Updated: Mar 7
I just lost The Game.
And so did you.
Confused? Read on…
When my son was young he taught me a game kids played, called “The Game”. It goes like this. Everyone is always playing The Game. But you forget. Sometimes you remember that you are playing The Game. And that’s how you lose. When you remember that you are playing The Game, you say to everyone who is listening, “I just lost The Game.” And that reminds them all that they are also playing The Game, and they all lose at once. And everyone groans. It’s hilarious.
But I always like to bend rules. So when I remembered that I was playing The Game, I would say “I just won The Game,” just to be a contrarian.
Let’s pretend that The Game we are playing is life itself. Everyone is always playing The Game. Sometimes you remember that life is a game, and that’s when you win the game. When you remember that all of life is a game, and your true purpose is simply to enjoy playing the game, and becoming a better player (that is, a better person) by making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, and by suffering and becoming a more empathetic soul, then in those moments the stress of life melts away. You have won The Game.
At various times in this book I have said something to the effect that everything is already perfect, so relax. Maybe perfect isn’t the right word, because obviously everything isn’t perfect. Maybe the right word is “whole”, or “complete”.
Imagine buying a video game. When you open up the box and plug in that little cartridge (I know they don’t come in boxes anymore, but bear with me, I’m old) the game is already complete. It has a beginning, a certain number of levels, and an ending. You start the game knowing very little and you end up beating the last boss, or whatever the final level requires of you.
If, at level 3 of a 12 level game, you look around and say “this game sucks, I don’t know how to proceed, everything is challenging, I can’t get ahead” then you might not think the game is perfect, whole, or complete. But the point of the game is to challenge you. The point of the game is to slowly teach you how to become a better player so that you can advance through the levels and “win” the game. The point of the game is the game itself. The struggle and the growth and the enjoyment. Mostly, the enjoyment, because if the game isn’t fun, why bother?
Someday you might realize that it can all be enjoyed. Someday (maybe today) you can realize that every obstacle, every struggle, every painful experience is exactly what you need at that moment.
And every “reward” you are grasping for might be exactly the right thing necessary to motivate you to grow stronger in that area of your life. Wanting a beautiful lover might help you care more about looking slightly more attractive. Wanting an intense new surround sound stereo might help you slog through a second job. Or whatever. The point is that the supposedly shitty parts of life are there for your benefit. Everything negative is positive. Is that more trite bullshit? More inane rationalization? Maybe. But it works, doesn’t it? Admit it. Accept it.
And that’s why games are such a great analogy for life. You play games, you don’t work them. In the same way, you should play life. Only you can learn how to overcome your own obstacles and win your own game. You are the only person who can enjoy playing your life. You are living a single-player first-person choose-your-own-adventure from inside your skull. Stop looking around at your level 3 existence and complaining that everything is not how you want it to be. Figure out how to get better, get stronger, and move forward to ever-higher levels. You might never win, but you can always play.