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Faith, Creativity and Loss 3 April 2008

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings, Role-Playing Games.

As I’m sure many of my long term readers will remember I am a fan of Role Playing Games, and, it must be siad, other related forms of creativity. Every so often I blog a few reflections on these, and how Christian life and faith interacts with them. Many of you might also remember how such creative writing often absorbs much, and possibly too much, of my spare time, both the odd moments and concentrated periods of the day off or quiet evenings. It is, no doubt, a form of therapy and relaxation. There have always been questions about where Christian faith sits with such a pastime – and many years ago I found myself under pressure from certain zealous fellow Christians to not only give it up but even go so far as to be told I needed deliverance ministry!

Nevertheless as we are made in the image of God, who surely possess the greatest possible of imaginations in conceiving the entire created order it seems totally consistent to engage that germ of creativity planted deep within each one of us. Individually the hardest issue for me is how I feel generally incapable of turning that to distinctly Christian ends, unless most simply expressed in the “how about we do this” sort of idea. (Ideas which I freely confess I often lack the means of bringing to completion!) Nevertheless, such ideas seem very shallow compared with the challenge of creating a complete virtual nation or world, combining my knowledge, both already known and learned along the way, with my profligate imagination. In two ways it’s fair to say, in the language of the King James Bible, that such things are “vain imaginings.” They are vain in the fact that they are not directed towards the glory of God in any other way than to employ the gifts and skills I possess – although if we were to judge all things by that criterion we could find ourselves in a dangerously joyless and staid world, somewhat like the mindset that can hold certain types of churches in its grasp! Likewise they are vain in the sense that I, and I suspect many other like-minded writers and sub-creators wish their work to be valued by others. I’ve siad before of the thrill of having some of my material published, if only so far in a fan-publication. But this is predominantly background to this post – which is as much a piece of personal therapy as theological reflection.

I am, at moment, grieving. Nothing as severe as the sense of loss brought about by the death of a family member or friend, but still a bereavement of sorts. Over the past few weeks I had come to the conclusion that it was time for me to reluctantly drop out of the Eshraval geofiction project, with which I’ve been associated since April 2006. I had stepped back, gone on holiday and realised that I actually wasn’t missing it. I’d taken the laptop, expecting to do some creative writing and never actually turned it on. So yesterday, having spent several days trying to work out how to best withdraw, since my nation had had quite an important historical place in the world, if not in the present, I was prepared to formally resign, only to discover that there had, over the last few days been a very quick (to my mind) decision to scrub a lot of fundamental stuff and start again. (I might be over-stating the case as I haven’t read everything posted over the last weeks, another indication of the time-eating nature of the hobby). Here was my golden chance to withdraw, with minimum disruption to the project.

However, my feelings are very mixed. Leave aside the fact despite being an Administrator nobody had actually bothered to contact me until quite late in the proceedings – to be fair I hadn’t been able to pull my weight. Even leave aside a general, vague unease about some things over recent weeks. One of the hardest things will be the loss of relationships. I have never physically met any of the players, but feel I do know them, at least more than superficially, since we have talked of faith, politics, life and so on. But maybe other reflections are more important on a spiritual/conceptual level. And I don’t think any are premeditated, either. It simply struck me as I was pondering over these things last night that although I’m the sort of person who rather likes fairly tightly defined boundaries within which to work, both in real life and in terms of creativity, that I was one of the founding group of people who’d shaped the game world. I wouldn’t claim to be the most important by a long way, but I’d been there pretty much constantly.

Yet now, with a goodly number of different players and the dropping out of a lot of “old hands” there was, for lack of better words, a dissatisfaction with the way of things, leading to a decision to change them. It is, I suspect, a reflection of the fundamental human desire to be in control. To learn from the best of the past and create anew. To start again filled with hope. Which is all well and good – apart from the fact that we started again with hope a mere 9 months ago. I’m sure that the hope is that a good deal of the material can be transported to the next incarnation of the game, but the net effect is still that thousands of words, and hundreds of hours of creative effort has, at a stroke been rendered obsolete, even effectively declared worthless. And that hurts. When you write for pleasure, whether for possible publication or not, it is possible to salvage material. Indeed I have megabytes of materials on my hard drives for different RPG systems. I delight in re-reading them every so often, and may use bits of them again. What makes creativity special for me, particularly with Eshraval, is that it takes place in a co-operative environment. You cannot create a nation that feels in any degree real unless there are interactions with the wider world. Solo creativity cannot beat that. (Possibly here’s a place for reflection to on the nature of God as Trinity, three interconnected and interdependent aspects in relationship…?)

I also wonder whether the latest “revision” and perceptions of it have something to do with relative age. I know that I was one of (if not the) oldest players. With age there are added responsibilities that younger players do not have, most often with regards to work and family commitments, and those inevitably colour things. What may seem only a small amount of effort to the sixth form or university student maybe very different for the “family man.” I suspect that the same happens in our lives of faith too. For Esh at least I’m no longer sure I’m willing to invest the hours I did, especially when it seems so casually wiped away. (And that is not an established fact by any means). But now I’m beginning to drift, and I have work to do. Nevertheless this is still important.

Let’s just say that this morning I’m a little sore. Aware of my inabilities and inefficiencies, that which I have not done which I feel I ought to have done, even if I couldn’t. Wanting to return to a past which has now gone. Tempted to join in the latest great future – and fully aware that I really should sit out for a few months and then consider re-joining, yet actually feeling a degree of obligation towards friends and colleagues. Definitely bereavement of sorts.

If any fellow (ex-)Eshers out there are reading this know that I’ll miss you, and it. In the mean time, I wonder quite where my creativity will lead me next?



1. mik - 3 April 2008

I think what you need to concentrate on here is the fact that you were doing something for fun that was taking a lot of your time and energy but it was not giving you back a pleasurable return.

That you felt you wanted to leave before you found that things had changed again. It sounds like you are concentrating on the negative that this work in beta has suffered another upheaval without acknowledging that you have made the correct decision to move on and fine a new direction (however close to the old) in which to direct your creative streak.

The real friends you have made, from Esh or wherever, will show themselves by keeping in contact in one way or another despite you no longer being in that bit of the gang not because of it.

Hope the malaise, however light, lifts soon, it’s horrible when friends are unhappy.

2. Christine - 3 April 2008

Sorry to hear of your heart-ache. Maybe the Lord will open a window as an outlet for your creative mind. Who knows? You could write creatively in so many capacities. There’s even a genre called Christian Historical Fiction. You could even get a Christian Role-Playing Game going at the University….start a club. Fellowship and role-playing in real life. Try not to dwell on the loss. Enjoy the mind-over-matter self-control (practiced during Lent) that you have to overcome a temptation and look to the future to see what else you could do for R&R. Peace.

3. Gareth - 5 April 2008

Well put Dr M, its enormously reasuring and thus comforting and validating to hear your musings, as they matched my experience and feelings on leaving the community so closely.

“If any fellow (ex-)Eshers out there are reading this know that I’ll miss you, and it.”

Straight back at you! 🙂

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