(NOTE: This post is only slightly about Minecraft, so don’t be scared off just yet.)
I went for a walk today. Usually, when I walk, I bring my mp3 player so I can listen to music or audiobooks, but today I forgot. Forgetting can be a good thing sometimes.
So I decided to talk to God. I’m a little odd when it comes to the whole “talking to God” thing. I believe that it works–that you can talk to God, that he listens, that he can respond–but I’m never exactly sure I’ve heard him speak back.
Some people I’ve talked to say he speaks to them with “a still, small voice,” but I don’t know how to separated or distinguish a still, small voice from my own internal thoughts. Others say he speaks through friends, or through nature, or through events in one’s life. These, also, I’m able to explain away with psychology or coincidence. So if I claim to have heard form God, feel free to be skeptical. I’m a little skeptical myself.
I asked God, “What is true?” I wasn’t looking for all truth…I just wanted to know at least one true thing.
In reply, a still, small voice said…nothing. I kept walking.
Graffiti on a bridge informed me that “Life is nothing but a memory.” The red spray-paint sentiment left me unconvinced.
After depositing my paycheck at the bank and visiting the town library, I decided to stop and rest for a while. I sat at a picnic bench looking over the Upland Depot–a depot long empty of trains, save for an abandoned caboose for kids to play on. Tall, colorful flowers had been planted in a semi-circle neat the depot building, and trees, both deciduous and evergreen, swayed to inaudible jazz nearby.
I took my glasses off and just sat there for half an hour. I realized that I was very happy, despite having almost nothing with me. I didn’t have my computer, my car, my camera, or my mp3s. I didn’t need my house, television, video games, music, electricity, or even my glasses. I had none of these things–and I was perfectly content.
More than that, I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t surfing the web, or working, or writing, or catching up on e-mails, or even getting exercise from walking–but I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time.
It’s often been said that we live in a materialistic culture. While that’s certainly true, I think the root of the problem is that we are an occupationalistic culture. We are a society of never-ending doers, and most of the materialistic things we want and accumulate are things that occupy our time: music, video games, movies, books, hobbies–in some sense, it’s all there to make sure we never run out of things that we HAVE TO DO.
I don’t think we know what to do with ourselves, otherwise. We’ve been trained by school, work, and even our entertainment to follow commands. We don’t actually know what true autonomy is.
This, I believe, is why Minecraft is so addicting.
Books, movies, and television, no matter how thought-provoking they are, send us through a linear story, while we more or less sit along for the ride. Video games, even the more open-ended ones, eventually break down into a series of objectives doled out by the game.
But Minecraft has no storyline, no missions, no orders, no goals, no ending (I’m talking about the current Xbox 360 version and the stage of beta it is based on, not the current PC version.).
I think Minecraft is so addictive because it is a mimicry, a glimmer of what life is actually supposed to be. It’s a world-shaped box of Legos with monsters. It’s creation and exploration with a bit of struggle to make the effort more worthwhile.
I’m not saying Minecraft is the end-all and be-all of human existence. But maybe we can learn something about life from how its undirected freedom entices.
I’m reminded of the parable of the talents from Matthew 25. In this story, a rich merchant gives money to three of his servants to see what they do with it. Two of them invest the money, doubling their principal, and they are rewarded by the their master and entrusted with greater amounts of money. The third buries his money, afraid to lose any of it, and gains nothing. He gets royally chewed out by the merchant, and his money is given to one of the other servants.
In some ways, it feels as if we live like that third man…we’re so afraid of wasting our time that we bury it under jobs and entertainment and appointments and commitments until we dig it up and realize that we’ve done nothing with it at all.
We need to invest time in risky ventures. Maybe some of that time will be wasted…but it can also bring greater rewards than we expect. Today I spend an hour and a half going on a walk, and another hour and a half writing down these thoughts. I had other plans for today, but I chose this instead.
Time wasted? Not to me.