Other People’s Words

Just a quick post on pieces of news/opinions/other things that have interested me lately; they’ve caught my attention and made me think.

On good writing, and being human

• I mentioned a game named Mass Effect 3 (“the end of Mass Effect”) in an earlier post. While I personally enjoyed it hugely (and am pretty neutral about the whole thing), it was a brilliant game with a last ten minutes that went down like a lead balloon with a lot of fans. I had trouble understanding why (and the general negativity and FAN RAGE that seems to have broken out is just one more reason why I’m withdrawing from a lot of my old Net haunts). Bearing in mind that this is a fan with much more emotional investment in the series than me, I’d recommend taking a look at this beautifully-worded essay, Why you enjoy art and the one problem with Mass Effect 3. It’s pretty reasonable about the arguments that have broken out, and, other than a few minor writing mistakes, is an articulate and very human take on empathy and the way we receive art. It speaks of what is simply good writing, and that’s all the vast majority of it’s about. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never played the game or don’t even know what it is, most of the piece is separate and wonderful food for thought – about fiction, emotional investment, and what it is to be human. To quote:

Humans have this amazing ability to empathize with anything. We can look at something, see how it relates to its environment, and analogize it into a state of being that makes sense to a human. From other humans, to paintings, books, animals, even inanimate objects (I once heard someone say a clock looked ‘sad’). This is something we do, and many psychologist think it could be a reason for the existence of morality. They suggest we act with morals because we can feel the effects of what we do on others. We feel good when helping others because we feel the joy of help, or we feel negative when we inflict pain on others because we feel the pain inflicted on ourselves.

and

So we can see, art then, conveying the human condition, is anything that tries to make you empathize with the motivations and actions and ideas being presented. Art is trying to make you feel and experience the emotions and thoughts of whatever is presented. More simply it is trying to make you think and feel. But most simply, it is trying to make you think.

Very well-put, methinks, and it’s something that’ll have me tapping a pen on the desk and staring thoughtfully into space for a while.

• Then, of course, there’s this…

We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth
of our answers.

~ Carl Sagan

This, to me, sums up so much of what’s beautiful about being human. The ability to learn, to grow, to ask the big questions about why we’re here and why things are. It’s what makes us a very unusual animal, I think.

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