We open our eyes to an endless void, interrupted only by the pinprick light of distant stars and galaxies. Before we can even wonder how we came to be floating, so literally, in the middle of nowhere, we notice yet another impossibility in the distance. Above us (or is it below?) there appears to be a tear in the fabric of the infinite. Through that unlikely gap, we can glimpse the softer hues of a nighttime sky, scudding clouds and the last sliver of a crescent moon.
For a moment, nothing seems to move except for the clouds which slide gently from one jagged edge of this bizarre window, to the other. And then there is a new shape, a silhouette thrust tumbling against this strange patch of gloaming sky. We see it, briefly, as the shape of a man, flailing, falling toward us. And then he is gone, and there is only the shadow of a rectangular object, a book, pages fluttering, left to plunge into that seemingly immeasurable cavity.
A year ago, I celebrated the 1st anniversary of this blog by taking you on a walking tour of the Great Underground Empire as presented in the classic computer game Zork. It seemed appropriate, at the time, to compare my experience of blogging with that of fighting my way, one typed command at a time, through a text-based adventure.
I truly think that there was something special about those games, ‘Zork’ and ‘Eamon’ and a dozen others like them. At a time in my life when I was starting to read voraciously, it was those games which taught me to interact with “the narrative” in ways I might never have considered otherwise. The story became more than a simple collection of words. Instead, there was this new concept, this idea of the universe being an expression of ‘The Word’.
Well, it was a new concept to the child I was, anyway.
Every ancient culture has understood that the world around us was made, not out of water and rock, or even protons and electrons, but out of ideas made solid through the magic of words.
(And before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, this is not me supporting ‘intelligent design’ over the ‘scientific method’. As if either of these things could exist without the words to express them. There are deeper truths than these, I think.)
Now, where were we? Childhood — Reading — Computer Games…,
Ah yes, the perfect expression of story AS reality: Myst.
Let us return to the opening moments of the game and that mysterious book which fell from the heavens. We open the book and lay our hand upon the image which dances upon the first page, only to find ourselves transported suddenly, and without explanation, to someplace very different.
We find ourselves for the first time, but not the last, standing on the dock of Myst Island. To our right, the ocean waves lap against the masts of a sunken ship, and in the distance before us, a stairway climbs up to some strange stone gears which crown a pinnacle of rock.
Our journey begins.
As we explore, we learn that Myst Island inhabits its own ‘Age’, a place literally written into existence through an ancient art. Hidden, throughout the island are still more linking books like the one that brought us here, gateways to even stranger Ages which await exploration.
But there is danger here as well. The Ages of Myst are more than simple places, they are puzzles as well. Every place we go, every object which is set into our path is part of some greater riddle which must be solved lest we become trapped.
Why does this feel so familiar?
Perhaps it is because personal experience helps us to suspend disbelief in the fantastic.
After all, who among us has never dived headlong into a book, only to find themselves in a foreign place and time?
Certainly, we may search the ancient mythologies and easily find heroes who survive by finding the hidden clues and patterns within their environment. But why stray so far from our own lives?
Are Religion and Science anything more than the tools we use to unlock the riddle of our own existence? If we figure out the puzzle and decipher the mechanics of the world around us, will the universe not finally open its deepest secrets?
Well, maybe some of them. There are always more mysteries, and if a game is popular, you can bet it will have a sequel.
Huh, when I set out, my intention was to compare my experience of blogging over these last two years with that of playing Myst. I appear to have wandered far afield from my goal, something, I must confess, that happened to me often while playing the game.
Life imitates art, or is it the other way around. Is there even a difference between the two?
So then: Myst versus Blogging.
Well isn’t it obvious? Every post has challenged me with puzzles, mysteries, storytelling, and the sublime knowledge that I’m never sure exactly where I’m going to end up when the writing is done.
Plus, it takes ‘Ages’ for me to get anything done!
On some days the writing just will not come at all. On those days, I feel like I’m in the underground, far beneath Selenitic Age, traveling haltingly through the dark in some clunky rail car, listening for a discordant little ‘ding’, barely audible, that will let me know I’m headed in the right direction.
On other days, the writing comes as easily as walking along the winding paths of Channelwood. I get lost there sometimes, among the tall trees and rippling water, and must force myself to come back.
And in the back of my mind there are always those voices crying out so insistently for me to “bring the pages”.
Truth be told, I finished that game and its sequels long ago, but I think part of me lives on Myst Island still. Now that I’ve taken up writing, I see more clearly the links between this Age, and that of our ancestors, and perhaps those of generations to come.
The work is important, if to no one else, than to me, and I am deeply grateful to those who have indulged it thus far.
It is also exhausting.
I have posted once a week, without interruption, for two years. For some, that may be no great achievement, and I cannot fathom where they find the time. For me, with my weekly workload, neglected loved ones and other commitments, it has been a major undertaking.
And one which I must, for the moment, step away from.
I am taking the month of April off from writing, which should prove to be an interesting experiment in itself. I’m not done here, not by any stretch. I plan to return to this blog around Beltane, and in the meantime I’ll be following all the new friends I have made along the way.
There are so many linking books out there, and so many Ages. How will I ever find the time to explore them all?