People do say the stupidest things.
Let me start with a technology that most would not see as a 'technology' ... double-entry bookkeeping. This was a practice that was intiated in the late 13th century by a number of different individuals in Florence, Genoa and Bologna - expanding Italian mercantilist cities who were making a killing off the goods coming out of the Levant, unloading it mostly onto French and German buyers who could not get enough of the silks, spices, oils, perfumes, gems, dyestuffs and so on. Italy was also nicely placed to take advantage of the new trade rushing out of North Africa, with the rise of distant, unknown kingdoms like Kano and Tombouctou, and the sea routes also proved to be the shortest for the furs and high quality timber pouring out of Russia through the Black Sea.
The problem was, with all these tremendous heaps of money to be made, and trade expanding outwardly both in terms of imagination and geography, keeping track of all the shit you had, all the shit coming in, all the shit going out, how much money it was all costing, etcetera ... and this added to new problems like promissary notes and credit, along with interest, financial partners, the new taxes that city governors were charging for stone roads and so on - if YOU wanted to be one of the people who didn't lose money to the fifty people under you ready to seize whatever they could get and start moving it themselves for fun and profit, you had to have a really good idea of what the hell you had. So the idea of writing everything down more than once was wonderful! Not only could you compare books, but you could have some people keeping the first set and others keeping the second, then you could hire more people who did nothing but make sure everyone's tallying added up.
Yes, that's right ... one of the greatest inventions ever created was middle management.
I'm sure a great many people scoffed. I'm sure merchants who'd been doing things the old way fought the trend throughout the 14th century, laughing at those FOOLS who spent all their time counting money, actually paying people to count money someone else had counted. What a waste!
I'm just as sure that slowly, surely, those detractors of the system were steadily crushed underfoot.
We've all known people who were trying to start businesses, even in the modern day, who weren't doing their accounting. People who presumed that if they worked hard, the customers coming in would cover their costs in the long run and things would be fine. If you're in business, and you deal with the matter of counting money on a daily basis, this idea does more than annoy you ... it gives you the night sweats. It is really, truly hard to imagine people being more stupid.
The assumption is, of course, that all that extra work with keeping track of numbers and such is wasted effort, which can be better spent fixing things, serving the customers, getting a little shut-eye and so on. "Hey," the fellow says. "I'm an experienced cook! I get along by having experience at this thing, and I don't need to bury myself in a lot of useless math."
Here is something the gentle reader won't hear me saying. I won't say, "Well, you run your world your way, and that's fine, and I'm sure that we both achieve the same results ... just differently."
Keith S said it just two days ago: "... Maybe we're doing the same thing you and I. Your world arises from mathematically-modeled data points, and mine from experience."
What's really interesting about this statement is that it makes two remarkable assumptions, and they're both really, really stupid. Sorry, Keith, but they are.
The first assumption is that the actual world doesn't arise from mathematically-modeled data points. It's stunning that in the 21st century we still don't acknowledge as a culture that absolutely everything in existence, both that which we have made and that which defines what we CAN make, does not fall under the express governance of mathematics. The subatomic particles that define the energy that comprises all that we see or feel or conceive are all ruled by mathematical data points, which we use to make all this miasma of equations into a world that enables me to bitch slap Keith this morning. My world doesn't "arise" from data because I simply willed data onto my system and presto-chango, its a math world. No, what's happening is that I am choosing to adapt math as a TOOL that has existed all along and apply it to my world the way any person would a pencil, a desk light or my chair. Taking the position that math is, well, anathema to creation is, well ... I'm sorry, I can't begin to qualify the word. It's just really stupid.
The second assumption is that somehow, because I have adopted math as a tool, that my world doesn't arise from my experience. As if to say, somehow, five minutes before my world begins, a team of brilliant surgeons rush to the head of my kitchen table, carefully perform a lobotomy, remove all my memory, then stand by to put that shit back after I've somehow run my world without it. (They have to put that shit back so I can use my experience to write this blog). I can't imagine how I'm able to run my world without all that experience, but then I'm not able - due to this experience - to evaluate how it is going.
Pedantic? Perhaps. But for the love of six dead mice in a shit bucket, how in the FUCK do you run a world without the use of your experience? That's just really stupid, too.
I'm sorry, I've got to say it again. My world arises from my experience with mathematics and the way it influences everything, including me, plus my experience with humor, my experiences with people, my experience being alive 48 years, my experience playing the game for 33 years, my experience as a writer and a scholar and a goddamn sociopath.
I'm sure this sounded really smart to Keith when he wrote it. I'm sure he just meant to propose that somehow we can agree to disagree, that I am all about the math and he's all about the 'feeling' ... which is all experience is in that context. But see, when I hear someone trying to tell me that I do something one way, and they do it another, what I hear is, "You do this in a way I can't or won't." But to bolster their own ego, they throw in some bullshit phrase that suggests they're doing something, and thus tacked onto the end of their laziness is "... and mine from experience."
In other words, you build bridges by having them designed (with math), employing a lot of people, using stone and concrete and metals, while I look at rivers sometime and imagining doing that.
I think what people really fail to grasp is that saying that shit out loud just makes them sound really stupid. They should stop saying that shit out loud. Seriously. If they don't want to do the work, they should stop drawing attention to the fact that they're not doing it.
I had a dinner last night with a long-time friend and ex-roommate, a musician. He started learning the violin when his age was in single digits, and now he's a blues player in his fifties, pretty much doing nothing else but. We sat around spitballing the various ways to sell his most recent projects and my most recent project (Pete's Garage!), and as ever we spent a fair amount of time keeping ourselves encouraged by talking about what other people don't do.
He has people from his audience all the time who approach him and say, "Jeez, I'd really like to be able to play like that. Can you tell me how?" And my friend answers, "Well, the first thing you have to do is get yourself a metronome."
Now, if you're a musician, you've had two reactions to that. The first is, "Fuck yes. They haven't got one already?" And the second is, "What the fuck for?"
One of the great detriments to human accomplishment is the absolute failure to recognize that creating from a structure is the only means to creating well. Obviously, you're not going to take a metronome onto the stage. But until you learn to sweat and strain and beat your particular failure to be rhythmic into a rhythm, human beings - built like human beings are - will hear what you play and helplessly wince. It isn't because they don't appreciate your efforts to be clever or creative or out-of-the-box, or whatever you call yourself, its because the human ear just finds a-rhythmic things remarkably difficult to listen to. It's our biological construct. And here's the thing - if you're a musician, you won't be able to TELL if you sound like something that is corkscrewing our backs if you don't play against a metronome.
You don't have to do it. You don't have to play well, either. But once again, if you stand there and say, "I don't have to play with a metronome because that's not the kind of musician I am," everyone in the world will just hear, "I'm stupid. I'm really stupid. I'm unbelievably stupid, and I don't know that I am."
Swear to Gawd. That's what we will all think. And most of the time, we won't tell you.
Well, I'll tell you. Sociopath, remember? My honesty arises from my sociopathology.
Listen, all you out there who think your world arises from experience, and who think that math and a lot of other things I beat to death on this blog aren't really of value to you, here's what I want you to do this weekend. I know you won't do it, but here's what I WANT you to do.
Before you start running, I want you to say to your party, "Listen, people. I just want you to know I'm going to be flying from the seat of my pants tonight. It wasn't because I didn't have time to work at my world this last week, its just that I couldn't be fucking bothered. Because, well, you're all not worth it. It isn't worth it for me to learn anything about difficult things like math or design or creativity in order to make my world better, because I've found that you guys will just suck up whatever shit I lay down for you. See, I don't respect you, and I often refer to that lack of respect by bolstering what a great DM I am for being able to jack my world on the fly. Just wanted to let you all know. Let's play."