Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 28, 2009

The Allure of Living Vicariously

Since I got out of bed this morning, I’ve matriculated as a novice Benedictine monk, won a championship round of U.S. Open golf, and gotten my six-year-old fed and off to school on time. Later today, if there’s time, I plan to be play an arena rock show as lead guitarist in The Police. Isn’t a mediated life a wonder to behold?

The monk thing was experienced, of course, through the pages of a book, Kathleen Norris’ _The Cloister Walk_. I’ve been quoting from the book up here on the blog with some frequency, and have enjoyed taking that leisurely walk for a month or so with one of the great devotional writers of our time.

The golf game was one I played by living vicariously through Francis Ouimet, the amateur winner of the 1913 U.S. Open and featured player in the terrific Disney-produced, Bill Paxton-directed film The Greatest Game Ever Played. By giving oneself over to a film like this for two hours, what you get in return is not just entertainment, but a close approximation of actual life experience, complete with the heartbreak of failure and the thrill of success. It’s the reason why God invented movies (and golf, …though I suspect God slightly prefers the mixed subtlety and intensity of baseball to the more contemplative grace of golf).

The big rock show, of course, will be experienced via Guitar Hero. I did a blog entry on my love of this game in the distant past, though I will add here that for it’s combination of motor skills plus imagination, it’s still a distant second to playing an actual instrument. But with the addition of crowd noise, make-believe pressure, and great bands to play with (including Spinal Tap, Wings, the Stones… and that’s just the old white dudes!), it’s a pretty great imitation of the real thing.

Now if only they will develop a simulation of acting in a scene with Christopher Walken (in a play I’ve written myself, of course), and cooking alongside Wolfgang Puck, my day will be utterly perfect.


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