Intertain: Chapter 14

The 2019 Australian federal election was held on this day: an occasion for citizens to vote on what we think would lead to a brighter future for the country, and especially for the children. In this evening, while the votes were being counted, we gathered for a lively session of Intertain.

Daniel, with whom I have been discussing politics, joined us for the first time. Robin and Angela returned as new parents — their first night out together without the baby, who is now nearly five months old. Last but not least, it was also Anthony’s birthday!

Theme: CHILDREN

Ever since KJ’s son was born (around two years ago), and henceforth followed by other babies in my church community, I have wanted to explore the topic of children. There is perhaps no better place to start than turning to Matthew 18, remembering how Jesus affirmed their innocent nature:

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

What is one childhood memory that you hold dear?

GAMING

We were all once children. So one helpful way to “become like children” might be to dig into our memories and reflect on a time when life was simpler. The Gardens Between captures such pursuit within levels of abstract dreamscapes formed from the shared experiences of two childhood friends. Since the game is Australian made, some of the recognisable objects evoked a distinct nostalgia for those in our group that were born and raised locally.

Memories as traversable installation art.

How often do you behave like an immature child?

GAMING

Next up, I seized the opportunity to throw a few people into the deep end that is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (the latest game from the creators of Dark Souls and Bloodborne).

The protagonist of this action RPG is a shinobi called Wolf, a student of a master known as Owl. Apart from titles of animal references, actual creatures abound in the game, including a flaming bull, a mythical dragon, as well as barrels upon barrels of irksome monkeys. I launched the game at a position just past slaying about 40 of these monkeys, with a humongous Guardian Ape now occupying the end of this area as the final challenge — yes, it was straight into a boss battle!

It’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!

Both KJ and Robin had a fair go against this beast. They did their best dashing and slashing, and tried stunning it using explosive firecrackers. But the simian adversary retaliated with a feral flavour of extreme prejudice. Our friends were hit by a combo of flatulent gusts and faecal cannonballs, tossed around like a dirty ragdoll, then smashed into oblivion amid the Ape’s violent tantrums.

If anyone missed the point, it was to witness the destructive powers of a giant baby.

SHARING

Before hearing from the group, I shared some photos of toddlers crying and had people guessing the reason behind the outburst. They turned out to be hilariously trivial: any little thing could upset a child, like a piece of cheese breaking in half, a dog getting in the way, or having applied sunscreen only to find out it is raining outside.

Adults may not fare much better; we all have our pet peeves. Janice admitted to being cranky in the mornings whenever her hubby rushes out before interacting with their daughter. Daniel expressed his disdain for people who ask him for English lessons. For me, I hate it when sloppy food dirties my hands while I am eating. A poorly constructed burger or kebab drives me mad.

WISDOM

Age doesn’t guarantee maturity. As grown men and women, sometimes we still behave like children — and not in a good way as previously encouraged in Matthew 18, but rather in a childish, lacking state as described in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

In this context, being a child means to prioritise lesser things over love, and to act out of partial understanding. The Bible’s definition of maturity has always been tied to growing in love, which is a lifelong journey. It also has to do with having the right perspective. On this particular note, consider the following text we read and discussed from a book called Pilgrim Theology (by Michael Horton), pointing out the main difference between grasping God in this life and knowing him face to face in the age to come — again contrasting the “child” experience to the “man” destination.

The old Reformed theologians would at times refer to their views of faith as “our theology”. One reason was to indicate that what they were writing was distinct from God’s own self-understanding. This is why they would sometimes use the term “ectypal” (as opposed to “archetypal”) when describing their theology. They admitted that what we say about God is a mere copy — we cannot know as God knows. We rely on what he has revealed to us, accommodating his knowledge to our feeble capacity to understand.

I follow a venerable Christian tradition by referring to this book as a “pilgrim theology” for those on the way — Christians who seek to understand God, but who are also aware of their own biases and insufficiencies. Older theologians used this term to distinguish our theology from that of the glorified saints. A day will yet come when we are glorified and the effects of sin fully conquered. Then, we shall know, even as we are fully known.

Are you any good at taking care of children?

GAMING

Children are cute, but taking care of them can be a pesky challenge. First time in the long-running series, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life entrusts a baby to the players, to people who may be much more proficient at overcoming problems with the hardened fists of Kiryu Kazuma (the legendary yakuza protagonist), rather than his cushioned arms of tender loving care.

The dense, sleepless red-light district of Kamurocho is central to all the Yakuza games. But in this particular entry, Japan’s portrayal extends to the quiet countryside town of Onomichi. Here, we are assigned a mission to acquire milk powder for baby Haruto.

Ashley, the sole single lady of our group, had a crack at it. With Haruto nested in her muscular yakuza arms, she stepped into the evening air, scanning the area for a shop that stocked baby supplies. Mere seconds after crossing the first street, however, Haruto became restless. A mini-game ensued, one where she had to choose between several playful motions to use on the baby in order to try and calm him down. Ashley attempted a trial and error approach, but wasn’t very successful.

Nevertheless, she soldiered on, turning into a shopping lane to continue the search. Unfortunately, all the vendors had closed down for the day. Onomichi truly differed from the big cities where plenty of stores and marts employed 24/7 services. Ashley decided to consult some local residents to uncover further options, but not before our bundle of trouble rudely interrupted again!

Back into the mini-game, some of us observed that Haruto’s body language projected hints regarding what he was after. Yet without verbal communication, it still proved too tricky for Ashley to discern. Indeed, it was quite the struggle for most of us.

Child care is now yakuza business.

To help speed things along, Janice came to the rescue. Having been a mum for a couple of years, she had gained perceptive abilities to decipher what the little fella wanted, whether it be a quick swing, a power lift, an upsy-daisy, or a rub on the head. As Haruto settled, she was able to attain intel that directed her to a local hairdresser who gave birth in recent months and had baby supplies to spare.

Just as Janice was about to finally get some of that sweet milk powder, yet another interruption popped up, this time from a drunkard in the alley who wanted to pick a fight. What happened next served as a shining, bloody exhibit on why no one should ever mess with a tired mother.

And you know what? When all’s said and done, Haruto rejected the bottle. It turned out that he wasn’t hungry, but simply needed sleep — a damn proper twist to a frustrating fetch quest!

SHARING

As we said goodnight to Haruto, Angela mentioned that unlike adults, babies tend to struggle with falling asleep if they become fatigued. KJ added from his own hands-on knowledge, speaking of an effective timeframe — a “sweet spot”, if you will — of putting his son to bed.

On a general note of parenting, Janice said that everyone is different when it comes to children. Some are better at taking care of small kids, while others find it easier as they grow older. Also, you can be good with kids even if you haven’t any of your own. Looking after younger cousins in her big family allowed May solid training from back in the day. Combining that experience with a passion to teach the word of God, she now leads the children’s ministry at our church.

WISDOM

Matthew 7 is one of the chapters detailing the Sermon on the Mount. The following verses demonstrate that all of us are capable of heeding the requests of our children. It matters not whether we are supposedly good or bad people, whether we are talking about a saint or a member of the yakuza. Ultimately, we respond just as God responds generously to those who call upon him.

Jesus preached, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Have you invested into the future of your community?

GAMING

Think of the Children is a party game about overcoming parental negligence while being responsible for a bunch of silly kids that really cannot be left to their own devices. Managing them is never a walk in the park, since even at a neighbourhood park, things may end badly as they fall from a swing, drown in a pool, consume poisonous berries, or run onto the road to get hit by traffic. Although we mobilised a full team of adults (Angela, Anthony, Clement, and Daniel), there wasn’t a level completed without casualties.

Probably the least you can do.

WISDOM

It takes a village to raise a child, and that includes keeping him or her from destruction. We flipped back to Matthew 18, where the words of Jesus reminded us to watch out for spiritual influences and attacks on children, not just physical threats. We should examine ourselves too.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

The world is a dangerous place. Let us have each other’s back, as well as work together to invest into the future, the children of our families and communities that God has entrusted into our care.


Attendance [10]: Angela Sun, Anthony Byun, Ashley Zhao, Ayk Iano, Clement Kwok, Daniel Kim, Janice Lee, KJ Jang, May Chien, and Robin Zhang.

Giveaway: The Gardens Between to Janice Lee.