Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Boethius and Bowser

Yesterday, at the public library, grading short papers on St. Augustine's understanding of Original Sin (strangely, it has something to do with the molecular composition of Edenic semen), I found myself stopping every arcane paragraph or so because a middle-aged man sitting at the next carrel over was loudly playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on some new device--an Acer or Pad--and, for some reason, had chosen not to turn the sound down, thereby sending a cascade of coin-twinkles throughout the entire reading room every time his Italian-avatar jumped, boobeepishly, over a mushroom and onto a spinning piece of gold.

When this got egregious--as it did while he no doubt encountered, via pipe, an underground cache of life-giving bullion--I gestured to the air and sighed, muttering, "really, why is this allowed to continue," as if appealing to a cosmic jury. Unfortunately, God, or his twelve small-claims court sub-angels, declared a mistrial.

It is odd to me that this man didn't seem to have any public consideration at all. And it's odd that collecting coins gives you extra life in Super Mario Bros. 3.

"Are riches naturally precious, or are they precious because of some virtue of yours?" asked the character, Philosophy, in Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy. "What is precious about them, the gold metal or the pile of money? [. . .] Riches are miserable and troublesome."

Philosophy might have been surprised to find that by the early 1990s, gold would actually have palliative powers for animated video game characters, giving to the player of those games, as I used to say, "Extra Guys."

I couldn't take the implications, or the noise. Rather than giving life, those video-riches were sapping mine.

So I stood up to approach the man, steeled myself for confrontation, but found that I just couldn't be the one to chastise him even though his behavior was really unsupportable. Returning to St. Augustine, I held my useless tongue. Just as the Bishop of Hippo predicted in the 5th Century, my free will was powerless in the face of sin and Super Mario.

And yet, for Boethius's character Philosophy, "nothing is miserable unless you think it so"; I, therefore, ate my granola bar, grew to twice my size, and stormed through that august stack of freshman papers, undaunted by the local man's considerable and vexatious skill.

Now, my dear Philosophy, spurred by that experience, I'm home. And I'm ready to count my blessings and my coins as I once-and-for-all defeat the offending Nintendo game, alone and silently. "How can glory be great that is severely limited by such narrow boundaries?" you ask. Good question. But for the next 45 minutes, I choose to ignore it.


Jayme said...

Dave, you should be proud that you made it through those papers and did not immediately go play the game. Will power!

David Grover said...

I can beat Mario 3 in less than 15 minutes.

You dead.