The Red Seas Scrolls - 1 - Impermanence

The Red Seas Scrolls - 1 - Impermanence

Furidashi Podcast

This essay is inspired by possibly our most articulate and verbose fans - - a curious mix of game design and academia with plenty of mood. They had an afterthought on The Remainder, in which the mechanisms of desire in the story was singled out, dissected, laid-bare and scrutinised. Click here to give it a read, it's fun and possibly illuminating.

For the record, yes, I am tooting my own horn a little bit. It's nice to be appreciated.  I appreciate you spending your valuable time and brain cells to read these words, you beautiful human-being you. See? It feels nice, right?


This post got me thinking, what are we actually doing with desire?  It occurs to me what is interesting about desire is how you the reader experiences Vyn's wobbly steps along the way to literally self-discovery. Each step takes them toward a bit of knowledge of who they are, granting satisfaction, but then immediately leads to the knowledge of how much they've forgotten, inducing despair and further desire to move forward. One step forward, two wobbly steps sideways. Since Furidashi has so beautifully observed this aspect, I shall go in a different direction, to explore a deeper, more fundamental level of what is at work, at least according to me. 

There is a feature of story-telling that is so common as to be taught in schools and courses these days, it can be found in just about 100% of stories featured in main-stream novels, comics, and games. If you've read it, seen it, or heard of it, it contains this feature. It's the fact that when a character has a desire for something and takes an action toward fulfilling their desire, they inadvertently make their situation worse and are set back. They will renew their effort, try a different tact, and make some progress forward, then another set-back will, well, set them back further. They will be locked in an escalating cycle of increased effort and set-backs until ultimately they must give their all, and face the ultimate set-back, total destruction of them selves and what they hold most dear.

Stories are made this way because this resonates with the audience, this resonates with the audience, because the audience feels and recognizes the truth of it, they see this and say to themselves "this is how life is." 

This is certainly how games are, each bit of strength you gain is soon trumped by a tougher enemy, and every stage you move forward ups the stakes of how much rewards you could gain if you win. Games that don't do this quickly bore you, because without the alternating ups and downs, you'll either defeat all enemies with ease, or be ground into dust repeatedly by stronger foes.

How is this like life? 

What is life but an endless series of alternation between win and loss, joy and despair, pleasure and pain? 

Sure, but can we simply it, by taking away what is not essential, so that we can be left with the essence?

An endless series of alternation between gain and loss, joy and despair, pleasure and pain.

An endless series of alternation between gain and loss, joy and despair

An endless series of alternation between gain and loss

An endless series of alternations

This is the essence. Change. Life is change. 

When a story can capture the essence of life, it is a good story, but not as good a story as it can be. Why not? 

Human beings don't like change. 

Change is unstable, unpredictable, undependable. There is no discernable end, one end is only another beginning. 

Human beings want to know where they came from and where they're going. They want to know that the path they walk leads somewhere definite, preferably with a big, chunky treasure chest waiting at the end, after all their fighting and toiling.  And they want to see this reflected in the stories they read. They want to see Frodo destroy the ring and then live in peace forever. They want to see the Knight save the princess and live happily together. But when one steps back and look with a broad enough lens, one realizes that there is no peace forever, given enough time, another powerful being will fall to greed and create the rings, the world will be thrown into turmoil again. Another dragon will come and abduct the princess, or else the knight and princess will find out they don't actually like each other and it was just a heat of the moment thing, and file for divorce, and  the custody battles, ad infinitum.

When faced with a sea of change, the human desire is for it to end, for there to be an island refuge where the waves of change no longer shakes and sways one. This only works on paper, or the silver screen, but not in real life, because life is change, and this desire is for permanence. This is a problem. Life is change, and change is a problem for people who desire permanence. 

Stories that end on a comma and not a period are more "life-like" because they accord more with reality. Leaving something unsaid, some event unresolved, helps the reader imagine what could come after the last page. But is this the perfect way to tell a story? 

How stories end is not the whole story. 

People care very much about how stories end, which is a reflection of how they see life. If the end of a story is all that matters, then readers will only read the last page and be done with the book. 

Similarly, if life is a race, then the finishing line is death and the fastest way to get there is suicide, but who will consider that some kind of victory? However, if life is a dance, and death is the bell that signals its close, then what matters is not how it tolls but rather how one danced before then. It is not so much the end that defines the story. 

For a story to be truly good, it must address the essential problem of life, which is the conflict between the reality of change and the unrealistic desire for permanence. This problem is so intractable that to even think of solving it seems impossible, something belonging to the realm of fantasy. That is where a good story comes in. Stories illustrate what is possible, so that the readers can imagine the impossible. They take something from fantasy and attempt to bring it into reality, through inspiration and demonstration.

A truly good story

would have to be one where a character, having been astray and adrift in the sea of change for so long, having floated up and sank down so many times that they're utterly exhausted and distraught, and has not the strength to fight the waves anymore. That's when they try the untried, the illogical, the opposite of what they had been doing this whole time, they give in to the waves of change and accepts them for how they are. A strange thing happens then, they find that in this giving up of enmity and opposition, they stop alienating themself from what's around them. They start to accept the ups and downs, and move with them, make friends with them, and to dance with them. They're no longer concerned with how they are and how they wished the waves would be, they're just the movement, just the dance. And soon, in this dance of joy, of acceptance, of giving up, they realize what had been happening the whole time. There was no one there to begin was, there was only the water, there was only an errant wave that got caught up in a whirlpool and imagined it was something separate from the Seas. And now it has realized the truth and laughed itself out of existence. Now there are only the waves, only the Seas. 

Change is not a problem when there is no one to struggle against it. The problem is solved by the personal experience of discovering that it was only a delusion. 

Is such a story possible? 

Until next time.

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I have not willingly read an essay, possibly ever. One point to you lol. This was a good read, that bolsters my confidence to continue on in my own story, both personally and as a writer.

"They start to accept the ups and downs, and move with them, make friends with them, and to dance with them. "

That especially, is the golden ticket. To dance with the change, be present and accepting of it, neither be controlled by or avoid it, but to embrace it with willful intention is the key to life, and, as we all know, our stories are meant to be a reflection of life, however mirror-like or distorted.

<3 Thank you for the boost in confidence :)

Maybe I should re-brand these as extended poetry or long-prose? Might be better for my readership, hahaha.

I'm glad to hear you found something here though, one person is all it takes to make this whole endeavour worthwhile.

Happy dancing!