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Exploring Transgression

pyrovision

There’s been a great deal of discussion about violence in video games over the last couple of decades, but the conversation usually doesn’t go anywhere interesting because the participants don’t really understand what violence is. What makes a violence isn’t blood or the guts, breaking bones or excruciatingly detailed mutilations – these things, or the artistic depictions thereof, mean nothing by themselves. The essence of violence is the framework that justifies the bloodshed, the story of just war or of vengeance. Violence isn’t the pull of the trigger or the splatter that happens afterwards, it’s the brain justifying the decision, it’s the story we tell ourselves about why it is okay to hurt and kill. At that moment, before it ever happens in reality, a human being is reduced to an object, an enemy, a corpse.

In this way the concern over violence in media like games is revealed as not quite as misguided as we would like to think, though the specific critiques and accusations are often nonsensical and ignorant. The concerning aspect of artistic violence is always, always, who do we decide it is okay to kill – and why? Because a process very much like that is used every day out in the world, and the same calculus that creates a first person shooter may one day create a school shooter.

We have designated villains, ranging from zombies, who are already dead but haven’t noticed it, to criminals, who we have to take the game’s word for that are definitely bad enough dudes that they need to die. Usually the questions that would naturally emerge about why we should kill these guys are short-circuited by the pragmatics of self-defense: It’s not important how we got here, but now that we’re here these guys are trying to kill you and the best (only) solution you have to that problem is to kill them first. As we flesh out games more and more narratively, it gets weirder and weirder that we’re pigeonholed into killing – but, still, the original assumptions made in the structure of the game take primacy, and we go along with it, because we really don’t have a choice. That’s the way the game is played: Kill or be killed.*

But it says something, doesn’t it, that we care more about the blood and guts in our art than the policies and assumptions that bleed and gut our world? It may be that we fight against violence in media, not because it contributes to violence, but because it reminds of of violence. Or it may be that we like fighting against fictional violence because it’s such a smaller and more understandable problem than actual violence. Actual violence doesn’t go away once you clean up the blood – it remains, its damage done, forever.

I am reminded of a Roald Dahl story about a man who invents a powerful listening device, and when he listens through it he can hear the agonized screaming of each rose as his neighbor trims them in her garden.

Empathy is difficult and exhausting.

I guess I understand why we avoid it so much of the time.

*Even though this structure is at its most common in multiplayer competitive games, this environment also lends itself well to hilarious subversion of these assumptions

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wolfman

Halloween keeps growing. More and more over time, this act of pretending, and of naked greed for candy, has defined who we are. It’s expanded, taken over the entire month. October is Halloween now. It’s a couple of days before the 31st, and here’s a Halloween-themed blog post. Case in point

It’s strange thinking about the rise of Halloween and what it might mean. I’m beginning to feel as though we may, gradually, be coming to be more comfortable in each others’ skins. We’ve all become actors. We play games where we are something else. We become monsters for candy.

We use pretending to be something else to find ourselves.

We learn to play our first part so young, learning to act as children are expected to act – Not very well, at first, but learning very quickly, until our very ideas of what we can be are circumscribed by the roles described to us. Eventually we get to grow out of the extremely narrow role of ‘child’, but often those available to us aren’t much more desirable: Good student, bad student, nerd, jock, thug, boy, girl, worker, wife – further narrowed by our appearance and background, until often we find ourselves typecast into just one identity. Some people actually come to believe those identities accurately represent themselves, are the whole of what they are. Some people become incredibly angry at the suggestion that there might be something beyond these roles.

Being able to transcend that for a day, or a month, is precious. Being able to break out of the skin and become something else, perhaps even something disgusting and terrifying, is what lets us discover new ways of being.

We put on other skins. In games, creating the textures for in-game objects is called, grotesquely, skinning. It’s like we hunted polygons, small game but so satisfying. We skin ourselves and reskin our selves as we learn to do it better, each layer of our identity painted on over the last, and sometimes a bit gets scraped off and you find a version of you that you forgot ever existed.

It gets easier every time, and we start trying out new identities for fun. Mostly games are the simplest version of this, simple badass power fantasies, but they still allow us to express some inkling of identity through them, to pick a hat or a shirt without any risk of looking like a guy wearing a stupid hat or ugly shirt, to bust a sweet move even when we are not comfortable with our bodies in motion, even if that move has the side effect of kicking a demon’s face off. We became heroes in private, defined ourselves by overcoming impossible challenges that were actually easy, took the mantle of a champion without ever winning a real championship.

But isn’t it strange how Halloween’s huge upswing in popularity coincides with the emergence of a medium that is all about Pretending to Be. Isn’t it interesting, and a bit hopeful, that more people than ever are able and content to pretend to be exactly what they are, without fear of repercussion. This kind of creative being and becoming wasn’t just now invented, but it’s spread so far, taken over this entire month, taken over this entire medium, and this wave is so powerful and exciting, even if, in practice, so much of this pretending amounts to playing with murder and power fantasy. It’s all just Halloween. All just red food coloring and corn starch, a way to pretend at monstrosity to define humanity.

These identities grew around us so gradually, we didn’t notice them rise over our heads and put us in their shadows. We grew up making user names and secret passwords, making masks and playing secret roles, became spies, the identities piled up around us, each a tiny shard of who we were.

My problem is that I can’t schedule. When I try to plan my actions at any sort of regular interval, it works out all right at first, but after a week or two passes I drift further and further away from the state that allowed me to follow that schedule. It stops fitting. And, now, I’m beginning to see how this is the shape of my life in miniature, how I always shift just out of place, how nothing ever fits me because I keep changing.

I am not unique, though I am perhaps unusual in the high frequency and low scope of these fluctuations. Maybe this is what they call an attention deficit. I don’t know. Whatever shape I make for myself yesterday stops fitting me the next. And now I look back and I see the repetition of this flow, the history of making shells and growing out of them, like a line of metal rings set up to allow just a pinpoint of light through from the other end.

I think maybe we’re all shifting in tiny ways that make a shape difficult to hold, but that we set up barriers to stick ourselves in place, build dams to let us control the flow. The job that requires you to show up at the same place at the same time every day also serves to tell you who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing within the scope of its hours. The degree you earned at college tells you what you’re acknowledged to be good at and what work you’re expected to strive for. And friends and family, too, have an understanding of you that is more nuanced and implicit but shapes you no less. These things are shell and cage, exoskeletal, and we both struggle against their uncomfortable stricture and rely desperately on them to define who we are, what we do, what we want.

Art tells us new ways to be, stranger or more ambitious. Art lets us break down and re-form the structures that bind us and bound us, together and apart. Well, it doesn’t have to be art of course: Anything can show us the way. But, the more I think about it, the more I believe this is the primary function art takes in our society: Showing us new ways to be who we are, new things to want, to fear, to care about. It’s not necessarily a good thing. Good samaritans and other kindnesses thrive on their own stories, on showing us all how to be better, but copycat criminals and other cruelties spread in much the same way.

You can’t stop the flow though, can’t allow just the good things to go through, can’t tell only good happy stories with morals of kindness, because sometimes a cure is just a smaller amount of toxin. Sometimes the pill is bitter and hard to swallow, but what seems cruel may be necessary, cutting away the gangrene, creating an escape or a revolution. A restrictive view of what art can be or should be leads to a kind of soul-death, a kind of ossification. A world of stagnant art is worse than one with no art at all, because it constrains even our imaginations to mediocrity. The shell hardens and traps us inside, forever.

But-nobody-came

I played Undertale and I’m not sure if I’m going to actually be able to write about it. It’s a remarkable game, but I don’t know what to remark. I guess I’ll try, even though I’m sure people have written a gajillion essays and I’ve probably totally missed the boat.

After getting the ‘good’ ending, I started a new run through the game to see what was up with the, um, less good endings, and was disturbed enough by the process that I just aborted my run and looked up what happens, which revealed to me both that I hadn’t been nearly brutal enough to get the darkest ending and, moreover, confirmed to me that I wasn’t willing to be that brutal.

Despite containing no blood or explicit violence, this weird indie RPG gets closer to the truth of violence than any other game I’ve seen. The reality of violence is that someone who was there isn’t there any more, that the world becomes deader and quieter because you’ve fundamentally broken a part of it that worked before… Yet violence is also intrinsically appealing, because it’s a way to push against the world directly, a way to effect change regardless of whether it’s acceptable to others, a way to feel strong, a way to overcome concrete challenges. Simple solutions to complex problems, cutting knots, not actually easier but stronger, more decisive, more quantifiable.

A weapon is one way to change the world, it just usually does so by making it emptier.

Sometimes that’s the way it goes anyway. Sometimes violence is necessary. Sometimes there’s no time, or communications break down, or it really is you or me and it’s not gonna be me. Not often, not nearly as often as we like to pretend it is, but sometimes. That’s just how it goes. But it’s nice to at least acknowledge, for once, that our violence has effects beyond the immediate, that our world is impoverished by the absence of a living, breathing, thinking process that once inhabited it. Maybe that seems trite, but if it’s so trite then why do I so rarely actually see it in the stories we tell about violence?

Anyway.

It might be a parable about violence and its consequences, or it might be not about that at all. It’s not really a game about violence, just a game that responds to violence in an uncannily truthful way. It’s no more about violence than it is about cool skeletons or fish lesbians or fear of the unknown or the anger of the oppressed. You can make it about those things, I suppose, but that’s just as much what you take with you as what’s there.

And that’s just it. Undertale is expansive, it pushes against its boundaries in surprising and unexpected ways. It’s a short game, but packed so full of detail and possibility that it’s hard to pick any one thing to really talk about. No other experience has taken me on this ride from hilarious character-based comedy to deeply unsettling introspection to alternately intriguing and terrifying blurring of where the boundaries of the game lie. It’s…

Well. It’s really something. I guess that’s all I can say, though I’m sure it will come up in other specific contexts later.

It’s not an experience I’ll be forgetting any time soon, that’s for sure.

FallingDown

America has a relationship with violence that is, let’s say, a little too friendly. That’s not to say that the American mindset is violent necessarily, that we are predisposed to do violence, but that so much of our outlook is defined in terms of violence. The distinction isn’t obvious, but here’s where games provide a useful demonstration: Most games are about shooting things, of course, and that’s partially habit and fashion at work, but when we make games about choices those choices are themselves framed in violence. To kill or not to kill, that is the question that so many games boil down to, even when they tout their freedom.

It’s not just games. We construct this dichotomy everywhere. Either suppress the riot with brutal force or do nothing. Either invade a country or do nothing. These are the nails for our hammer. Other solutions are not even dismissed, so much as never even considered. We have constructed a vocabulary of violence, of do or die, and forgotten that any words exist beyond it. Questioning the decision to use violence is similarly always contextualized as an argument to do nothing, “So you’d rather let the terrorists do whatever they want?” Ignoring the wide realm of options in between doing nothing and violent enforcement.

We question the necessity of violence, but rarely its utility. We have violence defined as The Thing That Works in our minds: If you can’t pick the lock you kick the door down, if the vending machine doesn’t work you knock it over, if the ants get in your house you poison them. For simple problems, sometimes it does work. But simple problems aren’t really problems, and by saving violence as a last resort we are frequently reserving our least effective option for our most desperate moments. This is most egregiously apparent when it comes to the many justifications our government has recently, shamefully, deployed in service of its ongoing torture and interrogation programs, violent acts which are of little demonstrable security benefit. People who defend these programs do so by balancing the lives of these torture victims against hypothetical lives saved, neatly eliding the questions of whether those lives are actually saved by these acts, whether there would be any more effective way to save those same lives, or whether more other lives are lost because of consequences of systemic state-implemented torture.

We American’s love justified war. Every narrative centers around it. He killed my family, so I can kill him now. He’s going to blow up a building, so I can kill him now. This is every fucking movie and every fucking game, the story of how the bad guy did a bad enough thing that it’s okay to kill him now, and the journey of how he and everyone who works for him gets killed by the main character, and maybe there’s some kind of prize at the end for doing such a good job with the killing. If it’s a kid’s show then instead of killing them he just beats them up and they do it once a week, each week a different justification for the inevitable ass-kicking. What’s the first thing everyone talks about doing with a time machine? Assassinating Hitler. Trying to prevent the greatest massacre in history by murdering someone. Not only is it unlikely to work, since Hitler was the product of his environment and someone would likely have filled his role if he weren’t there, but it’s also just one of many ways to approach the problem. Why not just sit him down and explain the tragedy that will occur if he follows his current course? Why not provide him another path in life? Why not get him into art school? Of course, it’s a bit galling to do favors for Hitler, but at the point where you would presumably contact him using your time machine he would not yet be Hitler, just one Adolf among many. More likely, a serious attempt to prevent the tragedies of the second world war wouldn’t involve Hitler at all, but trying to sow the seeds that unravel the national socialist movement before it gained its murderous momentum.

We so desperately want to kill Hitler, though. We so desperately want to be the unequivocal good guy kicking the shit out of the definitely bad guy, we will do whatever we can to construct those bad guys and turn ourselves into good guys. We want to win world war 2, over and over again, more than we want to prevent that war from ever happening.

This maybe sounds like some ‘won’t someone think of the children’ Jack Thompson horse shit, but this isn’t about the violence itself being damaging or immoral: It’s about the narrative we construct to say that our violence is justified — and I’m not even saying that it isn’t, that violence isn’t ever justified or anything like that, merely that boiling every conversation about the usage of violence to whether it is or isn’t morally okay in this circumstance is completely myopic and misguided. Sometimes the relevant question isn’t whether it’s okay to put a sledgehammer through your wall, but whether it’s useful for your goals.

People in power all over the world tend to have a child’s understanding of violence. Like gangsters, they want to ‘make a problem go away’, and by their lauded power and influence they believe that because they can make that ethical compromise that they should, because that’s the kind of big weighty decision that big weighty men make. Add to that a national desire to be the cowboy who wears the white hat, who everyone knows is right because he’s on the side of justice and has a shiny badge, and you have an explosive mixture. It’s just now starting to really mature, and the explosions are only going to get bigger.

HLM2_Poster-cropped

There are certain common threads that run through stories about violence. Violence has consequences – this is almost the very definition of violence. When you forcibly enact your will upon the world, things change, and often not in the ways you expected or desired. That permanence of violence, a permanence which outlasts any intent and causes unforeseen consequences to echo after its passage, is its most distinguishing characteristic – which is probably why, despite studies suggesting that the most harmful influence on young children comes from justified violence with minimal consequences, that that kind of milquetoast ‘good-guy’ violence is still the most commonly portrayed in media for youth. It may be a lie, and a dangerous one, but it feels safer because it is insulated from the honesty of violence, is violence with all of the blood and tears drained out. We need our bad guys and our good guys, and we need the good guys to stop the bad guys, and maybe it’s a failure of creativity but the solution is always to fight some kind of just war where no one is hurt. There aren’t really any just wars, just wars; and there are definitely no wars where no one gets hurt. This same kind of lie is popular in games, and has been all along, but has become more and more noticeable since the advent of recorded voice lines. We want to create enemies just human enough to be hated, but not so human that you feel bad for murdering them.

For most of last week I was awash in fictional blood. I played through Hotline Miami 2, and about halfway through that experience I went to see a stage production of Sweeney Todd, and something clicked there, a connection between disparate works snapped into place, the blood and the music pulsing under it, describing an arc of savage and hungry beauty. There’s meaning to the narrative, there’s ideas crawling on the surface, but there’s also the bloodlust itself, the Grand Guignol, the pure aesthetic of violence and shrieking sound.

So: Consequences. Revenge against those who have wronged us and then revenge against us for wronging those who have wronged us, echoing back and forth until it fades away, its memetic virus killing hosts faster than it can spread, or reaches an awful crescendo, a nuclear chain reaction, and destroys everything. Sweeney and Turpin destroying each other and everyone around them, the mob boss mowing down swathes of rivals in aimless vengeance, consequence outlasting intent by the echo chamber of revenge. Imitation as well, innocence becoming violence by learning it as the shape of power and respectability, the fans kill because Jacket killed, Toby kills because Sweeney killed – in this way, as well, violence reproduces and outlives intent. This is the story we tell when we talk about violence. The world twists off its axis, doomsday lurks around every corner, final judgment deferred moment by moment until its deferment run out, and those who live by the sword die by the sword, and when everyone starts living by the sword that is how everyone dies.

Maybe this isn’t a more honest perspective on violence than others – that which holds it to be hard and sad but necessary work, or to be naturally repugnant in every way but a behavior reinforced by the twisted incentives of a dying society – but it’s a perspective that at least looks at violence directly, as a force unto itself, rather than using humans as target practice and plot device without ever looking back at the trail of blood left behind.

CrackedEgg

A couple of years ago, I was driving across the Bay Bridge when I realized it wasn’t over. That makes it sound like I was in a way darker place than I really was, but there was a part of my mind that had started to categorize my future entirely within the terms of my past failures – that, whenever I thought of my once dearly held ambitions, filed them under memories of things past rather than ongoing projects. There was a part of me that, even as I worked on these projects, never thought they would ever go anywhere. And, as I drove across the bridge, I found that traitorous sliver of fear within myself and exposed it, and burned it, and buried it.

I don’t know why. I don’t remember a train of thought that led me through that tunnel. I don’t remember a particularly inspiring day leading up to that nighttime drive. I just remembered that moment of realization, that everything was still new, everything could still change, I could still work towards something rather than allow myself to be blown along.

I do know that it had to be in a car. I do know that it had to be on a bridge. Symbolism is important to us, no matter how often we try to banish it to the realm of critics and textbooks. The concept of a life freely lived and ambitions daily struggled towards had been filed away in my brain, and that first drive by myself after I got my driver’s license and felt free came back, and that first long drive home, with my father in the hospital, not too long afterwards, came back, and something too big for me to notice its absence came back to me with them, and I was free of something that I hadn’t known bound me.

They’re subtle, the structures we build around our lives, the shells we become. They fuse with our bones and we forget how to live outside of them. We become people we detest just because we can’t figure out the component pieces of a personality that would suit us better. We are consumed by our noise and by the noise of others, by their expectations and suppositions of who we are and who they want us to be for our own good, who they want us to be for their own good, and who they want us to be so we might be understandable, might be measurable.

I can think of fragments of art that explore this idea of becoming our own prisons, but it’s so hard to explain until you’ve been there for yourself and set yourself free, until you’ve found the shape of your key that fits the shape of your cage. As I think about that drive, I remember bits of art that were, perhaps, pieces of the key for their artists, or perhaps their attempts to guide others to the shape of their own cells.

scorchedearthtitle

The Happy Scorched-Earth Incident

a Twine game by Lana Polansky

–seemed to me at first to be about anxiety, being in a room full of people who can’t reach you in any way because your mind is churning far too quickly, grinding up irrelevant concepts and worries and perceptions just to avoid having to engage with the world, spinning too fast and out of gear. On a second reading/playing, it seemed instead or as well to be about searching for meaning and divinity in a hot noisy crowded world, trying to come to terms with life being noisy and active and overwhelming from the perspective of a personality that prefers quiet and reflection, wondering why the patterns of existence ran so much against one’s personal grain. I have no idea if any of these meanings were intended. I may only be seeing myself in a mirror, in the reflective surface of my own anxieties and fears and gaping atheistic cracks.

MerrilyWeRollAlong

Merrily We Roll Along

a filmed version of the stage musical

– following the life of a tremendously successful film producer backwards, year by year, and showing how he sloughed off his friends and his ideals to become the successful, creatively hollow, emotionally destroyed man he was. We see those who crafted his poisoned idea of success, and before that those who crafted their poisoned idea of success, and how each in turn was unmade by passing that atavistic ideal forward, a cycle of intellectual abuse. We see how many opportunities he had to become a different person, to resist the forces that pushed him into a life distant from his own heart – but, in the end, how much easier it is to pursue the person you are told you wish to become than to inhabit the person you are. Perhaps it all might have turned out differently if his friends, who tried to win him back to his old life of music, idealism, and creative fulfillment, had believed wholeheartedly in him themselves – but it seemed to me that their pleas always had an edge of the same greed, the same simple-minded ideals of success, that won him away from them in the first place. They were doomed from the start. The prison he is in now has bars only as thick as his ribs, his heart could still burst through, he could still be the man he wants to be – if only he could remember who that man is.

I left my grade school to attend another school shortly after throwing a chair at a teacher. My relocation wasn’t punitive, just reflective of the realization that I might not be fitting in so well at my current school. For all the bad press it gets, directionless rage does sometimes get results.

My new school believed that, left to themselves, children would eventually craft their own educations – not only their education, but their own management and administration as well. The students convened regularly, to vote on decisions affecting their own school-lives – meetings which, as an unshakeable rule, could only occur after one day’s notice. There were also more regular small committees to hear grievances and complaints that students would levy against one other. The ‘defendant’ would plead guilty or not guilty, and if they pled guilty then appropriate sentences would be devised and agreed upon by all present. If they pled not guilty, evidence would be piled up against their arguments, and they would generally either make a case for themselves or be forced into confessing their crime. If they they refused to confess, or refused to accept any suggested sentence, then special sentencing would be decided at the next school meeting.

A friend of mine got into an altercation of sorts with another student on the day before the last day of school. He lied, obviously and repeatedly, to the court, denying his obvious, flagrant, and unanimously confirmed guilt – because he knew there was literally no mechanism in place to punish him for this transgression. The judicial committee meeting couldn’t hand out a sentence without his consent, and calling a school administration meeting would require at least one day’s notice, at which point it would be the last day of school anyway and no relevant sentence could be passed. In the end, the school broke its own rules just to hand out a meaningless half-a-day worth of suspension – and ended up demonstrating, even more acutely than before, the fragility of their own pretenses.

It was basically a prank, and it was basically without consequence, but it’s hard to overstate the importance, to me, to my understanding of the world, of realizing then how flimsy the structures built to control our lives really are. When we rebel we may look like assholes who seek only to destroy, but if we don’t know what can be demolished and what cannot, if we don’t know which structures hold us up and which hold us down, we can never be free. Many people have lived their lives without ever realizing that all they have to do to break the machine which grinds them down is to refuse to be a part of it. This possibility is hidden from us, and many are scared of us seeing it, but without it freedom will always be unattainable and stagnation be inevitable.

problemattic

Problem Attic

a game by ella guro

– game characters never do quite what you want them to do. The crouch is always a moment too late, the double jump doesn’t happen, the rhythm of shooting the little pixelated gun is a bit off, the platform is too slippery, and it’s never really your fault. It’s just that this person you occupy is wrong, it isn’t doing what you’re telling it to, it’s, goddammit who programmed this fucking game, who constructed this world, why am I shaped this way, why can’t I do this, why are my hands shaking – is there something else? Is there a deeper truth behind why this world fits us so poorly, so loose and itchy? Will there be, if I fight through this noise, these voices telling me what I am and what I’m not, these voices telling me what I want and what I don’t, a moment of silence? A moment of reflection? Will I be able to hear my own voice?

This world is fake, this world is paper, this person in this place in this time is a lie. The only thing I can do is tear a hole – through myself or through it, we won’t know until the blood starts flowing.

horsemaster

Horse Master

a Twine game by Tom McHenry

I want to be the very best, like no one ever was. I have to sacrifice everything to do it, but that’s okay because nothing I have is worth anything. I will probably fail, but that’s okay because it’s just a dive down into the whirlpool we’re already being sucked into. Imagine the glory. Imagine the money. Imagine the fame. Imagine anything but where you are right now, as what little life you kept for yourself begins to rot away.

Your glorious future waits for you, and always will.

.

Horse Master Class Anxiety Dream Game Review

a review of the preceding Twine game by John Campbell

– why are you set on this path? They say the unexamined life isn’t worth living, but when you peer too closely at your own experience all of those almost-experiences that were never quite yours fade away. What about all the lives you have never lived, the branches of possibility sheared off by the wind? When you forget them you make, of the tree of your life, a ladder – perhaps easier to climb, but leading nowhere. Up to the sky, alone at the peak, looking down, exposed to the wind. A single-minded mastery, shared with no one, begins to drain of color and meaning.

There are so many possibilities lying just beyond consideration. It’s absurd sometimes to think about how trapped we feel, pushed into the narrow channel leading from now to the future, thinking that our only option is to live tomorrow the same way we lived today. We could do so many different things, attack our dissatisfaction from so many different directions, if we could only forget the assumption that today leads through a single path, or perhaps a handful of similar paths, to tomorrow. Why do we move in two dimensions when we exist in three? Why do we think in three when we age in a fourth? Why do we dream of a fourth when there may be dreams an order of magnitude greater, more beautiful, and more complex?

Eventually, sometimes, you notice. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you realize how many of the things that are holding you back are completely made up. Your job. Your history. Your gender. Your friends. Your personality. Your family. Your sexuality. Your tastes. Your pride. When you find your sledgehammer, it’s hard to know what to smash. It’s hard to know whether this aspect of yourself is dispensable or not. It’s hard to know what parts of yourself to hang onto.

And it’s never over.

Destroy everything if you want. Make yourself a new life, make yourself a new person. It might make you happy.

Over time, though, your shape will change again. You will outgrow the form you’ve given yourself, and find the self you’ve made now a prison every bit as constricting as the prison you left behind. Our skin ossifies and cages us, over and over again. And, over and over again, we must break free, until our final body embraces us, and carries us down into our last prison.