Getting Hammered: Waking up

My husband Chris and I find gaming to be a relaxing and ongoing hobby. (By now, if you’re surprised that I’m a gamer, then you must have flipped directly to this page.) We often game together, just us two.

We once had a game set in Lawrence and the surrounding area, using Wizards of the Coast’s d20 Modern rules. We had several original characters, but we couldn’t resist bringing in a few old favorites, such as Gerald “Spark” Corner, Chris’s God-fearing, inventive vampire from White Wolf’s World of Darkness, and Lasairian.

You’ve met Lasairian. (Unless you flipped here, in which case you might want to back up a few chapters.)

Chris was GM first. As a result, even though we quickly determined we were up against a very dangerous, serious foe, the tone was fairly light – no real gloom and doom hanging over us.

Then I took over.

I was, to be honest, a little reluctant to do so. My penchant for making almost any game or story I touch darker was well-established by that point. Why I do that is still unclear to me. I suspect it may have something to do with all the horror movies and books I’ve ingested.

But I digress, again. But hold that thought.

I took over. I immediately made the story darker, by means of a plotline involving a character getting betrayed by one of his own people, kidnapped, and sold to agents of the Big Bad, who promptly experimented on and tortured him. That character was Lasairian.[1]

To make matters worse (for the party), after they successfully staged a daring rescue, the villain contacted the party. He informed them that he hadn’t planned on “returning” Lasairian yet, and that if he didn’t turn himself over, then innocent people would be targeted for destruction.

With hardly a moment’s hesitation (though it took longer than that to play out), Lasairian agreed to go back so that no innocents would be hurt. One of Chris’s characters mounted an impressive argument against this course of action, the gist of which was a) by going back, you’re giving the bad guy what he wants, and b) people are going to get hurt anyway in this conflict. Ultimately, however, Lasairian went back. He was gone for another four days. During that time, the other characters debated if they had done the right thing by letting him return.

I wrote up what happened to him over those 96 hours. What the villain and his minions did to him.

It nauseated me. Sickened me.

What have I done? I asked myself, though outwardly I had done nothing more than write a story. What have I done? How could I do that, even conceive of it? Let alone put this in a game! This isn’t fun; this is horrifying!

How could I have done that? Easy. I’ve been asleep. Not physically asleep, but spiritually. I’ve allowed the world to lull me, to lead me away from what is important, healthy and true. I’ve been in my own little world, barely aware of what’s going on in the world. I’ve known what is happening; I haven’t been completely ignorant. But it hasn’t sunk in. It didn’t directly impact me, so I didn’t think about it. I turned over in my sleep, until the bad dream drifted away.

Being asleep is different than being distracted, as I described in the chapter Goodbye, Lasairian. Distracted people don’t know what’s happening. They’ve got too much going on in their lives. Sleeping people know, but don’t act. It’s not that they don’t care. They do; it’s just that… Well, the world’s problems are certainly awful, but what can they do about it? Hunger, poverty, war, genocide, disease and torture are such huge problems – what can one person do about them?

“Well, someone is or will be taking care of it. Someone is working on it.” That thought helps them stay asleep. Acting, or thinking too much about these problems, would get them outside their comfort zones. And when you’re uncomfortable…you wake up.

I’m very uncomfortable. I’m waking up. I LOVE it. I don’t want to go back to sleep. I want to stay awake, aware, and do whatever I can.

What put me to sleep in the first place, so I don’t doze off again?

My own selfishness, for one, both conscious and unconscious. Despite knowing the tenets of my faith – which include such basic statements such as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Give all you have to the poor and follow me,” etc., I have worried primarily about me and mine, and the concerns of other people have been just that – the concerns of other people. Not mine. My eyes have glazed over when I read about wars and atrocities, the torture of ‘enemy combatants’ and crimes committed around the world. Not to mention troubles here at home, such as racism, sexism, poverty, a host of crimes and sins I have no answer for.

Isn’t that awful? Yes! It’s horrid! And at this point, I’m going to tackle selfishness in another chapter[2], otherwise I’ll derail myself.

My older daughter, Azrael, is a very caring person. She always seems to be creating cards and letters for friends and family. In kindergarten, she won a “Character Counts” award for compassion. In her nomination, her teacher described Azrael as her “little cheerleader.” She asks after people, how they’re doing, and makes friends easily.

I admire her. I want her to keep her light heart and active concern for others. I want both of my girls to be happy, well-adjusted, and caring people. I know I can’t fully control how they develop. They’re both free-willed, independent women. But as their mom, I can and should help mold their personalities, and keep them awake. I can do what I can do keep them from being like me.

What else put me to sleep, so I can perhaps steer them away?

Remember I mentioned horror?

I started reading horror novels, and watching horror movies, when I was a kid. I read the Goosebumps series, along with others I’ve since forgotten. There was something I liked about the scary stories, as opposed to happier tales that didn’t involve monsters and doom. Likely it was the appeal of suspense, the not knowing if the character would even survive the story, let alone resolve the issue. I’m not certain.

My first ‘adult’ horror novel was It, by Stephen King. I found my copy at a garage sale, lying in a box on a stranger’s driveway. The black cover, red lettering, ominous title, and sheer size intrigued me. From that point on, horror was officially my favorite genre. I left The Babysitters’ Club and Sweet Valley High behind forever.

I wish I hadn’t, now. Garbage in, garbage out, after all. After years of feeding my mind with terror, pain, murder, monsters and monstrous deeds, I shouldn’t be too surprised that I reap poisonous blooms.

So why did I do it? What attracted me, and kept me attracted, to such awfulness for so long? What possessed me to think that watching and/or reading horror was…entertainment? I’m not a violent person; I would never hurt anyone (although spiders are another story). Why, then, have I enjoyed horror?

Yes, I ask a lot of questions. Sometimes repeatedly.

I…don’t know.

(I said I ask questions. I said nothing about having answers.)

I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m not really interested in finding out, either. This is a journal of self-reflection and discovery, but this is not a road I’m interested in exploring. I don’t need to know why I was hitting myself in the head with a hammer; I’m just glad I stopped! I just wish I hadn’t started, now, because it’s a fairly short line from “years of reading about and watching people get tortured and murdered” to “creating and writing a scenario in which a character is tortured for drama/entertainment.” And not just any character (though using someone else wouldn’t have made this any less horrid), but Lasairian. My favorite. A character I profess to love. The character whose adventures helped directly inspire this very book.

After I wrote the story, I had nightmares for several weeks, terrible visions of me torturing Lasairian. I tossed and turned, woke up multiple times, and lay awake, shocked at my own imagination.

Daytime was not much better. I tried to keep myself busy, and my mind occupied, because I would return to the visions and talk to Lasairian (in his role of conscience/shoulder angel), apologizing. As he is me[3], I know I was apologizing to myself. I quickly got to where I didn’t want to spend time with myself. And I like to think I’m a nice person! What about all those characters in the movies and books I’d consumed?

What about those who do awful things in real life? I don’t want to spend time with, or be like, them. The people on the receiving end of abuse, neglect, and discrimination don’t want to either. But at the same time, we are all called to love our neighbors as ourselves. To me, to love someone means to reach out to them, make sure they know God’s amazing love and forgiveness, that there are other, better ways of living.

In short, to love someone is to wake them up.

How can we help others (and ourselves) to wake up? Waking up is a big task, and brings us to the heart of tackling the big problems facing the world. There are so many problems, and so many people, what can we do?

Remember, despairing over this question is sleep-inducing.

A while after I wrote the story, tired from nightmares, I went on a long walk, and talked with God. I asked Him what I, just one woman in Kansas, could do. I asked for His help in staying awake.

Pray. Read about the issues of today, and listen with open, hopeful hearts. Learn about racism[4], sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination, and reach out to others. We are all children of God, therefore we are all siblings, and we shouldn’t put down and/or hurt family. Volunteer.

Reach out. The Great Commission, for us to be fishers of men, doesn’t have to be door-to-door or street corner evangelism. It can be writing letters, talking, living and showing our faith in lots of large and small ways.

Let’s gather together. That’s the only way the larger troubles today can be effectively fought. One person, one Christian working to change the world is a drop of water. Many are a river, bringing life and joy where we go.

So wake up!

[1] Yes, him. I love Lasairian, but he’s almost always the one I choose when the hammer falls. Chris once asked why he’s always the target. After some thought, I answered that as Lasairian is the character most closely tied to faith, he gets beaten (tested) because he, like my faith, can never be broken.

[2] Me or Thee?

[3] My friend Jacob, the GM for the game Lasairian was created for, once defended my habit of talking to myself/Las in this manner – “Everyone talks to themselves; everyone’s a committee. Laura just has her committee a bit more clearly defined than others.”

[4] I’m white. Learn about white privilege.

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