The tale of Faust is one deep seated in Germanic folklore; a successful scholar, Faust had a thirst for knowledge which led to him making a deal with the devil, one where he exchanged his eternal soul for the gift of unlimited knowledge. This is where the term faustian bargain
originates from, and it is a literary device that has been used a multitude of times since its inception.
Today I get to use it once more.
When I had my daughter, life changed pretty dramatically. Whatever free time I used to have was eaten up entirely, and she became the focal point of my life. As I have mentioned before, I am a stay at home dad; a rather uneducated, underprivileged, underpaid stay at home dad. I have a job, but it doesn't bring in much cash. My wife is the money maker since it was her desire to work full time, so we are in a rocky time of our life; we get by well but we have had to make sacrifices.
Speaking of sacrifices, a few months after my daughter was born, we started taking her out into the world at large more frequently. I would not assume that I am an exemplary parent, but I work very hard to do the best I can, as well as I can, with the resources I have at my disposal. However, it didn't take me long to start pointing out some of the abhorrent shit I saw going on in the toxic waste bucket that was the outside world; have you ever seen a ten year old in a stroller? I have. In fact, I saw no less than three of them
at the Zoo the other day. Ten might have been an exaggeration, but the fact that I have a sister thirteen years my former makes me a fairly good judge of age, and unless these overly coddled young-lings were on anabolic steroids
I don't think my estimation was off by much. The fact that their parents could barely push them and that their shins were dragging on the pavement was a good indicator.
My friends saw a baby locked in a car while a lady was in the store buying shoes. I saw a mother feeding her baby coke from a sippy cup. I heard a mother call out for her boy "Anakin!" And I'm sure it won't be long until some degenerate TV addicted scumbag names her unfortunate brood of failure "The Situation" and gives him a nice long fake tan every week.
The point is, it makes me sad to see just how systematically terrible
some people are at raising their kids. It isn't the fault of the child that they will end up mentally deficient or worse; it's all the responsibility of mom and dad. And my theory is that mom and dad never spent the time self educating or disciplining themselves ahead of time, before they decided to "forget" the Trojan and slip under the bed sheets one rainy afternoon.
The story posted on Dtoid not long ago about the guy whose mother died in front of a computer after months of mental spousal and child abuse due to her rampant MMO addiction really made me sad. The story about kids who have literally died
because of the same problem made me depressed. But the fact that you can go out there, any day of the week, and literally fill a notebook with egregious parental infractions makes me damn near suicidal.
A few months ago, I said "fuck this." Realizing that I wasn't fully equipped to really ensure my daughters education at any reasonable capacity due to my own many years of distraction, sloth, and apathy, I decided to take a stand, against myself. I started losing weight; I am down 46 pounds now, and on a strict exercise regime. I made a plan for my future; I am studying to be a nutritionist and am joining the reserves next year. But most importantly, for my daughters case, is that I got completely addicted to reading again.
When I say reading, I don't mean The Hunger Games, or some mom-friendly attempt to marginalize BDSM in as vanilla a way as possible. I am talking about a broad spectrum of human knowledge; the sciences, political history, classic literature - the type of academia they force down your throat when you are too absent minded to see that it is good for you. I really don't want to come off as self righteous; this isn't something I am doing for some greater good to create some ubermensch
super child. If it wasn't something that was remotely appealing, I wouldn't have the guts or wherewithal to go through with it. But the more I get into it, the more I am enjoying the journey.
The idea is really just to have a general knowledge, to create an environment of learning for my daughter rather than one of carnival "stations" filled with toys, video games, television, and other mindless ventures. Video games are not the enemy of the people, and I realize that; the bigger problem is a society which thrives
entirely on the compulsive enjoyment of entertainment. When we were at the Zoo, I saw four benches packed with kids, and among them, there were three or four iPads, as if they had been distributed by the fucking park to distract the children while mom went to buy them ice cream. They were in a fucking Zoo
, and I literally saw three or four of them huddled over the movie Madagascar.
Of course as I stated before, I don't have much money. I literally can't afford this perpetual string of informational tools which I need to keep up the momentum. That being said, I'm at a bit of an impasse; one of the most useful things available for someone doing a project like this is the Propædia, a book included in the 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Written by Mortimer J. Adler (How to Read a Book, A Guide to Learning) and contained within this book is the Outline of Knowledge
, a gargantuan roadmap of every conceivable topic encompassing the broad spectrum of human knowledge. When used alongside a good Encyclopedia, it is an extremely powerful tool for learning, well, exactly what I want to learn, among all of the other things I am currently studying.
I found a good set on Kijiji that is in damn near perfect condition; finding an Encyclopedia is hard these days, since my local libraries don't even carry them now, and used bookstores usually won't on account of space. But at the asking price (which is incredibly cheap, but still comparatively expensive for someone on a budget) I simply wouldn't be able to afford it.
I turned to the one thing I have in my life which has any financial value; my video games.
The more I do this, the older and more demanding my daughter is, the less time I really have for games. I maybe spend an hour a week playing them, and that is usually a few games of Counterstrike. I don't consider this a bad thing, however. For most of you, I'm sure gaming is a healthy hobby, something you do on the side, etc. But for me, it was a legitimate escape from boredom
because, as someone who is something of a social recluse and really communicates with a very limited number of people, I used to have a LOT of free time on my hands. Games are how I would fill that time, in lieu of goals, or ambition to execute projects such as this.
So that is my own personal faustian bargain. I am selling my games for what might as well be "infinite knowledge". The months I have already invested into the project (and the recent steamrolling momentum it has picked up due to breaking the initial barrier of difficulty) have solidified this as a long term hobby for me, to the point where whenever I do anything else, I feel like each second is being wasted.
I have to tell you, it really is difficult to say goodbye to so many things that are precious to you. I still have a computer, still have ways to get some games in, but the majority of my overly obtuse and intrusive collection is going out the door to make room for different things. I really don't want this to be a post about "haha I am better because I READ BOOKS" because the act of reading really doesn't mean jack shit unless you are putting that knowledge to good use, and I can't honestly say I am quite there yet since I am just really scratching the surface. But literally sacrificing one hobby for the other because you really have no other choice
is a difficult bargain to make. Difficult, but to do what I aim to do, necessary, and probably healthy, too.
Ultimately, regardless of my personal affection for video games; I don't want my daughter to grow up the way I did. I was raised on Nintendo, and Sega, and spent an inordinate amount of my life doing nothing but sitting in front of a TV. The buck stops here for me, and for my daughter. I think these things are fine in moderation, but currently I see very little of that being enforced in the "age of entertainment" and it fills me with a real sense of dread and loathing for the generations to come.
So here is to change, to progress, and to selling your immortal soul.
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