Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another World, Another Me

Over the past few days, I've picked up another game for the PS3.  It's a bit outside of my usual pattern.  I rarely play JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), but the reviews had been so good that I felt like I wanted to give it a try.

The game is Ni no Kuni, which translates into English as "The Another World," or "Second World."  It's a delightful little fable about a young boy who loses his mother after a tragic accident, and his journeys into a magical world that exists in parallel with our own.

What made the game super-extra tempting was that it was the first foray into gaming by Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki's brilliant anime shop.  Ghibli has produced beautifully imaginative works like Spirited AwayHowl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and others.   I loves me some Ghibli, I do.

I've got about four hours of play in over the last week, and what's been most striking about this game is...well...it's just so kind.  It's one of the kindest, gentlest games I've ever played.  It took a bit of getting used to, actually.  Given that gaming tends to involve headshots and your character tearing out the still-beating hearts of your adversaries, encountering a game where your main character tries to mend the broken hearts and minds of those around him is just...different.

The protagonist is a boy, and a gentle hearted soul, not some jaded soldier or vindictive demigod.  Your missions involve bringing reconciliation to families, encouraging a soul out of a deep depression, and driving off the demons that have consumed a bitter, self-isolated workaholic.  How?  You use magic to borrow the joy and hope and enthusiasm from souls who have an overabundance and are willing to share, and then you pour those healing things into the hearts of the broken.  As a pastor, I could seriously use some of that magic myself.

It's a deeply Christian game, even if it's hidden behind wands and wizards and faerie kings with lantern nose-rings.  George MacDonald and CS Lewis would have approved.

Playing this game about a parallel world as I'm working through the edits of my forthcoming book on the theology of the multiverse is also interesting.  In Ni no Kuni, souls are "paired" across worlds, sharing experiences.  Their destinies are not the same, but they are linked.

In my own meditation and prayer life, one recurring and idiosyncratic element is my awareness that within the infinite complexity of God's creative self expression, I do not have a single destiny.  I exist, in all of my possibility, before my Creator.   This is both liberating and terrifying.   When I pray, and I do, I ask not simply for God's will to be done.  I know, within the knowledge of my Maker, that there rests the living knowledge of who I might be if I remained most true to the teachings of Jesus.   For God, I am there in that place already.

What I seek in prayer is to be conformed to that self that brings the greatest hope and joy into the world.  Not my most materially prosperous self, because material prosperity can come at a cost, and guarantees no happiness.  Not my most ferociously partisan self, because that self does harm it doesn't yet understand.  But that self that is most generous, most kind, most gracious.  That self whose scars have healed, and whose heart is whole.  I know that I exist there, that I can inhabit that place.


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