Tuesday, March 30, 2010

By way of reply

A little over a month ago, Landon Wilkins made a post on one of my introductory entries.  He asked me two very solid questions that I feel are quite worth exploring here.

First.  Landon asks, "What is your base motivation in life?"  He explained that he wanted to know what drives my actions, and my personality.  I've thought a lot over the years about that one and, especially lately, about what drives personality in general.  I find that certain things are at the core of each and every person's life, and that this selection of traits is different for everyone.  Some people find themselves devoted completely to pursuit of skills, or being the absolute best at what they do.  Some follow their ideals, high thoughts of ethics and morals and justice and other such abstracts.  Some are logical to the extreme, while others follow whimsy and passion wherever it takes them.

As for me, I find that certain concepts are absolutely tantamount to my lifestyle.  I am, above all else, dedicated to justice and to love.  If something is truly unfair, it sits very, very poorly with me, sometimes to the point that I experience physical pain in one respect or another if I am unable to do anything to fix it.  In my life, I need to feel that things are fair and just, else I more or less shut down and am unable to cope.  On the other side of things, I frequently discover that love drives me.  I do a lot of strange, abnormal things, and most of them, one way or another, come down to love.  Love for other worlds and new ideas, love for certain people, love for creation... but that warm feeling of love lies beneath them all.
Subsidiary to those two primary drives, I look for logic and reason, for understanding (in a largely philosophical sense of the word), and for gratification.  I am very much a selfish type of person, in that in my spare time I generally do whatever feels best at the moment.  I waste an enormous amount of time just reading dumb websites or playing video games, for no better reason than that I felt like it.  This is the same reason that I flaunt my odd style of dress, and that I carry a bag stamped with my own design -- I am very egotistical and, despite my joking about it, I realize that at times it is a huge problem for me.  If the bottom line doesn't come down to me getting something tangible, I tend to write many activities off as wasteful (even if they are helpful to others in whatever way).  However, of course, this flies in the face of my two bigger motives, and as a result I find myself in very frequent and very heated internal conflict over it.  I cannot feel as though justice is being properly served if I am wasting my time so badly while others that I care about suffer (because, of course, everyone has their own problems), and at times I cannot indulge both myself and my sense of love simultaneously.
The second question (or questions, I suppose) Landon posed is: "How do you want your life to be?  What do you want to do, experience, achieve?"  I honestly don't have many specific plans.  I'm trying to cover as many contingencies as I can, what with getting my degree in a field I don't particularly want to work in (CS).  I want to be an artist, or at the very least operate in a creative capacity.  I don't really care whether that's as a video game designer or as a writer or as a graphic designer or what, but I need to create.  It's just What I Do.  Having a job doing so is... well, it would make life much less painful if my current employment experience in retail has taught me anything at all.
As for personal life goals, I know exactly who I want to marry.  I know more or less what steps I'm going to have to take to make that happen, and I'm mostly on the right track.  I haven't got any particular preference as to how I want my family to be, though I do know that I'm going to wait for at least a few years after marriage to have kids if I end up deciding to have them at all.  I want to emulate the examples of my parents as best I can, since to be quite frank they are, without exaggeration, the only couple I've ever known of who have made no major errors in raising their children.
At some point, I wish to explore the world, to see places like Japan and Ireland that are so in tune with me in one or another way.  There are idols I hope to someday meet, like Graham Stark, Paul Saunders, Tarn Adams, Lynne Triplett, Niyazi Sonmez, and frankly a boatload of others.  I want to publish my games, board, tabletop, and computer alike, and get my worlds noticed by some semblance of a mainstream audience.  I want names like the Sigil Galaxy and Little Heartless and Cog Cyprian to be known, even if only in small niche communities.  I want to share all of the fascinating developments in my mind with the entire world, and to inspire others to see as differently as I do.
And beyond the mundane achievements and status that I want, I have a more transcendental need for my life's course.  I need to help people.  I need to use my apparent aptitude for understanding how people's minds and emotions operate and interact to help them solve their problems and to make peace with themselves.  Like creating things, it is again What I Do, and therefore beyond my ability to stop needing to have in my life.
Hopefully, Landon, this entry has given you an adequate answer to your questions.  And as a note both to Landon and to my other regular readers, and to anyone else who happens to stumble onto this page: please ask me questions, that I may try to give you answers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Intro (Part 4): The big one

I know I'm way behind on this (almost a full month, actually), and I'm trying to get myself caught up.  But to be perfectly frank, I've been avoiding this entry.  It needs to be said, but I wish I didn't have to be the one exposing myself to some potentially very unpleasant comments and opinions.  Might as well come right out with it.

I am a furry.

That's right, one of those people with a thing for anthropomorphized animals.  Before anyone says it, or even thinks it, I neither practice nor endorse bestiality in any form.  However, I do like artwork of humanoid versions of various animals, as seen in (for instance) Broken Plot Device or Housepets!.  I like cats, in general, and my own fursona (portmanteau of "furry persona," otherwise known as my alter-ego in the furry fandom) is a white housecat named Cog -- and yes, that was the impetus behind naming my blog "cogthecat."

Probably the best rendition I have of my fursona at present is the (admittedly somewhat pitiful) BuddyPoke interpretation I've made.  It's not very detailed, or completely accurate (it's missing one of the black patches on his fur and he has no wings in that version... it's a long story as to why he is supposed to have them), but you get the idea.

Before I go on, I need to address some of the common myths and misconceptions about furries that are mostly propagated by mainstream media to people who just don't care to do the research (and then end up just getting spread everywhere).

First.  Probably the most obvious one is that furries practice bestiality.  There are people that practice bestiality, and there are people that are furries, and sometimes those two groups overlap.  However, they are by no means equivalent, and people that practice bestiality are looked down on by the other furries just as much as by the rest of the world; either you do practice that or you don't, and being furry has nothing to do with it.

Second.  Furries are all gay men between ages 16 and 25.  Again, not true.  There are furries in this specific demographic, true, and there is indeed a vast majority (80%, last I checked) of the furry fandom that is male.  A majority of furries are also youthful.  I have no answer to the absurd male-to-female ratio in the fandom, but I do know that the furry lifestyle and ideology is very appealing to youth who want to find themselves and find a connection to the fandom for one or another reason.  The nature of the fandom, specifically that it is much more easily practiced via the Internet than out in the judgmental public, makes it very accessible to young people with an understanding of technology.  As for sexual preference, I myself am very much straight (as is my girlfriend, who is also a furry) -- thus proving that at least two furries are not of the stereotypical gay male group.  The reason that so many furries identify as homosexual or bisexual is, plain and simple, acceptance.  There is a very -- VERY -- tolerant atmosphere inside the furry fandom at large, simply because if you can accept being furry most people generally believe you can accept anything.  People that would otherwise never have "come out" find it very easy to do so in the furry fandom because furries as a whole will accept frankly just about anything.

As a result of this last point, furries do have a decidedly unpleasant habit of being very open about things that are sometimes better hidden.  It's such a strongly tolerant atmosphere that sometimes furry fans lose sight of what should and should not be shared in a public setting.  It is an impulsive and indulgent subculture, often with its members just doing whatever comes to mind whenever they feel like it.  Now, I've probably made the drawbacks of this outlook fairly clear by now.  But on the other hand, it is extremely liberating at times to not have to worry about being looked at weird for favoring a certain fashion style, or for standing just that half-an-inch closer to someone than is socially appropriate in other situations.  Sometimes you just plain want to be weird, and furries will gladly let you.

Now before I go on, I should probably mention my personal definition of being furry.  Perhaps I should have done this first.  But regardless:
To be a furry, also known as a furry fan, one must like something to do with anthropomorphized animals.  This ranges from running about in a full-body fur suit just for kicks and giggles all the way to just liking the Bugs Bunny cartoons, or Disney's The Lion King (for which, by the way, there is an entire sub-fandom within furry culture).

Moving on.  The third big myth is that all furries are just in it for the porn, or that furry fandom is a strictly sexual matter.  To be honest, there is a huge, HUGE amount of furry porn out there, and often it is not filtered nearly as well as it should be (for example on FurAffinity, which is sporadically very, very NSFW but generally just fine for the kiddies; sometimes the NSFW artwork will just decide to be on the front page as it is updated).  However, I must stress once again that this is a preferential thing.  If any one furry likes drawing or looking at pornographic photographs, that's their choice.  Same goes for "normals" looking at furry porn.  Same goes for furries looking at furry porn, and "normals" looking at other naked "normals."  I hope my point is being made here.  If you look at it, that's your business.  If not, then fine.  But just as not all non-furries look at porn, not all furries look at yiff (the accepted term for the furry equivalent... it is known as "the noise two foxes make when you rub them together," though this is often referred to in a tongue-in-cheek manner).

The fourth major myth, and the last one I intend to cover here, is that of identity.  Some people have heard that furries TRULY BELIEVE that they are animals in spirit, or that they can transform into their fursonas during a full moon, or that they share a connection with dragons or elves or whatever.  And that's not entirely untrue either.  Some furries do, in fact, believe that they are lycanthropic (turn into animals, i.e. werewolves) or that they are animals in spirit (therians), or that they are not entirely human (that they are more than their physical bodies; this group is called otherkin and comprises some furries as well as those who believe they are connected to elves, fey, or other mythological beings, among some others).  But the majority of furries belong to none of these groups and just like anthropomorphized animals for one or another reason.

I do feel that I need to cover the reason that these myths get started before I wrap up.  Since furry fandom really started entering the mainstream consciousness, virtually all of the media attention pointed to it has been negative.  Most furries just want to live their lives in peace and as they choose, but some few choose to behave in especially extreme ways, getting themselves noticed by tabloids and the more paranoid side of the media.  Those media outlets, of course, jump at the chance to highlight people behaving strangely -- because scandal sells magazines.  Or papers.  Or increases viewership.  Whatever these outlets focus on, they know it goes up, up, up when furries are involved because furries are Weirdos And Deviants And Perverts Oh My, and people like hearing about people that they can look down on just for being different without fear of reproach.  More recently, the 2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Fur and Loathing" (WikiFur has an excellent article on the whole ordeal from furry fandom perspective) actually called in several local furries as consultants and extras to make sure that they got it right.  Of course, those consultants worked hard to correct the many misconceptions and inaccuracies in the script, but in the end they were overruled by the director and producer, who preferred to make the episode as racy and as scandalous as possible, in the process badly damaging furry fandom's public image.

This kind of damage is happening all the time, and as a result the fandom is very close-knit, often having a difficult time showing itself (as it is with me).  In the hopes that someone would actually notice and bring it up, I myself have worn a collar and tag out in public nearly every day -- not only because I like the fashion statement.  I keep wondering if anyone sees it and wonders about the fandom because of my odd fashion sense.  Or even if someone might ask me straight out whether I am a furry or not.  Maybe it'll happen, maybe not.  But if it does, I will happily answer any and all questions on the topic, because furries are just not that bad.