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Plasticity

The most powerful state of a thing is its plastic state. The pliable cannot be broken. The flexible can adapt, heal, and improve. As RPG hobbyists, let's take a moment to learn from this foundational truth. Take a few box breaths and join me for a meditation.


Premise 1: As creative hobbyists, we all seek paths to greater heights, surprising and delightful skillsets, more potent delivery of our ideas, and new frontiers of fun.

Premise 2: Being proven right, attaining singular expertise, and 'owning' a hyper-specific way of being have limited dividends.

Premise 3: The work of creativity is never done, over, perfected or, in any way, offering justification to stop pushing forward. It is ever-green, ever-worthy, ever-needed.


Thesis: The aspirant's creative mind should embrace change, variety, and a freedom to shift even the most foundational aspects to attain the most rewarding hobby journey possible. In short, to embrace plasticity.


Reed Richards was always the O.G., but Plastic Man had his share of moments. Like these heroes, we can allow ourselves

to 'shapeshift' with our creative journey... expanding our minds into beige jigsaw-hands at any moment.


Premise 1: I should have an easy time convincing you here! Role playing, like so many hobbies, beckons us with a continuum of skill levels and diversified abilities for the aspiring master. It is not simply a matter of entering and being complete. The role playing hobby asks us to explore writing, art, sculpture, game design, oratory, organization, improvisation, curation and collaboration to reach ever-more wondrous levels of fun and creative apotheosis.


The fun of aspiration is central to what we enjoy. "Sure, I made those terrain tiles, been playing with 'em for years now, but I'm thinking of making a new set. My painting has come a long way." These are the words of an aspirant, a seeker. Of all these ever-refined skills, game mastering is, of course, paramount. Players are the heart and soul of role playing, but the GM is the entirety of their context. The 'room' for improvement as a game master is truly infinite, and the process of improving deeply satisfying.


With all these aspects in mind, I posit my first premise: that improvement is central to what we do as RPG hobbyists. We are never still, never done, never perfect. It's a process of always a bit better, like any nuanced endeavor in life.


The board is mastery, teasing us... right there. We need only deliver one more punch,

with each session, each map, each quest idea, each painted miniature, to come one step

closer to going BEYOND the board.



Premise 2: Now things get spicy. To discuss the loss of plasticity is another way to assert its importance. This can be an uncomfortable concept for she who has punched the board so many, many times: your expertise is your prison.


With age and time invested in things, we approach mastery. Realizing we are mere mortals, we see that not all things can be mastered, so we specialize. Specializing, we enter deep realms in one specific area. Like all depths, there is darkness here... we are forced to trade versatility for expertise. We 'calcify' our young, flexible minds for time-worn certainty. The layman is left behind, curious what we are even saying at times. As the world continues to change, we stand still in a way, having mastered or fully committed to a thing that is now in the past.


Premise 2 asserts that this state of expertise has 'limited dividends,' that is to say that the master may be impressive in one narrow area, but only to the detriment of all others. The time-worn development of 'this is the thing' becomes a pinhole... a small world. A life well lived has numerous aspects and avenues, and just like punching the board with Pai Mei, these numerous paths must be neglected or even ill-regarded to remain focused on mastery. Remember our goal here is not to degrade or reduce the master, but lift up the ideal of plasticity!


Shunryu Suzuki's enduring teachings hold that the 'zen mind is the beginner's mind.'

This is the view that the goal of all our practices should be the fresh, plastic, enthusiastic,

flexible mindset of the newcomer, not the expert, who sees many doors as already-closed.



Premise 3: This one is easy. The journey is never over! Whether newcomer or master, our efforts only conclude when we are no more! There is always another hill, another idea, another curiosity. This tenet requires no argument... we are intrinsically called to engage with life and all its wonders.


Thesis: If you agree with 1,2, and 3, you can now inevitably join me in the truth of my position: That if we are indeed seekers, and singularity reduces possible avenues, and our appetite for such avenues is infinite, logic demands we trade expertise for new exploration every time! With so many doors to open, to neglect them all for one door, in which we hold supremacy, is a fool's errand!


Therefore with triumphant barking, I announce my thesis well-proven. Plasticity, change, flexibility, curiosity are the paths to the fullest life. The expert is a calcified soul: someone more interested in leaving others behind than walking among them, an impressive but imposing figure of commitment and absolution who misses much of the joys along the way!


Dr. Manhattan ponders his lonely mastery on the pink sands of Mars,

moments before changing direction.


So what? In many cases, a thesis, even solid as bedrock, leaves us wanting more. Theses can be cold things we seldom cuddle. Now that you agree with me about the value of plasticity in our hobby, let me frame it in a call to action! Let me frame this argument for today... NOW!


When you find yourself over-analyzing your area of interest, baffling those around you or declaring pigeon holes that leave no room for the humble dabbler: change direction.

-

When you tire of endless efforts, looming expectations, unsatisfactory materials, delayed gratification, or unfair triumphs of peers: change direction.

-

When you find yourself lost in endless articles, hot takes, or exaggerated opinions, pining for peace and simplicity over generalizations that seem reductive: change direction.

-

When you sit at the apex of a thing, seeing others only below, at the height of all you had hoped for, basking in mastery well-earned: change direction.

-


One day, you are free to play your game with white paper and sharpies. The next, you deploy vast bins of sculpted terrain. One day, dramatic voices, the next third-person descriptions. One day, sessions and campaigns, the next, and age of hermit-like building and painting. One day, vintage games and styles, the next, cutting edge work of the moment! One day, comedy, the next, tragedy!


Set aside your mastery, step out of your lane, discard your certainty, and enter the expansive realm of the beginner. This is plasticity! You'll find a great many folks there, excited to see you trying new things, excited to see you young again, excited to see your fearless, bumbling curiosity. You'll see me, bumbling about.


-B

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I feel like I really needed this. Thanks a lot.🙂

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Well said, sir. I think that giving ourselves permission to explore avenues that we are unfamiliar in can reinvigorate us. It's like the brain sometimes needs a new road to travel rather than the well worn path. The well worn path is comfortable because of how well we know and understand it, but the new road can help us tap in to the same excitement we had when we were taking our fledgling steps.


Great post Brandon! Hope everything is going great for you!

-Justin

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