Is Addiction a Sin?

Yesterday’s reasons for not blogging for months seemed, overall, to be good reasons not to spend so much time blogging.  In many ways, staying in physical and mental shape have become more important to me than sharing what little I know and love with others. After all, I taught two years in the Army and 30 years in high school before blogging for another 22 years.  I’m pretty sure I’ve already said more than most people want to hear from me, and it’s becoming increasingly harder to say anything new. At best all I can hope to do is remind people just how much beauty there is out there that they might have lost track of in all the ugliness that confronts us daily.  

Unfortunately, my main reason for not blogging is not nearly as admirable as those I’ve already explained.  The main reason I haven’t been blogging is that I have been playing Divinity – Original Sin 2 for several hours a day for over three months. 

I could blame my addiction on Leslie’s friend Bill Smith who told me about the game several years ago.  I bought the game immediately after he told me a, but I couldn’t get it to play on my Mac until I bought a new one several months ago. More recently he asked me if I was playing Baldur’s Gate 3, and I told him that I wanted to finish Divinity first.  Now it’s become a question whether I will finish it or it will finish me.  

It’s hard to blame Bill, though since I’ve been playing D&D computer games for years now, starting with my Apple IIe, at least 40 years ago. Tyson and I used to stay up until early in the morning playing these games.  Unfortunately, too few games are published for the Mac ,and I refuse to buy a Windows computer.  The last game I played was Dragon Age 2, which I was amazed to discover was published in 2011.

No wonder I didn’t realize how much those kinds of games have evolved since then.  Perhaps Divinity would have been easier if I had been playing similar games the last ten years, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was over my head in Divinity 2.  After repeatedly dying, I finished Scene 1 but was unable to get through the transition to Scene 2.  So, I started over, only to get stuck again, this time at the end of Scene 2.  By then I must have  had  240 hours invested in the game and should’ve had sense enough to call it good enough, but, no, that wasn’t going to happen.

I like to think that I’m nearly perfect, but I do have at least two traits that some people might call flaws.  First, I’m persistent, some (like Mom) would call me stubborn. Most of the time I think persistence is a virtue in life, but that may not be true when it comes to playing Divinity – Original Sin 2. 

At some point I’m afraid that stubbornness can become addiction, and I’ve long been aware that I can easily become addicted to some behaviors.  Smoking was my most notable addiction; even when I finally convinced myself that it was harmful to my health I found it nearly impossible to overcome the addiction to nicotine, falling in love with the nicotine gum that helped me give up the actual cigarettes. It was nearly as hard to give up the gum as the cigarettes.  

Aware that I have always had an addiction problem, I’ve avoided alcohol and recreational drugs and only allowed myself to get addicted to positive addictions like walking, reading, and meditation. Sometimes I’m afraid I may even push those too far, but I don’t worry about them because overall they seem to make my life better.

For awhile, at least, Divinity – Original Sin 2 seemed like a positive addiction.  Playing it offered an easy escape from the depressing news that I used to browse regularly while sitting in front of the computer.  The game was hard enough that it pushed me to think harder than I regularly have to, and I like to think that might strengthen my brain.  If not, at least it gives me an excuse for wasting so much of my life.

The more I played the clearer it was that I wasn’t the only one who was having trouble solving the game.  There are hundreds if not thousands of youTube videos on different parts of the game.  In fact, I may have learned more about researching online than anything else. Of course, I felt bad when I had to resort to youTube videos to solve puzzles in the game or learn how to defeat particularly tough opponents, That felt like cheating, but cheating somehow felt better than outright losing.  At least I was in good company, or at least in a lot of company.

Worse yet, I started putting off things that I needed to do around the house so that I could finally finish the game. Worst of all, I began to stress out over the game, sometimes continuing to play it over and over in my mind while trying to go to sleep. I discovered that all those years I’d spent meditating would seem useless when confronted by a stupid game. Soon, al I wanted was to be done with it, but I continued to play right up to when we left on our trip.  I still don’t know if I will try to finish it when we get back home.

Where’s Loren ????

I was shocked when I looked at my web site recently and saw how long it had been since I had posted an entry, though I knew it had been awhile since a few long-time readers emailed me asking if I was okay.  Physically, I’m probably in better shape than I have been for years. With all the rain we’ve been having in the Pacific Northwest this year, we’ve been going to the Y five days a week, and I even started back lifting weights two to three times a week.

Unfortunately, that same rain has made it difficult to get out birding for the last three months. There’s been so much rain that it’s been difficult to plan trips. When Leslie was working I didn’t have any restrictions and could just go birding when the weather allowed. Now that Leslie has started teaching Tai Chi classes on M/W/F we don’t go out on those days even if it is sunny. 

To make matters worse, there doesn’t seem to be as many birds around as there has been in past years.  They seem to have come back later this year, and I certainly haven’t seen as many as I have in past years while walking the beach along Ruston Way.

Playing mental games and meditating has also become a daily part of my routine.  Playing Mind Pal, Soduko, and Mendi takes at least an hour out of my day.  Meditating takes another half hour or so. 

At 82 I am focusing more on my physical and mental health more than I’ve ever done before.  Unfortunately, despite lifting weights more than I’ve done since my college weight-lifting class, I still struggle to do things I used to be able to do quite easily. Other than short-term memory I’m not sure to what extent I’ve lost my ability to think clearly and incisively, but I do know I can’t sit down and finish a novel in a single reading like I could do in college. Everything says that declines in both of these areas are inevitable as we age, but I believe/hope that we are able to at least slow down the decline.  

 There’s nothing exciting about performing Tai Chi for a half an hour three days a week, though I’m convinced it helps to strengthen my core and helps me maintain a better sense of balance.  When done properly, it even helps to clear your mind for 30 minutes ( a remarkable and necessary achievement in this world of instant communication).

I do enjoy doing Tai Chi, but the same can’t be said for lifting weights. For me, lifting weights is the equivalent to taking a disgusting medicine that you only take because you know it will help you to get well. During Covid we didn’t go to the gym, and I noticed a remarkable loss of strength when we recently went back to weight lifting. I only do it because it allows me to do things that I do want to enjoy, things that I enjoy doing.

Unfortunately, for me, neither of these activities seem to lend themselves to blogging. Yes, I know that the web is full of people talking abut weight lifting and even more extolling the benefits of Tai Chi, but for me they are just things I do, things I take for granted, not things that I want to write about. 

There has been an even more important reasons I haven’t been posting lately, but it’s been so long since I’ve sat down and written that 581 words seems long enough for a single entry. Hopefully I will be back shortly with the rest of the reasons I have been remiss in my blogging obligations.

Almost a Flop

Since we were out of town during most of the Spring Shorebird Migration, I have been trying to see the Fall Migration, but I’m not having much more luck than I did in the Spring even though we haven’t gone anywhere recently.  

Since we had seen some shorebirds on our walks at Theler Wetlands, I thought I would drive to the Washington Coast July 13th and see what we could see.  We started at Ocean Shores where we saw some Cormorants way out on the point, but they’re year-round residents so they hardly count.  We walked nearly two miles on the beach and all we saw were a few Seagulls, 

and, somewhat surprisingly, a small flock of Turkey Vultures that took off as we approached

except for a single one that refused to leave a dead Harbor Seal.

Luckily, the trip wasn’t a complete waste of time as we had some Delicious Sushi at Umi Sushi and finally got to visit Elissa Whittleton and her husband’s art exhibit at the Gallery of Ocean Shores.

We had slightly better birding at Westport where we spotted several Brown Pelicans fishing right outside the harbor.

A few even flew overhead, giving me a chance to practice my tracking skills.

 

We saw another small flock of Brown Pelicans at Tokeland — and an even smaller flock of shorebirds feeding on the mud flats.  

If our sole purpose of going to the beach was to get shots of birds, this trip was a FLOP, but a sunny day at the beach is always a treat, especially in the Pacific Northwest where such days are rare.  

My Favorite Photo of the Year

When I’m not on vacation, my favorite place to bird is Theler Wetlands.  Birding often seems a little slow during the summer, but I usually see enough birds to thoroughly enjoy the day.  We weren’t seeing many birds on June 7th, so I was excited to spot a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flying back and forth.  Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to want their picture taken.  So, we ended up spending a lot of time standing, waiting for them to settle down.  

Cedar Waxwing

While standing there, we heard a Common Yellowthroat calling right in front of us.  I quickly switched to hunting for it, fully expecting that it would be long gone before I ever located it.  After all, we commonly hear them but seldom actually see them.

Common Yellowthroat

Amazingly, instead of ducking back into the vegetation, its normal behavior, it flew right in front of us, 

Common Yellowthroat in flight

landed a few feet away and made louder calls than before, definitely attracting our attention.

As I stood there capturing multiple poses, another bird flew into view, a female Common Yellowthroat with a large bug in her beak

female Common Yellowthroat with insect

Clearly, there must have been a nest nearby, which made me assume that the male must have been trying to get us to move away from the nest.  

I took one more shot before quickly leaving the area.

I was thrilled by the whole experience and am convinced that this is the best picture I have taken so far this year.

Common Yellowthroat