9 May 2010

Lolita – “the only convincing love story of our century”

What is rotten in our society that we can refer to confessions of a pedophile as a love story? Aside our personal moral compasses that most of the time aren’t aligned with each other, but there are certain universal moral values that we should all agree on, no questions asked. One, if the only such thing is child abuse, it’s a no, no matter the circumstances.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” Humbert Humbert writes a story about his love for a certain nymph, as he refers to her, a child, really. Morally wrong, tainted in his very core, unsettling, this character still manages to get under our skin. Humbert is an ultimate anti – hero, a child molester and yet he even makes us feel compassion for his strange obsession.
Humbert is showing us how easy it is to overlook that which we swear we would stop if only we knew about it.

Lolita never gets old. I have read Lolita so many times that I know most parts by heart. It is one of those novels you can keep coming back to year after year and every time you read it, you find new things in it. It will not take you to a pleasant world of imagination, or teach you valuable lessons; it is confusing and somewhat difficult to read. It is claustrophobic at most, and tense, queasy and very discomforting, yet you can not put it down. You keep reading hoping for a solution, hoping for something that would finally make characters conform to moral social norms, hoping for a simple resolution, but it never arrives.
Rather, it leaves you mangled in disturbing emotions and questions, the biggest being that one of love. What, indeed, is love?
Nabokov wrote a comedy – tragedy novel, and subtly mocked our idea of love and our bourgeois virtues. He is constantly teasing our sense of morale and our own perversions and dark desires. Lolita is the funniest and the saddest book you will ever read.

It takes you entire novel to realize that the main heroine is dead at the very beginning, just like her child. Nabokov has been playing a game with us, we realize that we know his characters, they live just down the block.
So it’s love? Only because he let her go to school and occasional visits from a friend? Only because he is an elegant sadist? Very classy, well mannered, cultured. Humbert is subtle and sophisticated. He is good with words, and let’s not forget it is he who is telling the story. Why should we even trust him?
Only because this girl hasn’t been locked in a basement for ten years, he must have loved her? What if Joseph Fritzl was so good with words? What if he wrote a novel? Yet another great love story of our time.
Even when Humbert describes killing Lolita’s mother he does it with such poise, you start to believe the babbling woman deserved it.
After all, he did it for love…

So often we confuse all kinds of strange feelings for love, and someone usually pays for it. We like to comfort ourselves with the idea that love is something mysterious and magical, but I like Fromm’s down to earth approach to the whole idea. Love is not magic, we live in alienated society, therefore we seek refuge in romantic love. I would add, that, as our civilization developed we started exchanging more and more security for more and more freedom – most were not ready for the high jump. From quite a prude society of “right” values to sharp left. With no adaptation period, people were left alienated in society where everything is allowed and each man is for himself. Not in the sense of survival anymore, but emotional one.
Monogamy is not in human nature, it’s evolutionary and nowadays cultural norm. A shelter.
Fromm also states that love is something that not everyone can achieve, it doesn’t come naturally, it’s a skill and needs to be developed. True love, for him, is represented through humility, courage, discipline and faith. But to be able to love another, one must first love oneself. Loving self has nothing to do with being egocentric as most of us today are. Loving yourself is according to Fromm caring, respecting, knowing and taking care of yourself.
I wonder why Fromm never married? Love requires work but it is highly rewarding, he stated in the end.

Nabokov explained us the exact same thing, but in a different way. We undeservingly refer to a range of other emotions as love. The joke is on us.
Not only did Humbert not love Lolita, but he denied her of possibility of loving. “My immortal, dead love”. But really, what’s love got to do with it?

2 May 2010

Second life is worse than first life!

“Real” gamers hate it, everyone else loves it – it’s the Sims. I myself love ‘em. It’s not even that I don’t have a life so I have to spend 18 hours a day playing life simulation games, no, I play very irregularly, but when I do I am really enjoying it. The fun thing about the Sims is that even though their creators have developed a very good algorithm that imitates real human needs and behaviours they are still not quite human. They can do things you can’t do in real life, silly things, fun things, sim things, simply it’s fun. It is also easy to use. Interface is very user friendly and so is modifying the objects. Sims are a family game so I find some things to be highly amusing, for example, Sims can not woo hoo if they are not in love, so forget about one night stands, but when they are in love they can do it almost anywhere – in the closet, in the car, in bed, in pool… It’s all over very quickly, but hey maybe that’s how they like it!

Over past couple of years I kept hearing about Second Life and how awesome it is. Everyone absolutely loves it; they brag how you can completely personalize it, you character, the objects, you can even work and earn real money.
And the best thing is that you’re communicating with other real people. I mean don’t you just love the idea – why go out and hang out with your friends when you can sit in front of your computer the entire day and hang out with people. Imagine, socializing without having to leave your room. You don’t have to worry about your breath or non – existing six pack, you don’t have to worry about any flaws you might have or money… Second life was meant to be the first life only without any downsides to it.

But, unfortunately, once you try it, you realize that except technical problems (horrible interface, buggy software that keeps crushing) it has far more problems than first life. You may think that most people in first life are jerks, I know I do, I also think that most people are just plain stupid, but take an average person and add anonymity of the internet and customization of an avatar and you get an entirely new species “super jerk”. Graphics are bad, the world somewhat confusing and quite messy. When you just enter the game you’re supposed to go find a job to earn some linden dollars and meet people. The best thing you can do is work as a gogo dancer in a night club. Seriously. After you advance a bit you can be a host/ess or event organizer. People get overly cocky, because even an obese 50 year old can be a suga’ daddy in second life if he played his cards well.
The second world doesn’t look really pretty either, bad graphics and the entire world is user made, so not to everyone’s liking, it simply lacks consistency.

Which all brings me to one question – why do people want to have surrogates or avatars living their lives? Familiar with the idea of surrogates? You have a surrogate who looks like you (only better), can do all the things you can do and more and is indestructible, it makes you immortal in a way that it can be replaced should something happen to it, while you’re “safely” lying in your bed your entire life.
So why? Why would you want to spend your life in bed / in front of computer / insert necessary here – when you can actually live it?
Not happy with yourself? Think you deserve to be better than you were made? Want to be immortal? Are too lazy to get your ass out of the house and actually be with people? Want to get rich and beautiful very quickly without any effort? Yeah, go get therapy. Seriously.

When it comes to second life being presented as a video game, that idea doesn’t quite work, video games are supposed to be entertaining wastes of time, not as engaging as second life, where you actually have to spend several hours a day if you don’t wanna get behind. I mean if you get a job, you have to show up at that job every day, second life acts like real life in some instances.
So if you want an online game go play WOW, it’s highly entertaining. And it doesn’t consist of meaningless roaming around trying to make friends with other super hot avatars. It gives you purpose and goals to achieve, objectives.

Second life is not an online game, it’s not a highly advanced chat, it’s not a dating service, second life is really trying to be a second life, but it sucks. I don’t want a surrogate or an avatar, I want to be an active participant in my life, even if I’ll never make it to be leader of the free world like I am in Sims.