Campaign of the Month: June 2012
Kumori - Journal Entry 18
Specifically, the fourth one.
This is Ed addressing you, the reader, directly. I want to comment a little bit on the last post I made, and my own feelings and thoughts about the journey, both physical and spiritual, that Kumori has undertaken.
In the real world, I am myself a convert. I received baptism and confirmation into the Catholic Church on Easter of 2012. I had grown up and lived the first 37 years of my life as a nominal Christian, with leanings toward Presbyterianism by virtue of that being the church my mother and I attended most often when she felt in need of “churching up.” For a great number of years, we only attended once a year, on Christmas Eve at midnight, and my father stayed home.
I was unemployed and unhappy in 2009 when I got to discussing religion with the friend who became my sponsor and godmother. She invited me to go to Mass with her, and I accepted. It had been years since I had been inside a Catholic church, and so the sense of “being home” was strange. Strange, but very powerful. The Eucharistic Rite filled me with a sense of divine presence in a way I had not experienced elsewhere, and I started attending Mass with her weekly. I didn’t start inquiry right away, though, and that’s where this conversion narrative ties in with the game.
Before I joined the Church, I wanted to be sure that I really believed what I was signing on for. I knew that baptism and confirmation are truly serious and sacred commitments not to be taken lightly, and I didn’t want to be the kind of guy who took them lightly. So I spent a lot of time examining my conscience and really working to parse my own beliefs.
So it was that I didn’t want to treat the issue of religious conversion in the game as “okay, I’m taking this feat at level 8.” Even when the existence of the divine is a recognition of a fact rather than an article of faith, how one chooses to interact with divinity is a crucial facet of identity, and not something to reduce to a mere game mechanic. Unlike me, Kumori had a very specific and concrete cosmology staring him in the face all his life. For him, the experience would be less a feeling of sudden openness or connection, as it was for me, and more a shift in perception, the birth of a new paradigm, or the removal of a filter from his view. No less emotionally powerful, but inherently different in quality. I wanted to be true to that.
Also, there was the issue of cultural bias to get around. My own belief is that the name each of us chooses to call God is unimportant to God. My path through Catholicism is true for me; someone else’s path through Hinduism or Wicca is just as true for them. Having Kumori “convert” and start paying homage to a western-style pantheon of deities, and having that become the “truth” he was bringing back to his homeland struck me as being overtly racist in tone, and insulting to who I perceived Kumori as. Additionally, it flew in the face of my own real-world conception of divinity and our interactions with it. So it is that in a style not unlike historical Japanese adoption of Buddhism, Kumori has synthesized the Faith of the Tree with the Teachings of the Enlightened One.
I am profoundly grateful to Mark for being understanding and cooperative in allowing me to bring that element of universality into the game cosmology. I will admit here that right now as I write this I feel a little self-indulgent, spouting off about the deep meaningfulness of the fictional religious experiences of an imaginary alter-ego, so I hope you as the reader can bear with me. I want to express my gratitude to Mark and my fellow players because the experience of playing Kumori’s conversion has helped me reflect on my own, and has provided a mirror of sorts in which I have been able to examine my own spirituality via contrast with his.