It's our annual New Year's Resolutions bonus episode! Our fundraiser has wrapped up (at $360 raised for The Bodhana Group, well beyond our $150 goal), and Sojourn Volume 2 is still out, with Volume 3 in the works! Also, Branden's no longer with the podcast; we wish him the best of luck going forward. After that news wrap-up, Peter and Grant break down our resolutions for the coming year, and what we'll do to keep them.
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."—Ecclesiastes 1:9
There's something appropriate to the fact that Solomon's words are about 3000 years old, and while he may not have given humanity enough credit in terms of technology, he certainly was right about our behavior. There are two places I think this is relevant, with radically-different levels of importance.
The first and more important is that, as I've heard a number of pastors say, there is nothing we can do that God hasn't seen before. Our shortcomings and sins are neither novel nor noteworthy, and neither is our cycle of struggle, failure, trying again, backsliding, progress, temporary success, and genuine forward progress. The story of the Bible is the story of humanity failing, screwing things up, pleading for forgiveness, getting it, doing better, and then sliding back into old habits and the cycle beginning anew. There is nothing we can do to shock God. There is no wrongdoing we can commit that will set us apart as one of the “special bad ones.” His forgiveness extends to all equally.
The second is that because of this pattern, human nature has been more-or-less constant for all of our history. We do good, we do evil. Cycles of freedom and oppression wax and wane, and one can find parallels with present events in history, sometimes very recent history. I'm sure everyone with an internet connection has seen some quote that, on the face of it, appears to be about current events that was actually from the 1960s. Or 1860s. Or 1360s. Humanity is nothing if not consistent, which is why, in my opinion, the stories we tell each other are so important.
It's also why they tend to be so similar.
There are archetypal stories out there (how many is the subject of much discussion and debate) but the names are familiar: the Hero's Journey, Boy Meets Girl, Monster in the House, and so forth. Each one comes with its own set of tropes and conventions. So many of us strive to come up with something original, when the truth is: we can't. There is at least one website devoted to cataloging tropes, and it is massive. In a way, that knowledge is freeing, if you let it be. Because there is still room to combine the elements in a new way, even if the elements themselves are familiar. And in so doing, we can create something more useful than something new: we can create something meaningful, and meaningful in such a way that it can be understood.
Meaningful doesn't always have to mean “deep” by the way; not every story we tell is going to contain some timeless, profound truth. However, if we let them, almost every story we tell, or that we let others tell us, will reveal some small tings about us. Telling stories together builds friendships, but it does so by showing others parts of us that we can't or won't show in other ways. Tabletop RPGs can do this better than most other means, if we let them. The collaborative nature of the experience means that the participants should be constantly playing off of each other – you can tell a lot about someone by the types of characters they create, and how those characters behave in-game. The experience teaches both us and our friends our own specific rhythms and patterns of thought while teaching us theirs in return. Oftentimes, all that's useful for is making the session more enjoyable, but in today's world of stress and disconnection, that's still a worthy goal. Every now and then, though, sometimes unintentionally, the experience will teach us something profound about ourselves, deeper than we expected, but you have to keep scratching the surface to get down there.
We often get into the good stuff, the deep stuff, the really useful and meaningful revelations not by digging a mine shaft straight down, but by digging a continuous series of shallow holes, one inside the other.
It's a short episode this week—Grant, Peter, and Branden recorded it just before Christmas—but we make the most of our time! First up, we plug Sojourn Volume 2 (remember, Peter's published in here again, along with many of our Booter friends), and we have officially finished up our fundraiser for The Bodhana Group. Then we get down to it with Scripture and a back-and-forth about making holiday-themed games successful. Referenced works: A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny.
Every year, I and countless other people make New Year's Resolutions. And every year, most of us break most of them. The reasons vary, but most resolutions do not survive the year. That leads a lot of folks of a sensible but perhaps a little cynical bent to deride the practice as worthless or just a source of disappointment.
I disagree; I think the practice, even, perhaps especially, given the ephemeral nature of the resolutions is valuable.
For one thing, failed resolutions can be a convenient reminder that even the most sensible of us can't always predict how things will turn out. It can be a good hedge against Pride to realize that we didn't accomplish something we wanted to as long as we don't fall into the trap of self-loathing about it. That same reminder of our own finite and fallible nature, especially so closely placed to Christmas, can help drive home just what a wonderful thing it is that God loves us and chose to walk among us in human flesh, experiencing what we experience as we experience it.
I also think also there's tremendous value in sitting down once a year and really thinking about what you'd like to do with your life. Modern life is, almost by definition, busy and distracting. Even as an introvert, married to another introvert, with no children and a job that allows me excellent work-life balance, I find my attention constantly in demand for a thousand things, both petty and important, and even when I'm not busy, there's always Netflix and Steam. It's nice to have an annual ritual where we stop for a bit and contemplate what, exactly, we actually want to do with ourselves. (This same phenomenon, by the way, is why I also enjoy long car rides with my wife; driving removes a lot of the technological distractions and gives us time to talk.) There are some nice parallels between annual lists of things I'd like to make better about myself and the doctrine of Progressive Sanctification I believe in as a Methodist.
And finally, making some resolutions acknowledges the clean slate that a new year brings, but it also puts a few brushstrokes on the canvass so you're not staring into a void of endless, yet empty, possibilities. Or maybe that's just me.
So I'm doing what I always do at this time of year: I'm assembling a list of things that I'd like to do with my life and I'm going to try to accomplish some of them in the coming year.
With that in mind, I offer the following resolution-related suggestions:
- Pick stuff you WANT to do, not just stuff you HAVE to do or feel you SHOULD do. If you're anything like me (and face it, if you're reading a post about resolutions on the website of a Christian RPG podcast, you're probably more like me than either of us is comfortable with) you'll have more success and less guilt that way.
- Pick out a few things that you'd like to try, but never have. In my personal lists, this often takes the form of game systems, and I have a few in mind for this year.
- Pick stuff you'll want to “renew” if you don't get it done this year.
- Divide your list into categories. Here on Saving the Game, we've used the categories of Faith, Personal, and Gaming, but obviously those are driven more by the format of the podcast than anything else.
- Don't be afraid to let resolutions go if you realize you don't want them any more.
- Pick at least a few things that won't benefit just you if you pull them off.
- Have fun with it! Silly resolutions are fine, as are difficult ones.
- Share them! (Perhaps not all of them, but the ones you're comfortable sharing.)
- Check in on them periodically throughout the year. (Doing this is one of mine for this year.)
Happy New Year, and I hope to see you in the chat room on the 8th!