Burnt Offerings

When I was young, my parents taught me scriptural stories of burnt offerings being placed on the altar. While I’m no longer part of my childhood religion, one of the things I’ve continued to carry is the importance of ritual and sacrifice.

Burnt Offerings

“God” is a difficult term to define, but I like to imagine that when people talk of sacrificing to God or praying to God or in any other way interacting with the abstract omnipotent, they are seeking out that part of themselves that is most beautiful and worthy: That all sacrifices to God are a sacrifice to that version of self that we hope to be.

Right now, I have a need to make sacrifices. In my efforts to do more, I have often sacrificed my health. Today, I choose not to do that. What I choose to sacrifice instead may sound silly: It’s strategy games.

I have a passion for these games, partially because I can decipher a system, see myself improving, and develop “game habits” that become meditative. There’s a beauty to it. It also serves as a coping mechanism for existing in a series of systems over which I can exert only minimal influence.

But strategy games also exhaust mental faculties that I need for other tasks, and the games fatigue me to the environment where most of my work is done. I simply get tired of staring at a screen. I simply can’t see a future where I accomplish all I want to and “keep up” with strategy games.

Burnt Offerings - Pre-Burn

In my ritual sacrifice of these games, I’m taking several steps: Uninstalling the games, of course. And yes, I’m telling you. Beyond this, I have printed the logos of 10 of my favorite strategy games. On the reverse of each I am writing, “I willfully surrender you for the sake of my health and future.”

I said the phrase aloud before burning each paper. (After the fire alarm went off in here I took the ritual outside.)

Burnt offerings - mid-burn

Ritual helps remind us, helps ingrain what we are and what we believe: what we are striving for. This sacrifice is significant for me, and while I want to portray myself as stoic and full of willpower, the truth is that giving up these games is hard for me. I experience it as a loss. In placing them on the altar, I am giving up something that has weight. I feel a sense of saying goodbye here, of letting go in ways that aren’t easy.

But everything else I’m fighting for … it just matters enough to put all this on the altar.