Of Mass Effect and eschatology.

The rest of the world was deep into Mass Effect 3 (and ranting about the apparently horrible ending) when I finally played and finished Mass Effect 2 sometime last October. Lately I’ve been playing through it again as a different class, making alternate choices, and picking up the expansions.

A few thoughts (ah, more like praises) on the game, and more on the world. NOTE: I have played ME1 and ME2 (so this post assumes their knowledge), but I have not played ME3. If you’re planning to comment, do not spoil ME3 or I’ll sic a drell assassin on you.
Continue reading Of Mass Effect and eschatology.

Codex, i.

In a previous life, I took after the Book-Writers of Myst and wrote a theory of the universe. The Homeworld Codex was some 10,000 words long — and that was just the theory and early history of the universe — when it was tragically lost, and for a number of years it only had existence in my imagination.
I’m unable to revive the original Codex. But the pang of loss has finally subsided enough for me to gather up some of the major ideas and set them down here.


All that exists, exists on two levels of reality: the imaginary plane where it is defined mathematically upon the foundations of the elements (the smallest units of information decreed), and the real plane which is reality as we know it. All that exists in the real plane, from a single molecule of water to the greatest galaxy, has a corresponding mathematical definition, or function, within the imaginary plane. Indeed, the entire universe and all therein can be defined in a single mathematical function of awesome complexity.

Functions undergo transformation from the theoretical imaginary plane to the real plane, which is reality as we know it. (An analogy would be the Fourier transform.) Primordial energy is the “force”, the primum mobile that enables this transformation.

The existence of the imaginary plane and primordial energy are generally beyond the cognizance of sentience, but there are particular individuals, called users, that have degrees of awareness. Energy transfer is the most instinctive manipulation, and is limited by the energy gradient within the real plane. Information transfer involves direct energy use within the imaginary plane, and requires cognizance of such.

Next: Time, the global and local continuums, the energy gradient, energy users, effect of energy/info transfer on sentience, the People, nodes and portals, psionics.

Voices from pages.

The last few months have been consumed with reading Patrick O’Brian. More recently, George MacDonald.

The first time, it took me 2 years to get from Master and Commander to The Reverse of the Medal (as recorded at Ath). This time, it took me 2 months to traverse the same route, and beyond. (Picking up Clarissa Oakes today, and I can see myself finishing the series in good time.) I’ve been averaging two days per book, so thoroughly have I been caught up in the music of O’Brian’s storytelling. There’s no other way to describe the language than “lyrical”. The series is a symphony, each book a variation on the theme of Jack and Stephen’s lifelong friendship. Secondary characters add their own themes, and become just as beloved as the two heroes. The series has everything that one could love in a fine saga: delightful, poignant, humourous (sometimes absurdly so), exciting and suspenseful and sometimes grim, predominantly lighthearted… Above all, musical, like the song of water running past the sailing Surprise.

+++

Some years ago I fell in love with George MacDonald’s fantastical novels, Phantastes and Lilith, and have lately been reading his less-known works via Project Gutenberg. They are tales of Scotch and English country life in general, and people coming to faith in Jesus in particular. MacDonald’s portrayal of journeys to faith resonates strongly with me, because I myself have experienced some of those crises and doubts, and resultant growth towards God, and I fancy I see a bit of my own reflection in many of the characters’ struggles and victories. Didactism aside, MacDonald writes lovely stories. They are intimate and thoughtful, and draw from deep wells of sorrow and joy. I’ve read only a few novels so far — Thomas Wingfold, Curate and There and Back standing out most strongly — but they’ve already made a huge impression on me.

The stories may be intimate and personal, the characters portrayed in exquisite and loving detail, but the landscape in which they are set is vast as eternity. I cannot help but feel like a strong wind is blowing through the pages of MacDonald’s novels — felt it as early as Phantastes. This is the cold, implacable, primal wind that causes clouds to scud overhead; yet this same wind puts a hunger in me for something as wide and great as the trackless sky, a longing to reach and touch the cold and eternal stars far above who are so much closer to God. I daresay, this is the wind of the Holy Spirit breathing through MacDonald’s novels.

Reading list for 2013.

GENERALLY: Patrick O’Brian, Patricia A. McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay.

PRIORITY:
A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham.
Gridlinked by Neal Asher.
Dust by Elizabeth Bear.
Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell.
Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh.
Count Zero by William Gibson.
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman.
Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean.
Silverlock by John Myers Myers.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson.
The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe.

LOWER PRIORITY:
All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear.
The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold.
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson.
The City and the City by China Miéville.
The Thirteen-and-a-Half Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers.
Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix.
Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg.
Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer.

Between here and then.

Man, that last post was a downer. Have I always written such melancholy thoughts?

Probably so. I think the lighter thoughts aren’t making it. It’s clear that Velivolans v.2 is taking on a more serious tone than Velivolans v.1. The days of shooting the breeze in my blog are over: I no longer have much desire to write about miscellany and random thoughts as I did before. It could be that I just don’t think such thoughts anymore. Or if I do, they don’t feature enough on my consciousness that I’m driven to talk about it.

Or, I simply don’t want to share them with you. My relationship with you the audience has changed. It’s not personal. But the Net is no longer my place of confidence.

I had been speaking a lot in the years I did not blog. Speaking to a bodied, familiar audience is not at all like writing to a disembodied, anonymous audience. And that bodied audience has become more important when it comes to personal confidences. I’ve always said, I write more for release than for memory. Once I’ve exhaled those thoughts out of my system, that’s done, there’s no need to express them elsewhere. Most of the thoughts that were once shared in a blog have now been transferred to friends-in-body.

(Hm. In those years, I had also been dealing with — and overcoming — fragmentation of personality and continuity. I think this change of attitude towards blogging is an outcome of that. Well, good change, I say.)

I’m still figuring out where I want to take this blog. Writing in a public setting to a disembodied audience who has no continuity or relationship to my life doesn’t quite fit anymore. Perhaps like outgrowing a set of once-comfortable clothes. Even after writing the posts below, my words feel awkward and a bit clumsy. How did I write in the past? Where has that muse gone?

It appears that this blog is going to be an archive for those in-between thoughts. Thoughts worth recording, but not in my paper journal. Serious thoughts that I may not feel like sharing with friends-in-body. Book reviews and other such things that haven’t yet found a physical audience to hear.

I’m not sure how many light-hearted thoughts may make their way in here. Usually, those happy thoughts find an audience long before they get down to a blog. I may be thoughtful and melancholy, but I’m certainly not like that all the time. (Well fine, maybe I am most of the time, it’s just expressed differently. Hard to convey expressions in writing.)

Truth is, my life is happy. Has its ups and downs – whose doesn’t? – but it’s mostly upbeat and cheerful nowadays.

We’ll see where this blog experiment goes.

Lives in passing.

Now that I have close access to it, I’ve been reading the paper over lunch break. My current events feed has been entirely from the Net for a good number of years, and “reading the news” has always been my way of finding out what’s going on in the rest of the world beyond the borders of whichever state or nation I happen to be living in. (I wonder what it suggests about me, that I’m least interested in current events happening at closest proximity. Hmm, have to think about that.) While I’m glad that the local paper is able to fill in that neglect in my knowledge, I’m quite ambivalent about the current state of journalism. It is by turns monotonous and exasperating, and sometimes I feel justified in going on the Net for my current events. (But, another day for my thoughts on current events reporting.)

So I always end up in my favourite part of the newspaper: right at the back, in the obituaries. Continue reading Lives in passing.

Code Geass, and looking for anime recommendations.

I’m super-picky about what anime I watch. Not much can top Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Cowboy Bebop, in my opinion.

But lately I’ve been itching to watch a new anime series. It has to be a good story, and I have to like the artistic style: two very important criteria, especially with the varieties of anime artform out there. Finally settled on Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion: it seems like the right mix of anachro-futuristic epic saga that I’m fond of. And I’m not averse to this variety of CLAMP’s artistic style.

I finished the first collection (episodes 1-5) today. This is winding up to be an interesting saga. The setting has been descibed, most of the important characters have appeared, and some intriguing clues of identity and motive have been dropped. Lelouche is a most fascinating protagonist. While his motive and actions can be construed quite simplistically, I suspect that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Time to find out more…

Okay, I’ve been sucked in to Code Geass and want to watch more. But my two local libraries don’t have any more of the series… time to go twist some arms nicely ask some university friends if they can borrow it from their library for me.

Samurai Champloo is probably next. (It would’ve been first, if I was able to get it.) Other anime that look promising (somewhat in order): Macross, Full Metal Panic!, Bubblegum Crisis, Serial Experiments Lain, The Vision of Escaflowne, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rurouni Kenshin, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and RahXephon.

Should also get my hands on Appleseed and Battle Angel Alita manga. And EGADS — I believe my local library has the complete Akira. I may actually get to finish it after all.

Being the hero of my story.

Tigana is a story of a people reclaiming their inheritance. Guy Gavriel Kay has ensorcelled me with his mighty tale. But more on the book later.

Apropos of Kay’s novel and Doug Wilson’s exegesis on Psalm 2 (disparate sources, but that’s how my mind works)—

In the last few years I’ve found myself drawn more and more strongly to the heroic, the mythic, the legendary. In stories, music, and imagery, they are all clarion calls to my heart and stir up a longing for the ineffable. For something wondrous I can see, that stands just beyond me and beckons me to come. In the midst of life that sometimes feels like an endless ploughing of the earth, seeing nothing but the dirt in front of me — the legends cry: Look up!

Look up at the sky, look up to the far mountains. There is more beyond this life! And even greater: there is more to what you are doing now, even if it is just earth and fallow dirt before your eyes. Don’t you see that you are in the Promised Land, and because you ploughed your ground with faithfulness, it shall one day cover the whole world?

I’ve just begun reading the tale called the Love of Christ; but I’ve been in this other book for at least a couple years already: the tale of God the Master Storyteller.

Psalm 2:7-8—
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.

Why are such fantasy novels so powerful and moving? Tigana, Riddle-Master, The Lord of the Rings… the heart of these stories are of Alessan, Morgon and Aragorn discovering their true natures, and reclaiming their inheritances and lordship. So it is with us: so we read those stories, and long for what we have lost.

Mighty though those tales are, they are only shadows of the reality. Even more glorious is the story that God first told in his Son, and is now telling in his Church, in individual lives. Don’t we all want to be heroes of our own stories? And so shall we be. But who is telling the story?

The heroes in the story never know where they are going or how it will turn out in the end.

It may suffice for fantasy novels, but in the story of life all authors fall short, including myself, for we know not the end or how to get there. But God is the Master Storyteller, he knows the beginning from the end for he wrote it first in Jesus, and he knows how to get there — and tell an amazing yarn in the meantime. And just like his own story, our lives will end in glory, perfection, and full inheritance.

Even as the heroes journey through the dark, fraught, perilous times, we the readers know how it will end. People of God, whose lives are still being written by the Master Storyteller: can we possibly look at our own stories and see the same ending?

Ever since I had this revelation, I’ve had more and more peace, gratitude and wonder in my heart, that overcomes fear and anxiety about the future, the unknown. Life is wonderful! In the great deeds and small details, God is telling a good story in me. And when the days just seem like I’m staring at and ploughing the ground before me, I can still raise my eyes to the mountains and look to the sky, and that yearning in my heart tells me that there is more to be written yet.

One touch.

I’ve been learning a lot in faith lately.

One revelation that has been unfolding for the last couple months has been the love of Christ. The fierce, fiery, unrelenting, violently passionate, wholly possessive, willingly and joyously sacrificial, love of Christ for the Church his bride. This is no mere human love; this truly is divine love.

It is not a common revelation amongst Christians, even in most churches. Because it is not a comfortable revelation. It’s easy and relatively safe to contemplate a benevolent love, even a Fatherly love, for a measure of distance can be maintained. It is terrifying to imagine the passionate love of a lover for his dearly beloved. Because it renders your vulnerable, it strips you naked, it exposes everything in you. Who can face such intimacy without fear?

In this world of flagrant bodily exposure, the heart has never been more shielded. Small wonder that we shy away from the burning love of Christ. It turns the world upside down.

Oh, why remain in shallows of vapid love and meaningless sexual gestures? The deep is terrifying. The deep is exhilarating. Once you taste from the deep, nothing else will satisfy.

To go deep, you have to drown.

Jesus, for a moment you touched me that white-hot love, and I am irreparably scarred. That one draught will sustain me for forty days and forty nights; that one touch is enough to set my heart longing for your courts and your glory.

You said, I will fill your cup to overflowing. So Lord, pour it out.

Last night’s adventure.

I dreamt an adventure last night. I forgot most of it upon waking; let me try to remember.

As most of my dreams, I was not in it, but was “watching” it like a movie. Several adventurers were on a quest to find leaves of a certain plant/tree that bestowed healing or magical properties. They needed it to save something — a kingdom, or a queen, I don’t remember. It was a “it’s our only hope! you’re our only hope!” scenario. The leaves were found only in the possession of the gorilla king (or some sort of great ape), who lived across a span of water.

The adventurers set out from the green, verdant kingdom. Continue reading Last night’s adventure.