More Maneageable Quests

One of the things that has often puzzled me about role playing games and movies is the way that so often the quest is something that is meant to save the world from some sort of existential threat. It is perhaps not coincidental that one of the more wearisome and tedious aspects of contemporary life is the way that everything seems to be turned into some sort of existential threat, so that people react to ordinary and appropriate Supreme Court decisions and temporary electoral defeats as if they meant disaster for our nation and civilization. This is not to say that some existential threats do not exist, but rather that when everything appears to be a direct threat to our survival and well-being, it makes us unable to develop the right kind of perspective about how our lives and times are to be dealt with, and makes it impossible for us to see things as they are, and thus to deal with them in an appropriate fashion.

Most of us will admit, if we are at all sensitive to the way that we and others around us live our lives, that we all have certain quests in our existence. One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of role playing games and MMOs is the way that they mimic in certain ways the reality of our lives in a more romantic and picturesque gloss. Not many of us are called to be or are capable of handling existential threats to survival like villains with evil plans to depopulate the world by ninety percent or threaten nuclear winter on the world, but we all have more modest quests in our lives that indicate the sort of fetch quests or difficult tasks that come into our orbit. Sometimes these can be the source of humorous inside stories, such as references to mushrooms and the difficulty that can result by trying to get them at certain restaurants, or they can be aspects of larger problems like the difficulty of finding alfalfa sprouts or gout medicine in a world full of supply chain difficulties and problems with e. coli in agriculture.

Why is it that more movies and games do not recognize the appeal of modest quests. One of the most trenchant criticisms of the Suicide Squad movie, for example, was the way that it pitted a group of criminal misfits against someone whose power far exceeded them. The quest was absurdly ambitious given the capacity of the characters involved. In contrast to that, one of the most winning and appealing quests was that of Scrat in the Ice Age movies for his acorn. Given the similarity of my own quests to that of Scrat, the relatability of something that should be so easy to get being such an impossible challenge was something that struck me as deeply poignant and appealing. Scrat’s appeal as a questing rodent was in his persistence in seeking that which he should have been able to attain without effort, thus demonstrating real strength of character in refusing to be deterred from what proved to be a deeply elusive task, set in the context of drastic and decidedly non-anthropogenic climate change that served as an existential threat to the other characters.

What is the right attitude to have when we find quests in our existence? What is frustrating and almost futile can be a way for us to develop the strength of character to be persistent in the face of life’s difficulties and challenges, as resilience is both vitally important and difficult to attain. In addition to this, the quests of our existence also reveal larger problems in the world. Perhaps we cannot solve the supply chain crises of the world, but we can understand the consequences of bad public policy moves and seek to better arrange our own supply chain and make sure that we are pursuing our self-interest properly and doing what we can to reduce some of the sources of suffering in the world. And if our scope to act is often limited by the stupidity of those around us, at least knowledge can help us make smarter decisions and to be able to cope with reality, however unpleasant.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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