Yes, my post today is about monsters. Once again, monsters have solicited my attention (I actually went in search of some of the more literal ones, but more of that anon). The first monster that I want to write about, however, is the monster of vanity. As Adrienne Rich points out above, “a thinking woman” (which I like to believe I am) “sleeps with monsters. The beak that grips her, she becomes.” Having been gripped by the monster of wounded vanity (why is it, I asked myself, that so often when I write my little heart out fewer people read, and when I don’t write for a whole week, my stats go up?), in my injured pride I said, “Take a holiday from writing, you aren’t being appreciated anyway.” (So as you see, from only being momentarily attacked by the vain impulse, I let it have its head and actually became that empty being for a week, one who could be writing but isn’t, out of a sort of misdirected, misbegotten spite.)
Then, I found yet another quote about monsters, also apropos of this situation: as Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes said, “Imagination abandoned by Reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of their wonders.” The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t being reasonable, but was indulging an overactive imagination. What about the many times when I had written frequently, and been rewarded not only by readers on my stats, but also by “likes” and even more by comments in return? So, even if sometimes people do seem to be reading more when I don’t write, they are at least reading, and my monstrous vanity should be restrained in its imaginative excesses by a dose of Reason, since I would like to be thought of as somewhat “artful” in my pursuit of literary topics and truths. This is what I told myself, today when I checked my stats again and was once again puzzled, but decided to write anyway, because I have been busy off fighting game monsters for almost a week now, and felt it was time to stop sulking and do a post. Maybe compare notes with others who’ve had the same experience?
As George Seferis (Giorgios Sefiriades) made clear in his speech for the Nobel Prize, “When, on the road to Thebes, Oedipus met the Sphinx, who asked him her riddle, his answer was: Man. This simple word destroyed the monster. We have many monsters to destroy. Let us think of Oedipus’ answer.” So, it’s not necessary to be an absolute drudge in one’s keeping of a series of posts, only a thinking woman [I take it Sefiriades wouldn’t have excluded Woman from the universal expression “Man”] who says something when she has something to say, and leaves the readers to enjoy what’s there when and if they can get around to it, just as she posts when she can get around to it. Without fancy excuse or offended rejoinder. And if by being more a part of Humankind and admitting to some faults one can best slay them, then all to the better.
Finally in my pantheon of notable quotes for the day, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche had this to say about monsters and mirror images: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” I have been playing (for at least the last five days, off and on) the Monsters’ Den: Book of Dread follow-up game Monsters’ Den Chronicles. It’s a new offshoot of the original game and has such weapons as vampiric swords and armor which suck your enemies’ health or power (or both, if you get a really prime piece of equipment), and “shadow” warriors on both sides, who mimic the abilities of the main characters or suborn their powers as their own. Nietzsche wouldn’t have been amused (or would he?). In this game, a misguided group of negative religionists have founded a dungeon that the player’s characters must go through, “defeating”–the word “killing” is rarely used–the enemy as best they can. It’s not a matter of simply having a different religious preference (thank goodness for that, or who in their right mind would want to play it and incur the self-reproach of not being tolerant towards others’ beliefs?); it’s a matter of fighting “real-life” monsters like vampires, nightmares, banshees, ghouls, the general undead, and the acolytes, neophytes, and armored beings who keep them going. That makes it safe for everyone’s conscience. Certainly, however, the combative edge one needs to maintain means being ruthless, and many of the weapons and skill sets encourage this.
Why do I play, and what is the main thing I feel this game gives me? Strategic lessons. It’s not a multiple explosion, car wreck, violent blood spatter kind of game, but merely a game which occasionally has some imaginative visual effects of spells and potions and hits on enemy targets, and which sedately shows a small pile of bones like the ones on a pirate’s flag when you finally beat each enemy. It requires careful thought and negotiations between various pieces of equipment you find/purchase in order to get the best “bang for your buck,” and you must constantly be on your guard and calculating the best means of balancing four characters’ differing skills and talents against any number of from one to six opponents of sometimes quite a superior number of “hit points” (life expectancy, potency, abilities). I feel that my strategic thinking about what weapons to use in life has improved (whether we’re talking about words or tactics for living): quick calculations of possibilities and potential outcomes is a skill like any other, and while some prefer to work crossword puzzles, I find this game more compelling (at least for now) than the crosswords I used to work so frequently. And that’s my say (now, Nietzsche might think I’ve looked too long into the abyss and given it a chance to peer too deeply into me in return, but I don’t feel I’m a monster yet, if ever. I’m extremely unlikely to assault anyone or act out in strange ways, as is the effect of some other sorts of computer games of the more violent variety, and as a really keen incentive, this dungeon system has a shopping emporium! Could anything be more appealing to your average peaceable warrior than a chance to buy and sell equipment, potions, and miscellaneous items and upgrade all at the same time?). Seriously, though, having fought my demons (even the vanity one) by taking a few days off and trying not to worry too much about stats (except the gaming kind) has given me a much needed breather from end-of-the-summer doldrums. I do hope to continue to post regularly, but I thought a small dose of honesty wouldn’t come amiss, just in case you thought I had given up the ghost (let’s see, now, how many hit points does the average ghoul have….?).