Tabletop Games and Play-Acting force you into the present

Happy Halloween, everyone!

This past weekend my hometown buddies gathered together at a friend’s beach house and celebrated my latest PET scan. It was an opportunity to see me, hang out, give me a high-five and some hummus, and for a bunch of guys to see friends they rarely see, and engage in….dare I say, “guy things.”

Well, maybe it’s our age but “guy things” turns out to be pretty tame, but really really fun. I had to be the first to bed both nights because of my steroid / head pain issues but I wish that I had been able to stay awake and chat with those fellows until the early morn.

[I did wake up early on Saturday and watch the sunrise for an hour. That was a powerful way to start a morning. Picture below.]

Sunrise at 7:50am, St. Augustine, Florida

The type of crew assembled that weekend really enjoys games- video and table top. (Tabletop gaming is just another way of saying board games. Blame the “kids these days”.) We all had brought an assortment of video game consoles and contemporary tabletop games (no monopoly, or yahtzee to be found there).

The game that stole the weekend was a tabletop game called Red Dragon Inn.

Red Dragon Inn, series 5
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An Experiment in Dying

When talking with friends and family about what I’ve been through, the topic of my radical perspective shift comes up over and over. And I always say that “staring down the barrel of that gun” or “dangling on the edge of that cliff” or “looking straight into the abyss” will do that do a person. But I am also quick to follow up with the qualifier that a person can’t force that experience onto themselves. It just has to happen— and dying will do that. 


In my much loved (now dog-eared and marginalia-covered) book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, he writes the same sentiment— that one cannot force the second phase of their spirituality to happen. It just does. But he also mentions that it seems common for it to happen to people sometime around their mid-40s. 


I have heard of someone who did manage to simulate their own dying experience and come away changed forever as a result. Kevin Kelly is former editor-at-large at WIRED magazine and has his hands in a long list of fascinating projects. He’s written several books about technology and the future. I’ve read his latest futurist book, The Inevitable, and recommend it if you’re interested in things like what automation will look like, AI, and the singularity. At the heart of his futurist predictions there are very rooted and optimistic outlooks on what we as humans will learn from our own advancements. To paraphrase his take on automation, when robots learn to do everything we do and obviate the need for work, the result will be that we will learn, deeply, what it is to be human. 


The following summary of this story was made into the very first episode of This American Life. He also reflects on it during a long-form interview on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast.

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Saint Francis of Assisi

[Preface: I try to update this blog every Thursday morning or at the least by Thursday PM. I had family in town this week, which was great, but also pushed out this post a bit. It also took longer because it required a good bit of re-reading.]


“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred…let me sow love,
Where there is injury…pardon,
Where there is doubt…faith,
Where this is despair…hope,
Where there is darkness…light,
Where there is sadness…joy.”

Saint Francis of Assisi, plaque found in the lobby of Saint Francis Downtown hospital

“Blessed is he who expectedth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.”

“What you’re looking for is what you’re looking with.”

St. Francis of Assisi


My subject for this post is Saint Francis of Assisi. The hospital I was in is named “Saint Francis Downtown”, the hospital I got my alarming CT scan at is named “Saint Francis Eastside.” It’s all part of the Bon Secours (french for Good Heart) hospital system here in Upstate, South Carolina. It’s a Catholic health institution and it’s very common for me to overhear a Psalm or quick devotion read aloud over the PA system when I am in one of their facilities for an appointment or treatment. I thought it would be annoying but, surprisingly, it hasn’t been.


The only thing I knew about Saint Francis before this year was that he was the Dr. Doolittle of Catholic saints and that, for some reason, my class watched a 1961 live-action biography movie of him in 6th grade and we all laughed at his naked backside when he stepped out into nature sans clothes.

This year (before my hospitalization) I began to listen to podcasts with Fr. Richard Rohr as a guest. He is a Franciscan Friar in the Order of Friars Minor (OFM, Ordo Fratrum Minorum, or “Lesser Brothers”). I did not expect to be drawn to the teachings of an older, aged, Catholic leader but his emphasis on love over dogma immediately had me drawn to what he was saying and writing. In one of the podcasts he’s featured on, he mentioned that before he was even allowed to open the Bible for study he had to endure four years of philosophy teachings to ensure that he would be ready to read scriptures contextually. I could go on and on about him, and his books, but I also became very drawn to the namesake of his Order, Saint Francis, this lover of nature, champion of grace, and mercy. 


Once I got back from the hospital I started my mornings by preparing a breakfast of a plate full of fruit and would eat it outside, one blueberry at a time, under our covered patio, while listening to the biography of Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton. 

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The Hidden Power of the Present

Photo by Stijn Dijkstra from Pexels

This blog is titled Enlightenment At Gunpoint: A Blog about Living in the Moment. This phrase, living in the moment, is commonly used interchangeably with phrases like living in the present, or being present, or mindfulness, or intentional living. What I want to focus on for this post is the present, which I think is so valuable I will rename this blog to Enlightenment At Gunpoint: A Blog about Living In the Present.

  
Our culture has a love/hate relationship with living in the present. In someways it embraces it, studies it, and encourages more of it. In other ways, it is actively undermining it nearly everywhere we look. My last entry talked about LEGOs and jigsaw puzzles and how those activities force you to live in the present. We do have an aspect of our culture that spreads being present propaganda: Go outside. Take a walk. Stop and smell the roses. Even with crowds of other people, our society loves moments of living in the present. I think it’s why, as Americans, we love sports so much. When that football player is twisting his body to make that incredible catch he is living in the present and nowhere else. It’s why we love movies. Two hours to stop thinking about anything except entertainment? Sure! But this infatuation with the present stops at greeting-card level introspection. We all have the wonder-destroyer (a phrase lifted from spiritual writer Rob Bell) always in our pockets– vibrating, giving us notifications, and demanding we scroll some more, even in the midst of an good meal with family or close friends. Now it seems every restaurant has multiple TVs mounted up, one found in every ceiling corner. Unless the restaurant is a sports bar, it should not have TVs in it. It takes us out of the present. It takes us away from our families we are dining with and the food we should be enjoying. 

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