Too Old to Play

I have a few rules for this blog in order to keep it manageable, and keep it fun for me. The main one is “nothing over 500 words.” I’m about to break that rule for the first time, because I have a lot to say and I can’t possibly do it in that kind of space. What I’m about to write is also probably more personal than anything you may have read from me before, and maybe also controversial.

Those of you have known me online for a while now, perhaps who read my old blog, know that I have had an ambivalent relationship with modern gaming culture.  I’m 35 years old, which means that I started gaming before the internet was really established in Australia. Gaming for me at the beginning, as a kid, was always a pleasant activity involving painting miniatures, imagining silly heroic battles, and laughing with my friends.  Well, not only have I changed, but gaming has changed, and if anyone tries to tell me otherwise, that there are people still gaming in that way out there, I’m going to say yeah, if you mean other old people completely outside the mainstream flow of gaming culture.

The Scottish writer Iain Banks once wrote a novel called The Player of Games. It’s one of his books set in the Culture – a utopian humanity in the far, far future.  In the Culture books, no-one is violent or competitive.  Wars ceased millenia ago, and the Culture cleverly and non-violently assimilates any species they encounter into their bloodless galactic empire using hyper-advanced social science and psychology.  The only trace of violence left in human beings is found among gamers: people who compete with one another to win games.  This means that in the Culture, the point of playing a game is to win it – games are an outlet for the barbaric vestiges of old humanity.

I feel as though we have come to a tacit understanding in our own culture that the point of playing a game, of painting a miniature, of any sort of leisure activity really, is to be good at it; to improve, as some sort of discipline or self-actualization.

The thing is, I can’t stomach leisure like this.  This could be for any number of psychological reasons, but I’m leaning towards thinking that it’s because of my age.  I’m lazy when it comes to leisure, funnily enough.  To me the point of a game is to be something that I can do, and not have to worry about being good at.  Or something I can be good at without trying…

I used to be good at games without trying.  I have an analytical mind, I can think outside the box and I’m decisive.  But now I’m not good at them.  Gamers in general just put too much effort into being good at games that my lazy natural aptitudes are no longer enough.  I have to practice and study if I want to be good.  The same is true of miniature painting.  Artistic talent runs in my family, and as a kid and a teenager I drew and painted a lot as a hobby.  I have even worked professionally and sold art for CD covers, posters and T-shirts.  So I was always one of the best in the room when it came to painting miniatures, without really having to try.

Now the internet has made the room much bigger, and people have learned that certain techniques and practice can improve you beyond your initial limits.  Natural talent and amateur practice is now a strong start, but doesn’t stack up against someone who really wants to be a good painter.

And this makes me sad, because it takes away the things about wargaming and the miniature painting hobby that made me happy.  I liked being good at gaming without having to put any effort in.

Now I can totally understand if you’re thinking “boo hoo, stop whining you self-congratulating bastard.”  I must sound pretty unlikeable right now. But that’s OK, I’m here asking myself the hard questions, and the answers are bound to show me some things about myself that I don’t like.  That’s how we grow after all, and if we don’t grow what’s the point?

So what I loved about gaming was the ego boost I got for free.  Out in the real world as a grown up you have to work hard to get ahead.  Life is competitive.  It’s competitive to find a mate.  It’s competitive to get a job, and to get higher in your career.  Playing games were for me the thing that wasn’t competitve, the thing that I could be the best at without having to try.  That’s why I kept playing them as an adult.  They boosted my ego and it felt good.

All of this reminds me of a childhood friend of mine, who is a very intense person, and also loved gaming.  I met him a few years ago and he told me that he didn’t play games any more, or paint miniatures or anything.  When I asked him why, he quoted Ecclesiastes at me: “when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (This is probably the first and last bible reference you’ll ever see me write).

When he said this to me I went away and thought about it, and I decided what I think many of us who have continued (or taken up) gaming into adulthood have decided: gaming is not childish if you take it seriously.  Time to up my game, literally.  Time to start going in tournaments.  Be the best I can be.  What have I got to do to keep gaming, and still take myself seriously as a grown up?

A lot has happened to me recently.  I’ve left my PhD.  I did so for many reasons.  Partly I’d become disillusioned with the culture and methodology of academic philosophy and academic life after experiencing it first hand.  I came to think that all of my colleagues were barking up the wrong tree if they think that what they do reveals any sort of objective truth (and they do think that).  And as for my project that I was working on, and the approach that I wanted to take to philosophy, well as one of them said to me (in a friendly way of course): “I think you’re a little bit crazy.”

So I left.  And it was very hard.  Extricating oneself from a PhD when you’re two and a half years in is not a simple matter, particularly socially.  I have a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people.  That’s OK, because I’ve taken stock of my life and, in consultation with my amazingly understanding partner, have made new resolutions.  I am seeing everything a bit more clearly, including my hot and cold relationship with gaming.  And now I understand what my old friend was saying, I think.

If the pleasure I got from gaming came from the ego boost of being good at it, and now I can only get that pleasure by putting in effort, is it worth it?  The answer is quite obviously no.  If I’m going to be putting effort into improving at something, it’s not going to be a game, a “childish thing.”  Why wouldn’t I put my effort into being better at creative writing, or making more money, or spending quality time with my family? Things that will make me deeply happy, or at least more financially secure, rather than just a bit, I don’t know, chuffed with myself for a few hours.  I’m not going to live forever after all.  Do I want to be on my death bed thinking “hey, I never wrote that novel, or had my art in a gallery. But at least I worked for thirty five years in a boring job and was good at painting models and winning games.”  Er . . . no.

The only solution for me I can see, if I want to keep wargaming and painting models and enjoying it, is to somehow uncouple the pleasure I get from improving at them or winning.  I’m not sure how to achieve that psychologically at the moment, especially not when the entire mainstream culture of gaming is a cuture of constant improvement and competition.

I’m having a great time at the moment DM-ing a D&D game, as RPGs are not prey to these concerns, or at least it is easy to avoid them becoming so.  They are about telling a story and I love that, and I think it’s worthwhile.

It’s funny, no matter what I do lately, I seem to end up standing in opposition to The Way Things Are Done.  Just a born rebel I guess 😉

Until next time,

James

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29 thoughts on “Too Old to Play

  1. aruki says:

    nothing wrong with that. I am now 30 myself and started playing when I was a teen. For me its not about the competition, never has been. I always paint and do what I want with my models for myself. Always have. Even when others are better than me, and there are plenty of local players that paint amazingly. Hence the reason I have spent the past year or so just planing an accurate 1806 Prussian Brigade in 6mm. Find what works for you and to hell with everyone else. Weather its models our paint.

    • beat ronin says:

      Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I’ll reply to as many of them as I can now, and the rest later.

      Hi Aruki and welcome 🙂 I think what I’ve realized here is that I mistakenly believed I was not competitive, but really I just liked being good at something without having to try. It sounds as though you are at a higher stage than I am when it comes to the ego involved in this stuff – I would like to be humble about it and to honestly not care how good other people are, and how I measure up, but I’m not sure I can do that yet.

  2. Von says:

    Oh, James, you were a great loss to the field of revealing objective truths by dint of writing lots of words about them (I hear they call it ‘academia’ on the inside). I also wish I’d put money on your breaking the One Rule sooner or later (Batman called, he wants his principle back :p).

    That urge to have one’s pastimes be rendered ‘mature’ is, as you know well, something on which I’ve commented before. Different folks backlash against it in different ways. My WoW guildies occasionally frustrate me with the repeated insistence that “what we do isn’t art, it’s happy fun times with virtual dollies.” Well no, ladies, its not, but I didn’t say it was art, what I said was it was worth doing joined-up thinking about and could be treated as a technical or personal challenge AS WELL AS happy fun times with virtual dollies; it’s not like there’s a big on/off switch for SRS BSNSS. I just happen to get my happy fun times from writing things I wouldn’t normally write and making a bit of intellectual effort.

    There’s an idea that I’ve picked up from some D&D blog (which means it was either the Porn Star one or Some King’s Kent or both when their feud was much more active) concerning the particular kind of D&D played by people who don’t have to think much during their day job. The same style of play was being discussed (Zak S’s randomtablearama, where a world about which someone has thought a fair bit is digested into a grab-bag of stuff out of which an adventure can be generated at the drop of a hat): one perspective being that it’s mindless, underplanned brain-fluff (because of the random) and one that it’s the most brain-engaging stuff that the players are likely to have to do all day (because of the reacting-cleverly-to-circumstances and also because that group seems to like puzzle crap).

    What interested me about this was that there was nothing about ‘winning’ in there. The feud seems to boil down to “I don’t understand how you can consider this style of play fun or fulfilling, it just looks like vacuous rubbish to me”. The idea of doing away with childish things, in roleplaying terms, seems to be ‘transcending’ to some sort of high-minded, joined-up, intellectually fulfilling style of play – or maybe with abandoning the delusion that you’re doing anything high-minded at all. But then we’re back to the binary poles, and I’d like to think there’s a spectrum in which you can be serious enough to stretch your mind and turn it over a bit, without losing that sense that… well… we’re pretending to be elves and wizards.

    • beat ronin says:

      Thank you Von, I take that as a great compliment 🙂 As I believe we’ve discussed before, I don’t think there are any objective truths available to human beings due to our limitations as embodied things. I don’t have a problem with trying to find out what seems true to each of us from our own standpoints, but I can’t be having with quests for the real truth. I just can’t do it, it’s silly.

      I’m honestly kind of afraid to read too many RPG blogs, in case I find that people have somehow discovered a way to make RPGs serious or to measure ability to play in some way, as has happened with wargames and miniature painting. A little while back on HoP someone said that when they feel like playing a skirmish game they play D&D, and that made me uneasy. Is D&D a skirmish wargame now? Is that what people think?

      I’d like to play a game without being concerned with winning, without worrying about improving, and without transcending to some higher purpose. But I feel like I’m dismissing most of the reasons grown-ups offer for playing games, one by one, and I’m afraid there won’t be anything left. I’m not a child anymore and I can’t play innocently, no matter how much I wish it were so.

  3. The Warlock says:

    Firstly, good on ya for standing in the way of The Way Things Are Done. Just because they’re done that way, doesn’t mean it must be so or that there isn’t any alternate ways of doing things. James, you don’t need to do anything to take yourself seriously as a gamer and a grown up as gaming, at its heart, is a pure leisure activity. We game because it triggers a little flow of endorphins and gives us what is known as “The Warm Fuzzies” inside. Or at least, that’s how it generally -should- be. It’s all about meeting with some friends or other gamers, rolling dice and having fun.

    There can be varying levels of maturity and intellectual high-mindedness as Von puts it and we should try and figure out what degree of that do we want to get out of the games we play. Do I want an intellectually profound game of Skyrim, in which I seek to understand the primal truth of the conflict of differing ideals, or do I just want to run around for 2 hours throwing fireballs at things? It’s up to us to decide what level of intellectual engagement we want from our pastimes. At the end of the day though, do we really need an intellectual reason to justify our enjoyment to ourselves and to others?

    Being 60% of your age, I’m only just starting to get into the “real world” and already there are high expectations, despite only being about 4 years out of high school (which seriously, does -not- prepare anyone for life) and not really knowing who I am as a person and what I want to be/do. Then again, I guess that’s what life really is- a continual journey of self-discovery…and when you’re on your deathbed, don’t dwell on the things you didn’t do but rather the things you did do and whether or not we enriched the lives around us.

    I appreciate your posts as they always challenge me to engage more intellectually with gaming, painting and so on. I apologise if the above reply appears to ramble or jump from point to point with only a pretense of coherency and order- I’ve never really been one for getting my point across ^^; Still, that’s why I’m here and that’s why I reply. It’s also why I’ve taken about 45mins to actually reply 😛 Ha, left hemisphere’s gotta do some work for once

    • beat ronin says:

      Thanks Warlock, that means a lot to me. I agree that life is a journey of discovery, and I suppose what I’m facing lately is a series of discoveries about myself and my relationship to the world and society’s expectations that are both liberating and a bit scary.

      So I just finished saying to Von that I can’t play innocently anymore, and then you make it sound as though I can! Well maybe that’s true. I think it’s pretty difficult, for a grown-up in a world where gaming is bound up with all of these grown-up excuses. Or at least for me anyway. As I said to Aruki, I need to be more humble about it. But it’s hard not to strive to improve when all around us our efficiency and technology-worhsipping culture tells us improvement is the point of everything.

      I think you may be onto something though. Maybe I should make a Skyrim character and just run around smashing stuff for a bit, and not let myself feel guilty for not spending time in a more “productive” way. Maybe that’s how I can learn to be humble about this. Recognize that in the context of my life, pointlessly fireballing digital wolves is exactly as worthwhile as being as good a painter as Angel Giraldez.

  4. Porky says:

    I think it’s mostly as adult as we make it, and maturity is ambiguous in this context too. That said, there is value in childish things, and maybe more than we might be able to admit to ourselves given the nature of our lives these days.

    Have a read of this:

    http://techno-anthropology.blogspot.com/2013/10/on-raising-children-to-thing-that-cat.html

    Scary on the surface; cold sweat stuff when you see the point.

    “… Why wouldn’t I put my effort into being better at creative writing, or making more money, or spending quality time with my family? Things that will make me deeply happy, or at least more financially secure, rather than just a bit, I don’t know, chuffed with myself for a few hours. I’m not going to live forever after all. Do I want to be on my death bed thinking “hey, I never wrote that novel, or had my art in a gallery. …””

    The solution could be to combine some or all of these things, take the nature of gaming itself to the next level, even fund yourself doing it. But doing it with a goal – a good purpose – however fully you explain that to others, so that on the death bed you can be confident you did your best, maybe modified the flow.

    • beat ronin says:

      Porky, I have pretty much decided to abandon all efforts to squeeze myself into some pre-existing mould, and just work in a manual job a bit for money, hang with my partner and son, and write and make whatever I want. Hopefully peope will want to buy at least some of it, and then I won’t have to work so much for the money. I hadn’t considered games as something I wanted to make. Maybe I should, maybe I could make something interesting? But I have a novel inside me first that has to get out, and some paintings, and we’ll see what happens from there.

      That blog was a bit horrifying, wasn’t it? It made me think yes, we are all that kid, and when you get outside you have to be careful not to point out to everyone else that the collective language we speak and ways of life we share are just as arbitrary as the familial ones we each conceal.

  5. Thuloid says:

    We’re the same age, and I think at a similar phase of life, so quite a bit of this makes sense to me. The complex interaction of ego, effort and enjoyment can be hard to unravel. So, a quick story about my last few weeks:

    This past weekend I attended a fairly large Warhammer Fantasy tournament. I’d been preparing for it on and off for months, and the last month I’d really been pushing hard. However, life got in the way of my prep (both gaming and painting), and so despite my best efforts (and I really did try hard), I just wasn’t where I wanted to be on Saturday morning. I did fine. 25th out of a field of 84, I think Not outstanding, but I could have done worse.

    The thing is, I enjoyed this event immensely, largely because some time in the last week, I realized that I couldn’t meet my own lofty expectations. Not that I wrote off the possibility of playing well, but my list, play and paint job were all not where I wanted them, and I didn’t have the time to fix that. There were better looking armies out there. There were also worse, and people who admired aspects of mine. That felt good. I had a nice conversation about painting with a guy who outclasses me utterly, and found it encouraging, because I realized how anxious he feels about his own work, and I learned a few ways I can improve. I had several very enjoyable games, talked with people I liked, drank beer with better players than myself. This was fun. I don’t regret the hours I put into preparation, and I don’t regret my results. Perhaps I will find the time to be a real threat in events like these–probably I won’t. So at this point, I play because of friends, and that makes gaming well (but not too well) worth the effort.

    To me, what your friend said (with an assist from the Bible) was somewhat unhelpful. There is nothing innately childish or not about the miniatures or the games, or putting time and effort into them. The false expectations are childish, as is the inability to check my ego, and the need for everything I do to be Very Important–the approach to the game, not the game itself. Children play games, and very often those games feel like life and death to them, because they don’t know life and death. Adults have experienced more, and so they play games for small thrills, knowing not much is really at stake. When this connects you with other people, it’s not frivolous.

    My grandfather did a lot of woodworking. I paint models. These things are enjoyable and connect us to people we like. Nothing there to regret. But likewise, if there is something you want more, dropping them is no big deal. Just don’t get to thinking that a different, more “adult” project will automatically be more fulfilling. The person who works on that project, along with all his anxieties, drives and needs, is exactly the same, which is going to make them similar in surprising ways.

    Dropping the PhD is a big deal. I haven’t been in precisely your situation, but I did have to make a large change in graduate programs and future plans, which put off the PhD for a good while. More than a decade ago, I was still considering PhD programs in physics–that is no longer my field at all. I never entered one, largely because I was never quite sure that I loved it enough to put in that level of effort, to stick it through. And I am still nervous about when I will get around to a PhD, and whether it will in fact be possible to find a program that isn’t at odds with the direction of my work–difficult, because I am most certainly not the norm in my approach.

    • beat ronin says:

      Thuhloid, thank you and welcome 🙂 Thanks especially for pointing out that children don’t always play games innocently – or rather, they are so innocent that they can confuse what we should and should not lay down our lives for. There is always the dark side, the Lord of the Flies, to children’s play I suppose.

      I know now what I need to do about games, after talking with all of you. I need to let go of trying to improve – at least for a while – until I can do it without feeling guilty or worthless.

      Knowing you are a, what did you call it once? A religious professional? Makes me feel as though I should lay my cards on the table to you with respect to religion. Funny, I remember SinSynn doing a similar thing not too long ago. Like many Australians I am not religious. I’m not an atheist though either – I think that’s an expression of the same error that my erstwhile philosophical colleagues make when they think they can ever know the real truth about anything. Eh, the gods are a mystery, and that’s how they should stay I think.

      Ah, the PhD. You know, my project was about finding out how to mitigate our psychological limitations in order for us to behave more in accordance with our moral principles. Seeing as the rest of the philosophy school was interested in using logic and reason to work out objectively correct moral principles, and all of their methodology is based on the assumption that we are rational beings and so once we know what the right thing is, it’s a simple matter to do it, I was bound to come to grief eventually 😉

      It’s funny, my PhD project is sort of to do with this post too. I know what I should do to enjoy games more: stop trying to involve my ego. But the hard part is not knowing that, it’s doing it.

  6. Adrik says:

    I’ve not much to say on the topic, but to counter your friend’s use of Ecclesiastes, I offer C.S. Lewis:

    “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

  7. aruki says:

    lol no worries. Honestly it is something that has always caused me problems in life but it is just the way I am and have always been. Causes no small friction with the wife and such but I survive. Just remember take your time and find happiness in what you do. I turned down a scholarship from my uni to do my masters with possibility for phd as well. people thought I was insane but finding my own path has always been essential. Know living in a completely different culture never mind country, the hobby has become much more important to me. It allows me to not only relax but allows me to preserve a bit of me that I love. I am by no means a fantastic player or painter but it fills needs I cant explain. It also occurs to me this maybe helped by the people I regularly interact with. They are of similar mind sets. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide but don’t lose hope as can be seen by the comments there are many more of us that understand where you are coming from. By the way any wisdom you can drop on me for painting would be greatly appreciated or interesting systems/models to check out.
    aruki

  8. Thuloid says:

    James (I’m Adam, btw)–

    Interesting to me how much of human life is tied up in managing guilt, shame and fear, or cleverly denying how the same drive us. Of course, my theological training attunes me to such language, but I do think it gets at something important–and from the sound of it, not necessarily far off from where you were working philosophically.

    On that note, the trouble is that you already know something about human beings that your would-be colleagues are dead set against admitting. It’s very hard to do good work from a completely false premise. Perhaps consider yourself lucky to have grasped this bit of hard-won wisdom, as it will do you much more good than all the absurd theories and speculations of those who think they are piercing the veil.

    And thanks for the confession, though it was not necessary (at least not from my end). Things are good between us, with no expectation at all that we must agree. I don’t consider myself a representative of religion generally any more than you would yourself of philosophy generally (perish the thought, right?). To me, you sound much like some of the more insightful pagans of the ancient world, a position to which I am sympathetic. Of course, in those days, the default was to describe oneself as religious, and now the style is the opposite, as “religion” has come to be identified with attendance/membership in certain formal associations. But at bottom, people are committed to what they are committed to, and whether we slap the label “religion” on it or not, it’s the same thing. I simply don’t know you well enough to know who your gods are and how you relate to them.

    As I said, I’m sympathetic. In some ways, Plato is quite a large step down from the poets and tragedians who far better understood human limitation. Many things are truly hidden from us, and so something like an inscrutable Fate or the will of the gods is, however mythical it sounds, likely a superior way of talking about our lives than objective rational principle. Most of the Christian tradition does poorly on this score, in some sense perceiving itself as possessing a certain kind of penetrating vision into the divine, and, as a corollary, a faculty of reason or will that slips all bonds and is capable of truly free choice. Rejecting both, I find theological allies thin on the ground.

    Some time, if you’re ever particularly interested, I might explain what precisely I understand my job to be in relation to that. Oddly enough, even in church circles, people hardly ever ask that question.

    Right–the problem with “I shouldn’t involve my ego,” is that once “I should” has taken over, your ego is already involved. But good luck!

    • beat ronin says:

      Ha ha, that’s right!

      @Thuloid, Bypassing the ego is hard, especially for academically trained people, since as far as I can tell it’s part of our rational mind. When I think of acting without ego I think of acting on instinct almost, or habit. So I just have to cultivate the habit of gaming and painting without thinking, as Warlock and Bushcraft suggest. Truly, my internet friends are wise 🙂

      I have a lot of sympathy for really ancient paganism, like the Greek mystery religions. Have you read Nietszche’s The Birth of Tragedy? Every philosopher I know thinks it’s his worst work, but I love it. I think it’s a brave (and of course doomed) attempt to describe the indescribable. And that’s where I differ from my colleagues basically – at bottom they have faith that reason and the scientific method give us access to truth, and they are sure that eventually the universe and everything in it will be described and understood, including our inner states and qualia (the quality of our subjective experience). I don’t.

      I’d love to hear about your work actually Adam, I’m sure we could have a very interesting conversation. You can email me at beat.ronin@outlook.com.

  9. The Warlock says:

    Ha, no problems James

    It’s funny how you mention that our technology worshipping culture (We’re tech-priests on Mars now? :P) demands imrpovement- I see our technology horribly stagnating and has been for about 10ish years (I haven’t been alive long enough to go back further than the 90s). All we seem to be doing is improving graphics and hard-drive space- all small incremental steps and nothing really revolutionary.

    As for running around skyrim throwing fireballs? Apply that for any game 🙂 We should always take a step back once and a while and ask ourselves: Why do I play? To win? For fun? To create and tell a story? For time with friends? To PWN all the N00Bs?

    Time can be bought, spent, killed, saved and wasted. We have a finite amount of it on this Earth and we shouldn’t spend all of it being productive. Hell, that was what civilisation was about- Only when we started having leisure time as early humans did we make advances as a race. Again, we’re stagnating a bit as we’re expected to work 9-5 5/7 ~320/365.25 for ~60/~80yrs. >.>; Yeah, I’m a tad (a word here meaning ‘rather a lot’) cynical about society. That and working with other people, (This probably relates to your dilemna about gaming) as people have different interpretations of what their role is and everyone can feel differently about their job. It’s the same job, just people look at it through different glasses/lenses.

    Sort of related/tangential to Thuloid’s point about childish games, it’s kinda funny as some of their games/rhymes are remnants of historical events, ring-a-round-a-rosy being one (Y.pestis and the black death) and London bridge is falling down (Vikings were responsible for that in ~1009-1014).

    Also had a look at that blog Porky posted a link to and it gives me the chills a bit, I guess my ideals are different to the author of that ^^;

    • beat ronin says:

      Warlock, I think our culture prizes technology and holds efficiency and advancement to be core values, but that doesn’t mean things are advancing in any useful sense! As you said, they are advancing by way of tiny incremental improvements and alterations, like a new iPhone every two or three years. The only reason this happens I think is because we demand constant “improvement” and are willing pay for it (well, most of us). If we were actually aiming for improved quality of life rather than improved tech for it’s own sake we would have stopped technological advancement decades ago outside of medicine and sustainability research. In some cases we should halt it altogether, and back-pedal to less advanced ways of doing things that produce greater happiness and better health (e.g. our mainstream food production system is not only horribly unethical but is actually bad for people).

      I’m also a tad cynical about society, to the point where I’ve decided to go my own way. My partner and I work enough at simple jobs to pay the rent, eat, and save a bit for unexpected things, but I refuse to allow my identity to be formed by my career, or my time controlled beyond what is necessary. Maybe I look like an irresponsible bum from the outside but I find myself caring less and less about those sorts of worries! It’s funny, as I’ve got older I’ve grown apart from my friends who work for companies, universities, etc., and find myself having more in common temperamentally with the ones who’ve started their own businesses. I think my recent change of heart has been a long time coming.

  10. Bush Craft says:

    To me, the joy these days comes from creating something new. New worlds within the established canon and all that jazz. I like my character/monster models because they’re mine. They’re not the best, but I made them and they have tiny, little souls. Maybe its a catharthis. I’m in a very destructive line of work and it helps to create from time to time. Some of the reason is that it just feels good to sit down and paint. Maybe that’s a little bit masturbatory, but it does feel good and that’s enough reason to do it. I’ve always done it, and I like to do it. I was thinking of the Ecclesiastes quote about a month ago, and that’s how I justified my hobby to myself. I actually felt a little awkward that I needed to justify it.

    This might be tough for a professional philosopher to do, but maybe try less navel gazing and just enjoy it for what it is? Do you have to justify why you like drinking a beer, watching a campfire, or looking at the stars? Will you ever be the best at any of those things?

    • beat ronin says:

      Bushcraft! Welcome mate, and thanks. Your suggestion is maybe the most valuable of all. It is extremely hard for me to turn off my mind, it’s always chattering – and that’s not because I’m particularly smart but, as you pointed out, because that’s what I’ve been trained to do. As you no doubt understand, training is a powerful thing. After going through four years of philosophical training as an undergrad and then another two-and-a-half at post-grad level I kind of feel like a mentat from Dune… in a bad way.

      I do love campfires and stars. And I do love painting models and making things look as good as I can. I just get caught up in analysis.

      Ah well, ex-professional philosopher now. I suppose changing your mindset doesn’t happen overnight, and this anguish I’m having about leisure activities is probably just a side-effect of dialling back the thinking a little…

  11. Ian says:

    My bad for not bookmarking earlier.

    I suffer from the same feeling sometimes. All “dumb grunt” jokes aside (and I probably make more of them than anyone else I know) I’m a Mensan who broke the WAIS-II with a full-scale IQ of >155: I really, really need to turn the damn brain off sometimes and just let it be, stop taking things so literally, so hyper-logically, and just enjoy things for what they are. It’s only in the last few years (and we’re roughly the same age) that I’ve found how to do that. It’s not something I’ll achieve, it’s just something I recognize and remember to aim for.

    Maybe you should take up fishing? Or crocodile painting, whatever it is you all do for fun there in Catachan.

  12. Bush Craft says:

    WTF…sometimes it uses my screen name, and sometimes it uses my real one? Damn you, Word Press…you win this round.

    • beat ronin says:

      Yeah WordPress and Blogger both seem to want to make it hard for people to come together across platforms. I wish there was a third party identity-managing system that worked on them all…

      Wow, >155? That’s pretty smart, dude. Can’t say I didn’t suspect that you were a bright fella though. That’s certainly better than I do on IQ tests. I generally come up in the low or mid 130s. I’m articulate and have a large vocab but numbers make me dizzy.

      The world needs smart soldiers as well as dumb grunts. My dad is a soldier actually, he started out in the armoured corps when he was 17 but is now a major-general, still working, and one of the smartest and most focused people I know. I’m very proud of him. Plus it comforts me to know that the military higher-ups aren’t all dumb jerks like that guy in Avatar 😀

  13. Bush Craft says:

    Yes, the military guy stereotypes might hit home once in a while in a population of millions, but that’s bound to happen occasionally and be wrong even more. We’re the same as everyone else and living with those stereotypes (whether positive or negative) was not something I’d anticipated when I signed up.
    It’s also worth considering that this smart-guy (more of a smart-ass, really) merely has a Liberal Arts AA degree to his name, and was foolish enough to sign up for the airborne infantry when he had the test scores to pick any specialty 😉
    Hopefully that will be changing this time next year, I’m working an application to be released from service to attend university and get my officer’s commission after graduation. The big hold up is my age: The services are a bit frowny on 34 year old lieutenants (36 if I stick around for a masters before I commission) so I’ll need a hell of a waiver from the acceptance board. All but one option is definitely closed due to age, the one I’m working is a maybe. If not…well, Perpetual Gentleman Ranker isn’t a bad line of work.
    Your old man sounds like he’s found his calling and enjoys it, that’s a rare place in life so good for him. The Aussie troops are great guys who never fail to “accidently” leave beer behind when they come by for a visit in the bases. U.S. forces have a “no booze” policy in combat zones: Unfortunate, but I understand the reasons behind it.

    So, what’s the plan now that you’ve left the PhD program? From what I’ve seen on Discovery Channel there’s a future in snake milking and drop bear wrangling down there 😛

    I almost moved to Australia in my late teens, I was working in the film industry and got offered a job there by a former boss. She was a huge coke-head so I was skeptical and passed it up, shortly after the film biz there took a dive so glad I stayed home! Then a few years later I left for the army and the one back home took a dive, too. I’m barely one step ahead! And a bit of a curse, apparently.

    • beat ronin says:

      Hey Bushcraft, yeah I’m guessing that was the 90s, the Aussie film industry was going great guns and everyone here thought we’d be the next Hollywood. But it never eventuated. In retrospect it was never going to happen, we’re such a small country with an even smaller creative industry, and it was just fashion that made our movies cool at Cannes for a while. Probably Japanese horror directors went through a similar thing in the early 2000s:

      “we’re rich boys! Oh wait, now all those snooty French bastards are talking about how great Iranian movies about women’s issues are, and suddenly no-one cares about spooky Asian women crawling out of wells.”

      As for what I’m going to do now? Well I have a day job. I work at the Australian War Memorial as an archival assistant. It makes enough to pay the rent and buy food, and it doesn’t have any responsibility attached. It also gives me enough spare time to share care of our son with my partner, and with the time left over I’m self-employed as an editor and proofreader and working on my own creative writing. I’ve actually got half a novel written that I did when I should have been doing my PhD…

      I’ve always aimed at taking creative writing seriously, since I was about 20, but I never have you know? Instead I’ve always had a “fall-back” career path on the go at the same time (academia). I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to get a piece of work out there when I’m huddled in a safety net. Some people can do that, but I can’t. I had to choose, and I chose to ditch the career. A part time job is good enough for me just to keep food on the table. I’ve never been very materialistic or ambitious for responsibility and influence. In my experience very few people are, it’s just that we’re culturally indoctrinated to feel that we should be.

  14. Rob F. says:

    Funnily enough, I read this just before seeing your posting:

    http://puttylike.com/what-are-you-going-to-do-with-your-11-lifetimes/

    Anyway, a couple of ideas: First, I’ve been playing with a local board game group on and off for the past year, and of all the games I’ve played with them, there’s only one I’m seriously keen to get my mitts on: King of Tokyo. It’s the perfect zany fun to have with a bunch of folks around a table, and I have no intention of ‘getting good at it’, if such a thing is possible with KoT. Easy to Learn, Who Gives a Toss about Mastery.

    We’ve already talked about painting and mastery, but after having painted up a Warmachine Battlegroup to “I’m happy with how it looks”, I think I’ve finally divorced painting from “I want it to look as good as Giraldez’ stuff” to “I’m painting it because I like painting and as long as the end result is something I’m happy to plonk down on a tabletop, all is the good”.

  15. Rob F. says:

    Oh, almost forgot: When it comes to Infinity and WarMachine as games, I’ve decided I don’t care for mastery much; I’ve barely touched Infinity’s rules since I printed them off and while I’m tempted to get WarMachine’s rule book, I keep thinking, “That’s $40 I can put toward more Infinity minis, or the Infinity art book – or King of Tokyo…”

    • beat ronin says:

      Hi Rob, that is a bit synchronous, that you read that comic just before my post! Must be something in the air.

      I have never heard of Kings of Tokyo. I’ll give it a look.

      Infinity is actually one of the things that brought on this little mini-crisis I have been having with gaming. I bought the books and played a couple of games, and I loved painting the models. After years of 40k I was excited for a proper working game that I could be good at, and put effort into, and then I just got disheartened that a lot of people who play it feel the same, only they put in more effort than me. Maybe more than I ever could. So I just felt shut out again, and had a bit of a “what’s the point?” moment.

      I’m getting there though. Soon I think I’ll be ready to attack it again, only without any pretensions of excelling at it 🙂

  16. Thuloid says:

    James, sent you an email.

    Bush Craft–I gave up trying to shut it off a long time ago. Doesn’t work for me. I did need to find both philosophical and theological frameworks within which it was possible for me to put down certain problems for a while, giving me a chance to turn my attention elsewhere. There simply is no “relax” for me, mentally speaking. Well, there’s the blunt instrument of alcohol, but that’s not really useful, nor something I go very far with anymore. The closest I get to “relax” is to pick up certain well-worn mental pathways and walk down them again, working through old problem sets and seeing what pops out.

    Also means I’m much happier as an intellectual omnivore. I get annoying and sort of obsessive when I don’t have the opportunity to explore a range of problems–instead I’ll just focus in on whatever’s bothering me and rip it to shreds, not unlike my cat and the toilet paper when we have to lock him away for a while. It doesn’t make me happy, but it does bother the wife, so that’s something. It’s roughly how I fell back into gaming in the last few years–I was in a dry spell, and an old friend suggested I pick the miniatures back up. That plus a couple of translation projects meant a much happier me.

    You’re probably a much more disciplined person than I, but I can’t tell you how much struggle college was for me. Everything came so easily growing up that I had no study habits at all–nearly torpedoed myself many a time. I thought I was just lazy, but that’s not it at all–I’m a total perfectionist. Didn’t really learn to manage it until a few years ago, and it’s still hard. But grad school was much better than undergrad.

    Interesting how all us mid-30s guys (I prefer to tell people I’m in my unnaturally late 20s) have, in the last few years, started to understand a few things about how we’ve been operating our whole lives. All I know is that I was miserable in my 20s, and I generally enjoy life now.

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