Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Art of War: A Personal Take

Violence has always been a part of my nature. As a child, I owned an extensive set of hand puppets – mostly cats – with wonderful glass eyes and cute little paws and soft faux fur and quizzical little smiles stitched on. For me they were combatants, fighters, soldiers or outlaws and deputies. They would attack each other, punching and pummeling, like Punch and Judy but more street-wise. I would put little dime store plastic rings with gemstone colored glass centerpieces on those tiny paws that became ray guns as the puppet people shot at each other, all too often with (temporarily) deadly accuracy. I also had a huge collection of marbles. I didn't particularly like shooting marbles. I didn't like to lose and I wasn't very good; the thought of actually parting with a marble was too painful to contemplate. My marbles were warriors. Masses of moving glass attacked each other in clashes worthy of the boldest generals. Maneuvering these giant clashes of arms, I learned strategy, like flanking or desperate charges. Then, of course, were my endless parade of soldiers, cowboys, Indians, knights, aliens and pirates, all in well articulated 3D plastic and often in full combination, fighting the Little Bighorn, Gettysburg, the Alamo, Tortuga and the Battle ofn the Bulge, often at the same time. Custer and Rin Tin Tin might stand alongside Matt Dillon and Long John Silver, fighting desperately against overwhelming odds but with a World War Two soldier and his machine gun helping mow down enemy after enemy. Another day, they might be on opposite sides while my heroes, August and Charles Pepper (both former sergeants, of course), fought valiantly to the last man standing. Nobody taught me. I saw war stories on television. I read A Child's History of the World and The Story of Mankind. Both books showed that human history, at least western civilization's story, is little more than war after war after war, battle after battle after battle. I never read The Art of War. I didn't need to: I learned from watching. It came naturally to me. The rest was instinct. Now I'm a pacifist. Go figure. Maybe it was all those three inch tall corpses littering my bedroom floor. Picking them up to put away night after night was sad. Thinking about them in their huge toy box, wondering if they wondered what the next day would bring them – another battle, another death, made my imagination hurt. Or maybe it was when my favorite cat puppet named Bob tore beyond repair and had to be thrown out, and I realized that things do die, even in games.

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