生活游戏...the life game
“We have an absolutely extraordinary attitude in our culture, and in various other cultures, high civilizations, to the new member of human society. Instead of saying frankly to children, “How do you do? Welcome to the human race!” we are playing a game and we are playing by the following rules: we want to tell you what the rules are so that you know your way around, and when you understood what rules we are playing by, when you get older, you may be able to invent better ones.
“But instead of that, we still retain an attitude to the child that he is on probation; he is not really a human being, he is a candidate for humanity. And in just this way, we have a whole system of preparation of the child for life which always is preparation and never actually gets there. In other words, we have a system of schooling which starts with grades. And we get it always preparing for something that’s going to happen.
“So you go into nursery school as preparation for kindergarten. You are going to kindergarten for preparation for first grade and then you go up the grades ’til you get to high school, and then comes a time when maybe if we can get you fascinated enough with this system, you go to college. And then when you go to college, if you are smart, you get in the graduate school and stay a perpetual student and go back to be a professor and just go round and round in the system.
“But in the ordinary way, they do not encourage quite that, they want you, after graduate school or after graduation, commencement as it’s called, beginning to get out into the world with a capital W. And so you know, you’ve been trained for this and now you’ve arrived. But when you get out into the world, at your first sales meeting, they’ve got the same thing going again, because they want you to make that quota and if you do make it, they give a higher quota.
“And come along about 45 years of age, maybe you are a Vice President. And it suddenly dawns on you that you’ve arrived with a certain sense of having been cheated, because it is just the same life as it always felt. And you are conditioned to be in desperate need of a future. So the final goal that this culture prepares for us is called retirement – when you will be a senior citizen and you will have the wealth and the leisure to do what you always wanted, but you will at the same time impotence, rotten prostate and false teeth and no energy. So the whole thing from beginning to end is a hoax.” – Alan Watts
Such a concept hits so hard some days. I can actually tell you the moment it really settled in with me that I didn’t like the avatar that I was playing life as. I had coworkers comment that I seemed depressed, I was. Everything had worked out exactly as I had intended, and somehow…I was miserable with it. There was no joy, no flavor to the dream. I missed being 18 and struggling to afford to go to Jujitsu classes, but working extra hours to be sure that I would be able to.
This gave a sense of perspective I’d lost. “I no longer go to class.” This caused me to question if I actually had any real mission, as if life is a game, I’d gotten so distracted by completing side-quests that I’d forgotten there was adventure to be had.
There is always adventure, if you want it.
This is something that I think can only really sink in when we realize that it is us who are making ourselves miserable. What may help is to remind ourselves what class it is that we wanted to play to start with. I personally realized that I wanted to be the monk on a mountainside, doing kung fu at first light. And what was stopping me? I had simply forgotten that I wanted that, in light of all of the important stuff like a career, family, mortgage, etc. It took some drastic life changes to get back on track, but everything felt like progress away from what I knew I hated.
That may be the hardest part of any of this game, to remind ourselves that it’s supposed to be fun. Some of the kids on the playground will tell you that it’s how many toys you collect, some tell you that it’s up to you to make the teacher happy, and others will fight with each other over who should be running the sandbox. None of this is really the point. The point is to enjoy playing, until such time as we are called off the playground to go home.