Tying Up Loose Ends

Recently, I have been playing the game Elden Ring for almost 200 hours. I enjoy playing games with open-world settings like this quite much. The first game of this genre that I played was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was exactly 10 years ago. (I landed in the United States 10 years ago and immediately I bought my first MacBook Pro and installed that game.) One major reason these games are so intriguing is the ‘freedom’ of roaming around the entire world without being tightly restricted to a single linear questline. Multiple events happen simultaneously in all places and the gamer can hop between different storylines and experience the intertwined plots at the same time.

Just like the real world, loose ends scatter around everywhere. While I am pushing forward the story between D and Fia, I need to take care of Ranni’s quests and follow what Blaid tells me to do. Meanwhile, I have to check where Nepheli or Alexander is and keep track of Hyetta’s grapes. Each time I switch from one character’s questline to another character’s question, I must retrieve some old memories and invoke the contexts around them - picking up the loose end, figuring out the current situation, and then starting to tie it up.

The cost of switching between different contexts is already so much in such a straightforward game mainly describing several powers seeking to be dominant. As has been stated, in the real world, our lives will only have many more loose ends than in games. You are planning two or three trips at one time, booking itineraries and adding points of interest. Besides, you are working on some home improvement projects, with certain tools not yet delivered. Meanwhile, you need to maintain some daily or weekly fitness or social routines, some of which get conflict with others. At the same time, you have piles of cleaning up work to deal with, such as organizing the last trip’s photos, getting rid of some unwanted items bought accidentally, eating up what has been left in the pantry that is impending its expiration date, etc. Till now, I have not mentioned a word about work.

I admire people who organize so well of anything, all the loose ends. Without extraordinarily excellent memory, one could only do two things to survive: 1) limit the number of loose ends as hard as possible; 2) provide contexts that could be used for picking up the loose ends as much as possible. Exactly the same problem as multi-threading.

For the first item, one shall try to close any tasks with their best effort. However, nobody knows if a task is actually closed, and by no means will it be reopened. Thus, in order to achieve the second goal, the ultimate approach, at least for me, is to write notes, to dump all thoughts that have been lurking around in the mind into words and letters, and to make it easier to read and follow even with zero background knowledge.

Subsequently, the task becomes managing loose ends in the notes. Oh, what a recursive problem.