Sunday, June 5, 2011

Daniel June: Life as Game

Life as game, part 1, section 2.

This section introduces the idea of the trifold braid in life. It explains that the taking life as a game is to abbreviate it from distractions. This is an extension and clarification of the first section. After the first five sections, the essay goes deep into the strategies I’ve found effective.
Take care, Caretakers!
Daniel Christopher June

2. The trifold Braid

            Life is what you make of it. And you can only make of life what you are able to make from it, from the ideas we have either internalized or invented. We train our eyes to look at shadows or sunflowers, we cock our ear for the music of the spheres or the groaning of the burn wards, always in accordance with our personal needs, as interpreted by our education, and in reference to our choices on how to interpret that education. I am what I was born to be, what I learned to be, what I chose to be. This trilogy cannot be abbreviated. We invent the concepts we need: all religions are true, all creeds correct, all answer to the basic needs, some better for you in your world, some better for me in mine. No society has lacked the sexual relationships, but each institutionalizes the family differently. Living in America I cannot comfortably attempt a polygamous life. My setup in life must take its forms from my environment. Each society offers a reasonable set of norms, and how we fit ourselves into them is through our individual style. There are a limited number of games out there, but as to howwe play them there is no limit. To find our personal potential, we need only define life in such a way as to make style foremost.
            Life is a game. To structure our ideas with this assumption, we can set up our problems to be interesting and nonlethal. No longer is the axis of death so prominent, for life is to be played out, nothing too serious. With life as a game, we can prolong attention. At work, the attention we put on our tasks is held in place by a deeper layer of consciousness that focuses on starvation, homelessness, and divorce. The idea of suffering keeps us focused on our tasks, so though we may enjoy the work, its ultimate purpose is never too deeply buried in the layers of consciousness, but still guides and allows the enjoyment of work. Our needs, our most central and important aspect, are called “necessary,” from the word necros, death; we exist to live, and life can die. The ideas which guide our working life are painful, but we need seldom consider them: daily routine smoothes over life’s terrors, so that a man may be happy anywhere and at anytime, once he has internalized his environment, made it predictable, and thus mastered it and strategized how to fit himself best into it. Within the clay, a razor. Beneath placid water, the beast.
            The aim of the game is to play it well. The punishment for losing a game is merely knowing the fact that you lost it; the reward for winning is knowing the fact that you won. That is enough – we never tire of these punishments and rewards. The spirit of play is essential to the game; one enjoys doing well merely for the doing of it.
            We can only do something well if we can’t do other things at all. You can't be wise if you lie to yourself. You must choose your limitations. To make a choice, there needs to be no more than three options: one extreme, and two likely. The two likely options are the true dilemma, but to avoid a deadlock, the radical third is relevant. “Do I turn left, or right, or go back the way I came?” Constraints open and allow freedom. Limits open possibilities for mastery and tricks. A bird can fly only in relation to gravity; a man can walk only because the ground gives friction. Therefore, to make of life a game is to reduce life’s possibilities into something comprehensible: we know all the rules, and are no longer paralyzed by choice. I can do X, Y, or Z, and am free to choose them, but at least I can fully know the pluses and minuses of X, Y, and Z. If I had a full alphabet of choices, how could I exhaust the merits of each?
            I make only a few choices, do only a few things. My life is a braid of work, family, and writing. Nothing more. I may play the guitar, but that’s to write better; I may hang out with friends, but that’s to make me a better family member; I may take a vacation, but that’s to make work more enjoyable as I anticipate it before it happens and reminisce on it after its done. It's as if I were at the center of a circle, with my wife and children at one end, my work and duties at a second, and my writing at the third; and behind my wife and children, a group of friends, pushing my family in, and behind my work station, my possessions pushing my work into me; and behind my notebooks and laptop, the very universe and the Mother holding open her palms as if they were the books I were writing upon. Or with a different image, work and family are the supports of my writing, like the bottom corners of a triangle: I work so that I can keep my family, and I keep my family so I can write. The writing in turn is an apparatus built over my heart that through theory and recommendation helps me be a better worker and family member, by guiding all my emotions into their appropriate emotional outlets. I am as proud of them all as if they were a choice, and as certain of them as if they were not.
            We all need such a braid, to make a living, to have a family, to have a passion. While one may speak of being “passionate” about his family or his job, the word doesn’t quite fit: a job must be stable, a family must be secure. A passionate romance is not the appropriate material for building a family, and passionate enthusiasm disrupts work, as work requires continual stable input, not creative outbursts nor the hysterics of genius.
            With life as game, these three interbraid and complicate each other. With life (emotions), the world (people), and the universe (all things) as wholes beyond our daily doings, a worldview can yet select the metaphors that fit them into place, which figure out what our world is like, what our life is about, as one of the purposes of our life, one of the things we need to do. Some people fall into depression over the challenges the world brings against their worldview: William James grew depressed over what science had to say about free will. Or maybe he let such things justify his depressions, which he would have had anyway. Whatever the case, distancing oneself from the imagined danger of having the wrong ideas in our head, such as the evil idea that we deserve hell if we believe the wrong things, is possible when we take our worldview as also a sort of game, characterized by playful experimentation and carefree invention. If this is true, then seriousness, even deadly seriousness, is a move in the game, something we can try, and if we want, drop again. We can choose between a few experiences and say “that’s what life is about!” A little synecdoche, and you’ve got an essence to work with. Choose something that will keep you focused and happy for a long time. Life is a series of needs that can be met in many ways, and the metaneed is to strategize more effective ways to fulfill our other needs. “As I walk, I think of a new way to walk” – indeed, everything in life can be done masterfully, if we learn how. And what is best for me can be taught to me by nobody but myself. That is why my religion is writing.
            Religions are big games, best-sellers. All religions are an image of the truth, for they evolved as projections of needs. Whatever absurdity they preach, those believers were somehow fulfilled by them, and knowing how and why they were is itself a universal truth, and one that boots well in scripting a better religion.
            Is not our own religion both vindictive and accepting of all other religions? Isn’t our true religion in our passionate creativity? Life is short? Art is long? Very well, choose your lifelong art project, and let jobs and friendships add what they can to that, before they fall away like autumn leaves.  Make life-goals, decade long projects: script out what each decade of your life is for, and how it fits within your larger goal. Our game in life is to play all other games to our own style. The best game is self-publishing, is the diffusion of our spirit into a myriad of life’s forms. It is as if we carved out our flesh into the playing tools we use, or breathed an endless breath of life into every clay bird of life’s details. The development of style is the hidden aim of each game. Hiders are the best finders: the more we efface our intentions through a smirking humility, the more we see through the humility of others. We experience their hidden meanings, and take them in and understand what they stand for. So too do we know who is playing life, and who is merely surviving it. We experience the joy of life. Our world enlarges by what we experience, what we allow ourselves to experience, what we attempt. Attempt the most and you will achieve the most.
            Nothing is beyond life that can be thought--even the widest realities can it be represented – life itself understands the limits of life, for metaphors are representative, as if a thread emerged from each metaphorical knot and spread out into all things, which themselves are free and independent. Life is what we make of it, it grows from the constitution of our theories. Style grows from speculation. And style is the expression of self. Self-expression is the game of life, to integrate the layers of my being with the layers of the world, a full concordance, a braid of integrity. Our potential is in a higher integration and more thorough maturity.


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