Experiencing Eternity in a Moment

It’s been just under a week since I stopped smoking (again).  This time, I’m gonna try to make it for good.  I’ve been smoking more-or-less since college, though before 2012 it was really just in social situations like parties or for magical purposes, much like how I use alcohol.  Since 2012, however, I actually picked it up as a habit, and have basically been smoking habitually since.  I’ve stopped for a few times before, especially before big ceremonies, but at this point, it really does behoove me to kick the habit of smoking.  For me, it’s not the nicotine addiction that kept me going (the nicfits passed in the first three days), but the actual habit: the socialization and quality time with friends, the going out to the porch or down to the garage, the flicking-on of flame and fire, the residual smell of tobacco in the air.  The buzz is nice and all, but it’s really the motion and action of smoking that I enjoy, and without it, I admit, it’s kinda boring.  In a few weeks, that’ll pass, too.

For me, though, the worst thing about quitting smoking by far is that my sense of smell returns in full force.  My smell is, after six-ish years of constant smoking, still my most sensitive physical sense, and it extends into spiritual sense, as well; where some people see auras, I taste and mouthfeel them.  The last time I quit smoking for a sustained duration of time, I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t smelling until I went on a walk around town one early autumn morning for some fresh air.  I was relieved to get back inside, because there were too many smells in the air.  I could smell the individual spices someone was using to make fried chicken three houses away; I could smell the exact brand of carwash soap someone was using a block down the road at the intersection over there; I could smell individual types of pollen and differences between diesel and regular car exhaust and the differences in mold and rot between different kinds of grass or leaf clippings and so much else.  There were too many smells in the air, enough that there was no chance for me to get “fresh air” to clear out my poor beleaguered olfactory senses.

Well, that’s starting to come back again, and now that I know what to expect, I’m more prepared for it this time around, so at the very least I’m not caught off-guard by it, pay more attention to it coming back, and enjoy it this time instead of being accosted by it.  I still would like to smoke, but I guess that’s just habit-whining talking.  Of course, other parts of the habit haven’t gone away just yet: I still carry around a lighter with me, just in case I need a source of fire, and I still drive with my windows down, which, of course, brings in more air and more smells into my car when I drive.  With the windows down, at least in the mornings on the way to the train station when the Sun is barely risen and everything’s still dewy and cool, it’s a rather pleasant experience.

Earlier this week, the pleasance of it all hit me in a different way.  Driving with the windows down on a cool, dewy morning with a light breeze outside, the yellow-golden Sun no higher than my own eyes off to the side, all the trees and fields lush with that late-summer, dense, heavy green, some mildly peppy music from an old playlist playing in my car, my arm out the window feeling the wet air slide past my skin and through my fingers…and the smells.  That vibrant, fresh, sweet, teeth-windy smell of such a morning.  The overwhelming power of olfactory memory, combined with all of that, slammed into me harder than anything, and brought back pretty much every single glorious moment of Joy I’ve had…many of which share this same setting.  While the act of it has decreased with age, driving with wind whipping around me has always been a source of soul-satisfying pleasure; driving in twilight, especially that of the dawn, in cool airs laden with humidity of ocean and river and fresh-fallen rain.  It was like, this one morning driving to work, I got to experience every joyful moment I’ve ever been in any similar situation all at once.

And yet, it went so far beyond that, too.  Something…slipped, it felt like, and instead of it being “I love driving in weather like this”, it became something much grander, more profound.  It went from “I enjoy this” to “I rejoice”; this moment of driving-joy touched every instance, every experience, every moment of Joy I’ve ever had in my life, and brought it all to bear right then, and hard.  It was like time stopped having meaning, and there was no difference between me-driving-to-work-at-29 and me-driving-after-work-at-17 and me-driving-to-my-boyfriends-at-20 and me-moving-into-my-dorm-at-19 and me-leaving-my-graduation-party-at-20 and me-visiting-friends-at-an-anime-convention-at-16 and so many other events and memories and times; it was like they were all happening simultaneously, like they continued to happen.  They weren’t distinct, discrete events in some temporal flow, but like my perspective of them changed, like how you can’t see something around a corner if you walk too far down the block.  It’s still there, object permanence tells us that it is, we just can’t see it anymore—you can still hear the echoes of the sounds it makes, you can still smell it, you can still feel it.  It’s still there, you just can’t see it anymore.

In that moment of unbridled Joy, a prayer of praise bubbled up unbidden through my lips:  “Glory to the Eternal Moment”.

Every moment of joy I had experienced—hell, each and every moment itself—collapsed into a single Moment, a single instance, a singularity of Life that seemed to be both forever, yet completely atemporal.  I guess this is why it came out as “Eternal Moment”.  After all, eternity, commonly understood, refers to an infinitely long period of time, something with no beginning and with no end.  However, in classical philosophy, this is not entirely true: that concept, of something that exists throughout time, is properly called sempiternity.  Eternity refers to something that exists outside time, something that transcends time, while sempiternity is immanent within time (it just so happens to be immanent within all of it).

What I saw was a brief, divine glimpse of my life as how we might see every side of a square while a two-dimensional being might only see one side at a time.  What I saw about my life was not a series of moments that changed from one moment to the next, where one thing happened then the next thing then the next as distinct events, but the whole collection of my life happening—always happening—as a single unit, a single Moment, happening all together like how different things can go on in the same town all at the same time, all occupying the same town.  I felt like I was both immanent in and transcendent of this view of my life, where I was able to experience all this happening all at once where I was (am) there, as well as able to look at it from outside myself like how a person watches a movie, like how we watch our own memories.

And just like that, the profundity, the immensity of that sensation passed away, and there I simply was, driving on my usual route to the train station on a regular weekday morning with the usual music playing in the background.  But, I tell you, such an experience couldn’t not have an effect on me, and the afterglow of it has stuck around ever since.  It’s almost like getting to experience the first time I heard and sang the Hymns of Silence again, except…so different, yet still the same glory.  And, in that awful, awesome, awe-inspiring light of glory shining forth from within and without, a realization: truly, just how inifinitely many events can happen at the same time at different places, likewise infinitely many events can happen outside time together at different times.  They might be distinct, sequential moments, but they are all part of the same Eternal Moment within which all things happen—not will happen, not happened, but do happen.

There’s much placed on the notion of interconnectedness, or Buddhist emptiness (cf. the core teaching of the Heart Sutra), where all things exist because of all other things, so in a sense, there is no independent existence because everything relies on everything else to exist.  Likewise, there’s another kind of interconnectedness, except instead of it being entities, it’s events: all events are tied up together, all events depend on each other, all events happen with and because of each other.  It’s not interbeing, it’s interhappening.  All events of the past have an influence on the present, and without the present, none of those events could have happened; likewise, all events of the future depend on this very moment in time, and without them to happen, neither could the present time.  Just like how I cannot be an author without you being the reader, then I cannot live now if I never lived before, and I cannot live now if I never live in the future.  Time, too, is interconnected just as places and entities are.

I’m not sure why such a realization, such a revelation happened.  Could be my brain adjusting to not having a constant supply of nicotine, plus the power of olfactory memory hitting me in an already good mood in a comfortable, receptive state.  I’m not sure what I did to experience or receive such a thing, if anything at all.  All I know is that it Made Sense, and it’s given me a new way to praise divinity and all its works of the cosmos.

Glory to the Eternal Moment.

 

Drinking Games to go with Myst and Riven

Alright, it’s late, I’m getting over a cold, and I’m bored.  This is going to depart from my normal subject matter on this blog. It is, after all, my blog, and some things just aren’t cut out for a long Facebook post. If you like neither puzzle adventure games nor drinking, then you may want to skip this. Otherwise, I love you because you’re an amazing person.

It’s not surprise to people that, if I have one primary fandom, it’s Myst. I am, have always been, and will always be a lifelong Myst fanboy. Alas, I’ve never yet made it to a Mysterium con, but I will one day before they die out. For those who don’t know, the Myst franchise, started by the always-trusty Cyan, Inc.,spans five single-player games, one MMO, and three novels, as well as a poorly-received (so I’ve heard) comic book series that didn’t last past the first issue. It’s a beautiful series, and it’s definitely had a significant effect on my beliefs and practice of the occult. In my opinion, Riven was the best game of the series, followed by Myst in quality; Exile (III) was good but felt too much like a game and not enough like an adventure, Revelation (IV) went far too much against the history and setting set up by Myst and Riven, and End of Ages (V) was just…sad for so many reasons. Then there’s Uru, the MMO, which is beautiful and amazing to play though, only parts of which require other people to help out; alas, it was far too detached from its time, and the caverns of D’ni feel way more desolated than the designers of the game intended it to be. Ah well, the games live on on their own.

Well, the problem is that these games don’t always have the best replay value. I mean, Myst has a shortcut that circumvents nearly the entire game, so long as you remember a specific time and a specific page number, for crying out loud; the other games actually require you to play through the game and unlock individual puzzles without any chance of a shortcut. Still, it’s good to play through the games once in a while, if only to relive those beautiful scenes and music and the familial drama of the house of Atrus. If you haven’t played the games or read the books, and I seriously question your existence as a human if you haven’t yet, I recommend the following sequence:

  1. Myst
  2. Myst: The Book of Atrus (novel #1)
  3. Riven
  4. Myst: The Book of Ti’ana (novel #2)
  5. Myst: The Book of D’ni (novel #3)
  6. (Optional) Myst III: Exile
  7. (Optional) Myst IV: Revelation
  8. Uru, specifically the free-to-play Myst Online: Uru Live (donate to keep the servers up!)
  9. (Optional) Myst V: End of Ages

Anyway, let’s focus on Myst and Riven, because obviously. You can get either for like US$5 off of Steam or GOG, maybe both plus several of the other Myst games for as much if you happen to get in on a sale. Seriously, there’s a reason that Myst and Riven are among the best-selling games of all times, and it’s not just because Myst was the game that popularized CD-ROMs for gaming. I strongly recommend you play through them at some point this winter, especially if you haven’t yet.  If you dislike the original HyperCard format of Myst, I might also recommend playing realMYST, which is the 3D version that Cyan originally wanted to use but didn’t have the technology for in 1993.  A corresponding realRIVEN was supposedly in the works, but is now being handled by fans at the Starry Expanse Project; donate there if you want to see this come to life one day!

Now, even if you haven’t played these games, let’s make them a little more infuriating.  (Sure, they say that Myst and Riven don’t encourage violent gaming? I’d like to see you play through them and not want to chuck things at the wall.)  So, how do we go about making them more infuriating and fun?  By adding alcohol, of course! I’m pro-drinking game, as many of my friends know, and it’s always fun to open up a bottle (or twelve) of beer or wine, maybe make a stiff cocktail (or seven) and drink with a purpose. To that end, get your friends together with the lure of free booze and play the Myst and Riven Drinking Game.  Now, the easy way to go about this drinking game would be “drink every time you get stuck”, but I don’t want to have to go ahead and schedule your funeral a week from now, so let’s make things a little easier on your liver and a little more fun.  Honestly, I don’t know why such a drinking game hasn’t been written before now (if there was, I wasn’t able to find it), but hopefully this will close a crucial gap in the Myst fandom.

MYST DRINKING GAME

Drink every time:

  • You have to unflip a switch, lever, or button because you flipped it earlier and had no idea what it was doing then but you do now.
  • You have to redo any puzzle to get out of an age.
  • You miss aligning the Tower Rotation on the right place.
  • You have to reset the Gears puzzle in the Clocktower.
  • You utter an expletive while trying to figure out the Gears puzzle in the clocktower.
  • You mess up the Constellation Pillar puzzle to raise the Ship.
  • You trip the breakers in powering up the Spaceship.
  • You have to go back to the Spaceship panel to listen to the proper notes because you’re tone-deaf.  (I would die from alcohol poisoning from this, personally.)
  • You miss the elevator of the Great Tree.
  • You have to reset the water flow in Channelwood Age to keep going.
  • You run out of light in the tunnels of Stoneship Age.
  • You press the wrong directional button on the Compass Rose.
  • You mess up the satellite dishes in the Selenitic Age.
  • You make a wrong turn in the Selenitic Age’s Cave Maze.
  • You enter in the wrong combination to the fireplace panel.
  • You see evidence of Sirrus’ megalomania or substance use.
  • You see evidence of Achenar’s megalomania or sadism.
  • You add in a new page to a book.

Finish your drink and start a new one:

  • Every time you have to resort to a walkthrough for advice on progressing through the game.
  • When you exit any of the four ages (not Myst or D’ni) for the first time.
  • If you figure out how to get the white page.  Immediately drink again if you go “Really?!”.
  • If you get the good ending.
  • If you get any bad ending.

RIVEN: THE SEQUEL TO MYST DRINKING GAME

Drink every time:

  • You see an explicit reference to the number 5. (Yes, this will keep you drunk most of the time.)
  • You have to unflip a switch, lever, or button because you flipped it earlier and had no idea what it was doing then but you do now.
  • You have to redo the fire marble puzzle input.
  • You miss the proper eye symbol on a fire dome.  (Good luck with Plateau Island!)
  • You read/hear Gehn make a D’ni-centered racial supremacist comment.
  • You open a door that was previously locked or barred.
  • You see at least one Moiety dagger.
  • You see an actual person in the age of Riven.
  • You mess up the animal pillar puzzle to get to the age of Tay.
  • You have to consult one of the journals in your inventory for a puzzle clue.
  • You summon Gehn with the button.
  • You feel persuaded at any point of what Gehn tells you.
  • You see Catherine ruefully walk in front of you.
  • The Rivenese village alarms go off.
  • A whark eats someone in the Rivenese school number game.

Finish your drink and start a new one:

  • Every time you have to resort to a walkthrough for advice on progressing through the game.
  • If the sunners swim away because you’re an asshole.
  • If the whark tries to kill you because you’re an asshole.
  • If you get poisoned and knocked out.
  • If you shit your pants when you get back to the Temple.
  • If you giggle at the mechanics of Gehn’s sink.
  • If you hear the giant steam-boom on top of the Great Dome.
  • If you free Catherine.
  • If you imprison Gehn.
  • If you get the good ending.
  • If you get any bad ending.

Everyone with you, including you, has to finish their drink:

Any other rules you’d like to suggest?  Share them in the comments!