Thursday, February 21, 2019

Equal Treatment

Krusk and I are currently experiencing a slight shift in mindset, a shift which is not necessarily for the worse. We have come to the realization that giving women special treatment is inconsistent with treating people equally. It is, frankly, sexist. People should treat men and women the same. However, Krusk and I interpret this maxim in different ways. Krusk has decided to treat women the same as men, and I have decided to try to treat men the same as women. There is a difference. Under my interpretation, everyone gets special treatment; under Krusk's interpretation, no one does.
Krusk is not a kind person. He doesn't treat people very well, generally. He steals from people. He fights people. He kidnaps people and holds them for ransom. However, until recently, he didn't consciously include women in that definition of "people." Case in point: He had an opportunity to hold a woman for ransom, and he turned it down partly because she was a woman. As he has learned, that's ridiculous. The victim's gender has nothing to do with whether or not it's wrong to kidnap someone, and he shouldn't let it influence his decision of whether or not to do so. So, from now on, he won't. From now on, he's going to try to overcome his gender biases and treat women just as poorly as he treats men.

I, on the other hand, will try to treat men just as well as I treat women. I grew up with the concept of Chivalry, which includes being especially nice to women. This means holding doors open for them, offering them assistance, and generally being very respectful and kind. However, I realize now that that kindness and respect shoe extend to men, too. Men also deserve kindness and respect, just as women do. The recipient's gender has nothing to do with whether or not it's good to do small acts of kindness for someone, so I shouldn't let the recipient's gender influence my decision. I should be kind to everyone, not just women. So I will, or at least I'll try to. I can't promise perfect success, but I can promise to try my best to treat men just as well as I treat women.

Fairness and equality are tricky ideals to strive for. It's tough because any imbalance in either direction is capable of unbalancing the whole system. Being extra kind to a particular person at a particular time may be acceptable, and we do have to treat individuals differently as justice demands, but being more kind to one group of people than one is to another isn't exactly kind or just; it's biased. People should try to overcome that bias, take gender out of the equation, and treat everyone with the same (large) amount of fairness and kindness.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

When Gods and Morality are Misaligned

Unlike our world, the world of D&D had many different gods and goddesses. Some of them are Good, some of them are Evil, and some of them are more or less Neutral, possibly with good or evil tendencies. Some of them specialize in certain areas, or Domains, like the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, being the gods and goddesses of agriculture, metalcraft, hunting, etc. Sometimes, people worship these gods because their philosophies line up with their god's philosophies. For example, a person who is good would probably choose to worship a god or goddess who is good. Alternatively, one might worship a god or goddess because of the amount of time one spends in that god's or goddess's domain. For example, a farmer might worship a god or goddess of agriculture, regardless of anyone's moral leanings. 

Krusk Bloodfist is a pirate captain. He became a pirate captain mostly by accident and by going with the flow; he didn't maliciously choose to be a marauder. Morally speaking, I see him as a Neutral character. He doesn't go out of his way to hurt people without reason, but he does what he wants, including stealing, and he doesn't mind hurting the people who try to stop him. He looks out for himself and his friends, but no one else. However, despite his general lack of interest in the well-being of others, he does have some respect for women, mostly due to the two most important women in his life: his wife, Holly; and his goddess, Besmara.

Until recently, Krusk's relationship with his wife was uncertain. He returned home to look for her, but he didn't find her there. Instead, he found out that she had been kidnapped. He released her and swore vengeance on her kidnapper. This will become important in a moment.

Krusk's relationship with Besmara may recently have become as uncertain as his relationship with his wife had been. Besmara is the goddess of pirates and piracy. She is a Neutral goddess with some evil tendencies, but she has helped Krusk's crew and Krusk himself personally on multiple occasions. Krusk owes Besmara his thanks, his freedom, and his life. Naturally, he has begun worshiping her, despite knowing very little about the specific details of her tenets or of the nuances of her moral leanings. He knows she wants him to be a good pirate, but that's about it.

Krusk's lack of knowledge about Besmara's morality system influenced a key moment in the session of D&D I played tonight. Our characters were fighting their way through a monster-infested sea cave, and we found a woman who was being held captive by the monsters. Once we saved her from the monsters, she identified herself as the queen of a race of sea creatures, and some of the characters wanted to hold her for ransom, but Krusk decided to release her for a great number of reasons. She had already suffered enough at the hands of the monsters. She hadn't done anything to harm them. He didn't want her people to do anything to harm them. He felt like he would have been a hypocrite for taking a woman captive while he was actively planning revenge against the man who had taken his woman captive. And he thought that Besmara, being a woman, would have had some issues with him taking a woman hostage. Killing men is one thing; kidnapping a woman is something else entirely, or so Krusk thought.

After releasing the fishy queen, Krusk consulted with a cleric of Besmara to see whether he had made the right call. Apparently, he hadn't. Apparently, Besmara cares more about collecting treasure than respecting women, and, despite spending a good deal of time on the ocean, she doesn't much value the lives of the creatures who live there. Krusk had thought that Besmara wouldn't have wanted him to take the queen lady captive. Evidently, Krusk had thought wrong.

In a way, Krusk's situation was painfully relatable. We often have to choose between what we want to do and what God wants us to do, and we sometimes have to choose between what we think is right and what God says is right, but, phrased another way, Krusk's moral dilemma was one that we, thankfully, will never have to face. He had to choose between doing what was right and doing what his goddess wanted him to do. God will never force us to choose between doing what He tells us to do and doing what's right because He only ever tells us to do what's right. We can always be confident in the righteousness of God's commandments. We will never have to choose between doing good and obeying God.

However, that makes Krusk's predicament especially difficult for me to solve. On the one hand, he still owes Besmara several favors, and he hopes to persuade her to do more favors for him and his crew. He also owes it, both to his goddess and to his crew, to be the best, most financially-successful pirate he can be. A queen's ransom would have been a great help in that respect. And he isn't exactly a moral paragon anyway. What's the harm in crossing one more moral line? On the other hand, he isn't totally amoral either. There were some lines he wouldn't cross lightly, mostly out of respect for women, especially his wife. Even when he thought his wife might hate him, he stayed faithful to her. And now that he learned that she had been held captive for months, holding another woman captive seems especially repugnant to him. Yet, that's what his goddess would have wanted.

Krusk is, once again, torn. Previously, he had been torn between his desire to be with his wife and his desire to thank/repay Besmara for making it possible for him to return to his wife. Now that his wife is on board with him and his pirate crew, both literally and figuratively, he no longer has to choose between being a pirate and being with his wife. Now he has to choose between being the kind of pirate he wants to be and being the kind of pirate Besmara wants him to be. He has to choose between doing what he wants to do and doing what Besmara wants him to do. This is going to be a tough decision for him.

In a way, I'm glad that Krusk still has some moral challenges to wrestle with. It'll help keep his story interesting. But more than that, I'm glad that this is one moral challenge that I won't have to wrestle with myself. Unlike Krusk, I can, in good conscience, devote myself entirely to the service of my God. I can do what He wants me to do how He wants me to do it and know for a fact that I am doing the right thing. Until now, I've taken that for granted, but now I am very thankful that I will never have to choose between obeying God and doing what's right.

Dwelling on Negativity

There is too much negativity in the world and in my life right now. Not much, mind you, but still too much. I've been dwelling too long on things that upset me. That's not healthy. I don't know if ignoring problems is any healthier, but merely dwelling on them clearly isn't. I should decide to either do something about it or stop thinking about it. Either one would be better than what I'm doing now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Encounter Difficulty

One of the (surprisingly fun) challenges that I ran into when I started running D&D games is designing combat encounters. There's a lot of math involved. Ultimately, you add up a bunch of numbers that represent how strong the monsters are, multiply to total by a modifier based on how many monsters there are (and how big the party is), then compare the product to a set of numbers that tell you how much your party can handle, based on the level and number of adventurers in the party.

What I ultimately got out of all of this is that whether an encounter is Easy, Medium, Hard, or Deadly isn't based solely on the monsters involved. They're only half of the equation. The other half is the adventurers. An Easy fight for one party might be a Deadly fight for another. That's partly why I don't think we should label any challenge as being "easy" or "difficult" without also qualifying that label by saying whom that challenge is "easy" or "difficult" for.

For example, I write a lot (assuming you count these blog posts as "writing"). I get a great deal of practice typing words onto a page on my computer. I regularly string thousands of characters and hundreds of words together into sentences and paragraphs that usually, hopefully, end up making some sense. I have a great deal of experience at writing. So, when I am called upon to write a few hundred words or a few pages on a given topic, my challenge is not in finding the 's' key or in forming coherent sentences. Those "challenges" are easy for me. Yet, I know that that isn't easy for everyone. Not everyone does a lot of typing. Not everyone speaks English fluently.  Not everyone has as much experience with writing as I have. Writing a few paragraphs can be a great challenge for some people, even though it's not that much of a challenge to me.

We shouldn't judge how easy or difficult other people's challenges are based on how easily we think we could overcome them. Something that would be easy for us could still be a terribly difficult challenge for them. So we shouldn't judge others for the challenges that make them struggle. Perhaps they just have less experience dealing with that sort of challenge than we do. Or perhaps this is another case where "the grass is always greener on the other side." We don't really know how tough other people's challenges are, and we certainly don't fully understand how tough those challenges are for them.

That's why I'm glad that our challenges are being designed by Someone who knows how much we can handle, and that each hardship in the whole human experience is tailor-made for the humans who will experience them. God gives everyone challenges that are easy enough for them to overcome but that are also difficult enough to actually challenge them. In that sense, every challenge is, in fact, challenging. So, we shouldn't be hard on anyone who struggles with anything that would be easy for us. There's a reason God gave that challenge to them instead of us, and there are reasons why God gives us the challenges He does. It's not that some people are given difficult challenges and others are given easy challenges. "Easy" and "difficult" are relative. Everyone is given challenges that are difficult for them.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Why I'm Here

Sometimes, after a person thanks me for helping them, I answer with the usual phrases everyone says, like "You're welcome" or "No problem," but sometimes, I follow it up with something that I am blessed to be able to say: "That's why I'm here."

And I mean it. I am here to help people. It's not just my job, as a writing tutor, to help people write better. It's not just my duty as a family member to help things run smoothly at home. It's not just my pleasure to make kind gestures to the people I love. It's my purpose. It's why God made me. It's why I exist. I am here, on Earth, to help people.

I consider myself extremely blessed to know that. Many people have searched for their entire lives to find their purpose. I was blessed to be born into a family and church that helped me find mine early on. Over the course of my life, I've given service to countless people, partly because they asked me to, partly because I felt like I was supposed to or had to, and partly because service sort of just became a part of me, or maybe I just realized that it was part of me all along.

Now, I don't mean to put myself on a pedestal here. I don't mean to say that I'm great at service or that I serve often and always enjoy it, because I'm not great and I don't always enjoy it. "Often" is relative, but I don't serve as often as I should. There are times when I choose not to serve my purpose.

I suppose I should work on that. Even though I don't always enjoy serving others, I should do it more often, not just because I'm supposed to, but also because I take some pride in serving others whether I want to or not. I find fulfillment in service, and I think I know why.

I know that there are probably many reasons why God created me, and helping others is only one of those reasons, but helping others is certainly one of the probably many reasons God created me. Helping others is at least part of the purpose of my existence. It is, at least partly, why I'm here.

I thank God that I know that. As far as purposes go, helping others isn't the worst. It's humble, but I kind of like that. It's simple and flexible. It's sometimes even fun! It is sometimes literally a chore, but it's not the worst chore either. I like helping people, even if I don't always like doing so in the moment. I'm glad that helping others is part of my purpose, and I'm especially glad that I know that it is. I thank God that I am blessed enough to know why I'm here.

Self-Reflection vs Self-Deception

Today, in Family Scripture Study, we read the Book of Omni, who apparently was pretty hard on himself, calling himself "a wicked man," and saying that he "[had] not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as [he] ought to have done." This seems to me like a good moment of self-reflection. None of us are perfect, and it's important for us to be aware of our faults so we can strive to overcome them.

However, it's easy for wholesome introspection to devolve into something harmful, self-deception. When we look at ourselves, it's easy to see ourselves as better or worse than we really are, either minimizing or maximizing out faults. Both are harmful to our spirits through either allowing our shortcomings to persist or by allowing them to dominate our self-image. We should not allow ourselves to become complacent nor discouraged, and that means that we must be honest with ourselves about exactly how well or poorly we're doing, spiritually.

Of course, it can be difficult to judge how we're doing. Our biases, our lack of perspective, and the influence of the adversary can all skew our judgment, turning our honest self-reflection into a mistaken self-deception. That's why we shouldn't necessarily rely on our own judgment to determine how wonderful or horrible we are.

Judgment belongs to the Lord. Let's let Him tell us how well we're doing and how we can improve. Let's let Him diagnose our spiritual ills and prescribe effective remedies. Let's reduce our risk of self-deception by stopping passing judgment on ourselves. It's good to consider what we're doing and how we're doing, but the ultimate answer of how good we are and what good we should do should come from God, not us.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Contact with Family

It was recently announced that LDS missionaries will be able to call home, not just on Christmas and Mother's Day anymore, but every week. This will be a wonderful change for most missionary families, and it hopefully won't be too distracting for the missionaries. This all reminds me how wonderful it is to be able to maintain contact with family.

I'm lucky enough to live at home, so I have regular contact with some of my closest relatives, but even if I didn't, I could still call them, email them, text them, or keep in touch with them through social media. Technology has made it easy for people to communicate with each other.

And, as easy as technology has made it to communicate with our earthly family, it has always been even easier to communicate with God. We can call our parents any time we can pull our phones out of our pockets; we can pray to God any time, period, and He can talk to us just as immediately through His Spirit. Sure, our reception isn't always great, but God can always hear us, even when we can hear Him. The communication may sometimes be one-sided, but it is always available, not once a week or twice a year, but constantly. We can always, always communicate with God.