Information Overlord – In Search of Good News

Good-News-by-kmls

At times I have felt the need to take a break from the news which is rather difficult as I am a consummate news junkie. I believe in being informed.

Then inevitably a day comes when the information interferes with the being.

It is not that there is no good news happening in the world. I would submit that there is more good than bad happening on any given day. It simply is not broadcast.

Or one must look a little harder to find the good news broadcasters.

So I have stopped reading the newspaper. I also deleted several news apps on my phone and canceled a variety of notifications. To say I was obsessing over the news was an understatement.

But it isn’t enough to simply refrain from something. So I did some research to find a replacement.

Here is what I found:

Outlets for good, positive news do exist. I am especially impressed with the Good News Network and Positive News.

So here is what I did:
I downloaded the News Republic app. I turned off all of the notifications from its news sources. Then I customized it by adding the RSS feeds for the Good News Network, Positive News, Yes! magazine, my blogs, MWR, etc.

So now when I click on the News Republic app I have a nice screen of good news. I also get notifications during the day. News Republic also learns my preferences and creates a personal profile.

Benefits so far?
I am happier. I am less depressed. I have a better perspective on what is happening. I am not as angry.

And my creative muse has returned.

Now that is good news!

War Is No Game

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Polygon.com is reporting that ISIS has released a trailer for a video game based on Grand Theft Auto for “the training of children and young teenagers to fight the West.”

Such video games have been in existence in the West for years. Call of Duty and similar militaristic First Person Shooters are based upon a game design and engine developed by the US military specifically for recruitment.

The original video game America’s Army was first released in 2002. Forty-one versions have been released as of January 2014. It has been used at amusement parks, schools, and other events to provide “virtual soldiering experiences” to participants. It has been expanded to include Xbox, Xbox 360, and other platforms. The game is available as a free download and is paid for by the US Government, aka the American people through our tax dollars.

I have written extensively on this blog about video games as educational tools and the need for alternatives to be developed that train children in the way of peace.

When we are as fanatical about peace as ISIS is about terror and are willing to commit as many resources as the US government does to war, then perhaps we will reach the day that the prophet Isaiah describes:

And God shall judge among the nations, and shall reprove many peoples; and they shall forge their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-knives: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Dog Star

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The three-legged dog who sits beside me was abandoned at an airport, left alone, traumatized. She is fearful of loud noises, and strangers, though now I am a friend. She gently nuzzles me for another head scratch.

Her name is Buffy and she indeed is slaying vampires. Every day she limps outside to bask in the sun and in the love of this home, the roar of fanged jets fades from her mind.

A society’s health is judged by its care of the little ones. More forever homes for creatures great and small goes a long way towards the healing of us all.

Did video games kill Robin Williams?

Robin-Williams-GamerA recent article on Yahoo! about Robin Williams being an avid gamer got me pondering the question:

Did video games contribute to the award-winning actor’s depression and eventual death by suicide?

On this blog I have written extensively about violence in video games and other media. My purpose here is not to get into a discussion about whether playing violent video games causes one to do violence to oneself or others. Or to point the finger at specific games that may be cause for concern.

Rather the question I ask is related to what game designers refer to as “immersion.”

A good game is one that draws the player into its world so much so that he will spend countless hours immersed in that world. This power of video games has been greatly enhanced by new advances in technology such as 3D and HD graphics. Successful games and their franchises rival movies in the cost, staff, and years poured into their development in an attempt to attain this goal of immersion.

A self-described game addict, Robin Williams spent the many hours between filming immersed in these virtual worlds. As a creative soul who struggles with depression I understand the power of fantasy and its blissful escape from the constant buzzing of the low intensity conflict of life. It is not easy to return to reality which can often seem rather dull and gray in comparison.

Sleep deprivation. Poor diet. Confined space. Distance/separation from close relations (ie family). Sound familiar? Such are some of the primary methods used by interrogators to “break down” detainees. These are also the characteristics of avid gamers, who willingly endure such in order to remain immersed. Did such a lifestyle eventually lead to Robin Williams “breakdown?”

There has been some discussion and research regarding how technology is rewiring our brains. More research needs to occur if we are to have a firmer grasp on exactly what is occurring within us as we spend more time within the virtual realm. The impact of such media is not simply on the outward characteristics described above. Something is happening in our brains as well. Did the virtual world become more real than reality for Robin Williams? Did real life lose out to the increasing “otherworldliness” of a good game?

My purpose here is not to judge Robin Williams. I have been profoundly affected by his work and will continue to be indebted to him for his impact on my life. But I found the article that blissfully described his gaming “addiction” as rather naive without any sense of the impact such may have had on the actor/comedian’s depression and eventual death.

World of Warcraft is planning on creating a character based on Robin Williams to commemorate his love of video games after an online petition amassed almost 11,000 signatures. The character will not be controlled by players, aimlessly wandering through the world I assume, interacting with players perhaps, cracking a joke or two.

It’s a nice idea I guess. Some would say even a fitting commemoration. But like most I would prefer having the real Robin Williams still alive, making me laugh out loud or shedding tears so real they fall off my cheeks and bounce on my keyboard while I type.

More info on video game addiction here.

It’s in the Blood

Blood-Kin by kmls

In 1539, a fugitive former-priest-turned-Anabaptist, in his seminal work “The Foundation,” penned the following words:

“Christ is our fortress; patience our weapon of defense; the Word of God our sword. …Iron and metal spears and swords we leave to those who, alas, regard human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.”

So said Menno Simons, principal leader of the Protestant sect which then became known as the Mennonites.

Almost 500 years later, his words still resound with a mighty truth.

At the risk of sounding morbid, it has to do with blood.

While Menno specifically refers to the difference between human blood and that of an animal, his larger point is the “value” we place on the blood of another.

My point is quite simple.

Killing will not end through education, conflict resolution, or disarmament, though all of these are important and can help. Killing will end only when there is a fundamental shift in the mind and heart of those who kill.

For how can you kill someone if you believe that their blood is just as valuable as your own?

Let’s call it – for lack of a better term – bloodism. The other, their humanity, life, blood, is somehow less than I, and therefore, their humanity, life, blood, is not as valuable as my own. It becomes quite easy then to justify killing the other, ie. spilling his/her blood.

The directors of death throughout history from every nation, tribe and religion have understood and disseminated this concept quite well. A person (and those like him/her) is described as having the wrong beliefs, the wrong skin color, the wrong gender, the wrong age, the wrong station in life, the wrong land, the wrong possessions, the wrong clothing, the wrong language —- the wrong blood. These others are not as valued as you are, the leaders of the macabre scream, though they couch their speech in terms such as vigilance, freedom, history, security, and truth. Then the killing begins.

The Nazis did it to the Jews. Israelis do it to the Palestinians. Hutus did it to the Tutsis. Shiite do it to the Sunni. Palestinians do it to the Israelis. Sunni do it to the Shiite. Muslims do it to the Christians. Christians do it to the Muslims. This country does it to that country. That neighborhood does it to this neighborhood. This race does it to that race. That religion does it to this religion.

And any one of a million other combinations.

STOP!

Do not allow your mind and heart to be filled with bloodism.

We are made in the image of God.

ALL of us.

And that divine DNA resides in the very marrow of our bones and flows through our veins.

It’s in the blood.