Happy Solstice from Odin!

Shadow-purposes, Baldur's Gate, and more.

Happy Solstice from Odin!
A winter solstice tree in a deserted cybernetic city.

As promised, my return to regular weekly newsletters begins. I've got some thoughts on shadow-purposes and Baldur's Gate 3 waiting for you, as well as a few tidbits from the world to share.

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Shadow Purposes

I've been mildly addicted to a new podcast called The Spiritual Pyshcology of Acting Podcast lately. For those of you who don't know, I got my start as a creative in life through acting. My acting teachers were (and remain) incredible human beings who lived and breathed the art of the theatre in every moment. That sort of dedication is inspiring, and when you train under that kind of influence, that sort of passion rubs off on you.

I stopped acting a long time ago, save for one minor role in a local indie film (that I've still never gotten around to watching), but I never stopped appreciating the art and all that it did to create the person that I am today. I know, in my bones, that returning to acting is something that I have to do to find fulfillment in life.

This podcast is features John Osborne Hughes, a long-time British actor and drama instructor, who has used this method of training to encourage and reinvigorating the acting lives of hundreds of professionals around the world. Much of his overall focus on Buddhist spirituality and modern psychology is known to me through my own experiences and research, and on its own I might not be called to it at all. But when makes it so powerful is how it's attached to the craft of acting.

Acting is an incredibly raw, empathetic, and inherently emotional artform. The best actors are the ones who are in touch with their present self to such a deep degree that they can simultaneously hold their own experience, and the experience of the character. If you're a fan of Patrick Rothfuss's work, then imagine it a bit like the Alar from Kingkiller Chronicle. The best acting is holding two identities at once: only, it's not a forceful process, it's a joyful act of service.

One of the things that John Osborne Hughes talks about a lot is the "purpose" of a character. A purpose is that thing which drives a character forward, and it's those obstacles to the fulfillment of that purpose that create the emotional tension.

But there are also "shadow-purposes." I first explored the Shadow-Self ages ago when I read Robert Bly's Little Book of the Human Shadow, as it's a pretty staple idea in Jungian philosophy. Shadow purposes don't live in the conscious mind, but deep down beneath the unconscious. They're submerged entities in your psyche, behemoths whose great thrashing movements can impact the course of your life without your even being consciously aware of them.

One such shadow purpose is "I want to fail." This may seem ridiculous at first glance. Who goes through their life wanting to fail? And yet this is perhaps one of the more common problems that people suffer from... which we experience actively through the state of anxiety exemplified by worrying. "I might fail this," invites failure. For some, it invites the dark aspect of never even trying.

When we try, we might fail in the immediate outcome, but we succeed in the act of trying; in other words, true failure only exists when we cease to hope and act toward the fulfillment of that hope.

There's more to say about all of this, but I'll save it for another day.

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A Low-Key Week of Baldur's Gate

I don't play video games much these days. Sometimes I will go on a bender, but it's usually with older games that I've played before. KotOR, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Stellaris, Civ... I rarely branch too far beyond the familiar... and, as time has gone on, even less of those. This is partly a matter of time and priorities: I feel a sense of continual atmosphere in my life, a sort of barometric pressure comprised of unfinished deeds.

Being in a Master's program, working two jobs, and trying to hold onto all my projects takes a lot of time.

But, sometimes, it's good to just let go.

Which brings me to the other flaw I've discovered in most games: they've started to bore me. Take Stellaris: I love the vastness, the concept of possibility that it contains. But, when you come right down to it, there's not much going on. Play it for a bit and you just end up feeling divorced from the experience of a people learning to explore, expand, and tentatively co-exist with other species in a vast galaxy. Or take Skyrim. Skyrim's nostalgic, but by the time I've loaded all the mods I want to play with... well, I don't want to play anymore.

But I'd heard some great things about Baldur's Gate 3, and, it being the holiday break, I decided to give it a go. It helps that I've also been DMing my first 5E campaign and having a fair bit of fun doing so (I've been DMing for fifteen years, but mostly 3.5/Pathfinder). The vibe of BG is solid D&D, and it's turned out to be some of the most fun I've had with a video game in years. Probably since Outer Worlds came out.

There are some frustrations due to its being a game. There are strict structures to play within that I can balk at sometimes, but these are usually worked around by lowering the difficulty level. Ultimately, it's just a blast. It does feel a hell of a lot like actual D&D transformed into a video game, which is surprising. I remember trying to play some of that Pathfinder video game a while back and thinking that it was sort of lackluster. It didn't immerse you.

Baldur's Gate immerses the hell out of you. The voice-acting is really key for me. It's incredible work by a rad cast, and they really make the whole world come alive.

We'll see how long this addiction lasts, but I'm hoping to give the game a few dozen hours the next couple of weeks. Which is perfect, too, because my D&D game's on break until January for everyone's holiday schedule so I’ll be able to get my fix!

From the world-wide-web

As I've floated through the ethersphere of the Internet, I've encountered a fair number of articles in just the last week. I won't share everything with you, that would eclipse the purpose of this newsletter... but I'll share a few.

There's a lot of bad news out there in the world. Like... a lot. It's not always easy to hold space for all the horrors. But, I do feel that it's possible. We can split our Alar in twain, holding the reality of a comfy holiday season at home, and the latest acts of genocide or environmental self-destruction at the same time. Can and also have to. Otherwise we become ostriches, or go insane.

Next week, is the holidays for my little family. Friends, good, and colorful lights. Hopefully, some more rest. From my home to yours, happy solstice, and may your life contain a little extra brightness and unexpected merriment.

Go easy, and if you can't go easy, just go as easy as you can.


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