Monday, August 2, 2010

Sweet memory: For lo the bridges burneth

Attempting to play Dwarf Fortress puts me heavily in mind of my five-year old self's attempts to play Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: It's colourful, very pixelated, and I have absolutely no idea about what I am doing or how to do it. Should my dwarves spontaneously be run-over by taxi's or mugged by someone dressed as a villain from Cigars of the Pharaohs, my heart will be warmed by nostaligic childhood memories. Should my dwarves suddenly drop dead of STD's, then it'll be the memory of a an older child who tried to track down his childhood game memories and learned, for the first time, that LSLLL was game that you win by having safe sex, something of which my five year old self was unaware of.

However, I'm pretty sure my memory is lying to me. Our first computer (that I can remember) was the Mac Classic, which had a nine-inch monochrome CRT screen (And, Wikipedia tells me, ran at the now quaintly bizarre 512x342 resolution, and had 4MBs of memory). And I am also sure that the LSLLL mugger was not dressed in the weird purple Cigar of the Pharaohs outfit, partially because that doesn't make any sense, and partially because as I said, our CRT screen was monochrome- black and white, which means no purple robes.

I remember Felix the Cat: The Movie being something I was obsessed about for a brief period, but when I tried to watch it again, I had to turn it off in disgust. "Terrible"... doesn't even come close to describing it. Since then, I can't revisit treasured childhood classics, like the Lost in Space remake or David Lynch's Dune (I was a strange child) for fear that they won't be deserving of the the shinning altars I laid them on as a small boy. I'm sure Jim Varney will no longer be funny (although the theme song from Ernest Rides Again remains totally kick-ass). Ghostbusters I and II were actually funnier when I saw them as an adult. I'm sure Alien³ isn't as good, although I am sure the lovely Ms. Weaver is as intense as always. Pee-Wee is also better as an adult than a child. 

Still, the bad outweighs the good. I used to watch Sonic Underground, which had Sonic and his siblings... fight evil villains by turning into nineties rock musicians.... who are hedgehogs. Yeah. Or the Caspar movie? It's really best not to think about that one. And the less said about Beyblade the better.

Better authentic mammon than a bogus god

When is passion forgivable? 

Gastrimargia, porneia, philargyria, lupē, orgē, akedia, kenodoxia, hyperephania. Working from Greek, the monk Evagrius Ponticus writes these down- to warn, to preach, to proselytize. Time and tide play with them, and these eight sins are later whetted down to the manageable seven, and as the language of scholarship becomes Latin, we get luxuria, gula, avaritia, acedia, ira, invidia and superbia. Socordia replaces acedia, but the intent remains the same, and we reach our modern Seven Deadly Sins, which most of us know- Lust and Gluttony, Greed and Sloth, Wrath and Envy, and ever ascendent, Pride. 

Theologians have always been partial to our friends the sins, that is when they aren't fighting over Arianism, Nestorianism or Chalcedonian doctrine, which is just as fun as it sounds. Saint Aquinas, the dear, felt the need to divide gluttony into six different subcategories, the sort of inane minutiæ so beloved of scholars when they run out of the truly ground breaking ideas. Some enterprising fellow chose to whittle it down to three groupings- the sins of lustful appetite, irascibility and intellect. But all of this is the splitting of hairs- our sins are all those of the passionate bent. We find that this extends into both the social and legal milieu- we have crimes of passion, we accuse others of getting heated or riled up, and we mean it pejoratively. While we may describe a speaker as passionate, we also apply it as a derogatory adjective- the passions of "Latin women"- a euphamism to affectionately describe the same attitudes one might find in an angry, toy-throwing toddler.

When is passion forgivable? As a culture, existing in the Western-European tradition of the Song of Roland, the Matter of Britain, Gallic romantics and Mediterranean Lotharios, we raise these passionate people up while at the same time we condemn their passions as our sins. We go so far as to lock ourselves into a catch twenty-two. While we decry those who fall victim to their passions, that killjoy Pope Gregory I felt the need to add Sloth to our little list and thus condemn those one might think we would consider our greatest compatriots- those who have handily rid themselves of any passion whatsoever. Perhaps it's an offshoot of the Catholic guilt that St. Peter bequeathed to Europe, that masochistic glee of the constantly guilty. We let ourselves be passionate, write our stories and then we prostate ourselves in the confessional, overwhelmed by guilt. Then with God's love and our penance we're off again to unleash our passions on the world. For many of us that embodiment of all the sins, Henry Tudor, managed to deprive us of even confession, leaving only heavily mounting guilt as our passions rise and fall and we sin and sin again. The joy of our modern world is that we're free to confess our sins in any number of ways, from psychologist to blog post, but we've utterly eliminated culturally approved redemption and penance, save for the few lucky celebrities who get time in rehab clinics for the very wealthy. You've sinned, shame on you, feel guilty. And then that's it.

If modern culture is going to continue on it's way- so vocally, so at odds with our own conservative morality, than we require a new set of sins. My personal set of even would be Boorishness, Lack of Charity, Overuse of Buzzwords or Academic Jargon, Poor Hygiene, Crudeness, Violence Towards One's Fellow Man and Not Understanding That One Can't Carry A Tune And Yet Singing Anyways.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your thoughts. Write in what you feel should be the new sins of our modern world. I'll make it a contest. The one with the best sins will be allowed forgiveness with only three Hail Mary's and a single act of contrition.

...Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua, de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum par publius Karaoke....