Special Edition: A Conversation with CathyTea
Narrated by Shannon Simself, a sim. Shannon SimsFan (SSF) is her simmer.
CathyTea (CT) is also a simmer, and her simself, CT, visits Shannon Simself’s home in the game, in this special edition for a conversation about compassion. Read Part I of the conversation at this link at CathyTea’s blog. Thank you to CT for all her work writing her responses and editing the overall conversation.
While checking out the Sims 4 Forum, I noticed I had mail!
It was CathyTea, saying she’d like to talk with my simmer about how our sims help us develop compassion. My simmer has been interested in the conversations CathyTea and other simmers have had, but felt we may be too tongue-tied, on the spot, to have meaningful contributions to the conversation. CathyTea’s message put her at ease, and inspired her to go ahead!
My simmer was so inspired about hosting CT, she built a new lot after her favorite place in the real world, her house and backyard. As a family-oriented sim, I was excited to finally have a real house in the game! After all, my simmer’s always busy playing her legacy, and meanwhile, I’ve been a tester for various builds in the game.
The big day came, and Camp Counselor CT arrived! I ran out and greeted her on the sidewalk, and right away, we started talking about writing, and CT said my simmer’s work had inspired her! She asked about how I was doing, and then she decided to use the easel in the garage to make a large surrealism painting.
As she went to wash her hands, I went to see her painting. Hmm, not sure if that’s a part of her mischievousness, or what, but it was done really well!
As soon as CT saw the backyard, with a determined, perky stride, she made a bee line to my tiny garden of herbs and began to chat with the plants. This didn’t surprise me at all, as in my simmer’s conversations with CathyTea she talked about how hard it often is for her to harvest (which kills) her real life carrots, so she has a lot of carrot flowers in her garden!
CT’s respect for my basil and parsley made me think about Shannon’s recent conversation with CathyTea:
SSF (Shannon SimsFan): So I guess, I’m thinking about how watching, trying to understand, and writing about my sims has helped me notice some of my own prejudices or stereotypes that cause me to see others as objects, not as beings. Being aware of the lens we see the world through is really important for being more considerate and respectful of others, I think.
CT (CathyTea) : Yes. Blogging helps me see my lens. I feel, too, it’s important to be authentic with where we are at the time. For example, I don’t want to pretend that I *like* Anya when I don’t! And I don’t want to pretend that I think a Sim might have a great body, when I think they’d look better with wider shoulders and a smaller belly. But still, what business of mine is their personal appearance? And in what way does my personal attitude towards them affect their intrinsic value or inherent dignity of being? Not at all!
I think that perhaps the reason it bothers both of us when we see Sims being treated as objects for amusement is because it can be so easy for the objectification of Sims to lead to the objectification of people.
I prefer going the other direction and letting our compassionate and respectful interactions with Sims lead to compassion and respect of all beings.
After my shower I felt ready for the interview! We took a seat in the back yard. The light was soft and beginning to get that warm glow before sunset.
SSF: When you suggested it, I was pretty excited about talking about compassion, and how our sims help us develop it. Compassion, or Love, is, in general, my favorite and most treasured thing in the world. I really do believe with all my heart that love, wanting and acting for the good of others and caring what happens to them, is what can ultimately change any situation, personal or political, and that it overcomes any obstacle, in time. People think that power is most important, but love outlasts power, because we can’t actually control everything, in the end. We can control our choice to act out of love, though. Love means so much to me, that in my twenties I adopted as my personal mission statement: to unconditionally love each person who is put in my path.
At the time, I had young children, and a lot of that meant wanting what was best for them, not what made me look best as a mom (like them acting like little angels), or seeing in them just what pleased me personally or lined up with what I thought. And of course, there’s a lot of physical care that goes into young children, time and energy, but I naturally kind of gravitated to that aspect.
I’ve been playing Sims regularly since 2008; from 2001 to 2008 I played on and off, at times. So one of the tensions that has existed for me, as a simmer, is wondering if it is ok to put all this time and energy into a game?!
CT: Oh, games have always been such a huge part of my life! My lifetime-and-beyond boyfriend and companion is a chess player–it’s been a significant part of his life during most of our time together. And we’ve always been gamers! In the early 1980s, we moved from a lovely house, in part so that we could live across the street from Chuck E. Cheese. We wanted to be within walking distance of the video arcade where we spent a lot of time. We have such fond memories of spending all afternoon with our group of friends playing video games. We got to the point where a single quarter would last us longer than we had time to play! And we were so aware of all the ways that these games benefited us! In addition to simply being fun–which is a huge benefit in this world–playing games improved coordination, built synapses, helped with problem-solving and pattern recognition, and so much more!
When I look at the activities that fill my life, I examine the feelings, the enjoyment, the benefits. Sometimes, it gets to the point where any activity that does no harm, if it is done mindfully, is valuable–so then, one can listen to one’s own promptings, which will often lead one to the activities that offer growth, enjoyment, development, and benefit.
SSF: Wow, I had no idea you were so skilled at arcade games, I wish I could make a quarter last like that! Pinball is my favorite by far, of arcade games. But it is amazing to hear you describe the mindfulness you play and blog with, because that’s exactly what reading your blog has inspired (and empowered) me to be as a simmer. Cathy, your blog has actually helped me feel a lot more confident about being a simmer, and being who I am. The way you tie in things you are learning in life outside of sims, and vice versa, is really inspiring and helped me move from seeing my sims as a side thing that was just something I chose to do with my free time, to being integrated with who I am. Plus, reading so many other terrific simmer’s blogs, has helped me to open up a little more to others about who I am and to learn from them and their strengths.
CT: I agree about being inspired by so many amazing blogs–and thanks for your kind comments, too! I’m a loud and proud Simmer because if an activity brings joy, develops the individual, and is a practice for attention and mindfulness, it is valuable.
You mentioned reading other terrific blogs. I’m currently in a phase where I am breathless from the talent of Simming writers. It’s feeling to me like we’re moving into the second generation of TS4 writing–some of the works out there now (I’m thinking of one of my current obsessions, Ironbound–and also of raerei’s stories, and–oh, I better not start naming them or this will look like my “What I’m Reading (Sim-wise)” list! ). Anyway, the value and generosity of the contributions that Simmers are making to SimLit right humble me and fill me with gratitude. An activity that brings out such creativity and fosters such passion and so many acts of caring has amazing value.
You know there have been studies that show that reading literature fosters compassion. I feel that Simmers, who tend to fall so easily in love with Sims, really respond in this way towards SimLit.
SSF: I think a part of learning compassion from our sims goes with seeing them in light of their strengths, which is something I’ve noticed you do on your blog, Cathy. When one of your sims rolled the glutton trait, you described how that showed that sim really enjoys things, savors them, or wants to experience more. When onezero rolled the Insane trait, you reframed it as, she sees the world differently. With my sim, Elise Tesla, who has the mean trait, I’ve seen that as one of two things, depending on the situation– her tendency to see the truth about others, and be glad to tell them about it, too, or her looking at a situation with the lack of bias or consideration one might expect from someone working to unravel the variables and find the truth in a situation.
CT: I had forgotten that Elise had the mean trait! She is one of my all-time favorite Sims, and I love her directness with others. I love that she doesn’t bother with social niceties. One of the readers of Goofy Love adored Poplar, and saw her meanness as “brutal honesty.”
In Poplar, I saw it more as a lack of social graces combined with something that was off in terms of her brain chemistry. Sometimes, it seemed like her hormonal balance was off, and she just didn’t feel good or happy inside–she felt mean. So she expressed that in her interactions with others. It hurt me when she did that, for I saw that it hurt her and the recipients of her harsh words. She genuinely regretted the damage that she did to relationships through her mean statements. She felt pleasure from her mean actions–yet she regretted them immediately afterwards because of the damage they did. Watching this in Poplar has given me compassion for my own mean feelings and for the mean actions of others. I think that this helps us build emotional awareness.
SSF: So to touch on emotional awareness—How can we help but become more aware as we watch our sims for clues of what is motivating them, or what the organizing principle is for them, or how they are reacting to a situation, or what’s important to them? Maybe the lack of ability to have an open-ended conversation with our sims makes us watch their body language more carefully? Because with a person, we could ask them if we don’t understand what is going on with them. But with our sims, we are confined to seeing in the context they are in, what whims they have, what emotions they have, and what they autonomously do (which interestingly enough does not always coincide with their whims!)
CT: It does amaze me how often our Sims’ autonomous actions don’t align with their whims!
CT: For me, a big part of it with the Sims is that they’re within the screen–I can watch them without feeling their body heat, without sensing and picking up on that essence–biochemical or whatever–of what they are feeling. It’s not too overwhelming for me. When I interact with others, I absorb so much–what they feel, their thoughts, what’s going on with them, in addition to what they say and what their expressions show. I feel their feelings and emotions within me. So I have challenges sometimes in sorting out all of that–I will sometimes respond to something that’s going on which they didn’t say. With Sims, I don’t have all that stimulus. I can also pause the game to give myself a chance to check in with each Sim. Their faces and bodies really show so much of what they feel! Then I can verify that I’m reading them correctly by checking their moodlets. It’s a wonderful tool!
CT: I like to breathe and feel the soles of my feet to help me slow down time. I wish we had a way to check the moodlets of others! “Oh! Your plumbob is orange! Are you uncomfortable?”
Speaking of uncomfortable, we were getting hungry. So CT whipped up a delicious vegetable tempura for supper. I didn’t even know that was a recipe in the game!
“CT, I’m so happy you are here! There are so many things to talk about!”
After dinner, CT wrote a guidebook to gardening for me. Can you believe how serendipitous it was, that she named it “The Carrot Whisperer?”
Then she and my husband, John, who is a night owl and also very playful, had a blast, chatting and goofing around. They were theorizing about the space-time continuum, and he even had a breakthrough for work!
She also told him she was a criminal mastermind, which was hilarious.
But eventually, it was time for CT to go.
CT: Shannon this has been so fun! I feel I could talk with you forever! I’ve got a bunch of kids at camp that I need to head back to check on. Finch and I arranged to have a little violin time together. Let’s talk more another time! I have the feeling that we’re just scratching the surface!