Though my illness did keep me from attending a potluck at my friends' house in Ithaca yesterday evening, it did not keep me out of commission this afternoon, which was nice. One of my friends officially introduced me to the ins and outs of Dungeons and Dragons, a game I never really found myself able to get into. When I was younger--in grade school and high school, especially--several people I knew played the game, but I never really ran with that particular crowd, so I did not get involved their elaborate role playing games.
As a member of the Nintendo generation, however, I did grow up with video games and I had played a few computer RPGs. Still, I never really got that passionate about any of the vaguely medieval fantasy worlds in which the games were set. Granted, as an English/Norwegian double major, the scenarios my gamer friends would discuss often reminded me of the Arthurian legends and Icelandic sagas I loved...so I was never averse to playing what many of my peers often dismissed as the pastime of nerds. I just hadn't met anyone with whom I felt I would enjoy playing an intensely imagination-based game.
As someone who spends a good deal of time reading and writing, the fundamentally creative aspect of non-computerized RPGs interests me a great deal. I suppose what I like most is the storytelling, especially the interactive nature of it. I mean, you place a character in a pre-existing world with an elaborate faux-history and extensive mythological system, but create little stories as you progress through it, thereby adding to the lore. Plus, by collaborating with friends--especially those with whom you have some rapport--you engage parts of your mind that you mightn't otherwise use. Seriously, one of the worst parts of growing up is the tendency we have to move away from the make-believe of childhood. With a game like Dungeons and Dragons, though, you can revisit that playful part of your mind in a way that--unlike, say, running down the streets of Manhattan, arms outspread while yelling "Vroom, I'm an airplane!"--won't cause anyone to lock you away. As for me, I see it as a pleasant way to spend time with friends and an intellectually-stimulating way to break out of the sometimes difficult moments of dissertation mode.
Speaking of which, I did read and transcribe. I am still enjoying "The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee," though I doubt I will devote much space to it in my dissertation. At times, I find myself questioning whether I am, in fact, doing enough work. Occasionally, if I notice that what I am in the process of reading does not appear to be relevant to my work, I wrestle with the temptation not to continue reading. This is often the case with critical articles, but also applies to some of the fiction I have been working with. My approach, so far, has been to keep reading, keep taking notes. You know, just in case. And sometimes what I dismiss as irrelevant ends up yielding more than those texts I had assumed would be the most significant. Still, when I feel I am not reading something that will add much to my project, I tend to feel that I am wasting time...This, of course, is ridiculous. I mean, I am reading. I am enriching my life and broadening my knowledge of the world in which I live...which is precisely what I must remember: the dissertation is not my entire life and learning is never irrelevant. The dissertation is part of a larger whole. Not everything I read will go into it, which is fine. Normal, even. Furthermore, the point of writing a dissertation is not simply to produce a document. One learns a good deal as well, much of which will never make its way into the dissertation. But, hey, that's great. So, this is what I tell myself: Let the tip of the iceberg be the dissertation...but be certain to appreciate all the unseen ice below the surface, holding the damn thing up.
For tomorrow: Continue reading and finish transcribing.