[I'm learning to play the guitar by committing to 30 Days of Rocksmith. Here's how I got started.]
This is an unexpected parallel. I’m going through Rocksmith, of course. But I’m also playing The Talos Principle. The only way I can describe The Talos Principle is by calling it existential mental fracturing. “Mind fracking,” if you Battlestar Galactica fans catch my drift. But, sci-fi euphemisms aside, The Talos Principle is a puzzle game with more-than-meets-the-eye going on under the hood. In the same way--but quite different--that Portal was a head trip.
So, The Talos Principle goes deep into questions of existence, and consciousness, and faith, and immortality, and, and…
And in Rocksmith, I scroll down further than I usually do in the Learn a Song section. I run across “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. Absolutely a favorite of mine. A song that broke new ground in my wobbly spiritual search as a teenager. I haven’t been listening to it on a continuous loop or anything, but I’ve been listening to that song for nearly 25 years now. I still can’t tell you what all of its lyrics mean.
But when you pair a song that opens with, “Oh, life is bigger // It’s bigger than you // And you are not me,” it’s hard not to see that R.E.M. is probing some of the same Big Huge Questions that The Talos Principle proposes on a leafy bed of gates and switches.
Just like “Losing My Religion,” The Talos Principle has a lot going on between the lines. Maybe too much. There’s an iceberg to uncover beneath both. I don’t have any answers. Not for either of them. But I’m learning to play “Losing My Religion,” and it’s awesome. As it turns out, if you learn to strum a guitar to a song whose lyrics you’ve had memorized since the early 1990s, then it’s easier to sing and play guitar simultaneously.
Being able to sing and play at the same time is the Holy Grail for me. If all I wanted were the notes, then I could’ve picked up my saxophone from grade school and high school and simply got back on that bike. But you can’t sing and play a sax at the same time. It’s a woodwind instrument. It requires your breath to play it, not to mention both hands, so you’re not singin’ and a’ playin’ nothin’ at the same time.
“I’m proud of you,” my wife told me. This was after I plunked out a few low-level highways of notes on the guitar while singing along to “Losing My Religion.” She says that, one, because I have a fragile ego and need constant positive reinforcement while learning guitar. And, two, because she can sing and play the piano at the same time, so she’s finally seeing me get on her level when it comes to musicianship. Let’s not get cocky, though. I have a long way to go.
But, yes, while I’m on that path, The Talos Principle and R.E.M. are giving me plenty to think about, in tandem. As I watch Talos’s main character verbally spar with other A.I. characters regarding the nature of existence (and so on and so forth), I’m bouncing back to Rocksmith whenever a puzzle gets the best of me and I need a breather. Then I’m bouncing back to Talos when a guitar riff gets the best of me and I need a breather. I’m breathing in and breathing out a lot of questions on both sides of things.
[Stay tuned for more 30 Days of Rocksmith: previous.]