Sunday, July 25, 2004

I've been doing a lot of Phoenix Earth stuff lately, updating the Modern period to the advanced 3rd edition rules.  Even though I'm not writing down very many new rules, it's a fairly large undertaking.  The design ethos of Phoenix Earth demands that every weapon have a reason for existing other than style, and yet the conventions of the fantasy and sci-fi genres demand that the game feature a bewildering variety of equipment.  At the same time, all of this new equipment must be properly scaled, not only internally but with older and newer technologies.  All of this works out to dozens of man-hours of number crunching and roleplaying math.

This sort of work is something that not every roleplayer enjoys (witness The DM), but I like it a lot.  It is one of the reasons I like Phoenix Earth so much: it gives me a chance to explore parts of the art of roleplaying that the player's role doesn't afford me.  Not only do I get to plunge headlong into the very different art of DMing, I get to play around even further behind the scenes with the mathematics and conventions that underpin the entire art form.  It is sort of like what the Dance Master sometimes says about role-reversal: some people have an urge to learn the whole dance, not just their side.  Well, roleplaying is an art that I want to understand all of.

At the same time, recent events have made me acutely aware of the fact that there is not really any satisfaction to be had in these mere artistic pursuits.  In fact, recent events have really brought home to me afresh the fact that there is not really any satisfaction to be had anywhere but Jesus.  Let me clarify by putting it another way: satisfaction can be had anywhere, but only if Jesus is there.  Take the Jesus factor out of it and the satisfaction really goes away.

When I say "satisfaction" in this context I am not talking about a temporary sense of pleasant satiation.  That of course is something that an infinite variety of activities can supply.  What I mean is the kind of satisfaction that sticks to your bones, the kind of thing that allows you to look in the mirror and say, "I am satisfied with my life" (or, to borrow a phrase from the hymn, "It is well with my soul").

I realize that I am a very young man, but I think I can say this with some degree of certainty based on my experiences thus far.  Academically, I have performed to basically the highest degree of expectations my socioeconomic context can set for me.  Intellectually, I have enjoyed the company of some of the world's greatest minds in my chosen field, and they have enjoyed mine.  I know many people whom I am proud to call my friend, and the evidence is that most of them are proud to call me their friend as well.  I am reasonably accomplished in many forms of art (oral, literate, vocal, dramatic, dance, roleplaying), and I have fairly ample time to practice the various arts that I practice.  Romantically, my life has been rich and satisfying, and I am intensely, fiercely proud to be the ex-boyfriend of the two young ladies whose ex-boyfriend I am.

And the thing of it is that I have, at one time or another, had ample opportunity to examine each of these life traits in either my life or the life of someone close to me, but absent the Jesus factor - and in every case the satisfaction has been simultaneously absent.  That list of life traits is long enough for me.  If fulfillment is not found in academic, intellectual, romantic, social, or even creative activity by itself - but if fulfillment\\satisfaction is found in academic, intellectual, romantic, social, or creative activity in the presence and under the auspices of Jesus, then what is the conclusion to be?  That fulfillment is to be found in some other activity I haven't tried yet (e.g., non-academic career, life-long social work)?  Or that fulfillment is found in the common factor?

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