January 19, 2018

Embracing the Principle of Non-Compulsion

I don't often talk about the time I spent as a member of the LDS Church, also called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormons, solely because that chapter of my life is a long way behind me and I rarely see any reason to revisit it; however, today is one of those days.

The vast majority of the religion and world-view presented in the LDS Church is useless to me, which is an awfully big part of why I officially renounced my membership and had my name removed from the rolls. I'm a sinner through and through, and in the mythology of the LDS Church I'm definitely and 100% destined for Hell. 

Yes indeed, I'm on the express lane to Hell and will in fact skip purgatory and go immediately and directly into the fire and brimstone the very moment after I die because I had gained a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, had been anointed a member of both the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods, and then turned away from my testimony and renounced God. For as much as the Mormons care, I'm a Grade "A" sinner because the opportunity for repentance is basically gone forever. 

Even though the canon literature of the LDS Church is ahistorical fan-fiction and has been thoroughly murdered by the infamous CES Letter, there is one lesson I still carry with me: the importance of avoiding anything that subverts my willpower and places me in figurative bondage to my desires, a principle that doesn't feel too far from the statement that Satan represents indulgence (and not compulsion.)

This imperative to avoid bondage and subversion of one's willpower is evident in the "word of wisdom" which is generally interpreted as a command to avoid addictive substances such as caffeine in beverages, nicotine in tobacco products, and recreational drugs of all sorts. It is also less widely interpreted as a command to avoid the addictive qualities of fatty and sugary foods which contribute to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other health declines. And less widely than that, the principle of non-compulsion found in the word of wisdom is sometimes applied to computers, video games, titty bars, gambling, or any other activity which is deemed to be capable of creating an unhealthy compulsion that would interfere with a member's commitment to living a Christ-like life.

You might find this difficult to believe, but I have no interest in leading a Christ-like life. I know, shocking! I'm a Satanist, I'm living deliciously, and I have no interest in kissing Christ's angelic ass cheeks for all eternity.

But I am a big fan of recognizing and avoiding compulsions, and other things that would subvert my will and decrease the quality of my life. The LDS Church was on to something with this whole principle of non-complusion as a safe-guard to ensure adequate time and energy to worship God, but since I now recognize myself as my own god, I'm free to use that time for myself instead of bending knee to an imaginary friend.

All of which is a really long way of saying that I've spent the past few months looking really closely at how I spend my time, and I gotta say: there are ways I spend my time that are supposed to be entertaining but actually leave me feeling drained.

One of these things is video games. My game of choice is usually an MMORPG because it offers an immersive world, deep storylines, engaging quests, sandbox style player vs player combat, and rich profession systems. There's so much to do, so many places to go, and the sheer volume of daily quests and time-sensitive content meant there's always something waiting for me.

But the trouble with MMORPG's is that they're typically accompanied by sharp hooks that sink deep. When I'm not playing the game, I would feel anxious about all the things I wasn't doing in the game. I would become distracted worrying that I wasn't doing enough to keep my character appropriately leveled or sufficiently equipped, I would forget about housework because I was more concerned with remembering when the next dungeon party was going to happen, and a general sense of distraction and anxiety emerged that would only be relieved by playing the game. 

This left me with a love-hate relationship where I convinced myself that if I just spent enough time playing the game that I would break through to the next level, but the thing is, that next level was never going to happen. There is no next level because the game is created deliberately to prevent players from feeling like they've ever really finished it. In the end, a game that was supposed to bring pleasure and happiness into my life ultimately left me feeling anxious about when I could next get back into the game world, and when I did get back into the game world, frustrated that I wasn't progressing fast enough to unlock more challenging content. The cycle persists: lather, rinse, repeat. 

I've since quit playing MMORPG's, and most computer games in general, and I'm feeling much better and am being more productive. When I spend time with my wife and children I'm able to really be present and focused on them, instead of having my mind always wondering if my merchant's inventory had sold yet and whether I could afford to buy that enchanted hammer for my dwarf mage.

Video game developers are awfully good at building Skinner boxes that compel you to come back for more. If you're struggling with a video game compulsion, you're not alone. It's a very frequent problem for a whole lot of people. When you find a game that you really love, it's natural to want to spend more time playing the game (and not less), but even a principled approach to responsibly indulging in the game can quickly turn into a compulsion. Video games are typically designed to encourage this kind of compulsion, so the first step to avoiding it is to be aware of the lesser magic being worked against you.

Satan represents indulgence, not compulsion.

There's a world of difference between the two.

2 comments:

  1. Yes! Yes! I always felt similarly about the "Word of Wisdom" and, when I taught Gospel Principles classes, would tell folks about my undergrad days, when I would occasionally have difficulty finding a hook-up for weed for a weekend and the resultant anxiety would just ravage my attitude for the two days. It seems eery how similar our two paths have been in some ways. I love this post. Keep 'em coming! (On a related note: I can't figure out how to subscribe to your blog, such that I get notifications when you post anew. I found this by clicking on your last comment to my blog. Hmmmm...)

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    1. If you ever want to join me for a lark in beating up on the easily beaten-upon LDS Church, let me know. I've beaten it about as much as I think I'm gonna beat it, but I could be persuaded to take a few more swings at it LoL

      As far as subscription options go, there are buttons on the bottom right of the page for RSS, but I don't think I've got anything set up for notification by email. I'll look at my widgets and see what I can do. Until then, you're welcome to join my mailing list via the tab at the top of the page. I use my mailing list to notify folks about most of what happens on this blog, etc. Take care, HS!

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