on adventures together or fight monsters. But the moment the bard isn’t interested, they’re fully not interested. We only hang when I’m relevant to the adventure or crisis de jour for the bard; they’re fundamentally bored by the details of my life (as a Player Character in an RPG would be uninterested in the mundanity of an NPC’s farming unless therein lay adventure to be had there).

The bard’s problems are always the bigger issues, the ones that are more pressing and need to get worked on first. There is also the assumption on the part of the bard that I will be interested in whatever the bard is working on/that I’ll be along for the ride; but this never works both ways.

I’ve begun to suspect that, moreso than my other friends, the bard doesn’t quite see me; they see (and interact with) a simplified version of me.

Is this bad? No. Am I being mistreated? No. But it takes work to remind myself that when I’m shiny, when I actually have their attention it can feel amazing; it can feel like we have this amazing depth of connection but that it will always shift off of me when they find something more compelling to focus on. We’ll still go on adventures together now and again, but ultimately I’m increasingly interested in all the work I do tending my shop, practicing my craft, and thus I end up spending my time with people who want to share in all my life; whether we’re adventuring or not.

On Ethical Responsibilities and Eating Meat

Note: I’m actually looking for your advice & input on this so please share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.
I’ve been turning the phrase, ‘You have a responsibility to become more ethical than the society that raised you’ over in my head recently, considering the implications and the ways I’m meeting (or failing to meet) this challenge. There are some ways I could live a touch more vulnerably, openly and honestly (which would provide just a stitch extra space/security for others to do likewise). There are definite opportunities for me to more fully engage in a practice of charity work with causes that are meaningful to me. There are ways I need to change my consumption habits. And, moving forward I can definitely do a better job of practicing my values publically and politically; even at the risk of disappointment when trying to engage with our janky-ass, democracy-curious, frustrating, brilliant, promising, and combative republigarchy. I have the chance to more fully reject my own immature desire for quick ‘simple’ fixes and learn to appreciate compromise, and developing working relationships, learn to treasure communication with people I can be so quick to dismiss and get better at loving the process, loving the work as opposed to being driven by ego and fixation on the results.
Those things though, I feel like I have a plan (if only a vague one)… clear next actions I need to take next when I carve out the time and energy. However, the ethics around the meat industry (and my complicity in it) are –for me- a little more ambivalent and I’m not entirely sure where to go from here.
At this point, I should point out that I am an enthusiastic consumer of animal flesh. I don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with killing a living creature and eating it. Ultimately, everything on this planet was born to die and be consumed-converted into something else (even me).
That said, the way in which meat is produced for me as a 21st century middle class American is an environmental and ethical catastrophe. The mass utilization of antibiotics on livestock threatens to undermine one of the fundamental medical pillars that supports out modern world (effective treatment of bacterial infection). Feedlot runoff is horrendous for any ecosystem it touches (which is to say, just about every ecosystem on the planet). The amount of land required for the raising and feeding of livestock hobbles biodiverse ecologies where it doesn’t destroy them outright. Also, and perhaps most importantly, factory farming represents mass torture of animals at an industrial scale. And this is just a few of my most immediate and pressing concerns… I could easily go on.
And yet, for all that I am unwilling to go vegan, vegetarian, or even pescatarian. Even so, this tension/problem is something I should do a better job engaging with. Here are some options:
  • Hunt More If I’m going to eat animal flesh, acquiring it by hunting (whether hunting of prey populations whose predators we’ve eliminated/suppressed or hunting of invasive species) is probably the most ethical way to go about it. Unfortunately, this requires space to safely store firearms and a deep freezer so isn’t something in the cards for me at the moment.
  • Eat Less This is probably the best options, and one I could create benchmarks around. More to the point, this would take looking into meatless cuisines that I find ‘satisfying’ in the way that I currently associate with meat heavy meals.
  • Make ‘Better’ Buying Choices In this season of my life, money is less of a concern than it’s ever been. There are certain farming practices that ameliorate some of my ethical concerns (usually at an uptick in price). Here though, I’m concerned about being misled by branding/buzzwords that make it *seem* like that harm has been reduced when it hasn’t or (more generally) I suspicious of ‘feel good’ buying since so often it feels like the pointless purchase of indulgences.
For my vegan/vegetarian friends do you have any tips and tricks on how to shift my meals so I miss meat less? For my omnivorous friends who are trying to make more ethical choices about meat, what do you look for when you buy?

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On Problems

When I was much less mature, I was fond of bandying about with the phrase, ‘The reward for a job well done is a harder job.’ I used the cliché to signal that I wasn’t a sucker; that all the ways I ‘didn’t try’ were indicative of me ‘sticking it to the man/refusing to play his game’ as opposed to the more honest conclusion that I (often) didn’t give my all to ensure that I could dismiss any failure as not ‘real.’ Nowadays, I’m fond of reframing of the phrase. ‘The consequence of a problem well solved is a better/harder/more interesting problem.’ And that’s an outcome I’m actively working towards.

While I’m alive, there will never be an end to ‘problems’ and, most of the problems I/we have now are due to the solutions of the past. Trying to finish a book is a *much* better problem than figuring out how ingest enough calories so as not to starve (which had been largely ‘solved’ by my ancestors). Trying to figure out how to use my limited financial, political, and emotional resources to nudge my society towards being more just and humane is a *much* better problem than trying to figure out how to keep a larger animal from eating me and –again- my ancestors pretty much took care of that. But even though these are better problems… these are still problems.

Likewise, it’s helpful to remind myself that, as I raise my daughter, I can’t actually protect her from challenge; the *best* I can do is to suitably equip her to solve the problems of her life and (hopefully) give her better and more interesting problems than I myself had to deal with. I’ll give my all, and in so doing I’ll solve so many of problems (some with such completion that I’ll risk being able to even recall that the issue was once a problem for me) but the reward is *never* the cessation of growth and change and hardship – it is only the transmutation of these forces into a different form, possibly even one that would be unrecognizable by the standards of the past.

Composing a Life

I decided to type out my first toastmasters speech aka ‘The Ice-Breaker.’ Note: when speaking publically it is my custom to not properly write a speech, but instead outline one to develop a solid skeleton on which I drape an assortment of examples\anecdotes\facts. This helps me focus on what I want to communicate rather than slavishly trying to recreate the words on page. Also, because I’m practiced, keeping the speech ‘loose’ helps me feel more natural, aids in transitions (as, one missed line won’t hobble a segue) and (most importantly) this helps me expand or contract my talk based on time restraints and audience reaction.

 

Composing a Life

 

One of my favorite podcasts is ‘On Being’ and on a recent episode I heard the guest speak about ‘composing a life.’ I appreciated this metaphor; so often it’s been easy for me to fixate on this or that monolithic aspect of my life and view *that* as the arbiter of everything important… defining myself by a single relationship or a job say. What I like about trying to view my activities\life as a composition is that it brings renewed attention & interest in all the little things I do, it relieves some of the anxiety that any one thread has to be ‘all-fulfilling’ and reassures me that I have innumerable options by which to reach better balance. Today, I wanted to discuss three different practices I engage with to compose my life.

First, I practice Continue reading