J. Martin

March 20, 2022

The Trick Is to Keep Breathing

Keeping the entire range of relevant emotions alive in the face of outrageous cruelty and suffering on an incomprehensible scale is exhausting. Over time, it wears you down. Internal strategies kick in—cutting yourself off from the news, adapting a false sense of optimism, convincing yourself that all is lost in any case, creating excuses, all kinds of stuff. What this is, it’s self-defense. We cannot be furious and heartbroken all the time, 24/7, seven days a week, over weeks and months at a time. Authoritarian leaders know that, of course. They know perfectly well that they just need to keep up their brutal business of death and destruction—inevitably, sooner or later, they will have eroded people’s individual and collective capacity to care. That’s why it’s extremely important to take regular time-outs. (Shabbat is a helpful concept here, no matter if you’re religious or not.) (I’m not.) Do something for yourself, get emotional rest. Breathe, be kind to yourself, do things you can enjoy. Taking rests and enjoying things is not callousness in the face of calamity—it’s what you need to not let yourself exhaust emotionally by people who use it strategically against you. Then, with a clear head, parse the situation for what you can actually do—transfer money, donate stuff, offer shelter, voice support, fight back against lies on social media, boycott the usual assholes, whatever is in your reach.

Last week, I finally finished my titanic grading backlog, just in time for the onslaught of bachelor theses that will roll in tomorrow. (Yes, we’re late here: our students were given an extra month because of the pandemic.) I also prepared my lectures that will start this week; wrapped up my research and created a briefing document for a purposeful games project in collaboration with the HHU; finished another chapter for my second Voidpunk novel; and set up a new Scrivener master manuscript from my game design text book’s InDesign file—a prolonged pain in the ass at 158K words, 100+ illustrations, and a gazillion internal links and typographical details. Miraculously, I still managed to publish some stuff on top: a linked-list item over at just drafts about an interview with Elden Ring game director Miyazaki; a blog post about The Lancer Edition of Conan on my Voidpunk blog; two new albums on Flickr, South Korea I: Songtan and Singapore IX: Orchard Road (15 images each); and several new posts with lengthy comments on my Instagram accounts betweendrafts and voidpunkverse. In addition, I might have been especially snarky, despairing, depressed, or rude on Twitter.

In lieu of game recommendations, two gaming news items. Here’s the good one: the Taiwanese indie studio Red Candle Games put a crowdfunding trailer up for Nine Sols. It’s completely different from their prior releases (the psychological horror games Detention and Devotion), but it looks fantastic. Hop over to their Nine Sols crowdfunding page, watch the trailer, and if it’s up your alley, support it! Now the bad one: People Make Games released a documentary on YouTube about their investigations into emotional abuse across three different, highly prestigious indie studios. As you will see, there are several factors that make this even more depressing than those regular big toxic studio news that we more or less have come to expect.

Finally, a few links for you to take a breath. Here’s a terrific Twitter thread by Ferris Jabr on why “tree” is just a human concept that describes “a way of being a plant,” and here’s a breathtaking photo, 110 years ago and in original color (not colorized!), from a youth hanging out at the Confucius Temple in Qufu, China. Also, enjoy this resourceful raccoon—if that doesn’t count as tool use, I don’t know what does.