We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
Today we’re graced with the incredible Ian from Adventure Rules, one of my first friends in the blogging sphere after starting Normal Happenings! This blogger is the master of collabs, with the annual Blogger Blitz always being a hit.
We are so glad to have him joining us and discussing a character with many syllables. After your done reading, you may also enjoy his The Games That Define Us entry on Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door!
Today’s entry is fantastic, so please enjoy.
I first “met” Nahyuta Sahdmadhi during a transformational time in my life. Over the past year (at the time of writing), every core aspect of my identity has been challenged. Some came away unchanged, but understood at a deeper level, with more security or confidence in that part of who I am as a person. Other aspects of my identity were irrevocably changed. I identified strongly with Nahyuta when I played Spirit of Justice, and there are many ways I could talk about how he influenced me or helped me to reflect upon myself. Today, I want to focus on how the faith that Nahyuta lost became the philosophy that I found.
At the beginning of 2019 I wrote an article about Nahyuta’s motto “let it go, and move on” – at the end of that article I shared that while for Nahyuta it was important that he leave that philosophy behind, I was interested in exploring it more deeply in order to practice it in a less faulty way. This then could be considered part two of that story. It’s not a necessity to read that article first, but if you want more context for what I share today then it may be helpful to start there.
So what is “let it go, and move on?” These words are shared by Nahyuta repeatedly during the course of Spirit of Justice, given as callous advice to his opponents in the courtroom when Nahyuta believes that he has the upper hand in a case. More broadly, they capture a core aspect of his philosophy: Nahyuta believes that we should let go of things in life and move past them rather than clinging to them or trying desperately to hold on. While Nahyuta’s religion is a fantasy faith from the fictional country of Khura’in, it has some basis in the real-life teachings of Buddhism, specifically the concept of non-attachment.
Spirit of Justice shows clearly that Nahyuta’s interpretation of non-attachment is faulty. He still clings, he just doesn’t do anything about it. In this sense “let it go and move on” has become a glorified way of saying “give up.” Nahyuta is miserable because he lives in resignation, the defeated acceptance of circumstances that he feels he cannot change. After playing the game and understanding that Nahyuta does not practice non-attachment properly, I became curious about how it would be applied in real life.
My research into non-attachment (and on a broader level Buddhism in general) took many forms. It started with online articles found via Google searches, the personal interpretations of influencers who were sharing their own perspectives on the concepts or who perhaps were offering advice on how to practice in various ways. That led me to pick up a couple of books, both commentary and interpretations from modern teachers as well as translations of original compilations of Buddha’s teachings. Finally, I took a couple of trips to a local temple to see what it was like to attend classes there.
Part of my interest stemmed not only from Nahyuta but also from an understanding that mindfulness meditation – a key part of Buddhist practice – is a potential tool for addressing mental health problems. As someone struggling with depression and anxiety but with no tools to address them, mindfulness was one of the first places I went to try and build coping skills. It seemed at the time that non-attachment fit in nicely with meditation as a potential cure for my depression.
Allow me to interrupt the story at this point to say: it isn’t. While mindfulness meditation is evidence-based and works as one potential coping mechanism for those with mental health problems, it isn’t a panacea, and Buddhism as a whole isn’t some kind of religious mental health treatment. That’s a mistake I made and for awhile it turned me off – I had to learn not to lump all these concepts together, and not to allow my depression to color my impression of the new philosophy I was studying.
So how does “let it go, and move on” really work? I can only share my own personal interpretation based on the very limited amount of study that I’ve done, but non-attachment has a few key ideas. One is the understanding that anything we attach ourselves to will eventually be lost. They say death and taxes are the only things in life which are inevitable, and because death is certain there is nothing we can cling to which will be a permanent part of our experience. Understanding that is not intended to make us depressed or nihilistic – it’s to help us know that we need to appreciate what we have while we have it. But it also helps us to know that whatever we think we need in order to keep going, we don’t. In my case, that understanding helped me to handle the losses I experienced during my depression. The parts of myself that I thought were core, necessary pieces of my identity were not necessary for me to live. And I learned that when I stopped identifying myself as being irrevocably tied to my past, it enabled me to focus on moving forward instead of trying to “heal” by returning to where I used to be.
Another key piece of non-attachment is detaching from ideas. All of us have hopes and dreams, and there is no harm in having those things. But often our goals or preconceived notions about things can stop us from experiencing what life is really like, and the distinction between our imagined reality and our real one causes pain. Just like being let down by a video game for which you had high expectations, when we create a concrete picture in our minds of how life is supposed to be, we can experience disappointment when the standards we established turn out to be impossible.
I got to experience how non-attachment can change outcomes a while back when I was working on a magic guide for Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I had a strong vision for what I wanted the guide to be like, and I knew exactly which of the game’s four paths I wanted to play in order to build part one of the guide. Unfortunately, real life did not match the vision in my head – a mistake led me to a different ending than the one I was trying to get, and along the way I realized that the answer to the hypothesis that started the guide in the first place would not give me the right kind of information to make a guide. I wanted to give up on the article and the playthrough altogether, but instead took a non-attached approach. I wrote a different article based on the experience I actually had, and in the end I felt good that I still finished the playthrough instead of just giving up.
It’s interesting – I expected when I started this journey to end up in a place where I could say that “let it go, and move on” was a flawed premise. But the flaw ultimately fell on Nahyuta’s execution – he gave advice that he never took, or when he did take it he did so only halfway. To let go without moving on is to give up – to move on without letting go is to live in resignation and disappointment. But by taking Nahyuta’s advice and studying how to really apply it to my life effectively, I was able to use “let it go, and move on” to improve my recovery as well as improve other experiences in my life.
Letting go means understanding that sometimes the ideas that we have about the world or about ourselves are not possible or realistic. Moving on means that with that knowledge, we choose to move forward with an appreciation for the reality that is in front of us. When we choose to do this we make the best of our real circumstances and can help to push ourselves to the best outcome that is possible within the boundaries of our situation. Nahyuta Sahdmadhi defines me not because he was a positive example of how to do this, but because he was a cautionary tale about how not to. His character was interesting enough to prompt me to study further, and when I found the path that Nahyuta missed, it led me to a better place.
Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*