American Vices

They say you can tell a lot about a person by seeing what he loves. I think you can tell a lot by what a person hates, too. And not the sort of obvious denunciation-laden hatred that you see at Westboro Baptist “Church” protests. The hatred I’m speaking of is a silent contempt so ingrained in the people who hold it that they don’t consciously think about it.

For instance, American Christians often hold contempt for ritual and tradition. Sometimes this is expressed outwardly, but often it can be seen more clearly in other ways. For example, churches often consider it “progress” to substitute hymns for more modern forms of music, regardless of the quality of content or form that the music takes. While you might overhear people whisper their contempt for those curmudgeons who stand in the way of progress, you’ll often just see it in the shallow theology of the members. Hymns are a very efficient way of sowing theological truths into congregants, and this is lost when they are replaced.

One particular example comes to mind above all others though: wearing formal clothing to church. Putting aside the obviously contemptible reasons to wear a suit and tie when going to church (to appear better than others, to show off, to imagine oneself as more spiritual for doing so), there aren’t too many good reasons to avoid dressing one’s best when attending church.

It is good to dress and look one’s best when attending a funeral, a wedding, or a job interview. You want to give a good impression, but you also have some reverence of the event (at least in the first two scenarios). You know in the back of your mind that these are important things, and you should act importantly, no matter what you feel. But Americans love what the deem authenticity – that situation where you do or say whatever you like without reservation. So when it comes to church, many American Christians think it is actually wrong to dress well. They won’t often say this verbatim (although I’ve heard it). Instead, they’ll treat it as a spiritual accomplishment to no longer be concerned with their own appearance.

For instance, you might hear something like: “I learned it didn’t matter if I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans or a suit. It’s not about the outward appearance, but about the heart.”

On the face of it, who could argue? Of course the clothing we wear doesn’t have a salutary effect on us. Of course the health of our souls is not dictated by our clothing selection. But there is a silent contempt here veiled in spiritual language. For instance, consider this: “I learned it didn’t matter if I told my children that I loved them or not. It’s not about the outward appearance, but about the heart”.

“Aha”, I hear you say. “That’s different. If you love your children, you’ll tell them. The inward has an effect on the outward.” To which I can only agree, and by agreeing, prove my own point. The clothing we wear reflects the seriousness of organized worship.

Someone told me – and I think he was serious – that it was impossible to really know what was meant by “dressing one’s best”. What qualified as “best”? The Sun King of France had something very different in mind than Charles Spurgeon, for instance. But the fact of the matter is that everyone has an idea of what is best in their particular context, else we couldn’t even talk about it. What is “best” might have some subjective variability, but what is “best” is still a superlative, and we can’t make any comparisons without it. If it is better to wear a suit and tie (if you have the means) than to wear underwear alone, the existence of the superlative is already implied.

At the end of the day, it is wiser to dress your best than to argue that it doesn’t matter what you wear. And it is wiser to know what you secretly despise than to find out by having it challenged by someone who doesn’t make the same assumptions about the world as you.

This could easily dovetail into the objective nature of beauty, but I think I’ll save that for another post.

A Citybuilder I’m Building

I absolutely love Caesar 3. It’s a city-building game set in ancient Rome and it was so good that the demo, despite being extremely limited, was something I played over and over as a kid. The graphical style, the music, and the essence itself of the game was practically magical.

Five years later I learned to program. Ten years after that, I started working on my own city builder, and that’s what this is. I call it “Rise of Man”, but that isn’t the first name it’s had and it may not be the last. The game is a city builder with a twist (every game these days needs a twist). In the case of this game, the twist is an epoch-spanning civilization-customizing experience.

Players begin with a band of nomadic hunter-gatherers wandering the world. As players build up their cities and focus on particular methods of getting food, travelling, developing tools, entertaining their citizens, and forming governments, those choices have long-term impacts that define the sort of civilization that will develop. A player that focuses on spearing shore fish, for instance, may soon develop fishing rafts. And fishing rafts, if focused on, may give rise to a Polynesian-style culture that travels from island to distant island. Or, a player may simply be satisfied with rudimentary shipbuilding, focusing instead on gathering and ultimately farming so that permanent settlements and colonies will be possible.

This is a big project. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it, but the core of the engine is in place. Below are some of the preliminary screenshots.

Pristine. Simple. In need of human involvement.
A tent has been built! Civilization advances!
A few starting structures, including a village center, some roads, and some build sites.
The world map, being world map-y.

March 2017 Update

The end of February was a busy, busy time, and this blog was not the only thing I neglected to maintain. I took a very nice week off of work, but instead of spending the time working on projects, I spent most of it with my family. It was good.

At the moment, this blog is only one of several simultaneous demands I need to meet. I’m also working on two video game projects (one of which has its own blog I’ll link to soon in a full post), some home renovations, and some online content creation. This, on top of being a father, husband, and working full time. This isn’t to complain about any of those things, but to suggest that this blog might become a place for me to, beyond what I already use it for, serve as a way to document all of these other projects.

I’ll probably have some posts about the two game projects soon.