Passing Words

My father is severely self-deprecating, I could count the number of times I’ve heard him compliment himself on the fingers of one hand. To guide me, he would set both his wisdom and his faults side by side in my sight, urging me not to follow in his footsteps when they had gone astray. This quote by Michel de Montaigne is a favourite of his:

 

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

 

The message I’ve always taken from it is simple, but in my eyes profound. Don’t cling to thoughts of tragedy. Awful things can, and likely will, occur, but the majority of the time your ominous worries will never come to see reality. Take courage in this, and live knowing that for every time you fall, there will be many more where you rise. You don’t have to live in the shadow of phantoms.

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Gaming down Memory Lane: The Path of Radiance

Thus begins a new arc in the Reverium. Touched and inspired by the words of a friend on his gaming past, I thought I would share my own favourite moments, games and times. Whilst not the writing I promised, I do think that the being behind the words is just as important. All of us carry our past with us, for better or worse, it was the choices we make that truly matter. Here I’ve chosen to share a part of mine, to show some of the worlds that have inspired me.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Completing games has never really been a thing for me. I completely respect, and even occasionally find myself envious of, those who do, but it’s just not for me. I’d tell myself that I want all 5 billion pokemon, that when there are words above Professor Oak, you better damn well obey them, catch every single one of those sneaky pokemon. Completion percentages, shelves of achievements, not for me. I tend to catch glimpses of a new game, get completely over-excited, let my mind race and run away with every scrap of a clue until the day comes that I play it. Diving in, completely losing myself to the world of it, and when I switch it off for some real world necessity the game stays with me. Colouring and creating my thoughts and dreams, exploring it  through my own mind. It might sound wonderful, and I surely would never want to change my ways, but it does have a downside. I lose interest before long, the game might just not hold anything beyond what my imagination has given me, or takes the story in a direction that holds nothing new. At any rate, I’ve been notorious amongst my friends for never completing games.

I completed Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and I never put it down along the way.

I won’t go into too many mechanical details, if you’re curious then you can try the links I’ve given above. Suffice it to say that it was a grid-based, turn-based strategy game with RPG elements and a heavy emphasis on a linear storyline that’s told in chapters. Within each chapter there is a battle, and on either side there will be a lot of exposition from various characters, whether they’re at the battle or somewhere else within the world. It instilled within me a lust for such games that has never truly been satiated since. If anybody has any suggestions I’d be thoroughly grateful! But anyhow, though I certainly enjoyed the gameplay immensely, it was how the world was built around it, and the way the story was expressed, that truly drew me in. Though I would mention one very important aspect: death. Your army, or rather squad, is made up of individuals, each with their own story, relationships, battle abilities and personality. When a character dies, that’s it, they stay dead. There’s no revives, phoenix downs, you can’t cram them into pokeballs and blindly throw them at Nurse Joy through your tears of despair, they’re just dead.

I lost someone on the very first chapter just to this mechanic. It wasn’t a difficult battle, but through some combination or impetuous enthusiasm and poor luck I managed to get him killed. Boyd, one of the core characters and the friendly rival of the protagonist himself. At this point I didn’t really understand what had occurred. I’d lost one of my little soldiers, but he wasn’t particularly interesting and had actually seemed fairly annoying in the brief bouts of dialogue before his demise. I knew I could restart the chapter if I wanted to, but I thought I’d give it a go, I could always reload an earlier save. What followed was one of the most, if not the most, touching game experience I have ever had. Boyd has two brothers, an older, quiet and gently spoken horseman called Oscar, and then a younger, teenage, shy and nervous but brave archer called Rolf.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of storytelling and dialogue between battles. On top of this, you can hold conversations between characters of your choice, in an attempt to build relationships between them. This is encouraged for the sake of a boost in stats, but frankly, there is so much more to it. Every single victory I had in that game was bittersweet. Once the last blade had been sheathed, the cries and din of battle had dulled, the two bereaved brothers would always find each other. They would look out for each other, asking how they were holding up. They would pat each other on the back and cheer their glory but most of all, they’d talk about Boyd. What he would be doing right now if he were here, what a sight he would have made in the midst of the battle. They’d joke with smiles under sad eyes about how foolish he used to be, but how he would always find a way to make things work. Before long I found myself mourning for Boyd, angry that I had allowed him to die so easily, so early. I fought on in his name, in the name of Oscar and Rolf. I could not fail, I had to honour his memory. I raced through that game, I’m not sure I’ve ever played so consistently well before or since. I wouldn’t lose anybody again, not after the pain Boyd’s demise had bought me. It just taught me how important every part of a team is. How nobody is an island, and to die is to leave someone behind wishing you were there. I will never forget how I felt at the end of that game, staring past the credits was like gazing down at Boyd’s tombstone, smiling one last sad smile and walking away.

Inspired: Howling Fjord

Inspired is a new series I’m going to be doing. Its something I think about all the time, the beauty, intrigue, creativity, contrast, expression that can be seen around every day through every sense. I will be sharing places, pictures, times, tunes and yes, even more words that have inspired me, I can imagine the list will only grow from there. It also makes for some nice shorter posts to offset the walls of text I’ve been throwing out recently, so enjoy!

Howling Fjord

Video games have been a constant source of inspiration for me. Given a whole world to run around in, I can’t help but find beautiful vistas and striking scenery. Great artists and composers have spent years painting and tuning an entire reality for the mind to explore. Perhaps the most famous of these is the World of Warcraft, and within this incredible world the Howling Fjord is to be found.

By the time you reach this point in the game you should be able to fly, assuming you haven’t been trying to cross the sea in a boat of gold, or rumbled by the Gnome Mafia for protection money one too many times. You can take to the skies on the back of your favourite mount, or, as I first and best experienced it, on your own wings as a shapeshifted bird. I fly across the land, gliding low, skimming the icy water of the fjords themselves, before spiralling up with the eagles and setting my eyes on the nearest mountain, grazing the peaks of the pines as I set wing to wind. Well they may not be pines, but you get the idea. Its beautiful here, rugged and open. As I fly above it, I can feel a wildness, and a freedom rise within me. My mind relaxes and just drinks the open air.

The music is something else too, slow, like the heartbeat of this cold land. Stare up at the aurora and with the sounds you feel as if you’re hearing its own song. Truly, I have spent hours simply basking in the beauty of this place. I wholeheartedly hope you get a chance to do the same.

Walking the Forest

Warm, dappled sunlight coasts across my face, as ripples spreading through a calm lake. Breathing deeply, every earthy scent of the woods slides mercifully into my perception. Ancient bark that has thrown the dice times beyond measure, yet still sits at the table. Seedlings, barely birthed yet brimming with grace and life, pushing through the damp soil. The food, filth and fervour of every woodland creature, each an odour, some scented flag to stake its claim in the wilderness. I could stand forever, let my feet bare root and simply drink the luster of the forest until the end of my days. Yet I take a step, then another. Fresh scents, sights, a delicate breeze toying with my skin. Drawn onwards I delve between the verdant growth.

There is a story hiding behind every tree, be it broken or standing tall, unbent. Under every rock, carried along in every stream or hanging precious within a raindrop. Different paths lead to different beings, those long known, a track well trodden and kept clear. Each with a completely different background. My closest friends, an endless open field, spotted with trees and hedged by brush. My family a dry meadow, leading down to a clear, beautiful coastline. Then, at the centre of it all, a grove woven with dreams and times shared by only one other. There the green is deepest, the water flows clear and the air is alive with creation. It is a vast forest, constantly changing around me.

It does not keep by itself. A mind will not stay happy, at least no mind that I have ever encountered, not in truth. Beings of change, even in rest, of stillness by choice, we move forward, we dream of the next corner. Day by day, memory by memory, we mark time and it marks us, highs and lows to embrace or despair. Time does not stall, not with every human hand planted firmly in the ground, nor with every voice crying out in fear. Urge it to quicken, it will place its heels firmly in the dirt.  Will for delay,  it will slip from beneath us. It is not to be controlled, control comes from what we choose within it.

Something is amiss. A dread chill crawls up my spine. As I slip past a tree, I can see a thin line, a smudged scar of soil, bounded on each side by the still green growth. Dark mushrooms sprout the length of it. I can’t look. Each one breaks the tranquil water of my thoughts. Shards of glass, icy fear. Edging closer to the tormented ground is like peering over the edge of a chasm, where there is no end to be found and the abyss reaches up for you. Doubt deadens my every movement as I twist my face away. My eyes find the tree I passed, aching to dance with the sunlight on green again. There are thorns. Crooked, hooked, barbed in defiance of any touch less than full-throated fury. The back of the tree is wreathed in them.

I am the light in the forest. Where I am, all I can see is touched by my thoughts. Given attention, consideration, changed and grown. But trees cast shadows, even the meekest rising seedling holds a blackness behind it. All minds are limited and thoughts occupy them, meaning others will fall in their shadow. The greater or more important the idea, dream or thought, the longer and deeper the shadow behind it. In these shadows are found feelings of doubt, fear, desperation. Ground previously fertile and established, old thoughts, friends, times, fall into neglect. Be it the sharp crumble of abject fear, or the creeping worry and stress of stagnation, these shadows will threaten eventually spread.

The forest needs to be walked, every part of the mind needs time, attention, thought. Different parts, different people will vary hugely in this. Each will also often lend to another, reflecting light, shedding some new truth or branching idea. Nothing is gained from closing the mind, from holding to one viewpoint, one perspective, one set of ideas. There are those who would call it strength, or purity, even discipline. None of those things hold true in my eyes. A mind will waste away without movement, any strength long lost, the man who stands still changes nothing. Purity is nothing to be celebrated, clap the one who holds their breath the longest, but don’t forbid them breathe. The discipline to stay curious and moving in the face of fear is the greatest there is.

Nobody is infinite, there is only so much time, and only so much effort that can be made in the mind. Resource spent on one part can not be spent again elsewhere. Too many paths to walk will end in either some falling into neglect, or all being rushed through. Spreading the self so thin that all that you can ever hope for is to maintain what you have is a cruel prison in itself. It is always better to let go, to hold something back for yourself, you can never know what you might need to spend it on. Too many wondrous trails lie unwalked for the sake of one who could not let go. Know the forest, every part of it, explore, see the change and be immersed.

Stumbling, I look down to see a gnarled root breaking the surface. I used to know this place, quiet and closed yet with views of mountains beyond. The path is completely grown over, thickets and even thorns plain to see, creeping outward into the forest. It can’t be walked any more, not by these feet. The thorns are facing me and I don’t have enough to throw myself at them again.  Somewhere beyond is a being I knew, I hear of their plight but I am not moved. They threw the seeds of these thorns, they dirtied and disturbed the land. Cold wind stirs the leaves about me. Restless, I leave. This place is no longer mine to walk and there are places that I would see above all others. Blooms afresh on the fields of faithful friends and a singular grove that holds within it adventure beyond compare.

A kingdom all your own

Mine was sand. Simply generating an excuse to stick around and enjoy the scenery and sunshine of a long-loved coast. Kingdoms rise and fall around us time and again, of our own making, of the intentions of some other, even of factors with no human face behind them.

A rugged mountain, the quarried detritus from the grand pit that I’d spent the day slowly deepening. Sand castles left by a disinterested sibling and then a stubborn wall, granting vast tracts of broken sand to this great realm. What races through a mind when such a kingdom is made. A chance to be lost again in dreams and desires. To see oneself as the creator, aloof and beyond the whims of others that never seem to understand.

Then we share them, we offer our kingdoms up to those who weren’t part of their creation. To be judged, warped, even destroyed. A small boy toddles along, bright as the baking sun above him. A grand smile that won’t be denied from spreading to any and all faces around him. Asking for permission to enter the kingdom, I see the wonder emanating from his bright blue eyes, staring down into the veritable ditch I’ve managed to bring about.

Of course, for why have I built this kingdom but to bring about that very spark in the minds of those that long for it. It was mine, it continues to be mine. My thoughts and ideas are the shadows it casts along the ground, the foundation through which it was born. I will always have them, and through realization they can only ever grow. Be it few, or many, others shall come and go through each kingdom. be it admiration, indifference, anything, it is still the world through which they lived in those moments, the surface that stood them strong.

Sand, smiles or words, the tide will take it. The tide won’t take me, nor the boy, nor the light I saw in his eyes. The love is in the building, and will always be true. Its rare that we can ever see clear to the light in our own eyes. It is there, and it outshines all.

Never doubt the beauty of thoughts seen life, they are footprints by which new paths are born.

Ghost of the Storm

It has awoken, above and within me. Dark clouds, a darker night and rumblings to deafen. This storm is mine, nobody will ever see it as I have done, from here, from now and from me. To tame it, to have it walk obediently alongside, will never happen. We try to give it face and flesh. “The storm shouted, moaned, cried.” It does none of these things, it is not of us. As much heed as we pay the ants that scurry beneath, so the storm passes on.

I won’t ever be able to entirely tell anyone of this. How it was for me, to see and hear, the world as it is at this moment. To write is to try and jump that impossible divide, and to hope beyond hope that some will take the leap themselves and meet you midway. The worst won’t grasp anything. Perhaps take a jumbled word or two and run with it in a direction all their own, forming a storm bereft of yours. The majority will see it from an angle, mark the outline or the mood. A crude resemblance and a basic connection, this is nothing to be mocked. Then there’s those held closest. Those who  can’t begin to be described in words, nor times nor anything. Those who walk with your mind. They will get the closest,  speak to them, and they will see the ghost of the storm in your eyes. They will know you for truth.

Keep them close, however many or few they may be. I won’t ever be leaving mine, I think I could see the ghost in her eyes staring right back at me.

None of us can deny the moments, we all wait for the broken sky. For that original camera flash of electric blue, when nothing else shrouds the world. In those moments we understand, and we fear. For once we let go, and our minds flit where they will. To those that move us, that we want, need, yearn to be with as the heights fall down upon on us. So I ask, when the storm comes, when the thunder rolls and lightning stains the dark, whose face will you see in the blue?

Kaleidoscope

First off, an update!

Aithley Sykes and Faulkner Armistead – About 75% of the way to its first iteration, prior to editing. Very happy with how this story is coming together.

Pokepocalypse – Closer to 33%, this piece involves drawing together a lot of different notes and quotes. More than enough material for the first chapter to be released soon, but still not drawing near to completion.

On to the main act. Struggling for a title, I decided to simply work with the first image that came to me. Seems that today, the lucky winner is the iconic view through a kaleidoscope.

Image

This thought has been tailing me since I woke this morning. That every mind, every daily perspective, is almost like a kaleidoscope. The same material is always in there, but as the kaleidoscope turns, working through the cycle of the day, the pieces fit together in radically different ways. Images and conclusions diverge wildly, with entirely different moods spiralling outwards.

The majority of the same thoughts are there, but they are thought of, subject to a multitude of constantly shifting factors, really cannot be held to each other. This is widely known, my point is that it can fly directly into the face of writing.

To conjure a consistent world, to hold plotlines, story structure and summations steady, whilst the kaleidoscope of the mind and perception turns, can be incredibly difficult. Approaching a chapter, or even a paragraph, with a certain tone and purpose in mind, can soon be dashed against the grinding, tumbling rocks. I’m not discussing distraction, I don’t mean to say that all these thoughts knocking into each other creates any kind of cacophony or din to drown out the clarity of writing. Its deeper than that, the very perspective changes, throughout a day, and this will inevitably seep out into the words themselves.

The trick, of course, is to check back, to re-write, as many times as can be endured before lunacy steps in. The more checks, the less likely it is for the true mood-defined words to stick around. Returning to a piece in a different state of mind to before, words will leap out. Almost as if some shadowy rival has slipped upon your work in the night, throwing down ill-fitting words simply to paint you as an extravagant fool. The more checks, re-reads and time spent pouring over the long-placed words, the more the work will reflect the original purposes, the themes and desires. Trimming away the extremes, the true shape will come slowly into focus. 

To return to the example of the kaleidoscope, at every point you check, you’re overlaying another still image of the madness within. With enough of these images, the perception encompasses all, and the colours blend together into a coherent whole.

To work with the rhythms of the human mind, structure, clarity and coherency can only be built upon a foundation of time.